Muon: As long as there is error there is hope

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Paolo Beltrame, SJ

 Paolo Beltrame, SJ / Science / 30 June 2021


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“Physics could be seen as a game of chess played by the gods, with us observing the movements of the pieces on the chessboard without being aware of the rules of the game but with a burning desire to discover them”: so said the great American physicist and genius Richard Feynman.[1] Sometimes, first you discover a law and then you better understand its deeper reasons. However, the most interesting things happen when you observe what you did not expect: as if – to remain with the chess  metaphor – we discover a bishop on a square with a different color than the one he was on at the beginning of the game. Then it is a question of understanding how and why this happened.

The laws of physics, as we know them, seem to be safe, rigid and exact. They work. However, a detail can suddenly show that they were wrong, or better, not accurate enough, or incomplete. And it is from this “error” that further research is born, to better understand the rules with which the gods play chess. But if in the game the schemes become more and more complicated, in physics things seem to follow an inverse path: when new laws or mathematical formalisms are discovered, everything tends to simplify, and to be described by a simpler set of rules. The countless varieties of phenomena seem to recompose in a more unitary vision, and the description of the world is simpler than it appeared at the beginning.

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