Sunday, September 02, 2018

Fissix

F is six

The ancient Greeks used alpha, when doing arithmetic, instead of our one, 1, and they had beta for 2, gamma for 3 and so forth. The symbol for gamma was like a reflected L, and so our letter F began life as digamma (which is, spookily, an anagram of mad magi), which they used for 6. Now, the New Testament was originally written in ancient Greek, and so the Number of the Beast was basically FEX, which is, spookily, indeed the name of a man. But, this post is really about physics (ancient Greek for “nature”); and in particular, an urban myth:

Urban Myth


The myth concerns a small machine with a clock-face of light bulbs, one of which is on at any given time when the machine is on. Which bulb it is that is on is determined by which one was previously on and how a small radioactive sample has decayed in the unit of time of the machine: the light will have moved one place clockwise if the sample emitted a detected particle in that time, one place anticlockwise if no such particle was detected. The unit of time is such that there is a 50% chance of a particle being detected in that time.

The machine (which is clearly from The Fury) is placed in front of a human subject, who has to try to make the light move clockwise by really wanting it to. The myth is that some physicists built such a machine and got the light to move clockwise more often than would be expected from random motion. Other physicists tried to repeat the experiment and, according to the myth, they got no positive results. The original results were explained as being random after all (quite likely because things that are truly random tend to look more structured), or as being due to methodological errors (they were physicists, not parapsychologists).

However, the original results could hardly have been undermined by similar results not being obtained with other people, who might not have had the same abilities. Further research, of an appropriate kind, would have had to have been carried out, because of the enormous implications for physics: Modern physics is based on particle physics, which is based on observations of what is essentially a scaled-up and much more complicated version of the small machine. If physicists could affect the events inside particle accelerators, via their expectations and desires, then that would throw a whole new light on particle physics, and hence the whole of physics.

Had there been something to find, then they would have found it, and physics would have changed accordingly. Now, we would have noticed, because there would hardly be this urban myth floating about had they wanted to keep it secret (the possibility of secrets arises because of the money in innovation, the world wars, the cold war and so forth). So, it must be a myth because conversely, had there not been anything to find, then that would have put micro-psychokinesis to sleep forever. Since the physicists would have wanted to be quite sure, hence they would have been quite exhaustive in their investigations. Whereas, parapsychologists still investigate micro-psychokinesis.

Evidence that there is micro-psychokinesis could therefore include, given the above, the very success of relativistic physics. The equations of relativistic space-time were developed at the end of the nineteenth century, even before the quantum-mechanical nature of moving particles had been noticed. It was an amazing discovery, and it is even more amazing that it has not fundamentally altered because it is inconsistent with quantum mechanics. But, particle physicists keep finding patterns that verify it. (Particle physicists are very proud of their understanding of the sophisticated mathematical language of relativistic physics, of course.)

The main evidence is the operation of the human brain (how else is the mind going to influence the working of the brain?) and a few paranormal phenomena; but how odd that the equations of relativity arrived out of nowhere, when wars were still being fought on horseback. We are asked to imagine how the world would look were we going at the speed of light, because physics should always look just the same. Then we find such equations. But what if bats did physics? Would Bert the bat assume that nothing goes faster than the speed of sound? What if his equations ended up being very complicated? What would that mean? That he was a batty bat!

But of course, science likes materialism, not Cartesian dualism. And it likes spiritualism even less. As for relativity, we know that there are no aliens because of it. Why can nothing go faster than the speed of light? Imagine going at the speed of light, or faster, and then emitting light. And the problem with that is that we do not know how fast we are going through space. How unlikely it is that we would be going slowly. And yet, light gets emitted just the same in all directions. There was an experiment to test the speed of light in various directions. It was small enough to fit inside a plane. So imagine how sensitive it was. Then it was taken up in a plane!

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