The Theory of Everything

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The Theory of Everything

Postby Lincoln on March 7th, 2017, 2:52 pm 

I thought it might be of interest to announce that The Great Courses company just released a 12 hour video course by me on the subject of a Theory of Everything.

It's a birds eye view of a vast field. When you finish, you'll have the big picture. Digging into the details will require a different resource.

You can find it here: http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/the-theory-of-everything-the-quest-to-explain-all-reality.html

Note that it goes on sale periodically and you can typically get it for about $70 or $80.

If you buy it, please comment on it here.
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Braininvat on March 7th, 2017, 4:56 pm 

You can't accuse Don of spamming. One, it's on topic. Two, and the more important reason, is that he has a large particle accelerator handy and can fire protons at you if you make him cross.*



* in fact, I live near a neutrino detector in the Black Hills of South Dakota and IIRC, Fermilab once fired a whole slew of very soft bullets in our direction. People here hardly felt a thing.
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Lincoln on March 7th, 2017, 5:03 pm 

Well, it's semi-spamming. But it really is pretty good. It's amazing what a good producer can do.

And we do have that neutrino beam, which can punch through the Earth with ease. Dr. Evil has nothing on me....

Bwahahaha....
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Forest_Dump on March 7th, 2017, 5:34 pm 

I actually have a question that I hope is on topic and that I had been hoping Lincoln would answer. Back when I learned what little physics I know, pretty much the entire metaphor used to translate the "math" of discovery was still as particles represented as little "balls" very much like planets in a solar system. There was a lot of empty space but all the "properties" of the particles were neatly contained in discrete little packages and even when these were busted up, the result was (metaphoicly) just smaller but still discrete packages (called dinguses or dingi of various kinds) neatly containing their various properties. This was also the way it was being taught when I monitored introductory university physics just to steal ideas on teaching style (and at a top level university at that). So now, following what I interpret to be results from all this busting up of the smaller packages and the Higg Boson stuff, it is my understanding that there are no particles or "packages", just "waves". (I am sure a lot of this stuff is covered by the physics club buffs here but I find a lot of it is also designed more for obfuscation than elluciation of each other so I avoid it.) So, my question:

Assuming my characterization of the very recent physics is more or less correct, do you foresee any kind of paradigmatic change in how this stuff will be thought about, how it will be taught, what different kinds of metaphor or translation will be used (i.e., different than the solar system image of particles orbiting a centre, etc.)? Has any kind of change happened already or do you think there will be change in the future? (I note that even our conception of DNA is as a bunch of balls linked together into the familiar double helix but even that now seems potentially antiquated and obsolete). Or is this covered in your lecture series?
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Forest_Dump on March 7th, 2017, 6:34 pm 

I am still rolling some of this around and don't want to get too bogged down with all of the technical details (so please overlook if I get some of this wrong) but I am aware that most people including me, when you translate some of this stuff, prefer to think in terms of discrete objects with clearly defined boundaries that help keep things in place. So I might be asked something about ancient Mayans, Romans or Paleoindians, etc., which could include something like is this a typical Mayan pyramid or piece of pottery, etc., and have to consider what is or how do you identify the boundary between Mayan vs. non Mayan pottery or pyramids (or US vs. Canadian politics or health care, etc.) even when at different levels such boundaries may be meaningless (to at least some).

In your area of physics I suspect that most of your "meaning" comes from squiggles on a blackboard calibrated with machines that go beep, lights that flash and numbers on a computer screen. You only go to the solar system models to communicate with us knuckle draggers and the less bright physics undergrads until they learn to toss that aside for the squiggles on a blackboard. I may have picked up the odd little bit about the waves, etc., from Higgs Boson videos but when I go to a science center and compare the weights of equal size balls of lead vs iron or uranium I think in terms of discrete packages with a clear defined boundary containing the properties of colour, mass, hardness, etc., and thinking of those balls of metal as being without "particles" is quite a mental stretch and does not become intuitively obvious. Do you see this changing and how? What might be similar changes do to people's thinking higher up in the relevant intellectual fields (other than the wacky stuff having different directions to drift off into)?
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Lincoln on March 7th, 2017, 11:30 pm 

Models are good in a reason of applicability. Those ball and stick models of organic molecules have value. They are wrong in detail, mind you; but they have value.

The solar system atom has value. Again, wrong. But there's a reason we teach it.

At the deepest and most fundamental level, at least at the leading edge of knowledge, the smallest particles are localized vibrations...what used to be called wavicles. Essentially, they are quantized vibrations of fields. And, if you want the most modern paradigm, there are no solid things. Everything is vibrational energy. The different vibrating fields can talk to other vibrating fields, which is how an electron transfers energy to a photon and so forth.

Mind you, those of us on the hairy edge of knowledge know that these models are themselves imperfect. What seem to be the smallest particles are actually probably a composite of smaller vibrations of constituent fields. And it may be that we will get to a size scale where we have to chuck these ideas for something else. Current thinking (and don't believe this) is that we will eventually find that the universe consists of quanta of space or time.

And there are ideas where space and time are emergent properties from even more abstract ideas.

So we don't know where we'll end up. But we can talk about the mindset of the current theories.

This is probably my best simple explanation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBeALt3rxEA
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Lincoln on March 7th, 2017, 11:32 pm 

This doesn't cover the wave nature, but does cover the idea of how we view atomic matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt8-ndOGSUk
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Forest_Dump on March 7th, 2017, 11:55 pm 

I will be giving these a go, possibly tomorrow, so thanks. I knew the wave would come up but of course I visualize that in terms of water where my mind's eye sees the boundary of surface of water rising. In that model a thing with a defined boundary. Vibrations I can get but again it is someTHING that vibrates. Even air is rationalized in my mind as molecules, being tiny objects, vibrating (although I have difficulty imagining a case where the ground is not also vibrating). While sure I can also see translating and stepping beyond those kinds of models and metaphors I have to admit that I also wonder to what extent we are hard-wired, perhaps by biophysics to some degree, to require some conception of solid, bounded objects. And I wonder what will happen if someone over the next 10 or 100 years does come up with a real paradigmatic shift in how this stuff is conceptualized.
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Lincoln on March 8th, 2017, 10:24 am 

Perhaps I focused on the wrong facets of your question.

Regarding boundaries, it's easy to think of examples that are a little less cut and dried. For instance. What is the boundary of the Earth? It's tempting to think of the Earth's surface, but there is also the atmosphere. And, as you know, the atmosphere grows less dense with altitude. You can't draw a boundary, except arbitrarily.

Maybe another option is the idea of atoms as a solar system. Where does the solar system end? The Kuiper belt? The Oort cloud? And then when? You could imagine the heliopause, but that is arbitrary too.

If you look at solar systems from the point of view of the galaxy, each solar system can be imagined as a point, yet as one gets closer, each of them gain fuzzier boundaries.

On the scale of the universe, each galaxy can be thought of as a point...or at least a ball. In this image, each little dot is a galaxy (and big dots are clusters of galaxies). Yet we know of each galaxy as an object with an ill defined boundary. And even at these large scales, we see filaments, nexuses and voids.

In short, the idea of little hard objects with boundaries is really wrong all levels of the universe. Even the smoothest mirror has surface imperfections that are small.

Maybe this helps?

Note here that I avoided all of the wave thing. That's an entirely different kettle of fish.


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