A BILLION TIMES SLOWER THAN SLOW: ARISTOTLE WRONG AGAINSeptember 18, 2011
Well, by now we should all know -if we've been listening to Galileo and not the Church - that the redoubtable authorities Ptolemy and Aristotle is very doubtable, this time in latter's metaphysical principle that an object cannot possess contrary attributes at one and the same time. It's one of those little Galileo moments showing the futility of dogmatic systems, including systems of scientific dogma:
Now, let that article, notwithstanding all its technical aspects, sink in for a moment, because this really caught my eye and imagination. First, we have an experiment demonstrating extraordinary stability properties, properties so stable, in fact, that the decay rate is much longer than the entire age of the universe (if postulated on the big bang model), and that in turn, like it or not, raises some questions about that cosmological model, a model that some scientists dispute. The implications of this, I submit, are profound if one lets the mind and imagination play with it, for it means that some types of information endure for a very long time, even on the cosmological scale. It means, too, that types of material configurations at certain scales also endure for a very long time.... metaphysicians will, I am sure, have fun with this one.
But there is a second thing that caught my eye in this article, namely, that constant interplay within modern experimental and theoretical physics between the experiment on the one hand, and the model by which one interprets it, as exemplified in the following statements:
"What the EXO 200 team wants to find is another decay process – one that is not only even more fantastically rare than 2nubb, but that no one is certain even exists. It's called zero-neutrino double-beta decay, or 0nubb, and it is decidedly not a Standard Model process.
"In 0nubb, two neutrons once again decay into two protons and two electrons, but the antineutrinos are nowhere to be found. They must have been there; the IRS has nothing on Nature for keeping the books balanced. The two antineutrinos must have annihilated each other, like positrons and electrons can annihilate each other, or protons and anti-protons, or any particle and its antiparticle.
"This means in order for 0nubb decay to happen, neutrinos must be their own antiparticles.
"Odd as this sounds, the possibility of a particle that could be both itself and its anti-self was hypothesized by an Italian theoretical particle physicist named Ettore Majorana in 1937. Such particles are called Majorana particles, and if they exist physicists would need to get busy revising the Standard Model."
Obviously, they are a long way off from finding experimental confirmation of Majorana particles, but part of me hopes they do, if only for one more case of an example that dogmas, even those of Aristotle, are never secure. In the meantime, wait for word of this experiment to percolate through the communities of philosophers and metaphysicians, and wait for the field day of wild New Age speculations about its meaning to emerge. Brace yourself.