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An uneducated layman's misconceptions and questions re: physics & cosmology.

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posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 04:15 AM
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(Note to Mods: If this would be better served in the Space Exploration forum, please feel free to move it. I wasn't sure where the most real physicists hang out.)

First let me say that I am here to prostrate myself humbly before those wiser and more learned than I. I know much of what I'm about to say may be wrong, consist of further misconceptions, etc. So if anything I say is wrong either semantically or literally, please point it out so that I can learn as much as possible. I appreciate and respect that real physicists and astrophysicists are far more intelligent than I'll ever be, and that I don't REALLY have a comprehensive understanding of what I'm even talking about. So please bear that in mind as you read this lol.

It occurred to me today that a lot of misconceptions arise when laypeople such as myself read dumbed down explanations of things like the standard model and quantum mechanics.

For example, the universe is often described, as a consequence of the standard model, to be very likely "flat" at cosmic scales. I for a long time thought that this meant it was literally FLAT like paper, and couldn't understand how that could be. It turns out, all they mean is that the same geometry we can apply here on Earth appears to apply throughout the observable universe, so that we can still use euclidean geometry. In other words, no two parallel lines which are truly parallel will ever cross, right angles will always be right angles, etc. That's all they mean when they say "flat."

Another one is the idea of spacetime LITERALLY being like a flat, rubber sheet. That's just how they describe their calculations visually though, apparently. Spacetime is in actuality neither "flat" in the literal sense, nor "curved" in a literal sense (at least not in the way we always see in videos on the Science Channel and the like.) All they mean by flatness and curvature is that a good way to visualize the consequences of their equations is to THINK of it as a flat surface which can bend and curve. In actuality space is, obviously, three dimensional (plus time) and transcendent in all directions. The "curvature" caused by gravitation is in actuality a "field" around objects in 3D space. That's a much more literal way of thinking about it.

Another one - and this one REALLY used to drive me to confusion and perplexity - is the idea of the universe eventually expanding faster than the speed of light because space itself expands. That's another thing that never made sense to me, since nothing can travel faster than light (barring certain particles in theory,) and moreover, space isn't a tangible thing that can expand; it's just space (or is it?) Well it turns out that they don't mean that space is literally expanding itself, in any physical sense. They just mean that the AMOUNT of space BETWEEN everything in the observable space is expanding as a consequence of everything moving further and further apart. The idea of the universe eventually expanding faster than light is also an illusion brought about by the METRIC of how we calculate the expansion of that space. Galaxies won't literally be traveling faster than light on their own, but the average or net EXPANSION of the space BETWEEN all galaxies will eventually exceed the speed of light, light from distant galaxies will no longer reach us, etc.

So all of these little misconceptions led me to what I think is a very important question for a layperson's understanding of the universe we exist in, and that is this:

In quantum mechanics, the elementary particles are described as, at very small scales, actually being mere perturbations of a dynamic field in space. This dynamic field exists even in a vacuum, which is why we can never have a true, ideal vacuum, because there will always remain non-zero probability values within the dynamic field. SO... is this LITERALLY because "space" is some kind of omnipresent medium being perturbed or vibrated to create waves which we merely DETECT as particles, but which are really just "vibrating space?" OR... is this another illusion created by how it's being described semantically?

In other words: If there was NO matter, no particles, no energy, etc. ANYWHERE in space, even at very great distances, would space still remain a medium, somehow tangible and dynamic in and of itself? Or does this only appear to be the case because of the matter and energy already in the universe, so that even if it's very far away from apparent "empty space," there is still a dynamic field between all matter, energy, and particles? Because the former allows us to indulge thoughts of something ephemeral or ethereal in a sense, whereas the latter is merely a natural consequence of matter existing anywhere in space, and space in that case remains just that: empty space, but CONTAINING a field, not BEING a field.

I've asked several people with physics and astrophysics backgrounds this question, and all they can say is: We don't know yet, because even if no matter existed, for all we know, probability values would still persist in space (perhaps due to other dimensions bordering our spacetime, perhaps due to some intrinsic property of space itself.) We literally don't know yet, nor do we have a way of knowing.

Is that really true? Can anyone offer any greater insights, corrections, or better descriptions? Resources, recommended reading, viewing etc. are also welcome (preferably that someone with no mathematic, algebraic, or technical skill can comprehend.) I will take the time to actually read and/or watch them if at all possible.

Thanks very much for your time and patience.

[edit on 4/5/2010 by AceWombat04]




posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 05:30 AM
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That's a great Question.

I can't answer it but I lean towards the people you have asked as having the right answer.

I can see the point that Space couldn't exist without Matter, Particles and energy. I figure Space is the medium that has to rely on the Matter, particles and energy in order to exist anyway.

What use would Space be if nothing else existed? Why would there be Space if nothing else existed? Space would be nothing. It has to be absolutely nothing if nothing else existed.

That's sort of how I see it.. I don't know if it's right or Wrong..


I hope other people chime in with their opinions.

[edit on 5-4-2010 by Damian-007]



posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 12:22 PM
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reply to post by AceWombat04
 


At this point I have to take an observational view of both quantum mechanics, and the standard model of cosmology. The standard model tells us this about the composition of the universe:

cosmology.berkeley.edu...


- Baryonic Matter: ~5% of the mass in the universe
This is ordinary matter composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons. It comprises gas, dust, stars, planets, people, etc.
- Cold Dark Matter: ~25%
This is the so-called "missing mass" of the universe. It comprises the dark matter halos that surround galaxies and galaxy clusters, and aids in the formation of structure in the universe. The dark matter is said to be "cold" because it is nonrelativistic (slow-moving) during the era of structure formation. Dark matter is currently believed to be composed of some kind of new elementary particle, usually referred to as a weakly interacting massive particle (WIMP).
- Dark Energy: ~70%
Through observations of distant supernovae, two research groups have independently discovered that the expansion of the universe appears to be getting faster with time. This seems to require some kind of "antigravity" effect which we do not understand. Cosmologists believe that the acceleration may be caused by some kind of new energy field that permeates the universe, perhaps even the cosmological constant that Einstein imagined almost a century ago. Whatever the source of this phenomenon turns out to be, cosmologists refer to it generically as dark energy.


Thus we know what 5% of the universe is, and the other 95% is unknown, according to the standard model.

Why would you even ask a speculative question about what would happen if the universe were different than it is, when we already can't even anwser the question about why the universe is the way it is right now, in a non-hypothetical sense?

I think we need to understand the universe as it is first. Don't you think 95% of the universe missing is a big enough question already without adding hypothetical questions?

[edit on 5-4-2010 by Arbitrageur]



posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 01:37 PM
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reply to post by Arbitrageur
 


This is an excellent point, and do I agree to large extent. With that said however, even if we were hypothetically able to account for all of that matter and energy, we still might subsequently discover something else beyond that to confound all of our theories and models yet again. (You have to admit, this does seem to happen repeatedly throughout our history as a species lol.)

So with that in mind, I am still curious as to whether any of our current theories or models (incomplete and imperfect though they may be) can, or attempt to, answer my question regarding space itself being a dynamic field (or not being one on its own.)

I'm not so much interested in whether we know for certain whether our theories and models are correct, as it wouldn't surprise me to learn someday that they aren't. I'm just interested in what we think today with respect to whether we regard space as an intrinsically dynamic field or medium, or whether we regard it as being truly empty inherently, but containing a dynamic field or medium due to the existence of matter, energy, and particles.



posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 09:43 PM
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reply to post by AceWombat04
 


In that case i think the answer you already posted is accurate:


Originally posted by AceWombat04
I've asked several people with physics and astrophysics backgrounds this question, and all they can say is: We literally don't know yet, nor do we have a way of knowing.



posted on Apr, 6 2010 @ 03:00 AM
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Well, if no one truly knows I can accept that. The foundation of knowledge is the ability to say, "I don't know," in my opinion. I just thought it couldn't hurt to ask. Thanks to everyone for their replies.



posted on Apr, 6 2010 @ 04:44 AM
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reply to post by AceWombat04
 


Love ya mind
Love ya style


S & F for a great thread opener.

Can't wait to see where this goes.. or will the learned refuse to philosophise?


I'm too drunk to add (or cohere) my own thoughts.. so just posting for now to bookmark!



posted on Apr, 6 2010 @ 07:35 AM
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Two things to know.
The rules of chemistry
and the rules of physics.
As set up by Lavoisier elements
_have_ to be in whole numbers. One
for hydrogen, eight for oxygen, etcetera.
As set up by Newton, action _has_ to be described
by discrete measurable parts like mass, distance, and time.
With these rules we are able to collect data, and make predictions.

Benjamin Franklin
on the other hand, both
discovered electricity and
Became the most famous person
in the world. He went on to found a new
more enlightened society that made the world
safe for scientific research, discovery, and reward.

What do all three
of these have in common?
Is it the elusive unified field theory.
Is it that physics has tried to swallow
chemistry by studying the quanta of atoms.
Is it that chemistry has tried to swallow physics
by describing the birth, life, and death of stars and galaxies.
Is it that no scientific data is accepted from any house that does
not have electric power hooked up to it's labs or risk being discredited.
Or is it, more simple. That no one has the authority to question their premises.

Even though
no one has isolated
a single hydrogen atom
in a vacuum tube, and no one
has isolated a single minute in a
vacuum tube, or a single discovery.
It's like a sheet that is too small to cover
the bed. As soon as two corners are tucked in
one on the opposite side pops loose. We don't know
enough. The sheet is not big enough. But I submit to you
that what we have here is a three sided sheet that science is
trying to stretch over a four sided bed. No matter how far they stretch
it. It will never fit correctly. Instead we get black holes, dark mater, n strange action.


David Grouchy



posted on Apr, 6 2010 @ 01:04 PM
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In other words: If there was NO matter, no particles, no energy, etc. ANYWHERE in space, even at very great distances, would space still remain a medium, somehow tangible and dynamic in and of itself?


Yes. Vacuum energy and virtual particles are active in the "void" constantly. Without it wouldn't be space now would it
as space is a descriptive word for a volume within something so if it's nothing its well nothing



In physics, a virtual particle is a particle that exists for a limited time and space, introducing uncertainty in their energy and momentum due to the uncertainty principle. Because energy and momentum in quantum mechanics are time and space derivative operators, then due to Fourier transforms their spans are inversely proportional to time duration and position spans, respectively.


en.wikipedia.org...

It is also speculated that spacetime is grainy. Building up grains as the arrow of time moves forward. Spacetime is growing out of space time like buds from a tree. Even if space were completely empty in this case space would still be dynamic.

In reality however we have no way to describe "emptyness" or nothing it's beyond our ability to understand because we don't experience it or have a way to create it. .

I think, though, that virtual particles, vacuum energy, and the zero point field are probably omnipresent so to imagine otherwise is somewhat trivial.

Hope that helps


[edit on 6-4-2010 by constantwonder]



posted on Apr, 6 2010 @ 01:53 PM
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Originally posted by davidgrouchy
Even though
no one has isolated
a single hydrogen atom
in a vacuum tube


Are you sure about that?

A proton's charge-mass ratio may be measured by allowing a proton of known velocity to enter a magnetic field and then measuring the angle of deflection. Hence, using the known value for the charge of a proton the mass may be calculated. You can do the same thing for an electron.

The reason I know this is, that was my science project in high school physics and I used a vacuum tube.


Originally posted by constantwonder
In reality however we have no way to describe "emptyness" or nothing it's beyond our ability to understand because we don't experience it or have a way to create it. .

I think, though, that virtual particles, vacuum energy, and the zero point field are probably omnipresent so to imagine otherwise is somewhat trivial.


Those are valid points , especially the point about "to imagine otherwise is somewhat trivial." If we start speculating about things beyond the known universe then we get into the realm of the unknown and unknowable. Our universe also has the 2.7k background radiation permeating everything. To determine answers to the question in the OP we would have to conduct the experiments in a place where the background radiation doesn't exist, and since it exists everywhere in the known universe, that's part of the reason the answer is unknowable.
www.statemaster.com...

in interstellar space, there is the 2.7 K background blackbody radiation left over from the Big Bang. This heat permeates every physical body in the Universe.



posted on Apr, 6 2010 @ 04:59 PM
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Given then that a literal answer to my main question is impossible (at least currently,) I would rephrase it as follows:

"According to those promulgating the various speculative hypotheses and models regarding the nature of spacetime and the quantized field permeating the known universe, is hypothetical empty space a medium or dynamic field in and of itself (even hypothetically absent any matter "occupying" it,) or is the dynamic field created and sustained by the very existence of matter itself in the first place, however far apart it may be at stellar distances?"

In other words, I understand and accept that we cannot know what the case may be literally and definitively at this time, but what do humanity's most brilliant minds hypothesize regarding these questions?



posted on Apr, 6 2010 @ 05:29 PM
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Originally posted by davidgrouchy
Even though
no one has isolated
a single hydrogen atom
in a vacuum tube


Originally posted by Arbitrageur

Are you sure about that?

A proton's charge-mass ratio may be measured by allowing a proton of known velocity to enter a magnetic field and then measuring the angle of deflection. Hence, using the known value for the charge of a proton the mass may be calculated. You can do the same thing for an electron.

The reason I know this is, that was my science project in high school physics and I used a vacuum tube.


And you have
how much time on
the particle accelerator
in Pittsburgh from back in the day?


David Grouchy



posted on Apr, 6 2010 @ 06:09 PM
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"According to those promulgating the various speculative hypotheses and models regarding the nature of spacetime and the quantized field permeating the known universe, is hypothetical empty space a medium or dynamic field in and of itself (even hypothetically absent any matter "occupying" it,) or is the dynamic field created and sustained by the very existence of matter itself in the first place, however far apart it may be at stellar distances?"


The Gravitational constant is

G = 6.67428 x 10^-11 m^3 kg^-1 s^-2


(preferably that someone with no mathematic, algebraic, or technical skill can comprehend.)


Fine
let's use the old
gravitational constant of
0.0000000000666 repeating
why is this a non terminating number.
Because decimals are terrible at some fractions.
Easier to say G = 6 / 90,000,000,000 or ninety billion.
In other words, gravity has infinite range, so all matter can
see all other mater in the universe. So what is gravity really.
Is it two whole numbers in a fraction. Sure. If you believe in whole numbers.

Look,
this isn't algebra
but there is no shortcut
to math, as math is the shortcut.

Now the
sound bite answer.
Either all mater remembers all mater
or all mater predicts all other matter, but
either way, there is no such thing as a whole number.
Odds are that matter, or time, or space, are the result of the interaction
of two (or more) other unseen forces. And by unseen I mean undetectable.


David Grouchy



posted on Apr, 6 2010 @ 07:32 PM
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I'm just being honest: I have absolutely no idea what you just said lol. (I have a severe learning disability when it comes to math of any kind... I'm 28 and can't even memorize my multiplication tables to date... so that may be why, sadly.)

What do you mean by matter predicting or remembering itself? Can you articulate that concept in a more literal but less anthropomorphic fashion? Do you mean that because whatever the force responsible for gravitation is must be capable of being exerted on any and all matter, all matter has to "know" where all matter will be, is, and/or was?

Thank-you for being patient and bearing with me. I apologize for my lack of intellectual nimbleness lol.



posted on Apr, 6 2010 @ 10:19 PM
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Originally posted by AceWombat04
Do you mean that because whatever the force responsible for gravitation is must be capable of being exerted on any and all matter, all matter has to "know" where all matter will be, is, and/or was?


Yes.
In sound bite
terms this is what I meant.
Where it was, or will be, but I'm
not so sure about knowing where it "is."


David Grouchy



posted on Apr, 6 2010 @ 11:19 PM
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Originally posted by davidgrouchy
And you have
how much time on
the particle accelerator
in Pittsburgh from back in the day?


Why would anyone need the particle accelerator in Pittsburgh to just do a little bit of acceleration? The giant particle accelerators are for big accelerations and those aren't needed for low energy observations like I've made.

All you need to accelerate charged particles is an electric field. On old CRT-style PC monitors, the display is basically a big vacuum tube where charged particles are accelerated (the CRT electric field might be something like 20,000 volts for example) and then sprayed against a phosphor coated screen that lights up when the particles hit them. You can send such accelerated particles into a magnetic field instead of spraying them onto a phosphor display. When they enter the magnetic field you can measure their deflection. You actually don't want them at too high an energy for that experiment because the higher the energies, the smaller the deflection angles with a given field and if the angles are too small they are hard to measure.

So, apparently you didn't know that everyone with a CRT monitor had their own personal particle accelerator on their desktop! And it shoots the particles toward our faces!


But the vacuum tube I did my experiments with was actually even smaller than the CRT vacuum tube, you don't need a big accelerator for low energy experiments.


Originally posted by AceWombat04
"According to those promulgating the various speculative hypotheses and models regarding the nature of spacetime and the quantized field permeating the known universe, is hypothetical empty space a medium or dynamic field in and of itself (even hypothetically absent any matter "occupying" it,) or is the dynamic field created and sustained by the very existence of matter itself in the first place, however far apart it may be at stellar distances?"

In other words, I understand and accept that we cannot know what the case may be literally and definitively at this time, but what do humanity's most brilliant minds hypothesize regarding these questions?


That's a tough question since the known universe, space-time and the matter which exists in it all seem to be linked.

The closest thing I've ever seen to a speculative answer perhaps related to that question, regards speculation about what happened before the big bang, when supposedly the mass of the entire universe was concentrated into a singularity. If you can speculate or imagine what was outside of that singularity, could it be the absence of space-time? And if space-time didn't exist as we know it outside that singularity, then the principles we observe in space time may not have existed there, such as, say, vacuum or zero point energy.

And of course the big bang itself is somewhat speculative,though we think we have evidence for it. But speculating about what happened BEFORE the big bang is even more specuilative. And since space-time as we know it was created at the time of the big bang, does the concept of time like "before" even have any meaning before space-time was created? So I have seen some speculations along that line.

To be honest I have a hard time imagining the Earth collapsed to a size smaller than the head of a pin so the entire universe shrunk to that size is even more inconceivable. In that respect the big bang itself, if it really happened, is almost beyond our comprehension so figuring out what it was like before the big bang, if there is such a thing is even harder to comprehend.

But some scientists are speculating about this, here's an article about physicist Sean Carroll's speculation about What happened before the Big Bang?

You might find that interesting reading if you like highly speculative topics which apparently you do.

[edit on 7-4-2010 by Arbitrageur]



posted on Apr, 7 2010 @ 05:17 AM
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Thank-you for your reply!

That article you linked to has led me indirectly to a lot of reading material (mostly books I have to ask my library to reserve for me) that I feel compelled to try best in my own unprofessional and haphazard way to pour over lol.

I think it's wonderful, even if at times a bit perplexing, that we live in a universe full of things that we simply don't, and perhaps never can, know. It makes me feel like our journey is just beginning as a species.



posted on Apr, 7 2010 @ 07:43 AM
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reply to post by AceWombat04
 

You're welcome! I'm glad you liked the article, I thought it was quite interesting too.

You're right, there's so much we don't understand. My interests lie in solving less speculative mysteries, like gravity. We can predict its effects more accurately with Einstein's model than with Newton's model, but even in Einstein's model, we still don't truly understand gravity, and I'd like to truly understand it since it's such a basic force, that should be knowable.

That's why I thought it was interesting when he mentioned quantum gravity as possibly a key to understanding what happened before the big bang and why the universe is lopsided.



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