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Introduction to the Theory of Relativity Part III: General Relativity

By epepke in Science
Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 07:32:40 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

This is the third of a series of elementary, informal, and mostly equation-free articles descibing the Theory of Relativity in physics. The series will have four installments:

  1. Part I: History
    This described the history of ideas in the development of relativity.
  2. Part II: Special Relativity
    This described Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity.
  3. Part III: General Relativity
    This gives at least a taste of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, which extends the Special Theory to cases involving acceleration and gravity.
  4. Part IV: Implications, Controversies, and Miscellany
    This will address implications of the Theory of Relativity, controversies both old and modern, experimental evidence, and anything else that isn't covered in the first three installments.

This installment gives a taste of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. It does not assume much knowledge about physics, but it does assume familiarity with the ideas developed in Part I and especially Part II.


Acceleration

In Part II, we saw that uniform motion in a straight line was relative in the sense that it is not possible to tell if we are moving or standing still except relative to something else. Of course, motion of objects is much more complicated than this. Objects speed up and slow down, change direction, and rotate. In other words, acceleration happens. Acceleration is not relative in the same sense, as we can tell if we are in an accelerated frame of reference by the forces we feel. Nevertheless, we still need to understand it in terms of relativity.

Kirk did such a good job before that we give him a longer, sleeker ship. We put in another seat for his evil twin Skippy. We also miniaturize the lightsticks (our clocks using light) and have them produce a flash of light every ticktock. We put one lightstick at the fore and one at the stern of the ship so that both Kirk and Skippy see a series of pulses from both lightsticks. The lightsticks are fast enough, and the ship is long enough, that there are always several pulses in transit from each lightstick toward Kirk and Skippy. The lightsticks are synchronized, so Kirk and Skippy see a flash from each lightstick at the same time.

+-----------------------------------+
|                                   |
|| \   \   \   \  S  /   /   /   / ||   ->
|D /   /   /   /  K  \   \   \   \ U|   ->
|                                   |
+-----------------------------------+

The fore lightstick is labeled "U" for "up," and the aft lightstick is labeled "D" for "down."  The reason for these labels will become clear in time. Ignoring the rest of the ship, we get this:

| \   \   \   \  S  /   /   /   / |
D /   /   /   /  K  \   \   \   \ U

Skippy reasons that if he could arrange to get a little bit ahead, be a little bit more toward the direction that we call the right, he could see the next pulse from the U lightstick before Kirk does.  So, he pulls the lever that separates Kirk from his chair, pushes him aside, and turns on the rocket. Kirk, who is not accelerating, has to see the same thing that he has been seeing. Skippy, who is still in his acceleration chair, is accelerating to the right and so shortens his distance to the next pulse of the U lightstick. He also increases his distance to the next pulse of the D lightstick:

| \   \   \   \    S/   /   /   / |
D /   /   /   /  K  \   \   \   \ U

Skippy is closer to the next pulse from the U lightstick and farther from the next pulse from the D lightstick. He must therefore see the pulse from the U lightstick first. Looked at another way, the pulse from the U lightstick must reach Skippy before it reaches Kirk. The pulse from the D lightstick has already reached Kirk before it reaches Skippy.

Skippy can continue this indefinitely. What he will see is a series of pulses from the U and D lightsticks that look like this:

\     \     \   S/ / / /
/     /     /    \ \ \ \

The more frequent pulses from the U lightstick compared to the D lightstick will convince him that the U lightstick is running faster than the D lightstick.

If we are in our reference ship that is not accelerating, how do we see the experiment? According to Special Relativity, we will have to agree with Kirk, who is simply moving at constant velocity relative to us, that he sees the pulses at the same time. We will see Skippy a little bit to the right, so we will see him encounter a pulse from the U lightstick before Kirk does, and a pulse from the D lightstick after Kirk does. We agree that Skippy must see the U lightstick as running faster.

There's another way to look at this in our frame of reference. Instead of having Skippy accelerate with the rockets, we tie a big tether to the prow of the ship and swing it around. Skippy still experiences acceleration, but it's always acceleration toward us. We see his lightstick running slower than ours, because he is moving around us, due to the time dilation of Special Relativity.

Skippy, however doesn't see us as moving in his accelerated frame of reference; he only sees us as rotating. Since he's always accelerating toward us, he sees our lightstick just as he saw the U lightstick, running.

We saw in the comments of Part II how the "twin paradox" could be resolved using Special Relativity alone, knowing that acceleration happened, but avoiding talking about it. Now it is clear that we can do the same thing taking account of acceleration explicitly.

This does not require any new ideas beyond Special Relativity. The arguments about clocks in accelerated frames of reference are essentially similar to the arguments in inertial frames of reference. The answer to the "twin paradox" also comes out the same, which is what we'd expect.

What About Gravity?

Using the Lorentz Transformations instead of the Galilean transformations allowed Newton's theory of motion to be brought up to date, but there was still one thing about Newtonian physics that didn't quite fit: gravitation. According to Newton, every mass instantanously attracted every other mass by an amount proportional to the product of the masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance. The idea that gravitation is not instantaneous but travels at the speed of light had been around since the late 19th century, and Poincaré published a paper concurring with this idea just a few days before Einstein's 1905 paper on Special Relativity. Einstein and others tried to figure out an interpretation of gravity consistent with Relativity and the Lorentz transformations, and for many years they failed.

Weight and Mass

In our everyday experience, massive objects such as cars and bowling balls have two properties:

  1. They resist pushing
  2. They resist lifting

The former is usually called "mass," and the latter is usually called "weight." On the Earth, at least, the weight and the mass always seem to be the same. They are so similar that we confuse the two in our units. People in the U.S. talk about mass in pounds, a unit of force, whereas to keep the units right, it should really be in slugs. Similarly, people in the rest of the world describe weight in terms of grams or kilograms, whereas it should really be Newtons.

The fact that the weight effects of mass and the inertial effects of mass seem the same suggests the possibility that they are always the same. This is known as the Weak Equivalence Principle. Galileo, in his Dialogues, came up with an elegant philosophical justification of why they should always be the same, no matter what. It has also been tested empirically, notably by Henry Cavendish, who designed an experiment that is still done today.

Einstein's Equivalence Principle

Einstein had an epiphany when he was still a patent examiner. What if someone fell from a roof? During the time of the fall, the person would feel no gravity, and so in that frame of reference, gravity would not exist. He described this as the happiest thought of his life. Einstein began to think of gravity as not really a force but rather the absence of a force. When we are sitting in a chair, it's not that gravity pushes us downward; it's that the Earth by way of the chair pushes us upward. A frame of reference that is falling freely, like a satellite in orbit, is the logical analogue of a frame of reference that is just moving along at a constant velocity in space.

Gravity is, therefore, a fictitious force. It is like the centrifugal force that we feel outward on a carousel. The real force is the centripetal force of the floor pushing our feet inward. The idea of the centrifugal force comes from ignoring the fact that the carousel is rotating, but it's really just inertia. It's just like Skippy in the ship flying around us as if on a tether. Skippy feels a force away from us, but that is because his ship is being accelerated toward us.

Einstein extended the Weak Equivalence Principle, making the bold guess that as the gravitational and inertial effects of a falling mass should always be the same, it should therefore, even in principle, be impossible to tell the difference between acceleration and gravity. Of course, on the Earth, if we move around or just wait a while, the gravity will be in a different direction. Also, if we move far from the Earth, the gravity will be less. Einstein's Equivalence Principle only applies over a small local region.

Einstein looked at Newton's second law of motion, which relates force to rate of change of momentum or, in the classical view, mass and acceleration. He also looked at Newton's law of gravitation, which also specifies a force, this time from gravitation. These are two seemingly unrelated equations. He reasoned that if the Equivalence Principle were always true, the forces had to be equal. This made the force drop out of the equation--one fewer concept to worry about. The mass of the falling body appeared on both sides of the equation, so it, too, dropped out. The resulting equation related gravitational acceleration on one side to a mass and a distance on the other side.

Knowing that under Special Relativity, strange things happened to masses and distances, he was careful only to use this exact equation at low speeds and small distances. Nevertheless, he made the bold guess that the spirit of the equation should always hold.

If Einstein was correct, and gravitation is really indistinguishable from acceleration, then we must expect that all of the things that happen with acceleration also happen with gravitation. If Skippy saw his U clock going faster than his D clock under acceleration, then he must also see the same thing when his ship is up-ended and resting on the Earth. His U clock would then really be up, and his D clock would then really be down, and he would have to see his U clock running faster than his D clock, due to gravity.

Curved Spacetime

From Part II, we have the notion of spacetime as space and time in four dimensions. From Newton, there is the idea that objects will move in straight lines in the absence of an external force. However, this is not true in an accelerated frame of reference. When Skippy released Kirk from his chair, he saw Kirk falling in a curved path. However, Kirk thought it was a straight path. Skippy sees spacetime as curved while he is accelerating. The spatial aspect of the curvature is obvious: Kirk follows a parabolic path, at least until he hits the stern bulkhead. We also have to incorporate time into our ideas.

Imagine living on a curved surface. This shouldn't be too hard, as we all live on one. It's called the Earth. We have all seen pictures of the Earth from space. We all have the idea that it's a ball embedded in three dimensions. We go up in buildings and fly in airplanes, but mostly we move along the surface of the Earth.

How can we tell that the Earth is a ball and not a flat plane? We could, of course, launch a satellite and take pictures, or watch shadows from the sun on a stick in the ground, or watch a Lunar eclipse, but all of these ways involve having something off the surface (the camera or the Sun or the Moon). Let's say that we were really limited to just the surface. Perhaps we couldn't look or move up and down, or we just don't think about it. How can we tell?

We could sail in one direction, and eventually we'd come back from the opposite direction. This already shows that something odd is going on. We could also try to make figures using Euclidean geometry. Let's say we're trying to make a triangle with three straight lines. We expect the angles to add up to 180 degrees. For small figures, they come out very close to the Euclidean ideal. However, as we try to make the triangles bigger on the Earth, no matter how hard we try to keep the lines straight, the angles add up to more than 180 degrees.

To see this, imagine cutting an orange. Make one cut, cutting it into halves. Make another cut, crosswise to the first one, and another, crosswise to both of the others. We'll end up with eight orange sections, all the same. The edge of each section will be a triangle over the surface of the orange. Three sides, as straight as we can make them. Three angles, each 90 degrees. They add up to 270 degrees, which is greater than 180. There's something funny going on.

We would see similar problems no matter what we tried to construct. We could construct a circle. We know that the ratio of the circumference to the diameter is supposed to be π (pi). As we make the circle larger and larger, we notice that the circumference is smaller than we'd expect from the diameter.

If we were living on a saddle instead of a ball, we would see the opposite happen. The angles of the triangle would add up to less than 180 degrees, and the circumference would be greater than we would expect. This is called negative curvature, as compared to the positive curvature of a ball.

We can come up with all sorts of different ideas for the surface. Maybe there's a mountain valley on the Earth with a ridge crossing it, which makes that part more like a saddle than a ball. Maybe there's a mound in the middle of the valley, which makes that part more like a ball again.

With our 3-D insight, this kind of curvature is easy to see with a 2-D surface. We can imagine a ball. We can see how the circumference of a circle would be smaller that expected, because the diameter is humped over the curved surface of the ball and has to be longer. However, we don't need that insight into embedded surfaces to detect curvature or even measure how much there is. Even if we didn't know from up and down, we could still know that we were on a curved surface. Thinking of a 2-D surface like a ball helps us visualize it, but it isn't necessary to detect curvature.

Acceleration curves spacetime, so we should see similar effects, even if we cannot see any obvious ball or saddle. Earlier we swung a ship on a tether to produce acceleration. Instead of just swinging one ship around, we'll use a carousel in the same way. The carousel is a circle. When it is stopped, we can compare the circumference at the rim with the distance to the center, and it comes out as we would expect. Now we set the carousel spinning and sit at the center. We see the rim moving rapidly. From Part II, we know that rapidly moving objects contract in the direction of travel; this is called Lorentz contraction. If the entire rim contracts along the direction of travel around us, then the circumference of our circle must be shorter than what we would expect. This is similar to what happens on a ball.

By the equivalence principle, what happens under acceleration should also happen in gravity. Let's try to construct a rectangle in spacetime in the presence of gravity. We'll use one dimension of space and another dimension of time. The units and size of the rectangle don't really matter much, but to make things simple, we'll use one of the ideas suggested in Part II, where the unit of time is a nanosecond, and the unit of distance is the time that light travels in a nanosecond, about a foot. It's slightly larger than a foot, so we'll call it a bigfoot.

We do the experiment on Earth by setting up two clocks, the U clock several bigfeet above the D clock:

U
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
D

This gives us an edge at the left of the page. The edge is through distance in space, so we'll call it a "space edge." We need another space edge and two time edges, one at the top and the bottom. How do we get these "time edges"? Easy. We just wait. Then we use the same space edge, after the wait, as our right space edge. We don't physically move the space edge; we just let it flow through time as things do anyway.

We also know that, on a rectangle, all of the angles should be right angles. What can that mean when one of the axes is time? It means that the time should be independent of space. From Special Relativity, we know that all that strange Minkowski rotation and skewing, where time becomes space and space becomes time, happens when there is relative motion. So, we station ourselves as an observer right in the middle:

U
|
|
|
O
|
|
|
D

We count the first two corners as the position and the time of the two clocks. The second two corners will be the position and the time of the two clocks a few nanoseconds later. After a few nanoseconds, we might imagine this:

U--------------U'
|              |
|              |
|              |
O              O'
|              |
|              |
|              |
D--------------D'

We and the clocks haven't moved, but we draw time to the right.

If this is really a rectangle, then the time of clocks U' and D' must be the same. If we did this out in the middle of nowhere, in what we can call flat spacetime, that would indeed be the case.

However, on Earth, the situation is different. The U clock is above us, so we see it as running faster. We also see the D clock running more slowly. So, we will not see U' and D' as valid corners of a rectangle. The U' clock will read later than the D' clock, because it has been running faster.

We expected the times to be the same, if this were a rectangle, so it cannot be a rectangle. If we try to keep the elapsed time on the clocks the same, it is even more obvious that it is not a rectangle:

U----------U'
|           \
|            \
|             \
O              O'
|               \
|                \
|                 \
D------------------D'

We cannot construct a proper Euclidean rectangle in spacetime in a gravitational field if one clock is above the other. Like the person constructing figures on a surface, we notice that the spacetime in which we live is curved. In this case, it has negative curvature, like a saddle. We see that the presence of gravity curves spacetime.

Geodesics in Spacetime

Special Relativity, building on Newton's First Law of Motion, deals with objects moving at uniform velocity along a straight line in flat spacetime. We need to develop similar concepts for the curved spacetime of General Relativity.

The concept of a straight line in space is intuitive. Given two points A and B at different locations, the line is the shortest distance between the two points. Our person trying to draw a triangle on a ball made lines that were the shortest distance between two points on the ball. Looking from outside the ball, the lines are obviously curved. This is called a geodesic. Airplane magazines often show routes between airports as geodesics, which appear curved on flattened maps.

So, first we modify Newton's First Law of Motion to say that objects move along geodesics rather than straight lines. Since, in flat spacetime, a geodesic is straight, this does not violate any earlier ideas.

We also need to understand how geodesics work not just in space, but in spacetime. We can set up points A and B at different locations and different times, say with B at ten seconds later than A. We can make a spacetime pen by putting a clock on the pen. From Newton's First Law of Motion, we should expect a geodesic to be uniform motion in a straight line from A to B. However, there are many other ways of making the line look straight in space. We could wait until the last second and then move the pen rapidly to B. We could zig-zag back and forth and eventually stop at B.

Fortunately, there's a simple way of telling the difference between all these paths to determine which one is the geodesic, at least if the pen is moving slower than light. We look at the clock on the pen, which gives the proper time of the pen. When the pen gets to B, because it has been moving, its proper time will read a little bit less than ours. The more wildly we move the pen, the lower its proper time will read. The geodesic is the path that will make the proper time be the greatest. In the case of flat spacetime, this is motion at a constant velocity.

We can replace the idea of the shortest distance with the longest proper time. In the case of flat spacetime this automatically minimizes distance. Any path other than the straight line in flat spacetime means more distance, which means more speed, which means a lower elapsed proper time of the pen.

An observer in an accelerating frame sees objects moving in curves. From the equivalence principle, we should expect the same thing to happen in gravitation, and it does. A thrown object, so long as it is not thrown so far that the direction or strength of gravity matters, should trace the same curved parabolic path relative to us that Kirk did relative to Skippy.

How does this relate to maximizing the proper time? Let's say that we want to get a ball to a friend at a distance, one second later. We could built a straight track and send the baseball along the track. However, this would not maximize the proper time of the ball. We know that clocks above us in a gravitational field run faster. So, if we could just give the ball some height, then its clock would run faster, and the proper time would be greater. We can't make it go too high, because that would require making it go too fast, and that would make the clock run too slow. So we need some sort of compromise, making to ball go a little bit upward, but not so high that the advantage is undone by the extra speed. The optimal path is the curved parabolic path that we would see if we just threw the ball.

The paths of bodies under the influence of gravitation, in the absence of other forces, follow geodesics in spacetime. From a thrown rock to an orbiting satellite to the curving of light around a star, all paths in the absence of other forces are geodesics.

The Gravitational Field

General Relativity holds that spacetime is curved, but what is it about a really big rock that causes spacetime to curve in its vicinity?

In Newton's Law of Gravitation, it was the mass. Newton's Law works very well at short distances and low speeds, such as we see in the solar system. It cannot just be disregarded. Any formulation of General Relativity has to produce the same results where and when Newton's Law is known to work.

On the other hand, mass seems a tricky idea. We saw in Part II that we could think in terms of a relativistic mass, called mr or mγ. We also saw in the comments to Part II that it was just as good, in fact overwhelmingly preferred by physicists, not to use such a concept at all.

Einstein's original goal was to fit gravitation into relativity, using concepts that transformed according to the Lorentz transformations. What is needed is something that at low speeds is the same as the mass, to keep consistency with Newton's Law where it is known to work very well, but at the same time is consistent with the Lorentz transformations.

There is such a thing. In Part II we saw that we could make a 4-vector with space (3 dimensions) and time (1 dimension) that would transform according to the Lorentz transformations. We also saw that we could make a 4-vector with momentum (3 dimensions) and energy (1 dimension) that also would transform. This is sometimes called the energy-momentum.

At zero speed, nothing is moving, so there is no momentum, and the momentum portion of energy-momentum is zero. That leaves the energy. The energy at rest is equivalent to the rest mass according to E=mc2 from Part II. So, at rest, the energy-momentum is the same as the rest mass.

General Relativity relates gravity and the curvature of spacetime to the energy-momentum like this: Consider a small spherical volume of massive particles. As time passes, the sphere will shrink due to gravity. Work in the local rest frame of the sphere at the center of the sphere. Take the energy density of the particles and add it to the flow of x-momentum in the x direction, the flow of y-momentum in the y direction, and the flow of z-momentum in the z-direction. Multiply by the volume of the sphere. This is proportional to the rate at which the rate of shrinkage of the volume increases.

Combine this with some constants, such as the speed of light c and the gravitational constant g, presume that this is true everywhere, and it is in principle possible to derive the Einstein Field Equation. This does not mean that it is easy. While the mathematics of Special Relativity are easily within the grasp of any moderately well educated high-school student, the mathematics of General Relativity require some tricky concepts.

The correct form of the field equation took many years to get right. Einstein had been a student of Georg Riemann, who had a way of characterizing curved spaces. He also collaborated with Marcel Grossman, who let him know about the work of Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro. and helped him with a lot of the other mathematics. In 1914 Einstein published a version of the field equation, but it was wrong. It was enough to interest David Hilbert, who corresponded with Einstein. They came up with the same correct field equation within a few days of each other. In 1915, Einstein submitted his paper on the field equation.

Consider an equation in basic mathematics, such as E=mc2. We can look at it and see the meaning intuitively, what we might call the poetic meaning of the equation. Energy and mass are in some sense the same thing, although possibly in different forms and looked at differently, related by the square of the speed of light. It is also good for doing calculations. If we have a gram of matter and a gram of antimatter, we can easily calculate how much energy will come out in the form of gamma rays if we put them together. In basic mathematics, the poetic and calculation forms of an equation are usually the same or at least pretty close.

In advanced mathematics, the poetic and calculation forms often look so different that it is hard to see them as the same thing. General relativity is no exception. In poetic form, the field equation can be written like this:

Gab=8πg/c4Tab

If we use the appropriate units and some conventions, it can simply be written like this:

G=T

This equation uses tensor algebra to fit a lot of information into a small space. (A tensor is a kind of matrix in the same sense that a vector is a kind of array. The transformation matrices used in computer graphics are usually tensors.) G is the Einstein tensor and describes the shrinkage of a ball of particles mentioned earlier. T is the energy stress tensor and describes the energy-momentum mentioned earlier.

Of course, this poetic form is useless for doing calculations. It must be expanded into a form where we can use simple addition, multiplication, etc. When expanded, it results in 16 non-linear differential equations. Non-linear coupled differential equations are tough to solve anyway, let alone 16. By being clever about the symmetries in the tensors, we can reduce them down to 10 or so, which is not much help. Writing them all out results in something like 100,000 terms.

This is hideously unwieldy. Nobody would sit down with a calculator and use them, let alone understand them completely. Fortunately, in some simple cases, nearly all of the coefficients go to zero, and it becomes possible to solve analytically. Three analytical solutions of particular interest:

  1. The Schwarzschild Solution assumes that all of the energy-momentum is concentrated at a single point, similar to how Newton used point masses. It can be used for planets and the like and has been useful in describing neutron stars and black holes.
  2. The Friedmann Solution assumes that the energy-momentum is evenly distributed over a volume and is useful for describing the structure of the universe as a whole.
  3. The Gravity Wave Solution looks remarkably like a generalization of Maxwell's equations and predicts gravity waves, much as Maxwell's equations predicted radio.

Given the sheer complexity of the equations, we might expect that General Relativity would be far more controversial than Special Relativity. It has been, and the controversy continues to this day. That will be one of the subjects of the next installment.

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Related Links
o Part I: History
o Part II: Special Relativity
o Part III: General Relativity
o Galileo, in his Dialogues
o Henry Cavendish
o experiment
o the happiest thought of his life
o saddle
o proper time
o Georg Riemann
o Marcel Grossman
o Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro.
o David Hilbert
o 100,000 terms.
o Schwarzsch ild
o Friedmann
o Also by epepke


Display: Sort:
Introduction to the Theory of Relativity Part III: General Relativity | 152 comments (123 topical, 29 editorial, 0 hidden)
Canned response #9 (2.16 / 6) (#7)
by Fredrick Doulton on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 07:44:38 PM EST

You know, you're probably right
I never looked at it from this perspective. You definitely have something here.

Bush/Cheney 2004! - "Because we've still got more people to kill"

No! [OT] (none / 0) (#12)
by i on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 09:05:43 PM EST

The bold part goes to the title field. This is absolutely vital.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
oh god, not again... (2.29 / 27) (#11)
by rmg on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 08:37:14 PM EST

wormholes? warp drive? neato !!!! can you imagine a beowulf cluster of these things ???

okay, how about this: do a series in which you introduce a bit of differential geometry, then write a real article on general relativity.

discussion like this is only useful to scientific american readers who want to create the illusion that they know things about physics (or as they would probably say "space, the universe, and reality"). here's an idea for the computer janitors out there who eat this stuff up: go read dirac's little book on general relativity. if you can't be bothered to learn a bit of geometry, then forget general relativity. go write a perl script or something. this stuff will never be important to you. you will never use it and i can gaurantee that no woman will ever find you more desirable for your knowledge of it.

and if you think of this as "intellectual stimulation" or "self-improvement through the cultivation of the mind" or whatever else, i would just keep that under my hat. stuff like this, stuff like sagan, penrose, greene, hawking and the rest of the popular science gang is nothing but porn for losers. it is self-deception, a self-pollution, through which you fool yourself into believing you're feeling something, in this case intelligence.

just be warned, popular science is not the path to enlightenment. the conversations non-physicists have about this sort of thing are no better than the conversations between stoners on dazed and confused or whatever other stoner movie you like. they are innane, half-witted, and the participants don't realize it.

thank you and good night.

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks

It seems people hate this one (4.20 / 5) (#14)
by epepke on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 09:43:39 PM EST

Although people seemed to liked the other two, and some people wanted me to finish the series, so far I've only gotten a little positive feedback on this one, and one at least thinks I'm a troll. Which is fine by me; I'll go through the editorial process and submit it to a vote, and if it goes down in flames, I'll be able to derive conclusions.

The comment on the penultimate paragraph is fair, and I removed it. It was not my intention to hawk weird stuff; I just wanted a hook to demonstrate why it is interesting to investigate these things. But I realize that it is also undesirable to be interpreted as one of the X-files crowd. Perhaps I did not properly communicate my intent, which was to induce those attracted to mindless speculation to switch to mindful speculation. It still does seem to me excessive histrionics over what was, after all, just one paragraph.

As for the rest, I believe that there is value in popular explications of scientific ideas. First of all, I find that it is a useful exercise to try to formulate something in a way that is understandable in a qualitative sense. The exercise causes one to examine things in a non-orthodox way.

Second, the misunderstandings of relativity and other aspects of science are commonly so great, that it makes me want to try to ameliorate it, inasmuch as I can. Before your response, it never occured to me that this might be evil. I'll have to think about that. Fortunately, at least it would mean that Feynman was even more evil than I, because he was better than I at distilling the qualitative essence for popular explications.

Further, I think there is also value for an individual in reading such explications. If nothing else, it may inspire some people to go out and read more. My view is that it is always easy to go out and learn formalisms and equations, if one is already interested. Without the spark of interest, though, not much can be done.

Is it a self-deception, a self-pollution, cheap porn for the masses? I worked in a mostly-physics interdisciplinary research program for long enough that I guess I worked any tendency to look down on people who were not educated the same way out of my system. I don't see how an intuitive understanding of relativity should be any different from an intuitive understanding of classical mechanics, which most people exhibit when they get into a car, even though they don't sit around all day solving equations. I certainly don't see the harm in it.

Dirac's book is a good one. However, are you inspiring people to read it? It seems that you view it as something to throw at me and vent your spleen. My article in two places is clearly marked as giving just a taste of GR. Why don't you write your real article on GR? It would probably be fabulous, since you seem so certain you know what's what.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
clarification (2.10 / 10) (#18)
by rmg on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 01:36:24 AM EST

It was not my intention to hawk weird stuff; I just wanted a hook to demonstrate why it is interesting to investigate these things. But I realize that it is also undesirable to be interpreted as one of the X-files crowd. Perhaps I did not properly communicate my intent, which was to induce those attracted to mindless speculation to switch to mindful speculation.

you misunderstand the remark. i am not talking about the x-files crowd as you suggest, but rather the slashdot crowd and the so-called geek subculture at large. i think if you have indeed done research in physics, then you will be the first to admit that "mindful speculation" has as its prerequisite some modicrum of trainng in the subject of speculation.

As for the rest, I believe that there is value in popular explications of scientific ideas. First of all, I find that it is a useful exercise to try to formulate something in a way that is understandable in a qualitative sense. The exercise causes one to examine things in a non-orthodox way.

i start to wonder about whether you have actually done any physics on a serious level as i read this. do you mean to suggest that physicists do not engage in this activity when they are not writing for the new york times best seller list? this is the very essence of physics, it is why it is called physics and not mathematics. no one denies the usefulness of a qualitative understanding of physics, what one questions is the value of such constructs with out the underlying theoretical framework, i.e. the formalism. indeed, these qualitative explications are at bottom an effort to understand the formalism.

Before your response, it never occured to me that this might be evil.

whether this is evil or not is not my concern, nor is Feynmann my patron saint or of much importance to me whatsoever. i am suggesting that you are perpetuating the belief among certain people that popular science and the gross simplifications therein are intellectually valid and useful subjects of "study." whether this belief is evil or not is not at issue here. what is in question is whether this is a worthy expenditure of our time, our taken to mean "geeks" of whatever stripe, physics or otherwise.

you suggest that it is easy to go out and learn formalisms, but if that is truly the case, why not just write an article about the formalisms? the simple fact of the matter is that these things take substantial training to grasp, some of which many of our fine colleagues here would not be able to complete had they the desire. and why should they? this leads to a philosophical issue that seems to plague these discussions.

you suggest in your comment that most people have an intuitive grasp of classical mechanics. i can only assume that you mean to say that cars and such are examples of physical objects and that our interactions with them are direct interactions with the "laws of classical mechanics." what you fail to understand the absurdity of this idea. do you imagine that people where unable to play ball or pilot ocean going vessels before the modern formulations of classical mechanics had been derived? if not, as clearly you don't, i hope, then what sense can we salvage of what you are saying? not much, i am afraid. ultimately our ability to interact successfully with physical objects arise from our experience and instinct, not the existence of some theory predicting the trajectory of a baseball or the flow of wind through a pair of sails. in other words, popular science gives people to accept the unfortunate optimism of some of our scientific thinkers without the intellectual background needed to see where and why one must be skeptical. popular science irresponsibly leads readers to accept "facts" much as they would religious doctrine, that is, on the basis of authority. this is anit-intellectual and ultimate counter to the ideas behind science itself. we see the dangers of this kind of thinking in the recent string/supersymmetry/M-theory/etc. theory craze. areas like quantum field theory, an actual theory with working results, are being displaced by zealous string theory fanatics and the financial backers they have duped. very few young theorists now go into quantum field theory because of the disasterous effects it could have on their careers. for all intent and purposes, qft is dead. but i digress...

you say i am "venting my spleen" as though i am simply some flame warrior or itinerant philosopher or what have you. you say that i "am so certain i know what's what." but this just shows your failure to grasp this criticism. i hope that engineering types, computer scientists, and others without real training in physics or the sciences in general will learn to take a more skeptical approach to things that are beyond their respective fields of experise. i would never write an article on GR for this forum. it is simply not appropriate.

we have seen in previous discussions exactly why this is not the forum for such things. it is precisely because of the star trek syndrome i attempted to point out in my orignal response. without a proper background in physics, any discussion about physics that goes beyond what can easily be seen in everyday experience becomes one about warp cores, worm hole, photon torpedoes, or how cool it looks when you move your hand like this.

i think what i'm trying to say is that you are wasting your time trying to impart this knowledge of modern physics upon an unprepared audience. ultimately you are just giving them the false impression of knowing something that they really don't understand.

HTH. HAND.

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks
[ Parent ]

But remember... (none / 0) (#39)
by Stick on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 07:37:55 PM EST

The clues are there.


---
Stick, thine posts bring light to mine eyes, tingles to my loins. Yea, each moment I sit, my monitor before me, waiting, yearning, needing your prose to make the moment complete. - Joh3n
[ Parent ]
I didn't hate it... (none / 0) (#23)
by dipierro on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 10:45:07 AM EST

But I think I'm going to have to go with -1. The other ones were good, and I probably +1ed them, but this one I just couldn't get into. The accelleration part was boring, and I'm not really sure why it needed to be included at all. The weight and mass section seemed a bit too elementary school for me. But maybe that was necessary anyway. The equivalence principle section was well done. Curved spacetime was perhaps a bit longer than necessary. Geodesics was fairly well done. The gravitation field was the most interesting part. Unfortunately it seemed like you went way too fast through the most interesting parts. For instance, "At zero speed, the momentum is zero, and the energy is the same as the rest mass according to E=mc^2." Perhaps any explanation of that is beyond what you can provide in such a writeup. But I was disappointed that you didn't go further into it. Or maybe you did. I didn't really understand the next paragraph.

Anyway, hopefully others will get more out of this than I did. Thank you for your contribution. I hope you don't take my criticism the wrong way. Your writeup is certainly better than anything I could do on the topic.



[ Parent ]
Yeah (none / 0) (#47)
by spiralx on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 06:48:12 AM EST

I don't really think this explained things particularly well... it confused me in places and I've done GR for my degree and read plenty about it in other places. And there seemed to be missing examples of things - why not use the idea of a light beam passing through a falling lift to illustrate that gravity curves space? It's a common way of explaining it and makes more sense than how it's explained in the article.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

That's fair comment (none / 0) (#53)
by epepke on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 01:59:50 PM EST

I agree that this one isn't as clear as the one on Special Relativity. As I mentioned in the release notes, this one was much harder to write than the other one. In preparing it, I looked at a lot of metaphors that people had used over GR and found that there was a much wider variety. I went through the process of just listening to some of the explanations, without diagrams, to see which one seemed to me to work without diagrams. I also looked at lots of USENET discussions where people gave their reactions to various metaphors. Note that I don't have metaphors of bowling balls on rubber sheets--that's because I found a lot of people thought it more misleading than leading. But I probably didn't make all the right decisions.

As for the light beam passing through a falling lift, that's a good one, and I wanted to use it, but I couldn't figure out a good way of explaining that with ASCII diagrams. If you can, I appreciate it if you'd post one.

In any event, there's one thing I know I forgot to do--include a list of materials for further reading. I'll assemble that and put it in the comments, but it might take a few days.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Picture (none / 0) (#62)
by spiralx on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 05:51:48 PM EST

Hmm, curved lines aren't my forte in ASCII ;) But I'm sure if need be you could email editos@kuro5hin.org and ask to insert a picture into the story... it has been done before.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Dear rmg, (2.58 / 12) (#20)
by kitten on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 04:42:48 AM EST

Shut the fuck up already.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
dear kitten, (2.44 / 9) (#28)
by rmg on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 12:19:23 PM EST

if you can't discuss these matters intelligently, i suggest you find a new outlet for your vitriol. we are neither impressed nor amused with your whining.

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks
[ Parent ]

Popularization of Physics (4.75 / 4) (#46)
by adiffer on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 04:45:30 AM EST

Several months ago I did something like this, but not for general relativity.  My piece involved classical field theory.  It was high powered and managed to collect 91 votes before the timelimit came up.  It died in the queue when the auto-post routine had to make a decision.  It isn't hard to understand why if you look at the comments.

The high powered articles we could right for K5 might be useful or interesting science, but they don't do a damn thing for most of the people here.  A real GR article would go over 99.99% of the readers here and really shouldn't be voted up by anyone, though many probably would.  What are those voters saying when they vote it up?  That's not hard to understand either.  Those of us writing such content aren't doing anything for you or the rest of the community, though.  The high powered stuff is just an ego stroke opportunity.  Such articles belong in fora populated by our scientific peers and not by our community peers.

Popularization material, though, has a real chance to be useful to some people here.  Turmeric, of all people, wrote a comment attached to my canned story that applied what should have been an obvious lesson to the side of my head with a blunt instrument.  If we can't popularize our stuff, we are frauds.  I took that a little further and concluded that if we can't popularize our stuff, we are priests.  See how smart I am?  I know the Holy Equations.  Bow down, kiss my robe, and admit your Ignorance.

I've never figured out how to pitch my stuff to seven year olds, but I have made an effort to do so.  I applaud everyone who makes a similar effort because they break the mold.  We aren't priests.  We would like to share this stuff with you.  If you actually want to learn it, you should be prepared to start with the 'GR for dummies' type content.  We should be prepared to write it.

Some people don't get the message and still try to kiss the robe.  Unearned +1 votes are like that.  That's too bad, but don't blame us for trying to change the world.
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]

The link's broken (none / 0) (#63)
by epepke on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 07:33:31 PM EST

It's too bad, because I would have liked to read it.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
new diary then (none / 0) (#64)
by adiffer on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 08:59:38 PM EST

I'll stash it in a new diary.  Just give me a second or two.

I forgot that hidden stories tend to stay hidden except to the author.
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]

done (none / 0) (#65)
by adiffer on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 09:11:47 PM EST

There it is.
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]
STFU (1.00 / 1) (#49)
by jman11 on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 10:34:07 AM EST

You're an idiot and demonstrating one of the key problems the sciences (computer science included) are having at the moment.  It is the "you could never understand what I do" shit; it is plain wrong.  It is true that a lay person could not understand every detail of what is being done.  This is the reason it takes many years of study to get into.  The lay person can be explained an incredible amount.  The problem is it takes skill and patience to explain.  Don't forget one of the key reasons people go to graduate school (or postgraduate for nonUSoAians) is to avoid having to work in groups.  If the lay person can understand it is derided in Academia, so there is no desire to explain.

To give someone a good understanding would take ages, but the quick ideas, reasons for interest, etc are quite manageable.

In short you are guilty of exactly what you are describing.  There's this little game where you are intelligent and get to beat on anyone who is not in the field as knowing nothing.  There are a lot of people in the world who can beat your understanding of General Relativity into the ground.  They understand and "get" the basic concepts better than you ever will.  The conversations of normal physicists would sound equally trite to them.  So it's all a big ego trip, you're the smartest.  Hey, that's probably why you got into Physics.  To show everyone how clever you are.

[ Parent ]

but pop. sci. works for physists (none / 0) (#57)
by VasyaPoup on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 03:18:20 PM EST

...does it?
at least it works for me

you are right it might not work for comp. janitors :) but well, we have an ideal to give the rest of humanity this minimum scientific background, so they can understand

But you're right, you cannot start your education
with SciAm... (but you cannot start it with Dirac's booklet you've mentioned as well)

good Math and good General Physics at high schools...

[ Parent ]

For a better tomorrow (2.00 / 1) (#80)
by xs euriah on Sun Jul 27, 2003 at 02:22:30 PM EST

rmg-

I imagine it's tough being unemployed while everyone around you is making money, laughing, enjoying a life whilst you troll continuously.  What else can the unemployed wasters do?

Good luck, and here's to another 1300 worthless comments.

[ Parent ]

Understanding Physics (5.00 / 1) (#83)
by OldCoder on Mon Jul 28, 2003 at 03:31:19 AM EST

The working physicist or grad student needs a different understanding of physics than the readers of the k5 series by epepke. Evaluating epepke's series is most rationally done with a view towards the purposes to which this knowledge will be put and the effects this information will have on the readers and on society.

Citizens, parents, teachers, and so on should understand that studying Einstein is a more legitimate scientific pursuit than studying Velikovsky or Lamarck, and and they won't believe that unless they have some understanding of what Einsteins and Darwins work is about.

For some star-trek fans, the physicists complaining that we can't just tool around the galaxy faster than light seem like just spoilsports and they should understand that serious knowledge is behind the physicists claims. This is hardly possible unless a glimpse of what serious knowledge is enables the fans to understand. The entertainment industry dwarves the science business and threatens to capture culture entirely.

Inventors claiming to build faster-than-light drives and perpetual motion machines should not be funded more often than once or twice a century. Without some understanding of physics as physics rather than as a self-perpetuating academic bureaucracy, this economy may not be realized.

Popularization stimulates young minds to study further, possibly become scientists themselves, and meanwhile provides funding for impoverished professors and grad students. Far better the consumers of tracts on astrology and Nostradamus spend their money on more deserving individuals. Parents and teachers imbued with a gee-whiz understanding of the physics might inspire some youngsters to study science rather than something else, or to grow up to be politicians who fund science rather than something else.

The prolonged encounter of the human mind with reality, as opposed to fantasy, may have a salutary effect on culture and the development of society.

--
By reading this signature, you have agreed.
Copyright © 2003 OldCoder
[ Parent ]

nonsense (4.00 / 1) (#91)
by senderista on Tue Jul 29, 2003 at 04:03:01 AM EST

The fact that you would recommend Dirac's book betrays your lack of familiarity with the field. This book is hopelessly out of date mathematically, and, like most traditional treatments, is needlessly difficult. The essential concepts of differential geometry are beautifully simple and are only obscured by the coordinate-laden notation of most traditional physics texts. If you want a modern introduction to general relativity that combines mathematical rigor and phbysical intuition, try Wald's _General Relativity_ or Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler's _Gravitation_.

I agree that general relativity can't be properly understood without some background in differential geometry, but I think you're underestimating the importance of physical intuition. Feynman wasn't exaggerating when he said that if you paid attention to his (popular) lectures, you might understand more physics than some of his grad students. In general relativity as in every other physical theory, mathematics is merely the rigorous expression of an underlying physical intuition.

"It amounts to the same thing whether one gets drunk alone, or is a leader of nations." -- Jean-Paul Sartre
[ Parent ]

for all you Einstein worshipers (none / 0) (#35)
by tiger on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 05:46:24 PM EST

Here is a recent book you may want to add to your library: Albert Einstein: The Incorrigible Plagiarist

--
Americans :— Say no to male genital mutilation. In Memory of the Sexually Mutilated Child



Thank you! (none / 0) (#37)
by epepke on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 06:04:15 PM EST

If you'll notice in the into, the fourth part will be Implications and Controversies. I was not aware of that book and was dreading having to collect some of the statements he makes from multiple sources. But now you've suggested a nice, handy package. Thanks!


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
You must be kidding, (5.00 / 1) (#55)
by manobes on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 02:40:26 PM EST

You aren't seriously going to give Bjerknes consideration? His rantings are not a "controversy" they're the ravings of a kook. And don't waste your money on his book, you can read all his crap from sci.physics.relativity. Just search google groups for Bjerknes, it's all there, over and over and over and over and over again.


No one can defend creationism against the overwhelming scientific evidence of creationism. -- Big Sexxy Joe


[ Parent ]
You sure presume a lot! (none / 0) (#60)
by epepke on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 04:51:31 PM EST

Goodness! I haven't written the next article yet, and even I don't know exactly what I'm going to write. You certainly can't know. I think only the kooks at the P.E.A.R. lab would presume to know such things.

I think I do know where you're coming from. I actually sat down and watched an entire episode of Red Green, once. It was an enlightening experience, much like eating a hamburger in England. In any event, please reserve judgements until I've submitted the next article.

And don't waste your money on his book

There are also plenty of excerpts on the web. I have no intention of giving him any money.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
This is where I get lost... (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by cestmoi on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 08:51:46 PM EST

When we are sitting in a chair, it's not that gravity pushes us downward; it's that the Earth by way of the chair pushes us upward.

The only way I can make sense of that sentence is to imagine the Earth is expanding, and as it expands, pushes me into my seat.

If the expansion interpretation is correct, then what rule does all matter/space follow so that the earth and sun avoid expanding into each other? More to the point, how does it do it without resorting to simultaneity throughout the cosmos? If the interpretation is wrong then how does mass warp spacetime? For me, it's not enough to say "Mass warps space time like marbles on a rubber sheet..." because the marble sheet analogy is telelogical - it ignores the mechanism by which the warping is effected.

Good question (4.50 / 2) (#41)
by epepke on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 11:24:40 PM EST

That's a good question, and conundra like this make general relativity both hard and fun. I'll do my best to answer, though perhaps someone else can come up with a better explanation.

The only way I can make sense of that sentence is to imagine the Earth is expanding, and as it expands, pushes me into my seat.

That's essentially correct. However, it's important to remember that the Equivalence Principle only applies locally. If you were falling from an airplane, and you were looking at the bit of the Earth you are about to meet rapidly if you don't open your parachute, and you don't look too far, then, yes, what you would see would be indistinguishable from the Earth expanding into you. In this situation, for a given amount of error, the local region that is good enough looks like a pancake. There's a decent range of good measurements to the North or South or East or West, but not up and down. What is happening at the other side of the Earth is well outside the local region. If you work it out with the Einstein Field Equation, you get the answer that the Earth is getting bigger in your local frame of reference, but only very slightly, on the order of millimeters before you go splat.

If the expansion interpretation is correct, then what rule does all matter/space follow so that the earth and sun avoid expanding into each other?

Just talking about the Earth and the Sun, an observer fixed at the Sun would not see the difference between, say, the North and the South pole as significant. So the observer at the Sun would not see the North Pole as getting farther away from the South Pole. The Earth doesn't fall into the Sun because it is moving around a geodesic in the spacetime curvature formed, mostly, by the Sun. This geodesic just happens to circle the Sun.

It's somewhat more interesting to talk about the universe as a whole. There is no principle that will prevent all the matter in the universe from expanding to fill it. If you go back in time, this is the Big Bang. At some time, it looked as if it might fall back into a Big Crunch. Nowadays it seems that the matter in the universe is moving so fast that there will never be a Big Crunch, but the possibility of a Big Crunch is well within the limits of GR.

This bothered Einstein. He was a big believer in a steady-state universe, one that just sat there and didn't do much overall. To maintain this, he put an extra term in GR that I haven't talked about, a cosmological constant. He later considered this a big mistake. In any event, it seems that the cosmological constant is zero or very close.

More to the point, how does it do it without resorting to simultaneity throughout the cosmos?

Actually, a lack of simultaneity is one of the tricks.

If the interpretation is wrong then how does mass warp spacetime? For me, it's not enough to say "Mass warps space time like marbles on a rubber sheet..." because the marble sheet analogy is telelogical - it ignores the mechanism by which the warping is effected.

Notice that I haven't used the rubber sheet analogy. I think it misleads more than it elucidates. As for the rest, I wish I could give you an answer, but the truth is that nobody knows. Maybe when someone comes up with a unified field theory we'll know, but this hasn't happened yet. A lot of people are working on it.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Locally? (none / 0) (#48)
by cestmoi on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 07:57:16 AM EST

However, it's important to remember that the Equivalence Principle only applies locally.If you and I are on opposite sides of the earth, neither one of us will fall off. Therefore, by the expanding earth idea, we have to be moving apart at 32 ft/sec/sec. Perhaps we can't measure the increase in our relative distance because our ruler is also growing at 32 ft/sec/sec.

However, if the earth is growing, so is the sun, as well as the space between the earth and sun. Except the sun is growing faster than 32 ft/sec/sec. That ruler that's growing at 32 ft/sec/sec on the earth would be growing faster on the surface of the sun. So where does locally stop?

[ Parent ]

Rubber sheet analogy (none / 0) (#59)
by awgsilyari on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 03:34:40 PM EST

Notice that I haven't used the rubber sheet analogy. I think it misleads more than it elucidates.

Well, the question most people raise to the rubber sheet analogy is, "What makes the ball roll into the depression in the rubber sheet? I mean, isn't it gravity that would cause that? And isn't gravity the phenomenon we're trying to explain here?"

Except if you actually do the experiment, it's a great analogy. Take a rubber sheet and lay it flat on the table. Now draw a straight line across it with a magic marker -- a geodesic. Now use your finger to poke the sheet near the line. Notice that the line bends into the depression -- no external gravity is necessary to explain why.


--------
Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

geodesics (4.33 / 3) (#45)
by adiffer on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 04:17:45 AM EST

If left alone, you will travel in a straight line.  No forces acting on you will lead to this situation.  GR redefines straight, though, and calls the new things geodesics.  

Because gravity can be thought of as curvature, you shouldn't treat it as a force acting on you.  You simply follow your geodesic.

However, when you are sitting in a chair, you 'straight' line is directed toward the center of the Earth.  The surface of the Earth gets in your way of moving in that direction and pushes up on you to prevent your movement.  The moment that push occurs, you are no longer on your free fall geodesic and you will experience 'weight' in the amount the Earth has to force up on you to divert you from your straight path.

If your chair was moving, say in an airplane, your 'straight' line is different than it was sitting in a chair on the ground.  Your free-fall path depends on the usual things like initial velocity and position.
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]

thoughts (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by banffbug on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 01:35:26 AM EST

If you hit a waill with your fist, with a force of 500N, the wall pushes back on you 500N. I suppose the chair must hold your weight by pushing back with a force equal to your mass, or else the chair would collapse. It's proventing your fall to the centre of the earth..

[ Parent ]
Great Stuff (1.80 / 5) (#42)
by bsavoie on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 01:08:11 AM EST

Learning Physics is better than reading the Bible, because it helps you to believe in the truth of things. We are limited by our preconceptions. Physics gives us real stuff to consider.

As a Buddhist I think we can understand all of reality. But we can only do this if we are honest. This nice article allows us to start down the long road of building our understanding of physics. Thanks for the great article.

Only by doing work of listening and sharing real data can we grow beyond ourselves. We seem to be living in a dark age, where 'certainty' is going the wrong way. Lets give more tax breaks to be rich, and make religion a closer part of government. Why can't we just learn Calculus and from that learn how to learn itself? I know that is a stretch of subjects, but after all physics is ultimate stuff it effects everything. We must learn how to open our eyes and use our own brains. To do that we must trust ourselves. If we do that we can find great peace.
    http://www.dyad.org

May Peace and Love be your path
First laugh of the day (none / 0) (#44)
by Nick Ives on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 02:56:23 AM EST

Learning Physics is better than reading the Bible, because it helps you to believe in the truth of things. We are limited by our preconceptions. Physics gives us real stuff to consider.

--
Nick
man

[ Parent ]

Thanks (none / 0) (#54)
by epepke on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 02:12:05 PM EST

As a Buddhist I think we can understand all of reality.

I have a hard enough time just knowing what I do and do not understand to make any guesses about this. I'm happy enough that, so far, it seems possible to understand more and more about reality.

Perhaps nirvana consists of finally understanding everything. I don't know. I just know that it's a hell of a lot of fun finding things out.

But we can only do this if we are honest. This nice article allows us to start down the long road of building our understanding of physics. Thanks for the great article.

I tried to put a subtext into this and the other articles. The subtext is far more important than relativity, far more important even than all discoveries in physics to this date, in my view. It is that there is great value in being willing to let go of our preconceptions.

In my view, that is one of the two great personal characteristics (some might say philosophical) needed to do science. The other is the ability to be comfortable with ignorance.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Kinda (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by awgsilyari on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 03:29:15 PM EST

Perhaps nirvana consists of finally understanding everything. I don't know.

I think a better way to put it is, "Nirvana is the utter destruction of the distinction between that which understands and that which is understood." In fact, the elimination of all forms of duality. The entire concept of "understanding" would be moot in Nirvana, in fact any concept of any kind would be moot.

Nirvana is timeless yet somehow exists embedded in a substrate of space and time. Leaving all mystical implications aside, I think the understanding of Nirvana and the understanding of the physical nature of the universe are quite tightly intertwined. Physics is more and more about the removal of duality, and the duality between space and time is the most shocking duality tackled so far. I'm just beginning to feel comfortable with the idea that the two are identical, but it's taken me my whole life. (And that's not the same as understanding the mathematics.)

It's been a while since I formally studied Buddhism, but I believe I remember some Buddhist ideas that sounded very much like current multiverse theories. It's really too bad that the image of Buddhism has been polluted in the West by being picked up by a lot of hippies and social misfits. Although I'm sure the East has its own share of mindless adherents who don't actually understand the underlying principles...


--------
Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

The most amazing fact (none / 0) (#66)
by bsavoie on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 12:01:19 AM EST

is that we can understand at all. Ken Wilber in the start of his book "Sex, Ecology, Spirituality the Spirit of Evolution" says

"It's a strange world, It seems that around fifteen billion years ago there was, precisely, absolute nothingness, and then within less than a nanosecond the material universe blew into existance."

Physics is really cool stuff.. Wow.. Boom

Yes, Nirvana allows experience rather than just the head classifications of the pure math. It lacks feeling. We must understand our inner world to understand our outer world. You are also right in that the inner and outer distinctions are both illusions. Only by letting go can we comprehend all. If we are attached we are locked into ignorance.

So work at understanding. Who can say where it will lead you..
May Peace and Love be your path
[ Parent ]
something from nothing (1.00 / 2) (#79)
by brandon21m on Sun Jul 27, 2003 at 04:15:54 AM EST

So I suppose even with a situation like this: "It's a strange world, It seems that around fifteen billion years ago there was, precisely, absolute nothingness, and then within less than a nanosecond the material universe blew into existance." that you still won't be able to admit that God as an all powerful being created something from nothing? You think science can create something from nothing? Ever hear of the law that matter can neither be created nor destroyed (conservation of energy if u didn't know)? If you believe that then you can't believe that the universe suddenly blew into existence from nothing w/o a higher power intervening as only a higher power can defy the laws of physics and create them too.

[ Parent ]
Jeez... (none / 0) (#84)
by awgsilyari on Mon Jul 28, 2003 at 01:51:26 PM EST

You just can't resist the opportunity to criticize someone else's religion, can you? Piss off.


--------
Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]
Is God 'out there?' (none / 0) (#122)
by bsavoie on Sat Aug 02, 2003 at 11:12:06 PM EST

You misunderstand me. the physical universe was created for a reason. The reason is love. It was a powerful act but it was an act of denial.

We did it. You and me. Now were are here on the internet pretending to type words into a computer. We have bodies that allow others to kill us. We keep getting new ones, and we keep going around and around birth death birth death. Nothing has changed for millions of years, except we are getting to know each other. Love is growing. Our understanding of love is growing.

Buddha called this cycle, Samsara. The going on and on protecting our isolation. We isolate when we think we had 'no part' in the creation of our situation. We like to blame it on others.

Bill Savoie
May Peace and Love be your path
[ Parent ]
Nirvana? (none / 0) (#99)
by Ricdude on Wed Jul 30, 2003 at 03:05:09 PM EST

I perceive nirvana as the state of finally understanding that it all boils down to thicker sauce.

Thats what I get for mixing Eris with my Buddha.


[ Parent ]

truth about physics and the Bible (1.00 / 2) (#78)
by brandon21m on Sun Jul 27, 2003 at 04:10:30 AM EST

The Bible was written by those who were told what to write by God. Yes it has been translated but that doesn't require it to have lost its meaning or for its meaning to have changed. People just use that for an excuse.

And no one says that physicists utilize teh evidence they have to create the *proper* theories. All the evidence in the universe doesn't matter if you analyze and interpret it incorrectly. Thinking reading about physics is going to give you all the answers you are kidding yourself if not for the simple fact that God created the Universe and we will never know more than him or even the same amount as him, therefore we will always have unanswered questions(and probably more than we realize if you count questions that we think we haev the answers to but they are really the WRONG answers because we didn't interpret evidence correctly).

We weren't at teh beginning of the universe so we can only speculate about what happened and we have no way of proving ourselves right so if you think you know these physicists are right I'd love to know how you know that for certain. It's not like we have an answer key we can compare our guesses to and know for certain we are on the right track. Thinking scientists are right about everything having to do with the creation of the universe and the evolution of man is absurd when they can be proven wrong many times and yet somehow they are right on those 2 theories in particular? what a coincidence.

If you think that you came from a bolt of lightning that started amino acids to form and somehow got enveloped within a protective entity to eventually form bacteria and eventually a human after that then you aren't really as smart as I'd hoped you'd be.

Bottom line: you may think they do but scientists don't have all the answers and the ones they do have aren't necessarily correct so don't put all your faith (or lack thereof) in one basket because it could just be the wrong basket for all you know.



[ Parent ]
100,000 terms - so what? (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by levsen on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 11:32:26 AM EST

That's what we have computers for, no? I sometimes think that due to the fact that most people's conception of a computer is that they work in a way that you give them an explicit equation and they just perform the basic operations on numbers like adding and multiplying, higher-level computing such as symbolic computing (Mathematica), i.e. "calculating the calculations" has not been exhaustively researched.

(Sorry if that sentence blew your mental stack.)

Just because Stephen Wolfram (www.wolfram.com) is a smart guy doesn't mean there's still room, potentially A LOT of room for improvement. He's a Mathematician to begin with and those people never get to see any serious equations in their life anyway.

I've crossed the subject often enough while studying physics and started pondering in that direction then and now. It's point 58 or so on my to-do list for when I retire by the way.

I sometimes wonder whether by writing suitable computer tools like Mathematice one cannot - indirectly - contribute more to science than any Nobel prize laureate has ever had.


This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.

That's true (none / 0) (#51)
by epepke on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 12:31:28 PM EST

That's what we have computers for, no?

Yes, that's doable, and if what you want to do is crunch the numbers, that's the way to go. You still need a lot of processing power, and of course you have to be satisfied with numerical integration. It should not require mentioning that, while we have pretty fast computers now, people didn't have them in 1915.

My point is that the fully expanded equations are hideously unwieldy for deriving insights. I challenge anybody to stare at the fully expanded equations and get an insight that they imply, for instance, gravity waves.

I sometimes think that due to the fact that most people's conception of a computer is that they work in a way that you give them an explicit equation and they just perform the basic operations on numbers like adding and multiplying, higher-level computing such as symbolic computing (Mathematica), i.e. "calculating the calculations" has not been exhaustively researched.

In the general case, that's true. It's probably provable, but I'm not going to sit down and prove it so I'll call it a conjecture: the problem of complete mathematical symbolic manipulation is equivalent to the problem of finding complete analytic solutions to all equations.

In the case of GR, however, it's relatively straightforward to do the expansion; there's just a lot of it.

sometimes wonder whether by writing suitable computer tools like Mathematice one cannot - indirectly - contribute more to science than any Nobel prize laureate has ever had.

That might be so. Consider the proof of the four-color theorem about a decade ago. The five-color theorem is easy to prove by just sitting down with pencil and paper, because there are only a handful of cases. The four-color theorem is not in principle any harder to prove, but there are oodles of cases. The final proof involved using a computer to go through all the cases.

However, also consider that this proof was quite controversial because it had been done with a computer. There's no easy way to check it without writing a similar program; maybe it produces one word: "Good" or "Bogus." And a proof of the correctness of the algorithm would probably be the same order in length.

People don't seem to like that; they take it as some sort of an affront when they can't see the result directly. We haven't entirely gotten rid of the fear of computers supplanting humanity.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Of course we use computers (none / 0) (#52)
by manobes on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 01:30:39 PM EST

100,000 terms - so what? That's what we have computers for, no?

Sure, but the equations of GR are very hard to solve, even with a computer. And it has nothing to do with the number of terms. They're complicated nonlinear, partial differential equations, that makes them intrinsically difficult to study numerically. Futher, a "typical" solution will contain singularities (both coordinate and curvature) which make things even harder.

"calculating the calculations" has not been exhaustively researched.

Well, in numerical GR that's *not* the problem. It's easy to program the computer to do the tensor math for you. Fundementally this is a problem of numerics, you have a poorly behaved system of equations.

He's a Mathematician to begin with

Actually he started out as a particle phycisist.

I've crossed the subject often enough while studying physics

Speaking as a computational physicist I can say that the typical computer-related problems I encounter are largely numerics issues. Hell, I rarely use even mathmatica level software.


No one can defend creationism against the overwhelming scientific evidence of creationism. -- Big Sexxy Joe


[ Parent ]
So this (none / 0) (#151)
by FarHat on Fri Nov 07, 2003 at 05:40:37 PM EST

The calculations become rapidly unweildy and difficult to handle. Its not like adding 100,000 numbers.
I have become comfortably numb. --Pink Floyd
[ Parent ]
solutions (5.00 / 1) (#56)
by VasyaPoup on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 03:07:02 PM EST

1. Schwarzschild solution is a general spherically symmetric sol. in vacuum, not necessarily for point mass, but outside any sph. symm. mass

2. Friedmann Solution is a solution specifically for a maximum symmetric space, homogeneity of T is required but not sufficient (add a grav. wave to a Friedmann sol, and see what I mean)

3. Two above are exact solutions. Grav. wave sol. is a solution of a linearized Einst. eq, that is it's not exact.


Good points, thanks [n/t] (none / 0) (#61)
by epepke on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 04:52:48 PM EST


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Don't Worry (1.25 / 4) (#68)
by losang on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 05:58:14 AM EST

Manobes is an idiot. I had a physics debate with him a while ago and the best he could do was try to shut me out because he could not answer my question.

Big Question (5.00 / 1) (#69)
by losang on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 06:03:12 AM EST

First, I have yet to find a physicist who can explain why the speed of light appears the same to all observers regardless of their motion.

experimental evidence (none / 0) (#70)
by adiffer on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 02:20:00 PM EST

It really isn't a question of why.  

The experiments we've done all point to that notion as a fact.  Everytime we've built equipment to see if the speed of light may vary for observers experiencing different motion, the expoeriments fail to find evidence of it.  Nowadays, we don't really try to explain it.  We accept it as a fact demonstrated by experiment.
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]

You should... (none / 0) (#74)
by losang on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 10:13:30 PM EST

try to explain it. It appears to me that your explanation is a cop-out.

[ Parent ]
OK (5.00 / 2) (#77)
by adiffer on Sun Jul 27, 2003 at 03:41:40 AM EST

I'm not trying to cop out.  I'm just telling you we rarely take on ANY question that starts with the word 'Why'.  We can't answer those because we don't have a cosmic answer book.  We can tell you 'What' and 'How Much' as well as 'When' and 'Where' with pretty good accuracy.  'How' questions tend to get multiple answers since theories that predict the same results are equally valid even if they aren't treated that way by the community.  'Why' questions are best answered by philosophers, so don't expect us to respond as experts.

The best evidence of the speed of light being the same for all observers is the Michelson-Morely experiment.  Are you familiar with it?  It's the one with the big rotating table and light beams that travel in different directions.  When the light beams recombine at the screen, they make an interference pattern.  That pattern should shift if the beams travel at different speeds along each leg of their trip.  The pattern doesn't shift, though, even when the table is rotated to swap one path for another.

If the speed of light did depend on the motion of the observer, we should be able to measure the motion of the Earth relative to some absolute reference frame.  The rotating table in the experiment would pick that up.  Interference patterns are VERY sensitive measures of phase change, so even small affects would get noticed.  None have ever been noticed even though the experiment has been repeated with modern instruments that can measure out to a ridiculous number of decimal places to look.
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]

well then (none / 0) (#81)
by losang on Sun Jul 27, 2003 at 08:35:31 PM EST

If the speed of light is the same to all obervers then light could be an absolute reference frame against which all other velocities could be measured.

[ Parent ]
it is (none / 0) (#82)
by adiffer on Mon Jul 28, 2003 at 01:56:47 AM EST

But that only give you part of the absolute reference frame Newton used to use.  What you wind up with is a relative reference frame.  Your speed relative to light speed is defineable.  Your position relative to something else is defineable.  There are no deeper absolutes than that, though.

Add in curvature and it means even less.  The speed of light is defined locally, after all.  It takes on a topological definition in general relativity.  Space-like and time-like intervals are disconnected.  You can't get from one to another anymore than you can rotate past an infinite angle on a circle.  Once you see the topological definition, it becomes pretty obvious why 'c' is what it is.  It's hard to explain, though.
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]

What is the difference (none / 0) (#85)
by losang on Mon Jul 28, 2003 at 05:47:32 PM EST

I don't see the difference between light as a absolute reference frame and Newton's idea of an absolute reference frame?

[ Parent ]
difference (none / 0) (#86)
by adiffer on Mon Jul 28, 2003 at 06:13:36 PM EST

With Newton's absolute reference frame you could detect absolute position.  You could know where you are relative to other things AND the absolute coordinate system which was supposedly fixed relative to the center of the universe.  You could know your velocity in the absolute sense.

If you use light speed as your measuring stick, you are missing the absolute reference frame to know your position.  All you may know in an absolute sense is your speed relative to 'c'.

It really comes down to one issue.  When you measure the position of something, where to you attach your reference frame?
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]

Something you may not know (none / 0) (#87)
by losang on Mon Jul 28, 2003 at 09:08:53 PM EST

I understand what you say about absolute position. This is not something new. It has been known in Eastern philosophy over 2000 years.

[ Parent ]
Re Something you may not know. (none / 0) (#90)
by melibeus on Tue Jul 29, 2003 at 02:33:33 AM EST

Indeed this is something I did not know.

Has relativity of position been known in Eastern Philosopy for 2000 years? Which Eastern Philosophy? Taoism? Confucianism? Buddhism? Hinduism?

Give me a source please. I can't find any hint in my translation of the Tao Te Ching, and I'm not about to delve into the Bhagavad Gita right now to look for it. Confucianism seems to be rather absolutist, I am not sure that Confucious had much to say on the nature of space time any way.
"Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." - Marx.
[ Parent ]

Source (none / 0) (#94)
by losang on Tue Jul 29, 2003 at 08:31:59 PM EST

The refutation of something existing completely independent of anything else was refuted by the Buddha and explained clearly by the scholar Nagajuna.

[ Parent ]
Indeed... (none / 0) (#97)
by onemorechip on Tue Jul 29, 2003 at 10:50:51 PM EST

This is what adiffer was referring to in the great-uncle to this post. The best-known book on the subject is The Tao of Physics, by Fritjof Capra.

I looked up Naga[r]juna in Capra and found one reference: "With brilliant arguments he demolished the metaphysical propositions of his time and thus demonstrated that reality, ultimately, cannot be grasped with concepts and ideas. Hence he gave it the name 'sunyata', 'the void,' or 'emptiness,' a term which is equivalent to Ashvaghosha's 'tathata,' or 'suchness'; when the futility of all conceptual thinking is recognized, reality is experienced as pure suchness."

Most physicists don't take this Hindu/Buddhist/Taoist/Zen connection to physics literally, but many acknowledge that there are at least parallels.
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I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

The difference (none / 0) (#101)
by losang on Wed Jul 30, 2003 at 10:35:15 PM EST

Buddhism explains reality as it is. Any claims that physicist make that are correct have already been established by Buddhists for thousands of years.

BTW, I would not read Capra for an understanding of Nagarjuna. Something by the Dalai Lama would be best in English.

[ Parent ]

Your claims about Buddhism are exaggerated (5.00 / 1) (#104)
by onemorechip on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 03:22:59 AM EST

Buddhism explains reality as it is.

Buddhism is a non-materialist, humanist philosophy, and as such explains reality as humans relate to it. No disrespect for Buddhism intended, it's among my favorite philosophies. But I would never claim that it "explains reality as it is". It's much better at explaining the human condition than it is at explaining or describing the world of particles, waves, and spacetime.

Any claims that physicist make that are correct have already been established by Buddhists for thousands of years.

Did the Buddhists establish Maxwell's equations, or the invariance of the speed of light? Those are physical theories backed by experimental results. I'm not aware the Buddhists did any experiments on those matters. Most physicists do not claim to explain reality, but rather to model it.

BTW, I would not read Capra for an understanding of Nagarjuna.

I certainly wasn't recommending reading Capra for an understanding of Nagarjuna. Anyway he only has those two or three paragraphs on him. I was merely connecting the dots between two posts. Rather, I would recommend reading Capra for an interesting insight into the significance of modern physics when seen against the background of Eastern thought.
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I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

Capra, oh I remember that. (none / 0) (#106)
by melibeus on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 05:17:19 AM EST

Thanks for reminding me of Capra's book. I have an ancient copy around here somewhere. Also reminded me of a much better treatment of the paralells between Eastern Mysticism and Physics: "The Dancing Wu Li Masters." Written by an journalist it is a little clearer and comes from a more 'blank slate' point of view.

I agree that neither of these books give an adequate understanding of either modern physics or Eastern mysticism, they do bring up interesting points to consider. Perhaps a future author of great wisdom will get deeper.

losang, I think the statement about "All Claims.." is a bit of a long shot. I could make a similar statement by reading the works of the Ancient Greek philosophers in the right light. The philosophical basis for relativity is different to the physical basis: Physics is not Philosophy.

"Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." - Marx.
[ Parent ]

Western thought is limited. (none / 0) (#108)
by losang on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 05:38:26 AM EST

Aristotle's philosophy can not compare to Buddhism. Buddhism explains reality as it is and there is nothing that exists that is not understood by Buddha.

[ Parent ]
All thought is limited... (none / 0) (#110)
by onemorechip on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 11:20:08 PM EST

...and isn't that what Nagarjuna was getting at?

I have to say you're sounding a lot like a propagandist:

Aristotle's philosophy can not compare to Buddhism.

...which is like saying "Honda's cars can not compare to Toyota's" (and not backing up the statement).

Buddhism explains reality as it is

I've already commented on that view. Buddhism explains the human condition, but when I use the term "reality" in discussions of this nature I am referring to something much broader and non-human, something which can't be contained in our thought processes. Something, well, Taoist.

and there is nothing that exists that is not understood by Buddha.

How can Buddha, with limited thought processes, possibly understand everything?
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I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

Answers to your questions... (none / 0) (#113)
by losang on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 05:48:41 AM EST

...which is like saying "Honda's cars can not compare to Toyota's" (and not backing up the statement).

You never asked.

I've already commented on that view. Buddhism explains the human condition, but when I use the term "reality" in discussions of this nature I am referring to something much broader and non-human, something which can't be contained in our thought processes. Something, well, Taoist.

Your comments are wrong.

How can Buddha, with limited thought processes, possibly understand everything?

Buddha does not have limited thought process.

Learn Buddhism.

[ Parent ]

Re: Answers to your questions... (none / 0) (#124)
by onemorechip on Sun Aug 03, 2003 at 12:11:37 AM EST

You never asked.

The burden is yours, since you are the one making the outlandish claims.

Your comments are wrong.

Can you point out where? Your criticism is way too general to be beneficial.

Buddhism is a humanist philosophy, and deals with the human condition. There's simply no justification to claim it significantly explains the material universe.

Buddha does not have limited thought process.

I think you will either have to demonstrate that unlimited thought is possible, or accept that either Buddha has limited thought processes or no thought processes at all.
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I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

You haven't studied enough (none / 0) (#125)
by losang on Sun Aug 03, 2003 at 09:25:37 AM EST

Buddhism is a humanist philosophy, and deals with the human condition. There's simply no justification to claim it significantly explains the material universe.

Buddhism is about establishing valid and invalid perceptions with the eventual goal of attain perfect understanding of all phenomena. In addition, there are many cases where Buddhist texts debate the issue of partless particles. Even when they do not directly discuss this issue it can be implied from their philosophy.

I think you will either have to demonstrate that unlimited thought is possible, or accept that either Buddha has limited thought processes or no thought processes at all.

Unlimited thought process is possible because the obstructions to perceiving all phenomena are not inherently existent.

[ Parent ]

You should read GEB (none / 0) (#134)
by onemorechip on Wed Aug 06, 2003 at 02:19:24 AM EST

Buddhism is about establishing valid and invalid perceptions with the eventual goal of attain perfect understanding of all phenomena. In addition, there are many cases where Buddhist texts debate the issue of partless particles. Even when they do not directly discuss this issue it can be implied from their philosophy.

Actually Buddhism is about suffering and about enlightenment which is escape from suffering. If "perfect understanding" is a goal of some branches of Buddhism, it is not a realistic one.

Any discussion of particles that lacks empirical confirmation, whether in a Buddhist text or an ancient Greek text (they had such debates as well), is just speculation. Pure speculation is not science. Where is the body of experimental evidence backing up those debates you write of?

Unlimited thought process is possible because the obstructions to perceiving all phenomena are not inherently existent.

In a fantasy world, perhaps.

I think if you were to read a book by Douglas R. Hofstaedter, called "Godel, Escher, Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid", you might become enlightened on this matter.
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I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

You should read GEB (none / 0) (#135)
by onemorechip on Wed Aug 06, 2003 at 02:20:21 AM EST

Buddhism is about establishing valid and invalid perceptions with the eventual goal of attain perfect understanding of all phenomena. In addition, there are many cases where Buddhist texts debate the issue of partless particles. Even when they do not directly discuss this issue it can be implied from their philosophy.

Actually Buddhism is about suffering and about enlightenment which is escape from suffering. If "perfect understanding" is a goal of some branches of Buddhism, it is not a realistic one.

Any discussion of particles that lacks empirical confirmation, whether in a Buddhist text or an ancient Greek text (they had such debates as well), is just speculation. Pure speculation is not science. Where is the body of experimental evidence backing up those debates you write of?

Unlimited thought process is possible because the obstructions to perceiving all phenomena are not inherently existent.

In a fantasy world, perhaps.

I think if you were to read a book by Douglas R. Hofstaedter, called "Godel, Escher, Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid", you might become enlightened on this matter.
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I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

My reply (none / 0) (#136)
by losang on Wed Aug 06, 2003 at 10:24:50 PM EST

Actually Buddhism is about suffering and about enlightenment which is escape from suffering. If "perfect understanding" is a goal of some branches of Buddhism, it is not a realistic one.

What qualifications do you have to make this claim?

Any discussion of particles that lacks empirical confirmation, whether in a Buddhist text or an ancient Greek text (they had such debates as well), is just speculation. Pure speculation is not science. Where is the body of experimental evidence backing up those debates you write of?

Reality can be established through logical inference. In order for something to be established it is not necesary that there be empirical evidence.

In a fantasy world, perhaps.

If you disagree with my statement you need to provide a refutation based on reason.

[ Parent ]

On refutation (none / 0) (#137)
by onemorechip on Thu Aug 07, 2003 at 12:17:10 AM EST

If you disagree with my statement you need to provide a refutation based on reason.

But that's exactly what I've been trying to get out of you all this time. There is no refutation of a wild conjecture other than to point out that it is a wild conjecture, and I have done that.

Don't make rules you won't follow. It's time for you to move from conjecture to hypothesis (meaning a testable proposition), or at least a logical refutation of anything I have said, or this conversation is over.
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I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

Wow! (none / 0) (#138)
by losang on Thu Aug 07, 2003 at 05:42:06 AM EST

You have no understanding of logic or debate

But that's exactly what I've been trying to get out of you all this time. There is no refutation of a wild conjecture other than to point out that it is a wild conjecture, and I have done that.

Basically, you don't understand what I said and therefore can not come up with a refutation. If it exists it can be established, if it doesn't exist it can not be established. If I am wrong then there is a refutation. In reality what I have said is over your head so this is what you resort to.

Don't make rules you won't follow. It's time for you to move from conjecture to hypothesis (meaning a testable proposition), or at least a logical refutation of anything I have said, or this conversation is over.

I have provided answers to everything but if you still have doubts ask me anything again and I will give you a refutation if I disagree.

Why didn't you answer the question on what makes you qualified to comment on what is Buddhism? In reality you are just a self-centered person who thinks they can understand all of Buddhism from a few popular book they have read.

[ Parent ]

Your welcome (none / 0) (#109)
by onemorechip on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 10:49:51 PM EST

I considered reading "The Dancing Wu Li Masters" but since I had already read Capra, I was put off by the thought that it would be redundantly covering the same topic. Perhaps the author has a different enough take than Capra's to make it worthwhile, so maybe I'll take it up some day (assuming it's still in print).
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I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

No so. (none / 0) (#107)
by losang on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 05:36:49 AM EST

You need to study more Buddhism.

[ Parent ]
Why? (none / 0) (#111)
by onemorechip on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 11:21:34 PM EST

I'm actually quite happy with my understanding of Buddhism. Perhaps you mean, it is your desire that I study more Buddhism. But that is a different thing.
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I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

This is why... (none / 0) (#112)
by losang on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 05:42:10 AM EST

...you should study more Buddhism.

Buddhism is a non-materialist, humanist philosophy, and as such explains reality as humans relate to it. No disrespect for Buddhism intended, it's among my favorite philosophies. But I would never claim that it "explains reality as it is". It's much better at explaining the human condition than it is at explaining or describing the world of particles, waves, and spacetime.

[ Parent ]

Which one? (none / 0) (#123)
by onemorechip on Sun Aug 03, 2003 at 12:03:30 AM EST

Because it is non-materialist and humanist?

Or because it is among my favorite philosophies?

Or because explains the human condition better than it explains the world of particles, waves, and spacetime?

The second one might be a valid reason, but I explored that path years ago, and while I learned quite a bit from it, it's but one part of my world, and not one much in need of tending (these things never leave you).

I suspect what you're after is that I should subscribe to its non-materialist aspect, but frankly that aspect runs counter to your assertions about Buddhism explaining the material world.
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I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

You are flat out wrong (none / 0) (#148)
by losang on Mon Aug 11, 2003 at 08:35:47 PM EST

Because it is non-materialist and humanist?

Wrong.

Or because explains the human condition better than it explains the world of particles, waves, and spacetime?

Wrong.

If you are stupid enough to challenge me explanations will be given.

[ Parent ]

I am still waiting... (none / 0) (#149)
by losang on Sun Aug 17, 2003 at 05:32:12 PM EST

Are you all as stupid as manobes? I have given you ample time to think of an answer and still nothing. You hide behind your so-called credentials because you have never done any real thinking.

[ Parent ]
I guess I win? (none / 0) (#150)
by losang on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 09:29:30 PM EST

Ha.

[ Parent ]
You might be surprised (none / 0) (#93)
by adiffer on Tue Jul 29, 2003 at 02:15:00 PM EST

Most physicists have come around to a Zen-like point of view for a variety of reasons.  The major one is quantum mechanics and its implications.

There are popular books discussing this connection that are worth reading.
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]

Not an absolute frame of reference (none / 0) (#96)
by onemorechip on Tue Jul 29, 2003 at 10:31:50 PM EST

You can't measure velocity against the speed of light. Here's one way to look at that proposition: If the speed of light is the same for all observers, then it is also the same in all directions. So if light moves at 186000 miles per second in front of me, it would also move at 186000 miles per second behind me. If light were an absolute frame of reference for measuring velocity, then I would have to conclude that I have zero velocity. But every other observer would conclude he/she has zero velocity. We'd all be stuck in Zeno's world. Light cannot be an absolute frame of reference, because it is not tied to any frame of reference.
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I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

Can we avoid the obvious truth? (none / 0) (#103)
by bsavoie on Wed Jul 30, 2003 at 10:48:46 PM EST

The speed of light is always 186,000 miles per second, in all directions, as seen by all observers. That is fact. There just has to be more than one Physical Universe. If the physical universe is created by each observer, it would all work just like this. All the rules are consistent from the center we observe from.

All this is obvious. What we don't like about it is (1.) We are god, (2.) We are not alone, (3.) We are not doing a very good job of hiding.

We can not know the mystery of the universe unless we allow ourselves to consider our separate God nature. We can't blame it on others forever. We understand physics only because we did it.

We hide and reincarnate over and over, always in denial of what we do. This may seem unreasonable now, but in a few hundred years it will make more sense to you. It is only a matter of time. Buddha knew this 2,500 years ago.

http://www.dyad.org/d06twy1.htm

Bill Savoie
May Peace and Love be your path
[ Parent ]
"Your belief system fascinates me" (none / 0) (#105)
by onemorechip on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 03:23:34 AM EST

But I don't know what you are talking about, or how it connects to the topic of relativity. Maybe you could explain this statement:

We are not doing a very good job of hiding.

What is it you are trying to hide from?
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I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

Locating the Physical Universe. (none / 0) (#121)
by bsavoie on Sat Aug 02, 2003 at 10:55:42 PM EST

It is not that hard to understand, on an intellectual level. Motion isn't just motion, it is motion between observers. That small difference is everything. You know that each of us are in our own worlds so to speak. I mean that. Each observer on earth at least 6 billion, create a copy of the physical universe. Each copy has a viewpoint in the middle of it. There is no distance between viewpoints, because space is a created thought and nothing more.

So we are all together outside of space. We multiplex our 'move' and receive other 'moves'. The round trip accessing all players is a time tick. The length of the move is limited. This is distance divided by time. Since we are unfriendly but learning to be friendly, the max length is increasing. We are allowing more motion before we block. The speed of light is increasing. In a few more thousand years it will be faster than it is today.

This will help prove that something special is going on and that the physical universe is not really a thing at all, but a state of our relationships.

Now you can flame me if it helps you. I know I don't have much proof. Choice is always possible because of our nature.

Bill Savoie
May Peace and Love be your path
[ Parent ]
Sure (none / 0) (#130)
by epepke on Mon Aug 04, 2003 at 02:40:25 AM EST

The speed of light is, in some sense at least, an absolute. It isn't a frame, though, because of how "frame" is defined. So maybe it's an absolute reference idea, or something.

I'm not much good at philosophy, but it seems to me that philosophically there has to be some sort of absolute, because otherwise, what the fuck do these marks on my ruler mean anyway? The curious thing about relativity is that it's a speed that seems to be absolute, not a distance or a time.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Here are three explanations... (none / 0) (#92)
by mcherm on Tue Jul 29, 2003 at 08:25:34 AM EST

Here are three explanations, none of which will satisfy you.

(1) The speed of light is a constant because photons have zero mass. Objects with zero mass can only travel at one precise speed.

Although this is true, it's hardly satisfying. After all, it's not so much a question of why LIGHT goes at that speed, as a question of why the speed is constant for all observers.

(2) Because it can be derived from certain fundamental constants of the universe. The forces of electricity and magnetism are related, in that magnets can move electric particles, and moving electric particles create magnetic fields. The interrelationship is somewhat complicated -- a change in either force can produce the other force, but this guy named Maxwell put together some equations describing how they relate. The equations involve the fundamental constants of electric force and magnetic force. One prediction of these equations is that if you set things up right, you can create a magnetic field which would die off but as it died off it would create an electric field, which would itself die off, but THAT would create a magnetic field, and the whole system would keep propagating. The speed with which it would propagate can be worked out in terms of these fundamental constants -- it depends only on the strength of magnetism and the strength of electric force. And this kind of mutually-reinforcing-electromagnetic-field-disturbance is called "light".

I find that a lot more satisfying, and it's much closer to what inspired Einstein to invent Special Relativity. But for me, this is still not quite an answer... I could imagine ways that such waves COULD depend on the speeds of the origin (ether theory), and I what I really want to know is WHY these alternate theories aren't right.

(3) Because God Said So.

Um... not particularly satisfying, but MUCH closer to what the modern physicist believes. Modern physicists have pretty much given up on trying to answer "Why", because they're not very good at it, at least not for the really fundamental questions. However, they're quite good at measuring WHAT happens. Way back in 1887, some researchers had done this measurement, and they found that the speed of light really WAS independent of things like the direction the experimenter was moving. But I fear your desire for a "Why" will continue to go unanswered.

-- Michael Chermside
[ Parent ]

Not surprising (none / 0) (#72)
by epepke on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 08:29:55 PM EST

Physics, or any modern science for that matter, isn't much good at answering philosophical "why" questions. The closest it generally comes is addressing why people have come to that conclusion. In this case, the reasons for that were given in Part I, and they consist of the various experiments that have been done over the years.

\

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Why is important (none / 0) (#73)
by losang on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 10:12:36 PM EST

From the point of view of a scholar if you can not answer why then you do not have an understanding of the subject.

[ Parent ]
Not necessarily (4.00 / 1) (#76)
by onemorechip on Sun Jul 27, 2003 at 12:46:14 AM EST

I can't remember which 20th century scientist said this (and it was probably a physicist) but physics is a descriptive science, not an explanatory science. Physics as an explanatory science (the apple falls because the Earth's gravity pulls it down) may have been the view from ancient to Victorian times, but the ideas of modern physics pretty much changed that.
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I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

Maybe (none / 0) (#128)
by epepke on Mon Aug 04, 2003 at 12:37:11 AM EST

From the point of view of a scholar if you can not answer why then you do not have an understanding of the subject.

I have some sympathy with this viewpoint. Certainly, understanding everything is a laudable goal, and physicists are working on it. But there's another view of the subject. That is, there is value, if you don't understand something completely, in being honest about which parts you don't understand. Physics, properly done, requires this kind of honesty.

Of course, one could just get pissed off at physics and declare it useless because it does not currently offer some aspects of understanding, but this would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We are only human. We carve out chunks of understanding, and as time goes on, with any luck, the chunks get bigger. Is the endeavour valueless because of this? Some people decide "yes," but I have generally found that they understand even less than those who are willing to take it a little at a time.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
As an exercise in hubris, I'll give it a try... (5.00 / 1) (#75)
by onemorechip on Sun Jul 27, 2003 at 12:39:58 AM EST

If this isn't entirely correct, forgive me -- I'm an engineer, not a physicist. However, I did a high school physics paper on relativity so I have at least some conception of the subject, even if that was __ years ago.

The long answer (and not really an "explanation") is that it is a characteristic of spacetime that there are space-like intervals (connecting two points that are simultaneous in some frame of reference, but that can never interact with each other because each is in the other's "present") and time-like intervals (connecting two points that can never be simultaneous, one of which is therefore in the other one's future). Massive particles have worldlines (a line describing the particle's path through spacetime) that must be time-like. Tachyons (if they exist) would have imaginary (in the "square root of negative numbers" sense) mass and worldlines that are spacelike. Massless particles (photons are believed to be massless) can only follow the boundary (the "light cone") between timelike and spacelike.

Two observers in different reference frames have different temporal axes, such that each observer's time axis is parallel to his worldline. There will be an angle, whose tangent is proportional to their relative speed, between their world lines; the time axis of the observer moving to the right will be leaning to the right from the point of view of the other observer (future is up in this description). In order to keep timelike intervals timelike, and spacelike intervals spacelike, for both observers, there must be an angle between their spatial axes which is the negative of the angle between their time axes (if time and space are measured in equivalent units such as years and light-years). The object moving towards the right has its left-to-right spatial axis rotated "up" (i.e., towards the future) for points further to the right. If we graph them, the time and space axes for the right-moving observer will seem to be closer together in the upper-right quadrant, like a pair of scissors partly closed, as seen by the other observer. For both observers, the worldline of a photon -- and therefore the light cone -- will bisect the angle between the time and space axes, hence the speed of light is the same for both. Remember the "closed scissors" image is only seen from the point of view of the other observer; each observer sees his own time and space axes as orthogonal (that's relativity for you) and the light cone on a 45 degree angle.

The short answer is that the constancy of the speed of light is axiomatic. So really any answer is just going to be begging the question, and therefore there's bound to be a gaping hole in the above long answer that I'm sure someone will point out.

Incidentally I've heard of the notion that photons are not really massless, but have a mass so small that unless they are traveling at something like 0.999...9 (I don't how many 9s) times c, they wouldn't have enough energy to be observed with any of today's tools. If true, then red light would travel ever so slightly slower than blue light. Don't know how much credence to put in that conjecture, though.
--------------------------------------------------

I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

The most obvious answer is (none / 0) (#88)
by bsavoie on Mon Jul 28, 2003 at 11:51:37 PM EST

Each of us lives in our own world. This has 3 layers not the two that most people think. We do it (1) mentally - we each have similar but different minds. We do it with (2) bodies which are similar but obviously different brains. And the last layer which is (3) different physical universes that seem to 'function' as if they were one. At the center of each physical universe is an observer. That observer communicates with other observers. They take turns updating what is going on. This turn taking has a velocity per turn limit which is the speed of light.

It is hard for Western Religion to allow, but easy for a Buddhist to see. If you want a more detailed explanation see http://www.dyad.org/d06twy1.htm

Bill Savoie
May Peace and Love be your path
[ Parent ]
Reason of consistency in physics. (none / 0) (#89)
by melibeus on Tue Jul 29, 2003 at 12:01:08 AM EST

Here's one explanation. (In replying to this I realise that I am opening myself to an invitation into the 'Why/Because game')

Einstein realised that any good consistent set of physical laws is one in which the rules do not change for any observer, no matter what their state of motion or position. It turns out that one of those rules has to be the speed of light.

The speed of light in Maxwell's electrodynamics is determined by the ratio two physical constants. (the permitivity and permeability of free space) This brings up a problem in classical physics, there is no a priori reason that the permitivity and/or permeability of free space should change given a change in motion of an observer, nor does any experimental evidence show that it does. This would indicate that the speed of light needs to be independent of the state of motion of the source and observer. Newtonian physics unfortunately clashed with this fact, one or the other had to be modified.

If one is to create a consistent description of the physical world as Einstein was attempting to do, one must then accept either that the speed of light is fixed for all observers or that the rules of physics (specifically Electrodynamics) change depending on the state of motion. Sensible people choose the former even though it may seem counter intuitive at first.

"Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." - Marx.
[ Parent ]

Observational evidence for curvature (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by adiffer on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 07:44:14 PM EST

For any doubters...have a look at this and tell me the space in the middle isn't warped. 8)

http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap030109.html
--BE The Alien!

Another physics problem (none / 0) (#95)
by losang on Tue Jul 29, 2003 at 08:34:42 PM EST

QFT says there are point particles with no physical size. This is such a blunder of reality I am not sure how such an ideal even got minimal consideration. There are so many different refutation of this concept yet now they are working on the idea of 2-D strings which has exactly the same results logically.

For some reason logic and common sense has left the realm of physics.

hmmm (3.00 / 1) (#98)
by adiffer on Wed Jul 30, 2003 at 03:22:10 AM EST

I would be quite surprised to learn you know what you are talking about with respect to QFT.

Unless you understand how such theories approximate reality through series expansions, you should be careful attributing meaning to any of the parts.  They don't mean much on their own, anyway.

Describe to me a Green('s) function, how it works and how it is used.
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]

I know a enough physics (none / 0) (#100)
by losang on Wed Jul 30, 2003 at 10:32:37 PM EST

I know it is stated by physicis that the electron is a point particle, it is not a made of other particles and has no parts according to them. This is what they claim.

[ Parent ]
math (none / 0) (#115)
by adiffer on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 01:29:34 PM EST

Without the mathematical explanation of what we mean by point particle, you are only getting a small part of the model.  English is a poor language in which to communicate our models of reality.

If you want to delve deeper, learn about Green('s) functions and how we do approximations with various series expansions.  The math behind this topic is one of the more important tools theoretical physicists learn to wield.  Without it, we have no way to connect our work to experimental reality.
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]

I know this stuff (none / 0) (#139)
by losang on Thu Aug 07, 2003 at 05:45:16 AM EST

Without the mathematical explanation of what we mean by point particle, you are only getting a small part of the model. English is a poor language in which to communicate our models of reality.

You need to understand the difference between a conceptual model of reality and reality.

If you want to delve deeper, learn about Green('s) functions and how we do approximations with various series expansions. The math behind this topic is one of the more important tools theoretical physicists learn to wield. Without it, we have no way to connect our work to experimental reality.

Don't be so arrogant. If you can establish you view you don't need to tell me to read something. You are wrong, you need to read Abhisamayalankara!

[ Parent ]

Green's Function (none / 0) (#140)
by losang on Fri Aug 08, 2003 at 04:58:01 PM EST

It is used to turn a 3-D integral into a 2-D surface integral.

[ Parent ]
snicker n/t (none / 0) (#141)
by manobes on Fri Aug 08, 2003 at 06:27:52 PM EST


No one can defend creationism against the overwhelming scientific evidence of creationism. -- Big Sexxy Joe


[ Parent ]
See previous post (none / 0) (#143)
by losang on Fri Aug 08, 2003 at 07:13:12 PM EST

Asshole.

[ Parent ]
Fuck you (none / 1) (#142)
by losang on Fri Aug 08, 2003 at 07:12:40 PM EST

Where is your refutation asshole. I have a BS in physics and an MS in applied math. I have studied Buddhist philosophy in Tibetan with one of the best scholars in America and I have continuously refuted all your stupid ideas.

you think I haven't read and studied your ideas extensively before I argue against them.

The only time you show up is when you can point the finger because you are an insecure pussy.

[ Parent ]

I can't resist (none / 0) (#145)
by manobes on Fri Aug 08, 2003 at 10:02:52 PM EST

Where is your refutation asshole.

Here's a quote,

A Green's function is an integral kernel that can be used to solve an inhomogeneous differential equation with boundary conditions

I believe you're thinking of Green's theorem, which turns a *line* integral into a *surface* integral.

I have a BS in physics and an MS in applied math.

Well, you may want to ask for a tution refund then, if you didn't learn what a Green's function was.

you think I haven't read and studied your ideas extensively before I argue against them.

Yup, that's pretty much what I think. You know why I think that? Because I *have* studied particle physics extensively. The theories I'm talking about <gasp> agree with experiments. You just have some metaphysical junk about how "nothing can be something I don't think it can be". Come back when you have a theory that agrees with experiment to 12 decimal places.


No one can defend creationism against the overwhelming scientific evidence of creationism. -- Big Sexxy Joe


[ Parent ]
Enough games (none / 0) (#146)
by losang on Fri Aug 08, 2003 at 10:33:14 PM EST

Yup, that's pretty much what I think. You know why I think that? Because I *have* studied particle physics extensively. The theories I'm talking about <gasp> agree with experiments. You just have some metaphysical junk about how "nothing can be something I don't think it can be". Come back when you have a theory that agrees with experiment to 12 decimal places.

Do all theories that agree with experiment describe an objective reality as it exists?

[ Parent ]

Come back when you can defend your ideas. (none / 0) (#147)
by losang on Fri Aug 08, 2003 at 10:40:46 PM EST

I have never used anything more than logic and reasoning to support my view. When you refer to a particular theorem or the value of agreeing with experiment you are loosing the essence of the debate.

I don't accept your math theories and I don't accept your experiments. The point is they are not admissable in a debate of this type. Only one's ability at logic and reasoning is allowed. Otherwise, I will bring in my sources and back up my claim with them as well. The difference is that I can read your sources but you can not read mine.

When I see a grad student in physics spend so much time on a site like this I wonder what kind of a student he is.

[ Parent ]

I digress (none / 0) (#144)
by losang on Fri Aug 08, 2003 at 07:21:37 PM EST

I with draw my comments on Green's Functions because there are not relevant. The facts are that in QFT it is accepted that particles such as electrons are considered to be point particles. This is also accepted ontologically by physicists.

The whole point of the debate is how can you establish something physical that exists but has no parts?

[ Parent ]

Where is that (1.00 / 2) (#102)
by losang on Wed Jul 30, 2003 at 10:36:46 PM EST

idiot manobes in all this. He and I had a debate on this years ago and he still has not been able to answer my questions. He just dismisses me as a troll when he can't answer.

[ Parent ]
I'm reading (none / 0) (#114)
by manobes on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 12:10:52 PM EST

idiot manobes

Real good way to start a serious discussion there.

He and I had a debate on this years ago and he still has not been able to answer my questions.

I answered your questions at length to the best of my ability. You did not like/were not happy with/did not understand my answers.

Here's me caring.


No one can defend creationism against the overwhelming scientific evidence of creationism. -- Big Sexxy Joe


[ Parent ]
Not so. (none / 0) (#116)
by losang on Sat Aug 02, 2003 at 01:33:39 PM EST

Manobes claims,

Real good way to start a serious discussion there.

If you were a serious scholar I would.

I answered your questions at length to the best of my ability. You did not like/were not happy with/did not understand my answers.

You abilities are not good enough and I know more physics than you think I do.

[ Parent ]

yes, but... (none / 0) (#117)
by adiffer on Sat Aug 02, 2003 at 06:36:02 PM EST

We are both inclined to think you know less physics than you think you do.
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]
you may have to think on this one. (none / 0) (#118)
by losang on Sat Aug 02, 2003 at 06:50:32 PM EST

We are both inclined to think you know less physics than you think you do.

Two things. First off, Pure Speculation. Second, if you cut a tree at the root the branches die as well.

[ Parent ]

no harm meant (none / 0) (#119)
by adiffer on Sat Aug 02, 2003 at 07:12:57 PM EST

At the heart of a theorist can be found pure speculation AND pure skepticism.  Good Science requires both to mix so seamlessly that the theorists doesn't see them as separate.  They become one in the mind because they are one.

Gaze upon a pond on a cloudless night.  Is that the Moon within it?
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]

your foundation (none / 0) (#120)
by losang on Sat Aug 02, 2003 at 08:32:44 PM EST

If the foundation of your views are speculation then what you say about the world is not credible.

[ Parent ]
to you? n/t (1.00 / 1) (#126)
by adiffer on Sun Aug 03, 2003 at 01:54:15 PM EST


--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]
Question? (none / 0) (#127)
by losang on Sun Aug 03, 2003 at 03:03:00 PM EST

Is this the extent of your knowledge?

[ Parent ]
sigh (1.00 / 1) (#129)
by adiffer on Mon Aug 04, 2003 at 01:13:26 AM EST

I'm beginning to get bored my friend.

The foundation of my knowledge is speculation, skepticism, and experience.  Together they form an incredible alloy that supports the scientific method.  This method is a process that takes in most any testable notion and helps refine it into a reasonably good predictive model.

I'm willing to go into more detail, but I'm finding it difficult to stay motivated.  Will you make it worth my time to lay it all out?  Will you help teach me in return?  One thing that would help is to know who you are and a bit of your background.  My identity is available to the public.  Who am I talking to?
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]

Shakey foundation (none / 0) (#131)
by losang on Mon Aug 04, 2003 at 05:38:18 AM EST

The foundation of my knowledge is speculation, skepticism, and experience.

This is not a foundation of knowledge. Funny how physics claims to be so much better than other disciplines but is based on speculation.

[ Parent ]

hmm (1.00 / 1) (#132)
by adiffer on Mon Aug 04, 2003 at 02:27:22 PM EST

I am happy for you in your confidence.  Be well.

This thread of conversation is now ended.
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]

In addition (none / 0) (#133)
by losang on Mon Aug 04, 2003 at 06:20:49 PM EST

I is reality. Is this the best you can do. Two physicists two cop-outs. I see a pattern.

[ Parent ]
Part 4 (none / 0) (#152)
by losang on Fri Nov 07, 2003 at 06:20:26 PM EST

Is there going to be a part 4?

Introduction to the Theory of Relativity Part III: General Relativity | 152 comments (123 topical, 29 editorial, 0 hidden)
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