Views on Answering Physical Questions

  • Thread starter ChrisVer
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  • #1
ChrisVer
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Well generally it has come to my attention that a lot of people answer to some questions with the comment:
"well, that's like saying that if the laws of physics are like X" -X the false statement- "then Y is true" -Y false conclusion.

Well that's not really enlightening I think.
The main point is to see if the X indeed leads to Y, and then by understanding that Y is a false result you can exclude X.
Otherwise it's like you claim you know concretely the laws of physics... or that you learned them without questioning/understanding them -which I find a religious method rather than scientific.
Questioning something, doubting it, is what's leading you to understand it (if it's correct).
The most common example of what I'm saying is SR, even at introductory level. It's a theory full of "paradoxes" that intend on ruling it out... but through the understanding of the theory itself, you can solve the paradoxes.

What are your views?
 

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  • #2
lisab
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I'm having a hard time understanding what you're asking. Can you re-state the question?
 
  • #3
ChrisVer
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whether the approach of answering a question like:
"it's like saying that if physics weren't as they are then ...."
is correct or not, and what are people views on that.
 
  • #4
TumblingDice
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Well generally it has come to my attention that a lot of people answer to some questions with the comment:
"well, that's like saying that if the laws of physics are like X" -X the false statement- "then Y is true" -Y false conclusion.
I've noticed this a lot (more often than I'd like), yet not from a lot of different people. Maybe you're just breaking the ice to bring this topic into discussion? :shy:

Well that's not really enlightening I think.
Sometimes I think the people who revert to this approach do so because they do not understand the material well themselves. If they did, they would offer something helpful or constructive.

The main point is to see if the X indeed leads to Y, and then by understanding that Y is a false result you can exclude X.
Otherwise it's like you claim you know concretely the laws of physics... or that you learned them without questioning/understanding them -which I find a religious method rather than scientific.

I am amazed when reading replies posted by very active members that admonish newbies for posing common questions, sometimes even mis-quoting the facts themselves, because it's only regurgitation as best as memory serves. <sigh>

Questioning something, doubting it, is what's leading you to understand it (if it's correct).
The most common example of what I'm saying is SR, even at introductory level. It's a theory full of "paradoxes" that intend on ruling it out... but through the understanding of the theory itself, you can solve the paradoxes.

Hear, HEAR! SR, GR, QM, and other non-intuitive cannot be expected to be swallowed without a measure of doubt and questioning. The better option in my mind is - if one is unable to post something to teach, help or be useful, better to wait until one can.
:biggrin:
 
  • #5
ChrisVer
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No my topic is not so constraint in PF...
It's a general observation within scientific community (in particular the motivation for posting this, was created after a talk/argument I had with a PhD student in my univ)
 
  • #6
TumblingDice
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No my topic is not so constraint in PF...

Oh... er... nevermind!

Please excuse me now. I have another important message to write concerning editorial views on gratuitous sax and senslense vioins!
 
  • #7
Matterwave
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There is some conflict in my views on this problem. On the one hand, I do think it's very healthy to ask questions, all kinds of questions, about physical theories, but on the other hand, there are some questions that really can't be answered within the framework of our current understanding of science. Without a little bit of knowledge about science, it's hard sometimes for a lay person to know which of the two kinds of questions they are asking. Legitimate questions about things that CAN be answered within the framework of a scientific theory, or questions that must go BEYOND that theory, or known human knowledge, to answer.

Sometimes, the question makes NO SENSE in the context of the theory being considered. So it's always a delicate line to tread.

For example, one might often ask "can we accelerate to the speed of light?" which is a very valid question to which we can answer based on the physics of special relativity, the answer to which is "no". But modify this question to "what if we could go the speed of light, what would happen?" and all of a sudden, special relativity is silent on the matter. Special relativity says you CAN'T go the speed of light. If the OP insists, e.g. with a statement such as "I KNOW we can't go the speed of light, but WHAT IF we could?", how can you answer this question with known physics? All we can say is "if you break known physics, then you can't expect physics to give you sensible answers".

Now that example was quite a clear cut one. But it is often the case that the questions are not so simple to separate into the two categories.
 

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