A Challenge To The Skeptics

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    Relativity theory and Quantum theory only differ in their predictions from classical physics in three specific circumstances. The first case of failure in classical physics pertains to high velocities, which is efficiently explained with the theory of special relativity. Classical physics also fail on very large, cosmic scales, in which general relativity offers a more precise rationalization. The last state that does not conform to the beliefs of traditional physics is in the case of microscopic, atomic scales, which is more competently conceptualized with quantum theory. Although a classically minded skeptic may not initially agree with these "metaphysical" theories and consider the ideologies of modern physics to be abstruse, persuasive evidence of their practiced validity in modern technology, as well as maintaining percipient attention of their cognitive faculties may prove means for them to believe otherwise. Through a cogent examination of the experimental basis and core concepts of modern physics, that entail the predictions they deduce about our universe, I attest it will be difficult for a skeptic to continue to dispute the philosophies of modern physics. Of the three defined circumstances I propose to explore some of the experimental and explanatory fundamentals of both Special Relativity, and Quantum Theory.

    Special relativity offers an explanation to the observable inconsistencies of classical physics regarding matter traveling at high velocities. This theory, developed by Albert Einstein, is composed of two fundamental postulates: The Principle of Relativity, which states that 'the laws of physics are the same in all inertial reference frames'; and the Light Postulate, which states that 'the speed of light is the same in all inertial reference frames'. The motivation for the 'discovery' and development of special relativity emerged from the paradoxal consequences Einstein concluded from traditional physics. Maxwell's laws concerning the electromagnetic field claim that electromagnetic currents propagate at a fixed speed, which additionally is equable to the speed of light. Maxwell also stated that visible light never stops or slows down, and is always traveling at a definite speed. Einstein theorized, what were to happen if we chase a light beam at light speed? Classical physics entails that we would catch up to the light waves and they would appear to no longer be in motion, but Maxwell's equations also showed that light is never stationary, so it appeared as though the equations were different for moving objects with respect to stationary ones. Then which statement is correct, or is the speed at which light travels independent of frame of reference? This was the foundation for Einstein's resolution to this perplexing contradiction posed by the founders of classical physics.

    On an experimental basis, the first indirect confirmation of special relativity came through the Michaelson-Morley project. The purpose of the Michaelson-Morley project was not to confirm special relativity, for it had not yet been developed. Its purpose was to measure the speed of the Earth through the ether. These physicists theorized that since waves appear to propagate through a medium, such as sound waves through air, or water waves through water, that electromagnetic waves traveled through this immaterial substance called the ether. They assumed that light traveling in the same direction as the Earth would take less time to travel a given distance opposed to light traveling the same distance, perpendicular to the direction of the Earth. If this hypothesis was true, then the speed of the earth through the ether could be measured by calculating the difference in time it would take for light to travel in the different directions. They set up what was called the Michaelson interfermeter, this device measured a light path parallel to the motion of the Earth, and a light path perpendicular to the motion. Unfortunately for Michaelson and Morley, no difference was observed, and three possible conclusions were formulated. Either: The Earth is at rest in the ether, which was undisputedly wrong; the ether is dragged along with the Earth, which was the conclusion of Michaelson and Morley; or the assumption is incorrect. Then, how can explain the experimental result that both the parallel motion and perpendicular motion measured identical amounts of time for travel? Physicists before Einstein had hypothesized that a distortion of moving objects such as clocks or rulers could explain the null results of Michaelson and Morley, but they had no way to indicate why there would be such a distortion. But suppose we require the Principle of Relativity to hold for this experiment. Then the lack of difference between the two light beams would be due to the fact that the laws of physics are relative, and for an observer on the earth, moving with the earth (appearing to himself as stationary), an observable difference between the two beams would be impossible. If we were able to detect our own motion in an inertial frame of reference what would happen if we were traveling at or close to light speed, would the speed of light appear to shrink to zero? This concept of relative frames of reference pertaining to the laws of physics was Einstein's fundamental motivation for developing Special Relativity. He postulated that nothing can ever truly be 'at rest' and would only seem at rest with respect to something else. If this assumption were true, it would also entail that the means we use to measure space and time function in peculiar way that conceals the motion and speed of the measuring device from being observed in a uniformly moving reference frame. Einstein then began to apply his Principle to explain the odd effects that the equivalence of different observers at a constant velocity had on measuring devices, and observed three strange occurrences, two of which are the concepts of relativity of simultaneity, and time dilation.

    Experimentally, if you were to give an observer two explosives, and that observer were to set them off simultaneously, and at the same time send another observer whizzing by at a constant velocity, the two observers would argue over the simultaneity of the explosions. The traveling observer would claim that one event happened before the other, while the 'stationary' observer holding the explosives (wearing protective gear as not to blow his arms off) would claim the events happened simultaneously. This is where the simultaneity shift comes in. The concept of the relativity of simultaneity states that events are only simultaneous relative to an inertial reference frame. To uphold the light postulate, when spacetime diagrams of multiple reference frames are drawn, the slope between the x and x' axes, or the difference in motion between the two reference frames, must be equivalent to the slope between the t and t' axes. It is then observable that the lines of simultaneity, which are lines parallel to the x-axis, are different for the two separate reference frames, explaining the shift of simultaneity for the arguing observers.

    The claim of time dilation is that constantly moving clocks tick slower with respect to a stationary reference frame. For if a moving clock kept the same time as a stationary one, the moving clock could judge speeds of other inertial reference frames, violating the Principle of Relativity. This time dilation supported by the Principle of Relativity, requires Reciprocity, which is a reciprocal condition in a relationship. This reciprocity can be illustrated in a spacetime diagram where A and A' represent two clocks moving at different velocities with respect to one another. Incorporating and illustrating the shift of simultaneity in a spacetime diagram it is observable that A will conclude A' ticks slower and vice versa.

    Now that we've looked into the spacetime theories of Special Relativity compensating for the lack of consistent information available in classical physics pertaining to high velocities, I will continue our expedition of modern physics with the ideologies of Quantum Theory that constitutes the theory of matter on atomic scales. For the validity of Quantum Theory, I pose a theoretical question for those who find themselves prone to disbelief of its primary concepts. If in return for abandoning conventional preconception based on common sense that we hold about the composure and function of matter, we are better able to utilize and benefit from the elementary power contained in matter, why then, not release our tenacious predispositions? It may seem as though Quantum Theory is the 'black sheep' of classical physics, defying and recomposing the statutes of Newtonian physics, but Quantum Theory enables man to continue the progression of our modern technology. Quantum Mechanics combines the previously separated theories of the state of matter, namely the corpuscular ontology and wave theory that has dominated the concept of the state of matter for the past three centuries into what is now referred to as the wave-particle duality of matter.

    The wave-particle duality of matter brings about strange consequences. It seems as though the behavior of an object, behaving like a particle or like a wave, depends on how we choose to perceive it. That is to say that our observation of an object is what determines the properties of that object, and before we observe the object we cannot say whether the object is wave-like, particle-like, or even exists at all. Another oddity of Quantum physics is the indeterminacy of science that the wave-particle duality seems to suggest about the state of matter, an essential inability to predict precisely the future state of affairs of a system. Both these consequences are very hard to grasp for skeptics and prequantum physicists alike, as they are in violation of both common sense and classical physics. Quantum Theory formulates postulates that govern by probability, and not property. But aside from the perplexing predictions and ideologies of Quantum physics, their theories have been successfully confirmed in the laboratories, such as Young's 'two-slit' experiment, or the discovery of the photoelectric effect.

    The first experiment observably explained by Quantum Theory is the interference and reinforcement phenomena of light. Interference of a wave is when a crest of a single wave collides with a trough of another wave yielding a neutral or zero level waves. Reinforcement occurs when two crests or two troughs meet, rendering an even higher crest, or lower trough. This experimental procedure denotes why, in execution of experiments such as the 'two-slit' experiment, 'bands' of light and dark are observed. When a light source is places behind a barrier with one slit and another barrier containing two slits and then a observation screen, the results are bands of light and dark according to the occurrences of interference of reinforcement. It is reasons such as this observable interference of light that suggest the inconsistencies of the corpuscular theory of matter.

    In the nature of an electron, it was observed that electrons move in discrete levels. The photoelectric effect is the condition in which when light is shone upon certain metals, electrons are released from the metal. Under experimentation by physicist Philipp Lenard, it was expectedly observed that the higher the intensity of incoming light the more electrons are released from the given metal. What was astonishing about the experiment was that the kinetic energy of individual escaping electrons did not increase when the intensity of the incoming light was increased. For light of a given frequency, the kinetic energy of released electrons was independent of the intensity of the incoming light. Even stranger was the observation that the kinetic energy of the outgoing electrons did in fact increase, when the frequency of the incoming light was increased.

     The very same year that Einstein published his paper on the theory of relativity, he also proposed a new theory of light, which explained Lenard's photoelectric experiment results. Einstein theorized that light was not evenly distributed over a region of space, as one would expect from a wave, but rather travels in individual 'lumps' of energy. He describes what we now refer to as the Light Quantum Hypothesis, which states that high frequency heat radiation behaves as if it were divided into spatially localized 'lumps' of energy. As increase in light intensity corresponds to a greater number of quantums of light. Since each quantum may eject an electron, a greater number of them would increase the amount of ejected electrons. However, for a light of a fixed frequency, the energy of each quantum would remain the same, and is not increased by increasing the number of quantums. So when a single electron is hit by a single quantum the energy gained will remain the same, regardless of the intensity of light. Increasing the frequency of the individual light quantums will however increase the amount of energy each quantum contains. Therefore even at a low intensity, if the frequency is high enough, the electron that is ejected will gain more energy. So even if the intensity of light, or amount of light quantums are released, electrons will only be released if the frequency, or energy contained in each light quantums, is high enough. This theory that Einstein proposed suggested particle-like properties of light. So which is correct? Or are they both correct? Seemingly, it is only a matter of observation that in different experimentations, the behavior of matter (including light) can be concluded as both particle-like, as well as wave-like.

    In the face of twentieth century physics, many groundbreaking discoveries have been made concerning the nature of spacetime and matter. The largest contribution to the development of Relativity and Quantum theories is the ingenious work of Albert Einstein, as well as other Nobel Prize winning physicists such as Planck and Lenard and many others. After infiltrating through the processes of experimentation of Special Relativity and Quantum Theory I find it hard to object to their affirmations. Through acceptance of these posed theories, in spite of their contradictions to common sense and prequantum physics, we are able to produce better technology in our medicinal institutions, entertainment technologies, as well as improve our conceptual understanding of the universe we live in. There are many other confirmations and theoretical propositions to Special Relativity and Quantum Theory additional to the ones I have explored in the confines of this paper. I greatly encourage the further exploration of the world of twentieth century physics, for both those who find it genuinely interesting, and those skeptics who still maintain a classical conception of the metaphysics of modern technology. These philosophies hold boundless possibilities for the capacity of human advancements in science, and may prove to 'unlock' many of the mysteries of the universe. If we are able to release our previous conceptions of space, time, and matter, and allow the uncertainty of the universe to maintain its ominous nature, we may further evolve and improve (or destroy; depending on how exactly one moralizes the advancement of technology) the capabilities and capacities of our existence.

1. Infeld, Leopold The Evolution Of Physics (1938, 1966) A Touchstone Book, Simon and Schuster Inc : New York
2. Greene, Brian The Elegant Universe (1999) Vintage Books : New York.
3. Einstein, Albert Sidelights On Relativity (1923) Library Of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

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