Friday, March 4, 2011

The Physics of Limits

I spend lots of time thinking - a trance-like state where ideas flow. The feeling is similar when reading about physics, solving problems, doing calculations or randomly following the meanderings of the mind. It brings far greater pleasures than drinking or socializing, though it does not replace the need for human interactions. Exchanging ideas with others is just as fulfilling.

Undoubtedly, the naturally occurring peptide substances in the brain that act as neurotransmitters and appear in abundance while thinking are responsible for the euphoria that is associated with thought. This is augmented by the great satisfaction of new insights that are gained in the process. Strenuous physical activity releases natural endorphins that bring a similar feeling of pleasure. Perhaps these chemical triggers fuel my passion/addiction for physics and ice hockey.

One of our research areas is in fundamental limits of the nonlinear susceptibility. The limits that we calculate follow from the laws of physics. A while back, I got intrigued by the idea that the laws of physics might be derivable from a formulation in terms of limits, or more precisely, constraints. As usual, the idea is not fully original.

In a way, some of the laws of physics are already formulated in this way. For example, the entropy cannot decrease; so, there is a lower limit for the change in entropy. Then there is the upper limit of the speed of light, a crucial constraint from which special relativity follows. The uncertainty principle, which does not allow certain pairs of properties to be simultaneously measured with infinite precision, is yet another constraint. And, that fact that energy is a constant is a very stringent limit; it cannot increase or decrease.

Since physicists have been thinking about these problems for a long time, there are probably few new ideas that would provide a novel approach to physics. However, I still have this gnawing feeling that there is something interesting lurking behind this approach. For example, since the sum rules are a direct consequence of the Schrodinger equation, then perhaps under a constraint, the sum rules could be used to generate general physical principles. Such a formalizing might have unexpected consequences that could lead to the prediction of new and unexpected phenomena.

Since I have been busy with other things, I have not had time to develop this idea, and probably never will. Instead, I will occasionally tinker with paper and pencil to get my neurotransmitters flowing without delusions of success with an occasional vigorous game of hockey to add a tad of spice.

1 comment:

  1. Read this blog, I'm seeing a mission bearer restlessly in search of fundamental truth of science on the path of re-search-es. While limits or constraints have made and are ruling this world, luckily for one, fun of hockey game is unlimited.