Exploring Modern Physics – An Introduction

Since the beginning of the twentieth century science has ventured into fields where many concepts are either counter intuitive or visually impossible to illustrate. Nowhere is this more true than in physics and especially astrophysics. This may be because we as humans are restrained by our limited abilities of visual perception. Because of this we are left trying to illustrate things showing a four-dimensional space when we can only visualize things in three dimensions. This is true of real things and images in our minds eye. Because of this we have relied on a number of simplified illustrations to explain many concepts in science. Understanding this visualizing of the universe is a good example.

The Universe, Black Holes and Negative Space

It is common practice to visualize the universe as a giant sphere with everything in the visible universe placed on its surface. Space is shown as a grid on the surface of this sphere with objects like stars and planets causing depressions which cause this fabric of space to stretch.101715_genrel_cover-crop

Einstein’s space/time is classically diagramed using this grid. In effect, matter/mass is what distorts this grid and the more mass the more the distortion. Smaller objects traveling thru this deformed space are affected by encounters with larger objects and are drawn towards that object in deformed space like a stone rolling down hill. From this analogy we get a classic Einsteinian representation of gravity. To the best of my knowledge there is no explanation of what the interior of the theoretical universe sphere represents.

When black holes were theorized and later found to exist they were placed into this illustration as bottomless depressions in this space/time because of the incredible mass involved. In this is the additional explanation of why light cannot escape the black hole – the distortion in space is infinite.
imagesThe universe illustrated as a sphere 

From these depictions came a group of popular theories, which included matter being pulled into black holes erupting as new matter somewhere else on the surface of the universe (the worm hole) because a finite sphere cannot contain an infinite straight line. Another popular notion is the science fiction characterization of warp drives which

a mass- funnel diagram of a black hole
A mass- funnel diagram of a black hole

allowed starships to travel faster than the speed of light. These were based on the notion that spacecraft could rip thru the surface into the interior of the sphere of the universe and emerge almost instantly in another location a great distance away. For this to work the interior of this “universe sphere” would need to have zero volume, thus allowing every exterior point to be in contact with every other exterior point. One would speculate that a warp drive spaceship could control the course by selecting the orientation and angle of entry?

The current theories depicting an expanding universe only need the sphere representation to expand like an inflating balloon with the galaxies doted on its surface. This explains the various galaxies seeming to all be moving away from each other (a Doppler red shift in light) thus demonstrating the theory known as inflation. It is easiest to picture the universe hurtling away from the center of the explosion that started the universe (the big bang). Still again there is no theory, logical explanation or visualization as to what occupies the space inside the inflating balloon. Getting back to the gravity analogy and the balloon example this allows the interior surface of the balloon to depress inwardly from the weight of mass sitting on its surface. Unfortunately the analogy breaks down when considering a black hole since the mass of the black hole creates a bottomless pit where there is no room for it. We also know that black holes grow, not only creating a bottomless depression but also growing in circumference.

While there are theories or maybe speculation that suggests that the black hole might be spewing out what appears to be new matter on the other side of the galaxy in an attempt to explain where the mass from a black hole is going. I am not aware of any evidence of an expanding area of new matter anywhere in our observations of the universe (yet). One concept to consider in examining this issue is the accepted theory of the birth of our universe in a “big bang”. Immediately before that instant all the energy/matter in the universe was compressed to the size of a spec of dust. If that is the case why can’t a black hole continue to compress to a smaller and smaller size?

Another interesting aspect of this depiction of the universe is the notion that if mass depresses the surface of the sphere wouldn’t it make sense that areas with no mass would bulge out. New theories and some observations have suggested that this may actually be the case. One theory doesn’t state it as a bulge but a stretching of space/time in areas void of any matter.

GettyImages-1285780541Albert Einstein at the Institute for Advanced Studies

Changing direction consider a few new concepts. One is Einstein’s theory of relativity and the characterization of light. First is the theory that light is always measured at a specific and constant speed no matter where the observer is or what the origin of the light (186,000 miles per second). Put a different way an observer always measures light at the speed constant regardless of the speed of the observer or if they are standing still. Another is the theory that nothing can travel faster than light. A third rule is that light always travels in a straight line thru space. These concepts of light are foundational principles proved by Einstein. I do however have a couple of issues regarding understanding these properties of light. Einstein theorized that light could be measured as bending in space but the explanation is actually that light is traveling in a straight line thru a region of space that is bent by the location of nearby mass. The effect was mathematically confirmed by observations of a star that moved near our Sun during an eclipse and appeared to slow down as it came near the Sun’s disc. One of my problems is the notion that the universe is expanding and therefore “space” itself is expanding. According to Einstein the speed of light is the one universal constant. If that is the case shouldn’t light appear to change speed as it travels thru expanding space just as it appeared curved traveling thru bent space?

Another pair of theories comes from quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics (also known as quantum physics or quantum theory) is a fundamental branch of physics concerned with processes involving atomic particles like protons and photons. The theories originated with a group of physicists including Max Born, Heisenberg, and Pauli, at the University of Göttingen in the early 1920s, and was first used in a paper by Born in 1924. Oddly Einstein did not like these new theories even though they have their origins in a Nobel Award paper of his concerning photons.

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A beam splitter splits a beam of light into two beams

One is the theory of the duality of light (as well as other things) and the other is something called entanglement. First is duality and that states that light can be either a particle or a wave but never both. It must be one or the other depending on how we examine it. The thing that makes this particularly interesting is that the manifestation of either state is actually created by an observer deciding how to view the light. If I use an experiment that demonstrates that light is a particle, than light is demonstrated to be a particle. If I do an experiment that shows light is a wave than it is a wave. I cannot do an experiment on the same light that shows it one instant to be a particle and at another instant a wave. Once light has been observed it remains fixed in that form in additional downstream experiments.

Entanglement is the ability of light to be split into two pieces and sent off in different directions but have them react identically no matter how far apart they travel.

What this means is that a researcher can make a decision that causes one stream of light to be either a wave or particle after the light is split into two streams and that act causes the other part of the light beam to become a matching form. It doesn’t matter if the two light beam parts are an inch apart or a thousand miles apart. This results in the failure of a fundamental concept related to the speed of light that states that nothing can travel, and that includes in the language of physics a transfer of “information” from one place to another faster than the speed of light. Entanglement has been proven by experiments and is actually used in calculating a number of quantum effects. I have not seen any explanation as to how or why this can happen. It seems most physicists simply ignore the why and use the what (in the theory).

Einstein called these and other aspects of quantum mechanics spooky. Regarding the random nature of the theories in quantum mechanics he exclaimed that “God doesn’t play dice with the universe”.

 

thNewton’s Classical Mechanics

Sir Isaac Newton and the Birth of Modern Physics

Newton’s Physics (Newton’s law of universal gravitation states that a particle (mass) attracts every other particle in the universe using a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers.

First Law. Newton’s First Law states that an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force. It may be seen as a statement about inertia, that objects will remain in their state of motion unless a force acts to change the motion.

To be continued…