Drat, Uwot!uwot wrote:I don't think a degree in physics is necessary, a prism and a bit of info about the refractive index is plenty.Greylorn Ell wrote:Some years back, my offspring would ask questions, like why do rainbows have their colors? Having a degree in physics I knew the answer.
Neither Leibniz nor Newton claimed that calculus could explain our perception of colour. There are mathematicians who make, in my view, absurd claims about maths, that mathematical entities are 'real', for instance, but that's just naïve realism with sums on, and the people making such claims are philosophically stunted.Greylorn Ell wrote:Having a functional mind I also realized that I could not explain light refraction and the human eye's interpretation of electromagnetic energy wavelengths to people who had not mastered calculus or taken some serious university level physics courses.And I'm sure you didn't wait twenty years of education to answer them. You simply do not need to understand maths to understand what happens. If it doesn't demonstrably happen, there is no reason to nail your colours to the mast and insist it does. That is true regardless of how coherent or beautiful your story or mathematical description. It is also true of beon theory.Greylorn Ell wrote:Those questions appeared before any of the little buggers had seen the inside of a schoolroom.
I fired up the internet in good spirits, only to be treated to quibbles and bits from one of the few guys on this thread who says something interesting, sometimes.
I never did explain rainbows to my offspring. By the time that they were old enough to understand an honest explanation, they'd discovered sex. I subscribed to various magazines back then, Physics Today, Sci.American, and Playboy. Plus, a small library. The "Playboy" magazines were the only literature in the entire house that they found interesting. Go figure. One actually enrolled in college physics and proved unqualified, so moved elsewhere and is currently a psychic. They didn't care about rainbows anymore. I still do, and do not have enough life left in me to fully understand all aspects of them. I once saw a triple rainbow, in the desert. Awesome!
About five years ago I'd have agreed completely with your first quibble, in that I could have "explained" diffraction amid my first physics course. Of course it would have been stupid of me to pull out my handy pocket prism and use its refractive effects to explain rainbows, because refraction and diffraction are entirely different phenomena. Using a prism analogy would have been incorrect, and I did not bullshit my offspring. (Except about Santa Claus, at wife's behest. Big mistake.)
Five years ago I took a closer look at the behavior of light in the context of dark energy, and realized that there were some things about light that were not addressed in that first course, or in others that delved more deeply into electromagnetism.
For example, we know that light changes velocity when moving through a medium such as glass. Upon leaving the medium, it instantly moves at its original velocity. Why? This simple phenomenon proves that the old "aether" concept is valid.
Your second quibble did indeed point out an error on my part. There was no need to write anything about our perception of light. That was not part of the kid's question, and having no comprehension of biochemistry or microbiology back then, I could not have addressed the mysteries of light perception. I knew about the existence of retinal "rods" and "cones," but so what? So, you're right.
Finally, I'd appreciate an elaboration of your last three sentences. I don't fully understand them in their context.
I treat mathematics as a language, although a more precisely detailed language than those with which humans use to communicate. It is also the only common language. It is also connected to geometry, and provides us with what is sometimes the only way to describe certain geometric forms, such as ellipses, parabolas, etc., as well as time-dependent geometric forms such as sine waves. Therein lies the relationship between math and physics, because our universe appears to be constructed from small and large structures with various geometrical forms.
Now this may not be the case. If the geometries that we think we see in the physical universe are not real, as some QM theorists propose, then mathematics as we know it does not describe reality.
Thank you for your thoughts and corrections. This has been interesting.