MichaelJ

Scale model of hydrogen atom

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I heard about a website today that illustrated what a hydrogen atom is really like.

It really surprised me to see it, I always thought the subatomic parts were close together(in terms of ratios)

Anyway, now for the link. :(

http://www.phrenopolis.com/perspective/atom/

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If you do the numbers matter as we know it is like 99.9999999% complete empty space... which is extremely puzzling to people the first time they grasp it, and why they can't simply walk through other objects if everything is empty space.

Imagine if you compressed matter and got rid of all that empty space, how dense matter would be! This is theoretically what a Neutron Star would be like (where supposedly a tea-spoon of its matter would weigh a 100 million pounds :( ).

The Pauli Exclusion Principle is a good thing!

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Indeed! In high school theology class, our Jesuit teacher told us "this desk is mostly air" as he dropped his hand on it, only to be firmly stopped at the surface. We all thought, "this old man is crazy!" It would take me three more years to learn about the strong nuclear force. :(

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Indeed! In high school theology class, our Jesuit teacher told us "this desk is mostly air" as he dropped his hand on it, only to be firmly stopped at the surface. We all thought, "this old man is crazy!" It would take me three more years to learn about the strong nuclear force. :D

Actually, what keeps your hand from passing through the desk is the love of Jesus. (of course the implication of this would be that if you are falling to your death you should very quickly renounce Jesus)

But to be a bit picky (I have to, I'm a Physics major!), it is actually an electrostatic repulsion force between atoms that would keep your hand from passing through the desk. The strong nuclear force is responsible for holding the nucleons together in the nucleus of an atom (and for giving us wicked nuclear explosions :( )

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But to be a bit picky (I have to, I'm a Physics major!), it is actually an electrostatic repulsion force between atoms that would keep your hand from passing through the desk. The strong nuclear force is responsible for holding the nucleons together in the nucleus of an atom (and for giving us wicked nuclear explosions :( )
Ah, you're right of course. Thanks -- that was a stupid mistake on my part.

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If you do the numbers matter as we know it is like 99.9999999% complete empty space... which is extremely puzzling to people the first time they grasp it, and why they can't simply walk through other objects if everything is empty space.

Except that if it really were empty space between particles, how would they interact? Think about it: with electrons making up such a tiny portion of the volume, if the only way electrons interacted were by physical contact with one another (like two billiard balls), my fingers would pass right through the keys of my keyboard as I tried to type.

This is a deceptively simple physics question that doesn't (yet) have a simple answer. Some would cite the TEW's view, others an ether or "pilot wave" theory. Yet, what is the "stuff" that accounts for the volume between particles, the plenum that has to be there?

Interesting stuff.

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If you do the numbers matter as we know it is like 99.9999999% complete empty space... which is extremely puzzling to people the first time they grasp it, and why they can't simply walk through other objects if everything is empty space.

Except that if it really were empty space between particles, how would they interact? Think about it: with electrons making up such a tiny portion of the volume, if the only way electrons interacted were by physical contact with one another (like two billiard balls), my fingers would pass right through the keys of my keyboard as I tried to type.

This is a deceptively simple physics question that doesn't (yet) have a simple answer. Some would cite the TEW's view, others an ether or "pilot wave" theory. Yet, what is the "stuff" that accounts for the volume between particles, the plenum that has to be there?

Interesting stuff.

Ed, there is a very simple answer: they interact by exchange of photons. This isn't theory, this is fact. Electrons don't interact by physical contact with each other, they interact through the electric force, by exchange of photons between each other. Electrons in an atom can't even come into contact with each other because of the Pauli Exclusion Principle. There isn't a need for a plenum, or a wave, or TEW, or anything like that to account for the huge space between them. Your hand couldn't pass through the table regardless of how tiny and spaced apart the electrons are because the electric field that surrounds the electrons in your hand would repel the electrons in the table, and vice versa, resulting in the force we feel pushing back when we push against the table.

This isn't even theoretical physics that is yet to be proven, it is solid and verified. I mean, the entire modern understanding of Chemistry comes from this knowledge of how electrons are spaced out in their discrete orbits. The entire understanding of how atoms emit photons of light by electrons making transitions in their discrete orbits comes from this. So that you say this genuinely confuses me.

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------

This isn't even theoretical physics that is yet to be proven, it is solid and verified. I mean, the entire modern understanding of Chemistry comes from this knowledge of how electrons are spaced out in their discrete orbits. The entire understanding of how atoms emit photons of light by electrons making transitions in their discrete orbits comes from this. So that you say this genuinely confuses me.

If electrons are continuously emitting photons, then why don't they eventually loose energy and stop orbiting the nucleus?

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This isn't even theoretical physics that is yet to be proven, it is solid and verified. I mean, the entire modern understanding of Chemistry comes from this knowledge of how electrons are spaced out in their discrete orbits. The entire understanding of how atoms emit photons of light by electrons making transitions in their discrete orbits comes from this. So that you say this genuinely confuses me.

If electrons are continuously emitting photons, then why don't they eventually loose energy and stop orbiting the nucleus?

I explained this last part while I was tired, so it probably sounds a little confusing... but here goes.

Electrons as they passively orbit the atom are not constantly emitting photons, or at least that is my understanding. This was one of the major problems for Classical Electrodynamics when it came to understanding the atom, because according to the theories of the time the electron should rapidly lose energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation, causing it to lose speed and spiral to its demise into the nucleus of the atom (because the electron is constantly in a state of centripetal acceleration towards the nucleus, and in Classical Electrodynamics an accelerating charge emits electromagnetic radiation).

Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Electrodynamics changed all of this: An electron is only allowed to reside in quantized, discrete orbits that we regard as different energy levels (because of the Pauli Exclusion Principle, one of the single most important principles in Physics). An electron will emit a single photon of light (quantized bit of electric field) if it decays to an orbit of lower energy level within the atom, and the photon it emits will be equal to the change in electrical potential energy of the orbit (likewise an electron can absorb a photon if it can jump to a discrete quantized energy level with a difference of potential energies between the levels that is equal to the photon's energy--this is the background of using spectroscopy to analyze the composition of stars for example). Therefore, in this model an electron can't steadily radiate its energy away because nature forbids it to radiate energy in any manner other than in discrete bundles. And it can only radiate or absorb these discrete bundles of energy (in the form of photons) by making transitions between different allowed, discrete orbits. So luckily nature forbids electrons from spiraling into their nuclei!

Also, two electrons can interact with each other through the exchange of a photon:

http://www-sldnt.slac.stanford.edu/alr/ima...photon_exch.jpg

The picture shows two electrons flying towards each other on a collision course. A photon interaction occurs and the electrons are sent flying apart as if they actually collided. This is like a quantized description of how two identically charged particles would repel each other because of their electric fields.

Now that I've said all this, this is why I claim that the vast majority of an atom is empty space, yet when I put my hand on a table it still makes perfect sense that it doesn't pass through it. Because the electrons in my hand would interact with and repel the electrons of the table, resulting in an electrical repulsion force between the table and my hand that prevents it from passing right through.

What if we have a neutrally charged particle that is extremely tiny? That is a different story all together. Right now as we speak, literally millions of neutrinos are flying through the entire Earth and our bodies without hardly ever even interacting with matter (the source is the sun, it emits many many neutrinos).

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If you do the numbers matter as we know it is like 99.9999999% complete empty space... which is extremely puzzling to people the first time they grasp it, and why they can't simply walk through other objects if everything is empty space.

Except that if it really were empty space between particles, how would they interact? Think about it: with electrons making up such a tiny portion of the volume, if the only way electrons interacted were by physical contact with one another (like two billiard balls), my fingers would pass right through the keys of my keyboard as I tried to type.

This is a deceptively simple physics question that doesn't (yet) have a simple answer. Some would cite the TEW's view, others an ether or "pilot wave" theory. Yet, what is the "stuff" that accounts for the volume between particles, the plenum that has to be there?

Interesting stuff.

Ed, there is a very simple answer: they interact by exchange of photons.

Of course. What you describe are the same things I learned when I studied physics years ago. But what's a photon? Is it a particle or a wave? If it's both, how can that be? If it's a wave, what is it that does the "waving?" If it is a particle, how does on explain the wavelike behavior?

My point isn't to debate the details, but to point out that a very simple question leads to a very complicated, and ultimately unsatisfactory (given current theory) answer.

This isn't even theoretical physics that is yet to be proven, it is solid and verified. I mean, the entire modern understanding of Chemistry comes from this knowledge of how electrons are spaced out in their discrete orbits. The entire understanding of how atoms emit photons of light by electrons making transitions in their discrete orbits comes from this. So that you say this genuinely confuses me.

What, exactly, is proven? The mathematical predictions match experimental observations, yes. But the underlying theory that accompanies the math is, I contend, full of problems, some of which stem from irrational philosophical premises (e.g., the Copenhagen interpretation, nonlocality, black holes, the big bang theory, etc.).

Harry Binswanger addressed this issue directly in his short tape course on topics in the philosophy of science. The idea of a region of space literally empty of any matter or energy (or field-related plenum or ether or "tiny stuff") is philosophically problematic.

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If you do the numbers matter as we know it is like 99.9999999% complete empty space... which is extremely puzzling to people the first time they grasp it, and why they can't simply walk through other objects if everything is empty space.

Except that if it really were empty space between particles, how would they interact? Think about it: with electrons making up such a tiny portion of the volume, if the only way electrons interacted were by physical contact with one another (like two billiard balls), my fingers would pass right through the keys of my keyboard as I tried to type.

This is a deceptively simple physics question that doesn't (yet) have a simple answer. Some would cite the TEW's view, others an ether or "pilot wave" theory. Yet, what is the "stuff" that accounts for the volume between particles, the plenum that has to be there?

Interesting stuff.

Ed, there is a very simple answer: they interact by exchange of photons.

Of course. What you describe are the same things I learned when I studied physics years ago. But what's a photon? Is it a particle or a wave? If it's both, how can that be? If it's a wave, what is it that does the "waving?" If it is a particle, how does on explain the wavelike behavior?

My point isn't to debate the details, but to point out that a very simple question leads to a very complicated, and ultimately unsatisfactory (given current theory) answer.

Well, if what you mean is that we don't yet know everything right now, then agreed!
This isn't even theoretical physics that is yet to be proven, it is solid and verified. I mean, the entire modern understanding of Chemistry comes from this knowledge of how electrons are spaced out in their discrete orbits. The entire understanding of how atoms emit photons of light by electrons making transitions in their discrete orbits comes from this. So that you say this genuinely confuses me.

What, exactly, is proven?

Actually quite a lot! But seriously, I don't understand your objection here. What more are you asking for to be proven at the moment? It is known that electrons are these incredibly tiny particles, and it is known that they have discrete, quantized orbits that they occupy around an atom, and that there relatively is (compared to their own size) a huge amount of space between the electrons and the nucleus.
The mathematical predictions match experimental observations, yes. But the underlying theory that accompanies the math is, I contend, full of problems, some of which stem from irrational philosophical premises (e.g., the Copenhagen interpretation, nonlocality, black holes, the big bang theory, etc.).
What problems? I don't think that the theory (Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Electrodynamics) itself has underlying philosophical problems. Some of the interpretations certainly do (Copenhagen Interpretation), but those are only interpretations and aren't the theory itself. It really saddens me that Modern Physics has such a bad reputation amongst intelligent people, because Modern Physics itself isn't bad or conflicted! (and I think Stephen has made this point often before) What is bad is all of the terrible madness that's been going on in Theoretical Physics lately (string theories, multiple universes, extra dimensions, big bang cosmology madness, etc).

Also, black holes aren't necessarily bad, just (once again) what the interpretation of them might be. All a black hole would be is a celestial body with a density great enough that its escape velocity is greater than the speed of light. What's philosophically bad about that? (what is bad is when people say that black holes have infinite density, or are portals through space and time)

Harry Binswanger addressed this issue directly in his short tape course on topics in the philosophy of science. The idea of a region of space literally empty of any matter or energy (or field-related plenum or ether or "tiny stuff") is philosophically problematic.

I don't understand, why is this a problem? Perhaps this could be deserving of a new thread.

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What problems? I don't think that the theory (Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Electrodynamics) itself has underlying philosophical problems. Some of the interpretations certainly do (Copenhagen Interpretation), but those are only interpretations and aren't the theory itself. It really saddens me that Modern Physics has such a bad reputation amongst intelligent people, because Modern Physics itself isn't bad or conflicted!

A physical theory is not a collection of symbols and equations with no conceptual meaning. You can't write off the so-called "interpretation" as not part of the theory. The problems of the meaning of quantum mechanics have been recognized since the beginning, but it wasn't often admitted "officially" in the classrooms. That has been changing and here is an interesting article about a Harvard professor showing that it is finally "acceptable" to talk about it:

Philosopher serious about science

Cause and effect, quantum theory targets of Ned Hall's mind

December 8, 2005

Alvin Powell

Whether teasing out inconsistencies in quantum theory or figuring out what it means for one event to cause another, Ned Hall is asking questions about the forces that rule the world around him and seeking consistency in the answers he knows are out there.

Hall, a newly appointed professor of philosophy, came to Harvard from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in July. With a focus on the philosophy of science, Hall said he was attracted to Harvard in part because of the opportunity to work across discipline boundaries with scientists...

Teachers often gloss over the inconsistencies in the theory, Hall said, but bright students realize something is amiss.

"Bright students always spot the trouble areas. They don't understand how the theory is supposed to work. They ask questions, but they're often told, 'Shut up and calculate,'" Hall said.

I sure remember that aspect of it from my quantum mechanics courses -- and I distinctly remember one professor providing us with a list of "postulates" that "just have to be accepted" and cutting off the questions. I did very well in it and was interested in the mathematical formulations in particular, but then left it because I couldn't tolerate the arbitrariness, was mostly interested in the applied mathematics and didn't want to divert a career into trying to straighten out the underlying theory.

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Here are some interesting and amusing quotes (slides 4-8) used by Ned Hall in the opening lecture of a course he gave when he taught at MIT.

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If electrons are continuously emitting photons, then why don't they eventually loose energy and stop orbiting the nucleus?

Consider a hydrogen atom (as a simple example). When the electron is in the ground state it is not emitting anything. Electrons emit photons if they have previously abstorbed a photon and have been put into a higher energy state. The electron descends to a lower energy state when it emits a photon.

That is why atoms are stable. There are states in which electrons do not lose energy. The classical Rutherford atom failed for that reason. With planetary electrons constantly whizing about the nucleus, they lose energy. Apply Larmour's formula and you can deduce that the electrons of a (classical) atom will collapse onto the nucleus in about 10^(-11) seconds.

ruveyn

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Harry Binswanger addressed this issue directly in his short tape course on topics in the philosophy of science. The idea of a region of space literally empty of any matter or energy (or field-related plenum or ether or "tiny stuff") is philosophically problematic.

Perhaps, but every working theory today dismisses the aether. It is not necessary. And the aether was never detectable, which is why it was ultimately discarded. No aether. As for fields, they are exchanges of virtual particles (except for gravitation; no one has found a graviton, which if it exists at all is a spin 2 boson).

Question: What are Harry Binswanger's qualification in physics? Has he published articles on physics in any refereed journal?

ruveyn

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Harry Binswanger addressed this issue directly in his short tape course on topics in the philosophy of science. The idea of a region of space literally empty of any matter or energy (or field-related plenum or ether or "tiny stuff") is philosophically problematic.

Perhaps, but every working theory today dismisses the aether. It is not necessary. And the aether was never detectable, which is why it was ultimately discarded. No aether. As for fields, they are exchanges of virtual particles (except for gravitation; no one has found a graviton, which if it exists at all is a spin 2 boson).

Question: What are Harry Binswanger's qualification in physics? Has he published articles on physics in any refereed journal?

ruveyn

By your standards (which I do not agree with), it seems one could ask what are your qualifications to judge Harry Binswanger? But, it does not take a Ph.D. in physics to know that there are no contradictions in reality, just in the minds of the men that create and hold them. But, I guess you think those contradictions are able to be overcome by your workable theories that overlook this philosophical problem/contradiction.

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Harry Binswanger addressed this issue directly in his short tape course on topics in the philosophy of science. The idea of a region of space literally empty of any matter or energy (or field-related plenum or ether or "tiny stuff") is philosophically problematic.

Perhaps, but every working theory today dismisses the aether. It is not necessary. And the aether was never detectable, which is why it was ultimately discarded. No aether. As for fields, they are exchanges of virtual particles (except for gravitation; no one has found a graviton, which if it exists at all is a spin 2 boson).

Question: What are Harry Binswanger's qualification in physics? Has he published articles on physics in any refereed journal?

ruveyn

By your standards (which I do not agree with), it seems one could ask what are your qualifications to judge Harry Binswanger? But, it does not take a Ph.D. in physics to know that there are no contradictions in reality, just in the minds of the men that create and hold them. But, I guess you think those contradictions are able to be overcome by your workable theories that overlook this philosophical problem/contradiction.

My qualifications are that I read the journals, take courses and I have learned the science. I am not a researcher. I am an intelligent non-professional. In days past I earned my pay as an applied mathematician and before I learned to keep better company I used to build lethal weapons for the government. Physics is a hobby of mine. I try to keep up with the field as best I can.

As to workable theories, all the current theories are workable. They predict correctly, they have not yet been falsified and they are at the base of the technology we all enjoy. I go by results. If a theory is going to be falsified it will be falsified by experimental means, not philosophical disputations (that is so damned medieval).

In the energy ranges that are currently available to us, the current major theories - the standard model for particles and fields ; and the theory of general relativity check out. The standard model predicts correctly to 12 decimal places. Until it is falsified by experimental means, I will take it seriously. General Relativity (Einstein's greatest work) is THE accepted theory of gravitation. So far it holds good.

Scientific theories are checked out by careful observation and experimentation. Philosophical disputations are scientifically irrelevant. If you want to bust a theory, you produce an instance where it does not predict correctly and the cause of the misprediction does not lie in the instrumentation or in the boundary conditions.

The gold standard for scientific theory is correct prediction.

ruveyn

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Perhaps, but every working theory today dismisses the aether. It is not necessary.

And the stuff being "warped" by matter density in the General Theory of Relativity - certainly a broadly accepted theory - is what, exactly? How do you warp "nothing"?

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Question: What are Harry Binswanger's qualification in physics? Has he published articles on physics in any refereed journal?

Setting aside the appeal to authority: What you're asking is whether or not a philosopher who objects to the philosophic foundations of the current physics establishment, the people who publish/review the journals you're referring to, has ever been published by those same journals. I think it's likelier to see pieces on creationism before pieces that shatter the subjectivity and rationalism that seem to characterize so many of the journals you're [probably] referring to.

In addition: Before questioning the work of a highly respected Objectivist intellectual on this forum, perhaps you should consider familiarizing yourself with that intellectual's work.

BTW: Thanks for making WMDs possible. Too bad the nation hasn't lived up to your achievement.

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Perhaps, but every working theory today dismisses the aether. It is not necessary.

And the stuff being "warped" by matter density in the General Theory of Relativity - certainly a broadly accepted theory - is what, exactly? How do you warp "nothing"?

How would planets orbit through "something" without being slowed down and spiraling into the nearest star?

In order to transmit -transverse- waves the aether would have to be stiffer than steel, yet it would have to so thin and rare as to not heat up when celestial bodies move through it. Aether is a highly unlikely substance. A super-stiff space goo that does not interact with matter. And besides it has never been detected. And that is why current theories make no use of the concept. Since aether is not necessary to predict planetary motions, it is not assumed. Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity (Okham's Razor).

Even Maxwell mostly gave up on a mechanical aether. Or to paraphrase Hertz-- Maxwell's Equations are Maxwell's theory.

ruveyn

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My qualifications are that I read the journals, take courses and I have learned the science. I am not a researcher. I am an intelligent non-professional. In days past I earned my pay as an applied mathematician and before I learned to keep better company I used to build lethal weapons for the government. Physics is a hobby of mine. I try to keep up with the field as best I can.

Let me see if I understand you correclty. If I have a Ph.D. and get my articles prinited in journals then I am a qualified expert by your standards and without further question on your part you will agree with me. But, if I am independently minded and try and understand the nature of reality (such as existence exist and that which exist has a specific noncontraictory nature) and have no journal articles I am considered to be without expert qualification by your standards. It is a good thing Darwin and many others like him were not waiting around for your approval.

Your age, that you constantly keep trying to push down our throats, does not impress me. I know a lot of older people that still believe in a god, a heaven and many other illogical premises.

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How would planets orbit through "something" without being slowed down and spiraling into the nearest star?

In order to transmit -transverse- waves the aether would have to be stiffer than steel, yet it would have to so thin and rare as to not heat up when celestial bodies move through it. Aether is a highly unlikely substance. A super-stiff space goo that does not interact with matter. And besides it has never been detected. And that is why current theories make no use of the concept. Since aether is not necessary to predict planetary motions, it is not assumed. Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity (Okham's Razor).

Even Maxwell mostly gave up on a mechanical aether. Or to paraphrase Hertz-- Maxwell's Equations are Maxwell's theory.

Yes, that's old hat. Nobody sensible is claiming that the "aether" is matter, obviously it is not. My question remains: What *stuff* is being warped by matter density in the theory of G.R.? It is senseless to assert that it is literally nothing, that just leaves open the question of the properties of this stuff, of which G.R. provides a partial description.

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Harry Binswanger addressed this issue directly in his short tape course on topics in the philosophy of science. The idea of a region of space literally empty of any matter or energy (or field-related plenum or ether or "tiny stuff") is philosophically problematic.

I don't understand, why is this a problem? Perhaps this could be deserving of a new thread.

"Literally empty" means reifying metaphysical "nothingness" into a form of existence. There are no "holes" of "nothingness" in reality. "Nothing" is a relative concept meaning that something in particular is absent. It is an abstraction referring to things that are, but which are not present; it does not mean a metaphysical zero. See Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology in the chapter on Axiomatic Concepts and the sections of the workshop transcription where this was discussed (look up "non-existence" in the index).

This philosophical observation does not tell you what is there, the nature of which is the subject of physics to discover and identify. But neither is it valid for someone speaking on behalf of physics to tell you that there is literally nothing only because he doesn't know what it is, or to assert that literally nothing is there because it isn't something in particular that he has in mind, both of which are logical fallacies.

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Harry Binswanger addressed this issue directly in his short tape course on topics in the philosophy of science. The idea of a region of space literally empty of any matter or energy (or field-related plenum or ether or "tiny stuff") is philosophically problematic.

Perhaps, but every working theory today dismisses the aether. It is not necessary. And the aether was never detectable, which is why it was ultimately discarded. No aether.

That is not true. As Einstein himself stated ("Ether and the Theory of Relativity", May 5, 1920 address at the University of Leden):

... the metrical qualities of the continuum of space-time differ in the environment of different points of space-time, and are partly conditioned by the matter existing outside of the territory under consideration. This space-time variability of the reciprocal relations of the standards of space and time, or, perhaps, the recognition of the fact that "empty space" in its physical relation is neither homogenious nor isotropic, compelling us to describe its state by ten functions (the gravitational potentials g_mu_nu), has, I think finallly disposed of the view that space is physically empty. But therewith the conception of the ether has again acquired an intelligible content, although this content differs widely from that of the ether of the mechanical undulatory theory of light. The ether of the general theory of relativity is a medium which is itself devoid of all mechanical and kinematical qualities, but helps to determine mechanical (and electromagnetic) events.
Question: What are Harry Binswanger's qualification in physics? Has he published articles on physics in any refereed journal?

What difference does it make? He is speaking as a philosopher on very basic concepts that do not require "articles on physics in any refereed journal". Either you can follow his arguments for yourself or you can't. His own backgound in physics began with his BS degree in physics from MIT before going to Columbia for his graduate degree in philosophy.

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Harry Binswanger addressed this issue directly in his short tape course on topics in the philosophy of science. The idea of a region of space literally empty of any matter or energy (or field-related plenum or ether or "tiny stuff") is philosophically problematic.

Perhaps, but every working theory today dismisses the aether. It is not necessary. And the aether was never detectable, which is why it was ultimately discarded. No aether. As for fields, they are exchanges of virtual particles (except for gravitation; no one has found a graviton, which if it exists at all is a spin 2 boson).

Question: What are Harry Binswanger's qualification in physics? Has he published articles on physics in any refereed journal?

By your standards (which I do not agree with), it seems one could ask what are your qualifications to judge Harry Binswanger? But, it does not take a Ph.D. in physics to know that there are no contradictions in reality, just in the minds of the men that create and hold them. But, I guess you think those contradictions are able to be overcome by your workable theories that overlook this philosophical problem/contradiction.

My qualifications are that I read the journals, take courses and I have learned the science. I am not a researcher. I am an intelligent non-professional. In days past I earned my pay as an applied mathematician and before I learned to keep better company I used to build lethal weapons for the government. Physics is a hobby of mine. I try to keep up with the field as best I can.

As to workable theories, all the current theories are workable. They predict correctly, they have not yet been falsified and they are at the base of the technology we all enjoy. I go by results. If a theory is going to be falsified it will be falsified by experimental means, not philosophical disputations (that is so damned medieval).

In the energy ranges that are currently available to us, the current major theories - the standard model for particles and fields ; and the theory of general relativity check out. The standard model predicts correctly to 12 decimal places. Until it is falsified by experimental means, I will take it seriously. General Relativity (Einstein's greatest work) is THE accepted theory of gravitation. So far it holds good.

Scientific theories are checked out by careful observation and experimentation. Philosophical disputations are scientifically irrelevant. If you want to bust a theory, you produce an instance where it does not predict correctly and the cause of the misprediction does not lie in the instrumentation or in the boundary conditions.

The gold standard for scientific theory is correct prediction.

Everyone knows that physical theories must be in accordance with the facts. Bromides about "prediction" and "falsifiability" add nothing to this discussion. The theories of physics are not just "predictions" based on manipulations of mathematics. Scientific theories must be conceptually explanatory and that is what knowledgeable Forum members expect when they discuss these issues. One does not just "go by results", taking it "seriously" until someone "busts it", as if science is nothing but the Kantian inspired Pragmatism and Positivism that has been commonly misrepresented as science. Echoing the common bromides and cliches currently prevalent in the name of "science", whether coming from professional physicists or serious "hobbyists", is not the authoritative answer to these questions that you think it is.

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