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Jeans, Sir James - The Mysterious Universe - The need for humility in physics

Identifier

013991

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

“the half life of a theory of sub-atomic physics is only 2 years”

I will openly admit that reading the literature on theoretical physics left me despairing.  I briefly did physics at university before deciding mathematics and computing seemed more practical and logical.  I thank my lucky stars I made this decision.  The overall impression this science gives is that it has totally lost its way. Some of the theories were just simply bizarre.  One theoretical physicist whose book I read, even quoted Star Trek stories as proof!  At times it seemed more smoke magic, mirrors and occult than the occult!

And the number of theories is enormous.  In the past 100 years or so we have had the following theories and note that this is not an exhaustive list by any means, it is but a tiny fraction of the total:

  • Gunnar Nordström -  [a Finnish theoretical physicist] - is best remembered for his theory of gravitation, which was an early competitor of general relativity.  In 1914 Nordström introduced an additional space dimension to his theory, which simultaneously described gravity and electromagnetism. This was the first of extra dimensional theories
  • The  Kaluza–Klein theory (or KK theory, for short) is another model that seeks to unify the two fundamental forces of gravitation and electromagnetism. The theory was first published in 1921 and was proposed by the mathematician Theodor Kaluza who extended general relativity to a five-dimensional spacetime
  • Grand Unification, grand unified theory, or GUT refers to any of several very similar unified field theories or models in physics that predicts that at extremely high energies (above 1014 GeV), the electromagnetic, weak nuclear, and strong nuclear forces are fused into a single unified field.  Beyond grand unification, the physicists working on this theory want to ‘merge gravity with the other three gauge symmetries into a theory of everything’
  • Yang-Mills theory  - I shall quote Wikipedia.  “is a gauge theory of quantum field theory based on the SU(N) group. It was formulated by Yang and Mills in 1954 in an effort to extend the original concept of gauge theory for an Abelian group, as was quantum electrodynamics, to the case of a nonabelian group with the intention to get an explanation for strong interactions. This initial idea was not a success as the quanta of the Yang-Mills field must be massless in order to maintain gauge invariance but such massless particles should have had long range effects that are not seen in experiments. So, the idea was put aside till the start of 1960 when the concept of breaking of symmetry in massless theories, initially due to Jeffrey Goldstone,  Yoichiro Nambu and Giovanni Jona-Lasinio, with particles acquiring mass in this way, was put forward
  • Weinberg-Salam theory -  Weinburg is an American physicist who together with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow showed how the weak force and electromagnetic force could be unified.  This required the existence of n dimensions
  • The Standard Modelis a theory of three of the four known fundamental interactions and the elementary particles that take part in these interactions. These particles ‘make up all visible matter in the universe’. The standard model is a gauge theory of the electroweak and strong interactions with the gauge group.  Again I quote “The Standard Model does not describe gravity, so it is necessarily incomplete.  When attempts are made to splice Einstein’s theory with the Standard Model, the resulting theory gives nonsensical answers .. it is also very ugly because it crudely splices three very different interactions together.  In fact, it is so ugly and contrived that even its creators are a bit embarrassed.  They are the first to aplogise for its short comings and admit it cannot be the final theory” [Michio Kaku – himself a theoretical physicist]
  • Supergravity theory - combines the principles of supersymmetry and general relativity -  “in supergravity, the supersymmetry is a local symmetry (in contrast to non-gravitational supersymmetric theories, such as the Minimal Supersymmetric Standard Model (MSSM)).”  Again to quote Wikipedia

Supergravity, also called SUGRA, was initially proposed as a four-dimensional theory in 1976 by Daniel Z. Freedman, Peter van Nieuwenhuizen and Sergio Ferrara at Stony Brook University, but was quickly generalized to many different theories in various numbers of dimensions and greater number (N) of supersymmetry charges. Supergravity theories with N>1 are usually referred to as extended supergravity (SUEGRA). Some supergravity theories were shown to be equivalent to certain higher-dimensional supergravity theories via dimensional reduction(e.g. N=1 11 dimensional supergravity is dimensionally reduced on S7 to N=8 d=4 SUGRA)

It would not be so bad, if theoretical physicists agreed with each other at a certain moment in time, but they don’t now and they haven’t for most of the past 100 or so years.  They aren’t united in their view of what exists.  Harvard’s Howard Georgi once wrote

Steve Weinberg returning from Texas
Brings dimensions galore to perplex us
But the extra ones all
Are rolled up in a ball
So tiny it never affects us

 

A description of the experience

Sir James Jeans – The Mysterious Universe

We cannot claim to have discerned more than a very faint glimmer of Light at the best; perhaps it was wholly illusory, for certainly we had to strain our eyes very hard to see anything at all.  So that our main contention can hardly be that the science of today has a pronouncement to make, perhaps it ought rather to be that science should leave off making pronouncements; the river of knowledge has too often turned back on itself.

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Bill Bryson

The term for the basic particle is a quark (up, down, strange, charm, top, bottom).  The Standard Model consists of 6 quarks, 6 leptons, 5 bosons, Higgs boson, plus 3 or 4 physical forces – strong, weak, nuclear forces and electromagnetism.  But many particle physicists feel the whole model is unwieldy and not helpful  … Leon Lederman ‘It is too complicated, it has too many arbitrary parameters’ …. Richard Feynman ‘we are stuck with a theory .. and we do know that it is a little wrong or at least incomplete’

The source of the experience

Jeans, Sir James

Concepts, symbols and science items

Symbols

Light

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

Commonsteps

References