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The "Standard Model" in Physics
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December 20, 2015, 03:01:56 PM
Doing the "circle tangent to 3 lines" manually in the other thread, flashed me back to 1965 when I thought I would major in Physics.  I have a logical mind, but without much of a memory.  When looking into the 1965 framework of particle physics, I figured that it would not be my cup-of-tea.  So i changed to Mechanical Engineering, the logic of which was relatively obvious.

In case you haven't been keeping up with the Standard Model of Physics, it is pretty weird.  At this point, though, it gives very good results.  Can't argue with that.


December 20, 2015, 08:27:07 PM

You can argue with that. Ptolemy's model gave pretty good results.

The question: is anyone looking for a better model, or is this the new religion of physics and cosmology?


DesignCAD user since 1987

December 21, 2015, 02:30:41 AM
Dr PR,

The thing is, the Standard Model is based on real observations, not some philosophical approach.  Its predictions are accurate.  We see confirmations in colliders all the time. The Higgs Boson is one of those predictions.

As far as Ptolemy's "theorem", its predictive accuracy fell apart as our observations became more precise, even ignoring its lack of basis in physical laws.


December 21, 2015, 11:08:14 AM
It is not the observations that are in question - it is the interpretation that is questionable.

Some people interpret the facts in accordance with their preconceived beliefs. This isn't science - it is religion. Believe whatever you want to believe and then insist that it is "true" because it is what you want to believe.

So, are these "scientists" interpreting the observations that support a preconceived belief that the "Standard Model" is correct? That would be religion.

Or are they looking for a new and better explanation? That would be science.

I have followed many of these "scientific" debates over the last 70 years, and many of the "truths" have eventually fallen by the wayside when entirely new hypotheses have been proposed and tested. Who is testing new hypotheses today? Who is looking for an explanation other than the Standard Model?

There is no question that collider experiments generate information. But in many cases the experimental apparatus was designed to produce a preconceived result. Then you just discard the unwanted information and sift out whatever meets your preconceived beliefs. And, of course, if anyone questions the results get on your platform, pound your chest and say "I know the truth!" Or you attack the questioner, instead of the question.

My favorite example is in a book written by a Professor at a university in Sweden that gives the clearest and most concise explanation of the Big Bang Theory that I have ever read. Then he asks the question "Is there any other explanation for the observations?" (red shift observations that support the Big Bang Theory).

He mentions that red shift can be caused by gravitational fields,  but he says there isn't enough mass in the universe to generate gravitational fields strong enough to cause the observed red shifts. But how does he know how much mass is in the universe? The Big Bang Theory tells him so.

If he was really looking for an alternative to the Big Bang he would discard everything based upon that theory and start anew by calculating the mass necessary to explain observed red shift and then asking what such a universe would look like? Do observations support this idea?

But no one seems to be interested in finding a better explanation. Every time a new observation comes along that should throw doubt on the Big Bang idea or the Standard Theory the model is tweaked so that it complies with observations and the observations are interpreted as supporting the tweaked model. This isn't science. It is no different than kids making mud pies in the back yard.

No one wants to give up preconceived beliefs and start over from scratch. Look at the way the "scientific" community reacted to Einstein's predictions. Very few of the self anointed "authorities" accepted these radical ideas and many ridiculed Einstein.

You can't ever learn anything new by just repeating what someone else has said.


DesignCAD user since 1987

December 21, 2015, 12:03:03 PM
It is not the observations that are in question - it is the interpretation that is questionable.

Some people interpret the facts in accordance with their preconceived beliefs. This isn't science - it is religion. Believe whatever you want to believe and then insist that it is "true" because it is what you want to believe.

So, are these "scientists" interpreting the observations that support a preconceived belief that the "Standard Model" is correct? That would be religion...

That is not how science works.  If someone comes up with a better predictive model than what's generally accepted now, the "Standard Model" would be dropped in a second.  There are no preconceived beliefs.  There are only purely adaptive hypothesis that are derived from observations, and observations may never contradict the model.


December 21, 2015, 12:08:56 PM
Speaking of religion and modelling matter etc, you must have heard the one about the Higgs Boson particle denied access to the church service - so he complains to the Priest "But you can't have mass without me !" :)


December 22, 2015, 12:19:49 AM

That's how science is supposed to work. But in my 50+ years as a scientist I have observed many attempts to make observations fit existing theories. It isn't a deliberate attempt to distort "facts" but just the easy way to do things. Once you have committed time to supporting a particular idea you just think that way. The idea has a sort of inertia and it is hard to discard it, start over and look for an entirely new explanation. Especially if you associate with a group of people who share the same ideas. Few people are happy about discarding a lifetime's work and beliefs and starting over from scratch. So they resist change.

And those new to science (or just outside observers) are often enamored by all of the exciting ideas they are learning and rarely stop to ask if there are better ideas, or even if what they are being taught is correct. Remember "cold fusion?"

The Higgs boson is a classic example of this. It isn't something that was discovered by accident during observations of the real world. It's existence was predicted by the latest version of the Standard Model. Then an experiment was designed to find what they were looking for in accordance with the predictions of the theory. After sifting through huge amounts of data something was found (surprise!) that corresponded with what the researchers were looking for. This sort of "science" is always suspicious. Religious fundamentalists do this all the time trying to make observations of the real world fit into their preconceived beliefs.

Don't get me wrong. Something was observed. But was it the thing predicted by the theory or something else totally unrelated that just happened to look like the predicted results? The people who have spent much of their lives searching for the Higgs boson really aren't asking this question, but they should.

Hypothesis can guide us in looking for answers. Einstein's prediction of gravity bending the path of light is an excellent example. But more often than not preconceived ideas just lead us astray, looking for the wrong answers.

So-called scientists often mistake their theories and "laws" for reality. Theories exist in our minds, reality exists outside our minds. Because of the imperfections in our minds and measuring instruments we can never fully understand reality. For example, the best we can do is say a real world object has such-and-such dimensions with some degree of measurement error.

The difference between science and religion is that religion involves absolute certainty and science can never have absolute certainty. Personally, I find it pretty ridiculous to think that a bunch of neo-apes, isolated on an insignificant planet in an insignificant galaxy among countless other galaxies in a perhaps infinite universe, can understand it all. "Theories of everything" are nonsense!

Some humility is needed here. The Big Bang Theory and the Standard Model fail to explain a few very important things. Gravity, expansion of the universe, dark matter and a few other puzzles come to mind. Seems to me we are not even close to figuring it all out.

Here are a few other simpler puzzles:

What is "G" - the gravitational constant. Or, better still, why is there a  gravitational constant, and is it really constant? If it isn't, virtually all of cosmological theory gets flushed down the toilet.

Why does it appear that momentum is not conserved in the interaction of electrons and positrons? In other words, why do we need imaginary particles to explain things (Feynman diagrams)? Isn't there a simpler answer?

Why does it take longer than theory predicts for electrons and positrons to spin together under the influence of their opposite electrostatic charges (positronium) and annihilate? This question came up in the 1930s and hasn't been answered. In fact, I have searched for experiments trying to answer this question and have found none in the last 50 years. The answer to this question will tell us far more about the nature of the universe than searches for hypothetical particles.

How can a photon be it's own antiparticle?

Why don't we see equal amounts of matter and antimatter in the universe? Yes, I know there are all sorts of speculative hypotheses about this, but there really aren't any answers. No proof.

Until we have a repeatable and verifiable proof of explanations for these mysteries we really won't know much about particle physics and cosmology.

Phil PhD

DesignCAD user since 1987