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(2020-10-01 15:34:34)
分类: 费曼物理学讲义

Chapter2. Basic Physics 基础物理学

2–1Introduction 介绍

In this chapter, we shall examine the most fundamental ideas that we have about physics—the nature of things as we see them at the present time. We shall not discuss the history of how we know that all these ideas are true; you will learn these details in due time.


The things with which we concern ourselves in science appear in myriad forms, and with a multitude of attributes. For example, if we stand on the shore and look at the sea, we see the water, the waves breaking, the foam, the sloshing motion of the water, the sound, the air, the winds and the clouds, the sun and the blue sky, and light; there is sand and there are rocks of various hardness and permanence, color and texture. There are animals and seaweed, hunger and disease, and the observer on the beach; there may be even happiness and thought. Any other spot in nature has a similar variety of things and influences. It is always as complicated as that, no matter where it is. Curiosity demands that we ask questions, that we try to put things together and try to understand this multitude of aspects as perhaps resulting from the action of a relatively small number of elemental things and forces acting in an infinite variety of combinations.


For example: Is the sand other than the rocks? That is, is the sand perhaps nothing but a great number of very tiny stones? Is the moon a great rock? If we understood rocks, would we also understand the sand and the moon? Is the wind a sloshing of the air analogous to the sloshing motion of the water in the sea? What common features do different movements have? What is common to different kinds of sound? How many different colors are there? And so on. In this way we try gradually to analyze all things, to put together things which at first sight look different, with the hope that we may be able to reduce the number of different things and thereby understand them better.


A few hundred years ago, a method was devised to find partial answers to such questions. Observation, reason, and experiment make up what we call the scientific method. We shall have to limit ourselves to a bare description of our basic view of what is sometimes called fundamental physics, or fundamental ideas which have arisen from the application of the scientific method.


What do we mean by “understanding” something? We can imagine that this complicated array of moving things which constitutes “the world” is something like a great chess game being played by the gods, and we are observers of the game. We do not know what the rules of the game are; all we are allowed to do is to watch the playing. Of course, if we watch long enough, we may eventually catch on to a few of the rules. The rules of the game are what we mean by fundamental physics. Even if we knew every rule, however, we might not be able to understand why a particular move is made in the game, merely because it is too complicated and our minds are limited. If you play chess you must know that it is easy to learn all the rules, and yet it is often very hard to select the best move or to understand why a player moves as he does. So it is in nature, only much more so; but we may be able at least to find all the rules. Actually, we do not have all the rules now. (Every once in a while something like castling is going on that we still do not understand.) Aside from not knowing all of the rules, what we really can explain in terms of those rules is very limited, because almost all situations are so enormously complicated that we cannot follow the plays of the game using the rules, much less tell what is going to happen next. We must, therefore, limit ourselves to the more basic question of the rules of the game. If we know the rules, we consider that we “understand” the world.


How can we tell whether the rules which we “guess” at are really right if we cannot analyze the game very well? There are, roughly speaking, three ways. First, there may be situations where nature has arranged, or we arrange nature, to be simple and to have so few parts that we can predict exactly what will happen, and thus we can check how our rules work. (In one corner of the board there may be only a few chess pieces at work, and that we can figure out exactly.)


A second good way to check rules is in terms of less specific rules derived from them. For example, the rule on the move of a bishop on a chessboard is that it moves only on the diagonal. One can deduce, no matter how many moves may be made, that a certain bishop will always be on a red square. So, without being able to follow the details, we can always check our idea about the bishop’s motion by finding out whether it is always on a red square. Of course it will be, for a long time, until all of a sudden we find that it is on a black square (what happened of course, is that in the meantime it was captured, another pawn crossed for queening, and it turned into a bishop on a black square). That is the way it is in physics. For a long time we will have a rule that works excellently in an overall way, even when we cannot follow the details, and then some time we may discover a new rule. From the point of view of basic physics, the most interesting phenomena are of course in the new places, the places where the rules do not work—not the places where they do work! That is the way in which we discover new rules.


The third way to tell whether our ideas are right is relatively crude but probably the most powerful of them all. That is, by rough approximation. While we may not be able to tell why Alekhine moves this particular piece, perhaps we can roughly understand that he is gathering his pieces around the king to protect it, more or less, since that is the sensible thing to do in the circumstances. In the same way, we can often understand nature, more or less, without being able to see what every little piece is doing, in terms of our understanding of the game.


At first the phenomena of nature were roughly divided into classes, like heat, electricity, mechanics, magnetism, properties of substances, chemical phenomena, light or optics, x-rays, nuclear physics, gravitation, meson phenomena, etc. However, the aim is to see complete nature as different aspects of one set of phenomena. That is the problem in basic theoretical physics, today—to find the laws behind experiment; to amalgamate these classes. Historically, we have always been able to amalgamate them, but as time goes on new things are found. We were amalgamating very well, when all of a sudden x-rays were found. Then we amalgamated some more, and mesons were found. Therefore, at any stage of the game, it always looks rather messy. A great deal is amalgamated, but there are always many wires or threads hanging out in all directions. That is the situation today, which we shall try to describe.


Some historic examples of amalgamation are the following. First, take heat and mechanics. When atoms are in motion, the more motion, the more heat the system contains, and so heat and all temperature effects can be represented by the laws of mechanics. Another tremendous amalgamation was the discovery of the relation between electricity, magnetism, and light, which were found to be different aspects of the same thing, which we call today the electromagnetic field. Another amalgamation is the unification of chemical phenomena, the various properties of various substances, and the behavior of atomic particles, which is in the quantum mechanics of chemistry.


The question is, of course, is it going to be possible to amalgamate everything, and merely discover that this world represents different aspects of one thing? Nobody knows. All we know is that as we go along, we find that we can amalgamate pieces, and then we find some pieces that do not fit, and we keep trying to put the jigsaw puzzle together. Whether there are a finite number of pieces, and whether there is even a border to the puzzle, is of course unknown. It will never be known until we finish the picture, if ever. What we wish to do here is to see to what extent this amalgamation process has gone on, and what the situation is at present, in understanding basic phenomena in terms of the smallest set of principles. To express it in a simple manner, what are things made of and how few elements are there?



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