Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Sine Scientia, Ars Nihil Est"

Whenever I have had the pleasure of discussing the astounding new cosmological observations which suggest a non-Copernican universe (with Earth in a very special and indeed central location) with the scientists who have actually made these discoveries, this concept of beauty has brought a smile to all of their faces, has “lit them up”.
The intuition of beauty is the essence of scientific creativity, just as it is the essence of artistic creativity.
Leopold Mozart had inscribed on the harpsichord he gave to his precocious little Wolfgang a remarkable insight into the worldview of that time; a worldview which produced so many geniuses in art and in science:
“Sine scientia ars nihil est.”
Without science, art is nothing.
The converse is also true.
No scientist ever discovered any new principle by logical deduction from existing certainties.
The actual “big idea”, the new hypothesis, is in the form of a “flash of insight”, a “leap of faith”, which is then subjected to rigorous, logical-deductive analysis which………..
In nearly every single case renders the creative instant, the intuition of beauty, falsified.
But anyone who studies Beethoven’s sketchbooks, where he labors, as someone once said, “like a fanatical peasant” for over thirty years, playing with the little motivic idea that would eventually become the “Ode To Joy”, the stupendous choral movement of the Ninth Symphony, can see that this applies to the great composers, just as it does to the great scientific discoverers.
At the end of the process- every once in a while- lies beauty.
Dirac’s equations.
Beethoven’s score.
But the score is not the Ninth Symphony, any more than the equation is the Dirac sea (there was no “creation/annihilation” in Dirac’s equations by the way-and therein lies a tale).
The Ninth Symphony exists “above” the score.
It is a truth that can only be realized by the collaboration of singers, musicians, conductors, and audience.
The Dirac sea exists “above” the equation- in the actual application of the ideas to actual observations, by actual scientists.
1998 Nobel laureate in physics Robert B. Laughlin addresses the implications of the “Dirac sea”:
“The source of this insanity is easy to see if one simply steps back from the problem and examines it as a whole. The properties of empty space relevant to our lives show all the signs of being emergent phenomena characteristic of a phase of matter.”
The book, “A Different Universe”, is available online, and if you google the above quote you will be taken to a section that provides a truly great insight into why all the really big problems in our physics right now involve the profound contradictions between Relativity and quantum theory.
At the bottom of it all is the question of space.
Over a hundred years ago, Einstein came up with a beautiful mathematical theory to explain why no measurements designed to detect the Earth’s universally-assumed orbital motion around the Sun were providing the expected evidence.
His theory dispensed with the then-universal notion of space as an “aether”.
It was beautiful.
It was symmetrical, which mathematicians always love :-)
And it has the supremely important advantage of rescuing the Copernican Principle from otherwise-certain falsification in the face of the aether experiments of Michelson, Morley, Gale, Sagnac, and others.
But ever since, Relativity’s negation of the aether has led to a fundamental conflict with quantum observations.
Read the relevant passage in Laughlin’s book.
You will see why it is that all of the terms like “creation/annihilation of virtual particles”, “quantum foam”, “energy of empty space that isn’t zero”, etc……
are all just another way of saying that the aether exists, and the beauty and symmetry of Einstein’s equations are not quite beautiful enough.
The properties of empty space relevant to our lives show all the signs of being emergent phenomena characteristic of a phase of matter.
In such a case, we will have to go back to Michelson Morley, because Einstein’s explanation of that experiment’s failure to detect the assumed orbital motion of Earth would no longer suffice.
In the end, many beauties of music and of mathematics end up as pages in a much larger sketchbook, for a symphony yet to be completed.

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