Ask A Genius 496 – Just Throw Common Sense and Math at the Problem
January 6, 2019
[Beginning of recorded material]
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: From what you’re saying, I am seeing a nice primer between folk psychology and psychology, and intuitive physics and physics. Folk psychology as a primer to psychology and intuitive physics as a primer to physics. They can make mistakes. But they can lead to some right directions.
Rick Rosner: I guess so. I am not too familiar with folk psychology, except I can imagine what it is. I am more intrigued by folk etymology, where people jump to conclusions about the origins of words based on what they sound like.
The suppositions or the stories that people come up with or find out from others aren’t true at all. They are built out of coincidence. That some words sound like other words. I don’t know.
I would assume that the best physicists are poets of physics. They have a sense. You hear Feynman, Einstein, and Hawking – at least Hawking and Einstein – talked about the beauty of theories.
They became sufficiently experienced from having thought about this stuff for decades. More correct intuitions about physics bubble up. Some potential analyses seem more beautiful and more right than other ones.
Often, it takes the form of equivalences. Newton sees the equivalence of a falling apple in a falling and orbiting body. Darwin sees the equivalence between the crazy proliferation of species and the apparent age of the world.
He sees geological structures that he doesn’t think were created by a catastrophe like a lot of people of the time. He saw structures that he thought took tens and maybe hundreds of millions of years to form. He saw the variety and proliferation of animals and the amount, like across the Galapagos Islands, where each island may have its own assortment of finches depending on what the finches are doing on each island.
They become specialized. He sees this speciation; and this deep time seen in geological structures as being equivalent. They are both from the principle of shit taking a super long time to happen.
Then Einstein sees the equivalences between – in General Relativity – that you can’t tell if you’re in an enclosed space whether you’re in accelerating frame; that is, whether you are standing in a gravitational field because you’re on the surface of a gravitating body, or whether you’re standing in the surface of something accelerated under you, then he sees an equivalence in Special Relativity that everyone sees the speed of light traveling at the same speed regardless of how fast they’re traveling relative to beams of light and relative to each other.
These deep equivalences seem right. The universe is complicated but only as complicated as it needs to be, which is a quote from someone. A lot of the theories that we have developed: simplicity and common sense get you quite a ways towards where you’re going, based on the information available at the time.
We didn’t have the Big Bang theory until Hubble in the 20s and the human computers at Harvard who gave Hubble the data. There are other galaxies. The fainter a galaxy is relative to us, then the more redshifted it is, which gives a framework for the Big Bang.
That those faint and more distant galaxies appear to move faster away from us. That information was not available to us until the nineteen-teens and 20s. So, you couldn’t come to common sense conclusion of the Big Bang until the 20th century.
There wasn’t the information available.
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American Television Writer
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing
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