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Everything posted by Severian

  1. Actually, I take back that statement a little bit, or at least qualify it. A particle is really a quantised excitation of a field - not so much the field itself. So the Higgs boson, for example, is an excitation of the Higgs field. I am not sure what alpha2cen is asking, but a (real) Higgs has a non-zero probability of being created in any collision that is energetic enough to provide its mass (125 GeV or so). You can make a virtual Higgs with any energy though - it will just decay even quicker than usual.
  2. It is the same argument to insist that there is life out there. A small probability becomes a certainty when you have a large enough sample of a long enough time scale. We nearly destroyed humanity over the Cuban Missile Crisis, so the probability of a "civilized" society destroying itself is not very small. Give us 100,000 years and even better technology for destroying ourselves and it will surely come.
  3. Oh sorry - it looks like an n on my screen. What a strange font. Hang on... [math]\pi[/math] ... Edit: looks OK in a math font. Edit 2: In order for [math]\pi[/math] to be different, we would have to be living on a curved space, since by definition [math]\pi[/math] is the ratio of circumference of a circle to its diameter. If the space is curved, than you can imagine going across the circle would take longer than you would expect from the circumference. Then you could have the laws of physics exactly as they are, but just have weird gravitational effects from the curved space.
  4. I think it is never "OK to kill". It may be the lesser of two evils, so ultimately be something that society decides to do, but it is never "OK".
  5. I don't think first contact is ever possible. The calculations that lead one to believe that other life exists in the universe are using the sheer number of stars to infer likelihood. The number of stars is huge but the probability of any particular one holding life is tiny. If you look at our local space (i.e. space we could conceivably communicate with) then the number of stars is still far too small for life to be likely, never mind intelligent life. Then you have to take into account not only spatial distance, but temporal distance. Even if a civilization remains technologically advanced for 100,000 years(!) that is still only one millionth of the age of the universe. So if, by some extraordinary coincidence, there were some other civilization that called our local area home, the chances are we will not overlap in time. We may as well try to communicate with ancient Babylon.
  6. What do you mean by "n"? The number of spatial dimensions? If so, how is this derivable? We don't even know if it is 3, so surely we can't derive it!
  7. You don't need to invoke Black holes for your objection. You could just ask why is the Earth not have a stronger gravitational pull than one could infer from the amount of visible matter? The reason (as already stated in this thread) is simply that dark matter doesn't clump like the other matter does. While is does clump on large distance scales (galaxy cluster scales) due to its gravitational attraction, its lack of other interactions means that it doesn't clump on planet of black hole scales.
  8. Which side were you arguing? Technicolor is a very nice theory, analogous to the mechanism QCD uses to give the proton mass. It has some technical problems, but shouldn't be abandoned just yet in my opinion. In fact, the current Higgs events seem to have a deficit in the fermionic decay channels. All of the signal can be accommodated by a Higgs that has only couplings to the gauge bosons. If that turns out to be true, maybe it is technicolor that gives masses to the fermions...?
  9. Obviously one can never prove that the universe is infinite, but there is no evidence that there are any boundaries in space.
  10. There is more to it than that too. You have to account for all the gluon interactions in there too.
  11. I was talking about the electromagnetic force between two point charges. I thought that was obvious.
  12. I can't say either way, since I can never test it (since I always need particles present to make a measurement) but my gut feeling is that space and time are properties of particles (or perhaps better to say events). This would be in much the same way that energy can't exist except as a property of particles (though space and time are a bit different since they are relational between multiple particles). Of course, since it can't be tested, it isn't really a scientific question at all...
  13. The biggest problem I can see with your prediction, is that you pulled it out of your ass. Where did you get [math] v_h = \sqrt{\frac{(\hbar c)^3}{\sqrt{2} G_F}}[/math] from? Perhaps you were meaning to write [math] M_W = \frac{g}{2} \sqrt{\frac{(\hbar c)^3}{\sqrt{2} G_F}}[/math]? The difference between this and your "prediction" is that this is derived from the theory. Admittedly, it is mildly interesting that [math]M_W \approx g M_H[/math] but it is most likely coincidence.
  14. QCD (the theory of how quarks interact) has now been incredibly well tested. In fact, without a comprehensive understanding of QCD we couldn't have found the Higgs.
  15. No, the reason we don't use them is because the oil industry doesn't want our economies to shift away from oil, and the politicians are in their pocket.
  16. As I have said before, I don't find it plausible at all. It is a baseless speculation with no scientific grounding nor any evidence to support it.
  17. If light did have mass, the electromagnetic gauge symmetry would be broken and electromagnetism would no longer be a [math]1/r^2[/math] law.
  18. I think the measure the OP was probably implicitly alluding to was the amount the candidate person changed the world. Or in other words, had the person not lived, by how much would today's world be different?
  19. I think it is a fallacy to suggest that the we spend a lot of money on particle physics. It sounds like a lot to the individual but is not a lot when considering the budgets of governments. For example, the UK government, a couple of years ago, let Vodafone off the hook for a tax bill worth £7 billion which is the same cost as the entire LHC (which was spread over multiple countries). Similarly, as a society we spend more each year on ring tones than we spend researching nuclear fusion. A disgracefully small proportion of our income is spent on scientific research and we should be increasing it, not decreasing it even further. It is even disputed that these facilities cost us any money whatsoever. John Wormersley recently gave an interesting talk on the economic benefits of the tevatron where he estimated that "$4 billion went into the Tevatron and roughly $50 billion came out."
  20. You must admit though, you are being deliberately obtuse. Almost everyone's view of the world has been affected, at least indirectly, by Jesus, while hardly anyone has been affected by Feynman (his role in developing the bomb was rather minor). I suppose if you dispute Jesus was a real person, you would have an argument, that that is a whole different kettle of fish...
  21. That is simply not true. Dark matter, for example, is called "Dark" matter simply because it doesn't emit light. It has nothing to do with its unknown nature.
  22. You did. Or at least, you can only be certain that wavefunction collapse happens for your own measurements (since the scientists who made the measurements might be in a superposition of states until you review them yourself).
  23. I also disagree with this. Certainly from my perspective the age of the Earth is more obscure than the age of the universe. The 4.53 billion years estimate is coming from a meteor, but I don't think most people know this. I think most people really don't have a proper concept of 4.54 billion years. Anything this long falls into the category of "a long time". The dinosaurs, for example, started out in the Triassic, about 245 million years ago, and 4.5 billion years is almost 20 times that. So even if I trust paleontologists to have correctly timed the dinosaurs (again this is trust on faith, since I have never read the papers) I need a large extrapolation to 4.5 billion years. The oldest form of life found, are fossils of bacteria from approximately 3 billion years ago, but again, accepting this is entirely based on trust. I am not saying I disagree that the Earth is 4.54 billion years old, on any level. But I am a scientist, so I understand how science works and am inclined to believe my fellow scientists' per reviewed claims without needing to know all the details. However, I think it is important to acknowledge that much of this is built on trust of other people - not on my own independent enquiry - so the acceptance of these facts is by no means "obvious". This is not a fair comparison, because the auto mechanic is not presenting himself in a position to give advice on neurosurgery, nor vice versa. A better comparison would be to take an auto mechanic, put him in a doctor's white coat, and send him around the around the ward. I bet you 90% of people wouldn't be able to tell the difference (especially if you gave him an hour or training before hand).
  24. But this is only your opinion (or perhaps that of the society you mix in) as to who "knows what they're talking about". A religious person may think that their priest "knows what they're talking about" when it comes to religious questions like the creation of the Earth. Look, I am a scientist - obviously I am happy with the statement that the universe is 13.7 billion years old. But I am not quite so blasé about it. Even though I understand the science behind the WMAP data, have read the papers, and understand them, I am certainly aware that I also don't know everything about the experiment. I have to take their word on the electronics, data analysis, experiment calibration, and many other things. It is certainly not obvious, and I can't help feeling people accepting scientific results from a position of faith, and then criticising or ridiculing those who adopt other faith based world-views, are being a little hypocritical.
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