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I feel like the term fundamental fields is a cop out

  1. Aug 11, 2013 #1
    Whenever I ask someone what an electromagnetic field is exactly, they say that science does how questions, not why questions (which doesn't really make sense in this context, maybe i worded my question differently). We say that there are four fundamental forces that create the universe we live in, and that those forces are fundamental to the universe... end of story. There is no point in asking what a force field actually is. I feel like this is sorta like that guy who said at the turn of the century that everything that can be invented has been invented. I mean we already kind of have an explanation for gravity, bent space-time and all that. So is it that we kind of have an idea what, say, an electromagnetic force field actually is but it's too complicated to explain to the masses?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 11, 2013 #2
    Depending on what you mean, asking what an electromagnetic field is is not a 'why' question.
     
  4. Aug 11, 2013 #3
    Ultimately, physics tells us how to calculate things that match up to experiments. Why do these equations match up to the experiments? Could they be different in a different universe? We can't answer these with physics, because ultimately, everything has to be backed up by experiments.
     
  5. Aug 11, 2013 #4

    Drakkith

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    That explanation is no better or worse than our explanation of what a force field is. It's just the most accurate description we can come up with at the moment.

    We have absolutely no idea what anything "actually" is, because asking what something "actually is" is a meaningless question. If I were to ask what a dog is, the best possible answer would be to describe, in detail, the characteristics of a dog and how it relates to other things. Then, if I asked what a dog "actually" is, you would have no choice but to scratch your head and say "That IS what it actually is". This is exactly what we do in science when it comes to things like particles and fields. We find out how things work, what their characteristics are, and then we say "this is what X is".
     
  6. Aug 11, 2013 #5

    phinds

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    The fact that you don't like it that this is true does not make it any less true.
     
  7. Aug 11, 2013 #6

    WannabeNewton

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    Fields in the above context are perfectly well defined mathematically. Keep in mind that even in GR, the geometric object that actually "describes" gravity is also a field.
     
  8. Aug 12, 2013 #7

    sophiecentaur

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    The "why" question can never have a good answer - even when it's applied to some human action ("Why did you steal that £1?") The question demands an answer that describes the motivation behind the action. Where humans are concerned, (or other living things) you just can't be sure of motivation; even their stated 'reason' cannot be relied upon. With Physics, there is no motive involved at all. Electrons don't ever move because they want to get to the positive charge.
    All you can hope for, in Science, will be a description of the process, the relationships between variables and the possibility of predicting what will happen in the future. The word 'how', will elicit such a description because there is no requirement for motivation.
     
  9. Aug 12, 2013 #8

    Dale

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    Are you asking us about what the EM field is fundamentally, or are you just complaining about previous responses you have received?
     
  10. Aug 12, 2013 #9

    Vanadium 50

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    The thing is, nobody cares about your feelings until you have actually accomplished something. Until then, it's just another uninformed opinion.

    The other thing is, "...but what is it really" can be asked over and over again ad infinitum. It's no different than a five year old discovering he can ask "...but why?" over and over again until his parents are driven crazy. Don't think you have discovered anything deeper than this.

    The third thing is, you can do this everywhere in science. "What is a giraffe?" You can go on and on describing various features, but ultimately, you'll never get a more fundamental answer than pointing at one and being told "That. That is a giraffe."

    You've got a number of very polite answers to what was a rude and insulting question. "Cop out" indeed.
     
  11. Aug 12, 2013 #10

    ZapperZ

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    And this meaningless thread is done.

    Zz.
     
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