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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
A Request to the Physicists Among Us
      #5758697 - 03/26/13 05:23 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].”

Edited by Otto Piechowski (03/26/13 05:46 PM)


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Joad
Wordsmith
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Reged: 03/22/05

Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5758741 - 03/26/13 05:42 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.

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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Joad]
      #5758806 - 03/26/13 06:24 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?


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Joad
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Reged: 03/22/05

Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5758869 - 03/26/13 06:56 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.

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Ira
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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5758872 - 03/26/13 06:56 PM

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

/Ira


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Ira]
      #5758925 - 03/26/13 07:25 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...”

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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Ira]
      #5758927 - 03/26/13 07:28 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


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Joad
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Reged: 03/22/05

Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5759091 - 03/26/13 08:27 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.

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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Joad]
      #5759203 - 03/26/13 09:18 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?


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Jarad
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Reged: 04/28/03

Loc: Atlanta, GA
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5759224 - 03/26/13 09:29 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


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Jarad]
      #5759235 - 03/26/13 09:35 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


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5759245 - 03/26/13 09:40 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."

Edited by Otto Piechowski (03/26/13 09:44 PM)


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Pess
(Title)
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Reged: 09/12/07

Loc: Toledo, Ohio
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5759367 - 03/26/13 11:04 PM

Quote:

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


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CounterWeight
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Reged: 10/05/08

Loc: Palo alto, CA.
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Pess]
      #5759591 - 03/27/13 05:15 AM

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

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Ravenous
sage


Reged: 11/14/09

Loc: UK
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5759626 - 03/27/13 06:30 AM

Quote:

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?

Quote:

“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.


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CounterWeight
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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Ravenous]
      #5759633 - 03/27/13 06:45 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.

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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5759703 - 03/27/13 08:05 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

Edited by Otto Piechowski (03/27/13 08:06 AM)


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Jarad
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Reged: 04/28/03

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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5759787 - 03/27/13 08:57 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


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Ravenous
sage


Reged: 11/14/09

Loc: UK
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5759856 - 03/27/13 09:40 AM

Quote:

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.


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Jarad]
      #5759951 - 03/27/13 10:31 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?


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Ira
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 08/22/10

Loc: Mitzpe Ramon, Israel
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5760002 - 03/27/13 11:06 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


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Ira]
      #5760027 - 03/27/13 11:23 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?


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Jarad
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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5760031 - 03/27/13 11:26 AM

Quote:

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

Edited by Jarad (03/27/13 11:28 AM)


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Jarad]
      #5760044 - 03/27/13 11:34 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


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EJN
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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5760064 - 03/27/13 11:46 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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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: EJN]
      #5760100 - 03/27/13 12:02 PM

Let us now say the desk is stopped. Let's imagine something like it running into an asteroid. At the moment it stops, the desk loses the energy that had been added to it by my application of force. Correct?

Otto


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Ravenous
sage


Reged: 11/14/09

Loc: UK
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5760238 - 03/27/13 01:09 PM

Some (most) of the energy is transferred to the asteroid. You pushed the desk originally, you see it go towards the asteroid and land/crash. If you have infinitely good measuring abilities, you will observe the asteroid (with the desk on it) is moving at a slightly different speed... the desk has shared its energy with the asteroid and changed its course.

When you stand on the earth and jump, the Earth bounces downwards too. (In theory - because I doubt it's ever been measured.)


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Otto Piechowski
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Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Ravenous]
      #5760248 - 03/27/13 01:13 PM

Thank you Ravenous, EJN, Ira, and Jarad,

The desk gained energy when I shoved it. It lost that extra energy when it collided with the asteroid.

On the way (after the shove and before the collision) what was that energy? Was it a something? What was the nature of that something?


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llanitedave
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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5760356 - 03/27/13 01:44 PM

Quote:

Thank you Ravenous, EJN, Ira, and Jarad,

The desk gained energy when I shoved it. It lost that extra energy when it collided with the asteroid.

On the way (after the shove and before the collision) what was that energy? Was it a something? What was the nature of that something?




That's really a relative concept. The energy it "has" is relative to whatever energy the comparative object has. The energy it has relative to your body after pushing it is equal to the force at which you pushed it. The energy it has relative to the walls of whatever external object is in the vicinity is only half of what your push imparted, because the other half is you moving away from the desk.

The energy it has relative to the target asteroid is a factor of the vector of the two objects' directions. If they are moving exactly parallel to one another without intersecting, there is no kinetic energy to impart. If they are moving directly towards one another, then whatever energy you imparted to the desk (half the amount contained in your push) will be added to its impact with the asteroid.


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5760477 - 03/27/13 02:35 PM

Dave, thank you as always for taking on my basic questions!


There is this desk sitting motionless in the vacuum of space. It, the desk, is made up of whatever it is it is made.

Now the desk is shoved and it is moving through space. It has not yet impacted against anything. The desk is still the same desk but it is moving. Is this moving desk made up of exactly the same components of which it was constituted while it was sitting still. Or is it made up of the same components plus a "something"?

Is the force which caused it to move, somehow now a something within the object itself?

The desk is, at this moment different from the previous desk. The previous desk was a-motionless-desk. It is now a-desk-in-motion. There is nothing now in contact with it causing it to be in motion. Somehow, the originating force has been transferred into the desk, causing what was a-motionless-desk to be a-desk-in-motion. Is that something which is causing it to now (not when it was first pushed, but now) to be in motion, a constitutive part of the desk making it a desk+something? What is the something?

Otto


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Jarad
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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5760566 - 03/27/13 03:02 PM

It depends on your frame of reference.

The desk is made of matter, which has a fixed amount of rest mass (M0). The rest mass is intrinsic to it regardless of reference frame. To an observer sitting at the desk (at rest relative to it), its total mass is the same as its rest mass, and its kinetic energy is zero.

To an observer in a different frame of reference that is moving relative to the desk, it has kinetic energy. It also has a different total mass (M = M0 + E/C^2, where E is the kinetic energy). The clock sitting on the desk is also running slower to the observer moving relative to the desk than to the observer sitting at the desk.

So the energy is not intrinsic to the desk itself - it is a relative value that depends on what reference frame it is measured from. As far as the desk is concerned, it didn't change at all when you shoved it - you started moving away from it.

That's part of the core concept of relativity.

Jarad

Edited by Jarad (03/27/13 03:04 PM)


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llanitedave
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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Jarad]
      #5760571 - 03/27/13 03:06 PM

Right, the idea of either you or the desk being motionless is very much limited to you and the desk. It has no real meaning to the rest of the universe.

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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Jarad]
      #5760593 - 03/27/13 03:18 PM

Long ago, when I was reading things like the Principia and Galileo's Two New World Sciences, I vaguely recall reading phrases such as "impressed force". The idea I took from this was their primitive way of understanding that the force which causes something to move does create a change in the substance of the thing being moved; much like a ring imprinting an image of a seal on the wax sealing a letter.

Using their old fashioned language, the difference between the motionless desk and the desk in motion is that the second, the desk in motion is the same as the motionless desk...but with an imprint; an actual change in the desk itself.

............

Second attempt:

Just before you wrote I, too, Jarad, was thinking of that formula from relativity (M = M0 + E/C^2). And yes, I understand that the difference of mass is dependent on the frame of reference.

But the fact is that the motion causes a change in the desk; its mass increases.

Now, recently, I have heard of a thing called the Higgs Boson which accounts for the mass of an object. If the mass of the desk has changed, there is then, so I undersstand, some difference in regard to the constitution of the desk-in-motion compared to the motionless-desk in terms of the Higgs Bosons constitutive to the two desks.

Am I correct?


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Jarad
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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5760642 - 03/27/13 03:45 PM

Quote:

But the fact is that the motion causes a change in the desk; its mass increases.




But this isn't a change in the desk itself.

Let me give you a slightly different scenario - you are in a spaceship coasting along, and you gently release the desk outside the airlock. It is floating along next to you, no relative kinetic energy.

Now you fire up your engines to return to earth. You are now moving relative to the desk, and from your point of view it now has kinetic energy and its (non-rest) mass has changed.

Did the desk change? It's still floating along in the same orbit as it was before you used your engines.

Jarad


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Otto Piechowski
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Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Jarad]
      #5760654 - 03/27/13 03:49 PM

That's helpful.

I'm thinking.


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Otto Piechowski
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Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Jarad]
      #5760665 - 03/27/13 03:55 PM

Jarad,

Is there such a thing as rest-mass?

Otto


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Jarad
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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5760677 - 03/27/13 04:00 PM

Yes, rest mass is what we normally think of as just mass (since we don't usually encounter objects with enough velocity to measurably change their mass).

Rest mass does not depend on frame of reference.

Jarad


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CounterWeight
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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5760682 - 03/27/13 04:03 PM

I think you have to be careful here in two ways. One is that the mass of the object 'contains' energy (a sort of by definition of it being composed of matter), and there is the quantum and thermodynamic aspect of that. Then there is the treatment of mass as an object and here if you are saying 'at rest' you need to have some sort of reference frame for the aggregate object and the spacetime treatment. Rather than a desk there is a good example using a spring and that the spring one wound up should somehow increase in weight as there is now stored energy. So the spring should weigh more when wound than when unwound. This change in weight is predicted to be exceptionally small, but then measuring that spring on surface of earth we now have to account for all the forces in the spacetime field the spring resides in in both states. It may be at rest with respect to the test jig and lab, but not with respect to sun and moon. But the spring is an object that is an aggregate of mass. Things change fundamentally when we consider the atoms in the spring and their individual energy.



So it's a question of scale in ways energy at the extremely small and energy at the extremely large. There are and have been a lot of attempts to reconcile the two, at least in the last hundred or so years that's where all the fun is?

Maybe this link might help.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5760708 - 03/27/13 04:14 PM

Jim/Jarad,

Thank you much.

Jim, I went to that website link. In it was written..."Now when people are describing the "mass" of different objects, including particles, it's much more convenient to talk about the rest mass, also called the "invariant mass", the mass a particle has in a frame in which its momentum is zero."


Does any given object exist in a multiplicity of different frames of reference at any given time; within some it has no momentum, but relative to the many others it does?


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5760794 - 03/27/13 04:55 PM

I think it would be more accurate to say that the particle exists, and can be measured from any frame of reference. There is only 1 frame of reference in which it is at rest.

It's not that it exists in many different frames, it's that there are many different frames it could be measured from. There is only 1 object.

As a simpler analogy let's take measuring the distance to an object. There is only 1 location where the distance to it is zero (the location where the object itself is). There are an infinite number of other locations you could measure the distance to it from, and get a different answer for the distance. That doesn't mean the object exists at many different distances. The object is unique, but the distance to it can only be defined relative to something else.

Rest mass is a property of the object. Velocity, kinetic energy and therefore total mass can only be defined relative to something else, it's not an intrinsic property of the object.

Jarad


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Jarad]
      #5760813 - 03/27/13 05:04 PM

I have to leave now to get to a family event. I have very much appreciated the primer in elementary physics through which each of you have taken the time to walk me.

I will be digesting these matters while I drive and will, undoubtedly, have other questions later.

Thank you.

Otto


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5764612 - 03/29/13 12:58 PM

Lawrence Jacobsen continued:

He seems to have been influenced by Jacob Bronowski's Ascent-of-Man documentary.

Anyway, he cites a quote of the physicist, Max Born. I believe Schrodinger quoted Born making the statement which follows.

I would appreciate hearing from you physicists, professional and amateur, what you believe Born was saying, what he meant to communicate when he (Born) wrote,

"I am convinced that theoretical physics is actually philosophy."

Thank you.

Otto


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5764855 - 03/29/13 02:18 PM

I wouldn't take off-the-cuff statements by physicists (especially from the "golden age" of physics) too seriously. They were on to something really new (Quantum Mechanics especially) and realized that our thinking about reality would have to be realigned. Heisenberg went so far as to opine that reality had evaporated in the wake of QM (postmodernists have really jumped on this), but in another statement opined that QM could be related to what Aristotle had to say about the nature of dunamis, or potentiality (I jumped on that).

But in the end, while physicists have said all sorts of things that could be called philosophical, their actual practice is quite different from the practice of philosophy.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Joad]
      #5764864 - 03/29/13 02:25 PM

Hi Joad,

My memory is a bit fuzzy...do I recall you writing here in response to my request, somewhat in depth, on the issue of potentiality as an aspect of reality , specifically; and hylomorphism in particular?

Your take on an intellectual generalist [Jacobsen], quoting Bronowski, perhaps quoting Schrodinger, quoting Born is pretty much what mine is.

Would you say that physicists today understand the basic principles of quantum physics to be as objectively true and understandable as physics' understanding of basic concepts of force and energy, say of a century ago?

Edited by Otto Piechowski (03/29/13 02:28 PM)


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5765287 - 03/29/13 05:00 PM

Newtonian physics, which was of immense interest to philosophers, does not challenge our fundamental human perception/conception/construction of reality. So in that sense one might say that philosophers of the pre-Quantum, pre-Relativity era felt pretty confident about the whole thing.

But while QM and Relativity have also been of immense interest to many current philosophers of science, both QM and Relativity are so alien to our fundamental human perception/conception/construction of reality that their philosophical explorations rest on a far less firm ground. The main problem is that neither QM nor Relativity make much sense in the context of natural language conceptuality (which is the language of a philosopher); they only make sense in the language of mathematics. Most philosophers (if not all) do not really have the mathematical training to fully grasp QM and Relativity (I know that I don't), and even physicists who do have that training can run off the rails when speculating in natural languages on what mathematics reveal. The "strong" anthropogenic argument that our observation of a photon not only causes it to collapse into a wave packet but also causes its emission in the first place is an example, IMHO, of physicists running off the rails.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Joad]
      #5765531 - 03/29/13 06:52 PM

This is from the introduction to a course on quantum mechanics:

Quote:

General relativity can be a difficult subject to master, but its mathematical
and conceptual structure involves a fairly straight-forward extension of structures
that characterize 19th century physics. The fundamental physical laws
(Einstein's equations for general relativity) are expressed as partial differential
equations, a familiar if difficult mathematical subject. The state of the system
is determined by the set of fields satisfying these equations, and observable
quantities are functionals of these fields. The mathematics is just that of the
usual calculus: differential equations and their real-valued solutions.

In quantum mechanics, the state of a system is best thought of as a different
sort of mathematical object: a vector in a complex vector space, the so-called
state space. One can sometimes interpret this vector as a function, the wavefunction,
although this comes with the non-classical feature that wave-functions are complex-valued.
What's truly completely different is the treatment of observable
quantities, which correspond to self-adjoint linear operators on the state
space. This has no parallel in classical physics, and violates our intuitions about
how physics should work.





In 1997, I attended a lecture at Fermilab by Nobel prize winner Murray
Gell-Mann, who developed the theory of quarks. He said something very memorable,
paraphrasing from memory:

"Some people find quantum mechanics weird or strange. Quantum mechanics is a
theory which makes very precise predictions which have been verified by experiment.
There's nothing weird about that. It's just quantum mechanics, being quantum
mechanics. That's all it does!"

On a PBS program, another physicist (whose name I don't remember) said (again,
paraphrasing from memory):

"Quantum mechanics is a theory whose predictions have been verified by experiment
to a precision almost unparalleled in physics. As for what it means, I leave that
to the philosophers. But personally, I think they have no idea what they are
talking about."




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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: EJN]
      #5765810 - 03/29/13 09:48 PM

Joad and EJN...you two did a spectacular job of clarifying the issues regarding the objectivity and understandability of classical physics and QM/relativity physics.

Now, I would like to do a regular philosophical thing, of putting, side by side, two spectacular quotes by two physicsts (one, Max Born, and the other from the PBS program cited), and inviting whatever comments anyone wishes to make about the dialectic of these two statements.

Born: "I am convinced that theoretical physics is actually philosophy."

PBS: ""As for what it [quantum mechanics] means, I leave that to the philosophers. But personally, I think they have no idea what they are
talking about."


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5766010 - 03/30/13 12:47 AM

Quote:

PBS: ""As for what it [quantum mechanics] means, I leave that to the philosophers. But personally, I think they have no idea what they are
talking about."





I guess that shows PBS is seeking the same audience as the 'Jerry Springer' folks? (not the first time or subject IMO)

Some of the best set theoreticians and in ways mathmaticians /numerical analysis folks I have met have degrees in philosophy at the BS or PhD level. Study of logic can be a powerful thing. So consider that a moron can comment on anything (and for some reason the mass media seems to need that for it's 'controversy' angle...), but to argue with the moron folks might not be able to tell which is which? (just tagging onto an old saying there).. So my suggestion is to take that as PBS 'theatrics'.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5767352 - 03/30/13 06:23 PM

As an aside...I'm reading this thread and following along as well as can be expected. This thought crossed my mind....

At my job, during lunch, for 20 some odd years, the only thing my co-workers talk about are guns with a wife story tossed in here and there.

My brain needs exercise.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Joad]
      #5767655 - 03/30/13 09:28 PM

Quote:

..and even physicists who do have that training can run off the rails when speculating in natural languages on what mathematics reveal. The "strong" anthropogenic argument that our observation of a photon not only causes it to collapse into a wave packet but also causes its emission in the first place is an example, IMHO, of physicists running off the rails.




I am and always have been suspicious of Special Relativity and statements made by Physicists about the nature of Quantum Mechanics as I was trained in Philosophy as a major at the undergraduate level. I agree with Joad that the above statement appears illogical.

After all Physicists are not Philosophers or Logicians. They seem to think that A and Not A can exist in the same time and space without special qualifications. (hyperbole)

"

"But in the end, while physicists have said all sorts of things that could be called philosophical, their actual practice is quite different from the practice of philosophy."

I hope the problems I have with some physicists statements are not real problems of the physics at all but just bad statements of philosophy uttered by these men to popularize and explain their theories to the lay public.

Mark


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Napersky]
      #5767702 - 03/30/13 09:54 PM

I like to think that each helps keep the truth 'on it's toes', whatever it is perceived to be. Hope that doesn't sound overly optimistic.

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idealistic
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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5768984 - 03/31/13 02:55 PM

Shouldn't physics be explainable philosophically? If in fact it can't, I'd say that would be a failure of physics and not philosophy. I know little about theoretical physics, but things that philosophy deals with, such as causality, identity and what not shouldn't present a problem if we've got the physics really nailed down, right?

Edited by idealistic (03/31/13 03:02 PM)


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: idealistic]
      #5769007 - 03/31/13 03:04 PM

Physics doesn't need to explain anything except how matter and energy and space and time interact with one another. It can't explain anything philosophically, because it isn't philosophy. It can explain the motion of matter through a gravitational field, but it can't give that motion "meaning" in any philosophical sense.

That's not a failure of physics, that's merely the limitations of its scope. Let the philosophers argue about what it all means.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5769063 - 03/31/13 03:34 PM

I'm saying that our understanding of reality, which is based on physics, should be explainable using the language and fundamental concepts that philosophers use. If it isn't, maybe we need to take another look at the physics.

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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: idealistic]
      #5769128 - 03/31/13 04:27 PM

Physics explains our understanding of reality mathematically (and it does so quite well)..

Maybe take another look at your view of reality or another look at philosophy..


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: gavinm]
      #5769141 - 03/31/13 04:37 PM

I'll get right on that. Can math not be explained using concepts that philosophers use?

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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: idealistic]
      #5769170 - 03/31/13 04:48 PM

A little history might be useful. Philosophy (literally "love of wisdom") was once synonymous with what we now call "science": there was no distinction (Aristole, for example, wrote on "physics"—which derived from the Greek word for "nature"—biology, rhetoric, ethics, metaphysics, politics, poetry, and so on and so forth).

But with the advent of the empirical scientific method, all that changed. Science and philosophy are quite distinct. The Anglo-American tradition of philosophy (Analytic) considerably reduced its ambitions a century ago to focus on the logic of arguments, while Continental philosophers have focused on politics, language, and culture. There are philosophers of science, but what's the point, really. What if, for example, the LHC ends up doing in the Standard Model? What would become of any philosophical argument based on it?

I think philosophers should go back to what Socrates focused on: the definition of the "good" for human life. They gave that up a long long time ago, but it is one thing that human beings can think about without requiring scientific knowledge or support.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: idealistic]
      #5769191 - 03/31/13 04:56 PM

Perhaps I can provide an example of a question which would be approached by physics and philosophy in different and perhaps incompatible manners.

Once upon a time, taking a cue from the Rev. Webb, I asked here, "Why is the universe so large?"

A physicist, would address this question from the position of "how", as in, what are the physical parameters of the formation of the universe that account for its size.

A philosopher, however, would handle this question from either a theological perspective of intention/final-causality/teleology, or from an anthropological direction (a la Wheeler) of exploring why the physical parameters of the universe correspond with or are specifically suited to human nature.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: idealistic]
      #5769228 - 03/31/13 05:08 PM

whoops! Let's follow this... physics is described mathematically ? Do we have agreement there? OK, now... mathematics - certainly at points cab be very philosophical - I have some great books that go into it in painful detail. It's an unfortunately often bypassed subject, and well.. we reap the rewards of that.

But as a sort of starter I'd mention Korner, "The Philosophy of Mathematics".

Now ask is mathematics a science like physics? or is it something else? Physics a science and math is not? Math becomes a science when applied to scienterrific things by equally modern scienterrific people?

Hmmm... well at the very least philosophy and mathematics are at the very core basics on very good terms.

Were Heisenberg and Pauli just 'whacko' for their beliefs that there was a philosophy component for physics as well?

.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5769263 - 03/31/13 05:15 PM

I agree with Joad that philosophy should focus on defining "the good" among other practical applications of the mind with the goal of bettering ourselves.

Otto, I see what you're saying. I don't think that philosophy should try to answer the "why" of a metaphysically given fact such as "why is the universe so large". It just is.

Many people think that mathematical physics (today) is irrational nonsense. That physicists are now the ones in their ivory tower, and to disagree is a sign of an inability to comprehend, or to do the math. Shouldn't it be easy enough to explain QM without resorting to neo-Platonism and contradicting what appears evident to perception? Things have certain identities and behave in certain definable ways (edit: No matter whether we're looking or not, no matter how it makes us feel), this should be true at all times and at all scales. Thats a philosophic statement that some physicists (maybe trying to be cute) might dare to disagree with isn't it?

Edited by idealistic (03/31/13 05:39 PM)


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Joad]
      #5769380 - 03/31/13 05:59 PM

Joad clearly identified and described the diverging directions philosophy took on the european continent and in Anglo-American culture. Joad wrote,

"But with the advent of the empirical scientific method, all that changed. Science and philosophy are quite distinct. The Anglo-American tradition of philosophy (Analytic) considerably reduced its ambitions a century ago to focus on the logic of arguments, while Continental philosophers have focused on politics, language, and culture."

Joad's opinion about a direction to which philosophy should return, I think is a valuable comment. He wrote, "I think philosophers should go back to what Socrates focused on: the definition of the "good" for human life. They gave that up a long long time ago, but it is one thing that human beings can think about without requiring scientific knowledge or support."

I would like to add a qualification to the foregoing comment. There has been one philosophical tradition which has continued to deal with the issue of what is good for human life. That tradition is called moderate realism. It's iconic proponents have been Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. Since the beginning of scientific/technological modernity, this philosophical emphasis on ethical issues related to the good life, has continued unabated among "the Catholic and non-Catholic disciples of Thomas Aquinas"...those who have a "party allegiance" to the concept of "natural right"; an issue which is anathema to the continental philosophies mentioned by Joad and ignored by the Anglo-American advocates of logical positivism. (Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History, page 7).


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5769426 - 03/31/13 06:16 PM

One of my philosophy teachers was a Robert Sokolowski whose sobriquet is "the other Polish phenomenologists"; a tongue in cheek reference to Karol Woytyla (Pope John Paul II who had a Ph.D in phenomenology; a branch of philosophy).

Fr. Sokolowski wrote a book called Introduction to Phenomenology in response to/as a reaction to a conversation he had with the mathematician Gian Carol-Rota. In that book he shared Carol-Rota's observation about the nature of philosophy and the manner in which philosophy could imitate mathematical research to its own benefit.

Sokolowski wrote, "Rota had often drawn attention to a difference between mathematicians and philosophers. Mathematicians, he said, tend to absorb the writings of their predecessors directly into their own work. They do not comment on the writings of earlier mathematicians, even if they have been very much influenced by them. They simply make use of the material that they find in the authors they read. When advances are made in mathematics, later thinkers condense the findings and move on. Few mathematicians study works from past centuries; compared with contemporary mathematics, such older writings seem to them almost like the work of children."

"In philosophy, by contrast, classical works often become enshrined as objects of exegesis rather than resources to be exploited...Rota acknowledged the value of [this]...but thought philosophers ought to do more. Besides offering exposition, they should abridge earlier writings and directly address issues, speaking in their own voice..." (Page 1).

An example of "directly addressing issues" and "speaking in their own voice" would be Joad's suggestion that philosophy focus again on what is "good for human life".


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5769592 - 03/31/13 07:59 PM

The problem here is that what Joad wrote is incorrect? That makes it a belief contradicting facts, and anything following a post hoc ergo proctor hoc logical fallacy...

It is not a matter of you or I agreeing on anything, I tried to post some links to concrete examples that are at least as current as the science, there are many more for anyone willing to take the time. I cannot understand this need to create a division where none exists. Certainly there is a useful formula / concept or principle that is on paper, but what prompted the person come up with it? That it might be a consideration 'outside the harness' of mathmanship doesn't make it any more correct or incorrect.

We are talking about physics and in some way relativity, imagine being in the room with Russel, Godel, Pauli, and Einstein (a historical fact that they all met periodically, not just my flight of fancy) and making the assertion. So why make it here? Why not allow each it's due and accept it's existance.

So... put me in the strongly disagree side of this - with facts though, and not just me disagreeing.



.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5769664 - 03/31/13 08:41 PM

Quote:

Few mathematicians study works from past centuries; compared with contemporary mathematics, such older writings seem to them almost like the work of children."




This deserves 'special attention'. Euclid, Gauss, Euler, Jacobi ... and Newton? Sure, many do not study the original material and as in the case of Newton we dont call them fluxions and fluents - but it's very much a part of 'modern' math, and at least IMO far from childs play. I think these ideas are as difficult for folks to understand today as they were 100 years ago. As for degreed mathpersons in general, it's quite possible to go down a road that another has no specialization in that may have it's foundation in something seemingly not too difficult... like Hardy's initial reaction to the writings of Ramanujan. 'He's either another crazy or a true genius' (loose translation)

Edited by CounterWeight (03/31/13 08:42 PM)


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: idealistic]
      #5769914 - 03/31/13 11:47 PM

Quote:

I'll get right on that. Can math not be explained using concepts that philosophers use?




More practically, it would behoove philosophers who want to explain math to simply learn math, on its own terms. Many already have, so we know it's not an unreasonable proposition.

Edited by llanitedave (03/31/13 11:51 PM)


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Joad]
      #5770073 - 04/01/13 02:27 AM

Quote:

Newtonian physics, which was of immense interest to philosophers, does not challenge our fundamental human perception/conception/construction of reality. So in that sense one might say that philosophers of the pre-Quantum, pre-Relativity era felt pretty confident about the whole thing.

But while QM and Relativity have also been of immense interest to many current philosophers of science, both QM and Relativity are so alien to our fundamental human perception/conception/construction of reality that their philosophical explorations rest on a far less firm ground. The main problem is that neither QM nor Relativity make much sense in the context of natural language conceptuality (which is the language of a philosopher); they only make sense in the language of mathematics. Most philosophers (if not all) do not really have the mathematical training to fully grasp QM and Relativity (I know that I don't), and even physicists who do have that training can run off the rails when speculating in natural languages on what mathematics reveal. The "strong" anthropogenic argument that our observation of a photon not only causes it to collapse into a wave packet but also causes its emission in the first place is an example, IMHO, of physicists running off the rails.




SR and QM may predict things that are outside of our normal range of physical perception, but SR as a theory still adheres to a realism standpoint. In QM, this is not the case. From its five axioms, it only describes what is perceived as physical observation as a result from outside intervention. This is a huge problem if you are only even remotely concerned about what this can tell you about how the universe works.

Is that running off the rails quote you have come from sort of Wigner/Wheeler-land interpretation?

Edited by Neutrino? (04/01/13 02:33 AM)


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: idealistic]
      #5770356 - 04/01/13 09:45 AM

Quote:

Things have certain identities and behave in certain definable ways (edit: No matter whether we're looking or not, no matter how it makes us feel), this should be true at all times and at all scales.




The problem is that this is not true at all times and all scales. Particle behavior at small scales is distinctly different than at large scales. An electron does not behave the same as a baseball. If you throw a baseball through a slit, it goes through in a straight line. An electron does not - it diffracts, and can end up far from the line (and QM can give very precise odds for the chances of it ending up at various points, and if we shoot a beam of electrons through the slit we see pattern that matches those predictions perfectly).

Same thing happens at large scales - we can use simple newtonian dynamics to predict orbits around the earth pretty well. They break down a little bit at the scale of the sun (the precession of Mercury does not match newtonian predictions), so we have to go up to relativity. At larger scales, we have to include the curvature and expansion of space.

This is probably one of the core differences between philosophy and physics - in philosophy you can say what should be true. In physics, you are constrained by what is measureably true.

Jarad

Edited by Jarad (04/01/13 11:29 AM)


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Jarad]
      #5770636 - 04/01/13 11:54 AM

Quote:

In physics, you are constrained by what is measureably true.





Which is in no way a failure of physics itself.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5770690 - 04/01/13 12:16 PM

true at least in the realm of the 'physical' aspect of physics, here I think of Johnson kicking the rock.

I try and take a somewhat holistic approach, that something may in the details be invalid does not necessarily mean it's all a house of cards... unless you go outside the bounds of what it's good for. Contrary to those that think somehow asking questions and finding weakness a fault of some sort of system, it's actually a strength. Understanding assumptions tops the list, and there are many approaches, but to find what they are takes some rigor. That a system may provide explanations for phenomena does not mean complete understanding.

Otto, there was a book written some time ago and I'd like to recommend it heartily as it might touch appropriatly on the appropriate subjects, and I'd be very interested in your thoughts about it.

Mathematics, The Loss of Certainty, by Morris Kline. It's on my shelf and I read it some time ago but he does do IMHO a decent job of discussing the aspects seemingly at hand here if I understand correctly what you are asking about in the main.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5770709 - 04/01/13 12:26 PM

Quote:

Same thing happens at large scales - we can use simple newtonian dynamics to predict orbits around the earth pretty well. They break down a little bit at the scale of the sun (the precession of Mercury does not match newtonian predictions), so we have to go up to relativity. At larger scales, we have to include the curvature and expansion of space.

This is probably one of the core differences between philosophy and physics - in philosophy you can say what should be true. In physics, you are constrained by what is measureably true.




Jarad as always a great point and very well put.

There is this nagging issue called the '3 body problem' to say nothing of the four body problem or higher.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5770738 - 04/01/13 12:39 PM

What is space?

What is the nature of the space which contains matter in the universe?

What is the nature of the "place" outside of the universe?

Why is it incorrect to think of space outside the confines of the universe?

etc.

Otto


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5770794 - 04/01/13 01:09 PM

The words "nature" and "outside of the universe" have no conceptual connection with one another.

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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5770801 - 04/01/13 01:16 PM

What is space?

Why is it correct to think of space as existing only within the universe?

Why is it correct not to think of space as a place into which the universe expands/occcupies?


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5771184 - 04/01/13 04:47 PM

Quote:

What is space?




Good, the first step should be to select a definition. This will help answer the later questions.

Wikipedia lists the definition of space as: The boundless three-dimensional extent in which objects exist and events occur and have relative position and direction.

Quote:

Why is it correct to think of space as existing only within the universe?




This depends on your definition of "universe". Sticking with Wikipedia, the Universe is commonly defined as the totality of existence, including planets, stars, galaxies, the contents of intergalactic space, and all matter and energy.

So, if we define the universe as encompassing all space, then space exists completely within the universe. If there space somewhere else, then by definition that somewhere else is part of the universe. The only real difference between the two definitions is that the "universe" includes the matter and energy contained inside the "space".

If you want to postulate some special set of "space" that is outside the universe, then you have to start changing the definitions to include some boundaries to have an "inside" and "outside". But as they are now, if it contains space, it is part of the universe.

The space part is actually pretty simple. We can postulate boundless space fairly easily (just like a plane with one more dimension). It's when you get to spacetime that it gets more complicated, since the current expanding model has at least one inherent boundary - the beginning. It's the "What happened before the Big Bang" question that's hard to answer, more so than the "What's outside the universe" one.

That's the philosophical reason that some people prefer a steady state model to any type of Big Bang hypothesis - it makes time just another boundless dimension like space and you don't have to worry about the boundary issue (it's turtles all the way down).

But the real reason not to get too bogged down in the "what's outside the universe" issue is the empirical one - we can only measure and test what is in the universe. If it is truly outside the universe, it's untestable, so also outside of science. If we can measure it, then it part of our universe in some way. If, for example, we figure out a way to measure things happening in a 10th dimension, that's not outside the universe, it just means our universe does in fact have at least 10 dimensions.

Jarad


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5771200 - 04/01/13 04:52 PM

First off, talking of "space" by itself is an outmoded concept from the Newtonian
view. In the context of special & general relativity, one can only speak of "spacetime".
In this context, spacetime is a (mathematical) manifold which relates "events."
The coordinate system is arbitrary; relativity is actually a way of describing
relationships between events using mathematical objects which are invariant under
coordinate changes. GR is a background independent theory, in that it describes the
dynamics of the background (spacetime).

In QM, the background is considered fixed, and "space" in QM is the quantum vacuum,
the lowest possible energy state of quantum fields. It is not zero, however, so space
is never truly empty (the "perfect" vacuum, or "free space" of classical physics).

Since the universe, by definition, is all of spacetime, to ask what is "outside" of it
is a meaningless question in physics.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Jarad]
      #5771211 - 04/01/13 04:55 PM

The "what happened before the Big Bang" question is functionally identical to "what's outside the Universe", since at least in a spacetime context, time is as much a creation of the Big Bang as space is.

Although it is strange, when you think about it, that there doesn't seem to be any expansion of time in the universe along with the space. Why are three new dimensions constantly being expanded, but not the fourth dimension?


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5771349 - 04/01/13 05:51 PM

I have read the words "expansion" and "expand" and "expanding" to refer to the activity of the universe after the Big Bang.

In what sense does the universe expand? is expanding? undergoing expansion?

The word expand means to grow in size as measured against some standard measure; the measuring tape, the size of the theatre seat...all of these are things outside the thing which is expanding.

Yet, we say there is no place outside the universe into which the universe expanded or could have expanded. Thus, my question, in what sense do we say the universe expands? is expanding? underwent expansion?

Otto


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5771380 - 04/01/13 06:08 PM

What you refer to is an extrinsic frame of reference, where something
is measured against external objects. The mathematics of relativity describes
"intrinsic" expansion, that is without reference to anything external.

That the expansion is taking place is known because of the redshifting of
distance objects, the light being "stretched" so to speak. In relativity
light defines the null geodesic.

I posted this in the "Where is the expanding universe going" thread which
perhaps you should read.

Quote:

In the geometry of spacetime, the shortest distance between 2 points is defined
by the path of light (or any electromagnetic wave). This is called the null,
or lightlike geodesic.

Consider 2 points, A & B, in a static spacetime. Light traveling from point A
to point B defines the geodesic connecting the points. In the time the light
travels from A to B, it undergoes X cycles of the light wave (if I recall the
frequency of visible light is in the hundreds of terahertz).

Now consider points A & B in an *expanding* spacetime manifold. Initially,
the separation is the same as above. As light travels from A to B, the manifold
expands. When the light reaches point B, it will have undergone exactly the
same number of wave cycles as in the above example above. How? As the manifold
expands the wavelength increases, so the frequency decreases. When light
arrives at point B, it has a longer wavelength and so appears to be redshifted.

From the point of reference of the light wave, it has undergone exactly the same
same number of wave cycles in both cases, no "new" space has been traversed.

As is often the case in physics, what can easily be expressed in mathematics
is difficult to explain using just words.



My alternate answer to where the expanding universe is going is that it
is going to some place out in the sun, right down Highway 61.




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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: EJN]
      #5771470 - 04/01/13 07:01 PM

Since there is no external referent against which the expansion is measured, how do we know from the red-shift evidence that the universe is not, instead, going through some process of universal-diminution (everything receding from everything else and reducing in size)?

Edited by Otto Piechowski (04/01/13 07:05 PM)


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5771492 - 04/01/13 07:13 PM

This is what I meant when I said that modern physics, at both the micro and macro level, is not susceptible to a logic based in natural languages. Our natural languages are adapted to the scale in which we evolved, and are adequate to it. Applying them to the other scales doesn't lead to anything.

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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Joad]
      #5771494 - 04/01/13 07:15 PM

Joad,

Thank you.

Are you saying that the expansion of the universe cannot be described in normal (non-mathematical) language?

Otto


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5771553 - 04/01/13 07:42 PM

The word "expansion" gets us into trouble. It is better to go over what current physics says (which, of course, may turn out to be mistaken).

A lot has to do with quasars, whose red shifts (mathematically calculable) indicate that they are really really far away from us and moving even further away.

Then comes the Big Bang theory (which appears to be holding up in the face of new evidence). If the universe erupted from a singularity, and quasars are now billions of light years apart, well, you see what conclusions that leads to.

This is all pretty new. From Aristotle to Einstein a lot of bright people thought the universe was in a steady state.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5771575 - 04/01/13 07:50 PM

Another good book I want to recommend. I've used it as a basis for lectures on your question, and I always highly recommend it, in ways one of the least mathmatistic for the absolute gems it contains.

"Geometry, Relativity, and the Fourth Dimesion" by R. Rucker.

I have to admit I'm confused Otto about what you're after. Enuf is enuf. It's possible to ask questions effortlessly without the least effort to discover the multitude of 'low hanging fruit'. You are getting some great answeres but seem uninterested in expending the least effort to even take the time any reasonable person might do to 'discover' the true terrain of any of this. I and others are spending time to try and steer you in the directions to help understand the questions you are asking (NOT THE ANSWERS, THE QUESTIONS) but YOU need to take some time and effort to do at least the very basic legwork any reasonable person might do that had a genuine interest in the many topics you seem to traverse without taking the least time to fathom even in a very shallow the implications and directions the previous question generates?

For anyone really interested there is a significant amount out there on the web and paper composed specifically for you. IMO it takes very little effort to wade into the shallow end of the pool, but you have to actually be interested.

For that reason, I'll let rest any more input here by me. I hope you find what you are after, but more importantly learn to respect the effort others have spent in their respective diciplines to try and answer your questions. More importantly that you put some effort into it.

What concerns me is you might 'parrot' some of it without taking the effort to understand it, research it, make some effort. It's that sort of thing that confuses the heck out of casual bystanders, and leads to some less than desirable opinions about modern physics and mathematics, logic and philosophy. I see this as a recurring theme in this endless series of questions.

This last one about 'space' sort makes my point. It's a personal choice, but I don't and have never tutored anyone who will not take their own time and effort. Asking continual questions IMO takes no talent whatsoever. Asking a good question shows that at least the effort I and others are putting out is being respected and returned in kind.

So my request to the Otto among us is to please slow down and try and spend at least some minor effort in understanding the questions you are asking to us physics folks, reward us with that. How can anyone possibly answer when IMO you don't understand the question you ask, dont want to take the least time and effort to understand it yourself before asking.

Again best of luck to you.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5771579 - 04/01/13 07:51 PM

Quote:

Since there is no external referent against which the expansion is measured, how do we know from the red-shift evidence that the universe is not, instead, going through some process of universal-diminution (everything receding from everything else and reducing in size)?



Actually, that is a good question. DeSitter has pointed out several times here in the past that you could in fact solve the math just as well by positing that we (and everything else in the universe) are shrinking.

Jarad


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Jarad]
      #5771651 - 04/01/13 08:33 PM

Thank you Jarad.


I see this computer in front of me. It appears to be a solid object. As does the coffee cup to the side of it and as did the banana some few minutes ago. They all appear solid. If I were talking to a child I would just say, they are solid.

I have learned that these objects are composed of particles which cannot be sensed by the human senses; they are too light in weight, smaller than wavelengths of light to distinguish them, etc.

Further, I have learned that these particles are not particles in the sense of particles of dust or shot-gun shot or grains of sand, but bundles of energy existing in some type of quasi-real state/probabilistic state and whose essence/nature is defined by the field in which they exist.

In short, the computer/cup/banana only appear solid to our senses created to see them as such by the evolutionary processes within which we have been formed. But, In reality, there are in some type of state/composition/particalisation/field-enshrinement which is not describable by the ordinary-world-word, solid. In short, human speech, adapted to the world in which we operate/live on a daily basis of typing, drinking, eating, is not well suited to describing the realities as we are beginning to understand them.


I wonder if the same is true of the universe, in general, and of universal expansion in particular. I wonder if the words we use in human (non-mathematical) are as inadequate to describing these macro-cosmic things/events as they are of the micro-cosmic events things. More specifically, I wonder to just-what-degree our normal human (non-mathematical) speech is inadequate to the task of communicating an accurate description of these macrocosmic things/events/realities?


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5771666 - 04/01/13 08:42 PM

I think there are three separate questions I am asking:

1. Are the ways we sense things in the everyday world not correlatively useful for understanding (creating useful metaphors for explaining) subatomic reality? macro-cosmic reality?

2. Are the words we use to describe how we sense things in the everyday world not useful for describing subatomic realities? macro-cosmic reality?

3. Do we need to bracket the phenomenological issue that whatever and however I sense things in the everyday world, the "sense-image" of which I am aware is "in-here" (in the brain); and not so-much a presentation of the thing "out-there" (outside the body sensing them).


Trained in philosophy, I really enjoy these type of questions. Having said that, and standing by that statement, I must also say that I suspect (would bet) that (1) there is universal expansion as indicated by red-shift data, (2) that everything you all say about the subatomic nature of reality is correct, and (3) that the images which appear in my mind are good objective representations of the objects as they exist outside of my body.

Edited by Otto Piechowski (04/01/13 08:44 PM)


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5772693 - 04/02/13 11:36 AM

The University of Kentucky offers majors in astronomy and astrophysics. Anyone with an interest in this topic who lives in the Lexington area might audit a course or two, develop some relationships with faculty and students, and find some answers there.

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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5773018 - 04/02/13 02:04 PM

Quote:

Another good book I want to recommend. I've used it as a basis for lectures on your question, and I always highly recommend it, in ways one of the least mathmatistic for the absolute gems it contains.

"Geometry, Relativity, and the Fourth Dimesion" by R. Rucker.

I have to admit I'm confused Otto about what you're after. Enuf is enuf. It's possible to ask questions effortlessly without the least effort to discover the multitude of 'low hanging fruit'. You are getting some great answeres but seem uninterested in expending the least effort to even take the time any reasonable person might do to 'discover' the true terrain of any of this. I and others are spending time to try and steer you in the directions to help understand the questions you are asking (NOT THE ANSWERS, THE QUESTIONS) but YOU need to take some time and effort to do at least the very basic legwork any reasonable person might do that had a genuine interest in the many topics you seem to traverse without taking the least time to fathom even in a very shallow the implications and directions the previous question generates?

For anyone really interested there is a significant amount out there on the web and paper composed specifically for you. IMO it takes very little effort to wade into the shallow end of the pool, but you have to actually be interested.

For that reason, I'll let rest any more input here by me. I hope you find what you are after, but more importantly learn to respect the effort others have spent in their respective diciplines to try and answer your questions. More importantly that you put some effort into it.

What concerns me is you might 'parrot' some of it without taking the effort to understand it, research it, make some effort. It's that sort of thing that confuses the heck out of casual bystanders, and leads to some less than desirable opinions about modern physics and mathematics, logic and philosophy. I see this as a recurring theme in this endless series of questions.

This last one about 'space' sort makes my point. It's a personal choice, but I don't and have never tutored anyone who will not take their own time and effort. Asking continual questions IMO takes no talent whatsoever. Asking a good question shows that at least the effort I and others are putting out is being respected and returned in kind.

So my request to the Otto among us is to please slow down and try and spend at least some minor effort in understanding the questions you are asking to us physics folks, reward us with that. How can anyone possibly answer when IMO you don't understand the question you ask, dont want to take the least time and effort to understand it yourself before asking.

Again best of luck to you.




As long as we're recommending books...

Not an astronomy book, but can be classified as a philosophy book:

Karl Popper's Conjectures and Refutations. Most of the questions we've been getting here are only superficially about astronomy and more about the deeper approach to thinking about how to distinguish scientific ideas from unscientific ones. Popper has his share of critics and detractors, but I have yet to find those criticisms compelling. I have a few quibbles with some of his ideas, notably about the relationship between theory and observation, but those quibbles are minor and don't detract from his fundamental argument.
There is no better guide that I have read for understanding how to think critically about the world around us.

It's dense reading -- it took me about a year to slog through it, but it's worth the effort. And as CounterWeight has pointed out above, understanding this stuff really does require significant effort.

If your brain doesn't hurt, you aren't thinking hard enough.

Get Popper. Read it. Make notes in the margins. Feel free to disagree in those margins, but detail your disagreement.

You'll be a better person for it.


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5773073 - 04/02/13 02:31 PM

Jim and Hank(Henry?)'s comments are appreciated. Your suggestions to me are humbling. As always, the same applies to Dave's comments. Though I might not act on the fine ideas you suggest, they are none the less appreciated by me. They are humbling in the good senses that they give me an inkling of the things each of you understand and which I do not, and in terms of my neediness if I would ever choose to get some scientific/mathematical appreciation of what you know.

For now, my interest lies on the question of how well subatomic and cosmic realities, as revealed through relativity theory and quantum physics; how well can these be accurately described in human (non-mathematical) speech. I would really like to hear/read your opinion in response to that question.

Hank (Henry?) suggested I avail myself of the astronomy courses over at the University of Kentucky. Though not the actual scientific classes, on a regular basis the physics/astronomy department in conjunction with the Blue Grass Astronomy Club provides session on current issues in astrophysics. Most of the people attending have little or no background in tensor algebra, vector calculus, relativity, or quantum physics, etc. The cosmic and subatomic realities being described are described in human (non-mathematical) speech suited for such an audience.

To what degree can human (non-mathematical) speech accurately display the most important and current facts about sub-atomic and cosmic realities? I would appreciate hearing your response to this question.

Thank you.

Otto


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5773074 - 04/02/13 02:34 PM

Quote:


To what degree can human (non-mathematical) speech accurately display the most important and current facts about sub-atomic and cosmic realities? I would appreciate hearing your response to this question.





Do you want a numeric measurement of the degree of accuracy?


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5773276 - 04/02/13 04:29 PM

That was both funny and insightful. How imprecise ordinary speech is!

When I had learned about the idea of quantum indeterminacy, I asked around for an example of what was meant by that. A student told me a high school science teacher had told him that quantum indeterminacy was like being told that there was a black balloon inflated-with-a-lighter-than-air-gas hovering somewhere in a room. The room was totally dark; no illumination at all. One's assigned task was to walk into the room and determine the location of the balloon by touch alone.

The problem, of course, was that the moment one touched the balloon, that this act of "observation" changed the location of the balloon in the room. Thus, this metaphor gave a real-world example of quantum indeterminacy; how the act of observing a parameter changes that parameter.


A few weeks later I was talking with an high school physics teacher over lunch about quantum physics. This physics teacher had had mathematics based courses in quantum physics. I asked her opinion of the black balloon metaphor. She immediately and definitely said that experiences from the real world of ordinary human sense perceptions could never be used as metaphors to provide an accurate description of quantum phenomena.

Was she, the physics teacher, correct?


If she is correct, does her statement apply to relativistic phenomena as well. For example, I remember learning that relativistic time dilation could be described in terms of two people standing under a clock. At the exact moment of noon, one moves away from the clock at the speed of light. Fifteen minutes later, both are asked the time on the clock. The person standing under the clock says it is 12:15 PM. The person moving away from the clock is asked the same, and looks back at the clock through a telescope and says, "It says noon." The reason it says noon is because the most current light-iinformation of the clock available to him is the light which left at the same speed he did, fifteen minutes ago at noon exactly. So, if real world metaphors cannot be trusted when dealing with quantum phenomena; can they be trusted when used to describe relativistic phenomena?

Otto


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5773281 - 04/02/13 04:32 PM

It depends upon your frame of reference.

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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5773291 - 04/02/13 04:39 PM

I got this one Dave!

Otto: 42%


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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Mister T]
      #5773658 - 04/02/13 06:39 PM

When I had learned about the idea of quantum indeterminacy, I asked around for an example of what was meant by that. A student told me a high school science teacher had told him that quantum indeterminacy was like being told that there was a black balloon inflated-with-a-lighter-than-air-gas hovering somewhere in a room. The room was totally dark; no illumination at all. One's assigned task was to walk into the room and determine the location of the balloon by touch alone.

The problem, of course, was that the moment one touched the balloon, that this act of "observation" changed the location of the balloon in the room. Thus, this metaphor gave a real-world example of quantum indeterminacy; how the act of observing a parameter changes that parameter.


A few weeks later I was talking with an high school physics teacher over lunch about quantum physics. This physics teacher had had mathematics based courses in quantum physics. I asked her opinion of the black balloon metaphor. She immediately and definitely said that experiences from the real world of ordinary human sense perceptions could never be used as metaphors to provide an accurate description of quantum phenomena.

Was she, the physics teacher, correct?


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EJN
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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5773732 - 04/02/13 07:10 PM

Quote:

Was she, the physics teacher, correct?



Yes

Quote:

If she is correct, does her statement apply to relativistic phenomena as well.



No


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llanitedave
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Reged: 09/26/05

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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5773746 - 04/02/13 07:15 PM

She was correct. Your balloon demonstration may have been conceptually useful, and it seems kind of cool to me, but it wasn't "accurate" in any predictively useful sense. It's like the baking soda volcano often used in elementary school demonstrations. It may help with a general vague sense of what a volcano does, but its not really something you can use.

Quantum mechanics doesn't really mean much unless you are using it quantitatively. You simply can't do anything with it.


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Otto Piechowski
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Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5773754 - 04/02/13 07:17 PM

Dave,....that baking soda volcano metaphor makes really clear to me the inadequacies of which the teacher was speaking!!!

EJN, I am fascinated by your "no" to the relativity one. In light of Dave's comment which followed yours, the clock-metaphor is not like the baking-soda-volcano, but actually getting at what relativity is?

Dave...can you say a bit more about what you meant by "you can't do anything with it"? (Perhaps, was the full idea "you can't do anything with it if you don't use it quantitatively"?)

Edited by Otto Piechowski (04/02/13 07:19 PM)


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EJN
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Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5773775 - 04/02/13 07:26 PM

Quote:

EJN, I am fascinated by your "no" to the relativity one. In light of Dave's comment which followed yours, the clock-metaphor is not like the baking-soda-volcano, but actually getting at what relativity is?




The only problem with the clock metaphor is that you couldn't actually
travel at the speed of light, but you could (in theory) travel at 99.999999%
of the speed of light, and the clock would read 12:00:00.001
(decimal places not accurate, but you get the picture). Of course
the acceleration involved to actually do that would squash you like
a bug.


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Otto Piechowski
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Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: EJN]
      #5773792 - 04/02/13 07:35 PM

Thank you.

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