We can imagine a great variety of possible Universes that could have existed, and yet the only way we understand how our Universe behaves comes from observing the Universe itself. Without empirical data to reveal the Universe to us as it is, we wouldn’t have science at all. (Credit: Stu Gray / Alamy)

In logic, ‘reductio ad absurdum’ shows how flawed arguments fall apart. Our absurd Universe, however, often defies our intuitive reasoning.

Starts With A Bang!

Throughout history, there have been two main ways humanity has attempted to gain knowledge about the world: top-down, where we start with certain principles and demand logical self-consistency, and bottom-up, where we obtain empirical information about the Universe and then synthesize it together into a larger, self-consistent framework. The top-down approach is often credited to Plato and is known as a priori reasoning, with everything being derivable as long as you have an accurate set of postulates. The bottom-up approach, contrariwise, is attributed to Plato’s successor and great rival, Aristotle, and is known as a posteriori reasoning: starting from known facts and building up your model of reality from that foundation, rather than deriving them from overarching postulates.

In science, these two approaches go hand-in-hand. Measurements, observations, and experimental outcomes help us build a larger theoretical framework to explain what occurs in the Universe, while our theoretical understanding enables us to make new predictions, even about physical situations we haven’t encountered before…

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