måndag 7 mars 2011

Mysticism of Modern Physics

Classical physics (before 1900) was the ultimate expression of Enlightenment as the result of rational thinking, originating in Descartes philosophy of science preparing the rational
Hamiltonian mechanics formulated by the mathematicians Euler and Lagrange leading into the scientific revolution of modern time.

However, in the late 19th century certain problems in physics presented themselves which seemed impossible to handle with classical deterministic Hamiltonian mechanics, namely
  • the 2nd law of thermodynamics
and the related problem of
  • blackbody radiation.
Both thermodynamics and blackbody radiation showed a fundamental property of irreversibility with an arrow of time pointing forward, but Hamiltonian mechanics was seen to be formally reversible, and so a dark cloud lingered over rational science from the apparent contradiction, which no rational physicist could resolve.

With the rising aspirations of both nationalism and science the two German physicists
Ludwig Boltzmann and Max Planck bravely took on the task to remove the obstacle to progress posed by classical deterministic formally reversible Hamiltonian mechanics.

But the problem seemed unsurmountable and then after much agony Boltzmann followed by Planck in a Faustian drama sold their rational souls by resorting to statistics of quanta as the quick fix of irreversibility: With little microscopic games of roulette of quanta jumping around, the reversible Hamiltonian mechanics suddenly became irreversible and the society of physicists was saved from bankruptcy. At least for some time...

But the effect of selling out the rational soul has shown up as an aspect of mysticism of modern physics, which has become so accepted that it is no longer viewed as mysticism. The mysticism
is rooted in a belief that mathematical formulas can harbour deep truths about our world of physics unknown to the physicist writing down the formula.

The magics is the same as first saying something and then analyzing the meaning of the statement. Instead of first having a meaningful thought and then expressing it. Of course, occasionally this leads to very profound insights, but usually it is only shallow nonsense.

Here are some prime examples of such overinterpretations of mathematical formulas, which has come to dominate modern physics:
  • The Lorentz transformations of special relativity showing weird unphysical physics.
  • Schrödinger's linear multidimension wave equation with solutions without physical interpretation.
  • Einstein's equations of general relativity, so deep that they are beyond human understanding.
Of course a modern statistical physicist will vigorously deny that this is mysticism, and in the next moment turn the discussion to wave-particle duality, complementarity, 11-dimensional string theory, mutiverses, dark matter and energy, all without connection to mysticism.

If you want more substance to my analysis and a way out without resorting to statistics, see the upcoming books listed on this blog (up left) to which soon will be added the title Mysticism of Modern Physics.

Recall that the climate alarmism of our time is rooted in an idea about a mystical form of "backradiation" threatening humanity with "global warming", all based on a misinterpretation
of a formula by Planck based on statistics of energy quanta.

Recall also that those responsible (Boltzmann, Planck and Einstein) for introducing statistics of quanta into physics, never could embrace what they had done (B took his life, E could not accept that "God played dice" and P never gave up his dream of microscopic reality), and so the fruits of their deed were harvested by the crowd entering the wonderful new world of quantum mechanics described by the guru of physics Richard Feynman in The Character of Physical Law (1965):
  • I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.
To believe in something you don't understand is mysticism. Or?

Planck never gave in to scientific mysticism:
  • The assumption of an absolute determinism is the essential foundation of every scientific enquiry.
  • The quantum hypothesis will eventually find its exact expression in certain equations which will be a more exact formulation of the law of causality.
  • Hitherto the principle of causality was universally accepted as an indispensable postulate of scientific research, but now we are told by some physicists that it must be thrown overboard. The fact that such an extraordinary opinion should be expressed in responsible scientific quarters is widely taken to be significant of the all-round unreliability of human knowledge. This indeed is a very serious situation.
Unfortunately the brave early opponents of statistical mysticism are now all gone since long, according to the harsh reality of scientific "progress" expressed by Planck:
  • A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
Maybe it is now time for yet another new generation...

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