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Posts Tagged ‘Albert Einstein

A short history of nearly everything , Part 3

Astronomy and cosmology

 Around 1930, Vesto Slipher was taking spectrographic readings of distant stars at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona and discovered signs of a Doppler shift toward red, which meant that the stars were moving away.  Annie Jump Cannon, known as one of the Computers in the 1920’s at Harvard and who was studying photographic plates of stars and making computation, devised a system of stellar classifications still in use today. 

Another Computer at Harvard, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, noticed that a type of star as a Cepheid such as the Pole Star pulsated with a regular rhythm because they are dying giant red star.  Leavitt realized that by comparing the relative magnitude of Cepheids at different points in the sky you could work out where they were in relations to each other in relative distances.  

Edwin Hubble began to measure selected points in space and showed in 1923 that M31 was a galaxy at least 900,000 light years away. Hubble inferred in 1930 that galaxies are moving away from us in all directions and that the further away the faster they were moving.  Stephen Hawking said if the universe was static it would collapse in upon itself and would have made the whole intolerably hot.  It was the Belgian priest-scholar Georges Lemaitre who suggested that the universe began as a geometrical point, a “primeval atom”, which burst into glory and had been moving apart ever since. 

In 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson spent a year trying to shut out a persistent background noise when trying to make use of a large communication antenna owned by Bell Laboratory in New Jersey.  They phoned Robert Dicke at Princeton who was pursuing an idea suggested by George Gamow, a Russian astrophysicist, in the 1940s that if you looked deep enough into space you should find some cosmic background radiation in the form of microwaves reaching Earth originating from the Big Bang.

In 1934 the journal Physical Review published a concise abstract of a presentation that was conducted by Fritz Zwicky and Walter Baade.  Bade was responsible for most of the mathematical sweeping up.  This abstract provided the first reference to supernovae as neutron stars where all the other matters, even electrons, collapsed to the sort of densities found in the core of atoms; no light would penetrate that neutron star or Black Hole star.  A spoonful of its mass would weight 90 billion kilograms.  Very few supernovas explode but when they do then they release enormous amount of energy and matters that keep our universe alive and warm.  

Cosmic rays are theorized to be consequences of the explosions of supernovas.  Robert Oppenheimer got all the credit five years later.  Now, if supernovae exploded at a distance less than 500 light years, then Earth is a goner; fortunately, in our near galaxies not a star is at least ten times bigger than our sun to form supernovae.  In 1987, Saul Perlmutter at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory used charge-coupled devices, like an excellent digital camera, and wrote a sophisticated program so that the powerful computer would systematically search for supernovas through the thousands of pictures. 

Reverend Robert Evans in Australia searches the sky every night using a 16-inch telescope hunting for supernovae and he managed to locate 36 supernovas as of 2003.  How we recognize supernovae?  It is a black star and when we notice light in this dark location then we know a supernova has exploded.  Suppose that you spay salt randomly on 1500 black tables and then you add an extra grain; this is how Robert Evans has the knack of discovering supernovae.

It was Fred Hoyle who coined the term Big Bang in 1952 to express his exasperation of this theory because he favored a steady-state theory.  Hoyle realized that if stars imploded, such as supernovas, they would liberate huge amount of heat in the range of 100 million degrees which favor the formation of heavy elements from carbon onward in a process known as nucleo-synthesis.  His theory explained the existence of heavy elements, at least on Earth, since Big Bangs only releases the lighter elements only.  One of Hoyle’s collaborators W.A. Fowler received a Nobel Prize for this discovery.

Frank Drake, a professor at Cornell, worked out in 1960 an equation designed to calculate the chances of advanced life existing in the cosmos.  There might be millions of intelligent life forms in the cosmos but there are no ways of communicating with them because if any one of these advanced species, say 200 light years away, detects a signal from Earth then it would be looking at humans during the time of the American Revolution with horses and white wigs.

How Earth got to exists? Reginald Daly in the 1940s offered this explanation: about 4.6 billion years ago, 99.99% of the dust and gases swirling wildly in the universe went to making the Sun.  Out of the leftover materials the planets started to assemble in endless random permutations.  In just 200 million years the Earth was essentially formed.  An object the size of mars crashed into Earth and formed the companion Moon from the crust of Earth, thus the fact that there are no heavy elements on the Moon that constitute the core of Earth. 

When Earth was about one third of its present size, its atmosphere was leaden with noxious gases like carbon dioxide, nitrogen, methane and sulfur. The carbon dioxide formed a greenhouse effect that prevented Earth from freezing because the Sun was still significantly dimmer and could not heat Earth efficiently.  Comets, meteorites and other galactic debris pelted Earth for a long while creating water to fill the oceans.

 Physics, the quantification of Earth, and the Universe

The physicist Michio Kaku said: “In some sense, gravity does not exist; what moves the planets and stars is the distortion of space and time.”  Gravity is not a force but a byproduct of the warping of space-time, the “ultimate sagging mattress”.  This new understanding of the universe that time is an intrinsic dimension as space was offered by Albert Einstein through his Special Theory of Relativity.

Among other principles, Einstein realized that matter is energy that can be released under specific conditions so that energy is defined as the product of mass and the square of the speed of light c = 300,000 km/s.  In his attempt to unify classical and relativity laws, Einstein offered later on his General Theory of Relativity and introduced a constant in the formula to account a stable Universe; Einstein declared that this constant was “the blunder of his life” but scientists are now trying to calculate this constant because the universe is not only expanding but the galaxies are accelerating their flight away from the Milky Way.

In 1684, Edmond Halley, a superb scientist in his own right and in many disciplines and the inventor of the deep-sea diving bell, visited Isaac Newton at Cambridge and asked him what is the shape of the planetary paths and the cause of these specific courses.  Newton replied that it would be an ellipse and that he did the calculation but could not retrieve his papers.  The world had to wait another two years before Newton produced his masterwork: “Mathematical Principles of natural Philosophy” or better known as the “Principia”. 

Newton set the three laws of motion and that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.  His formula stated that force is proportional to the product of the masses and inversely proportional to the square of their corresponding distances.  The constant of gravity was introduced but would wait for Henri Cavendish to calculate it.  It is to be noted that Newton was more serious in alchemy and religion than in anything else, most of his life.

Henry Cavendish was born from a dukes families and was the most gifted English scientist of his age; he was shy to a degree bordering on disease since he would not meet with anyone and, when he visited the weekly scientific soirees of the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks, guests were advised not to look him straight in the face or address him directly.  Cavendish turned his palace into a large laboratory and experimented with electricity, heat, gravity, gases, and anything related to matter.  He was the first to isolate hydrogen, combine it with oxygen to form water.  Since he barely published his works many of his discoveries had to wait a century for someone else to re-discover the wheel. 

For example, Cavendish anticipated the law of the conservation of energy, Ohm’s law, Dalton’s law of partial pressures, Richter’s law of reciprocal proportions, Charles’ law of gases, and the principles of electric conductivity; he also foreshadowed the work of Kelvin on the effect of tidal friction on slowing the rotation of the earth, and the effect of local atmospheric cooling, and on and on.  He used to experiment on himself as many scientists of his century did, such as Benjamin Franklin, Pilate de Rozier, and Lavoisier.  

In 1797, at the age of 67, Cavendish assembled John Michell’s apparatus that contained two 350-pound lead balls, which were suspended beside two smaller spheres. The idea was to measure the gravitational deflection of the smaller spheres by the larger ones to calculate the gravitational constant of Newton. 

Cavendish took up position in an adjoining room and made his observations with a telescope aimed through a peephole.  He evaluated Earth weight to around 13 billion pounds, a difference of 1% of today’s estimate and an estimate that Newton made 110 years ago without experimentation.  John Michell was a country parson who also perceived the wavelike nature of earthquakes, envisioned the possibility of black holes, and conducted experiments in magnetism and making telescopes; Michell died before he could use his apparatus which was delivered to Cavendish.

The 18th century was feverish in measuring Earth, its shape, dimensions, volumes, mass, latitude and longitude, distance from the sun and planets and they came close to the present measurement except its mass and had to wait till 1953 for Clair Patterson (a male geologist) to estimate it to 4,550 million years using lead isotopes in rocks that were created through heating.

“The catalytic manuscripts that cleaved the ancient off the modern times” (August 31, 2008)

Manuscripts in themselves do not necessarily generate revolutions or change habits and thinking in societies, but they are used as sources and the foundation for drastic changes at the appropriate conditions and moments in social upheavals.

This article will focus on the main published manuscripts since the 16th century that had the potential to cleave the ancient perspectives on the world off the modern times.

Who were the catalyst thinkers that changed the perceptions and beliefs in values, politics, economy, sciences, and theology (paradigm shifts)?

This article is to encourage free thinkers who can read to go to the original manuscripts with a renewed critical approach of modern development, instead of relying on the interpretations of “representatives” of knowledge.  Delegating truth and meaning of the authors by others is pure laziness of the mind, camouflaged by countless excuses that permit ignorance and ideological positions to distort opinions and well founded mental development.

Erasmus (1469-1536) translated the Bibles from Latin into the German language which aided greatly Martin Luther to spread his brand of Protestantism like wild fire in the Germanophone countries. The Catholic clergies were thus denied the privilege of being the sole interpreters of the Bibles;. And the power shifted to the people who could not before read or write in the Latin language of the elites.  This period is considered the beginning of the Renaissance.

In the 16th century Martin Luther regained the free will for the new Protestants who challenged the Popes in Rome.

Luther activity was of very limited theological objective which meant to remind the Popes and the archbishops that whatever decrees for the individual absolution of sins they have been selling concerns the sins towards them or their Catholic Church, but not what are done to others: only God is the main absolver of sins and it is man’s consciousness and true remorse that count to God.

It happened that the Princes and feudal lords in Northern Europe and Germany were frustrated with the Popes and clergies’ businesses at their expense for taxing the added values in the economy by selling absolution at a large scale.

For example, bishops purchased their ranks and thus borrowed heavily and had to repay their dues at the expense of the population, a business that transferred lot of money that the Princes and Barons treasuries relied on.

Consequently, it was the political personalities that carried the schism to Catholicism to its extreme breakage point under the banner of Martin Luther.           

Montesquieu published in 1748 “De l’esprit des lois”.

He relied heavily on the writings of the English philosopher Locke and the constitution in effect in Great Britain. Political liberty cannot be secured without the separation of the three authorities legislative, executive and legal.

Political liberty is this peace of mind in the general opinion that security is maintained of not being forced to do what the laws prohibit and to be able to do what we want within the limits of the laws. During the American Revolution (1789) the article 16 in the US Declaration stated “No separation of authority (power) no Constitution“.

The executive should have the right to block or veto a written law if it could not execute the law and many executive branches in democracies have this privilege.  (My personal opinion is that the missing link in democracies is for not permitting the legal body of judges to blocking any legislative law that is too mechanical in nature and denies the judges their common sense and experience in judging cases or might over burden the legal body if the executive branch decides to be zealot in exercising certain laws for party political interests and at election times, laws that limit or hinder the judges’ prerogatives for judging cases on their own merit and proper duration)

Rousseau published in 1762 “Du contrat social” which set fire to most social and political movements fed up of monarchies and oligarchies up to the 19th century. As in any association, each citizen put in common his individual person and his power under the supreme guidance of the general will and this act of association form a collective moral body which translates into every associate receiving his unity, his will and his life. Under this social pact anyone who refuses to obey the general will should be set free from the agreements binding the members of association.

This new generated public person who used to take his City name is now called citizen in a Republic and subject under the State laws. The general will of the citizens that share common interests tends always to benefit the public good and it is under these common interests that the citizens should be governed although the general public can be cheated out of its will by renegade governments.  The extreme opinions in the two tails in the will of all the citizens cancel each other and what remains is the general will of the population. (Any citizen who refuses to join the general will, in election results for example, should not benefit in the various interests as those who are bonded by the pact).

Emmanuel Kant (1724-1804), the German philosopher, published his philosophical work “The foundations of the metaphysical morals” which made it impossible to consider the natural gifts as having real impact on moral values. 

Only the good will (I prefer to define it as compassionate enthusiasm) of an individual can be considered absolutely “good” on the moral level. What makes us worthy of happiness is solely our good will to change and act according to our limited natural gifts.  The natural gifts of intelligence, talents, capacity to decide, stubbornness in our tasks, inherited money, excellent health and so forth can be catalysts to enhancing our good will but no one should be considered as having good morals or a god moral person simply because he inherited natural gifts.  The ancient moral structure or ethics endowed the aristocratic class natural privileges because by nature people are unequal in gifts and thus virtues reside in the upper classes.

Adam Smith published in 1776 “Investigation on the nature and causes of the wealth of Nations”.  He stated that individuals have the tendencies to invest whatever capital they own within the areas of their residence so that they could have better control over their business because they are aware of the people they can trust and the environment that can use their skills and products and the functioning of the legal system.

This process of increasing the added value of their businesses in the local commerce or inner commerce in general is like “an invisible hand” at work for increasing the wealth of the whole economy.  When the State risks to orient or guide a individual in the manner of investing his capital it is meddling in pointless exercises since the investor is better positioned to know the kinds of activities he is fit to undertake.  Smith relied heavily on the liberal scientific economic principles of the School of Physiocrates but three economic revolutions carried his manuscript as their Bible; mainly, the French Revolution in the political debates, the industrial revolution seeking justifications for their capitalist system and the scientific revolution.

Smith warned against freight commerce where the capital of an investor is divided among foreign countries and never under his control. Thus, a businessman prefers to deal within the inner commerce over external commerce and by far over freight commerce.  Many contradictory economics schools of sciences that earned Nobel Prices such as the School of Chicago, the School of Vienna and even Amartya Sen tried to interpret a few of Smith’s economic principles and his metaphor of the invisible hand.

Charles Darwin performed two revolutions in 1859 by publishing “The origin of species” and in 1871 by publishing “La filiation de l’homme” or “The lineage of man”.  In the first manuscript Darwin wondered how come the natural organisms manage to keep a stable balance with this abundance of procreation. 

Thomas Malthus published in 1798 his “Essay on the principle of population” declaring that resources were not increasing at the same rate of population and that if procreation is not restrained then earth would become the theater of mortal struggles.  In nature, many species procreate considerably in the eventual process that many would die or be eaten before they reach adulthood. Darwin reached a resolution that this stable equilibrium is the mechanism of selection among species that endow the capable with additional minor advantages that permit them to overcome the rigor of an environment, individual, social and atmospheric, a natural process of adaptation for survival of a species. 

Darwin never mentioned in this manuscript that man is descendant of chimpanzees or other species. The second manuscript claimed that incremental progress in civilized associations among humans have instituted a mechanism that offer privileges to the sick and less gifted at the expense of individual rivalries so that to preserve the social instincts of altruism and solidarity among the communities.  Darwin foresaw that as the number of men start sympathizing with animals in extension to their social instincts then this sensibility would expand through imitation and education and end up being incorporated in the general public.

Sigmund Freud in his “The subconscious and its interpretation” announces that man is not a free willing person and master of his ideas but all his actions and thoughts are guided by fantasies generated in his subconscious; hazard is thus non existent because everything can be explained by the workings of the subconscious and discovered through the technique of free association of ideas and whatever you utter during your waking hours.  Slave of the automaton of the senses and of desires, everyone secretes a world of his own, woven by his phantasms and thus “everyone is basically crazy”.  The conscious world is a precarious common denominator of compromises that people opt to live within treachery, misunderstandings, routine and identification.

Albert Einstein published in 1905 a short and succinct article, labeled later as the theory of restrained relativity, which changed for ever the perception of time and space and established a new modern physics.  Einstein had stated that time is intrinsically related to the observer in movement and that only the constant speed of light is independent of movement and its directions.  Classical physics conceived time and space as independent of matters and observers; past was past and the future was to be realized everywhere in the world.

Einstein stated that an observer in a train who is totally in the dark has no means of knowing whether the train is at rest or in uniform movement (a movement that excludes acceleration or deceleration).  Scientists thus had to exclude the notion that two events can possibly happen simultaneously and depends on an arbitrary reference. (I read that gravity is fundamentally a distortion in the time-space canvass and not related to the mass of a particle/planet in the cosmic universe). The concepts of “passage of time” as the flow of a river and our separation of past, present and future are plainly illusions. Einstein’s general relativity theory modified modern physics in many areas such as particle accelerators, black holes, Big Bang, and the GPS positioning system.  (If these new concepts are true then I may hypothesize that the metrics of time based on an atomic clock may not be valid on another galaxy because the speeds of the other galaxies are different from ours).

Werner Heisenberg was 23 year-old when he published in 1925 “On quantum mechanics”.  Heisenberg realized that classical mechanics used by Max Planck, Niels Bohr and Louis de Broglie that relied on the values of exact position, the orbital period of an electron and speed of a matter were not observable quantities in atomic and sub-atomic particles and thus not suitable to be applied.  Heisenberg then endeavored to formulate abstract equations using observable quantities such as the frequencies of light emitted when an electron jumps from an orbit to the next and the energy required to shifting orbits which is the square of amplitudes of the wave and represented by the probabilities of jumping orbits. 

This mathematical concept of a new mechanics has lead to many interpretations such as it impossible to simultaneously measure the location of an atomic particle and its speed or moment and that the physical world is not realized in one deterministic copy but the superposition of innumerable worlds. (I once read that the new quantum mechanics theory was the consequence of chaos in philosophy: deterministic views, in the aftermath of the First World War, were suspect in the perception of people of the new calamitous world)



adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

July 2020
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