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Thread: Do the entities of physics really exist in the real world?

  1. #1
    Registered Senior Member
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    Do the entities of physics really exist in the real world?

    Hi guys,

    I have a question.

    Do the entities of physics really exist in the real world?

    I've never seen an atom, or an electron, or a photon, or a neutron or a proton. I've never seen these particles with my own eyes.

    Some of the entities of physics I know for sure exist in the real world like radiation and heat. You can feel the heat of the sun's radiation on your skin in a hot summer day. It's hot.

    But as for the other entities like electrons, neutrons, photons and quarks I have strong doubts if they really exist in the real world and not just on paper.

    My question is this: If electrons, protons and neutrons really exist in the real world (and not just in theory or on paper), then why aren't they visible to the naked human eye? Why do we need powerful instruments like scanning tunneling microscopes and particle accelerators to observe these particles for real?

  2. #2
    Valued Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by pluto2 View Post
    My question is this: If electrons, protons and neutrons really exist in the real world (and not just in theory or on paper), then why aren't they visible to the naked human eye? Why do we need powerful instruments like scanning tunneling microscopes and particle accelerators to observe these particles for real?
    The short answer is because the human eye is only good for detecting photons, so it's pretty useless for seeing anything that doesn't interact with photons.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nasor View Post
    The short answer is because the human eye is only good for detecting photons, so it's pretty useless for seeing anything that doesn't interact with photons.
    So if the human eye can't actually see electrons, neutrons and protons, then how do we know that these particles exist?

  4. #4
    Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke MacGyver1968's Avatar
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    If electrons didn't exist...you wouldn't be reading this right now.

  5. #5
    Penguinaciously duckalicious. Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pluto2 View Post
    So if the human eye can't actually see electrons, neutrons and protons, then how do we know that these particles exist?
    If you can't actually see air, bacteria, the far side of the moon, Neptune etc. how do you know they exist?

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by pluto2 View Post
    Hi guys,

    I have a question.

    Do the entities of physics really exist in the real world?

    I've never seen an atom, or an electron, or a photon, or a neutron or a proton. I've never seen these particles with my own eyes.

    Some of the entities of physics I know for sure exist in the real world like radiation and heat. You can feel the heat of the sun's radiation on your skin in a hot summer day. It's hot.

    But as for the other entities like electrons, neutrons, photons and quarks I have strong doubts if they really exist in the real world and not just on paper.

    My question is this: If electrons, protons and neutrons really exist in the real world (and not just in theory or on paper), then why aren't they visible to the naked human eye? Why do we need powerful instruments like scanning tunneling microscopes and particle accelerators to observe these particles for real?
    because of their size

    they are extremely , extremely minute

    it is their nature

  7. #7
    The short answer is that it doesn't matter if they are real or not. That's a problem for philosophers not physicists. The theory makes predictions that fit the data and are practically useful.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by spidergoat View Post
    The short answer is that it doesn't matter if they are real or not. That's a problem for philosophers not physicists.
    actually it does matter if they are real or not , and the problem is not for philosophers but for physicists , since it is the physicisits that work with , protons , electrons and neutrons



    The theory makes predictions that fit the data and are practically useful.
    yes they are " practically " useful

  9. #9
    No it doesn't. Reality is an abstract notion completely irrelevant to quantum physics.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by spidergoat View Post
    No it doesn't. Reality is an abstract notion completely irrelevant to quantum physics.
    how does one " abstract reality " ?

    we get reality first from what is in front of us , enviroment , and the way in deeper examination of how particles behave we can't abstract this for it is the particles themselves that tell us what to think , really
    Last edited by thinking; 06-26-09 at 02:12 AM.

  11. #11
    How does one determine reality when the act of measurement changes it?

  12. #12
    Valued Senior Member Pandaemoni's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thinking View Post
    how does one " abstract reality " ?

    Science does not describe "reality". Science comes up with models that allow us to make predictions. So long as the predictions are accurate, the physical reality that underlay reality could be completely different than what the model itself suggests.

    For example, there are about a dozen reasonably well respected "interpretations" of quantum mechanics. The interpretations purport to tell us what "really happens" at a quantum level. All of the interpretations agree on the model of quantum mechanics and make the same predictions in any test we can now devise, and yet the interpretations themselves are mostly mutually exclusive. Some of them *must* be wrong, even though the quantum mechanical models they describe make very accurate predictions.

    Whether an accurate model (i.e. one that makes accurate predictions about the outcomes of experiments--the development of which is science) is a "correct" description of the universe is a question of metaphysics.

    Manybe the many worlds theory is correct, maybe the copenhagen interpretation, maybe the Bohm model, maybe the transactional interpretation, maybe none of the interpretations we now know of is in reality correct...

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by spidergoat View Post
    How does one determine reality when the act of measurement changes it?
    because it is in a micro state

    the higher the energy state the harder it is to pin point , understood , and no surprise really

    but if you lower the energy state the easier it is to pin - point

    can you do the same in a macro state ?

    no , because in the macro state you can measure changes without any changes to the reality of that object
    Last edited by thinking; 06-26-09 at 02:41 AM.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by pluto2 View Post
    Do the entities of physics really exist in the real world?
    That's actually a question that has been much discussed by philosophers of science. Scientists themselves usually don't worry about it too much. What they want their theories to do is to make useful predictions about the world: "If I do this over here, what effects does it have over there?"

    To scientists, it doesn't really matter that much whether the things we call "electrons" are like hard little balls or tiny pixies or fuzzy wavey clumps. All of those are models, as others have said above. They give us a way of thinking about things which we are unable to directly experience. Is something like "angular momentum" real, or is it just a useful concept that expresses something about rotating objects and a certain symmetry that we observe in the universe? It's arguable.

    Looking at the philosophers, there are many different views. The "model making" view I've just described is what philosophers call instrumentalism. The alternative: that things like electrons and angular momentum are really "out there" is call realism. Plato, for example, though that there was a realm of ideas, in which things like "angular momentum" and even mathematical concepts like "triangle" exist in perfect form. These "forms" are embodied, usually imperfectly, in the universe we observe.

    Some of the entities of physics I know for sure exist in the real world like radiation and heat. You can feel the heat of the sun's radiation on your skin in a hot summer day. It's hot.
    You only really know that when you go out in the sun you get a certain feeling on your skin. That doesn't mean that heat is real, necessarily. In fact, it is possible that your skin is not even real. Maybe your mind is all there is, really.

    My question is this: If electrons, protons and neutrons really exist in the real world (and not just in theory or on paper), then why aren't they visible to the naked human eye? Why do we need powerful instruments like scanning tunneling microscopes and particle accelerators to observe these particles for real?
    Go back a step. Why do you need a telescope to see details of the surface of the moon? If you use only you eye, there are some details you can't see. Are they not real, then? In the reverse direction, there is print so small that you need a magnifying glass to read it. Is it real, then? What if you need a microscope instead? At what point does the doubt about reality start?

  15. #15
    further

    the speed of the micro is a property of the Universe because it Naturally looks for combinations of the particles , no matter how small

    hence the macro in all it forms

  16. #16
    “ Originally Posted by thinking
    how does one " abstract reality " ?




    [QUOTE]
    Quote Originally Posted by Pandaemoni View Post
    Science does not describe "reality". Science comes up with models that allow us to make predictions. So long as the predictions are accurate, the physical reality that underlay reality could be completely different than what the model itself suggests.
    science tries to UNDERSTAND reality

    For example, there are about a dozen reasonably well respected "interpretations" of quantum mechanics. The interpretations purport to tell us what "really happens" at a quantum level. All of the interpretations agree on the model of quantum mechanics and make the same predictions in any test we can now devise, and yet the interpretations themselves are mostly mutually exclusive. Some of them *must* be wrong, even though the quantum mechanical models they describe make very accurate predictions.
    as I said above , science tries to UNDERSTAND reality



    Whether an accurate model (i.e. one that makes accurate predictions about the outcomes of experiments--the development of which is science) is a "correct" description of the universe is a question of metaphysics.
    and what does metaphysics UNDERSTAND about physics

    Maybe the many worlds theory is correct, maybe the copenhagen interpretation, maybe the Bohm model, maybe the transactional interpretation, maybe none of the interpretations we now know of is in reality correct...
    hence theories by science on what has been learned up to now

  17. #17
    Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love BenTheMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spidergoat View Post
    The short answer is that it doesn't matter if they are real or not. That's a problem for philosophers not physicists. The theory makes predictions that fit the data and are practically useful.
    I think I agree. This discussion is interesting, but not for this forum.

  18. #18
    tending tangentially glaucon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BenTheMan View Post
    This discussion is interesting, but not for this forum.
    I concur.

    Questions about ontological status (what's "really ... real") are of philosophical import, but as the OP is written, there's little relevance so far.

    pluto2,

    Could you perhaps clarify what it is you're asking here?
    As it stands, this should be in the Physics & Math subfora.

  19. #19
    Be kind to yourself always. cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    I've never seen an atom


    Now you have seen one.



    And here's an electron.


  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post


    Now you have seen one.



    And here's an electron.


    what particles?


    'i see dead people'

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