"What if everybody on the planet earth understood the General Theory of Relativity?"
A fantastic thought which unfortunately is far from reality. What if we had to make sure that the General Theory of Relativity (GTR) rather than being an exclusive domain of some of the finest minds, is accessible to everyone? It is true that the mathematical machinery behind GTR is formidable, but once the concepts behind the Special Theory of Relativity (STR) and GTR are comprehended it is very difficult to go back to the conventional mode of thinking. If all of us could appreciate just the difference between the inertial and non-inertial frames if nothing else.
So may be we can try to develop simplified ideas for everyone which allow us to look at things around us just a little differently. We have to keep in mind that we will be addressing a layman audience rather than specialists. People who are not necessarily physicists, but ordinary Joe's like us, accountants, lawyers, engineers, doctors, businessmen, programmers, carpenters, farmers, housewives, children and so on. People who rely more on common sense and who are truly interested in understanding the magic of science and how to incorporate the magic in their daily lives but they can not because science is not accessible.
One of the problems we encounter immediately is the mathematics required to understand even the most basic of the concepts in the advanced areas of physics such as Quantum Field Theory or String Theory. It takes years of rigorous training for a theoretical or experimental physicist to achieve a minimal proficiency. But those of us not in the field, the magic is limited to popular-level books written by well-meaning physicists or Star-Trek episodes. But does it have to be this way?
Science and especially physics is a way of life rather than just another difficult discipline. It represents how one thinks about abstract and then connect it to the real world through geometry. That is how two of the most enduring theories, Classical Mechanics by Newton and General Theory of Relativity by Einstein were developed. The Quantum Field Theory is the combination of the Quantum Mechanics and the Special Theory of Relativity whereas highly regarded String Theory is the combination of the Quantum Mechanics and the General Theory of Relativity. We are still looking for the underlying principle which will tie up all the theories together.
Most of the theories mentioned so far assume space-time or (t, x, y, z) formulation. Which presents a bit of a problem. How do we know that three spatial axes namely x-axis, y-axis, and z-axis truly converge to a point we call "origin"? Another important issue is the concept of time. What do we really mean when we make a statement t = 0? Is time absolute or is it specific to the observer? And then how do the origins of Euclidean or non-Euclidean space and that of time converge? Or do they ever?
It is known to just about everyone that the fastest moving snake moves with the speed of light. Whether the snake will keep its venom or even its existence at this speed is another issue. But then what moves the slowest, measured or in theory? Is it even important to know it?
In the following days we will be discussing some of the important issues which fall under the domain of physics but nevertheless affect our day-to-day lives. We will try to develop a description of the physical systems independent of (t, x, y, z) formulation. We will assume that we do not have available to us the powerful mathematical tools, which actually is true as we won't be able to understand them even if these tools were provided to us. We will bring in mathematics as required. The areas of science and engineering we will touch upon at a very elementary level are the information theory, the concept of entropy, quantum and statistical mechanics, topology, geometry and complex variables.
At this point we will state a basic principle without proof as:
"Every observer moves towards the state with maximum information, the observer can measure."
Please note the emphasis on "can measure". If a state with infinite information is available but the observer can not measure it then the observer can not move towards it, however the observer will stay in orbit. We can think of it in general terms as if information was wealth and if an observer knows about it (i.e. measure it) then the observer will move towards the state which provides the maximum wealth. We did not need physics to figure that part out. That is how the world we live in ticks.
We will be discussing various concepts with the term "information" used in a rather abstract manner. The information can be later interpreted as energy, a structure, or simply as a binary code depending on the context.
The thoughts presented on this site represent a work in progress, which was initiated in the year 2010. It is bound to contain errors and multiple instances of "not even wrong", both in concepts and formulations, which are purely author's responsibility due to his own limitations and no one else's. The input from the learned reader is always welcome. As it is said that, "the errors are forgiven, the conclusions are not", we will refrain from drawing conclusions and let the ideas speak for themselves.
"I adhered scrupulously to the precept of that brilliant theoretical physicist, L. Boltzmann,according to whom matters of elegance ought to be left to the tailor and to the cobbler."
- Albert Einstein, "Relativity: The Special and General Theory",1920.
"No doubt everyone appreciates the need for correctness, but perhaps the lay reader may not realize the great importance of SIMPLICITY!"
- Lillian R. Lieber in "The Einstein's theory of relativity, A trip to the fourth dimension", Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1966.
"You can't do very good philosophy unless you get you science right. But you can't do science in full self-conscious understanding, unless you realize how much it depends upon philosophical modes of reasoning as well."
- Lawrence Sklar, Space, Time, and Spacetime. University of California Press, 1974.