The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

For a good time, stick around. Have a neutrino.

Here's a thought. Aren't time and distance
really just aspects of the same thing?

I'm going to do a followup post later about stuff
materializing out of nowhere — how everything
came out of nothing, and how there didn't have
to be a 3rd "magic Wizard" to do it (see the
Monism vs Dualism posts in the archives).

But for now, consider this. When scientists
smash stuff together in supercolliders,
something really strange happens.

All sorts of new stuff pops up. Really heavy
stuff. And it seems to pop out of nowhere.

By "really heavy" I mean that there is something
like 30,000 times more weight to the stuff that
pops into being than the weight of the stuff that
got smashed together.


Yeah you read that right. This ain't Kansas were
talkin' about here, Toto. In Kansas, if you smash
two chicken eggs together, you get a nice plate
of scrambled eggs and some shells, but if you
gather all those parts and pieces up and weigh
them, you'd get the same weight in ounces after
the smash (and before the eating) that you'd
get weighing the original unsmashed eggs.

BUT, if instead, you could smash those
eggs together in a Large Hadron Super Collider,
you'd get enough "egg stuff" to feed
30,000 hungry fundamentalists!

I'm not kidding... that's the science.

Now, the new stuff popping out of nowhere doesn't
last very long (travel very far) so you'll need some
really tiny forks and a really quick hand to eat your
breakfast before it all goes back to OZ.

Ok, so I haven't explained the headline very well
have I? Well' like I said, I've got some summing
up to do later... after the Time Bomb and the
"Is Bill#2 Still Bill?" polls expire.

Meanwhile, enjoy your breakfasts, kids.

p.s. My friend Bill Harlan got to visit the LHSC
in Switzerland. Pretty cool. I asked him if when
he goes back again he would check and see if
it would be ok if I went over there and tried
my scrambled egg experiment.

He said something kind of sciencey that I
didn't understand and laughed for a few
minutes. Quite a few minutes actually.

I took that for a "no."


Braden said...

That is very interesting. I wonder if all that force creates a miniature black hole for a brief period of time, which would explain the enormous amount of weight.

Remember, 30,000 times the weight doesn't mean there is more stuff, just that the stuff is denser, and hence, heavier. But if you mean that it creates 30,000 times the mass, then I have no idea how that could happen.

Neal said...

I was so bummed out when the CERN supercollider didn't work right when they fired it up last year. I guess it's supposed to be operational again in Oct. Hopefully it'll have all the bugs worked out this time.

Too bad the people at Fermilab weren't able to make any progress in the year or so that CERN has been shut down.

Neal said...

The thing that gets me is that many of our major physics theories, particularly theories about particle physics, depend upon the existence of a particle (the Higgs boson) that hasn't been discovered yet, and that there's no reason to believe exists other than the fact that it MUST exist for our theories to be correct. So if we don't find the Higgs boson, particle physics is basically done, or will have to start from scratch.

Bill Fleming said...

Could be, huh?

Braden, maybe you'd like reading read Frank Wilczek's "The Lightness of Being."

He has an idea.

And he's already won the Nobel Prize for another one of his ideas.

Who knows?

This could be the "big one."

Bill Fleming said...

Yes, the Higgs Field and the Higgs boson.

Some (jokingly) call it the "God" particle.

Wilczek discusses it at length in his second appendix.

Remember, relativity was in the same boat until we got a technology good enough to see light bend from the sun's gravitational pull during an eclipse.

But not to worry, a lot of technology is already in place and working just fine based on the quantum theories. PET scans for example.

Seeing the Higgs Particle would be the "proof."

But the earth went around the sun long before anyone was able to "prove" it.

Neal said...

I'm not really even sold on relativity. Yeah, it's mostly worked out, but there's no unified theory. So we've got 4 different forces and 4 different theories to explain them, individually all neat and clean, that don't fit together at all.

I'm pretty firmly convinced that some or all parts of the each of the 4 theories will have to be rethought and rewritten if a persuasive unified theory ever comes along.

Which means that what we think of as right and true -- for instance, relativity -- might not be right, or true.

This is the history of science. Every model is valid only until the next model comes along. I am therefore skeptical about any and every model and theory, especially the ones that people think are true.

Neal said...

For those of you who are interested in this topic (theoretical physics, cosmology) here's a link to far and away the most interesting thing I've read on this topic for quite some time.

I can't recommend this article strongly enough. It's a must read, Braden and Bill.

Neal said...

Apparently that link didn't work. Try this one:

Bill Fleming said...

Looks good, Neal. I'll give it a read.

BTW the unification of the forces is exactly what Wilzeck has worked out the math for.

The equations are in the book.

All that remains is the experimental proof, either from the high energy large hadron coliider or from the low energy underground observations in places like the proposed Homestake labs.

Freman Dyson, in his critique of Wilczek's book expresses his preference for the Homestake approach, although, to be fair, I didn't really get that Wilczek was really expressing a preference for either technique.

Maybe because, in his mind at least, the problem is already solved.

Neal said...

Yeah, well, "experimental proof" -- that's kind of a big deal.

Doing the math before the proof is kinda like thinking about how I'll spend all that money I haven't yet won in the lottery.

Bill Fleming said...

Well, they did the math before they made the atom bomb, Neal. Or want to the moon. Or built your house. That's kinda the way it works, you know?

Neal said...

But this is a little different, isn't it? The math for unification theory relies upon things that have not been discovered. If the Higgs doesn't turn up, the math is worthless. If the Higgs turns up in a shape or form different than expected, the math is worthless.

For the bomb, moon, and my house, that was not the case. The math behind all of those things was not conditioned upon discovering something that has not yet been proven to exist.

(It may be relevant to mention that the word verification for this post is "godly.")

Bill Fleming said...

"Godly?" What a cool coincidence.

On that bomb thing? The story I hear was that when they touched the first one off at Los Alamos, they weren't sure whether the chain reaction would stop or not. They were pretty sure it would but...

Now that would have really screwed everybody's theories up, huh?

I mean, talk about having to start all over!

Neal said...

I don't generally enjoy watching tv or movies on the computer, but here are a few video links that you might appreciate.

The PBS program "Independent Lens" recently featured this film, called "The Atom Smashers":

It's a story about the race between CERN and Fermilab to find the Higgs. Good stuff, only an hour.

And Nova a while back had an awesome program about fractal geometry, called "Hunting the Hidden Dimenson":