Physics (either from the ancient Greek φύσις meaning "nature", or from Cockney rhyming slang "fizzy drinks" meaning "fizzy drinks") is a part of a rather giant delusional activity called "science". "Scientists" who partake in this activity believe that they are able to explain everything in the universe, possibly including life. Most of the time, these madmen—who call themselves "physicists" in particular—either continue "scientific inquiries" into the fundamental nature of matter, time, and space—often oblivious to the matter at hand, the time of their next dentist's appointment, or the clutter taking up their desk space—or teach other less specialised lunatics to do the same.
The scientific method
Physicists—as well as scientists in general—claim to abide by a scientific method that ensured that their claims of universal explanation are objective and credible. The process is roughly as follows:
- Ask a question. However, the question cannot be one that is actually sensible or relevant. Rather than "When is the electricity bill payment due?" or "What happened last night?" or "Why am I trying to explain the fundamental forces and particles behind everything in the universe when I am left unable to even explain what happened last night?", the question must be one that asks for the reason behind a natural phenomenon. "What is the mechanism responsible for breaking the electroweak gauge symmetry, giving mass to the W and Z bosons?", for example, is a question sufficiently esoteric and unanswerable enough for the megalomaniacal scientist.
- Make further observations. Common sense is once again no help—simply observing "Perhaps I should go and write that cheque for the electricity bill rather than take part in an internationally funded experiment worth its weight in antimatter" satisfies not the eternally curious and curiously delusional mind of the physicist. Further explorations of the W and Z bosons as well as electroweak interactions is the path to take in this example.
- Form a hypothesis. A hypothesis here means a reasonable explanation for the physicist's observations. Such an explanation is much easier to craft than an explanation for what the physicist is doing, which is clearly inexplicable and delusional and not too late to undo yet.
- Perform an experiment. At this point, the physicist is past the event horizon and already immersed in the delusion of being able to explain everything that happens around him. (The writer has taken the liberty of assuming the physicist to be male, since generally females are far too rational to go into physics—ed.) Therefore, he may as well go and do an experiment to see how wrong the hypothesis was about these bosons.
- See how wrong the hypothesis was. Obviously, the physicist is wrong. There is the off-chance that the hypothesis may have been right. In this case, fifteen minutes of fame will ensue before another physicist shows the hypothesis to have been wrong after all. The original physicist may still console himself with the fact that this other physicist will eventually himself be proven wrong as well.
- Adjust the hypothesis and try again. In everyday interactions with sensible people who do sensible things, this is called either "a correction" or even "changing your story". However, in the scientific community, it is termed "progress".
Experiment versus theory
Normally, theory and experiment are both integral parts of the same process, as even scientists are sane enough to keep a process intact. However, being the craziest of the craziest, physicists have managed to unravel even their fundamental tenets of alleged rationality.
Therefore the world of physics is now split into experimentalists who perform experiments yet do not attempt to explain their results, and theorists who attempt to explain experiments that have not even been performed, largely because they involve bending and rending apart the space-time continuum and often in some apocalyptic manner. Nonetheless, to attempt to explain things without even observing them is quite a leap. To understand why such a split has developed, we must delve into the history of physics.
The history of physics is a series of theories, confirmation and vindication of said theories, widespread acceptance and praise and worship of said theories, and complete and total destruction of those theories.
In ancient Greece, one may safely say that Aristotle wrote the book on physics—indeed, wrote a book titled the Physics (Greek: Φυσικῆς ἀκροάσεως, Latin: Physicae Auscultationes, Pig Latin: Ectureslay onway Aturenay) and made various other discoveries and arguments outside of this book. Aristotle chiefly concerned himself with the phenomenon of motion of objects, with these chief axioms:
- All objects are composed of four elements. If correct, this would have meant that the weight of all objects were determined by the proportions of earth, water, wind, and fire, and would also have considerably simplified the Periodic Table. Under Aristotelian physics, the present issue of global warming would be explained by excessive fire and wind.
- Objects move towards their natural settling place. Most rocks have a natural place on the ground, which is why letting go of them from directly above your feet is a rather bad idea. It also explains the tremendous speed with which schoolchildren move towards their natural settling place in front of the telly.
- The speed of something falling is proportional to its weight. This is the reason for which Henry VIII's health failed dramatically quickly.
However, this system of pseudoscientific beliefs did not last very long—a mere two millennia or so. Eventually, Galileo Galilei (full name Galileu Galileo Galilei Galilee Galilea) proved that things did not fall at rates proportional to their weight by dropping two balls of different density off the Leaning Tower of Pisa which hit and killed a skinny man and an obese man whose heart rate fell at virtually the same rate. Galileo also went against Aristotle in claiming that objects would keep moving until some force resisted this motion. For instance, one may continue to move to reconsider until the chair presiding over the meeting denies him/her this.
Even the shred of credibility that Aristotelian physics had left was wholly destroyed by the work of delusional maniac Sir Isaac Newton. Chiefly known for his pursuit of alchemy, brief tenure as warden of the Royal Mint, and publications on analysis of scripture and predictions of the Apocalypse, he also completely changed forever humankind's understanding of motion and gravity—but only somewhat completely.
Newton confirmed Galileo's principle of "inertia" (derived from the Latin word for lazy), and also postulated two more laws of motion from his own observations.
- The Second Law of Motion states that F = ma, where F is force, m is mass, and a is acceleration. Therefore this mathematical formula postulates that force is equal to "massacceleration", and that the unit of force is the kilogrammetres per second per second.
- The Third Law of Motion states that for every action there is a reaction equal in magnitude, opposite in direction, and unknown as to whether or not anyone should actually care about it.
In addition, he postulated that the force that drove objects to the surface of Earth was the same force as that which held the Moon in orbit of Earth. However, as if the concept of force at a distance were not enough to inhibit Newton, the mathematical tools that existed in his time were also inadequate for Newton's kinematical and dynamical needs. Therefore, he made maths up as he went along and called it "fluxions". Today, billions of schoolchildren worldwide suffer the consequence of Newton's mathematical trickery and subsequently run out of the classroom screaming. Most are still traumatised by the sight of the integral sign ∫ and unable to study Shakespeare in its original form due to the long s (ſ).
Newton also put forward a theory that light was composed of "corpuscles", i.e. particles of light. But his rival Robert Hooke, when he happened to not be fiddling with his Slinky toys or his dead plants, had put forward a wave theory of light. Somehow, a Scotsman named James Clerk Maxwell proved both of them wrong. According to Maxwell, light did not exist by itself, but rather was part of a unified field called the electromagnetic field. As its name implies, the electromagnetic field also included the superpowers Elektra and Magneto. This new electromagnetic theory was hailed as a crossover of the Daredevil and X-Men series and deemed revolutionary at the time. With Newtonian gravity and mechanics and Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism, many hoped that physics could finally predict everything in a "clockwork universe". In retrospect, this carries heavily ironic connotations since Newtonian mechanics would get nul points if that clockwork were running anywhere near the speed of light. Nonetheless, it seemed at the time that physics was at an end.
However, Maxwell's theory relied on an antiquated piece of physical science called the luminiferous aether. This theory posited that since electromagnetic waves clearly need a medium through which to travel, physicists could just make up a story about diethyl ether permeating the entire universe. Regardless to say, this was a poor excuse for a scientific theory and was just waiting to be disproven by an experiment, which it was. People finally realised that the speed of light was the same in all reference frames and media—or at least Albert Einstein did, since everyone else was far too surprised that humankind's understanding of the universe was still evolving.
Einstein also posited a series of incredibly outlandish proposals that allegedly resulted from his theory of special relativity:
- Mass-energy equivalence. Essentially, E = mc2. Nobody knows what mass-energy equivalence actually means beyond that equation.
- Invalidity of simultaneity. Two events that appear to happen at the same time from one person's point of view may not necessarily happen at the same time from another person's point of view. This means that whenever the narrator said "Meanwhile, somewhere else" and cut to another scene, he was lying.
- Motion faster than light is impossible. This result has led to countless professors using a tired old metaphor and describing the speed of light as a "universal speed limit". As a result, the Galactic Ministry of Hyperspace has repeatedly been forced to reassure citizens that the actual universal speed limit remains at 90 000 kph, and that piloting the spaceship at the speed of light may endanger everyone on the hyperspace motorway.
These theories were surprisingly substantiated by prominent figures, including Planck, Minkowski, and the universe. Einstein, however, was less happy with his theory than nature was. In what may be one of the most self-defeating moves in the history of physics, Einstein corrected his own theory, and replaced special relativity with general relativity, which saw gravity as a result of the bending of an elastic sheet. A good analogy is to the space-time continuum—in the same way that a heavy metal ball distorts the space-time continuum, so does a star bend an elastic sheet.
However, Einstein never quite got around to explaining electromagnetism—being a hardcore DC Comics fan—or any of the nuclear forces, having taken up the fight against nuclear warfare. The nature of light, nuclear interactions and small-scale forces were thus left to others.
The last major theories on light were Newton's theory of corpuscles and Hooke's wave theory of light, later Maxwell's theory of light as electromagnetic radiation in wave form. Somehow, Planck, Einstein, and de Broglie managed to prove all of them wrong—or, more accurately, possibly wrong. The end result of all of their research was that all of matter had properties of waves as well as those of particles. This would be a strange result of physics were it not for every single other thing quantum mechanics predicts.
In a move whose probability of being one of the most self-defeating moves ever in the history of physics is determined by the wave function , quantum physicists admitted that they were a little fuzzy on what happened at the smaller scales of physics research. Position and momentum of a subatomic particle could not both be ascertained with absolute precision; every particle has a range of possible positions and times described by a wave function that only collapses with an observer; and Erwin Schrödinger, realising just how utterly ridiculous this was, cracked a joke about a cat in a box that would continue for the next few centuries.
A final unity?
Even today, despite the awesomeness of Richard Feynman having graced our world, we cannot explain gravity through some quantum mechanism. Quantum gravity that is compatible with general relativity would give us a unified vision of the world, and indeed—as these delusional maniacs believe—a complete and total explanation of everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen in the universe. Physics researchers would lose their jobs and—since they have no common sense—rejoice and celebrate. All would be explained by a single theory of the world after all.
That is, until some lunatic proves it wrong.