Monday, November 24, 2008

Particle Physics: The New Frontier in Social Discussions

What I am about to say is true. Really true. Cross my heart and hope to die.
I overheard an elaborate conversation in my university library( where the greatest minds come to edify and the not-so-great minds come to cram from their photocopies) about particle physics.

As I did my best to pretend that I was not eavesdropping, I overheard bits and pieces of what sounded like a discourse on physics to me. Familiar words like string theory, M-Theory( what the hell does that M stand for anyways? Marlon brando? Many? Massive?) and the higgs boson( did I hear correctly?) went past my ears.

Fascinating isn't it? Few years ago, a monacle, a pipe and a thick fake british accent was all you needed to be the life of the party. Now it seems people have raised a notch on the cerebral level and my best " Pip, pip and Cheerio" isn't seeming to impress. So I picked up a book written for laymen written by a particle physicist( ironic) and read up on some string theory.

Only I didn't know what I had gotten myself into. The author discusses electrons, protons,neutrons.. so far so good. Then he pushes me off the cliff into the icy seas. A torrent of information is unloaded unto me: quarks,leptons,photons,gauge theory, supersymmetrycity, breaking of symmetry, relations between the forces and particles.. It boggles the mind. It simply seems that when physics hits a pitstop, physicists tweak a few formulae, make a few assumptions( like the world is made of invisible pasta: the soon to be christened pasta theory) and blame the lack of results on the absence of a missing particle. Seriously, how many times are these people going to whack two particles until they get enough information?

But as many theories are put forward, I have many questions for you aspiring physicists. I would be glad if someone can explain these things to me. Though I am an avid fan of particle physics, this much of depth is too much for me.. so here we go.

1. Distinguish Einstein's general and special theory of relativity.

2. Why is so important to include gravity in the unification theory? Gravity is a generally weak force as even a magnet can lift a pin against gravity.

3. Why is everyone hell bent on unification? So what if there are two frameworks for explaining everything.?Maybe it is a cruel trick of Nature to taunt with the forbidden fruit of unification.

4.Suppose they find a new particle. How will its discovery affect what we know thus far? Won't it not pose the threat of eliminating a theory built and supported in mainstream?

5.Can someone explain how the particle is related to a force? Also the Universe is constantly expanding. Doesn't this expend energy and shouldn't the universe stop expanding soon?

6. What happens inside a black hole? How can the laws of physics be voided near the singularity?

7.Photons are said to be massless and yet they travel, which should expend energy. What actually compels the photon to be in eternal motion?

8.If we don't know the size of the Universe,how can we say that "95% of the Universe is full of hydrogen?"

9.What is the exact boundary line,if crossed, we enter into the quantum world? Or when does general relativity is voided and quantum physics apply?

10. We can never prove the existence of strings, the presence of extra dimensions and other propsitions of string theory. Why is it even a theory? It should be a model right?

And with that we come to the end of another post. Mail me your replies and win awesome prizes(I'm Kidding, Really.) Or you could also give me belated birthday wishes(21 nov). Or simply mail to say hi. Looking forward to it. Anyone for scones?

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