Long ago and far away I had a chemistry teacher who told the class that there is no macroscopic analog for an electron in our experienced world. Because be have no referent for comparison we can never conceptualize the particle(wave) - nothing to end the statement: “It’s like a...” He added that the study of quantum particles focused on mathematical characterization and prediction rather than conceptual envisioning.(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Frequently I grasp for a conceptual understanding of four dimensional space-time and the role gravity plays in distorting it. I am always insulted by non-fiction-television’s gravity analogy to a rubber plane with a brick on it. “See,” they say. The ball falls towards the brick.” (Of course it does dummy...gravity (the thing your trying to explain) is pulling it. Try doing it in interstellar space.) When we make the statement: “because we are moving through time, we are compelled to move through space when local space-time is distorted by mass” we are using the termcompelledandcompelledsounds a lot likegravityto me. What's the compulsion? Our equations simply (and concisely) characterize the effect but can we conceptualize or intuitively understand its nature - or why it happens - from our limited reality.

In analytic geometry we deliberately avoid defining the terms point, line, and plane because of the circular reasoning their definition invokes. Our intuitive, conceptual understanding substitutes for rigorous definition. Can we conceptually “know” four dimensional space-time and why gravity does what it does or... can we only characterize it? Is conceptual understanding beyond the observation limits of our 3D-experienced world and therefore a subject for philosophers?

**Physics Forums | Science Articles, Homework Help, Discussion**

Join Physics Forums Today!

The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

# Searching for understanding

**Physics Forums | Science Articles, Homework Help, Discussion**