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February 20, 2018

CATEGORY: What's Ultimately Possible in Physics? Essay Contest (2009) [back]
TOPIC: Mission Impossible by Maulik Parikh [refresh]
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Author Maulik Parikh wrote on Oct. 5, 2009 @ 11:27 GMT
Essay Abstract

The laws of physics dictate what is physically impossible. But physical laws are often superseded by newer, more permissive laws. Therefore only the final theory of physics can determine what is and is not ultimately possible. I examine some of the fundamental tenets of quantum field theory and general relativity and argue that it is not certain that any of our current most sacred principles will survive unscathed in the ultimate theory of physics.

Author Bio

Maulik Parikh is a theoretical high-energy physicist. He obtained his bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a PhD in physics from Princeton University, where he worked under the supervision of Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek. After post-doctoral stints at the University of Utrecht and at Columbia University, he is now faculty at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) in India. In 2004, a paper he wrote on black holes won the first prize from the Gravity Research Foundation. He also won fourth prize in the FQXi essay contest on the nature of time.

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Uncle Al wrote on Oct. 5, 2009 @ 16:06 GMT
You say, "the laws of physics dictate what is physically impossible." Observation overrules theory - the first black swan.. Theory suggests. Theory is no stronger than its founding postulates, its mathematical derivation, and its comparision to physical reality. String theory as such is unworkable. String theory as advertised is a perturbation treatment. Perturbation methods do not admit new symmetry breakings with progression. If you think that is not a crippling fault, try "laminar flow into turbulence." Three points in 3-space define a straight line or a triangle. Four points can evince emergent property chirality. Try switching your shoes for a day.

Moore's law is limited by atomicity, lightspeed, and thermal conductance. It will not continue past another three doublings unless transistors are fabulously redefined. Stuff is a crystallographic unit cell (graphite and diamond), not its atoms as such (carbon). Emergence does not forever scale down a Yukawa potential.

You say "we are all law-abiding citizens when it comes to the laws of science." That is devlopment. You are 2(pi) steradians off a research scientist's trajectory. If it is not locked down it can be changed. If it can be pried loose it was not locked down. Consider Yang and Lee. What part of that was law-abiding?

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Anonymous wrote on Oct. 6, 2009 @ 09:05 GMT

The first sentence of your abstract "The laws of physics dictate what is physically impossible. " is so wrong that it takes away all credibility from an interesting essay.

The Laws of Physics are rational mental creations through which physicists BEST express their scientific understanding of observed known reality. Newton's Laws were formulated to express what was known through observation by Copernicus, Galileo, etc. about the motion of the planets and ordinary objects. Einstein formulated SR to explain known electro-magnetically observed reality in which the speed of E-M was fixed, as confirmed by Michelson-Morley.

RE Feynman: When Hanbury-Brown & Twiss gave their a presentation at Caltech on their new Interferometer, Feynman said after the presentation "I suppose you know that such a device is impossible according to the Laws of Physics." They replied "We thought you would say that, so we have brought one with us." They then showed it working successfully - against the then Laws of Physics.

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Terry Padden wrote on Oct. 6, 2009 @ 09:21 GMT
I submitted the anonymous post - but I blame the computer.

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Narendra nath wrote on Oct. 7, 2009 @ 04:36 GMT
The essay starts with a presumption that physical laws dictate what is possible in Physics.Other comments have questioned it and so i join them. Mathematics provides a tool to implement the conceptaul pisture in a problem to provide a working foundation for a valid theory. the other tool of experimentaion stands on a better footing, if reliably executed, to provide confirmation to the validity of any theory. Thus, when using Mathemeatical tools, one should be careful bout the conceptual picture assumed, as also that all possible variables/parameters have been taken care of with due magnitudes/ weightages, govened by the boundary conditions applied to a given problem. There is no straightaway freedom for the application of a mathematical procedure that is considered as relevant.

The essay however has good merit for a sincere attempt to understand Physics, within the limitations of mathematical tools utilised for the purpose.

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Peter Jackson wrote on Oct. 7, 2009 @ 14:59 GMT
Nice essay Maulik, and I think it's picky to criticise your opening line as it was purely a comment on the present system, and to set up the rest of the line about their impending redundancy.

Which I believe is, and has proven, absolutely correct (as you'll see if you read my own offering -495 'Perfect Symmetry'). But changing ruling paradigms is becoming increasingly difficult due top our mental limitations, and I fear this is what will limit what's ultimately be possible for US in physics.

But we must release ourselves from the blinkers of purely using mathematics, they are an essential tool but can't discover physics.

I hope people are bright enough to see past your first line.

Peter Jackson

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NN wrote on Oct. 7, 2009 @ 17:15 GMT
i support the points made by Peter concerning the expanding paradigms and also that Mathematics by itself can not provide the basis for explaining Physical processes. The conceptual basis for a theory must be based on whatever little is known through observations and how one may conceptualize the problem at hand.

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Enrico wrote on Oct. 8, 2009 @ 10:31 GMT
Dear Maulik,

I believe, in agreement with many of the previous posts, that your point of view is reversed with respect to the way the scientific method works. Theory can only predict outcomes and obey internal constraints, and it can be falsified by experiments and internal inconsistency.

I have a comment on the simplified version you use for the Heisemberg inequality. Since the only consistent quantum mechanics is the one axiomatized by Wightman (and Haag) in the framework of the Gelfand Naimark Segal representation, you should consider the Weyl operators, not the unbounded x and p operators of the naif original quantization.



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Terry Padden wrote on Oct. 9, 2009 @ 23:24 GMT
Peter Jackson

You are right. I, and others, are being "picky". Being "picky" is an essential part of the scientific method. The essays are about science. Let me repeat the first sentence of my "anonymous" post. It reads

"Maulik The first sentence of your abstract "The laws of physics dictate what is physically impossible. " is so wrong that it takes away all credibility from an interesting essay."

That "picky" comment stands in full. Others endorse it. it is an interesting essay - but it opens with a very strong assertion - which is wrong.

There are 114 essays. How much time will be given to seeing the merits of one that opens with a wrong statement ? It was not a good idea for it does destroy the authors scientific credibility. This is regrettable and probably unfair, but life is like that.

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NN wrote on Oct. 17, 2009 @ 09:54 GMT
Peter Jackson and N. Nath await possible response to their posts by the respected author

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Oct. 18, 2009 @ 23:51 GMT
Dear Maulik,

Just a brief comment on your apparent support of the following widespread view:

“Feynman realized that, because we do not encounter new laws of physics until we get to smaller than the atomic scale, we could . . . .”

I believe that the above situation should not be taken for granted but rather should be viewed as a clear indication that physics is not yet even close to a preliminary unified view of nature: since the universe evolves as a single entity its laws cannot change radically from the microscopic to the macroscopic.

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N Nath wrote on Oct. 25, 2009 @ 11:51 GMT
All the postings await the response of the respected author, maulik Parikh.

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Oct. 29, 2009 @ 00:14 GMT
Dear Maulik Parikh,

The laws are only of interest together with initial conditions. While I do not share Wigner's conjecture of general symmetry, I appreciate that he confirmed the crucial role of initial conditions. Notice: initial, not final. Initial conditions describe the influence from the past. There is no effect of future on any natural physical process. The point is: in reality, any system is an open one in the sense of unknown in principle embedding in the surroundings.

Even if I am merely an unknown old engineer, I am claiming that the putative discrepancy between micro and macro can be ascribed to a most simple mistake. Someone should look.



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jasonhawk wrote on Dec. 16, 2011 @ 15:00 GMT
Thanks for sharing this. essay | Coursework | Assignment

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