Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What if we are all wrong ?

  1. Oct 19, 2004 #1
    A thought just occured to me.We have made so many scientific discoveries over centuries.Many physicists believe that in 50 years time there wont be anything else left that needs to be discovered.What if what we think about things is wrong ?.After all we fix frames of references,we define velocities,directions, everything is adjusted to fit our way of thinking.What would happen if one day we all wake up and discover that all the physics we've done so far is wrong,it is right from our point of view but for others is completely different ??
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 19, 2004 #2
    Thinking four dimensionally much less eleven dimensionally is not what I would call adjusting physics to the human thought process. Nor does a theory of everything mean a theory to end all theories, it just means one theory that will explain everything or just about everything we can observe today. If we find out there is something we are missing because we just haven't been able to observe it, it will be no different than when we first discovered radio waves or any number of things no one had ever observed. We'll update our theories of everything to include the new observations.
     
  4. Oct 19, 2004 #3

    arildno

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    This is incorrect.
    The ways we measure stuff is independent of our theories of stuff.
     
  5. Oct 21, 2004 #4
    This happens frequently, around 1917 when Einstein came out with Special Relativity and later General Relativity. Then a few years later the implications of QM and later QD and QC came out and are still being discussed.
    Get used to it. Today's brilliance and absolutes are tomorrow's folly and ignorance.
     
  6. Oct 21, 2004 #5
    If we're wrong then it is a triumph, because at least we're asking the question. That is the true genius- not the answer, but figuring out the right question to ask. 50 years is far too soon to know everything. As long as there is any part of our known universe that we haven't been to, then there are still far too many questions to make such a blanket statement- to say nothing of the "unknown" universal equation.

    I'm not afraid that we'll stop finding answers... I'm afraid we'll stop asking questions.
     
  7. Oct 21, 2004 #6

    arildno

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Again, incorrect!
    General relativity does NOT predict other results for the propagation of water waves, for example.
    Here, the results of GR and QM coincides with both classical physics and the measurements done years before.
     
  8. Oct 21, 2004 #7
    The deep mysteryof consciousness

    Quantum mechanics and relativity do reveal some truths about reality but they are only approximations. The physics and sciences of today says little about consciousness and why the universe is self aware. Why is it that a ball of rock floating around an ordinary star has eyes, ears and a mind? I think it will be much much longer than 50 years before the questions of the deep mystery of existence is answered, if ever.
     
  9. Oct 22, 2004 #8
    I was speaking of the complete overturn of Newtonian/ classical physics as being thought of as absolutes and that space time were thought of as absolutes. Relativity overturned all of this showing that even time is relative.
    QM, QED and later QCD completely changed the way we thought of atoms and there sub atomic particles and well as all of their interactions.
    Classical Physics is good for everyday cookbook measurements but is not the absolute knowledge that it was once thought of being.
    Physicist around the 1900 said that everything knowable was now known and physics and science would soon be coming to and end. As soon as that was said SR, GR and QM etc came about and everything known had to be rethought. The only truth to the previous statement was that what is now known as classical physics was done.
     
  10. Oct 22, 2004 #9

    arildno

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    I am perfectly aware of what you&the other poster MEANT.
    However, if QM&GR hadn't been able to account for the measurements a man strolling about might make, those theories would have been FALSE.
    The ability of a theory to predict "everyday behaviour" is as important (IMO, even more so) an acid test for their validity, than their ability for explainig "new phenomena".
    Since QM&GR does this in their respective limits, those theories MIGHT be right.

    The fact that these theories are able to predict what measurements will be gain in "new areas", where the predictions of classical physics is completely off-scale, show these to be BETTER theories.

    The basic criterion however, for the quality of a (general) theory is its ability to predict established, certain measurements. If it doesn't do so, it is worthless.

    Also, a general theory which "explains" new phenomena, but is completely off-scale with respect to old phenomena, is without scientific value.
    (It is then more probable that it is an ad-hoc hypothesis rather than a scientific theory)
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2004
  11. Oct 22, 2004 #10
    What possibly could be more basic and germane than classical physics holding that space and time are absolute and that relativity shows that they are relative. Your man walking around gets different results than if he stand still relative to the event. Relativity effects everything whether we can measure it or not just as does QM.
    The entire thought processes and paradigms have changed and shows that classical physics is and was wrong, completely wrong and at best only estimates. I find it hard to believe that anyone today can so easily dismiss their importance or the magnatude of the revolution.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2004
  12. Oct 22, 2004 #11

    arildno

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Read my response again.
    You're missing the point with your irrational dismissal of classical physics, and in my view, your equally irrational belief in the absolute truth of modern physics.
    (Basically, you're walking into the same trap as early 19th century physicists had occasion to do (the situation is not as bad as with the late 19th-physicists, who should have known better by that time than believing in classical physics)).

    If you are unable to see
    1.That the value of a scientific theory lies in its ability to predict correctly what we may measure
    2.That a theory can only be said to be better than another if it reproduces the same predictions as the other did where this was excellent PLUS making accurate results where the other was not so good (or way off)
    (QM&GR do, as I've clearly stated fulfill these criteria)

    then you don't understand a thing about science.

    It is quite indicative that you seem to think QM&GR has anything to add to the measurements the man strolling about; they don't, the effects predicted by these theories are completely undetectable. For example, use whatever two clocks you want at relative speed 1m/s, you won't be able to detect any time dilation.
    (It is below the precision level of the instruments)
     
  13. Oct 22, 2004 #12

    hypnagogue

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Royce and arildno, I think you two essentially agree on all the important points. It appears that you two are just interpreting the original question of this thread differently, which is causing confusion where there needn't be any. The original question was:

    Now, this question is phrased a bit ambiguously. The ambiguity seems to turn on the phrase 'for others.' What would it mean for our accepted physics to be incorrect 'for others'?

    On one interpretation, perhaps these 'others' simply inhabit a different set of physical circumstances and so observe different physical laws. We might imagine that a 19th century Newtonian physicist would regard his physics as basically 'right,' whereas an alien physicist on a spaceship traveling at near light speed would observe very different physics from his point of view.

    I believe Royce interpreted the question this way, and so cited general relativity and quantum mechanics as quite valid examples of where a previously accepted physics turned out to be 'wrong' from certain points of view (in this case, the macroscopic and microscopic 'points of view' of nature, respectively).

    On another interpretation of the question, perhaps Bobster means to ask if there might be some other beings who could exist in the same physical circumstances as humans and yet observe different laws of nature. Of course, unless we want to upturn everything we know about nature, the answer here would have to be 'no.' These beings might conceive of the world very differently, but at the very least their observations and predictions of nature would have to be consistent with ours in the context of our mutual physical circumstances. (As an approximate illustration, an animistic tribe member and a modern physicist will conceive of the world very differently, but at least both will agree that a moving body on the Earth's surface will eventually come to rest.)

    I believe arildno interpreted the question this way, hence his emphasis on the fact that QM and GR are still consistent with Newtonian physics in the set of physical circumstances under which Newtonian physics has been shown to work well, namely the 'ordinary' world of stuff existing roughly on the human scale of nature. This too, of course, is a valid point as a refutation of this second interpretaion of Bobster's question.

    It appears that the only reason for argument here is that arildno is assuming that Royce is operating under the same interpretation of the question as arildno is (the second one), and vice versa for Royce. You both have made valid points, and there needn't be any conflict between the two.
     
  14. Oct 22, 2004 #13

    arildno

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Thank you, hypnagogue!
    First of all, I do not deny nor diminish the magnitude of the PHILOSOPHICAL revolution which were made by QM&GR (nor as I've said, the fact that they break new frontiers).

    However, I thought it was needed a pointed reminder, that whatever new horizons we're facing, whatever new frontiers we are breaking, we cannot, under any circumstances, accept as a valid scientific theory a theory INCONSISTENT with old and CERTAIN results (ie., established measurements).
    New general theories must be shown compatible with old theories where these are great, even if that area of research becomes peripheral under the aegis of the new theory.
     
  15. Oct 22, 2004 #14
    But, arildno, That is exactly my point. General Relativity upset and countered the very core of Newtonian/Classical physics, time and space itself. Relativity and quantum Mechanics are not based on previous theories nor are they consistent at all with them. Classic physics is based on absolute time, space,
    location, velocity, and direction. GR and QM are based on the proven fact that time and space are purely relative, that there is no such thing as non-relative or absolute movement, direction or velocity; and QM is based on the proven fact that we cannot know precisely the momentum and location of a particle which completely blows away the classical physics' "determinations universe."
    It is far more than just a different view point. It is a completely different and incompatible way of viewing reality. It/they are brand new fields of science, information and knowledge that is not compatible, based on or merely different versions of the same thing, classical physics.
    Classical physics have not only been proven wrong but not even based on reality. Sure it works for day to day high school classes and experiments and day to day measurements but as we advance in our studies we are soon confronted with the proven facts that everything that we have learned so far is wrong and we have to learn an entirely new set of laws, theories and sciences that are not at all intuitive, obvious nor common sensicle (rational), that have no basis in common day to day life.
     
  16. Oct 22, 2004 #15

    hypnagogue

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The point is that Newtonian physics is compatible with QM and GR in the domain in which it is applied. If one applies the laws of QM and GR to the physical circumstances in which the predictions of Newtonian physics agree with experiment, then the laws of QM and GR wind up looking the same as the Newtonian laws.

    You are talking about something more than just the form of the laws when you invoke Newtonian assumptions of absolute space and time, determinism, etc. But this is more of a question of metaphysics than it is of physics. The interpretation of physical theories is always up for grabs to some extent. We've had QM for about 100 years already, and still there is no concensus about the physical meaning of it all. It would be unfair to judge physical theory primarily on metaphysical interpretation. When we talk about compatibility, we are primarily concerned with to what extent the laws agree with eachother and predict the same results.

    That said, in the limit of the domain of the 'normal,' everyday world, even the ontological underpinnings of QM and GR wind up reducing more or less to those endorsed by Newtonian physics. QM teaches us that phenomena on the microscopic scale behave indeterministically, but on the human scale most things do wind up behaving deterministically; likewise, GR teaches us that space and time are not absolute, but for us slow moving inhabitants on Earth, relativistic effects of space and time are by and large not significant, and they are just as well considered to be static and unchanging.

    Again, there isn't incompatibility here as much as there are wider domains of applicability afforded by QM and GR. The Newtonian study of 'human scale' objects situated on Earth is consistent (i.e. not incompatible) with this wider perspective as long as it is considered to be a special case. Your view seems to be captured by an analogy along the lines of "Newtonian physics is to modern physics as squares are to circles," when a much better analogy would be "Newtonian physics is to modern physics as squares are to rectangles."
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2004
  17. Oct 22, 2004 #16
    So spock the flat earthers and the Catholic Church and from their perspective/view point they were and are right. Yet they are wrong and always were wrong. QM is hardly metaphysical nor was the idea of a determinat universe under Newton. Even with uncertainty QM is the most exact and accurate model of reality that we have
     
  18. Oct 23, 2004 #17

    Chronos

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2015 Award

    You could say the same thing about GR.
     
  19. Oct 23, 2004 #18
    We know our scientific theories are all ready wrong. They are tools which help us understand the world relative to our perspective. The universe doesn't operate on the physics of life forms because life forms are really molecules. And the universe doesn't operate on the physics of molecules because molecules are really atoms. And atoms are really subatomic particles. And subatomic particles are really strings or whatever. Our theories are approximations of nature because the fundamental building blocks of these theories don't exist but are always products of a deeper system. This is why our theories are never perfect, we need an understanding of the deepest level, if that’s possible.

    And to Rad4921, you say physics is wrong today because it says little about consciousness and why our universe is self aware. I disagree with this, though many people share this opinion and I have heard it many times. I think that science lays out an explanation for consciousness and awareness perfectly, but you have to be willing to accept it. What we experience as human beings is awareness, though we often describe it as consciousness. Consciousness as some sort of essence of its own doesn’t exist (zero evidence for it). Awareness does exist, but it is a product of our biology.. our brains. Memory makes this possible. You can say science hasn't proved this, but all evidence points this way and as far as I can tell there is nothing indicating otherwise except human beliefs.
     
  20. Oct 23, 2004 #19

    arildno

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    royce:
    You seem to be under the confusion between the "ontological claims" of a theory and its "applicability".
    Let's first state the following fact:
    The postulates of Newtonian physics as ontological claims for how existence "really is", have soundly been disproven, since realms of reality have been discovered in which those postulates leads to predictions which are completely at odds with measurements.
    Hence, we really don't have any good reasons to regard those postulates as fundamentally true with regard to those realms of reality in which N.P: works excellently.

    But, precisely because N.P: works excellently there, the philosophical turn-over is of no significance whatever when it comes to evaluation of its applicability.

    For example, to go around believing that ship/off-shore industry researchers&engineers are following an inherently flawed approach in their physics because they do not take into account GR&QM-specific effects in their calculations, is simply silly, and shows little understanding of NP, and for that matter, GR&QM.
     
  21. Oct 23, 2004 #20
    There we always be new discoveries. That's what makes this world function.

    -Brad Barron
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: What if we are all wrong ?
  1. What's wrong with this? (Replies: 18)

  2. What if it is all wrong? (Replies: 15)

Loading...