While studying physics this past year, I noticed tension between theoretical and experimental physicists, especially between younger quantum field theoreticians and veteran particle physicists — regarding deep reality and the various formulations of quantum mechanics (addressed in another post). Revisiting some archived debates, this philosophical question (“Is reality digital or analog?”) was posed in an essay… Continue reading Is reality digital or analog?
In the chapter “Beyond this horizon,” Sean Carroll discusses two related problems involving properties of empty space. Before discussing the vacuum energy problem, he profiles the so-called hierarchy problem in the cosmic energy scale. It’s about the effects of virtual particles. The energy scale that characterizes the weak interactions (the Higgs field value, 246 GeV)… Continue reading Sisyphean hierarchy
[A creative writing exercise] The other day I was glad to see that I was far from alone in my puzzlement about how the so-called exchange of bosons (as “force carriers”) produces both repulsion and attraction. Modeled in classical mechanics as particles; in Quantum Field Theory (QFT) as gauge boson fields — force fields. In… Continue reading Virtual attraction
So, here’s the thing. If I roll with Quantum Field Theory (QFT), how do I reconcile my macroscopic and microscopic views of things. Simple things. Like looking at a tiny candle across the room? “P vision” Imagine if we could see individual photons (without being overwhelmed by visual “noise” in very low light). Where might… Continue reading Beyond frog vision
Happy Pi Day! When you’re trying to solve any interesting problem (a problem about almost anything) — a problem with lots of interplay between different things, it’s important to know what’s important and not, what makes a big effect on the result and not. And just how precise the result needs to be anyway (at… Continue reading Effective theory
One of the major sources of confusion I’ve encountered in reading about modern physics is the discussion of gravity. No surprise, eh. Classical mechanics includes both Newtonian and relativistic mechanics. In Newtonian physics, gravity is an attractive force, which acts at a distance between all objects; and can be represented as a universal gravitational field.… Continue reading GR: Chicken or egg redux
So, one of the things that’s always bothered me in stories (film, TV, etc.) is magical powers. Sure, that can be entertaining. These stories are engaging because of strong characters, their conflict (the essential ingredient of any great story), and the ethical dilemmas over use of such powers. We expect magic in classical fairy tales (or in Harry Potter… Continue reading Magic Exclusion Principle