My (Limited) Experience in Physics

I remember being fascinated by the basic concepts and implications of Physics from a young age watching science shows like “Cosmos,” “The Universe,” and “Through the Wormhole,” but my more formal study of physics never made it much past basic classical mechanics and a modest amount of Hamiltonian physics. And it was super hard for me to even get that far! 😂 My highest intellectual esteem for those that pursue physics as a profession. (I’d say economics is probably even harder of a mission in science, but I’d also humbly assert that it seems easier than in physics to at least getting to be “average” or “competitive” at it relative to others in the field.)

One area that I would encourage all people to look more into, however, is the basic concepts and implications of quantum mechanics (or physics at the smallest or most fundamental scales) as they stand. Of all theories relating to physics (at least in surface-level understanding) that was the one area that I found the most fruitful in fueling my philosophical questions, and filling me with wonder. Quantum entanglement, the collapse of the wave function, the standard model, and theories tying forces and particles to the structure of space-time (string theory, loop quantum gravity, etc.) all bring out new ways of viewing and understanding reality that can be superbly complicated, but also most inspiring. The ultimate nature of wave function collapse in particular has fueled earth-shaking (but still too little discussed, I would say) philosophical and scientific debates between famous scientists: Erwin Schrödinger, Niels Bohr, and Werner Heisenberg together, for example, argued on the side of various forms of “Indeterminism” in interpreting the phenomenon and its consequences. At the same time, other greats like Albert Einstein and Hugh Everett III argued against this notion and proposed forms of “Determinism” instead as an explanation. Of course, a number of physicists and philosophers since those 20th century debates have presented more nuanced views since then with no clear consensus in the scientific community as of 2020. (Freeman Dyson believed particles had minor elements of conscious power in “choice,” for example, and Stephen Hawking argued for a kind of “deterministic probability,” etc.)

I know many people, and even many scientists, are tempted to view “science” as a monolith of agreed-upon and fruitful processes for understanding reality, and, indeed, the reality of reliability in scientific progress cannot be easily denied. However, behind the presentations of unanimity so popular in an era of desperation for stable knowledge and authority, you can still find massive disagreements in intepretation of scientific results, particularly when findings relate to values, ethics, or philosophical and religious beliefs. Regardless of your thoughts on the character of “science,” it remains fascinating to me to read about some of the most profound minds in modern, western history arguing for differing views on the meaning of scientific theory and discoveries. I highly recommend it.As a minor disclaimer, I’d remind anyone to take my personal opinions on the above with a grain of salt. The “inspiration” I was referring to did take place partly amongst the pages of “String Theory for Dummies,” and not exactly in front of a particle accelerator, for example. (I still recommend the book though.)

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