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Physics and Proof

  1. Feb 9, 2006 #1
    I love physics. But I have a major problem with it. I hate how there are so many theoreis. There is something about learning about a theory that just isn't as satisfying as a fact. Some theories suggest interesting, radical, and even world-changing thoughts but they aren't proof. For example, the ekpyrotic and cyclic scenarios of the big bang and the universe are super amazing. Yet they have barely any true physical proof. I hate learning about a world of possibilities and facts. I do understand the necessity of theorems and I realize the large amount of guesswork needed to prove things, but when do we start. Doesn't this bother other people some times and in your honest opinion, when do you think the theories will turn to fact.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 9, 2006 #2

    ZapperZ

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    When you write something like this, illustrate your point. For example, what do you consider as "fact"? Do you consider conservation of momentum as fact, or as a theory? Also, are you using the term "theory" as in the pedestrian meaning, or are you using it the way science and scientists use them?

    Without showing specific illustration of what you mean, it is ambiguous to debate your post.

    Zz.
     
  4. Feb 9, 2006 #3
    all im saying is that something like Archimede's principal is a proven fact because you can do a simple experiment and see its true. We know protons are there because we have physical proof. We don't have physical proof of strings though, simply equations stating the possibility of strings. I don't like the thought of a statement without physical proof, even though I realize its inevitable in the world of physics. I just want people to start focusing more on how to prove or disprove a theory instead of pondering the specifics or the problems. I can't really think of another way to say it
     
  5. Feb 9, 2006 #4
    There are several scientific methodologies and the majority of them follows the path of observation-hypothesis-evaluation-rejection/acceptance and observation again. This cyclic methodology in many cases results in the rejection of hypothesis, but this is an accepted part of the methodology. In many cases we have to fail in order to choose the right path.

    Analysis and synthesis of facts, prove and disprove are parts of the methodology.

    We can not reject some parts of the methodology and keeps other parts. We have to follow all steps of the methodology.

    Unfortunately for you this means that we have to keep the hypothesis step, which you dislike.

    Leandros
     
  6. Feb 9, 2006 #5

    ZapperZ

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    There's a difference between "proven" and "valid". You need to read up on what is meant by "proof" and "proven" in mathematics and physics. There's nothing in physics that has been proven. There are, however, many in physics that is considered valid, and many in fact are considered valid over a range of parameters and conditions, even your "Archimedes principle".

    You should never, ever, get hung up on semantics. A "theory" doesn't graduate to a "law" or a "fact" or a "princple". All of these are considered to be "theoretical" description, to be contrasted with experimental evidence. Do not use the pedestrian meaning of the word "theory".

    Furthermore, just because something has the word "theory" associated with it doesn't mean it isn't verified. The BCS theory of superconductivity is one of THE MOST verified theory we ever had in the history of physics. You don't see it graduating to a "fact". That just never happen. Newton's laws are used in building your house and your bridges. Yet, it is STILL a theoretical description of the classical universe.

    A theory simply means a systematic mathematical description of a phenomenon that RELATES a number of quantities. F=ma is a theoretical description that relates the force applied to a mass and the resulting acceleration. Force, mass and acceleration are the physical quantites, and F=ma shows the relationship between all three and how they are interconnected. NOTHING in here tells you the validity of this "theory". It is the job of people like me, the experimentalists, that either verify, or falsify this theory.

    Again, do not fall into the same trap that ID and creationist proponents are using by claiming something is "just a theory". Quantum theory isn't just a theory. Band theory isn't just a theory. The name being tagged to it is meaningless. It is the "IT" that needs to be focused on. You will notice that physicists very seldom argue about this very issue.

    Zz.
     
  7. Feb 9, 2006 #6
    Since you put it that way, I will say this I respect and understand the value of the hypothesis. Its just that I want to move on and get to the acceptance/reject stage. For example, Enstein's theory of relativity is still a theory and its been around for lsomething like 100 years (I'm not good at physics history). This means it is still in the hypothesis stage, doesn't it?
     
  8. Feb 9, 2006 #7

    ZapperZ

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    If that is true, then you should never fly in an airplane, and your electronics should not work.

    Why? We are using this "hypothesis" to endanger your life, and the lives of your loved ones by applying it to everything from modern electronics (band structure corrections to a number of semiconductors) to the GPS system.

    Again, do NOT be confused between the pedestrian usage of the word "theory" with the scientific usage of the word. Getting hung up on the name or the label being attached to it without undertanding the CONTENT is a very bad way to do science.

    Zz.
     
  9. Feb 9, 2006 #8
    Alright I realize Im having a problem getting my point across mainly because of my lack of understanding. Since nothing can be proven and I beleive that, when does something become useful enough to start building technology off of it. I mean we aren't building technologies off of the Ekpyrotic scenario of the universe but we build technologies off of Archimede's principal. And by the way, I also realize I should probably increase my vocabulary
     
  10. Feb 9, 2006 #9

    ZapperZ

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    When something is valid enough to become useful is very difficult predict. It certainly cannot be judged based on its name or label. This is where I said that the content is more important. We publish our work in scientific journals and present it at scientific conference so that not only more people hear about it, but others will try to duplicate and check if what we found is valid. Scientific theories are tested like this, first based on the correctness of the formulation - did they make a logical mistake; did they make use of unreasonable or unphysical parameters - and secondly on experimental verification.

    The BCS theory for example, tried to described a set of already preexisting experimental observations. It also converges to a macroscopic and phenomenological theory that also already existed at that time. But the theory also can be worked out to predict a number of other new parameters and values that haven't been measured. It takes A LOT of effort and verification for a theory to become that convincing that we can actually start using it.

    It is why the gestation period for theorists to get a Nobel prize is significantly longer than for experimentalists.

    Zz.
     
  11. Feb 9, 2006 #10
    alright thank you i think im satisfied and i really need to finish my hmwrk
     
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