[PAST EVENT] Saturday Morning Physics: "The Power of the Abstract" (Prof. Giovanni Vignale, U Missouri)

May 4, 2013
11am - 12pm
Small Hall, Room 111
300 Ukrop Way
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
Just as poetry is, in the words of French poet Paul Valéry, "a language within the language", theoretical physics is "a science within the science". Its final goal is not the explanation of observed facts, even less the control over them, but the weaving of those facts into a convincing and memorable narrative. Thus, from our point of view, theoretical physics has all in common with mythology, except the lack of constraints.

In this talk I expose some of the basic tools by which theoretical physics succeeds in reconstructing reality in a shape that we can grasp intellectually and emotionally. These include: going to the limit, mapping a thing into another, and developing "effective theories". The reconstructed reality is populated with abstractions such as particles, fields, and waves — all of which disappear if you look too closely, like rainbows that can be viewed but never reached. This abstract reality, it is argued, may well be an illusion — but an illusion that has more value than the literal fact.

[[wdeconinck, Wouter Deconinck]]