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Offline DoctorBeaver

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My brane hurts
« on: 18/09/2006 13:51:23 »
I'm trying to digest a book called "Warped Passages" by Lisa Randall. It's about strings, supersymmetry, quantum gravity, GUTs, TOEs, extra dimensions & branes. I have to say that most of the theories she presents seem to be just patches to make something work that then break something else so another weird & wonderful idea has to be dreamed up to fix that, which in turn breaks something else etc.

Has anyone looked recently to see if there is something fundamentally wrong going back aways which has resulted in all this confusion and, seemingly, ad hoc theorising?

[xx(]

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Offline lightarrow

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Re: My brane hurts
« Reply #1 on: 18/09/2006 21:24:54 »
I agree with you.
Sometimes they say: "...according to this theory, there must be this symmetry. But this doesn't really happen, so the symmetry must be broken."! It seems to me that we could devise a lot of theories, in this way!
 

Offline Soul Surfer

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Re: My brane hurts
« Reply #2 on: 18/09/2006 23:34:39 »
Physics is in some ways the same as mathematics it is important to go back to the basics and understand every step of the measurement and decision process along the route the trouble is that a lot of the latest theories are so far down the road that it all looks like magic and it is very difficult to follow the process.  In some ways I am lucky in being old and my original physics was very basic stuff and so called "modern physics" did not appear until the third year of my degree course and I was taught by some of the people who had discovered significant things. Since then I have followed the serious scientifc publications in the subject and seen all the developments and theories that have been proposed and fallen by the wayside and others that have succeded.

Nowadays people start on things like this in junior school and very many of the stages are missed out so it is easy to fall into this feeling that things have not been proved properly.  I urge you to ask questions to expose the gaps in your understanding and I will do my honest best to explain things to you or point you where you may find the answers for yourself.

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: My brane hurts
« Reply #3 on: 20/09/2006 12:29:29 »
I don't think it's so much that there are gaps in my knowledge (although there obviously are). The book I mentioned traces the significant advances in theoretical & experimental physics since the latter part of the 19th century (with explanations of Newton's, Maxwell's etc theories) in order to lay the groundwork for a description of warped extra dimensions. There are quite a few instances where a new theory to plug a hole in an existing theory has done so at the expense of opening another hole (as was mentioned, symmetry being a case in point). It just made me think of the little Dutch boy trying to plug a hole in the dyke only to find that his action caused a new leak to spring up elsewhere.

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Offline Soul Surfer

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Re: My brane hurts
« Reply #4 on: 20/09/2006 13:02:10 »
I do not know the book that you are referring to but understand the point you are making.  In my experiences the patches gradually get more extensive until they end up as a new and more detailed theory or model.  That is the way that science progresses.

Let me add a bit of insight into the concept of "dimensions".  My scientific background is in the field of innovative signal processing.  Consider one has a set of measurements of anything. this could be signals on a line images on a screen or properies of points in a space it could also be totally random numbers.  The most general way of analysing these measurements is to start with considering each one as a unique value in a multi dimensional space  that is you have as many dimensions as you have measurements.  you then go about a regular process of trying to determine if there are any relationships between these numbers and effectively reduce the number of dimensions.  Frequently you have some insight into how these mesurements were taken  for example an ordered time sequence of signal voltages on a transmission line and this can help with the analysis.

I see that in some ways the extra dimensions in many of the theories of everything are a bit like that, defining relationships that underlie the measurements.  Frequently these have cyclic relationships like the position of a spot on a rotating wheel  that is a phase relationship.

We are well aware of the wave nature of electromagnetism. and we learn of the wave nature of matter that applies even to macroscopic structures at the quantum level but usually only consider the amplitude (or rms) value of these waves and ingnore the phase.  controlling and using the relative phase of electromagnetic waves has produced a great number of useful things today  notably the communication systems that enables megabits per second to travel down the essentially audio telephone lines by which we are linked.

Matter waves also have phase propeties and the understanding of this in the four dimensional world of relativistic space time is probably an important route to a theory of everything


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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: My brane hurts
« Reply #5 on: 20/09/2006 17:28:38 »
I fully appreciate the points you make; however, with regard the patches getting more extensive until they end up as a new theory doesn't seem to me to be the way many of these theories have evolved.

Bear in mind that I'm not a physicist, merely an interested amateur, but the way that symmetry, supersymmetry, particle heirarchy, the weakness of gravity, the disparity between gravity (GUT scale) & the weak scale, Higgs fields, etc have entered the equation seems to have been, almost without exception, at the expense of some other part of the overall theory which appeared sound but then itself needs a patch, and so on ad nauseam.

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Offline Soul Surfer

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Re: My brane hurts
« Reply #6 on: 20/09/2006 23:22:02 »
As an example of what I mean I am reposting something I posted on the dark ages of physics topic

I agree we are going through a rather untidy phase in fundamental physics. Over the years I have experienced several of these. The most notable was the chaos of subatomic particles before the quark theory of baryon and meson structure became established. Everone thought how wonderfully simple, protons, neutrons and electrons made everything until they got down to trying to understand why a lot of positively charged protons and neutral neutrons could stick together to form a nucleus and started to find hundreds of new unstable particles as the accelerators got more powerful. They also found that a lot of precious "conservation" laws were violated. Eventually work started on guage theories symmetry groups and gradually the pattern emerged and we had quarks with fractional charges something that was totally rejected as ridiculous to start with.


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Offline lightarrow

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Re: My brane hurts
« Reply #7 on: 18/09/2006 21:24:54 »
I agree with you.
Sometimes they say: "...according to this theory, there must be this symmetry. But this doesn't really happen, so the symmetry must be broken."! It seems to me that we could devise a lot of theories, in this way!
 

Offline Soul Surfer

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Re: My brane hurts
« Reply #8 on: 18/09/2006 23:34:39 »
Physics is in some ways the same as mathematics it is important to go back to the basics and understand every step of the measurement and decision process along the route the trouble is that a lot of the latest theories are so far down the road that it all looks like magic and it is very difficult to follow the process.  In some ways I am lucky in being old and my original physics was very basic stuff and so called "modern physics" did not appear until the third year of my degree course and I was taught by some of the people who had discovered significant things. Since then I have followed the serious scientifc publications in the subject and seen all the developments and theories that have been proposed and fallen by the wayside and others that have succeded.

Nowadays people start on things like this in junior school and very many of the stages are missed out so it is easy to fall into this feeling that things have not been proved properly.  I urge you to ask questions to expose the gaps in your understanding and I will do my honest best to explain things to you or point you where you may find the answers for yourself.

Learn, create, test and tell
evolution rules in all things
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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: My brane hurts
« Reply #9 on: 20/09/2006 12:29:29 »
I don't think it's so much that there are gaps in my knowledge (although there obviously are). The book I mentioned traces the significant advances in theoretical & experimental physics since the latter part of the 19th century (with explanations of Newton's, Maxwell's etc theories) in order to lay the groundwork for a description of warped extra dimensions. There are quite a few instances where a new theory to plug a hole in an existing theory has done so at the expense of opening another hole (as was mentioned, symmetry being a case in point). It just made me think of the little Dutch boy trying to plug a hole in the dyke only to find that his action caused a new leak to spring up elsewhere.

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Offline Soul Surfer

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Re: My brane hurts
« Reply #10 on: 20/09/2006 13:02:10 »
I do not know the book that you are referring to but understand the point you are making.  In my experiences the patches gradually get more extensive until they end up as a new and more detailed theory or model.  That is the way that science progresses.

Let me add a bit of insight into the concept of "dimensions".  My scientific background is in the field of innovative signal processing.  Consider one has a set of measurements of anything. this could be signals on a line images on a screen or properies of points in a space it could also be totally random numbers.  The most general way of analysing these measurements is to start with considering each one as a unique value in a multi dimensional space  that is you have as many dimensions as you have measurements.  you then go about a regular process of trying to determine if there are any relationships between these numbers and effectively reduce the number of dimensions.  Frequently you have some insight into how these mesurements were taken  for example an ordered time sequence of signal voltages on a transmission line and this can help with the analysis.

I see that in some ways the extra dimensions in many of the theories of everything are a bit like that, defining relationships that underlie the measurements.  Frequently these have cyclic relationships like the position of a spot on a rotating wheel  that is a phase relationship.

We are well aware of the wave nature of electromagnetism. and we learn of the wave nature of matter that applies even to macroscopic structures at the quantum level but usually only consider the amplitude (or rms) value of these waves and ingnore the phase.  controlling and using the relative phase of electromagnetic waves has produced a great number of useful things today  notably the communication systems that enables megabits per second to travel down the essentially audio telephone lines by which we are linked.

Matter waves also have phase propeties and the understanding of this in the four dimensional world of relativistic space time is probably an important route to a theory of everything


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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: My brane hurts
« Reply #11 on: 20/09/2006 17:28:38 »
I fully appreciate the points you make; however, with regard the patches getting more extensive until they end up as a new theory doesn't seem to me to be the way many of these theories have evolved.

Bear in mind that I'm not a physicist, merely an interested amateur, but the way that symmetry, supersymmetry, particle heirarchy, the weakness of gravity, the disparity between gravity (GUT scale) & the weak scale, Higgs fields, etc have entered the equation seems to have been, almost without exception, at the expense of some other part of the overall theory which appeared sound but then itself needs a patch, and so on ad nauseam.

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Offline Soul Surfer

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Re: My brane hurts
« Reply #12 on: 20/09/2006 23:22:02 »
As an example of what I mean I am reposting something I posted on the dark ages of physics topic

I agree we are going through a rather untidy phase in fundamental physics. Over the years I have experienced several of these. The most notable was the chaos of subatomic particles before the quark theory of baryon and meson structure became established. Everone thought how wonderfully simple, protons, neutrons and electrons made everything until they got down to trying to understand why a lot of positively charged protons and neutral neutrons could stick together to form a nucleus and started to find hundreds of new unstable particles as the accelerators got more powerful. They also found that a lot of precious "conservation" laws were violated. Eventually work started on guage theories symmetry groups and gradually the pattern emerged and we had quarks with fractional charges something that was totally rejected as ridiculous to start with.


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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: My brane hurts
« Reply #13 on: 22/09/2006 13:33:01 »
Maybe the new LHC at CERN will shed some light.

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Re: My brane hurts
« Reply #13 on: 22/09/2006 13:33:01 »

 

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