A Fourth Helping Of Random Thoughts About Physics

A Fourth Helping Of Random Thoughts About Physics

Sometimes you have a new thought, an idea, or eureka moment, but it’s not gutsy enough to expand into a reasonable length article or essay. So, here’s my fourth pot-pourri of thoughts dealing with physics and related, too good not to record, but with not enough meat available to flesh out.

* You’ll often note mathematicians and physicists expressing descriptive words like beauty and elegance when describing some mathematical equation or something that’s symmetrical. Of course this just exhibits evidence that scientists are human. However, there really is no place for such emotive concepts in science. The equation is what it is; the symmetry is what it is; the laws, principles and relations of science are what they are. They are not beautiful; they are not ugly; they are what they are. Beauty and elegance and related concepts are in the mind of the beholder, and science truths are independent of the human mind.

* Superposition of states is just a mental concept that has no bearing on reality. It is a way of enabling us to come to terms with lack of certainty whether you’re wondering about where that electron is or what the next card to be dealt is going to be or what the fate of Schrodinger’s cat is. Since certainty is normally the bedrock of our existence, we deal with uncertainty uneasily by looking at all the variations that are equally possible. But what is that one possibility that will ultimately be – we’d better check. Meantime…

IMHO, the electron is somewhere with precise coordinates even if you can’t pin it down. It’s not in two or more places at the same time. The next card to be dealt is fixed even if you never peek. Schrodinger’s cat is not both dead and alive but dead or alive even before you open the box.

If you really believe there is a real superposition of states, then substitute Schrodinger’s cat for John’s thermonuclear bomb and be willing to stand by the box that houses and conceals that bomb for the duration. I maintain you’d be foolish to do that since a thermonuclear bomb cannot be both in a state of explosion and non-explosion simultaneously.

But if you seriously believe that a thermonuclear bomb can be in a superposition of states, then after a reasonable time interval has elapsed, you can scurry off to the bunker and send in a robot with a video link to open the box and see if the bomb is intact or not. I feel that will prove to be an unnecessary step.

Just like the concept of the superposition of states is an abstraction, a mental concept, the associated collapse of the wave function is just the mental satisfaction gained in resolving an either/or dualism or situation into an either this or that reality (or acceptance that resolution is beyond your means through no fault of your own). But in neither case is there a really real superposition of states or a collapse of any wave function.

* Your mind contains all that makes you, you. It is the essence of you. It contains and controls your perceptions, knowledge, memories, creativity, emotions, your thinking, your understanding or comprehension or ability to figure things out, your personality, and it houses your dreams and daydreams. A frequent topic for discussion in philosophical circles is whether or not the mind, specifically your mind, is the be-all-and-end-all of cosmic reality. The answer IMHO is a resounding “no” because the mind cannot be a perpetual motion ‘machine’. In other words, the mind is like all things (assuming other things), a thing subject to deterioration over time or subject to entropy. All things go downhill – dust accumulates, desks get cluttered, stars run out of fuel, cars breakdown and people grow old. It takes a constant supply of external reality energy and matter (same difference) to keep entropy at bay. That renewal of supply might win the battles, but entropy ultimately wins the war.

* Some more about the Simulated (Virtual Reality) Universe: The apparently real world is a quantum world. The cosmos (with perhaps the exception of gravity) isn’t a continuous structure but comes in discrete bits called quanta. You can have this or that or the next thing, like a 5 cent or 10 cent or 20 cent coin (I’m talking Australia here), but no single coin value in-between. That is, there’s no 3 cent coin, no 7 cent coin and no 15 cent coin of the realm. Well ultimately computer software is either/or as well. Built from the ground up, software code starts off by being either a one or a zero (binary maths). There’s no software code for 0.5 or 0.99 or 1.5.

The second and related bit is what happens if you zoom in on what you know is a computer generated (software) simulation, be it your digital watch, a flight simulator or a video game. It’s like when you zoom in on a newspaper photograph. Eventually you get down to irreducible and thus individual dots of differing shades – pixels. Pixels are also the measure used when talking about computer screen or TV monitor resolution. The more pixels you have per unit of area, the sharper the resulting image. Now zoom in on something you think isn’t simulated, like a hair on your head or that diamond on that ring on your finger or that lettuce leaf in your salad. You’d quickly zoom past all of that structure down to the molecular level hence down to the atomic level hence down to the subatomic level. That’s where you hit bedrock. You hit the individual pixels comprising matter and energy that can’t be further reduced into anything more fundamental. And, as with your computer or TV screen, the more subatomic pixels per area (or in nature volume), the more distinct the image. So in general gases don’t form a clear an image as liquids which tend to lack the visual details inherent in or of solid structures.

* A particle is a thing. A wave is a not-thing, just a mathematical concept or construct. For a wave to wave, or take on the mathematical shape of a wave, it has to have a physical substance in which to do its wavy thing. Thus, a water wave needs physical water; a sound wave needs air (or a liquid or a solid). A light wave therefore would need a substance in which to wave. For a long time that was the theoretical concept of the ether, but alas the ether remained just that – a nice theory laid low by observation; an inconvenient truth. The upshot therefore is that light waves of all ‘frequencies’ (i.e. – visible, radio, infra-red, etc.) are just particles – photons. Photons are things and being things they can travel through the vacuum of space. They don’t wave since there is nothing to wave in.

* Those Double Slit Experiments:

#1 If photons, electrons, Bucky-balls, etc. are fired in rapid succession at a single slit, with a detector (like say photographic film or a TV screen) behind the slit, then a quasi-blob of impacts are detected. Particles!

#2 If photons, electrons, Bucky-balls, etc. are fired in rapid succession at a double slit, with a detector behind the slits, then a classic wave interference (constructive and destructive interference) pattern emerges. Waves!

#3 If photons, electrons, Bucky-balls, etc. are fired one at a time, at a single slit, such that one photon, etc. completes the journey before the next one is fired off, with again a detector behind the slit, then a quasi-blob of impacts are ultimately detected. Particles!

#4 If photons, electrons, Bucky-balls, etc. are fired one at a time at a double slit, such that one photon, etc. completes the journey before the next one is fired off, again with a detector behind the slits, then ultimately after enough firings, a classic wave interference (constructive and destructive interference) pattern emerges. Waves! However, that implies one photon, electron, Bucky-ball, etc. somehow manages to go through both slits at the same time and interferes with itself. That’s absurd. But you ain’t seen nothing yet!

#4A The above assumes nobody (human or independent observation device) is peeking and taking the slightest notice of what’s going on – they are just looking at the pattern on the detector screen after the fact; after the experiment has concluded.

#4B However, if someone, human or independent observation device, is peeking and taking absolute and total notice of what’s going on, and determining at the precise time of passage which slit(s) the lone photon, etc. is actually going through, then the interference pattern doesn’t eventuate and you get a quasi-blob of hits on the detector behind each of the two slits. Somehow the photon, etc. is somehow ‘aware’ that it is being observed and changes it’s behaviour accordingly – keeping in mind that the very act of observing before-the-fact unobserved properties of a photon, etc. alters those properties after-the-fact, since you can’t observe something without mucking around with it.

#4C What if someone, human or independent observation device, peeks, but only after the photon, etc. has already passed through presumably but absurdly both slits? That shouldn’t affect the outcome since it’s now too little to late for the photon, etc. to change its mind. But again, regardless, the wave interference pattern disappears even after the peeking is done after the photon, etc. has passed through both slits. The one very nasty implication is that the photon, etc. travels back in time to just before or when it was emitted so as to now make the correct choice (pass through one and only one slit) to correlate what it does with what is detected.

Conclusion: If you turn your back, and there’s a double slit available, the detector screen, and therefore you, will detect a wave. If you don’t turn your back, but do a peeping-Tom act, double slit notwithstanding, the detector screen and therefore you detect a particle. The two very disturbing facets are that a photon, etc. displays awareness, and free will, as well as exhibiting the ability to travel backwards in time.

* Take atoms that are apparently electrical neutral, say one that has ten electrons in orbit around ten protons (plus ten neutrons). However, the force of the electric charge should obey the inverse square law (double the distance; one quarter the force). So if an electron(s) quantum jumps up one or more energy levels (i.e. – orbits) then the electrical force between the protons and the electrons lessens since the distance between the two has increased. That should throw the precise electric force neutrality for that atom out of whack.

* Impressive! If you remove all the empty space within an atom, and do that for each and every atom that’s part and parcel of each and human being on the planet, one could in theory fit the entirety of the human race into a volume the size of a sugar cube. But that’s just a baby step towards a theoretical singularity and since the constituents are now already in direct contact (no space, remember), so what’s left to compress. Can an electron be squeezed down?

* Can the electromagnetic spectrum be extended to near infinity either side, and if not, why not?

* Photons / gravitons do not ever experience time since they travel at the speed of light. From the moment of the Big Bang until they (i.e. – photons) enter your eye, not even a fleeting instant of time has passed according to their worldview. In other words, to a photon (or a graviton), everything is now. They have no comprehension of past or future.

* We think that time is something real because time absolutely rules our lives. The clock is probably the most in-you-face dictator that you have to acknowledge and obey each and every day, followed closely by the calendar. Further of course, we associate time with our start in life and ultimately our finish. However, if you really try to pin the concept of time down, it becomes quite illusive. I forget what philosopher said it, but it was to the effect that everybody known exactly what the concept of time is until they have to explain the concept of time to somebody else. Anyway, time is really an illusion because you can’t pin it down to being just this or that. Our units of time (seconds, minutes, hours, weeks, months, etc.) are just pure inventions and even a ‘day’ and a ‘year’ aren’t absolute. Time actually has no structure or substance and no physical properties. You could say that time is an illusion because it gives a false sense or impression of something being actually present. The concept of time is a tune that’s only present in your own mind but you surely dance to that tune throughout most of your waking life.

* Quantum physics may not have to defy common sense, but to date quantum physics DOES defy common sense. Recall Richard Feynman’s famous statement that nobody, not even Feynman himself as he himself admitted, understood quantum physics. Einstein, Schrodinger and even Niels Bohr made similar comments.

* String theory only works if one postulates extra spatial dimensions – six extra dimensions if memory serves. The standard model of particle physics doesn’t postulate or require extra dimensions. Now string theory gets the big thumbs down from me for the reason that the ideas central to string theory go back way over three decades now. In all of that time however, there’s not been one experimental verification of any aspect of string theory. String theorists talk-the-talk but can’t apparently walk-the-walk. Although I only have this as a gut feeling, I think string theory is finally on the wane now. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) should have been able by now to verify one aspect of string theory – super-symmetry (SUSY). Alas, the LHC hasn’t come up with the super-symmetrical goodies. So, methinks string theory is all tied up in untangle-able knots.

* Dimensions just don’t exist as really real reality. You cannot detect dimensions with your five senses. You cannot detect dimensions with any instrumentation at your command that’s known to science, engineering, technology, whatever. Dimensions have all of the same degree of reality as the concept of Wednesday. In fact, I just might claim that there are seven dimensions, one for each corresponding day of the week. It makes just about as much sense. Each concept serves the same general function of assisting us in defining our position in time and space. If it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium! Anyway, since it is clear that dimensions do not have structure or substance (just being mental concepts), scientists should cease referring to them in such ways as to imply that they do.

* Though a photon is fundamental and an electron is fundamental, I assume that an electron that has absorbed a photon isn’t fundamental.

Is temperature fundamental? No, since temperature is just a property – much like wetness – of a conglomerate of particles. No individual particle has a temperature or wetness. But all particles, each and every one, have a velocity, even if it’s only vibrational. Velocity is a fundamental property. But you can’t have velocity without particles, fundamental or otherwise. So what other properties are fundamental properties?

One would appear to be electric charge (whatever that actually is and however that is actually generated). Fundamental particles are either positively, negatively or neutrally charged.