I’ve always been interested in physics. I also started writing poetry in college. My natural response to immersion was to write poems. My first collection received some encouraging comments from the chair of the English department. I got into philosophy my senior year. Also a poetry group (which published a booklet of poems).
Caltech’s changed a lot since I graduated there. The non-science curriculum was limited. Some philosophy, history of science. Then I needed to get a Masters in Theology to qualify for a Ph.D. program in philosophy and psychology later. Last time I saw Feynman was when I worked at Hughes. Other lives since. Always followed modern physics.
So, what’s changed in the years since grad school? There’s been a lot in the popular media. Cosmology’s advanced quite visually, seeing farther into space and even confirming there’s a black hole in the center of our galaxy. The Standard Model … The Core Theory …
Quantum mechanics continues to shape our view of the universe. The telling of that story is more and more refined. That theory has settled into our thinking in striking ways, challenging our everyday view of things and common beliefs. The debate goes on. As the saying goes (essential mantra):
- What’s the good news about habits? They’re hard to break.
- What’s the bad news about habits? They’re hard to break.
The challenge before us is that while modern cosmology and physics offer compelling narratives, science remains a relatively new way of thinking. Some memes and “rock stars” at least. When we have wagon trains to other worlds, …
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What strikes me more and more is the divide between our common sense, everyday experience of physics and the 10^n and 10^-n reality which is so far beyond our ken, graspable only through imagination, technological tools, and mathematics (“nature’s playbook”). Walter Isaacson characterized Einstein as ever struggling with formalism and reality, between an epistemological, notational elegance and concrete metaphysics. He did not accept physics as mere phenomenology.
Regarding the photonic speed limit, I sometimes imagine a cartoon with a character modeled something like that in TV commercials for the M&M candy. With wings on his boots, like those of the Greek god Hermes. He’s paused beside a “roadside” sign (like a freeway speed limit sign) with a bemused expression. The sign says,
Speed Limit C — Radar Enforced
We might call the character “Lux-c.”
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[2-7-2014] The Feyman Lectures are online!
“Caltech and The Feynman Lectures Website are pleased to present this online edition of The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Now, anyone with internet access and a web browser can enjoy reading a high-quality up-to-date copy of Feynman’s legendary lectures.”
Wiki: The Feynman Lectures on Physics: “The textbook comprises three volumes. The first volume focuses on mechanics, radiation, and heat, including relativistic effects. The second volume covers mainly electromagnetism and matter. The third volume covers quantum mechanics; for example, it shows how the double-slit experiment demonstrates the essential features of quantum mechanics.”