There is probably nothing in this world that thrills a physicist than to see the beautiful harmony of math and principle. It’s a special kind of joy, and the principle, in this case, is usually a principle of physics that may apply to the world around us.
The principle is usually the first thought or discovery of the physicist or of another physicist, whatever the case may be, but the physicist is still deeply thrilled and excited to see when a mathematical framework completely represents a principle.There is probably nothing in this world that thrills a physicist than to see the beautiful harmony of math and principle.Click To Tweet
This is the common experience of all the great theoreticians of physics. Einstein before arriving at the theory of general relativity first of all conceived the idea of the strong equivalence principle when he imagined the situation of an observer accelerating in an enclosed elevator far from the Earth’s gravitational field.
After an insightful mental assessment of this situation, he concluded that gravitation and acceleration are equal.
This principle which he considered as one of the happiest thoughts of his life became the basis for his theory of general relativity. However, he did not just discover or presented this principle, he went further to seek for the mathematical formulation of the strong equivalence principle.
History has it that he had to seek the assistance of his friend, Marcel Grossmann, in order to understand and apply tensor calculus to the theory.
And after 10 years, he arrived at his theory or the mathematical formulation. Einstein arrived at the end point where he could satisfactorily say that the math has completely harmonized with the principle.
Like I said, this experience is common to all the great theoreticians of physics, and it is the most exciting point of discovery and of the journey towards a new theory of physics.
And general relativity ended up serving modern physics as the single most powerful theory of gravity until post-modern physics.
However, rather than just an obvious fact of history, what has prompted this article is my experience of the excitement of math and principle in the creation of a theory.
As I came to the end of my journey to absolute relativity, there was nothing that could compare to the immense joy and excitement I had seeing the complete harmony of math and principle in my theory.
And then, I imagined that this must have been the same for the great theoreticians of physics before me. This is why I decided to write this article as I saw a special bond or connection between the physicist and his theory.
I then understood how Einstein must have felt to see the harmony of his math and his principle in general relativity, and also how Maxwell must have felt to see the harmony of his math and his adopted idea that light is an electromagnetic wave.
I say adopted because the idea was originally Faraday’s. And Maxwell, after completing the theory took it to an already old Faraday who I sometimes imagine how happy he must have felt to see the theoretical formulation of his idea.
So, this is not just an imagination of mine as I also know what it feels like. There is no feeling in the world that compares to it, no feeling. This feeling comes at the point where it is now completely evident how the math and principle are united.
This feeling comes at the point where the math and the principle becomes one in such a manner that precedence becomes hard to be given to either. At this point, the physicist is now both a mathematician and a physicist.
It is at this point that the physicist says “it is finished”. It is at this point he realizes in the secret, away from the prying eyes of the world, the complete unity of math and principle which is the hallmark of physics.
This is the whole essence of physics, which is to discover a principle whether by intuition or by whatever means, and then, proceed to mathematically represent this principle in a manner that illuminates us about the nature of the universe.
However, what is sad is that now, this progress from principle to math and then to theory is lost. Physicists are no longer guided by a core principle. They now go wherever the math goes.
This is what threatens the institution of physics more than any single thing. It is what has limited our capacity to dissolve the modern mysteries of physics. However, I don’t want to dwell so much on it as I have discussed it in some of my earlier articles.
So, in this article, I want to focus on the personal experience of the physicist in the process of creation. During the creation of a theory, the core aim of the physicist is to see the complete harmony of math and principle.During the creation of a theory, the core aim of the physicist is to see the complete harmony of math and principle.Click To Tweet
The steps, procedures, guesses, hints, dreams, visions, explications, and predictions all make for his experiences as he creates his theory. This sublime experience is the life dream of many physicists that are concerned about fundamental physics.
These experiences are what form the deep, undeniable connection between a physicist and his theory, and also, these experiences are the first source of conviction the physicist may have for his theory before experimentation.
These personal experiences on the road to discovery, as I have said, are the hallmarks of a physicist.
Also, one thing that the physicist may not mention is that the period of creation of a theory is usually a period of deep mental struggle and introspection into the principle, the math, the philosophy, and the possible implications that the theory may have for physics.
It, first of all, begins as a long way to go with hurdles set along the way before it becomes easy and the math harmonizes completely with the principle. This is the point where the physicist feels his theory is now complete and could be presented to the scientific community.
So, the physicist, the math, and the principle are the three important things that follow any theory, and which may turn out to be the enduring legacy of a physicist to the world.
I also cannot forget how I felt when I saw the complete harmony of math and principle in my theory. It was so exciting just to look at the mathematical framework and see that it perfectly represents the preconceived principle or principles.
And in physics, such a principle must tell us something about the universe.
So, the relationship between math and principle is at first such a personal experience and a huge source of excitement and sense of purpose for the physicist or the theoretician as he meanders and finds his way to the truth.
This process of creation and the personal experience of the unity of math and principle garnish the pages of the history of physics, and to wherever a theory of physics goes, this experience of the physicist remains as an underlying value and the most times untold component of the theory.
Until next time,
I will be here.
– M. V. Echa