The Floating University


I. Physics is Responsible for Everything

A. Physicists provided the foundation for all modern technological breakthroughs, including but not limited to the x-ray, lasers, transistors, television, and computers
B. Einstein died before discovering a unified field equation

II. Unified Field Theory

A. The Unified Field Theory postulates that all physical forces in the universe can be accounted for in a single equation

B. E=mc^2 was Einstein’s signature achievement, an equation that explains most of the observable activity in the universe

III. Physics and the Impossible

A. Most science fiction is well within the laws of physics, and might come to be within a hundred years

B. There are also things that are currently thought to be impossible and could take 1,000 years or more to achieve. This includes time travel, faster-than-light travel, accessing higher dimensions, and wormholes

C. Your ancestors 100 years ago would view our technology today as unbelievable or created by magic. How would we view our descendants in 2100?

D. We may well seem like Gods in 100 years compared to our current selves. We’re making fast progress into controlling the aging process, replication, and flying cars. Arthur C. Clarke: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from divinity

IV. History of Physics

A. The history of physics is the history of the modern world. Before the likes of Galileo and Isaac Newton the world was shrouded in superstition

B. Aristotle posited that objects fall because they yearn to be reunited with the earth. Objects in motion slow down because they get tired. These views held sway for almost 2,000 years

C. Beginning of Modern Physics

1. In 1066 in England a comet appeared over the battlefield at Hastings, frightening the troops of King Harold. Duke William II from Normandy won the battle and began the Norman dynasty in Britain, and a unified British monarchy

2. The same comet appeared over England in 1682, prompting widespread questions about what comets were and if they were ill portents for the king

3. Isaac Newton would solve the comet puzzle. When 23, according to the story, he saw an apple fall, then looked at the moon. This prompted the question: If apples fall, does the moon also fall?

4. The answer was yes, overturning thousands of years of superstitious speculation about the heavens. The moon is in constant freefall around the Earth, but is held in orbit by gravity, one of the four fundamental forces of the universe

5. Newton realized 1600s mathematics would not be sufficient to work out the motion of a falling moon and created calculus as fast as it is taught to college freshmen

6. Newton realized that this mathematical system allowed him to understand the motion of all the bodies in the solar system, and invented the reflecting telescope to better collect data

7. Wealthy merchant Edmond Halley was curious about the 1682 comet and visited Isaac Newton at Cambridge. Newton told Halley that the comet moved in a perfect ellipse, and that he’d been tracking it using his reflecting telescope. The path of the comet matched Newton’s math exactly. Halley bankrolled the publication of Newton's Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy

8. Principia launched the age of physics and Newton’s Laws of Gravity still undergird complex scientific actions today like space shuttle launches. Einstein’s advanced equations only apply near the speed of light or near black holes

D. Gravity: Newton’s Three Laws of Motion

1. (1.) Objects in motion stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force

2. (2.) Force = Mass x Acceleration (f=ma). This made possible the industrial revolution, allowing people to build machines that operated on stable physical mechanics

3. (3.)For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This governs the launch of rockets

4. The industrial revolution overturned feudalism and would eventually contribute to the fall of monarchies, ushering in the modern age

5. Why doesn’t the Empire State Building fall? Newton’s laws of motions allow architects to calculate the force on every brick of the building using f=ma

E. The Electro Magnetic Force

1. Lightning has been one of the biggest sources of fear and superstition. People thought lightning bolts were thrown down by the gods. And why shouldn’t they have? Scientists gradually took a more nuanced view when it became possible to produce electricity in the lab

2. Michael Faraday would give live demonstration in the 1800s of the powers and properties of electricity. He created a steel cage that ran electricity through it while leaving the person inside unharmed. Basis of all lightning protection

3. Faraday’s Law: a moving wire in a magnetic field has its electrons pushed, creating an electrical current. This unleashed the electric revolution and is the basis of all electrical systems today. Unified electricity and magnetism into a single force

4. If a moving magnetic field can create an electrical field, a moving electrical field can create a magnetic field. Do oscillating fields create a wave?

5. Around the time of the Civil War James Clerk Maxwell used Faraday’s work to investigate this wave. He calculated the velocity of the electromagnetic wave, which was the velocity of light. He realized that the electromagnetic wave is light

6. James Clerk Maxwell created equations that Faraday couldn’t (Faraday didn’t have a formal education), known as Maxwell’s Equations, which today are still memorized by all physicists and engineers

7. What this means for us today: Electrical resources correlate to wealth. A map of internet shows that countries with access (i.e. electricity) are more successful. Advances in technology will allow smaller and more sophisticated uses of Maxwell’s equations

F. The Nuclear Age

1. If the sun were made of coal or oil, it would burn out in a few hundred years. Must be a far greater force at work to power the sun. This is where Einstein and his ilk come in

2. This led to the discovery of the nuclear force. This comes in two types. The weak nuclear force governs the radioactive decay of subatomic particles. The strong nuclear force binds the component particles of an atom’s nucleus

3. The equation that allows for the liberation of energy is e=mc^2. Einstein proved that the faster you go, the heavier you get. This means that weight is not a constant. This means that the energy of motion transforms into mass

4. Inside the nucleus of the atom are particles. When you smash these particles you get more particles, which you can smash to find still more particles. Thousands of subatomic particles have been identified. These are found using a particle accelerator, i.e. atom smasher

G. Antimatter

1. Antimatter has the opposite charge as matter. Electrons have negative charges and positrons have positive charges. You can make anti-atoms and anti-molecules. Anti-hydrogen and anti-helium have been observed. Every piece of matter has an opposite piece of antimatter. When antimatter and matter collide it releases the greatest source of energy in the universe, 100% conversion of matter to energy

V. The Standard Model

A. In the 1950s, an overwhelming amount of subatomic particles were being discovered

B. The Particle Zoo

1. Thousands of subatomic particles have been discovered and assembled into a scientific jigsaw puzzle known as the standard model. It has 36 quarks, 19 free parameters, 3 generations of quarks, no rhyme, and no reason. But it’s the most consistent basis of reality physicists have been able to construct

2. There’s a piece missing: The Higgs-Boson. Physicists are focused on finding it to produce a more refined Standard Model

VI. String Theory: a theory of everything?

A. The four forces, gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear, and strong nuclear forces can be viewed as music. Tiny vibrating rubber bands inside of nuclei. Twanging the rubber band changes its frequency and changes the kind of subatomic particle it is. The is a metaphor for String Field Theory

B. A machine is being built to test String Theory. The biggest scientific machine ever built in the history of the human race. This is the Large Hadron Collider outside of Geneva, Switzerland. It’s a 17 miles in circumference with two streams of protons shooting in opposite directions and then slamming together to smash apart the particles in the hopes of finding the Higgs-Boson subatomic particle and beyond

C. The next theoretical layer of missing particles are called sparticles. Sparticles are super particles made of higher vibrations, super-high musical notes of a vibrating string

D. This can help unlock the secrets of the Big Bang and the center of black holes, where Einstein’s equations break down. String Theory goes before the Big Bang using the notion of the multiverse

E. Where did the Big Bang come from? Einstein’s model is that we are like insects trapped on a soap bubble which is expanding. String Theory says there should be other bubbles out there. Two universes can collide to form another universe, or one universe can split into two. The Big Bang was caused by the collision or fissioning of universes

F. The Multiverse

1. Can we go between different universes? Very hard, but it’s theorized that we might someday accomplish this using wormholes

2. The closest distance between two points on a plane is a straight line, but if we can fold the plane we can connect the dots. Creating a wormhole would be doing this with four-dimensional space, essentially creating a shortcut through space and time

3. This is a mathematical possibility under both Einstein’s theory and String Theory, but the question is is how practical this would be. It’s unknown if humans will be able to go all the way through a worm hole

4. If you could go through a wormhole you could use it as a time machine. Time machines are allowed in Einstein’s equations but to build one is extremely difficult and requires an inconceivable amount of energy

5. Why travel between universes? Eventually our universe will become so big that all particles eventually cease to move, destroying all life. The laws of physics are a death warrant for our universe. The only way to escape this would be to leave our universe for a younger one

G. A Fifth Force

1. The progress of physics in the last 400 years has been to distill the universe into the four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear, and strong nuclear. But is there a fifth force?

2. There is no measurable fifth force that can be found in a laboratory, but there are physicists investigating the possibility. Some people have posited that the fifth force is telepathy, or the power of the mind/consciousness. These theories can’t be reproduced or falsified

3. Some have also speculated that the fifth force could be short range, not over the nucleus of the atom, but over several feet, but no evidence has been detected

VII. Dark Energy

A. A new energy source has been discovered in the last ten years larger than the galaxy: Dark Energy. 73% of the energy in the universe is dark energy, and this is what is blowing the galaxies farther and farther apart from each other. This is the energy of the Big Bang itself

B. 23% of the energy in the universe is Dark Matter. This is invisible, undetectable matter that holds the galaxy together

C. 4% of the universe is made of stars, primarily hydrogen and helium. The higher elements, like the ones Earth is made out of, only make up 0.003% of the universe’s energy

D. What is dark matter? No one knows. String theory offers clues, but there’s no definitive answer

VIII. The Future of Physics

A. For aspiring physicists: We don’t have everything figured out at all. Every physics textbook is wrong, because they claim the universe is mainly made out of atoms. In the last ten years we have realized that most of the universe is dark, and there are generations of work to be done to unlock the secrets of dark matter and dark energy

B. Most students flunk freshman physics. The standards for engineers must be extremely high. You have to work your way up through all of the elementary levels of physical understanding of the universe before you can tango with Einstein and String Theory