How do you figure things out?9 ways
Choose from the domains above.
Write to Andrius (MS@MS.LT) to add more ways!
Research & Culture & Business

          Fermat's principle      Wikipedia: In optics, Fermat's principle or the principle of least time is the principle that the path taken between two points by a ray of light is the path that can be traversed in the least time. This principle is sometimes taken as the definition of a ray of light. However, this version of the principle is not general; a more modern statement of the principle is that rays of light traverse the path of stationary optical length. Fermat's principle can be used to describe the properties of light rays reflected off mirrors, refracted through different media, or undergoing total internal reflection. It follows mathematically from Huygens' principle (at the limit of small wavelength), and can be used to derive Snell's law of refraction and the law of reflection.908

          Gauss' principle of least constraint      Wikipedia: The principle of least constraint is a least squares principle stating that the true motion of a mechanical system of N masses is the minimum of the quantity above for all trajectories satisfying any imposed constraints, where m-k, r-k and F-k represent the mass, position and applied forces of the kth mass. Gauss' principle is equivalent to D'Alembert's principle. The principle of least constraint is qualitatively similar to Hamilton's principle, which states that the true path taken by a mechanical system is an extremum of the action. However, Gauss' principle is a true (local) minimal principle, whereas the other is an extremal principle.904

          Principle of least action      Wikipedia: In physics, the principle of least action - or, more accurately, the principle of stationary action - is a variational principle that, when applied to the action of a mechanical system, can be used to obtain the equations of motion for that system. The principle led to the development of the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations of classical mechanics. ... Maupertuis felt that "Nature is thrifty in all its actions" ... the action principle is not localized to a point; rather, it involves integrals over an interval of time and (for fields) an extended region of space. Moreover, in the usual formulation of classical action principles, the initial and final states of the system are fixed, e.g., Given that the particle begins at position x1 at time t1 and ends at position x2 at time t2, the physical trajectory that connects these two endpoints is an extremum of the action integral. In particular, the fixing of the final state appears to give the action principle a teleological character which has been controversial historically.903

        Scientific method

Scientific method      We design experiments that link together, tangle together the two incomplete outlooks of space and time, single frame and multiple frames, particle and wave, static and dynamic, free and deterministic. This is because each experiment presumes an experimenter and thus takes place both within a frame of measurement and beyond it. Each experiment includes a hypothesis, an experimental test, and an appraisal of the results. Analogously, in math, given a constraint, we extend its domain to include a new domain, we stitch them together by presuming continuity, and we relate the two applications by superimposing them, yielding a more general constraint. In life, we take a stand, follow through and reflect. 852

     Physics experiments      Wikipedia documents more than 200 physics experiments. The experiment page gives examples of how the scientific method is applied. There is also a page listing key physics experiments.877

        Hypothesis

Hypothesis      Wikipedia: A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. The term derives from the Greek, hypotithenai meaning "to put under" or "to suppose." For a hypothesis to be put forward as a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method requires that one can test it. Scientists generally base scientific hypotheses on previous observations that cannot satisfactorily be explained with the available scientific theories.913

          Mapping observables and observations      Edward Cherlin, 2011.04.24: I like your cycle of scientific method: take a stand (hypothesize), follow through (experiment), reflect (conclude), although I find that there is more to it. It has been pointed out that a hypothesis must include a model (usually mathematical) and a mapping between parts of the model (observables) and observations, including experiments. 911

        Experimental design

Experimental design      Wikipedia: In general usage, design of experiments (DOE) or experimental design is the design of any information-gathering exercises where variation is present, whether under the full control of the experimenter or not.914

          Design experiments to rule models in or out      Edward Cherlin, 2011.04.24: But that is not enough. We must also think of other possible models, and design experiments to rule them in or out, and we must think of every possible experiment that could invalidate our model. This is the great service that Einstein performed for Quantum Mechanics, because he disliked it so much. Every time he thought he had found a contradiction or something nonsensical in the math, the lab boys verified that it really worked that way in experiments. 912

          Conservation of linear momentum      Wikipedia: The law of conservation of linear momentum is a fundamental law of nature, and it states that if no external force acts on a closed system of objects the momentum of the closed system remains constant. One of the consequences of this is that the center of mass of any system of objects will always continue with the same velocity unless acted on by a force from outside the system. Conservation of momentum is a mathematical consequence of the homogeneity (shift symmetry) of space (position in space is the canonical conjugate quantity to momentum). So, momentum conservation can be philosophically stated as "nothing depends on location per se".984

          Conservation of probability density      Wikipedia: In quantum mechanics, the probability current (sometimes called probability flux) is a concept describing the flow of probability density. In particular, if one pictures the probability density as an inhomogeneous fluid, then the probability current is the rate of flow of this fluid (the density times the velocity). ... This is the conservation law for probability in quantum mechanics.... 989

          CPT symmetry      Wikipedia: CPT symmetry is a fundamental symmetry of physical laws under transformations that involve the inversions of charge, parity, and time simultaneously. ... The CPT theorem requires the preservation of CPT symmetry by all physical phenomena. It assumes the correctness of quantum laws and Lorentz invariance. Specifically, the CPT theorem states that any Lorentz invariant local quantum field theory with a Hermitian Hamiltonian must have CPT symmetry.990

          Noether's Theorem      Wikipedia: Noether's (first) theorem states that any differentiable symmetry of the action of a physical system has a corresponding conservation law. ... The action of a physical system is the integral over time of a Lagrangian function (which may or may not be an integral over space of a Lagrangian density function), from which the system's behavior can be determined by the principle of least action. Noether's theorem has become a fundamental tool of modern theoretical physics and the calculus of variations. ... For illustration, if a physical system behaves the same regardless of how it is oriented in space, its Lagrangian is rotationally symmetric; from this symmetry, Noether's theorem shows the angular momentum of the system must be conserved. ... Noether's theorem is important, both because of the insight it gives into conservation laws, and also as a practical calculational tool. It allows researchers to determine the conserved quantities from the observed symmetries of a physical system. Conversely, it allows researchers to consider whole classes of hypothetical Lagrangians to describe a physical system. For illustration, suppose that a new field is discovered that conserves a quantity X. Using Noether's theorem, the types of Lagrangians that conserve X because of a continuous symmetry can be determined, and then their fitness judged by other criteria.981

        Experiments and Theory

Experiments and Theory      Experiments (specific instances) and theory (general laws) are related as level and metalevel. There is a dualism. But, actually, they are not qualitatively different. For an experiment is never a single instance, but always a set of instances, for it must be reproducible. In that sense, every experiment has a generality, just as a theory does. These two levels can be conflated, which is how we view Reality, where the facts and the laws coincide. Or the levels can be distinct to various degrees, and completely distinct when the facts are considered to be applications of the rules. Andrius: There are four possible levels (Whether, What, How, Why) for relating facts and rules, and there are six pairs of possible levels, with the wider level reserved for the rules (the imagined observer) and the narrower level reserved for the facts (the imagined observed). Analogously, in Math we have the mathematical structures that describe (on paper) our problem, and we have the mathematical structures that describe how our minds are solving the problem. The two are conflated as Truth. They are distinguished as Model, Implication and Variable. There are six kinds of variables. In life, we have four ways of distinguishing the truths of the heart and the world, given by Whether, What, How, Why we know what we know, and there are six ways that the two truths may be related. 853

     Thought experiments in Physics      Wikipedia lists thought experiments in Physics: Galileo's ship (classical relativity principle) 1632, Galileo's Leaning Tower of Pisa experiment (rebuttal of Aristotelian Gravity), GHZ experiment (quantum mechanics), Heisenberg's microscope (quantum mechanics), Kepler's Dream (change of point of view as support for the Copernican hypothesis), Ladder paradox (special relativity), Laplace's demon, Maxwell's demon (thermodynamics) 1871, Monkey and the Hunter, The (gravitation), Moving magnet and conductor problem, Newton's cannonball (Newton's laws of motion), Popper's experiment (quantum mechanics), Quantum pseudo telepathy (quantum mechanics), Quantum suicide (quantum mechanics), Schrödinger's cat (quantum mechanics), Sticky bead argument (general relativity), Renninger negative-result experiment (quantum mechanics), Twin paradox (special relativity), Wheeler's delayed choice experiment (quantum mechanics), Wigner's friend (quantum mechanics)856

               Brownian ratchet      Wikipedia: Richard Feynman's "perpetual motion" machine that does not violate the second law and does no work at thermal equilibrium839

               Einstein's box      Wikipedia: Einstein considers a box (called Einstein's box; see figure) containing electromagnetic radiation and a clock which controls the opening of a shutter which covers a hole made in one of the walls of the box. The shutter uncovers the hole for a time Δt which can be chosen arbitrarily. During the opening, we are to suppose that a photon, from among those inside the box, escapes through the hole. In this way a wave of limited spatial extension has been created, following the explanation given above. In order to challenge the indeterminacy relation between time and energy, it is necessary to find a way to determine with adequate precision the energy that the photon has brought with it. At this point, Einstein turns to his celebrated relation between mass and energy of special relativity: E = mc2. From this it follows that knowledge of the mass of an object provides a precise indication about its energy. The argument is therefore very simple: if one weighs the box before and after the opening of the shutter and if a certain amount of energy has escaped from the box, the box will be lighter.... Bohr showed that, in order for Einstein's experiment to function, the box would have to be suspended on a spring in the middle of a gravitational field. ... 843