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A Request to the Physicists Among Us

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#1 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 04:23 PM

What follows are quotes from the writings of a man named Lawrence E. Jacobsen who lived in a rural Minnesota town. These comments appeared in the local newspaper in 1950 between August 31 and December 21.

I would appreciate observations and comments, general and specific to specific things he wrote.

With gratitude,

Otto


“Space and matter are the two basic principles of cosmic structure.”

“Space is substantial...it is not only a place which matter moves but a contributing factor to those movements....Space dominates all other forces in nature.”

"Time and energy have a place in the action that results from the opposition of space and matter.”

“It never seemed right to accept a self-contained universe.”

“There must be a great underlying principle that dominates and moves matter. Energy cannot be this principle because energy is a form of matter....matter cannot constitute motion nor inherently move....substantial space can be the first principle and the prime mover...”

“...directly opposite...to...space...is...matter. Matter is stressful, every particle of matter attracts every other particle...If matter were unopposed all of the parts would form a homogenous mass and would be in a passive state of rest.”

“Space is more than place, time is only natural and energy is a product rather than a principle of nature.”

“It matters little whether the universe is the size of an orange or its magnitude reckoned in light years...[either would be] relative to the observers within it.”

“Man believes energy is a principle of nature because it is beyond his senses.”

“The speed of light [is the] speed of energy transmitted through a field [and is] relative to the density of the field...a less massive volume [at the origin of the universe] would have resulted...in a total disintegration of matter.”

“Think of space as a thread...by forming a loop...dimension is added to our universe.”

“To build a universe of string...”

“Space has character and is the most solid thing in nature.”

“Without space there can be no atomic or cosmic structure.”

“Space forms the concrete material and structure [in the universe].”

#2 Joad

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 04:42 PM

One comment: these statements display a very less than perfect understanding of Special and General Relativity and would require a huge amount of effort to correct. If anyone here chooses to make that effort, that's for him to decide.

#3 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 05:24 PM

Thank you Joad.

It was my suspicion as well, as the man had no post-high school formal education, that his knowledge of relativity would be questionable.

Taking into consideration his lack of education and his comments being written in late 1950, do you see things in his comments which might represent something prescient, meaning, an insight greater than an inadequate understanding of the popular literature of the day (year) in which he lived?

#4 Joad

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 05:56 PM

American democracy is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, the grasp of things like General and Special Relativity is not democratically distributable and precise accuracy is really necessary. I would not regard myself as being qualified to give a precisely accurate description of SR and GR (I once thought I was, but now I know better). And I do not think that Mr. Jacobsen has any more to offer than a testimony to what is good about American democracy: we are all free to not be able to grasp the essential details of high level physics.

#5 Ira

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 05:56 PM

By themselves they are meaningless. The random jabberings of a lunatic.

/Ira

#6 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 06:25 PM

Is there any thing of merit in his comment, "“There must be a great underlying principle that dominates and moves matter. Energy cannot be this principle because energy is a form of matter....matter cannot constitute motion nor inherently move....substantial space can be the first principle and the prime mover...”

#7 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 06:28 PM

Ira, I appreciate you jumping in and sharing your thoughts about his thoughts.

Did you really mean it, when you said "lunatic"?

Might it, perhaps, be more accurate to see these comments as those of an intellectual dilettante?

Otto

#8 Joad

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 07:27 PM

For those who don't catch the reference: the allusion to a "prime mover" takes up an ancient cosmological/metaphysical principle from Aristotle, which Thomas Aquinas "Catholicized" as a prefiguration of the biblical God. So we're in danger once again of getting religious here.

#9 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 08:18 PM

I immediately caught that as well.

I think he may have thought of himself as a free thinking theosophist of some sort. From what I can tell he did not consider himself agnostic or atheist, but was not aligned with any denomination. His knowledge of scripture was impressive, as was his liberal attitudes toward scripture for the 1950s; perhaps even for today. As an example, "Biblical history reckons time of creation in days, this must be a figurative explanation, because if you built a house you would not reckon construction time by the activity of a grain of sand in one of the bricks."

Getting past the Thomistic "prime mover" thing...Is there anything insightful in any type of scientific or cosmological sense in the previous quotes given, even taking into consideration it was written in 1950?

#10 Jarad

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 08:29 PM

Well, several of them are blatantly wrong.

For example: “Man believes energy is a principle of nature because it is beyond his senses.”
This is wrong on several levels - first, energy is not a "principle". Second, our senses do pick up energy. Sight detects photons, we can sense heat, we hear sound, all forms of energy.

And “The speed of light [is the] speed of energy transmitted through a field [and is] relative to the density of the field...a less massive volume [at the origin of the universe] would have resulted...in a total disintegration of matter.”

This harks back to the ideas of light travelling through the "ether". The Mickelson-Morley experiment demonstrated that this is not the case, and Relativity followed with a theoretical framework that does not require it.

The only one I would agree with is “Without space there can be no atomic or cosmic structure”, but I don't find it particularly insightful or useful...

Jarad

#11 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 08:35 PM

I agree Jarad.

Any thoughts about his statement, "“There must be a great underlying principle that dominates and moves matter. Energy cannot be this principle because energy is a form of matter....matter cannot constitute motion nor inherently move....substantial space can be the first principle and the prime mover...”

Otto

#12 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 08:40 PM

Let me edit out the parts I am most interested in reading your comments,

"“There must be a great underlying principle that.. moves matter. Energy cannot be this principle because energy is a form of matter....matter cannot constitute motion nor inherently move [itself...what moves matter is]...space."

#13 Pess

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 10:04 PM

I agree Jarad.

Any thoughts about his statement, "“There must be a great underlying principle that dominates and moves matter. Energy cannot be this principle because energy is a form of matter....matter cannot constitute motion nor inherently move....substantial space can be the first principle and the prime mover...”

Otto


He is just attempting to argue that there must be a 'God' underlying everything. 'Prime mover' & 'great underlying principle' are merely euphemisms for god.

As Joad alluded to, these are clumsy attempts to use logic to prove the existence of god.

Pesse (But a rose by any other name...) Mist

#14 CounterWeight

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 04:15 AM

oh boy, that is a long and odd collection of statements to correct, or even dialogue about, think I'll pass.

#15 Ravenous

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 05:30 AM

Getting past the Thomistic "prime mover" thing...Is there anything insightful in any type of scientific or cosmological sense in the previous quotes given, even taking into consideration it was written in 1950?

You're thinking of this part, aren't you?

“Think of space as a thread...by forming a loop...dimension is added to our universe.”

“To build a universe of string...”

It does look remarkably like an early reference to string theory, but I guess it's more likely he was just trying to get across the idea (which was probably talked about even then) of space being curved in higher dimensions.

#16 CounterWeight

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 05:45 AM

No it isn't unfortunately. A point, stretch it out in any direction and you get a line. This can exist in a plane. Join the two ends of that line and it is still in a plane. Nothing fancy dimensionally, still 'planar'. Now take that 'loop' and put it on or inside a spherical frame of reference, and things get interesting as far as space/time.

#17 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 07:05 AM

His comment about space is the cause of the motion of matter: my suspicion, having engaged in philosophical discourse my whole adult life, is that he is taking a connotative meaning of one of the terms and then drawing that meaning out till it contradicts the denotative meaning of another term; a kind of Nietzschean saying-a-lot-of-things which seem to say something but says nothing at all. And then this gibberish is dropped on an audience which has no background in physics or philosophy and he can get away with the comments. I suspect that this is all there is to what he is saying.

I think Pess is also correct in his assumption of certain theological ideas and then importing them into a discussion of physics.

His comments did cause me to realize I do not have a clear understanding of the relation between, what is called "force" as it relates to motion, and energy. What is the correct understanding of the relationship of energy(yes) and force(s)?

Otto

#18 Jarad

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 07:57 AM

Velocity = Distance/Time (m/s)
Accelleration = Velocity/Time (m/s^2)
Force = Mass * Accelleration (kg*m/s^2)
Energy = Force * Distance (kg*m^2/s^2)

If you apply a force to an object, you give it energy. The amoung of energy you give it depends on the distance over which you apply the force (this is also proportional to the length of time you apply the force). The same amount of energy will propel a smaller mass to a higher velocity.

Jarad

#19 Ravenous

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 08:40 AM

His comments did cause me to realize I do not have a clear understanding of the relation between, what is called "force" as it relates to motion, and energy. What is the correct understanding of the relationship of energy(yes) and force(s)?

Energy is just a measure of what the force does. Energy is defined as the capacity for doing work. It says nothing about the fundamental physics involved in the process though. The word "Energy" gets bandied about a lot but it's all relative.

Drop 1Kg of something and you'll get some gravitational energy.

If it's 1Kg of coal, burn it and you'll get some chemical energy.

If it's 1Kg of plutonium, let it decay and you'll get (lots of) nuclear energy - either all in one big bang, or in a low-power source lasting many years, depending on how you want to use it.

I'm being a bit pedantic in the above, but I think it's occasionally worth remembering "energy" is really just an accounting concept.

#20 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 09:31 AM

"If you apply a force to an object, you give it energy. "

I am, at this moment, pushing against the desk in front of me with my hand. It has no effect (the desk is not being moved because it is so heavy). Yet, pushing against the desk adds energy to the desk. Correct?

#21 Ira

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 10:06 AM

It is not being moved because of friction. In outer space it would move. You are imparting kinetic energy to it, but not enough to overcome its friction. The energy is converted to a tiny amount of heat where the legs touch the floor.

/Ira

#22 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 10:23 AM

Ira/Jarad, I appreciate this!

When I stop pushing against the same desk, the energy added has now left the desk (in the form of heat dissipated through the legs touching the floor, the surfaces of the desk radiating heat into the surrounding air, etc). Correct?

#23 Jarad

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 10:26 AM

I am, at this moment, pushing against the desk in front of me with my hand. It has no effect (the desk is not being moved because it is so heavy). Yet, pushing against the desk adds energy to the desk. Correct?



Actually, no. If the object is free to move, then yes.

Energy = Force * Distance

If it can't move, then distance is 0, so no energy added.

In your case, you are applying force to the desk. But something (the ground, the wall, or some guy pushing the other way) is applying an equal and opposite force cancelling out the force you are applying. Net force is 0.

If you push it really hard so it starts moving, it gains energy. As it slides across the floor and slows down due to friction, that kinetic energy would be converted to heat.

Jarad

#24 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 10:34 AM

Jarad,

Let's simplify the scenario. The desk is in an interstellar vacuum. I, an astronaut in a space suit, push against the desk. The desk starts floating away from me and I start floating in the opposite direction.

Let's focus only on the desk. Because I pushed on it (applied force to it), it is now moving through the vacuum. Because it is moving through the vacuum, energy has now been added to it?

Correct?

Otto

#25 EJN

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 10:46 AM

Yes, kinetic energy.

KE = 1/2mv^2 = p^2/2m where

m = mass, v = velocity, & p = momentum (mv).


The force applied is given by

F = m dv/dt


(The above are the classical equations and ignore special
relativity)






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