Physics, Philosophy and Paradoxes ……

9 Jun

‘Is the world around us a quantifiable reality upon which we can all agree or the product of our individual experience?  What can we ultimately state is real, constructed or imagined, and why does it matter…..?’

I can answer the last question, “why does it matter?’ without any difficulty.  It matters now for the same reasons it mattered to Aristotle, Socrates and Plato 2000 years ago; to understand our place in the universe, the reason for our existence and, ultimately, the purpose of purpose.

Although we have a far greater understanding than our forefathers, we are still a long way from knowing even a small percentage of the answers.  However, theology still remains mankind’s first and worst attempt by way of an ‘explanation’.  To say we were put here by a creator and he, and only he, has the answers is as useless as saying the universe was farted out of a giant green hyper-being.  Note:  I use the masculine in my description of the creator, not due to my own sexist beliefs; rather those telling of the male dominated monotheistic religions who claim to act with divine authority and have spread misery to millions across the globe.

Scientific investigation has provided us with many useful answers about the world upon which we live, the solar system and galaxy in which it resides and the observable universe beyond.  However, there are some embarrassingly large gaps in our knowledge and an inability to reconcile observations on different scales.  The scientific community has chosen, or been reluctantly compelled, to do their research in isolation absent a unifying theory to explain the observations of the quantum scale with those of the cosmological.  Not that this lack of unification should deter further investigation as breakthroughs do happen.  Experimentation provides the most useful results on all scales and theories are needed to guide those experiments but it is theory that leads me to my next point.

There comes a point where a theory can not be experimentally tested.  It is then  that theory and philosophy converge.  An example of this is that of “the standard model of particle physics”.  With time, patience and a considerable investment in particle accelerators scientists have delivered results which appear to have confirmed the standard model through experiment and have applications in the advancement of the plethora of electronic devices upon which our lives now depend.  However, another branch of theorists have departed from testable predictions with ideas such as string theory.  Clever though the mathematics may be it adds little to our understanding of the real world and may be nothing more than numerical anomalies.  If this is the case then it may as well be theology; albeit less destructive.  I find it hard to imagine fundamental theoretical physicists declaring war on the “multi-verse” camp.  I simply feel that once a theory becomes un-testable it adds nothing to our understanding of the physical world around us.

Some alternative theories do carry some weight and may be testable.  One in particular that caught my attention was the proposal that the laws of physics as we now understand them may have been and are still evolving.  The Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees, wrote an interesting book entitled “Just Six Numbers”, in which he postulates that even a minute variation in something like the force of gravity and the universe as we observe it would never have come into existence.  Had that have been the case we would probably not have even been here in the first place.  However, everything we observe around us is evolving with ever increasing entropy.  Some theorists are now proposing that the laws of physics are not necessarily constant or fixed.  This idea is not as preposterous as it may first appear as it may explain some of the mathematical paradoxes that current theories produce such as infinities.  Infinities have always bothered me, not to the degree of Georg Cantor who was driven insane by the paradoxical nature of infinity.  Given the immense time scales and intrinsic measurement problems presented by physics infinitesimally small changes in what we have always considered “constants” in nature could be possible and account for some of the anomalies in the evolution of the universe.

It is certainly an area I will be paying close attention too and will hopefully provide a better explanation for why our universe is as we see it today, whereas string theory can never be proven by experimentation……



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