Re: [asa] LHC, TOE, and the limits of knowledge

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Thu Sep 18 2008 - 16:58:22 EDT


You've missed the point. Of course colliding pianos don't make other instruments, but colliding particles make other particles. An analogy is an analogy and can be pressed only so far. By assuming you can learn anything about particle physics by colliding actual pianos, you're pressing it in a direction 180 deg away from the direction intended. The analogy was intended to show the kinds of things that happen in particle physics that DO NOT happen in our world of experience.

When physicists collide particles, most of the time they're not interested in what's inside those colliding particles but in the particles that come off. The particles that come off often have little to do with the colliding particles but much to do with their energy. The direction you're suggesting eviscerates the analogy.

At this point I conclude my job is done and I've failed.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Dehler, Bernie<>
  To: asa<>
  Sent: Thursday, September 18, 2008 11:07 AM
  Subject: RE: [asa] LHC, TOE, and the limits of knowledge




  From:<> [] On Behalf Of Don Winterstein
  Sent: Thursday, September 18, 2008 12:56 PM
  To: asa
  Subject: Re: [asa] LHC, TOE, and the limits of knowledge


  On the question of particle acceleration. The invention that will shrink this to a desktop experiment will almost certainly involve a new approach to the problem altogether, one which is not the equivalent of dropping pianos off a 20 story building and deducing their structure from analyzing the sounds made when they hit the sidewalk.


  One more comment: The piano analogy is inappropriate. It may be OK for atomic physics, but it's misleading for particle physics. If we want a musical instrument analogy for particle physics, here's how to go: When we smash two pianos together at high speed, what comes off is not pieces of broken pianos but various kinds of fully functional musical instruments. We get horns, clarinets, violins, drums, etc. Often some of these instruments almost instantaneously convert to still other instruments. For example, a violin might soon become a flute and a piccolo. What's of interest is not the pianos we start with, but all the different instruments that come off in the collision. It would be would be particularly exciting to see a God instrument, predicted but so far not seen.


  This analogy illustrates an important way that particle physics differs from nuclear and atomic physics: you wind up with a whole lot of things that often bear little resemblance to the things you start with. Understanding this may help discourage facile comparisons of progress in experimental particle physics with progress in electronics. Particle physics is remote from everyday experience. As in: way, way remote.


  Another thing is that smashing pianos together at low speed will generate no new instruments at all, so high speed (high energy) is essential. This is because we're creating musical instruments not out of the pianos' hardware but out of the pianos' relative speed! Try getting those pianos up to lightspeed on a desktop.



  . . . . . . .. . .

  Piano's don't make other instruments, so maybe a better idea is to smash pianos (as a black box, internals unknown) to see what they are made of (pieces of metal spring, wood splinters, etc.).


  If smashed too slowly, nothing happens. Put them on two trains, give them two miles to run at each other, then see what happens after that collision. There's no other way to do it, right?


  Next invention- take a wrecking ball and smash it. No longer need 4 miles of track to get the train up to speed.


  Next Invention- shoot it up with a shotgun- smaller and more efficient yet.


  Sooner or later the whole thing is understood and modeled on a laptop computer and can be simulated. In fact- it becomes a video game called "rock this" where you can blow up any musical instrument to see how it is built.





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Received on Thu Sep 18 16:00:56 2008

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