In this modern world of the internet we are reverting back to tribes. Have you ever been asked a question by someone and just not want to interact because you know they come from a different tribe. As a scientist, I belong to the facts tribe. I do not have opinions, I do not believe stuff, and when people start to talk about aura and energy fields I get a chill going down my spine. These people are not members of my tribe.
A period of 11 years as a university professor, teaching at undergraduate and post-graduate level; the job is called a lecturer in parts of Europe, taught me the power teaching as a tool to learn. When someone asks a question your knowledge is tested. This is the reason we sit exams, ever thought you knew something really well and then went blank in a exam. Maybe, when you try to write out an answer you realize, you do not know the subject as well as you thought.
The same process occurs when someone asks a question. Of course, the obvious questions have easy or well rehearsed answers. This is how exams usually go, but off beat questions, game playing or even a silly question throw you into a new and maybe unexplored space. This is where your knowledge is really tested and this is how to really surf the learning curve.
As an example of this process a recent exchange of tweets can illustrate the process of how questions and answers can stimulate learning and test our knowledge. The tweets are public but I collect them below for your convenience. So the first question is simple, “is plasma a gas?” It appeared to me that the question is being asked by a non-scientist and there is that word “energy”. My attempt to answer starts by saying that a plasma is not gas, in that gas is a collection of neutral particles and a plasma does not need any neutral particles. Plasma are about charged particles.
So far so good, and then came the next question. “Is a state of matter conceivable where electrons don’t move and positrons do?” Whao! I had not seen that coming. I was aware of electrostatic crystals, with positive ions and free electrons. I vaguely remembered something about electron only crystals in metals, but this question was about something I had never thought about! Such a crystal is possible in theory but had one ever been made, was it even possible. My answer shows, I am not sure, in fact I dismiss the electron crystal but checked it after.
The next question give me a chance to correct the record and mention electron only crystals. Wigner crystals, created in metals do not exist as a separate structure but are close to what I was saying were improbable so I wanted to correct the record, something the scientist in me has to do.
I was intrigued by the idea of an electron- positron crystal. There would be some nice physics here. Had anyone ever tried to create one. Electron-positron “atoms” have been formed but a crystal. The electrons would have to be cold and fixed and the positrons would have to be hot. The heat exchange would be fast – interesting. The next question was about gravitational waves, and the link to plasma waves. No link here really, fairly straight forward physics here.
Next question is about trying to link gravity and electricity. Complex. I have read a lot of material on the web about plasma and it is definitely from a different tribe. This question seems to be informed by this alternative set of facts. How to handle this? Where do we get our information? if it is too technical for us to understand what do we do? Can we trust what we read anymore? The simple answer is no! So what to do? I do not have an answer for this. Does it matter? I believe it does – passionately, but what can we do about it, trust the media? Again, no!
The last question in the discussion was about a plasma and could it act as a capacitor. Of course it can. Sheaths are often small and the plasma can charge up. They can have very high capacitance, many micro-farads. The sun is a capacitor, not a very large one, but there are double layers there; so it could have larger capacitance than just it’s geometrical capacitance. We are back to interesting stuff here. Could this capacitance increase the power of the sun. It took a few minutes to nail this one, just realizing that a capacitor only stores energy so its net affect on power is zero- yes!
In conclusion, did the questioner learn anything from my answers? I do not know. Did I learn anything? -you bet I did. I had the pleasure of imaging a electron-positron crystal, knowing that capacitance can store energy and deliver power but does not affect net power. I also got to think about the web and knowledge and the risks that our species face from fake science. The most important lesson is that talking to and not at other people, especially from different backgrounds is the most rewarding way to learn and grow as a human being. Interacting online is no different that in face, respect is very important. I would be very interested in your thoughts, so please share in the comments below.
Mike B Hopkins