Field Or Medium

Many physicists believe that physics is hard because the subatomic world is too difficult to grasp, too counter-intuitive and too distant from everyday experience. No, it’s not. The problem is, most people are not good at math. Just doing some basic physics requires a firm understanding of differentiation and integration. You probably don’t need to be able to prove those integrals through sequences and series, which can very well be left to mathematicians. However, you do need to get a good feel about how space and time relate to an object in question or how an object changes its shape in the 3-D space and possibly above. The best way to get a feel about these objects and how they behave is to simulate and visualize them, in which case the physical sense becomes an acquired skill. It’s different from the spatial sense often related to a man, who seems better at linking a map to the real world surrounding him, in which case he visualizes the map at hand from a first-person’s perspective. Also, note that most maps are 2-D rather than 3-D. So, it’s supposed to be easier. In any case, perspective matters. The ability to visualize 3-D morphing objects, in motion or not, helps with a personal understanding of how stuffs work, especially when the person is required to predict unobserved phenomena.

What is a field? It’s like a magic domain in which objects constantly feel a force acting upon them. The best way to visualize it is to use a gray-scale map with deeper gray colors representing stronger potentials. In 3-D, colored dots can be used so that we can see through the space and how it’s bent altogether, as our minds are pretty good at interpolation, even doing so unconsciously, meaning, on graphic cards, for all kinds of illusive effects, such as the invisibility of blind spots. What is a medium? Well, it’s basically the same. For example, the surface of an ocean can be colored with a red-scale representing temperature to show thermal energy distribution. In fact, that’s exactly why the concept of a field was invented. It was meant to show how force can be applied within a well-defined space without requiring the existence of a medium. Physicists are simple. If no medium is required, then no medium is required. So what? As a matter of fact, most people get the concept of a magic domain within a second without further explanations. Physical concepts are not difficult at all. You just have to find the right metaphors! Plus, the expansion of a magical domain takes time, too. How wonderful as an educational tool! Do you play games, too? Concepts are best taught through total immersion in physical experience where all senses are engaged. Feel it!

Now comes the difficult part. How do we prove that a field is actually a field? Well, in classical physics, space is vacuum, while in zero-state energy physics, zero energy is vacuum. The definition of vacuum can change from decade to decade and century to century. Whenever we have a better definition of vacuum, we test again all known fields to see whether they are actually fields. Here comes the problem. The new Higgs field is uniform in space, as if we were floating above a carpet, possibly formed by a thin layer of Higgs fermions instead of Higgs bosons. I personally have no problems with that. In fact, I am thinking about creating a new computer game where all magic domains can be described by arbitrary mathematical functions such that we can feel their different powers. Direct experience matters. However, on a second thought, sorcery is forbidden according to the Bible such that the genre of science fiction is preferred, in which case no metaphor is required. Note also that two fundamental types of mass exist: inertial and gravitational. While the gravitational field may be absent in space, the Higgs field is omnipresent. After all, it’s the God field with its God particles.

If you still don’t get it, it’s fine. In physics, it’s all about the power to predict and not the power of understanding, which naturally leads to the next step: the state-of-the-art engineering to change our lives.

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About Run Song

Run Song (宋闰) is my pen name for the Moments of Poetry, a collection of poems about the greatest moments of life. If photography captures the greatest moments of life, poetry is the life behind them.
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