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Do you believe in physics?

  1. Sep 9, 2004 #1
    What physics seems to you most like magic?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 10, 2004 #2
    Quantum Mechanics of course.
     
  4. Sep 10, 2004 #3
    visualize the beauty that is physics
    We witness the microworld and macroworld
    create a responsible and ethical philosophy of physics, testable yet not malicious

    I have a problem with the way you use words. We do visualise physics by building a model that gives correct predictions, but how do we "witness" same?
    If a theory is testable it is no longer a philosophy, it is a science; QT is a philosophy, atomic physics is a science, particle physics is linked to QT for the same reason ie it is 'visualized' not 'witnessed'.
     
  5. Sep 10, 2004 #4

    Tom Mattson

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    Why, because it can't be "witnessed"?

    When's the last time you "witnessed" an atom? :confused:

    And atomic physics is linked to QT as well. In fact, both atomic physics and particle physics are applications of QT.
     
  6. Sep 10, 2004 #5
    And atomic physics is linked to QT as well. In fact, both atomic physics and particle physics are applications of QT.

    Only in as far as QT is able to predict events. The following references illustrate the limit of current knowledge-

    "They (physicists) feel a complete explanation of the subatomic world will not have been attained until it is known why particles have the charge, masses and other particular properties they are observed to possess”.
    Richard Morris in "Achilles in the Quantum Universe”


    But it is not just a question of “why particles have particular properties” but also a question of “what are the particular properties” as illustrated by the following quotes:

    The measured mass of the particle is a result of the motion of the initially massless “particle” in an external field. Although this idea appears to be very attractive it is not possible, at the present time, to build a complete theory on this basis. Certainly the quantum effects must be taken into account. But even within the framework of quantum theories the nature of the mass of the particles remains unexplained.ELECTRODYNAMICS AND CLASSICAL THEORY OF FIELDS AND PARTICLES by A.O. BARUT, Professor of physics, University of Colorado (1964 revised by author 1980)

    “Quantum physics is about ‘measurement and statistical prediction’. It does not describe the underlying structure that is the cause of quantum theory”.
    "Quantum Physics, Illusion or reality” Alastair I.M. RAE of the Department of Physics at the University of Birmingham


    Extract from Encyclopaedia Britannica
    Philosophical status of scientific theory
    Philosophical analysis and scientific practice
    "The arguments about these rival ontological and epistemological views cannot be safely left or judged without first looking more closely at the complex relationship between the general analytical interests of philosophers and the more specific intellectual concerns of working scientists themselves. For the degree to which each view about the reality of scientific entities and facts can carry conviction depends substantially on what branches of science are at issue. As the focus of philosophical attention has shifted historically from one scientific terrain to another, so, too, have the relative degrees of plausibility of these rival positions varied.
    Since the 1920s, for instance, there has been a marked revival of philosophical discussion among scientists working in several specialized fields—particularly, among physicists concerned with the structure and development of quantum mechanics. In epistemic terms, the statistical character of quantum-mechanical explanations has prompted some fundamental questions about the status
    and limitation of human knowledge.


    Note that these statements apply to particles, atoms are not mentioned, my understanding of the reason why atoms are omitted is that the larger atoms are observable to a degree acceptable as proof of existence (but not their internal structure).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 10, 2004
  7. Sep 10, 2004 #6
    You must not know how those atoms are "observed" then, because it is entirely through quantum mechanical processes. Trying to make atomic physics a science without including quantum mechanics as a science is highly inconsistent.
     
  8. Sep 10, 2004 #7

    Tom Mattson

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    No, what illustrates the limit of current knowledge are journal articles and textbooks. Have you consulted either?

    Guess what? Atomic physics doesn't explain that either.

    You're flip-flopping here. First, you say that QT is a philosophy (as opposed to a science) because "it can't be witnessed". Of course, that statement is nonsense because QT is not a "thing", but I assume that you mean the objects brought under the study of QM cannot be witnessed. But now, you are citing the fact that QM can't answer certain questions, which is a different issue altogether. Make up your mind!

    In any case, you aren't even addressing my point: atomic physics is just an application of QT, just as particle physics is. Feel free to consult any elememtary textbook on atomic physics to see that.

    I'm skipping over the next several paragraphs, as they are totally irrelevant.


    You are wrong. Atoms are quantum mechanical systems. You can't validly infer that they are not just because they aren't mentioned in an entry on subatomic physics in (of all things!) the Encyclopedia Britannica.
     
  9. Sep 10, 2004 #8
    elas, my signature was not part of my original post. Sorry for the confusion - but thank you all for your responses!

    To me, witnessing requires consistent acknowledgement (measurement) of and participation with physical phenomena, the latter especially propounded by J. A. Wheeler.
     
  10. Sep 12, 2004 #9

    Les Sleeth

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    I am not sure I'd call it "magic" as much as mysterious or confounding when there is no plausible explanation for why something exists a certain way. With relativity, for instance, one ends up just saying "that's how it is." There is no way to explain "why" relativity is so counterintuitive. Lots of things in physics are like that, from simple particle charge and the constancy of light speed to where all the energy-mass of the universe came from. I think those of who tend to believe that ultimately everything makes sense are most disturbed by things that don't seem to have a logical explanation.

    But if you want us to choose what is MOST magical-seeming, then I'd have to say the organizational quality of physics found in biology.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2004
  11. Sep 13, 2004 #10
    Trying to make atomic physics a science without including quantum mechanics as a science is highly inconsistent.
    No, what illustrates the limit of current knowledge are journal articles and textbooks. Have you consulted either?

    Stephen Hawkings (A Brief History of Time) is only the latest of many leading physicists to point out that QT is not a science but a mathematical predicting hypothesis, others ad the term ‘philosophy’. In the introduction Hawkings gives his opinion of what constitutes a theory, I have ‘consulted’ this and other books. Now for the intelligent reply.

    To me, witnessing requires consistent acknowledgement (measurement) of and participation with physical phenomena, the latter especially propounded by J. A. Wheeler.

    Would you agree that these measurements are of mass, charge and energy and that all three are hypothetical names; in that case you are using ‘magic’ as a replacement for ‘hypothetical? Barut, in respect of mass, used the phrase “scientist believe” leading some SSK experts to claim that QT was more akin to religion than to science.

    I will do some homework on Wheeler, your recommendations on books or papers would be appreciated.
     
  12. Sep 13, 2004 #11
    Magic relates to circumvention of "natural philosophy" (physics) by supernatural beliefs. Magic involves unfounded belief, rather than support by scientific method. For instance, the Sun's light had been explained by various superstitions and myths, and even "magical" scientific models (that the Sun was driven by conventional combustion) which did not incorporate all of the necessary facts. Once the phenomenon of fusion was established, solar science became real as opposed to just supernatural.
     
  13. Sep 13, 2004 #12
    elas,

    My library only holds Wheeler's books on Gravitation (Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler), A Journey into Gravity and Spacetime and At Home in the Universe. My ability to write is impeded, so no long-winded arguments, please, but your interest is appreciated.

    Rather than your definition of "hypothetical" I would use the concept "fundamental," and yes, we require some measure of faith to realize them (concepts) as such. Whether this is magical thinking or primarily psychological relies on the justification by future physics.
     
  14. Sep 13, 2004 #13
    The bit that makes sunrises and sunsets, or makes a girl smile, or makes a girl feel really nice. :D
     
  15. Sep 13, 2004 #14

    Les Sleeth

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    Really? How will you justify establishing natural philosophy as the standard against which supernatural beliefs are judged? Do you think natural philosophy is immune from its own "magical" beliefs? Consider how the "magic" of consciousness is now pooh-poohed by functionalists who already believe, far in advance of the evidence they need to have such confidence, that physical processes can explain consciousness. How about those scientists who now "dismiss" vital force as unnecessary to a life theory, but who cannot even come close to demonstrating how physical processes can achieve something living. I say, they believe in physicalist magic every bit as much as the religious believe in spiritual magic.

    Magic, to me, is either fun tricks, or the horse hockey any belief system conjures up to explain away the gaps in their theories.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2004
  16. Sep 14, 2004 #15
    Rather than your definition of "hypothetical" I would use the concept "fundamental," and yes, we require some measure of faith to realize them (concepts) as such. Whether this is magical thinking or primarily psychological relies on the justification by future physics.

    Leading physicist (Barut, Hawkings, Penrose, Feymann et al) state that the model used to explain the mathematics of QT is a hypothetical model hence the definition is not mine. (If the model is hypothetical, then surely all terms peculiar to that model are also hypothetical).
    Before delving deeper into your articles,I am trying to ascertain whether you subscribe to the current school of thought which states that somethings are and will remain, beyond explanation, in non-hypothetical terms; or do you hold out some hope that a non-hypothetical interpretation will be found one day?
    If the former then the universe is magical, or miraculous; if the later, then the universe is an evolutionary product subject to scientific (i.e. non-hypothetical) explanation. Either way the universe is truly amazing.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 14, 2004
  17. Sep 14, 2004 #16
    elas,

    They are right, in my opinion, that QM as it exists is a hypothesis, or perhaps more so, a mathematical construct.

    I wonder if any instantaneous equation, rather than one of process itself, can describe the physical "structure" behind quantum mechanics. The reality which reveals the probabilistic nature of the wavefunction may disallow its explanation in terms of a global model. That is, there may always remain an incompleteness, call it complementarity, probability, uncertainty, participation, wavefunction collapse, superluminal signaling or entanglement, which allows for the infinity of interpretations toward QM.
     
  18. Sep 14, 2004 #17

    hypnagogue

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    The physical interpretation of the mathematics of physics will always be hypothetical. For any given mathematical structure, there are multiple ontological frameworks that can generate (or are consistent with) the math. Principles such as Occam's Razor help us choose what seems to be the framework that most likely matches the math, but there's no final authority on the matter.

    This does not imply, however, that the universe is not subject to scientific explanation. The formalisms of physics are not hypothetical. The interpretations of the formalisms are, but by necessity. No method will reveal to us, with certainty, the actual underlying framework of the universe; the best we can hope to do is infer it, whether we use science or not. Science just happens to be the most apt tool with which we can make such inferences.
     
  19. Sep 14, 2004 #18
    By definition of the scientific method, QT is not a hypothesis, but a theory. It is therefore a mathematical predicting theory, which is most certainly a science. You should go back to basics and look more carefully at what defines science in the first place; it will aid you in determining the difference between theory and hypothesis.
     
  20. Sep 14, 2004 #19
    loren, you claimed that you cannot interact with nor sense atoms and their constructs... are you serious? of course you can!
     
  21. Sep 14, 2004 #20
    balkan,
    Please remind me where I said just that.
     
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