Theoretically It's All Relative, Generally Speaking




Remember a few years back, when there was that brief, fleeting possibility that neutrinos were travelling faster than the speed of light? Someone - and it was likely Phil Plait - at the time said that either they were or they weren't, and both were exciting possibilities. If they weren't, then it meant that the researchers had to find out what went wrong, and that is good science. And if they were, then it meant that we would be in store for an entirely new physics, because what was being observed wasn't possible under the old theory.

Now, this might seem like a crazy statement: "A New Physics." Physics is Physics, you might be prone to believe. Science is Science. Things are the way they are. Biology can't just be chucked out on a whim to make way for something new. Well, actually it can. And has. Several times. It's because science isn't finished. It is, by it's very nature and definition, a method rather than a scripture. It is a standardized way of describing what we can observe, experiment and manipulate. And how we are able to observe, experiment and manipulate changes over time. Therefore, what we know about science is continuously updated with new knowledge. Its this principle that separates it from religion, and is the sticking point that a lot of religious folks can't get over. Religious dogma and doctrine is meant to be static, because the word of god is infallible and any change is therefore an admission that god got it wrong the first time and gods don't do that. This of course ignores the fact that religions change all the time, and that science changes only at the foot of overwhelming evidence and consensus, while religious change based on the light breeze of public opinion.

But back to my point. A New Physics might seem a strange and alien concept to most people, but its important to remember that the previous New Physics happened not so long ago. Exactly a century, as a matter of fact. This is the 100th anniversary of the General Theory of Relativity. The Special Theory, from which comes the infamous E=mc2 equation, is different. It came first, and informed Einstien's work on the General Theory. Basically, Special Relativity describes an action under specific circumstances. Einstein spent the next ten years trying to figure out how the effects of gravity as described by Special Relativity impact everything else. The result, General Relativity, was A New Physics. It forced a complete reevaluation of Classical Newtonian Mechanics, and gave us... well, the last 100 years of Physics. The stuff you learned in school, and for that brief period in 2011 thought couldn't possibly be replaced by anything else.

To celebrate this fact, the Science and Technology Facilities Council has put together a lovely little Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-esque animation to describe the Theory and it's impact. And to make it all the more appealing, they've had it narrated by David Tennant. Tennant, aside from his time as a Time Lord, also once played Arthur Stanley Eddington in a BBC film called Einstein and Eddington, opposite Andy Serkis as the man himself, based on the time when he was developing the Theory and released it to the public. But really, what I want to drive home is that, major scientific discoveries made over the last 100 years would not have been possible without an understanding of General Relativity as Einstein described it. And those discoveries will eventually lead the A New Physics that will replace General Relativity. And we're always just one discovery away from that possibility. Or, one person who is able to think about things just a little differently.

Though, it might help to have a dapper mustache.

Via Uproxx.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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