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Separating Facts from Fictions With Science

We shall speak especially of the physical or mathematical sciences, for it appears to us, in the light of the history of astronomical discoveries, that the role of science is not exactly what men assign to it. This is a small reminder on why we Must read science books.

Science only provides representations of reality

  • To say that science gives access to reality is undoubtedly exaggerated because reality is only seen through our visual and mental perception. But this perception has limits.
  • Thus, the visual perception does not make it possible to apprehend all the wavelengths. Admittedly, the instruments invented by man allow us to prolong the domain of our perception, but nevertheless, physical perception always passes through the instrumental filter, which has, by construction or essence, its own limits. For example, a telescope that can see the weakest objects in extreme wavelength ranges is limited in angular resolution by diffraction. It would take a telescope of infinite size to reach an infinite resolution.
  • Similarly, mental perception is limited. It is, of course, by our intelligence, but more generally by certain concepts that escape us, for reasons of scale. For example, the design of infinity is impossible to specify in physics. If we know how to do it in mathematics, the application to the real physical world is impossible. We can say in the form of a joke that it would take an infinite time to understand the infinite.

In the end, science can only give representations of reality, but it does not give reality. To take a concrete image, imagine a cylinder. For some observers, the cylinder will appear as a disc, for others as a rectangle. It is also the well-known image of the person who drops an object from the top of the mast of a moving ship. For the person who drops the object the trajectory is rectilinear (vertical) whereas for a person remained on the platform, the trajectory appears parabolic. What is the true nature of the trajectory?

The theory of relativity allowed us to understand the importance of the representation benchmark and to free ourselves from it

Even our representations are limited

Nevertheless, even a detailed representation often escapes us and we must then be content with a statistical representation. This is the case of the study of a gas. Molecules obey known laws, but their number is such that it is physically impossible to obtain a precise individual description of the movements, and a fortiori, it is impossible to hope to represent the real.

This is also the case of the trajectories of the stars. The scope of the gravitational interaction is, it seems, unlimited. This range is related to the mass of the particle responsible for the interaction and the graviton probably has zero mass, like the photon. This infinite range gives rise to interactions between all the points of space. The trajectory of a planet depends, in detail, from the position of all other bodies. So we cannot predict the positions of a planet with infinite precision because there would be an infinite sum of interactions to take into account, not to mention even quantum limitations.