Braininvat » April 20th, 2017, 11:33 pm wrote:
You misconstrue my analogy. The energy output from the sun, or an H-bomb, or a reactor, is measurable. The output of phlogiston isn't, and never was. That's why it was discarded as a theory of combustion. E=mc2 is relation between matter and energy that has been measured and confirmed over and over again. Our theory (or model, if you prefer that term) of WHY energy and matter are convertible in this way could change, but that equation won't. Just as Galileo's measurement of the acceleration due to gravity on Earth still holds (even though his model has been superseded in some respects), so will E=mc2. The refinement of underlying models is not the same as a rejection of the usefulness of what came before. As Ken pointed out, F=ma is still a perfectly sound equation for 99.999 percent of the physics that is done with moving bodies on and around Earth. Don't confuse "wrong" and "incomplete," or think that the latter adjective is somehow a condemnation or rejection. In physics, it may just indicate an old layer of established fact that is still legitimate in the context of non-relativistic speeds and terrestrial scales of magnitude.
Real science rarely involves tearing down the Temple. It's usually more like adding a new wing and a jacuzzi and updating some of the wiring.
Ah, it seems while everyone is willing to pay lip service to the fallibility of science, that fallibility always seems to lie with some other sucker's theory; mine is solid as the Rock of Gibraltar, thank you very much.
Who knows, E=mc2 might survive unscathed until the universe suffers the heat death, and folks in the 32nd century will be praising the uncommon prescience of their barbaric forebears. Your take on these matters is a lot more sanguine than my own, BiV; perhaps just a reflection of my own curmudgeonly nature.
Three things to say though:
1. My layman's understanding is that relativity is already
known to be inadequate; as far as I understand, Einsteinian relativity is quite incompatible with quantum physics, yielding wildly inaccurate results at the level of subatomic phenomena. Perhaps the physicists among us can help with clarification. Does e=mc2 hold at the quantum level? If not, it's false.
(No use arguing it's "right sometimes" -- reminds me of when I asked one of my EFL students "Is your car reliable?" and he replied "sometimes". To be reliable sometimes is to be unreliable, and for an equation to be right sometimes is for that equation to be false.)
2. It's conceivable e=mc2 will survive, but may suffer the same fate as f=ma, i.e., the equation is retained, but is no longer regarded as true tout court
. Everything you've said about e=mc2 above ("measured and confirmed over and over again
", etc), BiV, might equally well have applied to f=ma... and look what happened to that
. Seems to me your confidence in the immortality of e=mc2 is something of an article of faith.
3. It's also possible that our conceptual/theoretical apparatus will undergo a radical upheaval, and rather than us coming to regard e=mc2 as false (but still truth evaluable
nevertheless), it will simply become irrelevant, not even a candidate for truth or falsity
-- a bit like the old nugget in the philosophy of language "the present king of France is bald". Hey wait! There is no present king of France. And there is no aether, caloric fluid, or phlogiston.
Are these scenarios likely? I really couldn't say, and, I daresay, neither could you (show us your calculations otherwise). None, though, are particularly rare in the history of science. All have precedents.