Collective phenomena

Physics deals with the study of phenomena using different approaches. In many cases the same phenomena are dealt with different alternative approaches, other times are choosen a certain specific approach because it is considered the most suitable for the study of that particular phenomenon, other times we still do not know alternative approaches to that used by everyone. To continue our reasoning we need to deepen the methods used by physics to address the so-called “collective phenomena” typical of the microcosm we are dealing with. To do this it is inevitable to start from some basic concepts.

Physics divides nature into static and dynamic and studies both quantitatively compared to what philosophy does regarding the equivalent natures of “being”(1) and      “becoming”(2).

Physics attributes immutable or changeable properties (to be measured quantitatively) to matter, just as philosophy deals with “categories” and “accidents”(3).The physics matter has an energetic content that can be potential or kinetic and can transfer as well as in philosophy studies “power” and “act”(4).Physics, just like philosophy, uses analysis and synthesis(5).

Physics requires a vision:

– binocular, dynamic and three-dimensional (dynamic + three-dimensional = four-dimensional)

– both microscopic and macroscopic from the immensely large to the immensely small until the “emptying of space” and vice versa- both scientific (external to man) and humanistic (internal to man)

– both system (collective) and component (individual)(6)

– both deterministic and non-deterministic (eg Eisemberg’s uncertainty principle).

Also in physics the truths are encapsulated(7); phenomena such as the “tunnel effect” show that the classical theory is encapsulated in the quantum one; experiments such as those made with the use of synchrotrone, show that the classical theory is encapsulated in the relativistic one. In physics the exception certainly does not confirm the rule; just to give an example, it is thanks to the discovery of the anomalous behavior of the helium at temperatures below 2 K that studies on the superfluids have begun. Now physicists are questioning the constancy of the speed of light postulated by Einstein; regardless of the outcome of these studies, the only questioning of Einstein’s postulate who knows what interesting discoveries will   generate !!! Although thermodynamics indicates the natural tendency of the universe to disorder, the world of oscillations shows incredible anti-entropy phenomena(8). In physics doubts are welcome. The collective phenomena are those phenomena that occur thanks to the participation of a large number of components and therefore whose problem is not that of the behavior of the individual isolated from the context, but the behavior of the whole. It is a question of explaining how a large number of components cooperate so as to give rise to the system as a whole. The living organism is a typical example of a complex system.Classical physics conceives of all matter as inert (ie to move it, it is necessary to give it a strength) while we know very well that the living one is not. If I drop a clock it touches the ground and it ends there; if I drop an animal, once it has touched the ground it does not end this way because the animal can decide to attack me, to run away, to grumble, etc. The difference lies in the fact that the watch (although it is an object that moves) is a passive object, while the animal is an active object. The clock, while moving, is not capable of spontaneous behavior, the animal yes. Quantum physics has gone a long way in trying to explain the physics of objects that can behave spontaneously precisely because it is able to study the cooperation between the various bodies in the universe. With the study of collective phenomena and complex systems, thanks to quantum physics, all the isolated phenomena typical of classical physics of Galileo and Newton lose meaning. With the advent of quantum physics it becomes impossible to isolate bodies from the rest of the universe(9). In this sense it is improper to say that quantum physics is the physics of the atomic and subatomic world because it was born precisely to answer questions concerning the macroscopic world and to explain how atoms aggregate and generate complex systems.

Gianfranco Pellegrini

Turin (Italy)

(1) The Being is a concept that has gone through the whole history of philosophy since its inception. Although already posed by Indian philosophy since the ninth century BC, it is to the Parmenides eleate that we must have started in the West this long debate that runs through the centuries and the different cultures up to the present day. Being is therefore one of the fundamental concepts, if not the fundamental concept, among those elaborated by the tradition of Western philosophical thought. “Being is and it is not possible that it is not … Non-Being is not and must not be” (Parmenides).

(2) The Becoming, understood as change, movement, endless flow of reality, perennial birth and dying of things, was one of the most important concepts on which static ontological visions (such as the Eleatic one) were opposed and of type dynamic (like the Heraclitean and the Leucippian atomism). According to Heraclitus, Becoming becomes the substance of Being, since everything is subject to time and transformation. Even what seems static to sensory perception in truth is dynamic and constantly changing.”… because everything changes, less the law of change”. (Heraclitus).

(3) For Aristotle the categories are the high groups or genera that collect all the properties that can be preached of Being. They are the predications of Being, which refer to primary qualities (the immutable essences of objects), or secondary (the accidents that can change).There are ten categories in all:- essences: substance, quality, quantity, relationship- accidents: where, when, lying, having, doing, sufferingEvery element of reality can be made into one of these categories.It follows that the categories of Aristotle have an objective value, because they refer to concrete entities. Our judgments use them not only according to a purely logical relationship typical of the syllogism, but reuniting them thanks to the intuitive ability to grasp the relationships that actually exist between real objects. But beyond that, to each of the categories refers a part of those semantic constructs of the discourse that have to do with the real world: for example, a name or a noun refers to the category of substance; the adjectives qualifying for quality, those undefined in quantity, or in relation to the relationship, etc.

(4) The two concepts of matter and form are reported in Aristotle to those of power and act. In fact, matter in itself expresses only the possibility, the power, of acquiring a form underway in reality: in order for this passage to take place so that what is possible becomes current, it is necessary that there is already a form in act, a Being implemented .It is clear that the passage from the power (matter) to the act (form), which constitutes the becoming, is such that it can be conceived as endless, since every act becomes power for a subsequent act or better, Aristotle claims, will have as its last term an act that has realized all the powers, all the material potentialities and therefore will no longer have in itself any material element (power) and will then be a pure act, God.

(5) For Descartes, analysis and synthesis carry out a decomposition and composition operation that concerns knowledge.The analysis makes it possible to identify the effects depending on their causes, while the synthesis proceeds by retracing and restoring the relationships identified by the analysis: in more general terms the analysis consists in dividing the cognitive problem into its simpler component parts, with the warning not to proceed too much with the decomposition in order not to lose the overall sense of the problem (which would happen if it were shattered into too small parts);The synthesis consists in putting together the analyzed parts identifying in this way the right structure and composition of the problem to be solved. In Descartes, the analysis proceeds with heuristic purposes while the exposure is entrusted to the synthesis.The heuristic procedure is a method of approach to problem solving that does not follow a clear path, but that relies on the intuition and the temporary state of circumstances, in order to generate new knowledge. The heuristic is an antithetical to the algorithmic procedure.

(6) Collective stands to individual as selfless stands to selfish. On this theme the “Maxwell’s devil” is famous, a mental experiment conceived by Maxwell about the theoretical possibility of a device capable of acting on a microscopic scale on single particles in order to produce a macroscopic violation of the second principle of thermodynamics. This experiment has certainly contributed to the launch of new interesting studies in the field of quantum information. In particular, the principle of Landauer provides that the elimination of information bits produces non-resettable thermal energy in any way confirming experimentally as expected from the second principle of thermodynamics initially put in perhaps by the “devil”.

(7) There are two properties of matter completely different from each other: in fact the gravitational mass, that is the ability of a body to attract (or be attracted to) others, has nothing to do with the inertial mass, that is the reluctance of that same body to change its state of stillness or uniform rectilinear motion. Yet quantitatively the inertial mass coincides “mysteriously” with the gravitational mass and transferring a body from the earth to the moon its gravitational mass (ie its ability to be attracted and attract the moon) is greatly reduced but also its inertial mass (ie the its reluctance to move differently) is greatly reduced, indeed it is reduced in exactly the same proportion !!! Only with the theory of relativity has it become clear that it is the same property that manifests itself in two different forms. Another example of overcoming classical physics is the possibility of transmitting data using gravitational rather than electromagnetic waves as recently published in “Classical and Quantum Gravity” by a group of scientists from RUDN University of Moscow.

(8) In this regard, the mental experiment called “The Schroedinger cat” is very famous. You lock up a cat in a steel box with a hell machine (which it must be protected from the possibility of being grasped directly by the cat): in a Geiger counter there is a tiny portion of radioactive substance, so little that in one hour perhaps one of its atoms disintegrates, but it is equally probable that no atom disintegrate; if this happens, then the counter signals it and operates a relay of a hammer that breaks a vial with cyanide. After leaving the whole system undisturbed for an hour, if in the meantime no atom had disintegrated it is plausible that the cat is still alive, otherwise the first atomic disintegration would have poisoned it. The function “PSI” (proportional to the square of probability) of the whole system leads to affirm that in it the ”live cat state” and the “dead cat state” have not been pure states, but mixed with equal weight. Thus, after a certain period of time, the cat is as likely to be as dead as the atom of being decayed. Since until the moment of observation the atom exists in the two superimposed states, the cat remains both alive and dead until the box is opened, ie an observation is not made.

(9) The question of the inert body in nature has been the object of philosophical speculation since the time of Greek thinkers. Democritus in line with classical physics conceived matter as inert and the movement of individual atoms generated random and chaotic collisions (encounters) that gave rise to aggregates. On the other hand, Epicuro’s atoms were able to move autonomously (the “clinamen” of Lucretius) giving rise occasionally to “jolts” and meet; the “Clinamen” (today we would say the fluctuation) for Epicurus, was none other than the manifestation of the love of every atom towards all the others. Wincing, an atom goes towards the others, meets them and generates the aggregates (molecules). For Democritus the creation of the universe requires a God who causes a first push to one or more atoms so that it collides with other atoms giving rise to the aggregates. In other words, for Democritus and for classical physics things can not be born by themselves but they need a God. Classical physics is therefore only apparently secular, because in reality it needs a God. For Epicurus and for quantum physics the matter moves on its own and leaves no space for the Eternal Father unless one imagines an Eternal Father intimately amalgamated with matter (ie imagined as the attribute of matter).


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