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Theories based on intuition: calculus telling us and us telling calculus

  1. Sep 2, 2010 #1

    taylaron

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    Greetings.

    For your information, I am an undergraduate college student studying electrical engineering and also intend to get a degree in particle physics. At this point in time I am only beginning to learn calculus.

    For the past several years I’ve been watching television documentaries like NOVA's 'The Elegant Universe' with Brian Greene and (*select episodes of) Morgan Freeman's 'Down the Wormhole'. As well as watching physics-related educational videos on YouTube. I watch these because right now the basic conceptualizations they provide are as close as I get to understanding the fundamental mathematics of theories like today’s standard model and string theory.

    What this post is about regards the recommended basis for forming general theories of how the universe works. In this case, the basis I am using is limited to my simple perspectives on current proposed theories described by the above sources.

    During the past several years of watching the above documentaries, my mind has been pondering the most basic mechanics of how the universe may function at the most fundamental level. Pondering these concepts has resulted in some of my own propositions of how the universe might function.

    My concern is that regardless of how much sense any theories that I conceive make to me, it initially seems absurd that I could be confident that they have any potential whatsoever. This is because I simply have no mathematical support whatsoever for any of my theories. This concern prompted me to post this thread to get some opinions.

    The motivation I still have to pursue my ‘theories’ is based on the fact that even the theories that are accepted throughout science today were originally products of someone’s imagination. This fact will not let me simply discard my ideas.

    I would appreciate some insightful advice towards what to do with the theories I conceive and whether or not they are, well, garbage.

    Regards,

    -Taylaron
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 2, 2010 #2

    Pengwuino

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    The difference between a garbage theory and a real theory in physics is... well, mathematical proof (though I use the term proof relatively lightly). A crazy idea with no math gets laughed it, a crazy idea with a sound mathematical basis can probably get published if there's a decent jumping off of point!

    If you really want to look into serious theoretical work in physics, you have to learn what we know now in great detail and the math behind it. A theory has to fit into everything we already know, and there's a LOT we already know.
     
  4. Sep 2, 2010 #3
    A hypothesis or theory needs to make actual predictions. Without the math, it's near impossible to make quantitative predictions.

    For example, if I want to propose a specific type of dark matter, I could state "you should see an extra amount of light at a certain wavelength when it annihilates with its anti-particle."

    If I just did that, I'd be ignored.

    However, if i actually do the calculus and give a wavelength to look for, perhaps smeared across a range wavelengths due to the expansion of the universe, people would at least listen to me. Maybe.

    All that changed was I was able to make an exact prediction.
     
  5. Sep 2, 2010 #4
    To take this a step further- physics describes the natural world. As a science, it is forced to be able to reproduce what we observe and make predictions that match the results of experiment. This is the ultimate testing ground. Does it reproduce our experience and make testable predictions correctly? If so, then it is a good model of that phenomenon.
     
  6. Sep 2, 2010 #5

    taylaron

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    Thank you for your input everyone.

    Thank you Pengquino, I've only begun to to recognize the herculean task that encompasses constructing a new standard model. It is obvious that the primary difficulty with pursuing any of my 'theories' is the mathematics. I have not finished my degree yet, so I can not tell you for certain, but I dot not expect to be a full time theoretical physicist. My current ambitions beyond my education are exploring energy storage and generation in addition to establishing alternative transportation methods. Obviously many of these require different skill sets.

    It appears that (as i've already been told) I need to focus my time on understanding the mathematics required to understand the Standard Model and String theory. My ideas aren't garbage, but they have no worth or practical application until I can support them mathematically. Till then I cannot expect true progress..

    On another parallel, would someone briefly explain how mathematics can tell us how the universe works (opposed to the other way around)? I presume this is very difficult without understanding the material.

    I was under the impression that mathematics should be the support for simple concepts like "could the universe be made of vibrating strings of energy?" To say it a different way, I thought the creation process was the following:

    1. Someone proposes an unexplored possibility. A good example would be when Democritus conceived the concept of the atom.

    2. Scientists gather the qualitative and quantitative data they have on the subject they are trying to understand.

    3. Scientists begin to brainstorm how the data the have may be assembled using mathematics where the mathematics and data together reflect the initial proposed situation.

    I have no experience, only observations.
     
  7. Sep 3, 2010 #6

    taylaron

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    With all due respect, I wish this thread we be placed back in the physics related portion of this forum instead of sitting next to the politics and personal relationships sections...
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2010
  8. Sep 4, 2010 #7

    Pengwuino

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    That sounds like the "scientific method" that people are taught in school that doesn't accurately reflect how science is done, unfortunately. Things tend to happen two ways:

    1. There's some data or experiment or idea that current theories do not fully explain or possibly can't explain at all. So what is done is people try to make slight modifications to existing theory or maybe bring existing theory into a new realm. It's unfortunate that history books and science texts can't convey scientific progress all that well. It sounds like there's huge problems, then leap to Einstein/Feynman/Dirac making outrageous proposition, then leap to accelerator/telescope making wondrous discovery. It doesn't happen that way. It's all about tweaking current theory and only in rare cases, making huge leaps of faith because as is said, 'extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof'.

    2. Then you can also have current theories that just aren't fully explored yet. Say for example, quantum mechanics back in the day. If my history isn't fuzzy, "anti"-particles were theorized before experiment, even if some people simply stated they just weren't real solutions. Eventually you find the positron and boom, science.

    The important thing to know, though, for later down the line, is that good science answers the currently unanswered questions while at the same time, being perfectly in line with what we see in the rest of the world. For example, sure QM was great, but if it didn't fall back into classical theory at the right scales, it's garbage (although actually, i think being able to work at classical scales was built into the initial formulation, not something that was checked after)
     
  9. Sep 4, 2010 #8

    taylaron

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    Correct me if i'm wrong Pengwuino, but your post might describe the following situation:

    One day, a man named Scott imagines a concept that might describe how the universe functions which is different than common belief. He decides to send it to a renowned physics magazine to get his idea out. But Scott's idea is bluntly rejected because the theory views the universe from a completely non-traditional perspective.

    If I portrayed this situation correctly, the scientific community seems to be at a severe disadvantage. WHAT IF this new perspective, once successful efforts are made to support it with mathematics turns out to be a more accurate way to describe all scientific observations up to this day?
    The problem is that its potential would never be truly realized because it is so different than the standard perspective. This seems like a ridiculous and potentially unproductive situation.

    -Tay
     
  10. Sep 4, 2010 #9
    I share your frustration. It seems an insurmountable task to allow for the discussion, in this public forum of good reputation, the foundations of physics and well considered ideas, where as a byproduct, the posting of poorly conceived theories would also be enabled.

    As you've been given something of a reprieve in bringing up a personal theory by having your thread moved to the gossip column, perhaps you could relate the foundations upon which you think the natural world revolves--why do you think your theory makes sense?
     
  11. Sep 4, 2010 #10
    Most of those theories are not rejected because they are different from a standard perspective. They are rejected because they containing glaring errors in math and physics.

    Why should it stays there ? It contains 0 physics and 0 math.
     
  12. Sep 4, 2010 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    So you think you have theories that are better than the existing ones. You say this before you have even studied the existing ones in detail - you're an undergrad, not even majoring in physics, who is just learning calculus. How likely do you think this is?

    I recommend you read Steven Dutch's excellent essay on http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/PSEUDOSC/SelfApptdExp.htm" [Broken]. It may be a bit harsh, but it's nevertheless accurate.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  13. Sep 4, 2010 #12

    Astronuc

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    :rofl: Brilliant! I love it! :approve:

    Got a theory? Do the math.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  14. Sep 4, 2010 #13

    Chi Meson

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    This is a keeper. Not too harsh at all.

     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  15. Sep 4, 2010 #14

    taylaron

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    Astronuc, Chi Meson and Vanadium 50: you seem to have the impression that my fictitious example involving Scott is the situation I am in. You are mistaken.


    Evidently i'm not making myself clear. The criticism regarding what you think is my opinion is not appreciated. So far, I have given a couple examples of extreme situations roughly describing my observations. I do indeed have my own opinions on how the universe might or might not work, but those claiming my opinions are worthless because it has no math yet are premature in abolishing them.


    You don't seem to get my point Astronuc. Where does the element of human imagination come into play in physics? Does imagination require mathematics to function? I sure hope not! Did the theory of the atom just pop out of someone's ear? Democritus didn't use QED in describing his theory. His idea came from wondering to what extent someone could divide something in half and still get the same thing. Democritus' atomic theory came from his imagination; Look at today, the atom is a standard belief now.


    This thread involves the prerequisites for conceiving theories in physics. My questions involve responses scientists who are familiar with how the scientific community operates. Someone looking how to get their girlfriend to move in with them are not welcome in this thread.

    Phrak, I understand your suggestion, but describing my conceptualizations in this thread would be against the topic. At this point, I think it would be counterproductive as well.
     
  16. Sep 4, 2010 #15
    No, no. They are not.

    If you dont learn to deal with criticism, you wont get too far away :P You opinions are not worthless . But the only way to prove them is to do the math, see if it holds, and later do some predictions which can be observed by experiment.

    Until such time, all you have is philosophy or a nice science fiction novel.



    Prerequisites which you miss. And you have to realize, this is a public forum. If you post a question on a public forum, anyone can respond to your "theories", including the guy who tries to get his gf to move in with him. You have nothing to say about who should post.
    If you cant accept this, I suggest take your toys and play alone in a dark corner.

    Indeed. A waste of time for all involved.
     
  17. Sep 4, 2010 #16

    lisab

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    You have yet to learn what is already known. Believe me, the documentaries you've seen don't tell you even 1% of it. The physics in those shows has been diluted way, way down, to be entertainment intended for laymen.

    Don't lose your motivation to be creative. But don't expect to be taken seriously about re-writing the standard model until you've learned what the standard model is. By starting calculus, you're taking your first baby steps to learning the language that the standard model is written in.

    Before you can learn to think outside of the box, you have to learn to think inside the box; there is no way around this fact.
     
  18. Sep 4, 2010 #17

    Chi Meson

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    My comment only had to do with Vanadium's link. As long as anyone keeps those guidelines as they pursue their intuition, good luck to them.

    And good luck to you too, I say earnestly.
     
  19. Sep 4, 2010 #18
    Well, you could create a new religion, lots of ideas and no math/experimental evidence. Seems easy enough, question is: Will there be enough followers?
     
  20. Sep 4, 2010 #19

    Astronuc

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    Nope. I was acknowledging Steven Dutch's commentary. It is quite brilliant, and I seen material similar to that which is quoted. I've also encountered the same attitude he describes and same blather cited in "Where In The World Do People Learn To Write Like This?"

    We are way beyond Democritus, Aristotle, and their contemproraries. Most, if not all the theories, which describe various natural phenomena contain mathematical descriptions of how various forms of matter and energy interrelate or interact. The standard model for fundamental and composite particles works quite well, and the standard model in cosmology works quite well.

    If one has a new theory, then what observation does it explain better or more precisely/accurately than the current theory, or what observation does it explain that no current theory can? Where does the new theory pick up where all others fail? How does one propose to test the theory?


    See our strict guidelines for Independent Research
    Rules for submission to this forum.
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=82301

    Under Tier 1:

    1. The opening post must contain an abstract that states a) why the theory/work submitted to IR is important, b) what is new about it, c) where the proposed theory fills holes or addresses deficiencies in addition/contrast to being at variance with current theory, and d) a summary of results that support the new/revised theory.

    2. The opening post must contain a section that either cites experiments that have been done that decide between the new and old theories, or it must propose experiments that could be done to decide between the two. If the submission contains a theory that is empirically equivalent to an existing theory, then this section may be substituted with a section that demonstrates the empirical equivalence and that compares and contrasts the insights gained from the submitted and existing theories.

    3. All references to relevant prior work must be documented in the opening post.

    Most submissions fail to comply with Tier 1, and often it seems that the authors fail to read guidelines, or otherwise they simply ignore or choose not to comply with the guidelines.

    Under Tier 2:

    2. New theories must not be already strongly inconsistent with the results of prior experiments. If a new theory is strongly inconsistent with prior experiments, but the theorist is insisting that the experiments were either misconducted or misinterpreted by the scientific community, then the thread will be rejected. Instead the theorist should rebut the contradicting scientists in an appropriate journal.

    3. Quantitative predictions must be derived, wherever appropriate, and mathematical expressions and equations must be presented legibly, using LaTeX whenever necessary. For instructions and sample code see this thread. This should be done in the opening post.

    4. Theories containing obvious mathematical or logical errors will not be accepted.
     
  21. Sep 5, 2010 #20

    taylaron

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    Well, its obvious I am young, inexperienced and have a lot to learn. Thank you all for your helping me better understand how the scientific community really works and that it is not the way I simply want it to work.
    I clearly need to work on several of my skills including mastering calculus, taking criticism and being realistic. Thank you for your guidance.

    Thank you PF mentors for reminding me of and enforcing the bounds of this forum.

    Regards,

    Taylaron
     
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