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The AGORA Laboratory and Class

Part III
Towards a Systematic Reapplication in the University of an Augmented Scientific Method to the Basic Concepts
Corneliu I. Costescu, Ruxandra M. Costescu

Abstract
The need for a systematic revision of a concept like light structure/diffraction can be supported in various ways. We can use in this respect the new experimental development of the near-field microscopy, and the suggestion that the speed of light is considerably higher than 3*10**8 m/s in some cases. We can also use a detailed, intricate and prolonged analysis of the current structure of light for finding its flaws. If these supporting paths are not followed, the need for a systematic revision of the structure of light can still be supported by analyzing obvious limits in the application of the scientific method to the basic concepts of physics. The latter path, although not simple, is very useful since it helps improving the method. In this respect, our paper follows two lines of thought regarding the method and complexity of the process of renewing the basic concepts from physics. By combining these lines of thoughts we conclude that a new type of class is necessary in the university as a systematic approach for this renewal. In the first line of thought, from the history of the renewal of the concepts regarding a basic phenomen in a well-established field of physics, the method of renewal involves the following three questions, questions that are asked all the time, with different intensity: What is a possible new mechanism for a basic phenomenon?, How-can-it-be-like-that? in the current view, and What is wrong with the current view that it needs a revision?. Each of these questions has attached a whole world of resources and limits, which have to be known before using them, and only the second question proves to be a practical instrument both in detecting the condition that makes the renewal process necessary, and in driving the renewal process itself. This condition is the presence in a large extent of mystery in a physics domain. From this point of view, modern physics is ripe for a systematic revision. To show the feasibility of the renewal process we redefine by contrast the concepts of prosaic and mystery. In the second line of thought, from observations during our own attempt of finding of a more physical light structure, the renewing process is very complex since it involves a complex physics community and a complex physics. Hence, the renewal process can develop itself only if the physics community understands and supports it, at least partially. Understanding the need for the renewal of basics is an extremely complex process, most of it of non-logical nature. In this respect, our paper discusses prerequisites required in the long process of accepting the need for a renewal of the basics. Finally, we combine the two lines of thought and propose institutionalizing in the University a new type of class, the Agora Laboratory and Class, as a way to implement a method for a systematic revision of the basic concepts/ phenomena, and as a way to involve the community support.

Introduction

The need for a systematic revision of a concept like light structure/ diffraction can be clearly supported in various ways. For instance we cans use the new experimental development of the near-field microscopy, or the suggestion that the speed of light is in some cases considerably higher than 3*10**8 m/s. We can also obtain support for a systematic revision from a detailed and prolonged analysis of the intricate details from the current structure of light. The latter is not an easy path for finding flaws of the current view. When looking only from inside of the current structure we have little insight about the flaws of our analysis. Such an analysis is rather a Gordian node i.e., a problem that cannot be solved quickly without the external insight and without a drastic approach. Only with good luck, courage and persistence, such a Gordian node can be unlocked.

If the above supporting paths are not followed, the need for a systematic revision of the structure of light can still be supported by analyzing obvious limits in the application of the scientific method to the basic concepts of physics. Although this path is not simple, it is very useful since it helps improving the method. We support that in regard to the basic concepts of physics, the scientific method, with its great and quick analytic capability, needs to be enhanced with the virtues of the old debating method, the most synthetic and systematic (although very slow) analysis of the facts. We support that this enhancement is not really implemented yet, on a systematic basis, a situation that has very important consequences. We propose that the systematic implementation of this enhancement requires the institutionalization of a special experimental laboratory and class in the University, the Agora Laboratory and Class. It is likely that this process will lead to substantial changes in some basic concepts. At the same time, the idea that this implementation is not already done soundly and simply justifies the need for submitting the basic concepts of physics to a new, systematic, long-time and feasible process of reviewing and renewing. Without considering the obvious need for the implementation of this enhancement of the application of the scientific method to the basic concepts, it is extremely difficult and complex to justify the need for a revision of a particular basic concept.

Observations regarding the process of the renewal of the basic concepts, and the Agora Laboratory

() The first line of thought: observations regarding the method
History of physics shows a permanent and extremely profitable conflict between the established fundamental concepts and phenomena and the attempts to revise them. There are two important possible scenarios for this conflict: the case of a well-established field in physics, and the case of a newly developing or developed field in physics. In the latter, the pressure of fact and concept accumulation is extreme; therefore, although the conflict between different possible views is very strong, this case is by its own nature not prone to a systematic approach of renewal. It is rather a case of an emergency (non-systematic) building of concepts and views. But in the case of a well-established field (for instance, thermodynamic heat theory in the 19th century), when a basic concept/phenomenon change has occurred, the new mechanism of the phenomenon had three essential features: a) it was essentially different from what could have been imagined from within the old view, b) it included enough mechanism details, to allow seeing how the phenomenon proceeds and new observables (a more physical view), and c) it showed what was wrong with the current view. Hence, in correspondence with these three features, in a well established field of physics it should be by definition, legitimate and encouraged to ask three basic questions (BQs): What is a possible new mechanism for this phenomenon?, How-can-it-be-like-that?, and What is wrong with the current view that it needs a revision?. One can expect that these questions should play an important role as instruments in the process of basic concept renewal for an established field. But each of these questions has attached a whole world of resources and limits, which have to be known before using them.

For instance, the third question implies an unproductive look from inside of the established view, to its very basic concepts. This is always a Gordian node-type matter. When asking this question, usually one uses the current concepts and the chance is very small to see quickly the need for a new mechanism and to find a productive scheme toward a more detailed view. In contrast, the first question is a direct, powerful instrument, since it clearly requires a departure from the limits of the current view in order to find a new mechanism and new concepts for a basic phenomenon. It requires a phenomenon revision. However, this first question does not show the prerequisites for establishing when the request for a revision is indeed necessary from the point of view of the economics of the scientific activity/ community. Finally, the second question is a tricky one since it easily can follow the pattern of the first question, or the pattern of the third question, depending on many intricate factors in the mind of the person who asks this question. However, if used in an educated way, this question is the real resource that we have. It can play a very important role to detect, from within the well-established field, that a certain concept/ phenomenon contains a "mystery" and therefore needs a revision. This significance of the concept of mystery will be discussed separately and extensively later in this paper. When such a mystery is present on a large scale in a well-established field, then a systematic revision becomes a paramount need.

To summarize, it seems that a combination of the first and second question can be used as a starting point for the revision of a basic phenomenon (such as light diffraction, electricity, etc) and of the concepts related to it. It is also apparent that the question What is wrong with the current concept/phenomenon that it needs a revision? is usually a Gordian node (and hence, an ineffective instrument) since it implies using the old concepts i.e., it implies looking at the basics from within the domain. Hence, this question is ineffective in detecting the real troubles for a given phenomenon. The above discussion also shows the meaning of the phrase a more physical concept/ view. It refers to a physical view where there are enough details in order to see how the phenomenon proceeds, and there are new observables. For heat, the kinetic theory provided a physical model. The question How-can-it-be-like-that?, is very effective in indicating the mystery of the current concepts, and in looking for a more physical model when used in combination with the question What is a possible new mechanism for this phenomenon?.

Above, on a general ground we learned the following lesson from patterns in the past. When mystery can be detected in a well established field, on a large scale, by a specific and considerable effort to answer the question How-can-it-be-like-that?, then a systematic revision of the basic concepts is desirable and can be expected. In this paper we will refer to this lesson as the lesson of mystery.

However, this lesson of mystery does not tell us directly if the search for more physical concepts will be successful i.e., if we always can find more insight about physical reality and build those more physical concepts. In the case of heat theory (thermodynamics and heat equation), the kinetic theory and the statistical thermodynamics succeeded to build a more detailed mechanism and system of observables that let us see how-can-it-be-like-that even for the intricate second law of thermodynamics. In contrast, the history of electromagnetism shows that the search for a more physical view behind the Maxwells equations (as sought by Maxwell himself) was not successful yet. Important enough, in our days there is a strong belief that we cannot find more physical insight about the basic behavior in the atomic world and build those more physical concepts for electromagnetism, for modern physics in general. We call this belief the Negative Belief (NB). It strongly discourages the attempts for the revision of the basic concepts.

We think that it is possible to avoid a sterile discussion regarding whether this NB is true in principle, or not. Rather than discussing the NB in principle, we want to define a solvable problem in the right direction. We propose to answer the NB by a systematic reconstruction of possible solutions, under resources and requirements greatly improved as compared with those from the past, when Maxwell and others attempted and failed to find a more physical view for electromagnetism. First, it is important that a great variety of experimental facets and details, research and educational means available today in physics makes the resources for building a systematic revision of the basic phenomena in microscopic physics incomparably richer than when the current views were developed. Second, the concept of mystery view and the concept of prosaic view must be contrasted and redefined such that we can understand better the mechanism and psychology of mystery in physics, and the way of escaping from it. We discuss later in this paper the prerequisites related to the role of mystery and prosaic in physics. We use for this purpose a direct and appropriate comparison with mystery and prosaic views from the childrens play whose mechanism and psychology we understand much better. The concept of a prosaic view revamps the idea of a mechanistic view that is present in the modern physics as the reference to the bad, simplistic and unsuccessful approach. The prosaic view is only required to contain a more detailed mechanism regarding the phenomenon neither necessarily the true mechanism nor unique. The prosaic view becomes a normal complementary view to an existing mystery view. Such a line of thought would give us an encouragement (instead of the current discouragement) for developing by construction, after considerable mystery views have been accumulated, a set of prosaic views that are associated with the newly created mystery view. In developing a prosaic view, we want, from the beginning to answer the how-can-it-be-like-that questions for a basic phenomenon, by building a set of prosaic views and concepts, without the claim that they provide a true physical insight. Later, the new observables and the comparisons of different prosaic views will tell us if we have guessed a more physical insight. If not, we have to repeat the process. This is not a new procedure. It is rather a standard procedure in physics. However, the focus on the prosaic views in connection with the how-can-it-be-like-that questions, and the focus on an iterative process allow and encourage applying this procedure to the very basic concepts/ phenomena of modern physics, like structure of light, diffraction, electric charge, etc. This encouragement is important since the NB rather discourages such an attempt. Under this encouragement the previous failure to build a more physical approach for electromagnetism was just a failure of an attempt, an attempt that has now to be repeated until it becomes successful.

The previous paragraph teaches us what we call the lesson of prosaic. This lesson suggests that we should construct a set of prosaic views that answer the how-can-it-be-like-that questions for cases where mystery occurs, as a way to probe more insight about the physical reality. By repeating again and again this construction process one should be able to select the most adequate prosaic view. In our modern times the scientific community and education have the resources to implement this process on a reasonable large scale.

Modern physics (MF), including electromagnetism, a well-established field now, cannot make an exception from the conflict between the established fundamental concepts and the attempts of their renewal. By honestly applying the how-can-it-be-like-that questions, we can show that MF contains a lot of mystery concepts (the light structure, diffraction, etc). If this is the case then, the above lesson of mystery shows clearly that MF needs a systematic revision. From the lesson of prosaic we learn that we should be able to find more adequate prosaic concepts i.e, a revised view. For the photoelectric effect and diffraction, two distinct phenomena in the current view, a revised model would probably show that they are just different facets of the same, more detailed, phenomenon. For the concept of electricity, a revised model would probably show that using our macroscopically derived concept of electricity for very small particles like electrons is improper, and that a more rational approach have to be followed.

We previously attempted, as a personal enterprise and starting from the above BQ, a revision of light diffraction and photoelectric effect, to complement the current views and honestly satisfy our need for more physical (in the sense discussed above) models. From this external insight, we support here that such a revision is essentially a collective process, largely needed and feasible, and should be attempted in our time for important practical benefits: a) physically more transparent quantitative descriptions of microscopic phenomena, complementary to the current views and important in understanding and teaching, and more importantly, b) new physical details (new observables) that are important for new developments.

() Observations regarding the complexity of the process of renewing the basic concepts
Hence, on the general ground of the above two lessons, the effort for a renewal of a number of views on the basic phenomena seems perfectly justified as a necessary and feasible activity. It seems that a large collective effort is necessary. Is it feasible? What are the conditions necessary to bring to life a systematic revision of the basic concepts/ phenomena in MF? As it was noticed previously, it is important that a great variety of experimental facets and details, research and educational means available today in physics makes the resources for building a systematic revision of the basic phenomena in microscopic physics incomparably richer than when the current views were developed. It is important that we understand the above issues. But it is not enough. Two extra conditions are necessary, related to the physics community. One condition refers to the difficulties for the physics community to realize the need for a systematic revision of basic concepts in physics, and the other refers to understanding that a systematic revision needs the institutionalization of a procedure. In this section we shortly discuss the first from these conditions. In the next section we discuss the institutionalization of the Agora Laboratory and Class in the University as a systematic and permanent instrument for the renewal and education of basic concepts of MF.

In a regular discussion on a basic concept like light diffraction and on the need for a revision, there is very little insight in the complexity of our background in physics, of our attitude toward discussing basic concepts, and of our reaction to a fundamental change. As a result, confusion on the meaning and feasibility, or simply an educated rejection of the necessity for such a revision, occurs in any regular discussion. In other words, it is extremely hard -- practically impossible through only a normal logical analysis -- to remove the confusion, to find the meaning, and show the feasibility of a systematic revision of a fundamental concept. Therefore, any discussion on the renewal of a basic concept requires a good understanding of the role of the following factors . (i) The complexity of the prerequisites necessary for the very task of recognizing the need, the meaning and the feasibility of this revision. (ii) The lack of a systematic method to search for a new starting point and to perform the complex activity required by a systematic revision. (iii) The attraction towards the mathematical beauty and mystery of capable concepts and tools. (iv) The inherent psychological difficulties that occur when we discuss fundamental issues from our background, the lack of resources to overcome such difficulties. (v) Finally, a large body of uneducated and cause-damaging attempts, the past failed (professional) attempts, and the complex and intricate arguments we as a scientific community have developed regarding the impossibility of such a revision. In response to these factors, we propose here an inventory of prerequisites.

() The Agora Laboratory and Class
For a productive systematic revision of basics we identify a starting point involving the structure of light and an engine. This engine is a systematic inclusion in the university of a semester-class on light diffraction. The class called here the Agora Laboratory and Class, would enhance the application of the current scientific method with two components: a systematic revision of a basic concept, and the systematic application of the old debating method, most adequate for basic concept development, in conjunction with our current scientific practices. In this class, the students have to follow a case study, to think, experiment and debate on the study case and on the basic concept that was chosen for the class, and to produce a term paper. The case study is a basic concept/ phenomenon for which we have already both a mystery view and a more detailed prosaic view. The systematic experimenting and debating, again and again, on the basic concepts is intended to answer the how-can-it-be-like-that question. The term paper would analyze the study case, the debates and the experiments, and would state the personal view. There are two possible case studies at present. One is the basic view of heat from kinetic theory of heat/ statistical mechanics, and the other is the concept of the structure of light beam that we propose. The later is more challenging, and it would make Agora Lab and Class an efficient tool from the beginning. Institutionalizing such a method would lead to the development of many other fundamental concepts, i.e., would be an act similar to the institutionalization of the scientific method itself. The discussion in this paper is a standalone result from observations and experience accumulated in a persistent search for a more physical model of light diffraction and of light structure.

In other words we suggest that when it comes to the basic concepts of physics, the scientific method, with its great and quick analytic capability, needs to be enhanced with the virtues of the old debating method, the most synthetic and systematic (but slow) analysis of the facts. We support that this enhancement is not really implemented yet, on a systematic basis, a situation that has very important consequences. We propose that the systematic implementation of this enhancement requires the institutionalization of a special experimental laboratory and class in the University, the Agora Laboratory and Class. It is likely that this process will lead to substantial and good changes in some basic concepts. The success could be similar to the success of the Old Greeks who build marvelous concepts in logic, philosophy and physics. At the same time, the idea that this implementation is not already done soundly and simply justifies the need for submitting the basic concepts of physics to a new, systematic, long-time and feasible process of reviewing and renewing.

() The extent and the role of mystery in modern physics
Remember what Einstein told us? The most beautiful experience we can have is the Mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Remember the great attraction for the combination of mystery and logic from the Greek and Roman myths? Nobody could escape from this attraction.

If one reads a book like The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, or the book The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra, we can recognize that physics contains plenty of mystery concepts in combination with logic and mathematics. And we can recognize the great attraction that such a combination presents for us. This attraction is similar to the attraction toward the wonderful Myths, a great combination of mystery and logic, created by the Old Greeks.

It is interesting to note that by studying the mechanism and psychology of mystery in the childrens play, we can learn a great deal about the mystery in the work of physicists on the microscopic world. Toward this end, here is a short story about children playing mystery. One day in the morning, when I was 6 years old, I was playing with my buddy around his two-room house in a small village in the north of Transylvania. His parents left for work in the field. Other kids joined us for playing. For some reason we started looking through the small window in the semi-dark of one room. Near the stove we saw a strange shape that we could not realize what it is. Slowly, we imagined that the shape looks like a strange animal. We were very excited about it, and attracted to the mystery of this story. Nobody entered the house until evening when the parents came home. Although they seemed to be impressed by our story, the parents finally entered the house. They found that our strange animal was .... just an old pair of old boots. At this moment, the childrens imagination was taken from the mystery spheres, down to the simple and prosaic form of an adult-like view. And we did not like that.

How physicists resemble children playing mystery and what they should learn from the childrens play? Physics provides very useful schemes that work for the description of the measurable aspects. There is no question about that. Few people would be tempted to say the contrary. But, similarly to the children who could not enter the house, the physicists cannot enter the microscopic structure to see directly how it looks like. Then, similarly to the children who built the idea of the strange animal, the physicists very likely, and some may think that even inescapable, will include mystery in their views (about the measurable phenomena) as soon they dont find a simple, boot-like, adult-like or prosaic like explanation/ mechanism.

Is there a problem with this mystery in physics? The modern physics claims that there is no escape from this mystery since we cannot enter the microscopic structure to see how it really looks like. And of course, there are no parents who would come home, as in the story about the strange animal, and who would tell the physicists the adult-like view on how the microscopic world looks like. As a result the mystery keeps growing! And this is the problem. When in an area of physics, like the fundamental concepts of light structure and electric charge, the logical and mathematical schemes include mostly mystery concepts and very few concepts that show the nuts and bolts (an adult-like view), then we are forced to think that the reality itself behaves strange. And this, I claim, is a huge damage to the scientific enterprise.

Can we do something to reduce this mystery? We argue that there is a simple and sound escape from using mostly schemes that include mystery! Indeed, imagine that later in the day in my story above, after the children have played enough with the idea of the strange animal, and after the main facts about what they were observing in the semi-dark were obtained, a child could have made the effort to replace the strange animal with some kind of household object. An object which is not exactly a pair of boots as in reality, but which includes no mystery in it! To do this he would have proceeded in the following way. The kid lets call him How-can-it-be-like-that, would have looked diligently through the window, helping himself with a flashlight, debating and trying persistently to answer the question how-can-it-be-like-that?. He would have produced finally a how-can-it-be-like-that view that replaces the strange animal with some kind of household object or normal animal to fit what we were seeing. Notice that this view is very close to the adult-like view. If this kid would have told the other kids that he sees only a kind of prosaic object, and not a strange animal, we would have clearly disapproved him because of our attraction toward the mystery of the strange animal. He would have been regarded as crazy and his view would probably have been denied during the day, and recognized only later in the evening when the parents came home.

We believe that, similarly to this kid, we experimented and debated enough to obtain a prosaic structure of light. This structure answers many how-can-it-be-like-that questions i.e., compares with the current view in the same way as the pair of boots compares with the wonderful strange animal. This structure extends in a certain sense the ideas of the kinetic theory of heat, and suggests a frame for much development on the lines of Maxwell and Boltzman. Such a structure needs to be debated and developed, through the Agora Laboratory and Class, for a long time before accepting or discarding it.

In modern times, the physicist has to be quick, as driven by financial requirements. He/ she has very little time, drive and education to answer the how-can-it-be-like-that questions when it comes to the basic concepts. The physicist concentrates on providing schemes that work for the description of the measurable aspects. The question how-can-it-be-like-that with respect to the fundamental aspects (electric charge, electromagnetic field, quantum behavior, etc) is usually considered too philosophical or not feasible. If instead physicists would be educated to consider as feasible this question, he/ she would follow the method of the kid named above How-can-it-be-like-that, and there will be much less mystery in physics! In physics there is a long tradition on this line regarding the basic concepts. The last exponent whose methods and results are still included in the current teaching of physics was L. Boltzmann.

Conclusion: The search for more physical basic views, outside of, and complementary to, the electromagnetism and quantum mechanics views are necessary and possible as constructive alternatives.

 

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