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“Many of the great advances in science are marked by the discovery that an aspect of nature we thought was fundamental is actually an illusion, due to the coarseness of our sensory perceptions. Thus, air and water appear to us to be continuous fluids, but we discover on deeper experiment that they are made of atoms. The Earth appears to us motionless, but a deeper understanding teaches us that it moves relative to the sun and the galaxy.
One persistent illusion is that physical objects only interact with other objects they are close to. This is called the principle of locality. We can express this more precisely by the law that the strengths of forces between any two objects falls off quickly—at least by some power of the distance between them. This can be explained by positing that the bodies do not interact directly, but only through the mediation of a field, such as an electromagnetic field, which propagates from one body to the other. Fields spread out as they propagate, with the field lines covering a constantly greater area—providing a natural explanation for the laws that say the forces between charges and masses fall off like the square of the distance between them.
Locality is an aspect of an even more compelling illusion: that we exist within an absolute space, with respect to which we mark our positions as we move “through” it. Thus, Newton opined that motion is ultimately defined as change of position with respect to absolute space. If this seems obscure—because no measurement can establish a relation of a physical object to this imagined absolute space—Newton assured us that absolute space is seen by God, making your location relative to it an aspect of the divinity of the world. We humans must make do with relative positions and motions—which are defined relative to physical objects we can see.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"With many other countries already studying the Asian playbook, the United States and Europe could benefit from doing the same."
"Trump's cursing is one of the most straightforward parts of his appeal... Trump is not the only politician whose profanity has stood him in good stead."
"‘If we get all of this because Netanyahu wants to make Trump happy, that’s fine with us,’ says local council rep in Golan Heights as plans ramp up for ‘new’ neighborhood honoring U.S. president..."
"...there is something worth paying attention to in this latest petition from fans keen to have a creative work made the way that they want it. The comments on the petition are instructive."
"The sunny job numbers and steady growth hide the fact that most people think the economy works only for people in power."
"Like many other Americans, I now wear AirPods all day at my desk to combat the awful tyranny of the open office. Since they don’t cancel noise, they provide me with writing music..."
"The logic of attributing mental states to nonhuman animals is complicated. We cannot use deductive inference, because there are no general rules..."
"As the canon of English literature slowly, gradually opens itself up to books by women and authors of color, Modern Library and Penguin Classics have just launched two new series..."
"Egalitarian couples assume their progressive ideology will carry the day. Sociologists know that it doesn’t.... sharing child care is associated with valuing gender equality..."
"Business Booms for Sephardic Food: Women are leading the way as small businesses bring traditional recipes to the commercial marketplace..."
"With most animal populations, the niches that encase the populations are of constant size. Animal societies growing in a given niche have dynamics neatly fitted by equations with a constant limit or ceiling."
"Now some 200,000 Jews live in Germany, a nation of 82 million people, and many are increasingly fearful.... 85 percent of respondents in Germany characterized anti-Semitism as a “very big” or “fairly big” problem..."