Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Little Einstein. Anyone?

"A Little Einstein, Anyone?"
by Dale Bryant

  When someone hits on an idea - I mean REALLY gets it right, there is no way to disprove that idea because it is intrinsically correct. In fact the antitheses of such situations are known as "intrinsically impossible" situations in the scientific world - like an object being both cold and hot at the same time. Now this makes sense to most people but believe me, there will be those who will try to refute even that. You can't stop from happening something that has already happened. It's along the same lines as not being able to go slower than stop, or getting colder than absolute zero. It can't be done. That's what makes absolutes absolutes. This is the case with Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity. As hard as some have tried, no one has ever proven it to be in error. In fact, the only error about it in history was Einstein's once thinking that he was in error and was persuaded by a fellow physicist to include a formula known as the "Cosmological Constant" - which itself turned out to be in error! (Einstein referred to that persuasion as "the biggest blunder of my life" - some people try to remember him as referring to his theory of relativity in general as the "blunder" - that is not the case - a little ignorance goes a long way).
  A little light needs to be shed on the word "theory". Most people use the word to mean something "less than" or "just a guess" and use it interchangeably with "hypothesis". But something is left out here. For every "truth" or every "law" - and I'm talking "real" truths and "real" laws (like that it doesn't get "warmer" as the temperature drops, for those of you who are just dying to split hairs) there is the theory behind that truth or law. Who of us would doubt the existence of germs, viruses, etc.? Yet the explanation of these microbes is still called the "germ theory" of medicine. A theory is just that - an explanation of a given set of circumstances. It is not a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a different animal; it is a best guess. But it almost invariably gets confused with theory. To say that "germ theory" is just a theory or the "theory of evolution" is just a theory makes you wrong from the get-go. Of course, this used to be the case for these ideas before they were proven (for the first time in history, evolution is being observed "as it happens" in a certain cave lizard species in northern Madagascar. The original species has changed so much over just two generations that its descendants can no longer breed with the original line, making the descendants a new species in their own right) - and some people find it hard to let go or are simply unaware of the facts or intentionally "ignore" the facts (a little "ignorance" goes a long way). But rest assured, the "Big Bang" theory isn't far behind in the list of natural laws.

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