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StarLab
2004-Aug-05, 02:39 AM
On another forum on our prized, beloved internet, I encountered a troubling post which claimed that physics answers the "how" as opposed to the "why" of natural phenomena. Sadly, and most frighteningly, I am afraid that this statement is true.
So, I have set up two questions which I hope our brighter minds on this forum can answer, in my desperate quest to prove the above statement untrue:

1- Why does spacetime "rip?"

2- Why do strings vibrate?

Remember, I am not asking the how . I am asking the why. Not the dynamics. Not the mathematics. Just the why. I don't want to know how a supernova happens. I want to know the specifics about why a supernova has the capability to form a black hole, and what the correlation is to neutron stars. Also, I am asking what FORCE makes strings vibrate. I know they vibrate; I want to know WHY.


It's...just...that there's obviously an underlying concept to everything, and there is a difference between the cause of something and the method of the cause, or the cause of the method.
I'll finish this post with an an analogy: what:how:why::time:frequency:period

devilmech
2004-Aug-05, 02:57 AM
Can you prove that spacetime "rips"? Can you prove that a string exists?

Your questions can't be answered until you can answer yes to both of mine and have something to back them up with.

As for "how" over "why", knowing "why" a square peg fits in a square hole has no practical value. If we know "how" a square peg fits in a sqaure hole, then we can apply that knowledge to possibly do something useful, which knowing the "why" of will never provide us.

Philosophy is dangerous <_<

----------
"My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it&#39;s on your plate -- that&#39;s my philosophy." - Thornton Wilder
"There is no statement so absurd that no philosopher will make it." - Cicero
"Metaphysics is a dark ocean without shores or lighthouse, strewn with many a philosophic wreck. - Immanuel Kant
"Philosophy is an unusually ingenious attempt to think fallaciously." - Bertrand Russell

blueshift
2004-Aug-05, 03:25 AM
StarLab,

You could be misreading the intent behind that statement...

Theology wants to know "why" we are here...

Physics doesn&#39;t care why we are here. Physics describes what is here and how the forces that exist shape it the way it is...

The only time physics asks "why" we are here is when our understanding of the laws of physics run us into a wall..

Rutherford&#39;s model of the atom ran the physics community into a wall that presented that very question. Negative electrons circling around a positive nucleus should be attracted to that nucleus. They are moving charges that should be giving off electromagnetic waves as they spiral into the nucleus, losing energy
from the radiation they give off and they should present a rainbow of colors on their way in there. Worse yet, they should anihilate with the proton and leave nothing but neutrons in the universe....Therefore, no atoms should exist...
Therfore, "Why are we here?" became a valid question..

Quantum physics brought the answer.

blueshift

StarLab
2004-Aug-05, 03:35 AM
Was it really Quantum physics that proved and predicted the electromagnetic force? Just curious.
And besides, what I am asking DOES in fact have logical value. There has to be SOMETHING to make strings vibrate. There has to be a reason that supernovas cause black holes. Both of those CAN be why questions. And Devilmech, you&#39;ve attacked my ideas quite enough, far too often. I&#39;m not going to try to convince you strings exist. If you don&#39;t wanna answer my question, don&#39;t. If you do, then pick up a book, any book, by Michio Kaku or, more preferably, THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE by Brian Greene. And if you question the idea that a black hole is a rip in spacetime - which is one of the main ideas, the prime characterstics - behind the existence of black holes, then I suggest you build yourself a time machine and go back into the eighteenth century where you&#39;d belong if you truly question the validity of my second question concerning one aspect of the (proven) existence of black holes. The forum rules state you can attack my ideas, but in defense of myself I ask you to not make a habit of it.
Also, **, I think in all honesty that physicists care more about why strings vibrate more than theologeans do. Though the "why" of science in general should be left up to historians, geneticists and biologists, the question "why" DOES have some grounding in Physics as well.

jitte
2004-Aug-05, 04:32 AM
Originally posted by StarLab@Aug 5 2004, 03:35 AM
There has to be a reason that supernovas cause black holes.
I just finished writing about that so it&#39;s fresh in my mind.

A supernova occurs when the nuclear fuel of a massive star is exhausted and it is no longer supported by the release of nuclear energy. If the star is particularly massive, then its core will collapse and in so doing will release a tremendous amount of energy.

It&#39;s from my new page on hypernova.

StarLab
2004-Aug-05, 04:57 AM
Hmm....and how does this energy &#39;rip&#39; spacetime (if it does at all)? Also, what are the characteristics of this &#39;critical mass&#39; (in detail, please, if you can :) )?

jitte
2004-Aug-05, 05:16 AM
No offence, but are you always so full of questions? ;)

StarLab
2004-Aug-05, 05:49 AM
Oh, yeah, that&#39;s my trademark yo&#39;&#33; ;) :D :lol: B) :) ^_^ :P
Say no more. I get your drift. <_< :(

jitte
2004-Aug-05, 06:15 AM
I did just finish putting up a page about supernova and hypernova. It probably won&#39;t answer all your questions, but you&#39;re welcome to take a look. ;)

blueshift
2004-Aug-05, 02:07 PM
Star Lab,

You misread my post. Quantum physics did not prove that electromagnetism
exists..It provided an explanation for why the " solar system" (Rutherford&#39;s
model ) view of the atom waas incorect. Electrons do not go around the nucleus
like planets going around the sun.

Experiments by Willis Lamb would provide the most convincing observational
evidence concerning this manner..

blueshift

TheThorn
2004-Aug-05, 03:31 PM
Hi StarLab.

You said:

"On another forum on our prized, beloved internet, I encountered a troubling post which claimed that physics answers the "how" as opposed to the "why" of natural phenomena. Sadly, and most frighteningly, I am afraid that this statement is true.
So, I have set up two questions which I hope our brighter minds on this forum can answer, in my desperate quest to prove the above statement untrue:

1- Why does spacetime "rip?"

2- Why do strings vibrate?"

I think perhaps you misunderstand the original statement.

Or maybe it&#39;s me that misunderstands your point. So let me paraphrase your two questions:

1 - What that causes space-time to "rip".

2 - What causes strings to vibrate?

If that&#39;s what you meant by those questions, then they are really "how" questions, and are certainly within the realm of physics.

If, rather, you meant:

1) What is the purpose of space-time ripping?

2) What is the purpose of strings vibrating?"

then you&#39;re dealing in "why"s and outside of physics, and into philosophy or religion (and eveyone else in this thread has misunderstood your questions).

That original statement is, IMHO, an attempt to explain the boundaries of science in general. Science as a tool can investigate causes and effects ("hows" or "whats"), but not purposes ("whys"). In fact, many scientists go farther and assume that there is no purpose in the universe at all, but that is NOT a scientific attitude - just because the tool is not suitable to investigating that type of question doesn&#39;t make the question invalid.

Unfortunately, there is a semantic problem here - many questions about cause and effect can be phrased starting with the word "why" (as you did with your two questions, or as Newton did when he wondered "Why do apples fall out of trees?"), so the the original statment is a little weak in making this point, and I can understand your confusion.

ASEI
2004-Aug-05, 04:03 PM
Aren&#39;t "why" and "how" two ways of asking equivalent questions?

If you ask why something happens, the answer would be an explanation of the thing that enabled the event. If you ask how something happens, the answer is an explanation of the process of it happening.

StarLab
2004-Aug-06, 09:39 PM
As I said:


It&#39;s...just...that there&#39;s obviously an underlying concept to everything, and there is a difference between the cause of something and the method of the cause, or the cause of the method.

rahuldandekar
2004-Aug-07, 11:08 AM
I think the job of physicists has now become to answer the &#39;why&#39;s.

All the major laws have been discovered, and thephysicists are now searching for reasons, for the basic structure of matter and for Quantum-Gravity which will provide them.

Best of Luck to them&#33;

GOURDHEAD
2004-Aug-07, 01:58 PM
Starlab

By race: A Sarmatian

What vestiges of Sarmatian ethnicity or culture prevail in your value system? Does the term "race" best describe such cultural affinity?

StarLab
2004-Aug-14, 02:55 PM
Well, by Sarmatian I am referring to my ancestral location of origin. That&#39;s where both sides of my family CAME from.

I will say this, however: Sarmation, misspelled and reshuffled, can spell out the following word: Samaritan.

aries_4_5_48
2004-Aug-18, 05:51 PM
....how and why are two entirely different concepts. All of modern science is based on two premises: 1) the Universe is an objective reality that is independent from our consciousness, that our minds do not create or effect what we observe. (not to mention the only questions asked are those that will verify a hypothesis. Searching for a &#39;preconceived&#39; answer is much different from objective observation), 2) that Nature is consistent, repeatable and therefore knowable. Both premises are subjective assumptions.

How is descriptive. It is the basis for the Theory of Reductionism. If a system is reduced to its constituent parts and the function of those parts is realized, the system will be understood. Preposterous&#33; The sum of the parts NEVER equal the whole.

Why is understanding. There is not a human being on this planet, to the best of our knowledge, who can explain what gravity actually is. It can be described, and predicted and calculated, but through lack of understanding, why it occurs, the actual process is a mystery. The same is true for electricity.

Let us pause for a moment and think back to the time of Galileo. The powers that be set strict parameters regarding what could be, and what could not. They set limitations on the Universe and even possibilities. We are not necessarily the most intelligent nor advanced civilization to inhabit this sphere. (I personnally think the Greeks were. Logic and rationality are gifts from the gods.) At the very least let us learn something from the past." :unsure:

"Life is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." A. Einstein :rolleyes:

StarLab
2004-Aug-18, 10:37 PM
Absolutely, Aries&#33;
While I wish your first statement were true to modern methods, it actually turns out the opposite. A lot of modern science, thanks to Quantum crackpots like Bohr and Heisenberg, is based largely on probabilities. To these guys, who laid the foundation for a lot of physics today, nothing exists in a particular state until we see it. To me, this is the most ludicrous, preposterous idea scientists ever came up with.
In addition, however, your second point describes, pretty well, the objective of string theory, which I very much strongly support - that the universe is made up of symmetries. Good observation on your part.

aries_4_5_48
2004-Aug-18, 11:58 PM
...S-Lab, quantum theory is unsettling to the many. The human brain &#39;demands&#39; the one absolute answer, absolute truth, favorite ice cream, etc. The conceptualizing capability of the human mind, for all practical purposes, is infinite. Infinite Universe, infinite mind. IF the Universe were to be in a state of constant "unfolding", or reorganizing into states of greater complexity, or evolving, etc., rather than a unique phenomena of humans, or life on our Rock, then indeed time, space, the question, and the answer would be relative.(at least for me) Another question that begs to be ask is: is there only one "correct" answer to any given question? Does not the answer depend on from which perspective the problem is viewed, or perhaps more importantly, the question is as important as, if not more so, than the answer. If the sun suddenly &#39;flamed out&#39; and Earthlings were notified 1 minute later, for the next 7 minutes everyone would be saying: I wonder what happened&#33; It&#39;s not supposed to do that&#33; What&#39;s going on&#33;&#33;&#33; Why? Because it is supposed to do what it does for a long, long, time to come. But there is no guarantee that it will. I like the idea of a Universe of infinite possibilties. One that is inter-active. Perhaps Earthlings will come to the realization that it is their canvas,
their block of marble, their creation. No deity, or technology, or miracle is going to save you from yourselves. If you truly are the most advanced life form known, it is time to start acting like it. :unsure:

"Only two things are infinite, the Universe and human stupidity, and I&#39;m not sure about the former." A. Einstein (3-14-1879----4-18-1955) :blink:

ASEI
2004-Aug-19, 01:15 AM
one "correct" answer to any given question?

I think that to an exactly defined question, there is a well defined set of exactly defined anwers. 2+2 = 3? There is only one answer - no, false, 0, ect.
If the conditions behind the question, or the conditions of an initial state are fuzzy, or in question, then we get a less well defined set of fuzzy answers. This doesn&#39;t preclude that there is an exactly defined state of events. It just means that because we cannot discover exactly what this state is, we cannot predict exactly what will happen.

One of the great problems in computing is that when you get down to it, there is no mathematical way that we know of to generate random numbers. Thus the pseudo-random generators and "seed" values. Even the most complex pseudo-random function will give you the exact same numbers for the exact same state and seed input.

aries_4_5_48
2004-Aug-19, 05:54 AM
....very nicely stated and I believe I understand your point. To the question: if I have 2 of X and I add 2 more X&#39;s I end up with 4X. If Nature has 2 of X and adds 2 more X&#39;s it is done by division, not addition, and the result is the same 4X. Granted, the question was exactly defined and exactly answered. The implication is that the only means to derive the correct sum is through addition. :unsure:
I appreciate your sharing of info.

"As is your sort of mind,
So is your sort of search:
You will find what you desire." Robt. Browning

GOURDHEAD
2004-Aug-19, 01:27 PM
"Only two things are infinite, the Universe and human stupidity, and I&#39;m not sure about the former." A. Einstein

It is surprising that Einstein would sink so low into oxymoronism which the concept of stupidity being infinite certainly is. My guess is that he meant human problem solving capability (knowledge acquisition and management) is infinitesimal.

Expressions like "twice as small" should be avoided in favor of "half as large". The careless use of language is far from a boon to accurate communication. The use of apparently logically imprecise phrases cannot be improving the efficient storing and retrieving of data by the brain nor the brain&#39;s processing of such data.

How could we ever get AI to handle the ambiguities buried in "infinite stupidity"?

aries_4_5_48
2004-Aug-19, 05:50 PM
....your evaluation, and my evaluation, are inherently of equal value... B)

"Life is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." A. Einstein :ph34r:

Relmuis
2004-Aug-21, 03:54 PM
I think that we may have a linguistic problem here.

The word why is meant by some of these posts to refer to the cause of things, while in other posts it seems to refer to the purpose of things. The latter is then relegated to the province of religion.

It seems, however, legitimate on this forum to ask how certain things have come to pass. To me, the following questions are paramount:

1. How come there is something rather than nothing at all?
2. How come there is whatever there is, instead of something different?
3. How come that I (at least, and presumably other people too) am aware of existence?

To clarify question 2, I do not mean to ask why Napoleon did not win the Battle of Waterloo, but rather why the proton is 1836 times as massive than the electron. A partial answer to the general question would be, that four categories of things tend to exist.

Things which are virtually indistructible (electrons, for example).
Things which can easily form (water droplets, for example).
Things which tend to replicate themselves (human beings, for example).
Things which are created by thing in the other three categories (paintings, for example).

However, this answer is partial inasmuch as the general laws which make certain things indistructible, or even allow them to exist at all are not fully known.

Question 1 and question 3 seem, however, much harder.

aries_4_5_48
2004-Aug-21, 09:59 PM
....would we, or would we not agree, that science has for whatever reason pursued its course under the pretext that if one reduces a problem to its lowest possible constituents, and those are defined, that the "essence" of that entity is understood. All of the "other aspects" are incidentals. The answer to the why lies in the missing "Universal-ality", not how parts work, how the whole entity functions.
The practical application of all this vast wealth of information. As some might say, come down out of your labs and make contact with what is, the Earth, Heavens, the Universe. Mr Albert E., every morning upon arising, for 20 years ask himself this question: "If I were God and I were going to design my Universe today, what would be my most Underlying Principle? Let&#39;s all devote a little energy in that direction... :rolleyes:

"Live where you are and be prepared for anything." K-Pax :ph34r:

suntrack2
2004-Sep-05, 03:50 PM
that&#39;s a good topic,
STARLAB, The importance of "why in physics" i mean your question is quite correct,


sunil

Mild mannered
2004-Sep-06, 09:58 AM
STARLAB, The importance of "why in physics"

S Lab mate - I whole heartedly agree with how (Why&#33;) frustrating this issue is. :angry:

Being told that the apple falls because of gravity is ok for a while - then we wonder but why/how does gravity make this so - what is the mechanism? We still don&#39;t know. (And this is what I refered to in a previous post - the why/how not the mechanism or math which can be described for a given object (apple) in a given gravitational field.)

I think it&#39;s a question of depth - of question and observation - a russian doll answer is generally the best we get with no real end answer (will we ever?).

Why (how) does the toy car move when I press this button - A: because it connects a battery / completing a circuit inside which drives the wheels forward - easy, correct scientific answer.

But how/why does the battery do this? - A: because it stores electrical energy stupid&#33;

What&#39;s Electricity? :blink:

I don&#39;t know....I mean I can calculate it - work with it quantify it, feel it&#33; Do the math on how much the battery stores and for how long - easy.

But do I know what it is really and why/how it does what it does?

Nope. Not me.

So do I know how my kids toy car moves - sure - I push this button.

Do I know why? Nope - not me....... :D

Mild

Mild mannered
2004-Sep-06, 11:03 AM
PS: And also...

How do we know there&#39;s not a little demon inside the battery instead of electricity?

A: Because we know it&#39;s electricity - dummy&#33;

Q: How?

A: Look I&#39;ve seen electricity arcing between things - it&#39;s a current you can see it all sparky and lightning like&#33;

Q: How do you know that&#39;s not what little demons look like?

A: Oh please - come on.. I mean I know... you know ... er

Q: If it were a demon then there might be a why wouldn&#39;t you say?

A: Yes. (considering dubiously) No&#33; If the demon has a brain of some sort then the signals in it&#39;s brain are just electrical impulses (possibly) and the brain is just a biological analogue computer running very complex programs with yes no reponses hard wired over millions of years so the demon doesn&#39;t really have a say in what he does - there is no why - just a how - the answer is because he just does.

Q: so you believe in demons? ;)

A: Bog off..... :angry:

Q: What about invisible forces that we can&#39;t and probably never will see that can be weak yet can kill you as easy as squashing a bug?

A: (More sure) No way&#33; :D

Q: What about Gravity?

Q: Hello?

Why does anything do what it does? Because it just does. I hate this answer so much - I really, really do.

Science doesn&#39;t help me much here but the how is often very easy - up to a point -but still currently fails on all the really big (very, very, small) issues.

Semantics aside Starlab (How / Why) is probably the biggest question there is and currently outside the scope of this forum.

Mild

rahuldandekar
2004-Sep-06, 11:37 AM
&#39;Why&#39; is the kind of question physicists now want to answer.


How do we know there&#39;s not a little demon inside the battery instead of electricity?

Because we have proved that electricity is carried by particles that are also present in atoms, revolving round the nucleus. We call them electrons. Now, why do electons carry electricity? Becuase they are negatively charged, and they wish to move from electron rich places to electron deficient places, and caryy the charge along with them. This flow of charge we call &#39;electricity&#39;.

Now, why do they wish to move from electron-rich to electron-deficient places?
I can&#39;t answer that, but I hope someone can. ;)

Mild mannered
2004-Sep-06, 12:02 PM
Because we have proved that electricity is carried by particles that are also present in atoms, revolving round the nucleus. We call them electrons.* Now, why do electons carry electricity? Becuase they are negatively charged, and they wish to move from electron rich places to electron deficient places, and caryy the charge along with them. This flow of charge we call &#39;electricity&#39;.

Ok, ok I don&#39;t really believe in Demons :D

I mean I know what electricity is...

Q: Do you? Do you really, really, really? :ph34r:

A: I told you bog off&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33; :angry: :angry: :angry:



Now, why do they wish to move from electron-rich to electron-deficient places?
I can&#39;t answer that, but I hope someone can. ;)

I kind of think this was my point ;)

It&#39;s all russian dolls - any final answer is just a case of how deep we dig....

Mild

anneliese
2004-Sep-16, 03:16 AM
Originally posted by rahuldandekar@Aug 7 2004, 11:08 AM
All the major laws have been discovered
have they?????? i&#39;m sure that the same thing has been said countless times, yet we find more laws... wasn&#39;t it said that all laws had been discovered (ie Newtons laws) right up until Einsteins theories on relativity were seen to have merit??

:P

anneliese
2004-Sep-16, 03:29 AM
Originally posted by rahuldandekar@Sep 6 2004, 11:37 AM
Now, why do they wish to move from electron-rich to electron-deficient places?
I can&#39;t answer that, but I hope someone can. ;)
because every &#39;thing&#39; (particle, say) wants to be in a neutral state - all atoms like to be neutral, all substances like to be neutral... maybe?? :huh:

aries_4_5_48
2004-Sep-16, 03:43 AM
.....I like your use of the word, like..... (maybe Everything in the Universe does as little of what it &#39;has&#39; to do and as much of what it likes to do as it possibly can. I certainly can relate to that) B)

"Evolutionary success and goodness are not the same thing....." :ph34r:

ASEI
2004-Sep-16, 03:50 AM
Well, I suppose one way of looking at physical laws is that they state in mathematical terms, the relationships that we percieve in the world around us.

Delta momentum = 0
E = m*c^2
c = 1/sqrt(electric permissivity constant * magnetic permissivity constant)

What comes out of the mathematical definition of what it is we see are other rearrangements, combinations, and implications of the model, which we should also see if the model is correct. A good explanation as to how something works should also explain how other things that we see work, or provide clues as to looking for other implied results of the law.

The fact that this all fits together into such a mathematically and logically coherent whole is significant in my mind.

Of course, we will continue to observe new relationships as we continue to observe new environments. I highly doubt we will be able to have a "comprehensive grand unified ultimate total final theory of everything" that models every existing phenomenon, unless there were a limit to existing phenomena, states, and degrees of scale and we have managed to discover and study "all that there is". New conditions provide new deviations from the model, and new things that must be accounted for.

StarLab
2004-Sep-16, 04:34 AM
Yeah, dimensions are exempt from a unifying theory, but they have similar relationships to mass-energy families. We have space and time, gravity and acceleration, magnetism and electricity, the Higgs field and shmoo field, dark matter and energy, etc. All possibly different dimensions, some are geometric others are forces, but they are all related in the same way: each is a variation of its partner, but each pair, regardless, needless to say, comes in a different package.

kashi
2004-Sep-16, 10:16 AM
Why?

Because if the laws of physics were only slightly different, we wouldn&#39;t be here to ask that question.

(do a google search for Greater Anthropic Principle...sorry if someone has already said this. I haven&#39;t had time to read everyone&#39;s replies).

ferg.c.
2004-Sep-16, 11:24 AM
I get the Idea that "Why" is protected by a version of the Uncertainty principal in the same way that the true pos and vel of electrons are. If u look to close the why changes into a How&#33; Dislexia for the physics buff&#33; :D

ferg.c.
2004-Sep-16, 11:28 AM
I know why the universe exists&#33; But my why and your why are not going to be the same.
:unsure:

tiderider
2004-Sep-16, 08:49 PM
Thank you, ferg.c., for the simplicity. I too know why the universe exists, and revel in the fact that I am as right as I am wrong. The word "why" in front of anything will bring about an infinite number of "becauses". By asking "How?" one is merely looking for the old "as far as I know" answer, because let&#39;s face it, knowledge is fickle. Things we have been sure of in the past are now laughable to us. For me, nothing is more satisfying, and more relaxing than realizing our insignifance, and, as smart as we think we are, our self-involved intelligence. Why? is a question we ask ourselves to find the many Hows?

Why do you want to know?

StarLab
2004-Sep-17, 02:51 AM
T-rider, it seems you read too much Ian Malcolm. Have at least some faith that we are special. <_< :rolleyes:

tiderider
2004-Sep-17, 05:06 AM
Well...I didn&#39;t mean to come down on us that hard, and just the fact that I am an avid fan of the sciences shows that I at least have high hopes for mankind. However, I definitely think that our petri dish is contaminated, and until we can "compare notes" with someone/thing with a different perspective, we may just be going in circles. I, for one, am enjoying the ride.

All rules have exceptions. <--Even that one?

yet another tie for the chicken and the egg


For the record, in defense of this topic, I wouldn&#39;t want to live in a world that stopped asking "Why?"

InvisibleGirl0FromAOL
2004-Sep-17, 07:10 AM
In the eyes of the universe there is no good or evil there is only what happens.



Seems like "why" becomes a moot point.

imported_Sirius
2004-Sep-17, 07:33 AM
I&#39;m new to this forum, so forgive me if I unintentionally step on any toes. I&#39;d like to return to the question of what &#39;why&#39; might mean in physics, by stepping out to another field, biology: let&#39;s think about trees.

Why are trees so tall? I think it&#39;s clear that this question is not about the intentions of trees, or of &#39;nature&#39; in &#39;making&#39; them so tall. But it&#39;s also clearly not the same question as &#39;How are trees so tall?&#39; The answer to the &#39;how&#39; question is relatively straightforward, in terms of the genetic code of the trees, the availability of energy and nutrients, etc. The &#39;why&#39; question presupposes that there is a problem of explanation, in this case that many plants survive quite well at a height of a few centimeters or meters, and that the cost to trees (energy, nutrients, adaptations to great size, etc.) is quite high; and the question requires a much more complex answer than the &#39;how&#39; question, which involves evolution by natural selection, game theory, etc. So &#39;why&#39; doesn&#39;t really reduce to &#39;how&#39;, at least not in the case of trees.

Now, is this distinction in meanings applicable in physics? I think so. At a very simple level, you can see the distinction when dealing with concepts like work, kinetic energy, potential energy, etc. If you do problems using the equations, the answer always comes out in joules (kilos times meters squared divided by seconds squared), even though the elements on the other side of the equation involve different concepts (force times distance; half the mass times the velocity squared; mass times height times acceleration from gravity): &#39;how does it come out in joules&#39; is answered by going through the equation and checking the units; but &#39;why it comes out in joules&#39; leads us into the conservation of energy and the equivalence of different forms of energy, a much deeper level of explanation, which in turn leads us to notice that &#39;e = mc squared&#39; also comes out in joules ...

I don&#39;t think there&#39;s a clear cut-off between &#39;how&#39; questions and &#39;why&#39; questions, there&#39;s simply a gradual shading from one to the other, but the questions we ask with &#39;why&#39; are concerned with depth of explanation, and broader relations with other explanations.

mark mclellan
2004-Sep-17, 09:10 AM
Simply put the answer to your "why&#39;s" are because they have to....so they will.
The Atlantic ocean has to make waves because of the moons gravity, until the moon comes too close or goes to far away then the basic nature (allowing for storms etc) of the oceans waves will be. A rock falling of a cliff will plummet to the ground unless something gets in its way because on earth it has too...so it will.

Not very scientific i know, but maybe it will help.

Until we knew HOW gravity worked we had to accept the fact, the WHY was only understood after the HOW.

I think you are going to have to live with your WHY until we fully understand the HOW. :)

ferg.c.
2004-Sep-17, 09:42 AM
Why are trees so tall?

Thanks Sirius for expounding on the why of trees. If you follow thru with "why" after every answer then you will see how my analogy with the uncertainty principal works-the closer you look the more obscure the answer becomes.

As to Joules, well Joules is one side and Kg is the other. It depends on which side of the fence you&#39;re on.
Mass relates to enery like my pay-check relates to beers, and if my beers are Joules&#39; then he must have mine&#33; Give me my beer back, Joules&#33; :D
(I couldn&#39;t resist that one)

Ola D.
2004-Sep-17, 11:30 PM
I&#39;ve just taken a look at the interesting thread you started here StarLab..
How vs. Why in Physics can be quite confusing. Well, i don&#39;t mean to violate any rules by that.. But in this case it might be helpful to mention this quote :)

" Science without Religion is blind, Religion without Science is lame."
--- Albert Einestien

Back-to-Back the Qs of "How vs. Why" will be answered.

Paul21
2004-Sep-18, 06:17 PM
On another forum on our prized, beloved internet, I encountered a troubling post which claimed that physics answers the "how" as opposed to the "why" of natural phenomena. Sadly, and most frighteningly, I am afraid that this statement is true.[QUOTE]

Your question touches the core of everything. Why can be asked after each answer and so ad infinitum. The core is to make it finite. It can be everything and it remains always finite in one existing and unique way, which is shown in the book Theory of Interaction by Eugene Savov. [I]