Monday, September 21, 2009

What do I believe of physics?

A depressing thought struck me recently. As a student many many years ago my view of the world was shaped by courses on physics and chemistry.

And most of the things I learnt then I still believe.

For example, Newton's law of gravitational attraction.
(Most of my life has been a struggle against gravity, and gravity has usually won!)

The question is: what of the things I have been told by physicists since then do I really believe?

For example, I do believe the experimental evidence for quantum mechanics, and that there is something profound involved. I don't believe in many worlds.

I don't believe in black holes (at least, as described by physicists).

The problem is that I don't even know what physicists really believe. Do they believe with Tegmark in multiverses? Do they believe in 10 or 11 dimensional space?

I am reminded of an article by Lord Kelvin: On the Age of the Sun’s Heat, Macmillan's Magazine, vol. 5 (March 5, 1862), pp. 288-293, in which after discussing the meteoric theory for the origin of the sun's heat he says:

"That some form of the meteoric theory is certainly the true and complete explanation of solar heat can scarcely be doubted, when the following reasons are considered:

(1.) No other natural explanation, except by chemical action, can be conceived. (my bold face).

(2.) The chemical theory is quite insufficient, because the most energetic chemical action we know, taking place between substances amounting to the whole sun’s mass, would only generate about 3,000 years’ heat.[9]

(3.) There is no difficulty in accounting for 20,000,000 years’ heat by the meteoric theory."



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