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fremen_warrior's avatar

What do you make of this reality and its quirks?

Asked by fremen_warrior (5447 points ) June 30th, 2012

Hey everyone, taking a breather inbetween exams to ask you the following three questions I have been pondering lately in my spare time, that I can’t find answers to:

1) What is movement? How does it happen? (somewhat touching upon Zeno’s arrow paradox though not quite)
2) What is temperature? How is it we feel it regardless of what the object, substance etc. we come in contact with is?
3) This last one is a bit philosophical perhaps: Why did life evolve to cannibalize itself? What does the “survival of the fittest” point towards, in terms of its ‘goals’ (supposing a self-organizing system like that oscilates towards something…)?

I’m curious what you all think about these. Cheers!

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23 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Let me get back to you in 300 or 400 years when I have done the preliminary research and read some of the source material already out there.

Blackberry's avatar

I don’t know how accurate this is, but I believe temperature also has to do with the speed of particles moving within an object. Particles move very slowly in a cold object, and fast in a hot object. In a hot object, you have fast particles moving in random directions, rubbing and bouncing into each other. This obviously causes friction.

I don’t know about movement at the moment.

As far as life, there’s no answer at the moment. The planet was formed, we evolved, and we live. On a large scale, we are no different than a pack of animals roaming the earth in search of resources to survive another day.

fremen_warrior's avatar

@Blackberry Regarding temperature, it makes me wonder shouldn’t denser substances feel cloder to us given how their particles are more “packed” (or am I raping conventional physics here?). I wonder if a metal plate ten degrees warmer than room temperature for instance would “feel” colder than a gust of air of the same temparature, or can there be no difference here…

By the way, if it’s about the speed of particles’ movement, shouldn’t hurricanes be extremely hot by that logic? (I just KNOW my reasoning is somehow stupid here, maybe I’m just having a hard time visualising this…)

bkcunningham's avatar

Got homework?

fremen_warrior's avatar

@bkcunningham thankfully no, I’m just curious about wierd shite like that (pardon my French)

zenvelo's avatar

Movement is a change in location in 3D space. It occurs through a vectored expenditure of energy.

Life has not evolved to cannibalize itself. “Survival of the fittest” is actually just favoring adaptability.

fremen_warrior's avatar

@zenvelo movement: ok you gave me the definition – a precise and succint one at that – however I am more interested in how movement begins, happens, and ends. Particularly, speaking of self-propelled living organisms, as in movement on the cellular level. Let’s say a cell is about to move – how does it do this? That is why I invoked the arrow paradox, I just cannot imagine how motion comes to happen at all. I suspect friction is a key component here…

Regarding nature, I find it fascinating that a system can emerge whereby numerous oh so different species of life (whatever life means in this context e.g. is a virus a life form?) all relying on the destruction and regeneration of themselves in order to survive.

Is it possible, do you think, that evolution “is meant to” work until a certain milestone is achieved? Namely that a dominant intelligence arises, subdues the “failed experiments” and transcends evolution by taking adaptation into its own hands, by creating technology by which to speed up its own development?

And if that were so, what would be the next step? After the post-evolutionary, shall we say, cyborg, state… where does all of this lead to?

(btw. did I mention I’m a sci-fi nut as well?)

Rarebear's avatar

Movement is changes in coordinates in space.

Temperature is the measurement of average kinetic energy of molecules.

Natural selection or “survival of the fittest—technically ‘fitter’” doesn’t point to anything. There is no direction to evolution.

fremen_warrior's avatar

@Rarebear – again, this is a definition – can you tell us how this “change in coordinates in space” happens?

As for temperature – what this means then is we basically can sense and compare the differences in these energy levels in different substances… hmm. I wonder how this happens, from a biological perspective, how is it the body can feel those differences (what I’m wondering I guess is the mechanics of the receptors now)

And finally, about your comment on evolution. Where does your conviction stem from? I mean just because we don’t yet see a strong pattern emerging here does not necessarily mean there isn’t one… Though by that logic I’m advocating the existence of orange elephants (pink elephants have proven to be real after all) Idk.

zenvelo's avatar

Newtonian physics states there is no movement unless a force is applied, and movement continues unless another force is applied. So how does the force get applied? The constant application of forces transfers from one entity to another, thus impelling the movement.

For a philosophical approach to this idea, consider these two concepts: The Butterfly Effect, and The Jedi Force from Star Wars.

fremen_warrior's avatar

@zenvelo I think this best describes your answer, then again I doubt anyone else has a fair idea of what exactly this energy transfer is / looks like, kudos for trying though I guess :-)

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

(1) We experience fluid movement through time and space, so one expects the arguments of Zeno to break down somewhere. The problem is, this falls into the domain of physics and our understanding of the nature of space and time at the smallest of scales is incomplete. There are hints that space is longer smooth and continuous on the scale of the Planck length (1.616199 × 10^-35 meters) and likewise for time on the scale of Planck time (5.39106 × 10^-44 seconds). We may never be able to directly probe space and time at this level because of the enormous amount of energy that is involved.

(2) What we experience as temperature is the average of the kinetic energy of the motions of large numbers of atoms.

(3) Evolution is an ongoing process of large numbers of individual agents, lifeforms, engaging in competition for survival and reproduction in the face of limited resources. It is open-ended and has no set long-term goals (as a process and not an entity, how it can it even set them?).

Rarebear's avatar

Sorry I should have added relative to another fixed frame of reference.

Bill1939's avatar

1) If an object was not moving through three-dimensional-space is still moving with the flow of time. However, all objects are in a constant state of change from moment to moment. Each force, in the combination of forces that make up an object, is in a state of change. A force changes in amplitude and/or frequency. Without change occurring there could not be a force. (Quantum physics suggests that there is an arrow and an anti-arrow, and that the direction time travels, forward or backward, depends upon which arrow we are considering.)

2) Temperature is the frequency of photons. When the temperature is nearly absolute zero, the frequency is almost zero. The energy of the temperatures of two objects in proximity will, over time, transfer from the object with the higher temperature to that with the lower temperature. Flow ceases when temperatures are equal. Two specialize nervous cells respond to temperatures different from the skin’s temperature, one signals ‘hot’ the other ‘cold’.

3) All forms of existence are ones of transformation. Everything, animate and not, receives some forms of energy and transmits others (sometimes what is received is transmitted; e.g., reflection). Energy received is used to power a purpose that serves the object’s existence (and for life forms, reproduction). Animals consume plants and/or other animals as a source of energy. Biological beings have little choice but to eat or die. Besides being the biggest bull on the block, “survival of the fittest” refers to the kind of creature that can continue to exist when environmental factors are unfavorable. I doubt that anything is oscillating toward anything. However, genetic mixing and mutating may make for a more viable being. The less viable eventually cease to be.

PhiNotPi's avatar

Temperature is the kinetic energy of atoms. To be specific, we can only feel the flow of heat, which occurs when the object we are touching is not the same temperature as our skin. A piece of metal at 50 degrees Fahrenheit feels colder than a piece of styrofoam at the same temperature. This is becuase the metal is a better conductor and allows heat to flow from our hand easier.

Bill1939's avatar

The kinetic energy of atoms is transformed into electromagnetic energy carried by photons, whose frequency is a measure of the energy transferred. Materials that can more easily absorb and/or radiate photonic energy of similar wavelengths, that is, can better relay photons within the material, will produce a greater sensory experience as @PhiNotPi said.

roundsquare's avatar

1) How does movement happen: A moves B. B moves C. Etc. So what moved A? Eventually this becomes the first mover paradox. I think, but I’m not sure, that as best we know the first mover is the big bang. What caused the big bang? I don’t think science can even begin on that one, but someone tell me if I’m wrong.

2) Temperature: The hurricane example is a good one. Hmm…

3) Evolution: The problem is that evolution is discussed as if there is a goal. Its not. The fittest tend to survive because that is what fittest means, has the traits that help it survive. That, plus the fact that animals pass down traits through child birth, leads to evolution.

Bill1939's avatar

@roundsquare makes a good point about what came before the Big Bang. When I was a kid, the argument for the existence of God was that in a universe of cause and effect, that there had to be an uncaused cause and this first cause was said to be God. Current thinking in quantum cosmology is that “nothing” is unstable and that “something” has to pop into existence. However, they do not suggest where the “something” comes from. Some references to this notion are here, here, and here

lifeflame's avatar

1. Movement…it’s a form of energy, right? So it can be caused by the transformation of one type of energy into kinetic energy. For example, I put batteries in a model car, it moves. (electrical—> kinetic). I stretch a rubber band and release (potential energy—> kinetic energy). I heat a hot air balloon and it moves (heat—> kinetic).

I also remember reading somewhere that huge masses (like the planet Earth, or the Sun) attract other masses, thereby causing stuff like gravity and the orbit of celestial bodies.

2. Why hurricanes aren’t hot

Apparently due to two things:
(a) the speed of a hurricane is negliable when compared with the speeds of particle movement
(b) particle mvoement needs to be random, rather than a collective movement in the same direction.

fremen_warrior's avatar

regarding movement I wonder how it happens on an atomic / molecular level even perhaps I am trying to visualise energy and how it influences matter – an impossible task, I know.

Thanks for the hurricane explanation :-)

Bill1939's avatar

@fremen_warrior, you might want to make this a new question. Forms of energy may be divided into two main groups; kinetic energy and potential energy. Heat, a form of energy, is partly potential energy and partly kinetic energy.

As the scale at which you examine things gets smaller, the forces bonding things together becomes more apparent (though harder to observe). The movement of the collective mass of electrons orbiting a nucleus, though comparitively small, is coupled through charge and giggles the nucleus. Likewise the movement of electrons, as they absorb or release photons and change their orbitals, is coupled to the nucleus. Atoms and molecules bound together share transfered kinetic energy as one or more of the four forces (gravitational, electromagnetic, weak Nuclear Force and strong Nuclear Force) changes in direction and/or magnitude.

fremen_warrior's avatar

@Bill1939 I think I’ll try and contain my apparent ignorance of how the world works to this one question and the people already involved, thank you very much ;-)

Btw. I understand the logic behind this, all those forces are really theoretical though, right? I mean we can never actually observe how these forces work – we observe the effects of those forces, but we have no way of knowing what those forces really are. They’re invisible to us, there is no little man pushing stuff around if you magnify reality just enough – stuff just moves around and we’ve created theories based on our observations of those processes that give us a working model of reality.

But we really don’t know what makes these forces do what they do, we still don’t understand how it is these forces even exist, heck we’re not even sure if the laws of physics we deem true apply to all parts of the universe. Am I right or am I right?

Bill1939's avatar

They are theoretical in a sense @fremen_warrior, in as much as for the most part they are mathematically defined. We have good reason to believe in gravity, and have found many ways of using electric and magnetic forces. The experiments designed to demonstrate the weak and strong nuclear forces use the force of magnetism to propel protons into one another at high speeds and, by detecting the pieces and the paths they take when they are created by the repeated collisions of many protons, properties of these forces are determined through statistical analysis.

The weirdness of quantum mechanics and the even stranger theories that have been conceived to make it consistent with the math that describes it (think String Theory, of M Brane Theory, and the list goes on), leaves open the possibility that there are an infinite number of universes, some of which may have physical laws different from our universe. So yes, you are right.

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