Saturday, May 17, 2008

Corey D. Kaup's "Nothingness Theory"

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass
into nothingness..."


John Keats


Does existence equal "a state of perfectly uniform static equilibrium"? There are many theories and fussing among philosophers and scientists about the nature of the universe and mankind. But have you ever heard of the "Nothingness Theory"..."The connection between the evolution of the universe and human thought". Consider the thoughts of Corey D. Kaup. I know nothing about Corey D. Kaup or his unusual position. Your thoughts.

From the Introduction:

It’s a brisk fall morning in New York City. Wind blows dust and leaves around in little tornado shaped circles outside the windows of my 7th grade science class. As I watch the hypnotic swirling motion our teacher, Mr. Lobel, leans against the granite lab-table and poses this question: “Let’s say you put a piece of cork and a metal spoon in the refrigerator over night, which one will be colder the next day?” It seems like a trick question. “you're going to have to figure it out, we’ll talk about it tomorrow”. Of course none of us want to wait until tomorrow to get the answer, but Mr. Lobel can not be swayed.

I open the refrigerator at home and feel the milk carton – that’s pretty cold. I feel the cork on the wine bottle – not as cold. The coldest thing in the refrigerator is a wet piece of lettuce, but Mr. Lobel didn’t say anything about wet lettuce. I’m still not sure what the answer is, but I'm pretty sure it's the spoon. There's no way that cork can be colder than metal.

Most of us think it's the spoon. There are a few oddball cork-guys, but they have pretty lame ideas about why it's the cork, so Mr. Lobel finally resolves the mystery: "The cork, spoon and anything else hanging out in the refrigerator long enough will be of equal temperature". He uses this model to illustrate three profound ideas in physics:

One: there is no such thing as “cold”; there is only more or less heat. Cold is a matter of human perception. The metal spoon transmits heat away from the hand faster than cork so it feels colder.

Two: heat will try to even itself out. It will always go to where there is less heat until equilibrium is established.

Three: Heat is energy and energy is motion. The type of motion known as heat is the vibration of atoms and molecules.

This changed my perception of everything. It gnawed at my understanding of reality. How can heat just be wiggling atoms? Heat burns, melts, and boils. Why do the atoms wiggle in the first place? Why does the oscillation always even itself out?

I had unwittingly asked myself a question, the answer to which reveals a connection between the primary forces governing the behavior of the universe. I learned that the ubiquitous evening-out process I had questioned results in a state scientists call equilibrium. In the seventh grade experiment, had I actually gone to the trouble of putting a spoon and cork in the refrigerator, the internal refrigerator temperature would have disturbed the equilibrium between the spoon, cork, and their previously warmer environment. They would have spontaneously given up heat until thermal equilibrium was achieved with the surrounding refrigerator air.

There is a fourth profound idea in this experiment. Even without a rocket, or a cyclotron, or millions of dollars worth of exotic equipment it is possible to explore the universe. By showing us that the deep mysteries of life are revealed by observing everyday phenomena, Mr. Lobel opened the door to real freedom-of-mind. This is how the ancient Greeks invented modern science, mathematics, philosophy, and government. We are only just catching up to them now.

General Nothingness Theory

No comments: