Early in the twentieth century, even as emergent nationalism made the world pregnant with a half century of mechanized war, the greatest advances in physics since Isaac Newton were taking place. Relativity and quantum redefined the universe as a dance of electrons around mass composed of a seemingly endless parade of sub, further, and even further sub particles.
Energy and mass became convertible by the imponderable square of the speed of photons (light) in the famous relativity equation. Yet the continuing subdivision of the atom, conceived in ancient Greece as the ultimate, irreducible thing, has spared the electron. It remains fundamental to us.
On a roll and feeling swell we moved to a “theory of everything”. Congruence has been achieved in this theory with the unfortunate exception of gravity. This property of mass eludes our constructions.
What price congruence? Not only gravity, but 95% of the “stuff” of the universe in the form “dark” energy and matter escapes our model. Perhaps we pay too much for our mathematically consistent cosmology. We may have successfully modeled only a microcosm, a sub universal particle, if you will.
Those who have dedicated themselves to the morasses of equations believe they detect “strings”. From what lyre do they hark? Physics has hit the wall when quantum uncertainty tells us that we must fundamentally change what we see to observe it, and therefore “create” what we observe.
Even our trusty electrons are weird. Carver Mead stretches them to any length, even a mile long, in a super-cooled super-conducting field. They do plasma too. Like lightning or arc welding. Ionized (read electronized) gas fields with little or no net charge. What if dark energy and dark matter were a plasma?
Engineering is the art of marginalizing what is not understood to levels that do not disrupt the application. Typically this is done by organizing components in specific patterns that minimize chaotic (not understood) effects. So it is with the models we make. We can have a “theory of everything” if we marginalize gravity.
Our models of evolving systems struggle with initial and boundary conditions. Initial solutions require consistent values at single points, and boundary solutions at binary points. In the words of the Wolfram Reference:
“ The final step, in which the particular solution is obtained using the initial or boundary values, involves mostly algebraic operations, and is similar for IVPs and for BVPs.
IVPs and BVPs for linear differential equations are solved rather easily since the final algebraic step involves the solution of linear equations.
…it is not always possible to complete the final algebraic step for nonlinear problems.”
Pretty much sums it up. We are left wondering if we are at the initiation or at the boundary or whatever lies between.
The whedefugawe effect. It remains the essence of the human condition.