Tuesday, August 14, 2012

astro picture for the day

Credit & Copyright: Jon Christensen

--------------------------------quote for the day--------------------------------------------------------

"The roads by which men arrive at their insights into celestial matters seems to me almost as worthy of wonder as those matters in themselves." - Kepler

-----------------------------------youtube for the day/Mechanical Universe and Beyond/Maxwell's equations

- I'd like to note first that I've seen all the mechanical universe videos on youtube before, only to see them all taken down; so, I hope if you're interested that you take advantage; who knows when they're taken down again!  These can be bought(which I did).

- In the history of physics, electricity/magnetism has an interesting history.  Isaac Newton pointed the way in his Principia; he mentions at the end that electricity/magnetism seems to be the next phenomonen needing to be mathematized.  But, nobody really took up his suggestion.  Instead, mathematicians like Laplace felt that astronomy was the ultimate science(in some ways, it is; but, until the twentieth century, we couldn't understand that we need to understand both the large and the small).  Mathematicians extensivelly extended analyses(the mathematicians word for the calculus) and went about applying it to astronomy(and mechanical concerns like vibrations of strings).  I've already pointed this out in the history of the discovery of Neptune and Laplace's five volume generalisation of Newton's Principia.

While the digression to astronomy may have halted the study of electricity, magnetism, and chemistry, the mathematics of the heavens did come back in quantum mechanics; but, that's a later story!  And, experimentalists did work on electricity and magnetism; but, untill, Maxwell put mathematics to it all, we never saw the nature of light!

Really, in some ways, I've messed up the history a little bit.  Newton's mechanics was the first unified account of everything.  A Romer around late 1600s noticed some inconsistent results of applying Newtonian mechanics to the orbits of the motions of the Galilean satellites of Jupiter.  Instead of announcing that Newtonian mechanics is wrong, he deduced the finite speed of light!  Despite the digression of sciences study of electricity and magnetism, James Clark Maxwell applied mathematics to the experimental discoveries of electricity and magneticsm and ended up predicting and calculating the finite speed of light!(there's some easy mathematics that one can do; but, one must understand that many experimentalists had to do much theory and experiment to get those constants). 

James Clark Maxwell's equations of electomagnetism and the realization that light is electromagnetic waves was the greatest achievement in science since Isaac Newton's Principia. Maxwell's electromagnetism would lead to problems which would create quantum mechanics and Special/General relativity. 

When Isaac Newton's Principia came about, philosophers would rewright all of the philosophy of ethics, knowledge.  They'd come up with a philosophy of reductionism which has haunted the philosophy of mathematics and science ever since.  Many would try to bring down all of science.  When Maxwell's equations led to quantum mechanics and Einstein's work, philosophers of science, mathematics had a hard time understanding it.  Mathematicians had a clue for a long time in the non-euclidean geometries, abstract algebras; but, this was inaccessable to philosophers; mathematicians didn't make much of it other than develop the mathematics. Well there were a few like Bertrand Russel who wanted to derive all of mathematics from logic alone; but, Kurt Godel's 1931 theorems about the incompleteness of finite sets of axioms gave them pause. In my opinion, Jacob Bronowski weighed it all out; seems that the whole world including the mathematicians have forgotten Jacob Bronowski.  It seems that the implications of the human species being defined and distinguished from all other life by it's ability and need to figure out the universe is too much for the latest generation.

that's probably enough for now!

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