When we discuss such concepts as dimensions and time it is obvious that our diagrams are simply representations. In the way that a picture paints a thousand words, they are models which help us to understand some ideas better than simply using word would do,

Its very easy to get beguiled by a model. As an example there is a popular model of the solar system that shows the sun and the planets in order of their distance from the sun. Obviously this is simply a diagrammatic representation. The sun and planets are nowhere near scale in size, nor the distances between them.

If we wanted to illustrate the relative sizes of the planets, then the following diagram may be more useful.

And if it were the position of the solar system in the galaxy then the following diagram may be better.

Which of these diagrams is accurate? Well, it depends. There is nowhere in that galaxy that you could see the solar system as whole, laid out so that every planet is visible. If you went out far enough to take in all the planets they would be lost in the background of stars. However, each of these diagrams has its use. One works regarding the order of the planets, another the relative sizes and another if we want to know the position of the solar system in the galaxy.

Many people, however, assume that a diagram in reality shows how something works. The following diagram shows a model of an atom with the nucleus in the centre and electrons rotating around the outside. In actual practice, due to quantum effects it would be impossible to get a view of the atom like this.

Alfred Korzybski

The map is not the territory

Scientists get befuddled by their own pictures. In fact, if someone uses terms or models that are not in current use by ‘established’ scientists, it is used as an excuse to ridicule their work. Martin Gardiner wrote about what they now call ‘pseudoscience’, and one of the traits of the pseudoscientist, according to him, is that they use non-standard jargon or models. In other words, they see things in a different way to the way conventional scientists have been trained. This, of course, sometimes enables them to see patterns that conventional scientists have missed.

It’s worth noting that people with qualifications that have come from universities or colleges were awarded their qualifications by passing exams or meeting requirements set by people who went through the same process previously, and the process goes back through generations of established teachers. Someone who doesn’t conform to the established model of thinking would not be awarded their qualification. Thus institutions are as much establishments for indoctrination and perpetuating an existing order as they are for education.

We have to visualise in different ways. Sometimes a graph will reveal patterns that are not apparent in a list of figures. Sometimes a three-dimensional graph will reveal patterns that are not apparent in a standard graph and sometimes we have to model in five or six dimensions to reveal patterns that are not otherwise apparent.

By Philip Braham on July 24, 2018

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