[FOM] Re: Ord, hypercomputation, perpetual motion, & non-Euclidean space

martin@eipye.com martin at eipye.com
Sun Mar 14 22:00:25 EST 2004

Ord compares the possibility of hypercomputation with the realization that space is
non-Euclidean, and is even willing to think of the possibility of perpetual motion in
a similar light.

I understand that Riemann suggested that the geometry of space might be
non-Euclidean. This was reasonable and even astute. Moreover (as Einstein was pleased
to acknowledge), Riemann's own technical work helped to provide Einstein with the
necessary tools for general relativity. But it would have been absurd for one of
Riemann's contemporaries to start a movement based on this possibility and to
announce that the search was on to prove it. It took real science, decades later.

It is fine to speculate, and even to study seriously whether quantum theory does or
does not rule out perpetual motion. But what would be said of someone who today
starts a "perpetuation movement", claims that reading Helmholtz and Gibbs carefully
indicates that they were proposing perpetual motion devices, and announces that the
search for one is on? He/she would be deservedly laughed out of court.

Need I indicate the moral?


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