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How do you develop a theory?

  1. Feb 13, 2009 #1
    I've never went to college and well I've never studied physics at all. But, upon watching Stephen Hawking: Master of The Universe it made me think a whole heck of a lot. In this they talked about gravity being weak and losing its strength the further it got away from where it originates. A lady had a magnet and a paper clip and showed how easy it was to pull it apart even though the gravity holding her down to the earth was stronger. Which I think points out that gravity is static and is controlled by another force (for lack of a better word).

    None the less I wanted to develop a theory that finds out what I think is the static force that controls this and how this static force can effect gravity and the particles that gravity interacts with.

    I hope I don't make a fool of myself.

    Thanks for any information you might be able me with.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 13, 2009 #2
    I don't understand this statement. Can you elaborate ?

    Are you suggesting that the Higgs has direct relevance to gravity ? How so ? This is quite speculative. In fact, there are numerous scenarios without Higgs, some of them relevant to gravity, other not. So really, I am confused by what you are trying to point to.
  4. Feb 13, 2009 #3


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    Dagda, you're quoting wikipedia to someone that has a PhD in particle physics?
  5. Feb 13, 2009 #4
    So eventually, the only argument you have is "both Higgs and gravity are related to the concept of mass, therefore, one is relevant to the other". Nice. Thanks for the precision, it's quite memorable.
  6. Feb 13, 2009 #5
    If you want to develop theoretical ideas about fundamental physics, you will have to use a minimal amount of mathematics. Words and sentences in physics are only useful to help us understand what is behind the equations. Only once you have the mathematics formulated, you should be able to produce quantitative predictions that are in agreement with everything that has already been measured, and ideally, that are in disagreement with currently accepted theories upon something which could, even in principle, be measured. Even better, your theory might be able to explain something that we have already measured, but that current theories have difficulties to come to terms with. If you achieve all this, fame is yours. If you achieve only part of it, depending how much, you might or might not be able to publish it.
  7. Feb 14, 2009 #6

    I might not understand them but I can always go to the wikki and post the answers like you did. And portray myself as if I do understand them. I fancy the way you tried to make me look like a complete idiot after you got shot down trying to show off to some one who has a phd.

    I appreciate your input greatly. I have some of the equation already written out using variables that I do not understand yet. I just know that for some reason physics consumed me within a small amount of time after never really thinking about it. After all it is theoretical right?

    This site seems like a great place to start though.

    Thanks for the information guys!
  8. Feb 14, 2009 #7


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    It seems to me your problem was trying to explain something that you seemingly don't understand yourself.

    I first became a member of this site right out of high school. I basically was a gigantic "newbie" and still am in most respects, even though I am going to grad school for physics next year.

    PF has no problem with newbies. I know because I was one and they accepted me. What PF does have a problem with is people who pass along incorrect information. Whether this information is passed along purposefully or through ignorance, it does not matter. The proliferation of incorrect scientific information will not be allowed to happen here.

    The reason humanino criticized your post is because it portrays incorrect and speculative information. You admit that you are a newbie in the subject, so why are you trying to explain a theory you do not fully understand? How can you be sure you are explaining things correctly?

    Personally, I know that I could not adequately explain gravity to a layman, since I do not understand the intricacies of the theory myself, and I am going to graduate with a degree in physics in May and go on to grad school next fall.

    The best way to earn respect on this forum is to know where your breadth of knowledge begins and ends. Teach when you are able, but sit back and learn in areas where you are not as knowledgeable. If your experience is like mine, you will be spending most of your time on PF learning.
  9. Feb 14, 2009 #8
    Let's not forget entertaining...best drama on the net.
  10. Feb 14, 2009 #9


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    Hello again Dagda,

    I will admit that I haven't read all your posts here, but as you have asked someone to point our an incorrect statement in your OP, I will of course oblige:
    Could you perhaps explain how the Higgs is equivalent to the electron?
  11. Feb 14, 2009 #10

    Vanadium 50

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    The electron doesn't mediate electromagnetism. The photon does.
  12. Feb 14, 2009 #11


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    As Vanadium shows in the following example, my mysterious judgment is based off your posts in this thread.

  13. Feb 14, 2009 #12


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    Misinformation deleted, hopefully we can get the thread back on topic.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2009
  14. Feb 14, 2009 #13


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    To develop a theory by deductive manner, you must

    1) form a general set of concepts whose introduction is suggested by physical
    phenomena/thought experiements.
    2) limit the range of application of these concepts by some sort of "fundamental principles".
    3) show that the limited concepts, together with the mathematical relations between them,
    form a self-consistent scheme.

    4) go to college and study physics for many years.

  15. Feb 14, 2009 #14


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    Your enthusiasm and interest in physics are commendable. I'll just say that one requirement for developing a new theory would be to learn and understand the theories that are in place and accepted now, as well as just what the problems or limitations of those theories might be.
  16. Feb 14, 2009 #15


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    Theories start with observations. One develops a theory in physics to explain and quantify relationships. As Redbelly98 recommended, one should start with the advantage that certain theories already exist.

    Well the example of the lady, the paper clip and magnet indicate relative strengths or magnitudes of force, but not necessarily that gravity is static. One should first look at the mathematics of the rules or laws with which we describe magnetism and gravity.
  17. Feb 14, 2009 #16
    That's very funny that this has been brought up here. I was JUST reading an article in Time Magazine about WiTricity and they talked about transmitting electrons wirelessly. I just shook my head.

    OP you sound exactly like me in HS. I absolutely devoured the books by Kaku, Davies and Hawking. In some respects, I wish I had never learned even engineering physics because I feel like the world is a lot less magical.
  18. Feb 14, 2009 #17
    Nothing Einstein wrote about was observable until later on. He developed a theory without observations.
  19. Feb 15, 2009 #18

    Vanadium 50

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    Nonsense. Just off the top of my head, here are four:

    Photoelectric effect: The Lenard observations were made in 1902. The Einstein paper explaining them was published in 1905. (For which he got the Nobel Prize)

    Brownian Motion: Discovered in 1827. The Einstein paper explaining it was published in 1905.

    Specific Heat of Solids: Discovered in the 1760's. The Einstein paper explaining it was published in 1907.

    Perihelion Precession of Mercury: Known in the 1860's. The Einstein paper explaining it was published in 1915.
  20. Feb 15, 2009 #19
    1. Make something up.
    2. Make testable predictions.
    3. Test predictions.
    4. If tests refute theory, go back to 1. If tests does not refute theory, go back to 2 or 1.
  21. Feb 15, 2009 #20

    Chi Meson

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    I'm sure your are referring to the Theories of Special and General Relativity. Vanadium has already pointed out that the general nature of your statement is incorrect, but even in context of Relativity, it is also not true. I only hesitatingly offer the Wiki entry on the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_special_relativity" [Broken], but it is actually pretty good.From this glossing alone, you can see that Einstein was not simply "thinking in a dark room" as he formulated SR.

    SR and later GR came as a result of the observed and inferred paradoxes that were clearly apparent to Einstein and a host of other scientists at the time. Data was available, and a huge amount of observed phenomena needed to be reconciled with Maxwell's equations and the (ongoing) null results of the Michaelson-Morely Experiment.

    It is only speculation, but if Einstein were not "there," the revelations of SR (at least) would have been uncovered within a few years by another (or "others") since observable evidence was leading many others to this inevitable outcome.

    The development of a theory may use data that is already generally available, and one may use already established theories, and within the framework of those theories one may arrive at new logical conclusions. This sort of "theory" would not be accepted as such among the scientific community unless it is a simplification or unification of former theories AND does not produce paradoxes with itself or other theories and observed phenomena (this is what kills most laymen's "theories").
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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