Science is basically the combination of good logical reasoning with good practical knowledge of actual natural phenomena. All humans do some logical reasoning and have some practical knowledge of some actual natural phenomena, but most have to busy themselves with feeding themselves and their families as best they can. Few have been able to devote much of their time to reasoning and/or gaining better knowledge of nature, and only some of these have made small or big contributions to science.
In considering science theory, this site concentrates on physics theories from the now entirely untaught ideas of William Gilbert, Rene Descartes and Isaac Newton to Albert Einstein and beyond - and we also have good related sections on Galileo Galilei, on Johannes Kepler, on Gravity phenomena, on Light, on String Theory and physics now on The Standard Model, on Probability Science and on Science Philosophy.
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PHYSICS NEWS. The most powerful electromagnetic charged-particle accelerator built to date was switched on in 2008 at CERN, and this £5 billion Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has been smashing electrically charged protons and charged heavy atom nuclei into each other at energies much greater than any achieved before. The LHC machine housed in an underground 27 kilometre (17 mile) tunnel is for accelerating 'atom-smashing' experiments that since the 1950's have somehow attracted the majority of modern funding for experimental physics. Charged particle beams are being electromagnetically accelerated in opposite directions through the ring-shaped machine to velocities up to maybe 99.99% of the speed of light. The electrically charged particle beams 'collide' in four detectors, designed like giant microscopes but still not capable of observing any actual collision contact. Supporters of a variety of physics theories hope that its experiments may support their theory. Initial analyses of LHC experiments to 2012 seem to be ruling out some multi-dimension theories, some sub-quark particles theories, some string theories and some supersymmetry-sparticles theories. (see http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/indepth/44805)
And the near-light speeds have maybe not shown expected Einsteinian effects. Governments also put large amounts of tax money into space research to gain a little information about various space-rocks of limited significance, while important science research areas get no funding at all. Of course tax money is often also wasted in military and other spending.
CERN reported 4 July 2012 that LHC teams 'have discovered a new particle consistent with the Standard Model predicted Higgs boson'. More research is needed to prove if the new 125GeV particle actually is the Higgs boson, probably not before 2015, but many physicists including Peter Higgs have rushed to claim it proved. The Higgs boson had been predicted to be around 500GeV but more experiments and analyses are to come, and no doubt more generally useless 'physics theories'. Many of these modern physics theories are illdefined and some do not really cover electromagnetism and are varieties of push-physics only though it remains unproved if gravity, electromagnetism or 'collision' involve any push-contact. The CERN LHC has already produced mini-big-bangs and some hope that it may also produce mini-black-holes, and some see its present 7TeV as its maximum safe power though by 2015 it will be run at 14TeV to prevent it being outdone by newer atom-smashers like the T2K Neutrino Collider. And you have to wonder if modern physics has been seriously dumbed-down as 2009 saw two physicists claiming that 'the LHC was disabled by a bird from the future' - discussed in our Science History section.
November 2012 sees some modern 'mainstream physicists' now pushing to abolish the teaching of classical experimental physics in schools as 'obsolete'. They want the experiments by Newton on light, by Galileo on gravity and by Gilbert on magnetics/electrics to be deleted from human history. It seems that only modern thought-experiment mathematical physics, or conjectural-physics, should be taught. This is being pushed at the US President through YouTube in a video "Open Letter to the President : Physics Education", which seems to be from the 'Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics' of Canada. The physicists concerned were obviously taught classical physics at school in the awful way it is always taught now, with no study of the actual works of Newton, Galileo or Gilbert. This attempt at killing real experimental physics and its associated theories can be seen on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGL22PTIOAM
And 2015 will see the UK openly move from 'science test' passes requiring a 'theory test' pass AND a 'practical test' pass, to 'science test' passes requiring a 'theory test' pass ONLY for A Level tests. (See https://www.iop.org/news/14/apr/page_63036.html ) And now 'science theory' tests below PhD level are effectively 'narrow coverage science history without dates'. While now 'science practical' or 'experimental science' tests below PhD level are effectively 'drawing, surgery or plumbing depending on the science'. Neither now really test abilities to theorise OR abilities to experiment, even with the best of test marking, so it is doubtful if any who now make it to a PhD have any real science ability. More notice should maybe be taken of IQ tests.
These science trends fit with education, TV and the internet all being generally dumbed-down now. Good science websites are being dropped in search engine results 'because the average person is not interested in intelligent stuff'. So for science searches all are increasingly served with either completely dumb websites or half-dumb sites like Wikipedia, and science theories now 'win' more by dumb votes than by facts.
Those who have specialised only in logical reasoning have often been called philosophers, and some of the best of these first emerged in Ancient Greece. The most rigorous logical reasoning, as with Euclid, has often been in the field of mathematics. Those who have specialised only in gaining better knowledge of nature have often been artisans or nature lovers, and their studies often have been concerned with their work or their leisure. Here metallurgy and astronomy were two fairly significant fields of study, with many others. The chief scientific advance in gaining better knowledge of nature came with the realisation that it chiefly needed the precise measurement of natural phenomena so that the rigours of number could replace vagueness and be better amenable to logical reasoning so that the two chief elements of science better combined.
Early ideas on the natural world generally took some vague magical or religious form of theorising, as that natural bodies had life forces or that god caused everything. In line with this, the widely accepted though entirely unproven explanation of gravity by the philosopher Aristotle was that all bodies had 'a natural tendency' to move to their 'natural place'. Such unproven opinion was to be challenged by the emerging experimental science method, chiefly in getting rigorous factual descriptions of more natural phenomena and then in developing all kinds of theories to try to explain the known facts. The many science theories came in two basic types - Black Box theories of laws of universe behaviour like gravity to explain what happens, but not trying to explain why things happen, and full-explanation theories that did seek to explain why things happen.
Human knowledge of natural phenomena has undoubtedly always been increasing to some extent since our species began, though often in accidental or ad hoc ways and some discoveries have been lost and re-discovered again later. Yet on average human history has involved progress in factual knowledge of nature and in technology deriving from that knowledge as in producing first farming and then industry. But theories of nature showed little or no progress in our early history, and indeed have struggled to show progress in modern times also.
It was maybe not until the 1500's that real planned science emerged first in Europe, with the chief requirement that both good logical reasoning and good practical knowledge of actual natural phenomena must be combined to try to produce valid descriptions of natural phenomena and valid science theories. Though there were earlier neo-science developments such as Alchemy in different parts of the world, the real emergence of science was driven first by Europe wanting to explore and exploit the wider world, and then by Europe's developing industrial revolution. World exploring required use of the astronomer's stars and of the magnetic compass. After his death in 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus published an improved description of heavenly bodies where the Earth correctly orbited the Sun, and a basic compass was in some use from the 1200's. William Gilbert in 1600 (shortly before his death) published his many science experiments and his physics chiefly concerning magnetism and improved compass use but deriving a rarely understood full-explanation effluvia signal theory of physics relating to the Earth and bodies generally.
Another major early scientist then, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) experimented chiefly in mechanics and astronomy with a little on push theory and had a lot of trouble from the catholic church and governments for that and for backing Copernicus, but William Gilbert (1544-1603) working mainly on magnetism in protestant England openly dismissed Aristotle and all philosophising or theorising that was not directly substantiated by scientific experiment, and practised what he preached with his one early publication concentrating on his many experiments and a little on an attraction theory which was dismissed by Galileo - and Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) working in mathematics, optics and astronomy developed a 'forcefield push' version of Gilbert's physics and also backed Copernicus.
But then the philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) produced his mechanical push physics theory that impressed many as fitting with much of the emerging science - and it was later falsely claimed with that of the mathematician and physicist Isaac Newton (1643-1727) though he himself favoured Gilbert attraction theory but settled for a black-box physics theory like a few other physicists then. While advances continued in other sciences, physics theory had to wait about 200 years before Albert Einstein produced his new partial-explanation forcefield spacetime theory. One basic advance in physics then had been the discovery that the originally supposed elementary particles 'atoms' seemed basically mini-solar-systems with smaller particles and mini-action-at-a-distance. Strong evidence that solids are far from solid supported the conclusion that at least some 'pushes' may not be contact pushes and so maybe at least partly supports either a field type physics or a signal type physics where signals establish contact but do no pushing ?
After Newton, physics theory seems to have somewhat sidelined experimental study in favour of mathematical study, so that increasingly universities located theoretical physics in their mathematics departments rather than in physics departments. And certainly new physics theory since Einstein, such as 'string' and 'loop' theory, seems to largely have been on the mathematics and structure of fields and/or of 'elementary' particles as possibly explaining everything somehow though it perhaps is muddy water - and 'fields' may yet be shown to not exist and/or the 'elementary particles' may yet be shown to be mini-mini-solar-systems themselves. In physics the big may be as reasonable a model of the small as vice versa, or not, and a signal physics may yet prove of some use also.
Many have been involved in the development of science, and many more in supporting or opposing it, covering all countries. But the key science theory ideas around physics can perhaps best be seen by going backwards from Einstein. Einstein considered that the theory that he chiefly had to face up to was Newton's, and Newton considered that the theories that he chiefly had to face up to were Descartes' and Gilbert's though Newton was guarded in commenting on Gilbert's attraction physics or remote-control physics. It seems the key physics theories were indeed those of Gilbert, Descartes, Newton and Einstein which this site examines further on other pages in an interrelated way rather than entirely separately. On this site you can start with William Gilbert and somewhat simpler early physics theories and journey on to rather more complex modern physics theories.
While Newton considered various possible explanations of gravity and other 'forces', he ended up publicly supporting none and insisting that physics should support none. He concluded that black-box mathematical behaviour laws were enough for science, and that any explanation must involve untestible unseens and be 'outside science'. This basic conclusion of Newton can certainly be challenged, but Einstein and others ignoring it and wrongly pretending that Newton's theory was a simple billiard ball push theory was one of the worst mistakes in physics theory history. It meant that no physicist has worked from or built on Newton's actual physics position - only on a simplified false 'Newton position' ?
Although Gilbert, Descartes and Newton took science as not allowing contradictions, Einstein and others later adopted 'duality physics' for light and for particles requiring them both to be 'wave' and be 'not-wave' and so allowing contradiction in their science. Not just allowing contrary interpretations and contrary mathematics, but allowing actual contradiction in experiments and in actual nature. This became possible by rejecting earlier strict definitions of 'wave' and 'particle' and basically using no strict definitions.
The interest of Gilbert and Newton in at-a-distance force theory or signal physics theory was perhaps before its time and has really been developed by nobody since. Many physicists from Galileo to Einstein ridiculed at-a-distance or remote-control physics as 'impossible', but the invention of the TV Remote supported Gilbert and Newton against that silly 'disproof'. (Gilbert-Newton physics had forces acting just like the TV Remote acts, but many opponents lying or in ignorence took Gilbert-Newton physics as having forces acting like a TV Remote that emits no signals!) Gilbert and Newton were less interested in the physical nature of any signal emissions, be they particle emissions or energy emissions or wave emissions, than in how bodies experimentally responded to natural signals. Some modern physicists are now talking of a 'quantum-information' physics, a 'quantum computation' physics or a 'digital' physics involving maybe a 'cellular automaton universe' - including among others Pablo Arrighi and Jonathan Grattage affiliated with the University of Grenoble and ENS de Lyon, France (see http://membres-lig.imag.fr/arrighi/). And the possible relevance in physics still of Gilbert-Newton 'attraction physics' is maybe also suggested by a recent quote of Google on them letting application developers for their Android phones use C or C++ code "as in signal processing, intensive physics simulations, and some kinds of data processing".
It is maybe of some small interest that Einstein was the only one of these four major scientists to marry and have children, suggesting that having a family to feed or other major activities can hinder the development of substantial new science !? Most having no descendants is unfortunate but more positive is the fact they all seem to have retained their mental capacities well in old age - maybe an old-age IQ fall from 100 to 95 gives poor mental functioning but an IQ fall from 165 to 160 still leaves excellent mental functioning when older ? These four key scientists are all from Europe and half from England, with Descartes being the sole Catholic. But the Black Death first hitting Europe badly around 1350, destabilising life and politics and religion, probably encouraged questioning and innovation that led to modern industry and science.
The ideas presented on this site are based on extensive studies of William Gilbert and of much of Descartes, Newton and Einstein and others relating to their theories. Currently the internet offers little of these four to read online, and much of their work has still not been translated, so this site will be trying to help with that over time. Science histories often have serious weaknesses , and for basic physics history this website's interpretations are the best and should be studied first, but you may also like a look at a mostly not too unreasonable summary of science history at http://faculty.kirkwood.edu/ryost/chapter1.htm
Physics experiments and physics theories have at times come from very different types of sources, some good and some not. Early good physicists, like Galileo or William Gilbert, often had no physics training and some were self-taught hobby physicists or anti-establishment physicists.
Today some insist that every good physicist must have a physics degree, and that everybody with a physics degree is a good physicist (but we certainly do not have 900,000 Isaac Newtons today, and on physics Newton considered himself self-taught). It may seem more accurate to say that today a good physicist should probably have a physics degree, and that some with a physics degree are probably good physicists.
1. But this issue maybe needs clarifying somewhat to account for the fact that physics involves basically two different aspects - experiment and theory - and useful physics experiment seems to have somewhat less need of formal training than physics theory. Hence most technology advance has been independent of theory, so a computer engineer working for Google may produce some good physics experiments.
2. A further issue concerns the nature of formal physics theory training, in earlier times including substantial philosophy and history of science - but today seeming entirely confined to post-Einstein physics theory. This may suggest that most of today's formally trained physicists may have too narrow a focus to their physics theory ideas, so a philosopher or historian might be better on physics theory.
We should of course still expect most good physics today to come from those with a physics degree, but should not be entirely surprised if some good physics ideas comes from a philosopher or engineer. A modern William Gilbert is possible.
All great scientists do need to have some great skill or skills, but all great scientists do not need to have every possible great skill. But highly skilled people perhaps tend to be one of three skill types ;
1. Mathematicians and rule followers
Some great scientists like Isaac Newton have had great mathematical skill, and have been great at mathematical rule-following reasoning. Of course some of them, maybe also including Isaac Newton, have also had some great artist-artisans rule-breaking experimenting skills.
2. Artist-artisans and rule breakers
Some great scientists like Galileo Galilei have had great artist-artisan skill, and have been great at rule-breaking experimenting. Of course some of them, maybe also including Galileo Galilei, have also had great mathematical rule-following reasoning skill.
3. All-rounders or multi-skilled
Some great scientists may have had great mathematical skill and great artist-artisan skill, but some of these may have employed one strength more than the other. These may have been great at rule-following reasoning and great at rule-breaking experimenting, but some of these employed one more than the other. This might depend on their own view of science and of its priorities at the time, and some great scientists have had different views on that.
Most of the big leaps in science has been the work of great individuals working alone, while many of the smaller advances have come from team collaboration - smaller maybe partly due to teams mostly being composed of too narrow a range of skill types ? Technology advances have mostly come from experiment and not from theory, as with Galileo inventing the refracting telescope and Newton inventing the superior reflecting telescope being both based on light experiments rather than light theory. Experiment is often more useful than theory, but better theory can lead to better experiment. And honest science has always been the more useful, as in not putting up a false simplified-Newton to knock down. Newton certainly never claimed that a light ray would not bend towards the sun, nor that a gyroscope some miles above Earth would hold a perfectly stable spin. And Newtonian physics does not imply either of these claims. Some modern scientists can seem to show a perhaps low regard for truth at times ?
While artist-artisan based skills often show culture differences - as in Egyptian, Roman and other art/science/technology - mathematics has generally developed as one mathematics involving the following of one set of rules. And while science does seem to require that there can be only one actual truth of anything, it can reasonably be claimed that science does not also require that there can be only one valid description of one truth. So modern physics dependence on mathematics only may be inadequate. Art often describes the same thing in different ways successfully, and a science with one mathematics may still validly allow of different image-theory explanations. But a one-truth science does not seem to really allow of contradictory explanations such as Duality Theory in current physics ?
While we do consider science theory generally, this site is the very best at examining the fundamentals of physics. If you want to really learn physics then this website really helps people with mastering physics online, and can also point you to some of the best other online physics sources.
PS. Some might say that the last 50 years has maybe seen no significant new physics theory published, and maybe generally business and government hijack any new science to their own ends anyway, leaving little real value to any new science ? But I have been sitting on a new general science theory for the last 50 years developed after the first BSc degree I took. Then for a second BSc degree when I took year 1 Philosophy, I part ran it past the Professor of Philosophy who had been a Physicist, in a 1985 essay for him on the history of physics. He gave that top marks and promptly made several attempts to get me to switch to majoring in philosophy under him (which I would have done but at that time I could not see it as a practical career option for feeding my new wife and baby). But being satisfied that the basics of my new general science theory may possibly be worth at least a temporary publishing rather than just all dying with me, I have now put the basics of it on this website - in the hope that you may find it interesting (and this website is all interrelated so studying all of it should help you understand it). Additionally, this site simply tries to clarify some of the basics of science theory history to date as I see it - though many do interpret science history differently and often very wrongly. Some of the problems involved in the history of science are discussed in our Science History, or you can check our Site Map.
(Two websites to slightly help inform you on what physicists and astronomers are up to lately are
Physics World at http://physicsworld.com and Universe Today at http://www.universetoday.com)
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