FOM: Tragesser on sets in physics

Vaughan Pratt pratt at cs.Stanford.EDU
Thu Feb 26 16:59:38 EST 1998

From: Robert Tragesser <RTragesser at>
>[1] There is no parity between fundamental physics
>and SET.

If by "parity" you mean "correspondence", this seems too sweeping a
statement to have any hope of being universally true.

It would be reasonable to say that *some* correspondences between physics
and sets don't work out.  For example the wavefunctions making up the
quantum mechanical universe don't form a set, they form a Hilbert space.

But fundamental physics does not deal only with unobservable
wavefunctions, it also deals with observables, such as position and
energy.  At that level physics draws a fundamental distinction between
particles and waves.  On the one hand everything can be understood as
being both a particle and a wave, on the other some entities are more
particle-like and some more wave-like.

The obvious correspondence between the particle-wave dichotomy of physics
and the sand-glue dichotomy of my previous message matches up particles
to sand and waves to glue.  In this correspondence the elements of sets
are particle-like while the nature of glue is (in the microcosm of atomic
physics) wave-like.

Any connection of this sort between particles and sets suffices to refute
the sweeping "no" of your statement.

Vaughan Pratt

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