Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hitler,Tojo,Norden's big error: trusting HIGH SCHOOL Physics..

   Traditional High School level physics is, at best, only "sorta" okay.
   But only if you agree to do no more with it, than to follow someone else's orders and to keep your mouth shut and your pen capped.
   Shut and capped on the application of HS physics to any other world outside its proper - and severely limited - sphere.

   But you really need a couple of Physics degrees and lots of maturity (and lots of post-doc discussions with your elders), before you are fit to talk up the limitations of all traditional (Newtonian) physics, not just HS physics, to any areas outside of things like bridge-building and chemical plant operating.
   Some metaphors from the world of popular music making might make the reasons a little clearer.
   Anyone who has ever played or sung popular music - or even just read about or hung about people who have - knows about the echo button and the reverb button.
   We may be limited to knowing just what they sound like and how they differ. But real musicians & singers, real record and film producers, must be able to buy those effects successfully and economically.
  Quickly they discover that any price point echo equipment will do the job - the cheapest ,oldest equipment even have their own (un-natural but charming) uses.
   But cheap reverb simply sounds bad. And as your music making ears get more acute , even highly expensive reverb sounds bad.
   And not just bad - unlike the few obvious and reliable controls on an inexpensive echo unit, the expensive reverb unit has many many controls that collectively can unpredictably veer from acceptably okay to horribly awful, at the mere touch of a dial.
   Professionally-oriented musicians and producers are finally forced to learn a little physics to make sense of it all.
   Echo, they learn, is a simple audio event, so simple in fact that high school physics students could and perhaps should, replicate it with a freeware, software, digital audio editor.
   Record your voice - copy the sound and paste it forward on the editor screen (a metaphor for actually moving it forward in time by a few dozen thousands of a second (milliseconds) ).
   Reduce the copy's volume relative to the original, and filter off some of the treble.
  Voila ! A perfect echo - indistinguishable from one we can make in a cave.
   Newton or Norden - maybe even Hitler - would have recognized what HS physics has done: solved a two body problem.
   Body A, our voice, hits the cave's very distant wall and causes Body B, the wall, to reflect our voice back to us , but delayed by the distance (in space and time) between us and the wall and the return.
   The effect is echo : the sound of our own voice in our ear, followed by tiny fraction of a second later, by an echo of our voice, reduced in volume and in brightness by the sound wave weakening itself as it passed from atom to atom, trillions of times over.
   This is High School and University Undergraduate Physics in a nutshell - or rather a cave, a sort of Plato's cave in fact.
   We come away after completing the course and going on with our lives, outside the real world of full time professional physics, think life is really like that : just two bodies,mechanical, linear, determinist cause and effect: life as clockwork.
   But Reality in fact is mostly like the weather - or reverb - its a three body (IE multiple, maybe trillions upon trillions) problem.
   Echo is simple because the distantly returning echo is too weak
upon finally reaching other walls to do more than die there as heat - standing in, incidentally, as proof of the Second Law of Thermodynamics --- the idea that all energy inevitably degrades down to useless low temperature 'heat' .
   But in most buildings, the walls are close enough and hard enough to reflect back echo, but not 100.00000000000000000%
perfectly. There is a slight angle to the return: north south east west - it doesn't matter.
  That means the earliest outgoing re-echo doesn't die in destructive interference with its incoming later original self.
  Instead it hit the other wall and again is deflected slightly off angle in random fashion, dependent ultimately on how smooth the paint or plaster job is - and to air molecules and sound waves, it is never smooth enough.
   In milliseconds, the voice sound - a three dimensional wave remember - a sort of bubble of sound, is reflecting back from all angles and interfering and re-enforcing echos in a madly complex but very ear-satisfying manner that we call reverb.
   It took hundreds of the world's best physicists, working decades, with the best computer equipment at their disposal, to create an approximately acceptable form of reverb artificially.
  Even mass produced, the best of that approximately good artificially-produced reverb still costs tens of thousands of dollars.
  And actually, it is semi-artificially produced - the creators of the best reverb systems simply copy (sample) what Nature produces, without in fact knowing how to recreate those effects themselves 'from first principles'.
   For reverb, substitute the weather in four days time or the climate in four decades time : issues that are vital to our species' survival and yet madly complex beyond any amount of HS physics.
   By contrast, one feels that Hitler  felt that the so called 'fog of war' was all baloney : the science of war was actually more like Newton's planetary motion than it was like predicting the weather.
   So he moved little wooden counters on his war maps as if they were points, masses and forces on some half-remembered HS physics chalkboard.
   Body A (a wooden counter labelled Army Group Centre) was
moved by a wooden stick to Body B (a wooden counter labelled Moscow defenses) and Voila !
  The job was done : cause and effect, linear war.
  Army group A inevitably caused the effect upon Body B of entrapment and surrender : QID !
   In reality, there were three (and more bodies) actually playing at this two body game.
    Counters labelled "earlier-than-expected Fall rains and muddy roads" and "colder-than-expected-Winter-temperatures" also wanted to have their say.
   Once they had their say and had turned simple HS physics echo into highly complex reverb, the jig - as they say - was up.
   Up for Hitler, up for Tojo, up for Norden, up for Newton and above all - up for Modernity....

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