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Inventing something with just a piece of paper?

  1. Oct 8, 2009 #1
    I've watched a documentary about jet engine. Is it really possible to just create something with just a piece of paper? Just using all the laws of physics then use it to construct something perfectly.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 8, 2009 #2

    DaveC426913

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    You can use a piece of paper to sketch your ideas. The engineering that follows might take months or years to produce a workable device from it.
     
  4. Oct 9, 2009 #3
    How did Einstein come up with the equation E = mc^2? With his ideas only on a paper?
     
  5. Oct 9, 2009 #4

    D H

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    Scientists, engineers, architects, authors, and composers all start with a blank sheet of paper. Debugging that blank sheet of paper to produce a theory, a design for a plane or a building, a novel, or music is a challenging but very enjoyable process.
     
  6. Oct 9, 2009 #5
    Just using the laws of physics means using the humanity experience. It has nothing to do with just a piece of paper.

    In particular, there was a French academician Henri Poincaré who wrote many scientific articles and popular books about time measurements (it was his official duty), relativity principle, energy-mass equivalence, etc. He was a real scientists who made his thoughts and results public before Einstein, so it is not correct to say that A. Einstein just dug out his mc2 from his nose.

    At any time there are many people who writes something new, check it and discard because not all human ideas are good. It is rather a rare case and a result of a heavy work of many people that something really good is found.
     
  7. Oct 9, 2009 #6

    D H

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    Philosophers excluded, of course. Old joke, slightly modified.

    A university fell into money to endow one professorship, in any field. The selection committee narrowed the list of candidates down to three: A physicist, an engineer, and a philosopher. They were individually led into a small room equipped with a desk, a chair, a blank pad of paper, a pen, a trash can full of crumpled papers, a cup, and a bucket of water. Each candidate was told "This is a test. When you think you have passed the test, you may leave the room."

    Having no idea of the nature of the test, the physicist started doodling some equations on the pad of paper when suddenly the trash can went ablaze. Realizing that extinguishing the blaze was the test, he quickly estimated he amount of energy being released by the blaze and calculated how much water would be needed to extinguish it: 2.5 cups. He noticed the water and glass, tossed the requisite 2.5 cups of water on the blaze, and noted with satisfaction that all that was left was one tiny smoking ember, easily snuffed with his fingers. He walked out of the room rubbing his hands in satisfaction. "Job done, and very neatly if I may say so myself."

    Having no idea of the nature of the test, the engineer started doodling a design on the pad of paper when suddenly the trash can went ablaze. Realizing that extinguishing the blaze was the test, he quickly estimated he amount of energy being released by the blaze and calculated how much water would be needed to extinguish it: 2.5 cups. "Safety first. I need to toss in a safety factor." He tossed that half the bucket of water on the fire, extinguishing it. He walked out of the room rubbing his hands in satisfaction: "That fire is OUT."

    Before the interrogator could leave the room, the philosopher pointed at the trash can and said "What's that?" "Oh, that's just a bunch of discarded ideas left by the previous interviewee." Taken aback, the philosopher forgot about the test. He started writing a thesis, "On the Equivalidity of Ideas: How Western Thought Stifles Creativity" when suddenly the trash can went ablaze. Remembering why he was here, he realized that saving those ideas was the test. He quickly plucked the burning sheets from the trash can and put them out with his bare hands. Only then did he see the bucket of water. After rinsing his dirty, burnt hands, he walked out of the room rubbing his hands in pain. "There's no such thing as a bad idea. I saved them."
     
  8. Oct 9, 2009 #7

    DaveC426913

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    Well, that and decades of experience, learning and collaboration with colleagues.


    It is true, mathematics (and by extension, theoretical physics) is a purely abstract science. It takes place entirely on paper. But it's one of the few sciences that do so.
     
  9. Oct 12, 2009 #8
    A fun anecdote is that Tesla wrote in his autobiography that he would visualize and build up his machines in his head, and then only once they were perfected in his head would he start building them. This probably isn't too far from the truth because he was known to have a fantastic memory (memorizing complete works of literature, and his mother was known to do the same), but he did write a ton of notes. He even made fun of Edison that if he would just sit down and do some calculations, he would save himself all his brute force effort.
     
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