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Re: [APD] Science
On 03/11/2005, at 4:45 PM, Jerry Baker wrote - with cuts:
> Some things are not subject to revision. I have a very difficult
> time understanding why people have a hard time with this. There are
> some things that just are, and they aren't going to change. I
> suppose it ruins possibilities for some, I don't know. Gravity, for
> instance, is precisely predictable in all situations that will be
> encountered by a human. It's never going to change. Ever. Mixing
> two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom will yield some heat and
> water. Always. That's not going to change on another planet, and no
> upstart physicist is going to prove it wrong.
Gravity does what gravity does and you're right - what it does isn't
going to change. BUT the 'laws of gravity' aren't sacrosanct and
gravity does not follow them. Those laws express our understanding of
how gravity acts and that understanding has changed over time. Newton
is fine but wasn't perfect , Einstein added to our understanding and
showed that Newton's view wasn't complete or fully accurate, and
there's been a bit more learnt since then. No scientist would claim
we've heard the last word on gravity and I'd also say it's a pretty
good bet that something we currently believe about it, and regard as
a 'fact' or a 'law' will turn out to be not quite right. When that
happens, something in the 'laws' pertaining to gravity will change
but gravity won't, and gravity will continue to be as reliable as
it's always been while the 'laws' will be a little more reliable but
still not guaranteed.
And adding 2 hydrogen atoms to 1 oxygen atom need not always produce
water which is a liquid, but may also produce ice or steam - they are
all H2O but they aren't all 'water'. You don't even have to go to
another planet to prove that.
The laws of physics don't tell the universe how to behave and the
universe does not behave in accordance with them. The universe does
what it does and, after observation and study, scientists come up
with hypotheses which attempt to describe that behaviour and which
are tested and eventually accepted or rejected. But just because
something is eventually accepted and comes to be regarded as a 'law'
doesn't mean that it is a full and complete description of how the
universe behaves in that regard, or that the 'law' can't be changed.
The laws of physics are man-made and are fallible like us. The 'laws'
only tell us how we expect the universe to behave - they don't compel
it to behave in that way. They do get more reliable over time as our
understanding improves, but they aren't going to become perfect and
unchangeable until our knowledge is perfect and complete. I wouldn't
hold my breath waiting for that day.
Your problem is that you're confusing the way the universe behaves
with the statements we use to describe that behaviour and predict
what will happen under particular circumstances in the future. We can
always rely on the universe to do what it will do. We can't rely on
our knowledge to guarantee that we will always describe that
behaviour completely and accurately, and get our predictions right
all the time. We can and do get better at those things but we
certainly aren't perfect yet.
Ask any really good scientist if they are as certain of the accuracy
and immutability of the 'laws' of physics or science as you are and
I'm sure they'll say they aren't.
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