Re: Intuition (was Re: Dimensions)

Craig Presson (
Thu, 15 Jan 1998 12:27:44 -6

On 15 Jan 98 at 6:10, Robert Bricheno wrote:

> [...] As Kennita puts it, we seem to have an
> "intuitive grasp" of the idea. If this is so, what was it that first
> gave us this? The same can be said of many other subjects which may
> be considered extropian such as quantum theory (e.g. wave particle
> duality). What is it about such subjects that causes them to require
> understanding on an intuitive level? Is it their complexity, or just
> their bizarreness?

My take on what it means to have an intuitive understanding of a topic
(such as a physics theory) is that we understand it with the right
brain as well as the left (in shorthand). So it is, often, the
bizarreness of a theory that impedes this understanding, but I'd be
inclined to separate that from the basic definition of intuition.

Things we understand intuitively _seem_ more natural. We can visualize
them easily. Since this is easier to achieve with "commonsense" ideas,
it seems like ideas that resist intuition ("counter-intuitive" ideas)
are less natural and commonsensical. But of course we know that
commonsense physics (Aristotelian physics) is quite insufficient.

When we think about a problem in Newtonian mechanics we have a wealth
of mental models to apply. Newtonian methods allow us to think in 3-D
which is easier for us. When we first meet relativity and have to try
to think in 4-D, we boggle. Then when we've done enough problems to
begin to have a pictorial grasp of those concepts, it gets a lot

QM is even more slippery but people who really understand it (I exempt
myself) develop ways to think about quantum effects that don't depend
just on the equations. Example: the development of Feynman diagrams.
Feynman absorbed a certain class of QM theory so well that he found a
graphical shorthand for solving problems in it, and this was a great
step (the temptation to misuse "quantum leap" was excruciating :-) in
everyone's understanding.

Seems to me that the experience of learning something extremely
counterintuitive so well that it becomes intuitive is valuable in
itself for our mental development, even if we do not use it directly
afterwards. Fits in with Boundless Expansion and Self-Transformation.

Ad Astra,

-- (Freeman Craig Presson)