Saturday, January 31, 2015

"Nothing happens until something moves."

- Albert Einstein

Seems self-evident, doesn't it? But, when one takes into account the interplay of time, energy, and matter for the formation of perception and reality, the above statement is simplistically elegant.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Max Planck

Max Planck
Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, (April 23, 1858 – October 4, 1947) was a German theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory, which won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.

Planck made many contributions to theoretical physics, but his fame rests primarily on his role as the originator of the quantum theory. This theory revolutionized human understanding of atomic and subatomic processes, just as Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity revolutionized the understanding of space and time. Together they constitute the fundamental theories of 20th-century physics.

In 1894, Planck turned his attention to the problem of black-body radiation. He had been commissioned by electric companies to create maximum light from lightbulbs with minimum energy. The problem had been stated by Kirchhoff in 1859: "how does the intensity of the electromagnetic radiation emitted by a black body (a perfect absorber, also known as a cavity radiator) depend on the frequency of the radiation (i.e., the color of the light) and the temperature of the body?" The question had been explored experimentally, but no theoretical treatment agreed with experimental values. Wilhelm Wien proposed Wien's law, which correctly predicted the behavior at high frequencies, but failed at low frequencies. The Rayleigh–Jeans law, another approach to the problem, created what was later known as the "ultraviolet catastrophe", but contrary to many textbooks this was not a motivation for Planck.

Planck's first proposed solution to the problem in 1899 followed from what Planck called the "principle of elementary disorder," which allowed him to derive Wien's law from a number of assumptions about the entropy of an ideal oscillator, creating what was referred-to as the Wien–Planck law. Soon it was found that experimental evidence did not confirm the new law at all, to Planck's frustration. Planck revised his approach, deriving the first version of the famous Planck black-body radiation law, which described the experimentally observed black-body spectrum well. It was first proposed in a meeting of the DPG on October 19, 1900 and published in 1901. This first derivation did not include energy quantization, and did not use statistical mechanics, to which he held an aversion. In November 1900, Planck revised this first approach, relying on Boltzmann's statistical interpretation of the second law of thermodynamics as a way of gaining a more fundamental understanding of the principles behind his radiation law. As Planck was deeply suspicious of the philosophical and physical implications of such an interpretation of Boltzmann's approach, his recourse to them was, as he later put it, "an act of despair ... I was ready to sacrifice any of my previous convictions about physics."

The central assumption behind his new derivation, presented to the DPG on 14 December 1900, was the supposition, now known as the Planck postulate, that electromagnetic energy could be emitted only in quantized form, in other words, the energy could only be a multiple of an elementary unit E = h \nu, where h is Planck's constant, also known as Planck's action quantum (introduced already in 1899), and \nu (the Greek letter nu, not the Roman letter v) is the frequency of the radiation. Note that the elementary units of energy discussed here are represented by h \nu and not simply by h. Physicists now call these quanta photons, and a photon of frequency \nu will have its own specific and unique energy. The amplitude of energy at that frequency is then a function of the number of photons of that frequency being produced per unit of time.

At first Planck considered that quantization was only "a purely formal assumption ... actually I did not think much about it..."; nowadays this assumption, incompatible with classical physics, is regarded as the birth of quantum physics and the greatest intellectual accomplishment of Planck's career (Ludwig Boltzmann had been discussing in a theoretical paper in 1877 the possibility that the energy states of a physical system could be discrete). Further interpretation of the implications of Planck's work was advanced by Albert Einstein in 1905 in connection with his work on the photoelectric effect—for this reason, the philosopher and historian of science Thomas Kuhn argued that Einstein should be given credit for quantum theory more so than Planck, since Planck did not understand in a deep sense that he was "introducing the quantum" as a real physical entity. Be that as it may, it was in recognition of Planck's monumental accomplishment that he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.

The discovery of Planck's constant enabled him to define a new universal set of physical units (such as the Planck length and the Planck mass), all based on fundamental physical constants.

Subsequently, Planck tried to grasp the meaning of energy quanta, but to no avail. "My unavailing attempts to somehow reintegrate the action quantum into classical theory extended over several years and caused me much trouble." Even several years later, other physicists like Rayleigh, Jeans, and Lorentz set Planck's constant to zero in order to align with classical physics, but Planck knew well that this constant had a precise nonzero value. "I am unable to understand Jeans' stubbornness — he is an example of a theoretician as should never be existing, the same as Hegel was for philosophy. So much the worse for the facts if they don't fit."

Max and Albert
Max Born wrote about Planck: "He was, by nature, a conservative mind; he had nothing of the revolutionary and was thoroughly skeptical about speculations. Yet his belief in the compelling force of logical reasoning from facts was so strong that he did not flinch from announcing the most revolutionary idea which ever has shaken physics."

In 1905, the three epochal papers of the hitherto completely unknown Albert Einstein were published in the journal Annalen der Physik. Planck was among the few who immediately recognized the significance of the special theory of relativity. Thanks to his influence, this theory was soon widely accepted in Germany. Planck also contributed considerably to extend the special theory of relativity.

Einstein's hypothesis of light quanta (photons), based on Philipp Lenard's 1902 discovery of the photoelectric effect, was initially rejected by Planck. He was unwilling to discard completely Maxwell's theory of electrodynamics. "The theory of light would be thrown back not by decades, but by centuries, into the age when Christian Huygens dared to fight against the mighty emission theory of Isaac Newton ..."

In 1910, Einstein pointed out the anomalous behavior of specific heat at low temperatures as another example of a phenomenon which defies explanation by classical physics. Planck and Nernst, seeking to clarify the increasing number of contradictions, organized the First Solvay Conference (Brussels 1911). At this meeting Einstein was able to convince Planck.

Meanwhile, Planck had been appointed dean of Berlin University, whereby it was possible for him to call Einstein to Berlin and establish a new professorship for him (1914). Soon the two scientists became close friends and met frequently to play music together.

At the end of the 1920s Bohr, Heisenberg and Pauli had worked out the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, but it was rejected by Planck, and by Schrödinger, Laue, and Einstein as well. Planck expected that wave mechanics would soon render quantum theory—his own child—unnecessary. This was not to be the case, however. Further work only cemented quantum theory, even against his and Einstein's philosophical revulsions. Planck experienced the truth of his own earlier observation from his struggle with the older views in his younger years: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

Planck was very tolerant towards alternative views and religions. In a lecture on 1937 entitled "Religion und Naturwissenschaft" he suggested the importance of these symbols and rituals related directly with a believer's ability to worship God, but that one must be mindful that the symbols provide an imperfect illustration of divinity. He criticized atheism for being focused on the derision of such symbols, while at the same time warned of the over-estimation of the importance of such symbols by believers.

Max Planck said "All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter" in 1944, indicating that he believed in some kind of god.

Planck regarded the scientist as a man of imagination and faith, "faith" interpreted as being similar to "having a working hypothesis". For example the causality principle isn't true or false, it is an act of faith. Thereby Planck may have indicated a view that points toward Imre Lakatos' research programs process descriptions, where falsification is mostly tolerable, in faith of its future removal. He also said: "Both Religion and science require a belief in God. For believers, God is in the beginning, and for physicists He is at the end of all considerations… To the former He is the foundation, to the latter, the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view".

On the other hand, Planck wrote, "...'to believe' means 'to recognize as a truth,' and the knowledge of nature, continually advancing on incontestably safe tracks, has made it utterly impossible for a person possessing some training in natural science to recognize as founded on truth the many reports of extraordinary contradicting the laws of nature, of miracles which are still commonly regarded as essential supports and confirmations of religious doctrines, and which formerly used to be accepted as facts pure and simple, without doubt or criticism. The belief in miracles must retreat step by step before relentlessly and reliably progressing science and we cannot doubt that sooner or later it must vanish completely."

Later in life, Planck's views on God were that of a deist. For example, six months before his death a rumor started that Planck had converted to Catholicism, but when questioned what had brought him to make this step, he declared that, although he had always been deeply religious, he did not believe "in a personal God, let alone a Christian God."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Social Darwinism

Herbert Spencer, a 19th century philosopher, promoted the idea of Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism is an application of the theory of natural selection to social, political, and economic issues. In its simplest form, Social Darwinism follows the mantra of "the strong survive," including human issues.

Some social philosophers extend this philosophy into a micro-economic issue, claiming that social welfare programs are contrary to nature.

At its worst, the implications of Social Darwinism were used as scientific justification for the Holocaust. The Nazis claimed that the murder of Jews in World War II was an example of cleaning out the inferior genetics. Many philosophers noted evolutionary echoes in Hitler's march to exterminate an entire race of people. Various other dictators and criminals have claimed the cause of Social Darwinism in justifying their beliefs.

Scientists and evolutionists maintain that this interpretation is only loosely based on Darwin's theory of natural selection. They admit to a parallel between Darwin's theory of Natural Selection and Spencer's beliefs in that, in nature, the strong survive and those best suited to survival will out-live the weak. According to Social Darwinism, those with strength (economic, physical, technological) flourish and those without are destined for extinction.

It is important to note that Darwin did not extend his theories to a social or economic level, nor do any credible evolutionists subscribe to the theories of Social Darwinism. Herbert Spencer's philosophy is only loosely based on the premises of Darwin's work.

Herbert Spencer
However, according to evolutionary theory, nature is a "kill-or-be-killed" system. Those that cannot keep up are either left behind or cut off. If evolution, through chance, is solely responsible for life as we now know it, why should that process be countered? If "survival of the fittest" or "kill or be killed" cannot apply in what we define as "decent society," then, which is wrong, society or evolution? If neither, then how do we explain morality, charity, and compassion? Why drain resources from the strong to support the weak?

All right, so let's review. Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is entirely focused on an explanation of life's biological diversity. It is a scientific theory meant to explain observations about species. Yet some have used the theory to justify a particular view of human social, political, or economic conditions. All such ideas have one fundamental flaw: They use a purely scientific theory for a completely unscientific purpose. In doing so they misrepresent and misappropriate Darwin's original ideas.

Based largely on notions of competition and natural selection, Social Darwinist theories generally hold that the powerful in society are innately better than the weak and that success is proof of their superiority.

Darwin passionately opposed social injustice and oppression. It is likely he would have been dismayed to see the events of generations to come: that is, his name attached to opposing ideologies from Marxism to unbridled capitalism, and to policies from ethnic cleansing to forced sterilization. Whether used to rationalize social inequality, racism, or eugenics, so-called Social Darwinist theories are a gross misreading of the ideas first described in the Origin of Species and applied in modern biology.

In 1887, social scientists began using the term "social Darwinism" to apply the survival of the fittest theory to social situations.

Proponents of this particular form of ‘social Darwinism’, such as Herbert Spencer, taught that the powerful and wealthy were this way because they were biologically and evolutionally superior to the struggling masses. They believed that we should therefore do nothing to help improve the working and living conditions of the lesser evolved masses. Charities were clearly evil in helping sustain the lives of those who otherwise would and should die in the natural selection process. In other words, the weak were to do their duty and die while the fittest survived, which would one day lead to an evolutionarily super society and race. Pretty harsh, eh?

Soon, many began to view racial struggles, and war itself, as perfectly natural examples of survival-of-the-fittest in the human race. The horrific wars of the 20th century, employing shockingly brutal tactics, were encouraged by a belief in survival-of-the-fittest among humans. While social Darwinism itself was applied to social and economic situations rather than military ones, it is easy how extreme versions of social Darwinism could justify physical struggles among races.

Social Darwinism has been linked with racism, nationalism, imperialism, and atheism. Today. progressive elitists still use the arguments of the inexact and false theories of Social Darwinism to advance their social agenda, and to justify the murders of anyone who would stand in their way. The so-called evolution of the species is their justification to commit atrocities and decide who rules, who serves, who lives and who dies. It is not science and it is certainly not moral nor humanistic.