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When can we say something is fully understood?

  1. Sep 12, 2016 #1
    My friend told me that the process of common salt preparation is fully understood....

    I asked him how come there's a loss and gain of electrons in this process..

    He told me because of attraction and repulsion.

    I asked him how does attraction and repulsion take place between charged particles...

    He told me that is because of exchange of virtual particles.

    I again asked him what is the reason that virtual particles come into play when two charged particles approach each other...

    He said its a given.

    So, how can we say that NaCl is fully understood??

    Thanks.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 12, 2016 #2

    Borek

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    We can't.
     
  4. Sep 12, 2016 #3

    russ_watters

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    A scientist would say never, but as an engineer I'd say it depends on your required accuracy/error margin.
     
  5. Sep 12, 2016 #4
    'Never'!!!

    Isn't this like being lost in a desert?

    . ..depressing and fruitless....
     
  6. Sep 12, 2016 #5

    Borek

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    You sound like Woody Allen in most of his movies :biggrin:
     
  7. Sep 12, 2016 #6

    Choppy

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    See Russ's answer above. You don't need full understanding of something in order to make progress in working with it.

    If someone throws a rock at my head, I don't need to understand the full physics of ballistic trajectories and air resistance. I can get by just fine with an approximation - moving my head out of the way fast enough so as not to get hit.
     
  8. Sep 12, 2016 #7
    Not arguing, just discussing..

    So, is this being...

    1. Positive

    2. Practical

    3. Just a defence mechanism because we want to live and progress at any cost.

    And...

    How to give preference to any of the scenarios above?

    Does everything just boil down to a particular VIEW POINT??
     
  9. Sep 12, 2016 #8

    Choppy

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    Deepak, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.
    :wink:
     
  10. Sep 13, 2016 #9

    russ_watters

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    No, actually what it means is that scientists will always have jobs because science will never be finished. And that's ok - even if science were to be declared finished, no one scientist would be expecting to be the guy/gal who finished it anyway. So it doesn't change anything about their perspective.
     
  11. Sep 13, 2016 #10
    What about striking at something that has always been in existence with all its features/properties...

    So, no more jobs!
     
  12. Sep 13, 2016 #11

    mfb

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    It is a possible model, but a bad one for various theoretical reasons. Describing it with fields works much better.
    Anyway, physics cannot answer "why" questions on a fundamental level. We could live in a universe with different laws of physics, there is no particular reason why the laws should be exactly as they are.

    There are so many open questions in science, and usually answering one leads to several new ones, so I don't think science will be "done" in the foreseeable future.
     
  13. Sep 13, 2016 #12
    The primary focus of physics is to answer the question of how something happens which is done within the framework of a model or concept. We "fully understand" something if the result found.is predicted from logical reasoning based on our model or concept. However fully understanding is not imply correctness as models or concepts can change. Approaching the 20th century there was a feeling that we fully understood the universe. and more than a hundred years latter we have more than a order of magnitude more physicists working on problems whose number seem to be ever expanding.
     
  14. Sep 13, 2016 #13
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