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- Thread starter Jøhn
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What "gravitational oddities" are you refering to?... it would seem that the gravitational oddities in atoms may be a result of dark matter.

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Wallace

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Our gravity theory works fine on the scale of atoms most of the time. The problem is when you get an enormous amount of mass ( ~ the mass of a star) compressed to the scale of an atom that problem emerge. There is no major problem in gravity on small scales that would lead to an explanation of dark matter in the way you propose.

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Wallace

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Apologies if my statement came across as harsh, obviously you can't know everything and it's okay to try and link together whatever you do know to try and explain the unknown.I see, I will have to look further into the ideas of gravity and atoms before opening my mouth again

As for getting more knowledge, it is really important to get a firm base in maths if you want to go into any physics areas later on. If you want to get some basic knowledge of the science before you learn it formally in all the gory mathematical details try some good pop sci. Scientific America is usually pretty good, New Scientist is okay but tends to sensationalise things too much and presents new speculation as if it was far more certain than is warranted, but none the less isn't the worst science journalism you can find.

There are also plenty of good books, for instance if you want to know about modern cosmology I would recommend "the Big Bang" by Simon Singh.

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Also, most people tell me college will be the answer to most questions, anyone want to vouch for that? I am only a junior in highschool.

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malawi_glenn

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John, just give it time. Enjoy the ride to become a scientist :)

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Wallace

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The good (although it may seem bad?) thing about a lot of modern physics, particularly cosmology and high energy (particle) physics, is that collegeAlso, most people tell me college will be the answer to most questions, anyone want to vouch for that? I am only a junior in highschool.

I think we will see the next major revolution in physics sometime in the next decade, although such things are of course very difficult to predict.

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Nabeshin

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QFT!I think we will see the next major revolution in physics sometime in the next decade

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malawi_glenn

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what? elaborateQFT!

i know QFT is quantum field theory, but what do you mean by that?

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Nabeshin

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malawi_glenn

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haha, here - abbreviations for physics are prioritized

Remember when Feynman introduced Quantum Electrodynamics (QED), which has the same abbreviation as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q.E.D. which you often writes after you have prooven something;)

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So I encourage everyone to understand, and pursue rigorously to understand, the concepts of physics. The math is just a way of unambigiously explaining the detail operation. Those that say that you can't understand advanced physics without math are hiding behind mathematics due to their inability to explain the concepts.

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Wallace

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You are right that physical concepts are very important to learn and understand, there are many great mathematicians who struggle with physics precisely because physics is more than just a branch of maths. Have you ever seen the play 'Copenhagen'? It is a three character play with Niels Bohr, his wife and Heisenberg. Most of the scenes are Bohr and Heisenberg chatting about quantum mechanics and Bohr constantly says words to the effect of 'but we don't understand it unless we can explain it to my wife' which, although somewhat patronising(!) effectively is what you are saying I think, that is we have the maths (in this case of QM) but unless the concepts can be explained to a non-expert that doesn't know the maths then we don't understand it.

For the most part this is reasonable, the only note of caution I would make is that occasionally some folk who have tried to understand physics by learning the concepts alone feel they can either find flaws in the theory or extend the theory purely in 'words'. This is where the maths really

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OK. Would you care to try and "explain" the "concept" of Gauss's Law, for example, without invoking any mathematics?

So I encourage everyone to understand, and pursue rigorously to understand, the concepts of physics. The math is just a way of unambigiously explaining the detail operation. Those that say that you can't understand advanced physics without math are hiding behind mathematics due to their inability to explain the concepts.

This is not a trick question. In fact, I will immediately qualify that to say

"The divergence of the electric field is proportional to the charge density"

is nothing more than an English language version of the mathematical statement

[tex]\nabla \cdot E = \rho[/tex],

meaning that it is still a mathematical statement, just less precise. So use this to illustrate how you are able to explain a concept in physics without it being nothing more than a "human" language statement of a mathematical formalism.

Zz.

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:rofl: .. I'm sorry, but that is the funniest thing I've seen all day.what? elaborate

i know QFT is quantum field theory, but what do you mean by that?

.. and just my 2 cents on the side "math" conversation.

I'm happy to hear this. I suck at math, but I love reading any and all cosmology/astrophysics books, articles, etc.. Unfortunately, a lot of the concepts that I read about I "take for granted" that they are right because I can't do the math. I've also been interested in topics but unable to find a "layman’s terms" write up of it and thus unable to pursue it....Advanced math is necessary to understand the exact operation of many physics processes, but I believe too many people seem to say that advanced math is NECESSARY to understand advanced physics concepts, which I believe is wrong...

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Your example is an excellent one. Although I've had advanced math training during my electrical engineering courses, that was forty years ago and I don't immediately recall the mechanics of much of the more advanced topics. When I read "The divergence of the electric field ...", I know exactly what it means. When I see the equation, it causes me to have to dig up math I haven't used in decades, which just slows down my reading and understanding. The "... divergence ..." sentence is all I need; the other is a bother (for my purposes). As an example, I didn't recall offhand the meaning of E and rho, so the equation alone is not enough, by itself, to tell me anything useful. Also, there are many things that cannot be expressed in math; take the Big Bang, for instance (t=0). Or the singularity.OK. Would you care to try and "explain" the "concept" of Gauss's Law, for example, without invoking any mathematics?

This is not a trick question. In fact, I will immediately qualify that to say

"The divergence of the electric field is proportional to the charge density"

is nothing more than an English language version of the mathematical statement

[tex]\nabla \cdot E = \rho[/tex],

meaning that it is still a mathematical statement, just less precise. So use this to illustrate how you are able to explain a concept in physics without it being nothing more than a "human" language statement of a mathematical formalism.

Zz.

Perhaps the best notion is that working physics folks need the math; understanding doesn't. I think it's only natural that physicists try to explain everything in math, as it's the tool of their trade, but by attempting to do so, they leave a wide gap in understanding between themselves and the general public, including policymakers. And perhaps this gap is why we don't have a CERN here in the US, or why China may beat us back to the moon, etc.

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Wallace

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Just a hypothetical, but consider this. How can you judge how well you really understand a theory that is inherently 'mathematical' for want of a better word, without understanding the maths? You can read a book a feel that the book doesn't leave you confused, that you really understand what the book says. However, if you don't actually know the theory, how can you know that what you have understood is really a correct understanding of the scientific theory that the book intended to explain?

Now I'm not having a go a you and your understanding, I'm just raising this as an issue. There are many many threads on PF that show the evidence of this confident misunderstanding. Clearly intelligent people who feel they understand the science via an explanation (sans the mathematical details) they have read try and do the logical thing of piecing together what they 'know' to try have a stab at offering an explanation for something else in science. The results are often horrendous, uncovering the misplaced confidence the person has in their illusionary 'understanding' of the science.

I've nothing against good mathematics free pop-sci, but the readers must be made aware that pop-sci is pop-sci and science is science, and science is written in the language of maths. You cannot reasonably claim to understand a theory unless you understand the language it is written in.

Once you have understood a theory, you can indeed get an intuitive feel for it without always needing to think in the gory details, such as your intuitive understanding of 'the divergence of an electric field'. I would suggest however that unless you understood the mathematics of this back when you first learned this concept, the genuine and accurate intuitive feel for it would not have developed within you.

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But you are not answering my question that was directed to you, and in fact, you have now changed the whole issue by bringing up the "general public" and the need to communicate. This is now aYour example is an excellent one. Although I've had advanced math training during my electrical engineering courses, that was forty years ago and I don't immediately recall the mechanics of much of the more advanced topics. When I read "The divergence of the electric field ...", I know exactly what it means. When I see the equation, it causes me to have to dig up math I haven't used in decades, which just slows down my reading and understanding. The "... divergence ..." sentence is all I need; the other is a bother (for my purposes). As an example, I didn't recall offhand the meaning of E and rho, so the equation alone is not enough, by itself, to tell me anything useful. Also, there are many things that cannot be expressed in math; take the Big Bang, for instance (t=0). Or the singularity.

Perhaps the best notion is that working physics folks need the math; understanding doesn't. I think it's only natural that physicists try to explain everything in math, as it's the tool of their trade, but by attempting to do so, they leave a wide gap in understanding between themselves and the general public, including policymakers. And perhaps this gap is why we don't have a CERN here in the US, or why China may beat us back to the moon, etc.

Since this would indicate that you can't do what I requested, then your original point of explaining something in physics without invoking any math is moot, because it doesn't exist.

And for your information, I've written more about communications (or miscommunications) between scientists and the general public than I care to remember.

Zz.

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malawi_glenn

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An analogy: Imagine a blind man stating that he understands more about what colours is than what he did when he could see.Just a hypothetical, but consider this. How can you judge how well you really understand a theory that is inherently 'mathematical' for want of a better word, without understanding the maths? You can read a book a feel that the book doesn't leave you confused, that you really understand what the book says. However, if you don't actually know the theory, how can you know that what you have understood is really a correct understanding of the scientific theory that the book intended to explain?

Now I'm not having a go a you and your understanding, I'm just raising this as an issue. There are many many threads on PF that show the evidence of this confident misunderstanding. Clearly intelligent people who feel they understand the science via an explanation (sans the mathematical details) they have read try and do the logical thing of piecing together what they 'know' to try have a stab at offering an explanation for something else in science. The results are often horrendous, uncovering the misplaced confidence the person has in their illusionary 'understanding' of the science.

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