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Author Topic:   Reaching the practical end of physics?
Hyroglyphx
Member
Posts: 5892
From: Austin, TX
Joined: 05-03-2006
Member Rating: 3.0


Message 31 of 68 (437594)
11-30-2007 5:54 PM
Reply to: Message 30 by Silent H
11-30-2007 1:51 PM


Re: On the cusp of knowing nothing at all
Ahhhhh, you're not in disagreement. I wasn't stating we had reached the end (me with sandwich-board "end is nigh!"). I was asking a question to push answers.

Ahhhh, excellent Grasshopper. You are wise and learned in the ways of semantics :) I sense an ancient Chinese proverb coming my way.

I do wonder if there is a limit of human capability, or even inherent practical limits. There are still plenty of things for Physicists to look at and play with. As I stated earlier gravity is still relatively unknown, antimatter is simply unwieldly at this point in time (but who knows for later), and quantum effects are clearly exploitable.

I think in a general sort of way, we think we know so damn much... But we are dwarfed by this universe and its secrets. Hence, we know squat in the final analysis.

Where I was specifically pointing was within a section of physics... particle physics... at the search for smaller and smaller bits and how they operate.

Ah, thanks for the clarification because I seem to have missed that point. Well, what are we down to as the smallest speck of matter these days? Quarks? Neutrinos? Does it get any smaller? Maybe. Know way to know until we get there, I suppose.

With the great deal of energy, and the extremely short times they can exist... and they seem to fall back together into what we have to deal with on a daily basis, could we be hitting a practical wall on that end?

I'm so much interest in the size of the particle as I am the behavior of the particle. Quantum physics is some mind-bending madness. I am really curious to see what the future will hold.

Whether you got the speed of light thing right or not, I do appreciate the references. I hadn't heard of one of them and it was fascinating, even if not Einstein-breaking.

Well, as cavediver said, unless they were successful in reproducing a vacuum-like state, it doesn't challenge Special Relativity. Einstein's theory may end being as timeless as Boltzmann's or Newton's. But it still is groundbreaking, and I'm a little surprised so few people have heard of it. Speeding up light is impressive, but bringing light to a complete stop is an incredible feat.


“This life’s dim windows of the soul, distorts the heavens from pole to pole, and goads you to believe a lie, when you see with and not through the eye.” -William Blake

This message is a reply to:
 Message 30 by Silent H, posted 11-30-2007 1:51 PM Silent H has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 32 by Silent H, posted 11-30-2007 8:05 PM Hyroglyphx has responded

  
Silent H
Member (Idle past 4207 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 32 of 68 (437628)
11-30-2007 8:05 PM
Reply to: Message 31 by Hyroglyphx
11-30-2007 5:54 PM


Re: On the cusp of knowing nothing at all
I think in a general sort of way, we think we know so damn much... But we are dwarfed by this universe and its secrets. Hence, we know squat in the final analysis.

Heheheh... I would absolutely agree. Like there are some people who think they know of Gods and absolute morals. Just kidding!

To be serious I do agree that "I don't know" is the true state of human nature, and why I like science so much. When practiced properly it embraces that reality, rather than projecting some intellectual hubris on everyone else.

Ah, thanks for the clarification because I seem to have missed that point. Well, what are we down to as the smallest speck of matter these days? Quarks? Neutrinos? Does it get any smaller?

I realize my thread title was a bit hyperbolic, but I figured it would bring people in (P.T. Barnum at work). I had hoped the OP itself would focus it down to my specific question regarding particle physics.

Right now, from what I understand, it is Quarks and Leptons at the smallest scale. Admittedly there could be smaller chunks, and there is some intrinsic emotional value in parsing them out. The question if they will hold any practical value is another thing entirely.

Quantum physics is some mind-bending madness. I am really curious to see what the future will hold.

Yes, as you might have surmised from my double-slit thread I am trying to re-orient my mind to the twists and turns involved with QM. I don't believe we've hit an end to that at all. Especially when we look at applications of the weirdness which occurs at that level.

Edited by Silent H, : - of


h
"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." - Robert E. Howard

This message is a reply to:
 Message 31 by Hyroglyphx, posted 11-30-2007 5:54 PM Hyroglyphx has responded

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Silent H
Member (Idle past 4207 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 33 of 68 (437633)
11-30-2007 8:24 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by fgarb
11-29-2007 2:21 AM


Hello, I hope you caught my earlier response which included ref to your post.

In any case, I just noticed your profile says you are from Naperville, and given that you say you are doing experimental physics, I was wondering if you work/study at FermiLab?

I grew up within walking distance of it, and that played a strong role in shaping my interest in science (as well as art). You can't get much closer to a literal ivory tower of brilliant minds shut away to concentrate on the mysteries of the universe.


h
"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." - Robert E. Howard

This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by fgarb, posted 11-29-2007 2:21 AM fgarb has responded

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Hyroglyphx
Member
Posts: 5892
From: Austin, TX
Joined: 05-03-2006
Member Rating: 3.0


Message 34 of 68 (437652)
11-30-2007 10:04 PM
Reply to: Message 32 by Silent H
11-30-2007 8:05 PM


Re: On the cusp of knowing nothing at all
Heheheh... I would absolutely agree. Like there are some people who think they know of Gods and absolute morals. Just kidding!

:eek: :D

To be serious I do agree that "I don't know" is the true state of human nature, and why I like science so much.

Probably because it seeks to answer the "why" aspects. Everyone wants to know why. We've known the principle of gravity since the dawn of time quite well. Everyone knew that what goes up, must come down. But we didn't exactly know why for a long time. Newton told us why, which is really what we wanted to know.

I realize my thread title was a bit hyperbolic, but I figured it would bring people in (P.T. Barnum at work).

Next to Barnum's hideous grotesquerie's, your hyperbolic thread title did seems like the second best way of getting people's attention.


“This life’s dim windows of the soul, distorts the heavens from pole to pole, and goads you to believe a lie, when you see with and not through the eye.” -William Blake

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fgarb
Member (Idle past 3778 days)
Posts: 98
From: Naperville, IL
Joined: 11-08-2007


Message 35 of 68 (437705)
12-01-2007 2:11 AM
Reply to: Message 33 by Silent H
11-30-2007 8:24 PM


Yes, I actually am working at Fermilab (while enrolled at a university in CA - makes things nice and complicated). I love the site. I was amazed when I first came out here and discovered I'd be spending my time in a paradise of nature as well as science, surrounded by the encroaching suburbs that could never quite touch it. So did you live in Batavia or Warrenville? Did you ever go to the public science days at the lab?

Sorry about the slow responses. I've been pretty busy recently and some threads on this forum move really fast. I'll post a few replies, but I don't know how good I'll be about keeping up with responses. I'll do my best :).


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fgarb
Member (Idle past 3778 days)
Posts: 98
From: Naperville, IL
Joined: 11-08-2007


Message 36 of 68 (437710)
12-01-2007 2:27 AM
Reply to: Message 28 by Hyroglyphx
11-30-2007 1:12 PM


Re: On the cusp of knowing nothing at all
Hi. I agree that we aren't anywhere near knowing everything in physics, but based on your responses it seems as though you underestimate the certainty we have in the things we do know. Maybe you already know this, but I just want to make the point that while we've had many revolutions of understanding in the last couple of centuries, the old knowledge is still just as valid as it ever was.

For example, Newtonian physics was updated by electromagnetism, and was dramatically overturned by relativity and quantum mechanics. But it still works perfectly for almost everything most people would ever care about, and there are no mistakes in it. Newton will always be right about everyday problems. Einstein will always be right about mind-bogglingly fast things and things that are both massive and large. Quantum mechanics will always be right about the sorts of tiny things its principles were built on. These principles aren't shaky, but they can only be used in certain situations. That you can't apply standard quantum field theory or general relativity to black holes does not show that these theories are on shaky grounds, it is simply a consequence of the fact that those tools were never intended for use on such problems, and other scientific revolutions are needed for them instead.


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fgarb
Member (Idle past 3778 days)
Posts: 98
From: Naperville, IL
Joined: 11-08-2007


Message 37 of 68 (437714)
12-01-2007 2:56 AM
Reply to: Message 30 by Silent H
11-30-2007 1:51 PM


Re: On the cusp of knowing nothing at all
SilentH writes:

Where I was specifically pointing was within a section of physics... particle physics... at the search for smaller and smaller bits and how they operate. With the great deal of energy, and the extremely short times they can exist... and they seem to fall back together into what we have to deal with on a daily basis, could we be hitting a practical wall on that end?

We are hitting the limit, at least as far as technology goes. Particle accelerators revolutionized our understanding of the universe when they were developed, and we got several decades of easy discoveries out of them, but they are pretty much tapped out. They all basically work by accelerating charged particles using radio waves, technology that has not changed since roughly WWII times. With such tech, there is a maximum rate at which you can add energy to a particle: ~50 million volts per meter. So if you want to reach higher energies, what do you do?

Well, people either a) make really long accelerators. If you build a 10 km accelerator you can turn 50 million volts per meter into half a trillion volts. Or b) you build your accelerator in a circle and send a particle around tons of times gaining energy. Then you are limited not by length but by the ability of your magnets to bend more and more energetic particles enough, so you're stuck making the circle larger and the curvature smaller. Either way the size you need is directly proportional to the energy you want. Right now we're using colliders that are ones or tens of miles in size to get ones or tens of trillions of volts out of them. To go to the next generation in a way that would interest physicists, you need to increase a factor of ten in energy. Then we would need a collider size on the scale of hundreds of miles, with a cost scale of hundreds of billions of dollars. That would be possible to do if we were willing to make the huge investment, but the generation after it would basically be out of the question no matter how bad we want it. The only way that changes is if we have a fundamental tech improvement of the sort that hasn't happened in half a century. There's some promising research on this out there, but it kind of pisses me off how little attention it's getting compared to the huge, costly new conventional colliders that are getting gobs of money these days like the LHC and the ILC. The only way the field is going to have a future past about two-three decades from now, and the most likely way for the kind of research that's being done now to become accessible for companies, will be if acceleration gets more efficient. That's how it seems to me, anyway.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 30 by Silent H, posted 11-30-2007 1:51 PM Silent H has responded

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GDR
Member
Posts: 5061
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 38 of 68 (437767)
12-01-2007 11:56 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Silent H
11-27-2007 9:33 PM


Silent H writes:

From what I can tell... and this may be wayyyyy off... all these fundamental particles (quarks, leptons, etc) don't last long in the "real world". That is to say, no matter how much we pick them apart, they fall back together (or reduce to energy) such that they have no value beyond understanding the esoteric properties of the universe.

My knowledge of this stuff is limited to reading Brian Greene and others like him, so my question is based not on knowledge but out of interest. I have looked at web sites of people like Julian Barbour and it seems to me that the next big thing in physics might be time, which could affect the premise of your question.

Is it possible, or even likely, that we will be able to use the scientific method to understand how time impacts our existence in the same way that relativity and QM have?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Silent H, posted 11-27-2007 9:33 PM Silent H has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 41 by Silent H, posted 12-01-2007 2:54 PM GDR has responded

  
Silent H
Member (Idle past 4207 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 39 of 68 (437804)
12-01-2007 2:45 PM
Reply to: Message 35 by fgarb
12-01-2007 2:11 AM


I love the site. I was amazed when I first came out here and discovered I'd be spending my time in a paradise of nature as well as science, surrounded by the encroaching suburbs that could never quite touch it.

Absolutely perfect description. And the building itself, inside and out felt inspirational.

I lived in Warrenville, and I'm not kidding about walking to Fermi... though a bike was better to get from the front gate to the main building. I went there many times, some for open house type science stuff, but also for arts programs and just to hang out in the nature area around it. I'm assuming they still have the theater in the back of the main building, and that's where they'd have movie nights and even live theater.

I always came away feeling fully en-cultured. Just going up to the top, looking into the windows of REAL LIVE SCIENTISTS at work, made me think... okay that's what I want to be doing.

Unfortunately, once in science, I found out it all ain't Fermi. That's a special place.


h
"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." - Robert E. Howard

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Silent H
Member (Idle past 4207 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 40 of 68 (437807)
12-01-2007 2:52 PM
Reply to: Message 37 by fgarb
12-01-2007 2:56 AM


Re: On the cusp of knowing nothing at all
Note: see other message to you above...

Thanks for this post. It does sort of get at what I know of where we are at... though a bit more detailed... and why we might be hitting a limit.

I had my fingers crossed that Fermi would get the go ahead (aka money and permission) for the larger ring... alas.

I hope cavediver has a response to your post.


h
"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." - Robert E. Howard

This message is a reply to:
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Silent H
Member (Idle past 4207 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 41 of 68 (437809)
12-01-2007 2:54 PM
Reply to: Message 38 by GDR
12-01-2007 11:56 AM


Is it possible, or even likely, that we will be able to use the scientific method to understand how time impacts our existence in the same way that relativity and QM have?

As far as I understand it relativity does get at how time impacts our existence. I would love to have better models, though I don't think direct manipulation of time will ever be possible.


h
"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." - Robert E. Howard

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 Message 38 by GDR, posted 12-01-2007 11:56 AM GDR has responded

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 Message 43 by molbiogirl, posted 12-01-2007 3:49 PM Silent H has responded

  
GDR
Member
Posts: 5061
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 42 of 68 (437825)
12-01-2007 3:34 PM
Reply to: Message 41 by Silent H
12-01-2007 2:54 PM


Silent H writes:

As far as I understand it relativity does get at how time impacts our existence. I would love to have better models, though I don't think direct manipulation of time will ever be possible.

Actually I was thinking about time in the quantum realm. If they could do that I think it could provide the link between relativity and QM.


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

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molbiogirl
Member (Idle past 1029 days)
Posts: 1909
From: MO
Joined: 06-06-2007


Message 43 of 68 (437832)
12-01-2007 3:49 PM
Reply to: Message 41 by Silent H
12-01-2007 2:54 PM


... though I don't think direct manipulation of time will ever be possible.

What you think possible and what is possible are two entirely different matters.

The possibility of time travel (re: GR) has been known since 1949.

Other scenarios have been found to permit travel into the past. For example, in 1974 Frank J. Tipler of Tulane University calculated that a massive, infinitely long cylinder spinning on its axis at near the speed of light could let astronauts visit their own past, again by dragging light around the cylinder into a loop. In 1991 J. Richard Gott of Princeton University predicted that cosmic strings--structures that cosmologists think were created in the early stages of the big bang--could produce similar results. But in the mid-1980s the most realistic scenario for a time machine emerged, based on the concept of a wormhole.

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=0004226A-F77D-1D4A-90FB809EC5880000&page=4


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Silent H
Member (Idle past 4207 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 44 of 68 (437909)
12-01-2007 9:26 PM
Reply to: Message 43 by molbiogirl
12-01-2007 3:49 PM


The possibility of time travel (re: GR) has been known since 1949.

I know time travel is theoretically possible based on GR, though I thought that was restricted to natural phenomena (time dilation, and wormholes)... which I don't consider direct manipulation of time.

However that spinning cylinder thingy, and hijacking of wormholes and moving them around certainly would be. Intriguing... though how one constructs an infinitely long cylinder I don't get.

I hope we can find some wormholes to move about the Universe faster, rather than their time travel properties.


h
"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." - Robert E. Howard

This message is a reply to:
 Message 43 by molbiogirl, posted 12-01-2007 3:49 PM molbiogirl has responded

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 Message 45 by molbiogirl, posted 12-01-2007 11:34 PM Silent H has responded

  
molbiogirl
Member (Idle past 1029 days)
Posts: 1909
From: MO
Joined: 06-06-2007


Message 45 of 68 (437921)
12-01-2007 11:34 PM
Reply to: Message 44 by Silent H
12-01-2007 9:26 PM


You didn't bother to read the link, did you?

The bizarre consequences of time travel have led some scientists to reject the notion outright. Stephen W. Hawking of the University of Cambridge has proposed a "chronology protection conjecture," which would outlaw causal loops. Because the theory of relativity is known to permit causal loops, chronology protection would require some other factor to intercede to prevent travel into the past. What might this factor be? One suggestion is that quantum processes will come to the rescue. The existence of a time machine would allow particles to loop into their own past. Calculations hint that the ensuing disturbance would become self-reinforcing, creating a runaway surge of energy that would wreck the wormhole.

Chronology protection is still just a conjecture, so time travel remains a possibility. A final resolution of the matter may have to await the successful union of quantum mechanics and gravitation, perhaps through a theory such as string theory or its extension, so-called M-theory. It is even conceivable that the next generation of particle accelerators will be able to create subatomic wormholes that survive long enough for nearby particles to execute fleeting causal loops. This would be a far cry from Wells's vision of a time machine, but it would forever change our picture of physical reality.


This message is a reply to:
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