Has any Prominent Physicist Ever Admitted to Not Understanding Magnetism?

Discussion in 'Physics & Math' started by Eugene Shubert, Sep 17, 2015.

  1. Eugene Shubert Valued Senior Member

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    Here is an amusing video where Richard P. Feynman tries to conceal the fact that he couldn't answer a simple question about magnets.



    Has any prominent physicist ever admitted to not understanding magnetism?
     
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  3. origin Trump is the best argument against a democracy. Valued Senior Member

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    No.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2015
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  5. rpenner Fully Wired Registered Senior Member

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    The only meaningful way to read the thread title is:

    Has any Prominent Physicist Ever Admitted to Not Understanding [the behavior of] Magnetism?

    Even back in 1865, it was known that magnetism is just a facet of a larger field of related behaviors called then electromagnetism and later quantum electrodynamics and currently the standard model of particle physics.

    But thanks for jumping late onto Insane Clown Posse's crypto-Christian, anti-science screed, “F***ing magnets, how do they work?” It marks you as the opposite of a scientist.

    It's not that amusing, even if Feynman has a convivial air. It's more amusing that you would seek to frame this answer as an evasion when it is the interviewer who refused to display the prerequisites to understanding that "why" questions about fundamental physical behavior ultimately lead into Alfred Korzybski's observations that “the map is not the territory.” Physics serves to answer questions about the behavior of magnets, but its answers to fundamental "why" questions can only be addressed in terms of physical theories, not in some metaphysical knowledge of underlying reality.
    Feynman did answer "why" permanent magnets exhibit different behavior than lumps of lead, and did answer that the behavior of magnetism was tied up in the properties of ubiquitous electrons whose behaviors were responsible for allowing the interviewer to sit on a "solid" chair.

    Feynman, in particular, was quite the expert on the behavior of electrons, but a 30-hour impromptu lecture on electromagnetism and how we know it is the most direct way for Feynman to answer the question as "the object in reality which is modeled by the electron quantum field is coupled to the object in reality which is modeled by the photon quantum field" and was not the answer the interviewer was prepared to receive. Just like you were unprepared to receive the answer in post #22 of http://www.sciforums.com/threads/a-mathematicians-approach-to-evolution-theory.152511/ .

    Your claim of a "fact" has not much to recommend it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2015
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  7. Eugene Shubert Valued Senior Member

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    I didn't expect that there would be any. There's simply too many pretentious claims by physicists that they understand how the universe exploded into existence out of nothingness. Comparatively speaking, being able to explain magnetism should be child's play.
     
  8. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    It is relatively simple, yes. Almost all physicists understand both Maxwell's Equations and the physical manifestation of those equations in magnets (and radios, and transformers, and motors, and light bulbs etc etc.)
     
  9. Eugene Shubert Valued Senior Member

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    Gibberish is never an answer.
     
  10. Maxila Registered Senior Member

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    I loved that video and it increased my already great respect for Richard Feynman. I'm not sure if you are being intentionally misleading in your statement or, if you are simply an idiot? Either way such a deceptive (or idiotic) accusation doesn't belong on a science forum.

    If you didn't understand his reply as to why he didn't got into greater depth answering the question, you should have asked about that in your post instead of jumping to conclusions or making a deceptively false accusation.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2015
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  11. Eugene Shubert Valued Senior Member

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    Maxwell's equations specify the magnitude of force but say nothing about its origin.
     
  12. Dr_Toad It's green! Valued Senior Member

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    Yet you seem to feed on it...
     
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  13. krash661 [MK6] transitioning scifi to reality Valued Senior Member

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    intentionally mentally disabled and pathetic is the majority nowadays.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    shrugs.
     
  14. Eugene Shubert Valued Senior Member

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    If the questioner asked about the prevailing explanation of gravity, then I expect that most physicists would talk about the curvature of spacetime as the cause. Note that physicists don't explain electromagnetism in terms of spacetime curvature. They have no explanation whatsoever.
     
  15. krash661 [MK6] transitioning scifi to reality Valued Senior Member

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    it's simply because it's a different form of gravity. there's gravity A and then there's gravity B
    what a complete joke you are.

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    shakes head.
     
  16. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    No, you have that backwards. Maxwell's Equations do not define the magnitude of the force, although it can be derived from Maxwell's Equations. Maxwell's Equations (specifically Ampere's Law) gives the origin of magnetic fields in a magnet.
     
  17. rpenner Fully Wired Registered Senior Member

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    English is gibberish to a baby. My point was, the interviewer already displayed his ignorance of the prerequisites to accepting Feynman's best understanding, just as you did.
    Why do you accept that as an answer and not coupling of quantum fields?
    Classical electromagnetism can indeed be explained in terms of space-time curvature. It's just that electromagnetism isn't classical nor is it isolated from other behaviors.
    You quoted an explanation in post #6 but never understood it. Now that you've played the Intellectual Dishonesty card, I think I can solve this game of Cludo. It was Mr. Schubert, in the drawing room, applying the lead pipe to his own head what done it.
     
  18. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Depends what you mean by "orgin". Which was Feynman's point in the digression he made before answering.

    Obviously if you continue the why why why chain of questioning, as a child does, there comes a point at which you say that, from observation, that is just how it is, period.

    Feynman said permanent magnets repel or attract because the electrons in iron atoms are all aligned so that the magnetism of all the individual atoms reinforces, to the extent that a force can be experienced at macroscopic range. Which is a good explanation.

    If you then say, that's not good enough, why do the individual atoms have magnetism, then he didn't go into that, but of course he, and we, know why - iron atoms contain unpaired electrons, so that the magnetism of each is not cancelled by a partner electron in the atom. If you then say why does a single electron have a magnetic field, we know that is because they can be said to have a "funny sort of spin" and that we know that moving (incl. spinning) electric charges generate a magnetic field, but if you say that is not good enough, what do you mean by a "funny sort of spin", then unless you learn quantum mechanics the explanation has to stop. And if you say why is quantum mechanics the way it is, we have to say ,"That is what observation tells us and that is the limit of our knowledge."

    And by the way, if you go down another leg of the why why why chain, and say why do moving charges create a magnetic field, we would say (or could say - there are also other ways of dealing with it) because of the effect of relativity on the apparent size of the charge, to something that is is motion relative to it. Again a fuller explanation would require that you understand relativity (I do not by the way).

    You seem to think you are exposing some sort of weakness in science by forcing an admission that there is a limit to our knowledge. But no scientist is embarrassed by that. It is a natural state of affairs and allows us to go on doing science. If it were all known, there would be no science left to do.

    What exactly is your problem?
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2015
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  19. rpenner Fully Wired Registered Senior Member

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    To the extent that Maxwell's Equations are meant to mean the often-cited Maxwell's field equations (of which there are 4 in vector calculus notation and less in other formulation), correct.
    The Lorentz force law, of which you are thinking, is generally taken as a vector notation for Equations (D) on page 484 of part III of A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field (1865), but is also something of a generalization. So while some might argue against your position that the Lorentz force law is part of Maxwell's equations in a larger sense than is generally meant by the phrase, I think the separate names make more sense.

    Indeed, the quantum electrodynamical explanation for magnetism I gave above shows that QED unifies Maxwell's equations which has an inhomogeneous term in charge and current with the Lorentz force law where the charge of a particle expresses how much force the particle feels in a given field configuration. In QED both couplings are represented by one constant in one equation, so this is a type of unification.
     
  20. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    You are basically asking how can we know anything if we don't know everything.
     
  21. Eugene Shubert Valued Senior Member

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    To call something a field is no explanation whatsoever. To assert that gravity is a consequence of curved spacetime does specify a cause.
     
  22. rpenner Fully Wired Registered Senior Member

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    Isn't critiquing someone's answer in comparison to the answer you assume that they would have given if they had been asked another question, the height of arrogance and intellectual dishonesty?
    Why is it not an explanation? I ask because double slit experiments on both individual photons and electrons demonstrate they both give the same behavior -- behavior which is identical to that of a quantum field. And I never said that there were fields, only that reality acted as if there were fields.
    Reality certainly acts like space-time is a non-Euclidean curved manifold, but physics can't tell you that it is. So why is one physics answer acceptable and the other not?
     
  23. krash661 [MK6] transitioning scifi to reality Valued Senior Member

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    this is the topic i meant to post this in, anyways..

    there's a schizophrenic on another science site whom hypocritically post this little comment, thanks to the Internet, now regular people think they know more than scientists
     

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