Posts tagged ‘physics’

June 20th, 2013

A Simple Explanation of Fields in Physics

by Max Andrews

Contributing editor for Scientific American George Musser explains how physicists think about the universe using the fundamental concept of “the field”.

June 9th, 2013

The Philosophy of Science Directory

by Max Andrews

This is a compilation of posts, which focus on the philosophy of science. These posts will cover a broad spectrum within the philosophy of science ranging from multiverse scenarios, scientific theory, epistemology, and metaphysics.

  1. MA Philosophy Thesis: “The Fine-Tuning of Nomic Behavior in Multiverse Scenarios”
  2. Natural Law and Scientific Explanation
  3. Science and Efficient Causation
  4. Which Comes First, Philosophy or Science?
  5. The Postulates of Special Relativity
  6. There’s No Such Thing as Creation Science–There’s Just Science
  7. Time Travel and Bilking Arguments
  8. “It’s Just a Theory”–What’s a Scientific Theory?
  9. Exceptions to a Finite Universe
  10. Teleology in Science
  11. Duhemian Science
  12. The Relationship Between Philosophy and Science
  13. The History of the Multiverse and the Philosophy of Science
  14. Where’s the Line of Demarcation Between Science and Pseudoscience?
  15. Miracles and the Modern Worldview
  16. Mass-Density Link Simpliciter
  17. Scientific Nihilism
  18. Q&A 10: The Problem of Defining Science
  19. Q&A 6: Scientism and Inference to the Best Explanation
  20. The Quantum Universe and the Universal Wave Function
  21. The History and Macro-Ontology of the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Physics
    read more »

April 28th, 2013

What Does it Mean for Physics to Have Symmetry?

by Max Andrews

For every particle there is a corresponding symmetric particle.  Physics has a translational symmetry, which means that the laws and values of physics are the same at every location in the universe.  If an observer were to travel from one point to a much farther distant point the observer we see no change in the physics.  A broken symmetry introduces change—a non-absolute uniformity.  The breaking of symmetries creates complexity in the laws of nature in the outcome of laws.  There’s a symmetry and uniformity between the strong and weak nuclear forces, which have been unified as electromagnetism by James Clerk Maxwell.  A typical example of vital symmetry breaking is that which gives rise to the balance between matter and antimatter in the early universe.  However, there is an asymmetry between the quantum and the large (a la gravity). String theory is the attempt to unify all of physics.

April 26th, 2013

So, How Did Einstein Come Up With That Famous Equation?

by Max Andrews

In 1865 James Clerk Maxwell had unified electricity and magnetism by developing his equations of electromagnetism. It was soon realized that these equations supported wave-like solutions in a region free of electrical charges or currents, otherwise known as vacuums.  Later experiments identified light as having electromagnetic properties and Maxwell’s equations predicted that light waves should propagate at a finite speed c (about 300,000 km/s).  With his Newtonian ideas of absolute space and time firmly entrenched, most physicists thought that this speed was correct only in one special frame, absolute rest, and it was thought that electromagnetic waves were supported by an unseen medium called the ether, which is at rest in this frame.

March 18th, 2013

Q&A 15: What, Exactly, IS Gravity?

by Max Andrews

Question:

Hello Max,

My name is Chad Gross and I am the director of Truthbomb Apologetics.  Brian Auten of Apologetics315 recommended that I email you with a question that I have.

My question deals with gravity and whether or not it is immaterial.  It seems to me that gravity is not composed of matter and/or energy; therefore, it is immaterial.  However, when interacting with an unbeliever on the topic on this post and he said the following:

“Without mass there would be no gravity, right? It’s true that gravity itself isn’t made of atoms, but you must admit that the material world is more than just particles. Einstein showed that matter and energy are equivalent and can transform into each other. When I talk about something being material, therefore, I’m thinking of both matter and energy.

It’s true again that gravity might not be a form of energy, since it’s just a force. Maybe gravity arises due to the nature of space and time. But without matter, there would be no space and time. So I think it’s uncontroversial to consider the physical forces to be “material.”

When I think of things that are not material, I’m thinking of spirit, or soul. God isn’t made of matter or energy, and God would still exist even without any matter or energy, right?” 

Now, I realize gravity is not immaterial in the same way that moral judgments, mathematics, logic, etc.  Here is my reply to him:

March 11th, 2013

Watching Planetary Evolution in Action

by Max Andrews

Reblogged from Clara Moskowitz.

The findings are detailed in a paper to appear online in [the Feb. 28] issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters

Astronomers have captured what may be the first-ever direct photograph of an alien planet in the process of forming around a nearby star.

The picture, which captured a giant alien planet as it is coming together, was snapped by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. It shows a faint blob embedded in a thick disk of gas and dust around the young star HD 100546. The object appears to be a baby gas giant planet, similar to Jupiter, forming from the disk’s material, scientists say.

“So far, planet formation has mostly been a topic tackled by computer simulations,” astronomer Sascha Quanz of ETH Zurich in Switzerland, leader of the research team, said in a statement. “If our discovery is indeed a forming planet, then for the first time scientists will be able to study the planet formation process and the interaction of a forming planet and its natal environment empirically at a very early stage.”

The star HD 100546, which lies 335 light-years from Earth, was already thought to host another giant planet that orbits it about six times farther out than the Earth is from the sun. The new potential planet lies even farther, about 10 times the distance of its sibling, at roughly 70 times the stretch between the Earth and sun. [Giant Planet In the Making Spotted? (Video)]

March 11th, 2013

Q&A 14: Why Don’t the Laws of Nature Evolve?

by Max Andrews

Question:

Hey, Max.

I’ve just started reading Rupert Sheldrake’s The Science Delusion: Freeing The Spirit Of Enquiry and came across three questions about the laws of nature.

In Chapter 3, Sheldrake begins by saying:
“Most scientists take it for granted that the laws of nature are fixed.”
He then leads on to this question:
“If everything else evolves, why don’t the laws of nature evolve along with nature?”
The argument that he advances in the chapter involves something he calls ‘habits’, which are “a kind of memory inherent in nature”. (From what I understand, he has also advanced this within a theory of ‘morphic resonance’ in his other published works.) Putting aside his case for these ‘habits’, three questions that he poses to materialists at the end of the chapter caught my eye:
1) If the laws of nature existed before the Big Bang, and governed the Big Bang from its first instant, where were they?
2) If the laws and constants of nature all came into being at the moment of the Big Bang, how does the universe remember them? Where are they ‘imprinted’?
3) How do you know that the laws of nature are fixed and not evolutionary?
Although I can hear the materialists cry that these questions are not even wrong, I wondered what you thought about them.
Best Wishes,
Mark Hawker (UK)
read more »

February 28th, 2013

Higgs Boson Calculations Indicate a Finite Lifespan for the Universe

by Max Andrews

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 7.46.19 PMReblogged from Irene Klotz with Yahoo News.

Scientists are still sorting out the details of last year’s discovery of the Higgs boson particle, but add up the numbers and it’s not looking good for the future of the universe, scientists said Monday [Feb. 18].

“If you use all the physics that we know now and you do what you think is a straightforward calculation, it’s bad news,” Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist with the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, told reporters.

Lykeen spoke before presenting his research at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston.

“It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable and at some point billions of years from now it’s all going to get wiped out,” said Lykken, who is also on the science team at Europe’s Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator.

January 14th, 2013

Understanding Alan Guth’s Inflationary Cosmology

by Max Andrews

The properties of our universe appear to be finely-tuned for the existence of life.  Cosmologists would like to explain the numbers and values that describe these properties we observe.  Their attempt is to show that these constants and values in nature are completely determined as a product of inflation, which entails multiverse scenarios.[1]  Inflationary cosmology seems to not only solve fine-tuning implications but it also solves the horizon problem. That is, the early universe’s expansion rate was exponentially fast—faster than the speed of light and if it expanded at such a rate information (light) could not propagate beyond the cosmic horizon. Due to these problems much theoretical focus and work has been implemented in to the field of cosmology and physics developing an inflationary cosmology and string theory.

The eternally inflating multiverse is often used to provide a consistent framework to understand coincidences and fine-tuning in the universe we inhabit.[2]  This theory primarily appears in several forms, which attempt to explain the mechanism that drives the rapid expansion of the universe.  Before developing these models there are a few basic premises that must be agreed upon: the size of the universe, the Hubble expansion, homogeny and isotropy, and the flatness problem.

It is unanimously agreed upon that the Hubble volume we inhabit is incredibly large.  According to standard Friedmann-Lemaître-Robertson-Walker (FRW) cosmology, without inflation, one simply postulates 1090 elementary particles.[3] 

January 9th, 2013

The Quantum Universe and the Universal Wave Function

by Max Andrews

In 1956 Hugh Everett III published his Ph.D. dissertation titled “The Theory of the Universal Wave Function.”  In this paper Everett argued for the relative state formulation of quantum theory and a quantum philosophy, which denied wave collapse.  Initially, this interpretation was highly criticized by the physics community and when Everett visited Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in 1959 Bohr was unimpressed with Everett’s most recent development (439).  In 1957 Everett coined his theory as the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics.  In an attempt to circumvent the problem of defining the mechanism for the state of collapse Everett suggested that all orthogonal relative states are equally valid ontologically. An orthogonal state is one that is mutually exclusive.  A system cannot be in two orthogonal states at the same time.  As a result of the measurement interaction, the states of the observer have evolved into exclusive states precisely linked to the results of the measurement.  At the end of the measurement process the state of the observer is the sum of eigenstate—or a combination of the sums of eigenstates, one sum for each possible value of the eigenvalue.  Each sum is the relative state of the observer given the value of the eigenvalue (442-43).  What this means is that all-possible states are true and exist simultaneously.