I wrote the following in 1998 for an early version of aepryus.com. I perhaps gave short shrift to QED and lacked a full understanding of graduate school and post-doc positions as well as been a bad speller (which I have corrected), but in general, I guess, this still mostly applies.
About Aepryus Software
Aepryus Software is a fledgling development company dedicated to writing high quality applications to help people learn and do science. Physics, Mathematics and Evolutionary Biology are subjects of particular interest. Aepryus' main motive is quite simple and quite selfish...to further science, so that it is possible to know everything before death.
In existing as a human, it is necessary from time to time to make decisions. When posed with a decision such as one that involves one of two different options, it is first necessary to project into the future the result of both options and then decide which result is superior.
But, how does one determine which result is superior? Even if one knew precisely the effects of making each decision, how does one compare the results? In realty as humans it is necessary to break the results down emotionally and determine which option is more pleasing.
As a philosopher however, this seems a bit too disturbing, a bit too subjective. Isn't there some objective answer to the question of which result is superior? Certainly, if there was some objective goal to which the entire universe strove, it would be possible to compare the results based on which of the results brought the universe closer to this objective goal.
So, if one can simply figure out the objective goal to the entire universe, they would have an objective principle on which to base their decisions. The problem is that I have no idea what that objective goal is. As a matter of fact, I have no idea that an objective goal exists. But, I believe it is reasonable to assume that either an objective goal exists or it does not exist.
If it does not exist than I guess, in reality, as far as objective truth goes it doesn't really matter what I base my decisions on; I'm pretty much free to do whatever. If it does exist, than the first step in trying to achieve this objective goal is to figure out what the objective goal is. So, by proxy the objective goal of the universe becomes figuring out what the objective goal of the universe is.
For this reason, Aepryus is dedicated to the search for knowledge; information as an end and not just a means.
In order to expand knowledge, one could research some question themselves or they could help people research some question or they could train people to research some question. Hopefully, Aepryus will be able to accomplish all three of these things.
Arguably, it could be said that the field of theoretical physics has been fairly dormant since the 1930s. Certainly, nothing on the order of Relativity or Quantum Mechanics has come to light since their discoveries. When I was younger, I thought that was because everything was pretty much known. Now after studying physics and mathematics it seems to me that almost nothing is known.
"I don't know what I may seem to the world, but, as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
-Sir Isaac Newton
I have two theories as to why watershed discoveries in physics seem to have dried up.
Roger Penrose, a Mathematics professor from the University of Oxford, wrote a book, 'The Emperor's New Mind' in 1989 in which he classifies current theories of the workings of the physical universe. He defines three categories in which all theories could fall, SUPERB, USEFUL and TENTATIVE. Somewhat arbitrarily, I would like to look briefly at the theories which he classified as SUBERB.
- Euclidian Geometry
- Newtonian Mechanics
- Electricity and Magnetism
- Special and General Relativity
- Quantum Mechanics
- Quantum Electrodynamics
He also gives honorable mention (kind of) to:
I wanted to do an exhaustive study of the age of scientists at the time of their major discoveries in order to show that most major scientific work was done by people under the age of 30. I have always thought this to be the case, but due to delay in publishing of papers or lack of information, it's not exactly always clear when a scientist had their epiphanies. I will try to confirm my theory as best I can, but for now I will simply argue that a person's intellectual strength follows the same line as their physical strength and that it peaks in their 20s and wanes considerably after their 30s or 40s.
In the United States for example, High Schools either do not offer physics, offer one year of physics taught by unqualified teachers or in rare cases offer one year of physics taught by qualified teachers. Generally, the first serious exposure a student will have to physics is in their undergraduate career at which point they will generally be 18 to 22 years of age.
Graduate school generally takes 5 years to complete, the first two years being spent in class, the remaining years being spent helping a professor with his research. After graduate school, it is necessary to enter a post-doc program which takes another 3 years, sometimes this is followed by another post-doc program. If a person manages to get out of grad school in 5 years and only spends 3 years in post-doc they could possibly get a professorship at age 30.
Studies have been done with kittens where a neurotransmitter blocker was injected into the optic nerve at various stages of the kittens development. There was a specific span of time (at about 6 weeks I believe) where the injection of the blocker had serious long term effects. If the blocker was injected before this span and than stopped. The kitten would be blind while the blocker was being used, but when stopped it would regain its sight and develop vision normally; the same goes if the blocker was injected after the span. However, if the blocker was injected during this specific two week span, the cat would never develop normal vision.
So, hypothetically, if there were a span of time which people were capable of extraordinary intuitive jumps, but the structure of education was such, that they weren't ready to do their own work at that point, than possibly creative work would be artificially stunted.
Some of the best programmers in the world are under the age of 18. Computer Science is a field where generally all one needs to explore and learn is a computer. By simply having access to a computer and with little to no guidance numerous young people learn how to program and become quite skilled.
Physics is not more difficult then Computer Science, just less accessible. If software could be created that allowed talented youths to interact with the field as they are able to interact with computers, students could hit the edge of physics at a much younger age and be ready to work on real problems when their intellect acquires full strength.
The second reason why I think watershed advancements in physics seem to have stopped is this: I have noticed that there are two types of individuals in math and physics, analyticists and intuitionists. Analyticists learn and understand everything through equations; intuitionists learn and understand everything through pictures.
"Hopkins is reported to have said that he was the most extraordinary man he had met with in the whole course of his experience, that it seemed impossible for him to think wrongly on any physical subject, but that in analysis he was far more deficient. (Other contemporaries also testified to Maxwell's preference for geometrical over analytical methods.) This shrewd assessment was later borne out by several important formulas advanced by Maxwell that obtained correct results from faulty mathematical arguments."
"Maxwell, James Clerk" Encyclopedia Britannica Online. [Accessed 14 November 1999].
Most advanced physics is taught in a manner which favors analyticists, namely using equations, with little to no explanation of things being offered for intuitionists. The field of Quantum Mechanics is almost entirely inaccessible to the intuitionist in its current form, simply because it doesn't make sense. It is understood through equations, but with very little else. The book I used for Quantum Mechanics was a well written 1000 page book by Ramamurti Shankar with exactly zero pictures, zero diagrams and zero charts; an analyticists dream.
I contend that physics needs both types of people to move forward and perhaps intuitionists are especially important for the major paradigm shifts. However, given the current form of physics education plus the inaccessibility of Quantum Mechanics, intuitionists may be being selected against. Therefore, I think that software that visually explains physics and specifically quantum mechanics (if possible), would be of great benefit to intuitionists and consequently physics.
It is therefore Aepryus Software's desire to build software that will allow student's to access and interact with high level physics and math just as young computer scientists are able to do now. In addition the software will hopefully be extremely accessible to intuitionists, which is to say very visual.
Last Modified November 16, 1999
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