A Distant View of Physics

von Peter Marquardt

A Distant View of Physics
Peter Marquardt
Vortrag vom 09.07.2011 bei der 18. Internationalen Konferenz der Natural Philosophy Alliance, College Park, Maryland, USA

Abstract: Some cult theories of physics suffer from anthropocentric views. Dogmatizing the observer’s role, his impressions or influence opens the door to questionable conclusions, like giving a transformation the status of a natural law, relying on „predictive powers“ of light and tying its velocity to the observer, formulating the
„uncertainty principle“ or taking for granted that the universe is finite and started with a Big Bang. It’s an irony of 20th century physics that Einstein was rejected where he was halfway right (his objection to Copenhagen quantum theory) and was accepted where he was definitely wrong (his relativity theories and his naive one-photon interpretation of the photoelectric effect). Worse still, „they“ now signal to abandon relativity in order to save even more mysterious ideas that are all the rage. We have enough difficulties with other problems and should not bang our heads against walls that may be easily recognized as home-made obstacles, like confusing time and duration, energy and energy changes, dynamics and kinematics, or like over-emphasizing non-physical concepts like „probability“ and „signal“. A good idea is to step back far enough from the scenario in order to gain a fresh and distant view that not only covers different disciplines of physics but also different centuries – and includes one’s own arguments. A distant view also implies that we don’t invest our efforts in „understanding“ or „explaining“ (our experience has shown that this cannot be achieved), but content ourselves to strive for consistency. Here, we really may learn from math: If you can’t explain it – define it. And math is a good teacher when it comes to getting a distant view. Some quantities and concepts like squared velocities or quantization appear under a new „light“ when seen from a distance. There are instants where math seems to produce a correct result, but still fails to give an answer to the physical problem. A correct result is necessary but not sufficient to prove a theory right. No formula can do that. Il faut reculer pour mieux sauter – it’s advisable to recede for a better jump, but not at conclusions.

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