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In theory, we speak of a particle as having properties.

In reality, the measurement of any property is just an interaction between the target to be measured, and the measuring apparatus, where the measurement affects both the target and the apparatus.

So any property we can measure about a particle, is described in terms of all other particles and their properties. (It's all rather circular.)

In effect, we have a way of describing a universe of n particles, with n-1 particles. Since it was only through changes in the n-1 particles that we determined we had an nth.

Continue this 'rewriting' and inductively you will end with 1 'particle' with several properties that are functions of themselves.

So can we say the universe is just 1 thing, and we have artificially subdivided it for a more convenient representation?

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This is really a philosophical question (albeit a good one), so I'm closing it as off topic :/ –  Manishearth Jan 13 '13 at 5:13
    
Migrate to philosophy.SE? See this meta Philosophy SE question. –  gerrit Jan 13 '13 at 10:50
    
Cross-posted to philosophy.stackexchange.com/q/4751 –  Qmechanic Feb 11 '13 at 1:34
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closed as off topic by Emilio Pisanty, Waffle's Crazy Peanut, Manishearth Jan 13 '13 at 5:13

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

I think this is mostly a philosophy question.

We can say whatever we want. Your question title talks about truth. I hope you won't be disappointed if I tell you that science is not about finding the truth. Rather, science is about contructing models that are useful. I had a friend in university who actually quit chemistry and went to study philosophy when she found out.

I'm not quite following your inductive reasoning of going down to 1 particle. But certainly, yes, any description of the universe, or any component thereof, is artificial for a more convenient representation. We cannot represent the universe completely, nor should we try; the only way would be to replicate it. A scientific model is useful if we can use it to make predictions on how particular systems behave. Those predictions may lead to practical applications in various sub-fields of physics, whether it is the laser or a weather forecast. The truth, however, is outside of the scope of science.

In summary: All models are an untrue convenience.

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