Thursday, October 16, 2008

About this blog.

We exist in a sea of electromagnetic force, and are for the most part utterly subject to its dictates. One other force makes itself blatantly known in the course of our mundane activities, namely gravitation, but electromagnetism packs far more power in its punch. It takes a mass the magnitude of Earth to make us weigh ten Newtons to the kilogram, but with a simple rearrangement in the structure of a vanishingly, ridiculously tiny portion of Earth’s mass, we can override the gravitational force of this entire planet, and stand on two feet (by burning sugar in our cells) … or fly to the other side of it in a 747 (by burning hydrocarbons in a jet engine).

The sheer divide of magnitude between the two phenomena is obscured in our minds by the fact that the only kind of object great enough for us to sensibly experience the power of the lesser force is a world. The world is our universe. How can a basic overall fact of life which everyone experiences (stuff falls down) have any relation to the growth of plants, or the warmth of the hearth on a winter’s eve?

The proportional difference between the amount of mass needed to make a sensible impact for the strong nuclear force and the electromagnetic force is nowhere near as great as that between the electromagnetic and gravitational force, but it is huge nonetheless. Once again we are faced with a sharp fracturing of our experience, but this time in a direction which contradicts our innate sense of cause and effect to a much greater degree than the considerations leading us to appreciate the weakness of gravity. This time we move in the direction of far greater power, and the realm of graphic, iconic consequence.

The images of the early nuclear age have a certain amount of baggage which we need to move beyond to make informed choices for the future. This blog is my humble attempt to encourage people to make that move.


djysrv said...

Welcome to the blogsphere from Idaho Samizdat. Do well.

Finrod said...

Thanks Dan. I'll what I can from my particular perspective of knowledge and experience.

Robert Bruce said...

@Finrod, re: Channelling the Strong Force.
Beautiful description of nature's forces and their relative utility to humans! Only one suggested correction. In the phrase: "or fly to the other side of it in a 747 (by burning avgas in a jet engine)." Instead of "avgas" didn't you mean "avtur" or "Jet A-1"? A jet aircraft fueled with avgas (used for piston engines) wouldn't get very far! (

Finrod said...

"Instead of "avgas" didn't you mean "avtur" or "Jet A-1"?"
Hi Robert. Upon looking into the situation it seems that I did mean avtur, or Jet A-1. However, given the overall theme of wide generality in my post, I've decided to correct the statement by blurring the outlines with the term 'hydrocarbons', rather than go down the concise terminology route.