THE SIXTY-FOUR DOLLAR QUESTION: WHAT IS GRAVITY?

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All my life I have been confronted by gravity.  I do not just mean my tendency to fall to the ground if I lose my balance or to have to sweep up the fragments of a glass or a dish that I accidentally drop on the floor.  I mean, the question “What is gravity?” has bothered me all my adult life.  Scientists, beginning with Sir Isaac Newton and continuing through the geniuses who staff NASA, have all measured it, analyzed the way it works in holding bodies of whatever size in relationship with one another, but no one can tell me what gravity is other than to say that it is a force; what is the origin of that force?  I suspect that gravity is directly related to God.  When one realizes that gravity not only holds galaxies, stars, planets and other heavenly bodies in relation to one another, but also holds the component elements of the tiny atom in relation one to another, one has to wonder what it is in itself.  Quantum physics struggles to identify and explain the role of the constituent elements of the atom, but quantum physics has not even begun to explain the force of gravity that holds them all together.  What is the SOURCE of gravity?  I do not doubt for a moment that God invented gravity to be the glue that holds everything together in his creation.

   –   Abyssum

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  • DECEMBER 16, 2011

The ‘God Particle’ and the Origins of the Universe

The search for a unifying theory is nowhere near over.

By MICHIO KAKU

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Physicists around the world have something to celebrate this Christmas. Two groups of them, using the particle accelerator in Switzerland, have announced that they are tantalizingly close to bagging the biggest prize in physics (and a possible Nobel): the elusive Higgs particle, which the media have dubbed the “God particle.” Perhaps next year, physicists will pop open the champagne bottles and proclaim they have found this particle.

Finding this missing Higgs particle, or boson, is big business. The European machine searching for it, the Large Hadron Collider, has cost many billions so far and is so huge it straddles the French-Swiss border, near Geneva. At 17 miles in circumference, the colossal structure is the largest machine of science ever built and consists of a gigantic ring in which two beams of protons are sent in opposite directions using powerful magnetic fields.

The collider’s purpose is to recreate, on a tiny scale, the instant of genesis. It accelerates protons to 99.999999% the speed of light. When the two beams collide, they release a titanic energy of 14 trillion electron volts and a shower of subatomic particles shooting out in all directions. Huge detectors, the size of large apartment buildings, are needed to record the image of this particle spray.

Then supercomputers analyze these subatomic tracks by, in effect, running the video tape backwards. By reassembling the motion of this spray of particles as it emerges from a single point, computers can determine if various exotic subatomic particles were momentarily produced at the instant of the collision.

The theory behind all these particles is called the Standard Model. Billions of dollars, and a shelf full of Nobel Prizes along the way, have culminated in the Standard Model, which accurately describes the behavior of hundreds of subatomic particles. All the pieces of this jigsaw puzzle have been painstakingly created in the laboratory except the last, missing piece: the Higgs particle.

It is a crucial piece because it is responsible for explaining the various masses of the subatomic particles. It was introduced in 1964 by physicist Peter Higgs to explain the wide variation. Until then, a theory of subatomic particles had to assume that the masses of these particles are zero in order to obtain sensible mathematical results. This was a puzzling, disturbing result, since particles like the electron and proton have definite masses. Mr. Higgs showed that by introducing this new particle, one could preserve all the correct mathematical properties and still have non-zero masses for the particles.

While physicists cannot yet brag that they have found the Higgs particle, they have now narrowed down the range of possible masses, between 114 and 131 billion electron volts (over a hundred times more massive than the proton). With 95% confidence, physicists can rule out various masses for the Higgs particle outside this range.

Will finding the Higgs boson be the end of physics? Not by a long shot. The Standard Model only gives us a crude approximation of the rich diversity found in the universe. One embarrassing omission is that the Standard Model makes no mention of GRAVITY (emphasis added), even though GRAVITY (emphasis added)  holds the Earth and the sun together. In fact, the Standard Model only describes 4% of the matter and energy of the universe (the rest being mysterious dark matter and dark energy).

From a strictly aesthetic point of view, the Standard Model is also rather ugly. The various subatomic particles look like they have been slapped together haphazardly. It is a theory that only a mother could love, and even its creators have admitted that it is only a piece of the true, final theory.

So finding the Higgs particle is not enough. What is needed is a genuine theory of everything, which can simply and beautifully unify all the forces of the universe into a single coherent whole—a goal sought by Einstein for the last 30 years of his life.

The next step beyond the Higgs might be to produce dark matter with the Large Hadron Collider. That may prove even more elusive than the Higgs. Yet dark matter is many times more plentiful than ordinary matter and in fact prevents our Milky Way galaxy from flying apart.

So far, one of the leading candidates to explain dark matter is string theory, which claims that all the subatomic particles of the Standard Model are just vibrations of a tiny string, or rubber band. Remarkably, the huge collection of subatomic particles in the Standard Model emerge as just the first octave of the string. Dark matter would correspond roughly to the next octave of the string.

So finding the Higgs particle would be the beginning, not the end of physics. The adventure continues.

Mr. Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at CUNY, is author of “Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by 2100” (Doubleday, 2011).

COMMENTS:

  • Efforts to reconcile religious belief and scientific understanding constrict both.

    • Newton, Descarte, Plancke, Bohr, Boltzman and others would disagree.
        • 26 minutes ago

        they would be well entitled to their opinions
        but one is based on belief and the other is based on observation.

    • You’ve got it backwards Michael. Their observations were based upon a novel unscientific concept “That concepts actually exist!” That Reason actually exists and that the universe is intelligible. This is pre-science, pre-intellect, intuitive and therefore religious. Every human is religious.. just in varying degrees.

      Them vibrating strings are the ultimate ‘quantum’, bits of information. Hence, life really is ‘all a dream’

        • 1 hour ago

        The Buddhists and ancient Greeks were not so far off in proclaiming the physical world to be only an illusion…

        Einstein was right when he said our understanding is that of a little child in a library full of books written in different languages. See www.PhysicsOfReality.com . It’s all Brilliant Madness…

  • “So far, one of the leading candidates to explain dark matter is string theory, which claims that all the subatomic particles of the Standard Model are just vibrations of a tiny string, or rubber band. Remarkably, the huge collection of subatomic particles in the Standard Model emerge as just the first octave of the string. Dark matter would correspond roughly to the next octave of the string.”

    Thanks for writing this piece! I’ll now spend the better part of my work day wondering at all this.

    To bad you physicists are so far behind. The climate change folks have “settled” their “science”….

  • How nice to see scientists acting like scientists, rather than political activists. The proponents of the Standard Model actually admit that their theory only explains a small subset of reality. And the skeptical scientist Roser can disagree without being villified and ostracized. Compare this to the sham called “climate science”.

    • If climate change is truly man-made, it has policy implications. Thus, climate scientists make political recommendations. Quantum physics doesn’t have the same sort of policy implications. So it’s not that one type of scientist is “better” than another. It’s all a matter of which scientists have incentives to discuss politics.

      And BTW, getting gov’ts to fund the LHC DID require scientists to be politically active. And they were not too proud or noble to do so.

    • Patrick, you got it backwards. No climate scientist says he has absolute truth, but the reasons for taking action now. It is the uneducated, the goobers, flush with political prejudice who made this a political issue. They are the same ones who “knew” about “WMD”, and knew that Enron would make America better, and if we only indulged in Mass Killings and paid the taxes of millionaires, we would be happy, and rich, and living in Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill.

      Now, conservatives challenge the professionalism of scientists because it is politically uncomfortable to face reality.

      ” In fact, the Standard Model only describes 4% of the matter and energy of the universe (the rest being mysterious dark matter and dark energy).”

      If most people had a theory that missed reality by a factor of 25, they’d throw it out and start over, but I guess physicists are just too smart for that.

      • “WMD!”

        Unifying Theory, “In the beginning God….!, was written thousands of years ago. Another a good read “Who Mad God” written by Dr. Edgar Andrews.

        • Yeah, but it was written by people who had no clue what they were talking about.

  • This article was short by a half in itself but then the universe itself is being defned by people who can only see at most small percentage on what the know about anything.People may in future millennia write about what a primitive period this era of the turning point of knowledge was, but even then I suspect people will still be people trying to find meaning in daily living with love.

    • Them vibrating strings are the ultimate ‘quantum’, bits of information. Hence, life really is ‘all a dream’

      • The Buddhists and ancient Greeks were not so far off in proclaiming the physical world to be only an illusion…

        • @John,
          who was typing on your keyboard?

          Einstein was right when he said our understanding is that of a little child in a library full of books written in different languages. See www.PhysicsOfReality.com . It’s all Brilliant Madness…

          “So far, one of the leading candidates to explain dark matter is string theory, which claims that all the subatomic particles of the Standard Model are just vibrations of a tiny string, or rubber band. Remarkably, the huge collection of subatomic particles in the Standard Model emerge as just the first octave of the string. Dark matter would correspond roughly to the next octave of the string.”

          Thanks for writing this piece! I’ll now spend the better part of my work day wondering at all this.

    • To bad you physicists are so far behind. The climate change folks have “settled” their “science”….

      How nice to see scientists acting like scientists, rather than political activists. The proponents of the Standard Model actually admit that their theory only explains a small subset of reality. And the skeptical scientist Roser can disagree without being villified and ostracized. Compare this to the sham called “climate science”.

      • If climate change is truly man-made, it has policy implications. Thus, climate scientists make political recommendations. Quantum physics doesn’t have the same sort of policy implications. So it’s not that one type of scientist is “better” than another. It’s all a matter of which scientists have incentives to discuss politics.

        And BTW, getting gov’ts to fund the LHC DID require scientists to be politically active. And they were not too proud or noble to do so.

      • Patrick, you got it backwards. No climate scientist says he has absolute truth, but the reasons for taking action now. It is the uneducated, the goobers, flush with political prejudice who made this a political issue. They are the same ones who “knew” about “WMD”, and knew that Enron would make America better, and if we only indulged in Mass Killings and paid the taxes of millionaires, we would be happy, and rich, and living in Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill.

        Now, conservatives challenge the professionalism of scientists because it is politically uncomfortable to face reality.

        ” In fact, the Standard Model only describes 4% of the matter and energy of the universe (the rest being mysterious dark matter and dark energy).”

        If most people had a theory that missed reality by a factor of 25, they’d throw it out and start over, but I guess physicists are just too smart for that.

        • “WMD!”

          Unifying Theory, “In the beginning God….!, was written thousands of years ago. Another a good read “Who Mad God” written by Dr. Edgar Andrews.

          • Yeah, but it was written by people who had no clue what they were talking about.

            This article was short by a half in itself but then the universe itself is being defned by people who can only see at most small percentage on what the know about anything.People may in future millennia write about what a primitive period this era of the turning point of knowledge was, but even then I suspect people will still be people trying to find meaning in daily living with love.

            Their theory is way too complicated. The way I see it, here are the choices:

            1) It’s wrong.

            2) God exists. Afterall, who or what else could come up with such an intricate and complicated scheme?

            I guess the two are not mutually exclusive.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
This entry was posted in COSMOLOGY, JESUS CHRIST, LORD AND CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to THE SIXTY-FOUR DOLLAR QUESTION: WHAT IS GRAVITY?

  1. Curt Stoller says:

    The theologian Karl Rahner came up with an interesting idea while meditating on the dogma that God being Infinite, is incomprehensible, even to the blessed in Heaven. The Roman Catholic Church has not condemned this view as a heresy although that is no guarantee that of its orthodoxy. I would not dare to “explain” Rahner’s idea so plese forgive me for resorting to a direct quotation:

    “What is made intelligible is grounded ultimately in the one thing that is self-evident, in Mystery. Mystery is something with which we are always familiar, something which we love, even when we are terrified by it or perhaps even annoyed and angered, and want to be done with it. For the person who has touched his own spiritual depths, what is more familiar and what is more self-evident than the silent question which goes beyond everything which has already been mastered and controlled, than the unanswered question accepted in humble love, which alone brings wisdom? In the ultimate depths of his being man knows nothing more surely than that his knowledge, that is, what is called knowledge in everyday parlance, is only a small island in a vast sea that has not been traveled. It is a floating island, and it might be more familiar to us than the sea, but ultimately it is borne by the sea and only because it is can we be borne by it. Hence the fundamental question for the knower is: Which does he love more, the small island of his so-called knowledge or the sea of Infinite Mystery? Is the little light with which he illuminates this island–we call it science and scholarship–to be an eternal light which will shine forever for him? That surely would be hell. ” Father Karl Rahner, Grundkurs das Glaubens.

    If you shine a spotlight against a wall, the edge of the circle of light will be bordered by a circle of blackness that is slightly larger. The larger the circle of light becomes, the larger becomes the circle of black just bordering it. I find the idea that science dispels mystery to be questionable. The more science discovers, the more mysteries there are. Perhaps the horizon upon which we conduct science is an Infinite horizon. Perhaps all forms of human questioning are experienced as a horizon which recedes further and further the more answers man discovers.

    Perhaps it is just the little packets of discrete knowledge that become ultimately tiresome and boring. Perhaps what the human spirit seeks is an Infinite Mystery that human comprehension can never conquer. Perhaps this is what the mystics speak of when they write about the light that blinds and seems like absolute darkness? “Thou hast made us for Thyself O Lord and our hearts are restless ’til they rest in Thee.” [St. Augustine].

  2. Curt Stoller says:

    There is something very beautiful and comforting about the laws of nature. Not only do they possess a kind of grandeur. They also possess a kind of simplicity, purity and innocence. And a kind of luminescence. That some people try to use them as a propaganda tool for atheism is really sad.

    Many, could I even say most [?] people don’t realize that science as science is only concerned with the material and formal causality of things. That is the glory of science and its Achilles heal. Imagine as a thought experiment if an alien being were to discover a Styrofoam coffee cup. Further imagine that this alien had no mouth or hands and had no concept of mouth and hands. What could such an alien learn about a Styrofoam cup. He could measure it’s dimensions. He could weigh it. He could analyze the chemical composition of Styrofoam. He could analyze the geometry of the cup. He could analyze the structure microscopically. He could run any number of tests on it to determine its properties. In other words, he could investigate it from the point of view of material and formal causality to use Aristotle’s terms. Now a great deal of data could be derived in such a way, a great deal of valuable data. A great many truths would be discovered. Hundreds even thousands of truths. But if the alien never learned what the cup was “for,” then in a very real sense, he would never learn what it “was.” Form follows function. Science explores proximate functionality but does not ask questions of final causality. It pursues the “why” up to a certain point and then stops. But where it stops is where philosophy and theology start and this is when the “why” gets really interesting.

    The geometry of a Styrofoam cup is subservient to its function. It has to fit in a human hand. It has to be open on one end but not both so it will hold liquids. The edge must be soft and not sharp so that it will not cut a human lip. It has to be light-weight both for reasons of cost and so a human hand can lift it and it’s contents. Part of it’s geometry is to make it stackable so that it can be stored in a minimum of space. Styrofoam is used for its thermal properties because it will contain hot coffee. There is a reason it is not made of platinum. There is a reason it is not made of lead or plutonium. It must not disintegrate while holding hot liquid beverages. It’s melting point is higher than the boiling point of the beverages it is designed to contain. It has a flat bottom so it will sit on a table without spilling its contents. It’s shape is a compromise so it will fit in a hand but not be easily tippable. Many of its properties are based on cost, on its being disposable. In order words, every item of material and formal causality serves its final causality. If you don’t know what its for, you don’t know what it is. St. Thomas Aquinas once said: “All the efforts of the human mind cannot exhaust the essence of a single fly [unius muscae].”

    After 9/11, atheism became very militant. Atheists used militant Islam as a point of departure for attacking all religious beliefs. It seems that there is no end to books being put out warning people of the dangers and stupidity of believing in God. Given the continual distortions being put out by the liberal media, one would think that there is actually a scientific theory that God does not exist. There isn’t. There is no scientific theory that God does not exist. There are philosophical theories, false ones, but no scientific theories. Science does not ask questions of ultimate final causality. That is its fantastic greatness and its fantastic weakness. At most one can say that it is “methodologically” atheist and naturalist. But many of the greatest scientists of all time believed in God: “The most beautiful system of the sun, planet and comets could only proceed from the counsel and domination of an intelligence and powerful Being [Isaac Newton, Principia Mathematica].

  3. Ignatius Martinus says:

    One can reasonably posit that gravity is one of two things: the supernatural power of God acting directly on, and in, all matter in the Universe, or a natural force created by God. To me it seems that gravity is a natural force created by God. This, I believe, is the case because I personally feel that God prefers to employ the Laws of Nature when dealing with anything that belongs to or operates in the natural world, a world physically governed by God using these same laws.

    Thus, God created a force, ruled by one or more of these Laws, to hold elementary particles and atoms and planets and galaxies and all the other “stuff” in the cosmos together. But what is this force? A hunch tells me that gravity, as a “force”, is a synthesis of the nature of spacetime and the effect which the masses of stellar objects have on this nature.

    But first I have to explain what strings are in string theory. All elementary particles are really just oscillating one-dimensional loops of energy whose size is exceedingly minuscule, thus the “string” in string theory. Each string oscillates in a unique way, like the vibrations of strings on a guitar which have been plucked, each in a differenty manner. And because each string “vibrates” in a unique way, each string has different physical properties associated with it, and thus each forms a different elemantary particle: one an electron, another a proton, and yet another a neutron, and so forth.

    Einstein believed that the curvature of spacetime was responsible for the effects of gravity, and thus this curved spacetime could itself be thought of as gravity. Others said that “gravitons”, as sub-atomic “particles”, are responsible for gravitation. As for myself, I think that perhaps the truth involves Einstein’s curved spacetime, but more is needed.

    Suppose that spacetime is itself composed of exotic strings, such that the strings of spacetime (henceforth called “anti-strings”) and the strings of ordinary matter (including dark matter and dark energy) react to each other in a way similar to that of a magnet and a metal. The larger the magnet, the greater the attraction it has for all nearby metals. When the mass of the magnet is increased, metals at a greater distance are attracted.

    The presence of mass increases the attractive power of the anti-strings of spacetime. When a mass of some stellar entity gains mass and over time becomes a planet, the strength and energy of the oscillating anti-strings within and around this planet increase proportionally to the size of the planet. The “vibrations” get stronger and stronger over time, and the “frequency” and thus power of the anti-strings increases. In effect, the attactive power of the anti-strings in the planet’s area is increased. And because of this increase in attractive power, a nearby stellar object is drawn closer, even if only slightly. Over time, because of the constant draw, the object makes contact with the planet.

    Because spacetime is continuous, the strength of attraction belonging to the anti-strings in and around the planet decreases as you move out from the planet along the “band” of spacetime connecting the planet and the stellar object. But because the band is a single thing, like a band of rubber, the increase in the attractive strength of the anti-strings in and around the planet causes the band to stretch slightly toward the planet, in its direction. The spacetime in and around the planet, being composed of much stronger anti-strings, begins to pull the band of which it is a part. The spacetime in and around the stellar object begins to “give way” because of its weaker anti-strings, and thus the stellar object moves closer to the planet.

    Perhaps this idea is trash. I do not claim to be any kind of scientist: physicist, cosmologist, etc. I’m only trying to come up with a crude “mechanism” by which gravity can be explained. And my knowledge of Science on the whole is very limited, but I’m still learning. Who knows, maybe this idea of mine might lead to some discovery. In any case, I just wanted to offer it, even if the only purpose it serves is to stimulate the intellect, and thus possibly lead to some kind of mental accompishment.

    – Ignatius

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