Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Things We Think We Know

I'm always intrigued by the fact that human history is completely full of the things we are sure we know, right up until we find out they are totally wrong.

I had an argument with some friends awhile back that there is very little that we could find we are wrong about that would surprise me. I think I argued that if we found out cells didn't work the way we thought they did, I wouldn't be shocked. Everyone else seemed to agree that perhaps my cells weren't working properly.

But I stand by my assertion, and the New York Times today has an article that bolsters my convictions.

It’s hard to imagine a more fundamental and ubiquitous aspect of life on the Earth than gravity, from the moment you first took a step and fell on your diapered bottom to the slow terminal sagging of flesh and dreams.

But what if it’s all an illusion, a sort of cosmic frill, or a side effect of something else going on at deeper levels of reality?

So says Erik Verlinde, 48, a respected string theorist and professor of physics at the University of Amsterdam, whose contention that gravity is indeed an illusion has caused a continuing ruckus among physicists, or at least among those who profess to understand it. Reversing the logic of 300 years of science, he argued in a recent paper, titled “On the Origin of Gravity and the Laws of Newton,” that gravity is a consequence of the venerable laws of thermodynamics, which describe the behavior of heat and gases.
If gravity might not exist, what isn't possible?

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