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Abstract Wondering

Abstract Wondering

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Published by Tom Slattery

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Published by: Tom Slattery on Apr 08, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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ABSTRACT WONDERINGBy Tom SlatteryHumor me. I worked among scientists in a variety of scientific labs as a labtechnician, and I have written science fiction stories. But I am not a scientist, and thefollowing is not about science. If anything, it is more like an essay out of eighteenthcentury natural philosophy questioning the tools and trademarks of twenty-first century physical science.It is also pointedly the kind of skeptical and hopefully constructive criticism thatan average local yokel like me might offer if for no other reason than to have the feel of  being a participant rather than an awestruck helpless bystander. I suspect that some of theappeal of Creationism and its Intelligent Design successor is an offer of participation inthe great quest to understand some meaning for our lives through a modicum of comprehension of the mysterious universe in which we all live.Institutionalized science has grown beyond the grasp of even scientists in other scientific disciplines. Each branch of science has its own almost esoteric vocabulary andsymbol manipulation and resultant almost cult-like membership. This membershipsometimes seems to be gained as much from cult-like indoctrination starting inundergraduate studies and proceeding through post-graduate certification formalities asfrom the highly personal participation in questioning and seeking answers throughexperimentation that laid the groundwork for modern science.Add to that the destructive forces unleashed by science, from nuclear bombs tovarious metastasizing environmental disasters and threats, and there is reason to viewscience more with fear and suspicion than with hope for understanding.So the following is offered as a counterweight, an example of "participation" by anon-scientist, an illustration of a local yokel looking not only at the universe withquestions but at inconsistencies in science itself with additional questions. And one neednot surrender any of the awe or respect for the hard work that goes into scientificinvestigation to "participate."I read interesting things, and my mind gets overheated. There was an article onthe first instant of the Big Bang and sub-nuclear particles called quarks in the online May2006 Scientific American by Riordan and Zajc that set me to wandering through ancientand modern science.Here, briefly, are two highlights in the article. (1.) There is the "counterintuitive" behavior of sub-nuclear particles called quarks. They behave somewhat analogous torubber bands in that the farther away they are stretched from each other they attract moreand more. (2.) As with the now bypassed MIT Bag Theory, they behave like they might be nuclear bubbles in an inferred liquid universe. The Scientific American article alsomight infer a "liquid universe" of qluon-quarks creating a super low viscosity liquid inwhich everything else in o ur universe is immersed.
Pawel Mazur's new approaches to gravitation also might imply a "liquid" (well,"superfluid") universe.These inferences of a "liquid" universe might bring to some minds the ancientroots of science and cosmology as seen lingering in the biblical phrase at the beginning of Genesis: "…and darkness was on the face of the deep."Some students of the Bible as well as the history of science may be aware that the phrase appears to have had its origin in the cosmology of ancient Sumer, one of the focal points where civilization began 7000 years ago. Their cosmology revolved around a"liquid universe" and waters separated by a created flat Earth. On the surface, a saltwater sea surrounded their flat Earth. Below the surface was the Apsu, the freshwater sea onwhich their universe floated.Like good scientific observers they had noticed that if one dug down into the earthone got fresh well water. Presumably there was more fresh water be low where that hadcome from.Over the years the cosmology was modified, but the idea of a universal seaaround and under the solid earth did not go away easily. Even Columbus had to deal withideas and fears of a flat Earth when crossing the Atlantic as late as 1492.By the time that the Bible was finalized into the poetic King James English-language version and the above phrase in 1611, early modern science was beginning totake hold of the human imagination. Sixty-three years earlier in 1543 Copernicus haddemonstrated that the Earth revolved around the sun. By 1609 Kepler had formulated hisfirst two laws of motion. And by 1610 Galileo had mentioned his telescopic observationsof nearby outer space.One might imagine that the very poetic and evocative "deep" in the beginning of Genesis was meant to be ambiguous enough to include both the ancient and dearly heldmeanings of deep oceans and the emerging but not quite yet articulated concept of "deepspace."It took humans almost seven thousand years to get that far. How smart, really, arewe? And what do we really have now? With gluon-quarks we may again be pondering a"liquid" universe?But even beyond this inappropriate mixing of ancient and modern scientificmetaphors for the sake of raising a question might we be in need of a breakthrough downat the fundamental levels? Science, and modern cosmology derived from it, at timesseems a flimsy patchwork of sometimes contradictory reasoning and resulting theories.We base modern physics on mysterious Newtonian "forces, as in "May the Force be with you!" But the classical Newtonian force of gravity is now in question due to the
"Pioneer Anomaly." The twin Pioneer spacecraft launched in the 1970s are not wherethey are supposed to be. There has been a surprising additional pull of gravity as theyhave gone farther out from the sun. And it is born out in movements of stars in outer galaxies. As one goes huge distances from gravitational centers, the classical gravitationalconstant seems to become "unconstant" and increase slightly. Not long after Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo came Newton and his theories,early discoveries and experiments with magnetism, electricity, and the nature of light. Butthere is something flimsy about this structure, too.Take electricity. No "magneton" or magnetic monopole has ever been found tocorrespond to the electron to complete the proposed electromagnetic symmetry. We goahead and use the logic systems of electromagnetic symmetry anyway because theywork. But is this really all that much different from ancient Sumerians digging fresh-water wells and being reinforced that their cosmology is correct?The mass of the electron is defined by electromagnetic fields. The mass is foundfrom how much it bends, or "weighs," in a magnetic or electric field after being shot intoit by an electromagnetic impetus. Milikan's experiment may seem to include gravity, butit is the pull of gravity on his oil droplets and his experiment was designed to find the unitelectric charge, which was then used to find electron mass. Electric or magnetic fieldsultimately determine electron mass. Nuclear conjectures then draw on theseelectromagnetic assumptions and analogies of mass.The force of gravity is too weak in our Earthly environment to define an electronmass in terms of gravity so it is left to this. It sometimes seems that defining an electronmass in terms of electromagnetic fields is a like saying the sky is blue because it is blue.Perhaps someone clever has by now defined an electron mass in terms of gravitational pull on it by using the tremendous gravitational pull of black holes? I don't know. But thewhole structure built on electron mass as defined by electromagnetic fields continues to be a foundation for a very large theoretical structure.Moreover, there is an inconsistency in the descrip tion of electromagnetic "waves"and electromagnetic "particles." In some ways these versions contradict each other.In addition, the behavior of electromagnetic "particles" -- photons -- in mirrorsmight raise some questions. This would be true of mirrors in which we see out lovelyfaces as it is for mirrors that mechanically make lasers work. Photons may have somemass. If so, then it seems curious that when approaching the surface of a mirror a photondecelerates from the speed of light to zero, reverses direction, and then accelerates to thespeed of light again.And what about those curious "holes" in solid-state physics that make transistorswork. Might there be something ever so slightly lacking in electromagnetic assumptionsthat forces scientists to use what might be a fudge-factor like "holes" to make things work out in the end?

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