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THE CONTEXT OF MODERN PHYSICS

With the re-establishment of knowledge and confidence as the domains of the individual, that suppression is no longer necessary, because the tools exist to reward intellectual independence with a power and ease of life not offered before, because it was not known how. A language and attitude that make this possible is the real gem offered by physics. All of the parts of physics incorporate it intrinsically, so in a sense it does not matter which part one first experiences if the intellectual independence is learned, because with it any of what we know now is available for only the effort of gaining exposure. But even within physics, the real essence of intellectual independence is a subtle thing to convey, because it involves building the language and the relation to it, even as it is used to convey the subject matter. For this reason, curiously, the most important points about the methods, even among physicists, seem to be absorbed implicitly over a long time rather than learned definitively at once, and among those whose exposure to the subject is brief, they are often missed altogether.

That is because, like anything else that can be understood, Intellectual Independence requires a criterion by which it can be recognized. It is very importantly not the same thing as anarchy, because the power of the individual to choose does not come with the abandonment of structure, but rather in the process of adopting a more reliable structure, which is imparted by testing against nature. But this structure requires appreciating nature's criteria of ``right'' and ``wrong'', which means also not mistaking some other criteria for them. The mind-scape of modern physics is uniquely suited as an environment in which this distinction can be made apparent, as well as being very elegant and extremely beautiful.

While modern physics is concerned with such ideas as the relations and structure of times and distances, where things are located and where they are going, and so forth, these concepts do not fit into sentences in the way typical of more traditional usages. And because it is very difficult even to understand the meanings of the words out of the context of an active language of applications, the new ways in which the words are used, along with their most important consequences, have been difficult to disseminate widely. So while modern physics describes a wealth of the experiences of everyday life, as well as many that go far beyond everyday life for most people, we tend to relate to it like Helen Keller, deprived of most avenues for the mimicry of forms. Therefore, the present authorities and traditional conventions are not of much use in providing ``right'' answers. Instead, to obtain them and even to recognize them, we are required to address the content of the language instead of trying to mimic aspects of its form.

Therefore what we will present in the chapters that follow should be new and unfamiliar, and when it has not yet been understood, it should appear that way, rather than simply being ignorance coated in a sugar pill that goes down unnoticed. The evidence that understanding has been achieved will be the same as it has been for all those who have created and used the knowledge up to this point, namely the ability to correctly predict the behaviors that we have been able to measure.



Next: DIMENSIONAL ANALYSIS: THE Up: THE LANGUAGE OF Previous: FEATURES OF THE


desmith@
Thu Aug 31 12:01:42 CDT 1995