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The accomplishments (or lack thereof) of physics

  1. Aug 27, 2006 #1
    It seems physics, no matter how deep one studies it, still doesn't answer the questions of 'why' in a satisfying way.

    Physics explains HOW things work, but it still doesn't explain WHY they work. For instance physics explains the concept of inertia and mass, but it fails miserably to explain WHY these things occur. No matter what area of physics I look at, and how deeply I look at it, this seems to be the case.

    Sure, I can calculate lots of physics, but the question of why is never answered.




    BTW, is the question of inertia and mass supposed to be answered by the Higgs boson?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 27, 2006 #2
    What is the point of this post? I think it's a very good joke. You say physics fails when discussing inertia and mass, but then ask what physics says about inertia and mass. It's so rare to see humor that dry this side of the Atlantic, so I appreciate it. :smile:

    But, if you meant to issue a polemic against physics, then this is case of accidental genius, not uncommon in humor studies.
     
  4. Aug 27, 2006 #3

    chroot

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    Physics does not (directly) concern itself with questions of why the universe works the way it does. Its purpose is simply to determine how it works.

    If this is unsatisfying to you, feel free to study something else which is.

    - Warren
     
  5. Aug 27, 2006 #4

    russ_watters

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    My car doesn't fly. Perhaps you bought a car and were upset that it didn't fly, but when I bought my car, I knew it wouldn't fly and never asked it or expected it to fly.

    I like my car.
     
  6. Aug 27, 2006 #5
    On the contrary, I think physics does answer a lot of "whys"- it's just that each of these leads to another "why" that we don't know the answer to you. For example, the idea of inertia is itself the answer to the question "why do I have to push harder to accelerate some things than other things?" Mass is the answer to "what causes inertia," and also (at least partially) an explanation of what causes gravity.

    It seems like you're just disapointed that physics hasn't yet answered every question imaginable, which is a little unreasonable.
     
  7. Aug 27, 2006 #6

    Danger

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    As Chroot pointed out with uncharacteristic brevity, physics does not proport to answer 'why' to anything. The whole point of of the science is to explain, as much as possible, how things happen. 'Why' is a philisophical question which, because of being philisophical, can never be answered.
    And ignore Russ about his car. I've seen what he drives, and it is not a car. It's something with wheels that burns gas.
     
  8. Aug 27, 2006 #7

    Andrew Mason

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    Physicists try to explain the unknown in terms of other phenomena, so that we end up with fewer unknowns. Occasionally they turn it around and tell us that there are new unknowns to contemplate that put into question the things we thought we knew. But generally, we progress with fewer big things that nobody really understands. Once in a while physicists will take their knowledge and apply it to the development of something that threatens the future of humanity. If that happens, we will annihilate ourselves and everything will once again be unknown. God would be telling us that we aren't yet smart enough to know everything.

    AM
     
  9. Aug 27, 2006 #8

    Danger

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    But that presupposes the existence of a god, which is kind of silly.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2006
  10. Aug 29, 2006 #9
    Just forget about the 'why' questons. It is all too human to ask, but nobody can answer it, so why ask?
     
  11. Aug 29, 2006 #10

    Astronuc

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    Even if it did, which would really be how, not why, one would still have to ask 'Why is the Higgs what it is'.

    One ultimately gets down to why leptons and quarks (and any other fundamental particle one might discover) are the way they are? What set the initial conditions?

    Some questions will never be answered.

    So, don't worry, be happy. :biggrin:
     
  12. Aug 29, 2006 #11

    Gokul43201

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    That's because it never attempts to. And the reason it doesn't is that such an endeavor is meaningless.

    The only thing science can achieve is explain more varied and complex phenomena in terms of fewer and more fundamental principles, which must be accepted as axioms. At the very best (and this is highly debatable), it may eventually be able to explain everything based on a single "axiom". And it still will refuse to answer you if you ask it why that axiom is true.
     
  13. Aug 29, 2006 #12
    Why is that silly? :grumpy:
     
  14. Aug 29, 2006 #13

    NoTime

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  15. Aug 29, 2006 #14

    Danger

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    Chill, dude. :biggrin:
    While I, as a semi-militant atheist, see absolutely no reason to even consider the possibility of a god, I didn't mean that it's silly to believe in one. What I meant was that presupposing such a thing is applying artificial boundary conditions to the search for knowledge. If you already have your mind made up as to the why of things (god), then the how is pretty much irrelevant. What's the point of studying something that boils down to a supernatural basis?
     
  16. Aug 29, 2006 #15
    Thanks Danger... The how is fascinating... :biggrin:
     
  17. Aug 29, 2006 #16

    Danger

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    That it is.
     
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