How does science especially physics help us to understand what we cannot see, or touch.
There are some who believe the best way to advance it is to observe the environment and then extrapolate those observations to the unobservable.
Isaac Newton used this approach to derive the law of gravity by making the assumption that mass generates an attractive gravitational force on all objects based on physical observations he made on the earth. The universality of its existence is based on the fact that one can determine the motion of all objects in the universe by assuming this force was responsible for it.
However, we cannot “see” a gravitational force. How then can we be sure that it really exists?
The answer is we cannot. However one reason why most believe it does is based on the fact it allows us to predict and explain the motion of objects that we can see and those that we cannot.
For example the position of Neptune was mathematically predicted using Newton’s concept of gravity before it was directly observed.
However, Quantum mechanics takes the opposite approach and assumes one can understand the laws of nature only by observing the results experiments and not the environment that surrounds them.
For example it defines the position of a particle by in terms of a mathematical probability distribution but says nothing about how it got there.
This differs from the Newtonian method in that it defines the solution to where an object is in terms of how it got there whereas quantum mechanics as motioned earlier defines it only in terms of where it is.
Both of these methods are valid because they give scientists the ability to make accurate predictions of future events.
However physics as the name implies is the science that deals with physical properties of matter, energy, and the forces that guide their interactions and not with abstract mathematics. Therefore, physicists should look to their observable properties as the primary vehicle and then mathematics to guide them understanding of the environment.
Unfortunately many seem to have gotten lazy in their pursuit of reality. Instead of taking the time and effort to fully understand the physicality of an environment many scientists make a few observations and turn to mathematics not observations to interconnect them.
For example The Big Bang Theory of cosmic evolution postulates the universe had its beginnings in a hot infinitely dense expanding environment. Using this assumption scientists have been able to successfully explain and predict many of the observed properties of our universe including the relative abundance of the elements and the formation of galactic clusters.
However, they have had considerable difficulty explaining why different regions of the universe that have not been causally connected to each other have the same temperature and other physical properties. This should not be possible, given that the exchange of information (energy, or heat, etc.) can only take place at the speed of light. This inconsistency between theory and observations is what cosmologists call the Horizon Problem.
In 1980 Alan Guth, Andrei Linde, Paul Steinhardt, and Andy Albrecht proposed a solution by modifying the Big Bang theory to include a short 10 âˆ’ 32 second period of exponential expansion (dubbed “inflation”) within the first minutes of the universe’s history.
However, as was mentioned in the article “The Horizon Problem” Apr. 15, 2011 there is absolutely no observational basis for defining what caused this rapid inflation to begin or end. Therefore, some say it is an “ADHOC” or contrived explanation of a flaw in original the Big Bang Theory.
Even so within a few years of its publication it became the general accepted explanation based almost exclusively on mathematical arguments that reportedly verified it.
However, its rapid acceptance to the exclusion of others meant many of the resources that could be used to make more detailed observations and possibly find a less “ADHOC” one or one that is based more on observations less on mathematics were unavailable to those who wished to look for them
Our criticism is not with the inflation model per say but with those who after making a few tentative calculations determined that it provides the only solution and then proceeded to bully all others to accept it or get “out of town” so to speak.
Newton’s gravitational theory took many years of observing the relationship of the tides to the position of the moon, how an object moved on earth and in space before it was formulated. Granted he may have “alleluia” moment when he was able to connect them but that was because he made the very time consuming effort to observe and understand their environment.
Yet unlike the inflationary model Newton’s ideas were not accepted by the scientific establishment for many decades after their publication even though they made extremely accurate perditions of future events which is in sharp contrast to the inflationary model which makes only vague general predictions.
However this meant that many keep looking for alternatives and developed the observational technologies to advance them. Even though none were found for almost 200 years those investigations were important to the advancement of science because divergent ideas promote divergent types of investigations which inherently leads to a better understanding of the environment.
For example, many of the advancements made in 17 and 18 centuries optics were a direct result of the need to make more accurate observations of the movement of planets to either verify or refute Newton’s laws.
Recently there have been several observations such as those associated with Dark Energy and Matter that are extremely difficult to integrate into the inflationary model and other currently accepted theories of our universe evolution.
However, as mentioned earlier the quick and almost universal acceptance by the scientific establishment of the inflationary model has and most probably will continue to inhibit the search for alternatives and the scientific advancement that would have inevitably occurred if other ideas had been considered.
Observing the environment takes considerable time and effort.
Newton publish his “PhilosophiÃ¦ Naturalis Principia Mathematica” containing his gravitational theory many years after he had formulated it because we believe he want to make sure that it was observationally correct even though he knew the mathematics it contained were unquestionable.
The problem with physics is not so much related to the science but the rush to judgment which we believe is based on the desire of many to be the first to propose and get credit for a solution to the extent that they do not take the time and effort to verify that it agrees not only mathematically but also with the observational environment their ideas encompassed.
Copyright Jeffrey O’Callaghan 2015
In “The crises of our time, it becomes increasingly clear,are
the necessary impetus for the revolution now under way.
And once we understand nature’s transformative powers,
we see that it is our powerful ally, not a
force to feared or subdued.”