Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Any Physicists Reading? I have some questions.

Lately I've been in a state of mind that can soak up information, and comes up with really good questions - well I think they're interesting, leading me to more and more questions (and occasionally to comprehension). One field that's been appealing this week is physics. I'm reading a book, Reinventing Gravity, that has me thinking about the basics of physics - and marvelling at how much of our universe we humans don't understand.

So I would be ok with exhaustive comments answering the following questions, or referrals to books or websites that could help me understand these things. I took physics in high school, no problem, and have given a great deal of skeptical thought to Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. This is because I'm fairly convinced the speed of light is not constant. So if you mention the speed of light in your answer, I'll probably enjoy it more. I understand that I'm missing a few levels of knowledge between high school physics and the edges of theoretical physics I'm trying to reach. Give me your best shot.

You can also use the comment section to add your own questions. The compilation of questions is great food for thought and theory.

Some physics questions:

Are forces energy?
What is light?
Does it have a constant velocity?
Is its speed constant?
If the velocity of light is not constant, what force acts on it?
What is the equal and opposite reaction? (Whence is the energy subtracted?)

What is electricity?
What is magnetism?

What is heat?
Is it motion in and of molecules,
or that which causes motion in and of molecules,
or the output of motion in and of molecules?

What is gravity?
How is gravity related to attraction and acceleration (gravitational mass and inertial mass)?
What is the significance of the relationship?
Does the resistance or escape of an object from gravity take any energy away from the gravity-exerting objects?
Does gravity curve space, or is it the effect of curved space?

If gravity is the effect of curved space, what makes space curved?
Matter and energy?
Is anything else (such as time) curved by these things as well?
If spacetime can be curved, what else can be done to it?

Can spacetime be stretched?
If spacetime can be stretched, what stretches it?
Are opposing forces of gravity like Curling brooms, creating a smooth path for matter and energy?

How do permittivity and permeability relate energy, electricity, gravity, and matter?
What does density have to do with them?
What force causes nature to abhor a vacuum?

(To quote The Little Mermaid), What is fire and how does it burn?
Must fire produce light?
Can light be produced without fire/burning?
Must fire produce heat?
Are there other ways to convert matter to energy?

Oh my goodness, does time have to come into this?
How is time related to the measurement of time?
Must there be a direct correlation?

To God be all glory.


Doc Op said...

Dea Lisa, What an interesting post. I am smiling, because you ask a lot of questions that I did at your age, though I think that you are a little more precise in the way you think. As I read it, I also asked “Now why would a young woman think that the speed of light is not constant – Have you observed anything that would suggest that possibility (and how could you?)

My guess is that you have read the works of certain Young Earth Creationists who posit the that light, upon its creation, sped through the newly created heavens at a near infinite rate before slowing to its current rate. – (I don’t know what they call this kind of curve, but it looks like a the descent of a skateboard ramp.) I don’t know if those who advance this idea do so based on some kind of observation, or if they being with a priory metaphysical need to explain the recent origin of visible starlight.

As is, I may hunt through my journals to find some interaction I had with a real physicist about questions I had about light and such. Until then, here are a few links to my journal in which I dally with similar questions.

PS. Though I am not a physicst, I bet I could hook you up with several.

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Well Lisa, it looks like you beat me; I admit I'm better with biology. Yyou must know more than I do about physics (but then again I know but little)!

So basically what I have to offer you would be the recommendations of the works of Russel Humphreys and Danny Faulkner. I've met them both.

Do you have a membership to the CRSQ?

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Doc Op,
I have believed in a non-constant speed of light since I was in junior high, and often entertained myself by debating a young community college student who advocated the establishment position. Whatever the truth of the question, it got me into physics and made my brain work really hard. It was also a good self-motivated research project at the time.

You are correct that the idea first got into my head when I read Answers, one of whose authors is Ken Ham (there were a couple others). However, most of those creationists have now backed away from a non-constant speed of light, preferring new cosmologies such as that described by Humphries in Starlight and Time (which I have consistently failed to read).

I, on the other hand, continue to hold this theory. I have read the testimony of several physicists who collected measurements of the speed of light and their margins of error since light has been measured. These scientists concluded that history has shown a continued decrease in the speeds. Some have noted that since the 1960s the measurements seem to have leveled off, and that the cause of this is a new type of clock used for measuring: the atomic clock, which is itself dependent on or directly related to the speed of light; they're measuring in a circle.

I am an amateur fan of Barry Setterfield, a physicist who has done some work on a cosmology including a changing speed of light (he thinks it might be oscillating). Chuck Missler occasionally mentions the phenomenon as well.

Since junior high I have kept my eyes and ears open to questions or discoveries that might be relevant to the question of a constant speed of light, and have been fascinated how frequently it comes up. For something taught as fact to almost all students in our schools, it is pretty controversial. Einstein himself seems to have chosen it arbitrarily because it was convenient - or whatever. Did he have any observational evidence that the speed of light was unchanging? For this and a few other reasons, I remain skeptical of Einstein - praising him as a genius, of course - but not bowing to him as the supreme authority on physics. That is why I picked up this book, Reinventing Gravity. We'll see what it has to say.

Thank you for the links. I will read them soon - this weekend most likely.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Dr. Paleo,
I am, as I said in my response to Doc Op, a failure when it comes to reading physicists like Humphreys. To be quite honest, I discovered that he did not believe the speed of light was slowing down, and when I had the chance to read or buy Starlight and Time, I passed it by. It is on my reading list for someday, though.

What is CRSQ?

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

CRSQ - Creation Research Society Quarterly. The best Creationist scientific journal out there (kind of the only one, although AiG's brand new Answers may make a difference soon!), it's only $35 a year (that may sound like a lot for a subscription, but considering another of mine normally costs $100) and it's a good one. Also you get access to their website and past articles, and you could search about what you liked there.

I've met several of the board members, and I'm even good friends with one! But then again of course I am completely unbiased here. ;-)