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Thread: Relative size and understandings

  1. #1 Relative size and understandings 
    Forum Masters Degree LuciDreaming's Avatar
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    To be upfront, I have a lay persons understanding of quantum physics and no mathematical understanding of it. But I guess my question is more philosophical than anything - however if my understanding is wrong it could be just a downright stupid question....

    When it comes to the behaviour of sub-atomic particles such as them winking out of existence in one position and popping up in another and their 'spooky action at a distance' is it possible our understanding of these behaviours is hampered by our size? And could it also be hampering our understanding of the universe and dark matter etc..

    I ask this because its been shown that perception of the environment is affected by an animals size and in effect an ant and other creatures of that size would never be able to comprehend say an ocean in its entirety. So is it possible that we will never truly understand sub-atomic particles because we are too big or forces in the universe because we are too small?


    Last edited by LuciDreaming; April 2nd, 2014 at 02:54 PM. Reason: title was wrong
    "And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh" Nietzsche.
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  3. #2  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    We can devise and construct experiments and instruments to cater for scale differences.
    I suppose it depends on what you mean by "we... ...understand".
    "We" as in general populace?
    Unlikely, how many people understand how an internal combustion engine works? Or how an aircraft flies?
    "We" as in "science"?
    I'd go with "very probably will", but...
    "Understand" as in "be able to apply"?
    Yep. Almost certainly.
    "Understand" as in "fully grasp the "meaning" and know that the underlying reality"?
    Ah well...


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  4. #3  
    Forum Professor Zwolver's Avatar
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    We will understand as much as we can, eventually.

    We have found many sub-atomic particles already, and proven their existance. Why wouldn't we be able to grasp them further?

    We already have theorized many models of how matter forms, exists, particle & speed's effect on mass, etc.

    Just think about this for a minute. We have lived for only about 200.000 years. In the last 2000 years, we made more progress than in all previous years combined. we also made more progress in the last 200 years, than in all previous combined. We now are in a bit of a stall phase. I guess because of economic commercialization. For which after this phase, a new scientific discovery will shake the ground beneath our feet. Like the invention of a solid matter converter. A power-source that fully uses the potential of what we have (either chemical potential, or even nuclear, to even pure energy conversion). I'm not sure what the next innovation will be. But it will be a big one, like from the invention of the radio, A-Bomb, computer.

    As a biologist i hope some kind of miracle drug that could work besides our immune system to attack specified micro-organisms.

    It's never about the size. If we are too big, we will make small things that can make even smaller things, so the possibilities are endless..
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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  5. #4  
    Forum Masters Degree LuciDreaming's Avatar
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    OK but as I understand it, it is currently thought that sub atomic particles do not behave the same as macro particles and this is the cause of some puzzlement for physicists. So what I am saying is do they only appear to wink in and out of existence to us because of our size - if we were that small would they no longer appear to wink in and out of existence if time and environmental perception is relative to size as in the links above?

    I dont agree with you though about it never being about the size - we can perceive more of the environment than an ant can because there are instruments that show different perspectives however there are limitations even with instruments. There are also of course limitations to our eyesight which can be widened again with instruments but we still only have our eyesight to interpret what those instruments are telling us.
    "And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh" Nietzsche.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by LuciDreaming View Post
    OK but as I understand it, it is currently thought that sub atomic particles do not behave the same as macro particles and this is the cause of some puzzlement for physicists. So what I am saying is do they only appear to wink in and out of existence to us because of our size - if we were that small would they no longer appear to wink in and out of existence if time and environmental perception is relative to size as in the links above?

    I dont agree with you though about it never being about the size - we can perceive more of the environment than an ant can because there are instruments that show different perspectives however there are limitations even with instruments. There are also of course limitations to our eyesight which can be widened again with instruments but we still only have our eyesight to interpret what those instruments are telling us.
    I would describe it differently: Our everyday experiences form the basis for our intuition, so of course that is influenced by our size. But, as has been pointed out, we have constructed instruments that allow us to broaden our experiential base to span the very small to the very large. Our human-scale-based intuition may not serve us well, we find, at other length scales, but that doesn't mean that we can't understand things there. It just means we supplement our "gut instincts" with knowledge derived from using these instruments. For scientists, "understanding" involves other than "feeling obvious." The main criterion is whether whatever we call understanding is able to describe what happens, what will happen, and what happened, in a quantitative way. The emotional component tends only to get in the way.
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  7. #6  
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    I think there is the problem of our observation affecting what it is we are trying to observe. It will not stand still for us and we can't factor in this "disturbance factor" since 1) it is so large and 2) there is a new "disturbance factor" that arises from our recalibration - and so on ad infinitum.

    That is my unscientific speculation (and how I have always rationalized the situation for over 40 years in my own head) as I have tried to interpret what I have read about all these quantum effects.

    So yes it does seem like "size" to me but doubtless someone will explain that there is much more to it than that (or even that my scenario is beside the point) .
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  8. #7  
    Forum Professor Zwolver's Avatar
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    Usually i try to give an answer in the same level of thought the question was asked in respect to perception, not in respect to accuracy of the equipment.

    And disturbance factor is kind of underpowering it. To measure the insides of a single atom, you need to destroy the atom, thus removing the atom. But by destroying this atom, your readings are no longer correct as the atom you measured no longer exists.
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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  9. #8  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope
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    Is it not possible then to (attempt to) observe the insides of the atom after its constituents have been liberated?

    The atom would no longer need to be destroyed then would it ?

    I am thinking about the proton (if that would be the easiest particle to "observe" ).

    Is it impossible to observe the proton without it being inside the atom ?

    Yes LuciDreaming did seem to be emphasizing the actual visual perception (and I was conflating all possible mechanical means of obtaining a definite observation or measurement)
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  10. #9  
    Forum Professor Zwolver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    Is it not possible then to (attempt to) observe the insides of the atom after its constituents have been liberated?
    How would you propose to do that? Compare it with looking what is inside an apple at 200 meters distance, where all you have is a gun, a hammer, dynamite, and binoculars.

    The atom would no longer need to be destroyed then would it ?
    Say we use an electron microscope to map a surface. Before we do this, we need to put a layer of gold, platinum, or carbon on there. Which actually changes the surface, so what we see, is not what we actually wanted to see, but as close as we could make it. And this is above atomic scale. Under atomic scale, the only way to see what an atom is made up off, is by smashing it.

    I am thinking about the proton (if that would be the easiest particle to "observe" ).
    Wrong, the electron is the easiest to observe, by far.. WAAAAAAY easiest.
    * Wait looking at the thing under here. An acidic reaction, which is basically a proton, is also very easy to observe. So i would have to say they are tied.

    Is it impossible to observe the proton without it being inside the atom ?
    Nope, Pick Hydrogen, make it an ion. Voila.

    Yes LuciDreaming did seem to be emphasizing the actual visual perception (and I was conflating all possible mechanical means of obtaining a definite observation or measurement)
    Which is a good approach, but people tend to think on different levels on this forum. I try to speak as easy as i can to explain stuff, also because my lingual skills in the scientific fields are not that impressive.
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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  11. #10  
    KJW
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    Quote Originally Posted by LuciDreaming View Post
    if we were that small would they no longer appear to wink in and out of existence
    The alternative to this is that we would "wink in and out of existence" also.

    Small-scale behaviour is fundamentally different to large-scale behaviour due to quantum theory. It is quantum theory that provides an intrinsic scale to physical reality, where physics depends on the action in terms of , the fundamental unit of action. One example of the scale-dependency of physics is to consider a contained gas of photons. By a scale transformation, one can decrease the wavelength of all the photons in the gas. However, there is a threshold where electron-positron pair creation starts to occur, and this represents behaviour of the shorter wavelength photons that is fundamentally different to the behaviour of the longer wavelength photons.
    There are no paradoxes in relativity, just people's misunderstandings of it.
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  12. #11  
    Forum Professor Zwolver's Avatar
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    I know you meant well KJW, but i doubt LuciDreaming will understand the point of what you meant.

    - is reduced planck units, which is a quantum constant of energy (orbital).



    - You can not compare large scale movements with quantum scale movements (mathematically).

    But then you lost me KJW.

    How can a gas contain photons? (or did you mean that the photons themselves were the gas?)

    Why would longer wavelength photons behave differently to shorter wavelength photons? Other than their normal qualities/behavior, i mean, they both still travel at light speed, and have their own independent rate of reflection/inertia.
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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  13. #12  
    KJW
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zwolver View Post
    or did you mean that the photons themselves were the gas?
    Yes.


    Quote Originally Posted by Zwolver View Post
    Why would longer wavelength photons behave differently to shorter wavelength photons?
    I assume you are aware that when an electron collides with a positron, they can annihilate with the production of two gamma photons. This is reversible. The collision of two gamma photons can produce an electron-positron pair. But if the total energy of the photons is insufficient, then there will be no electron-positron pair production. Thus, there is an upper limit to the wavelength that can produce electron-positron pairs. In this way, shorter wavelength photons do behave differently to longer wavelength photons, and thus physics is scale-dependent.

    I should remark that in my previous post, I omitted that by "scale transformation", I meant both distance and time scale (thus maintaining the speed of light). Thus, different wavelength photons are photons at different scales.
    There are no paradoxes in relativity, just people's misunderstandings of it.
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  14. #13  
    Forum Masters Degree LuciDreaming's Avatar
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    Quite right Zwolver - not a clue although I really appreciate the attempt to explain.
    "And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh" Nietzsche.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KJW View Post
    I assume you are aware that when an electron collides with a positron, they can annihilate with the production of two gamma photons. This is reversible. The collision of two gamma photons can produce an electron-positron pair. But if the total energy of the photons is insufficient, then there will be no electron-positron pair production. Thus, there is an upper limit to the wavelength that can produce electron-positron pairs. In this way, shorter wavelength photons do behave differently to longer wavelength photons, and thus physics is scale-dependent.

    I should remark that in my previous post, I omitted that by "scale transformation", I meant both distance and time scale (thus maintaining the speed of light). Thus, different wavelength photons are photons at different scales.
    Yes i think i understand this, after reading it 4 times. You mean to say that if a positron/electron collision can create 2 gamma photons, it would be obvious, if they collide with another that another positron/electron pair would be formed. However, an electron has measurable mass, and a gamma photon has not.

    Are you saying that a low energy gamma photon has fewer mass, and thus can't form the "wave" of energy that would be required to construct the matter, on impact.

    Also i would assume that if something has no mass, it has no surface, thus cannot collide.

    But i would want to ask, what could be formed when lower energy gamma photons hit one another? Do they simply become another type of gamma ray, and choose a random path to travel?
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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