Mankind has a history of more than 5,000 years of civilization. In the long thousands of years, human civilization has not ushered in a period of real rapid development. It was not until the beginning of the industrial revolution hundreds of years ago that human beings entered the road of technological development, that human civilization truly entered a new era and opened the road of rapid development of science.
The prerequisite for the development of science and technology is the continuous update and advancement of basic science. If there is no breakthrough in basic science, no matter how hard humans work, science and technology can only stay in place and cannot achieve qualitative breakthroughs.
In order to make a major breakthrough in basic science, it requires the birth and dedication of great scientists. In the age of science and technology for hundreds of years, some great scientists, such as Newton and Einstein, were born.
Newton realized gravitation through a falling apple, which gave human physics a direction for striving forward. Einstein is even the greatest scientist of the last century. He has many achievements in his life, such as the mass-energy equation and the theory of relativity.
The scientific community has once ranked the great scientists who have appeared in the scientific and technological era of mankind for hundreds of years. Among them, Einstein is at the top of the list, which shows how lofty his status in the scientific community is. Many people may say that Einstein’s greatest achievement is the theory of relativity, and the greatest scientific wealth left to mankind is also the theory of relativity. Is this really the case?
It is undeniable that the theory of relativity has made a huge contribution to the scientific community. It opened a new path of physical exploration, giving us a basic direction for exploration in space and time. So is this the greatest wealth he left to mankind? Of course not. In fact, Einstein’s greatest wealth left to mankind is not a great scientific theory, but an abstract “thought experiment.”
Some people may not understand: What is a “thought experiment”? The so-called “thought experiments” are actually experiments conducted in the mind using imagination. These experiments cannot be done in reality. Einstein was able to put forward the theory of relativity, and was able to put forward all kinds of incredible advanced theories. It was through “thought experiments” that he completed a series of acting experiments in his mind.
In the eyes of many people, scientific experiments need to be carried out in reality. If it is impossible to carry out in reality, there is no way for humans to achieve it. However, Einstein’s great success has opened up a new scientific direction for us, allowing countless scientists to understand the importance of “thought experiments” on the road of scientific exploration.
If all scientific explorations of mankind are based on actual experiments, instead of using “thought experiments”, then the pace of human science will not be as fast as it is now. We must know that the scientific achievements of mankind in the past 100 years are so fast that we ourselves feel incredible. The reason for the rapid progress of science and technology has a huge relationship with the emergence of Einstein’s “thought experiment”.
In the eyes of many people, isn’t the “thought experiment” just thinking about it? Everyone will do this kind of cranky. If you think so, then you are quite wrong. Yes, thinking about problems in your brain is somewhat similar to cranky thinking, but our usual cranky thinking is unstructured thinking.
Einstein’s “thought experiment” uses logical reasoning in the brain to derive equations that govern nature. This ability is not available to everyone. If every scientist had a super “thought experiment”, then the second and third Einstein would have been born long ago.
But we all know that since Einstein’s death to the present, mankind has not yet born a great scientist like Einstein. It can be seen that the “thought experiment” is also divided into levels and quality. Everyone can think about some scientific problems in their own minds, and even carry out more boldly imagined forward thinking, but they can turn this kind of forward thinking into reality. The science that can be applied in, but not everyone can do it.
Under the guidance of the “thought experiment” left by Einstein, the scientific community understood the importance of “thought experiment” for scientific exploration. So when later scientists were unable to solve problems in real experiments, they would use “thought experiments” to make some derivations.
Although not everyone can have the super “thought experiment” ability like Einstein, but through “thought experiment”, scientists have indeed put forward advanced scientific theories on many issues, such as string theory and multiverse theory. The product of the “thought experiment”. It’s just these, we still have no way to carry out reality verification.
There are ten famous thought experiments in the history of human science, and we will select a few of them for a brief introduction.
1. The tram problem. The “tram problem” is one of the most well-known thought experiments in the field of ethics. Its content is roughly as follows: a madman tied five innocent people to the tram track. An out-of-control tram drove towards them and was about to crush them in a moment. Fortunately, you can pull a lever to make the tram go to another track. But there is another problem. The madman also tied a person on that other track. Considering the above situation, should you pull the lever?
2. Einstein’s light, Einstein’s famous special theory of relativity was inspired by his thought experiment at the age of 16. In his autobiography, Einstein recalled that he was dreaming of searching for a light in the universe. He reasoned that if he could move beside the light at the speed of light, then he should be able to see the light become “an electromagnetic field that constantly oscillates in space but stagnates.”
For Einstein, this thought experiment proved that for this virtual observer, all the laws of physics should be the same as those observed by an observer who is stationary relative to the earth.
3. The Ship of Theseus, one of the oldest thought experiments. The earliest records from Plutarch. It describes a ship that can sail at sea for hundreds of years, thanks to uninterrupted repairs and replacement parts. As long as a board rots, it will be replaced, and so on, until all the functional parts are not the original ones.
The question is, is the resulting ship still the original ship of Theseus, or a completely different ship? If it is not the original ship, when is it no longer the original ship?
4. Chinese Room, “Chinese Room” was first proposed by American philosopher John Searle in the early 1980s. This experiment requires you to imagine a person who only speaks English in a room, which is closed except for a small window on the door. He carried a book with Chinese translation procedures. There is enough manuscript paper, pencils and cabinets in the room. The paper with Chinese written on it was sent into the room through a small window.
According to Searle’s theory, people in the room can use his book to translate these words and reply in Chinese. Although he can’t speak Chinese at all, Searle believes that through this process, the people in the room can make anyone outside the room think that he can speak fluent Chinese.
5. Schrödinger’s cat, Schrödinger’s cat was first proposed by the physicist Schrödinger, which is a paradox in the field of quantum mechanics. The content is: a cat, some radioactive elements, and a bottle of poison gas are enclosed in a box for one hour.
Within an hour, the radioactive element has a 50% chance of decay. If it decays, then a hammer connected to a Geiger counter will be triggered and break the bottle, release poisonous gas, and kill the cat. Because the probability of this event happening is equal, Schrödinger believes that the cat in the box is considered both dead and alive before the box is opened.
Thinking experiments require imagination, not senses. Einstein once said: “The truth of theory is in your mind, not in your eyes. There has not been a major breakthrough in modern science. We have not yet found a new direction for exploration. The main reason is that there has not been a person who can carry out superpowers. Great scientist of thought experiment.
Anyone can do thought experiments in their own minds, but if you want to turn the advanced and subvert people’s cognition experiments into reality, then not everyone can do it. And those who can do this will undoubtedly become a great scientist like Einstein. This kind of thought experiment may be a kind of innate ability, something that some people have innately, not how hard you want to achieve it.
Scientists who have real thought experiments are all genius scientists, who are able to do it through later efforts after God has given this kind of talent. In the history of science, there are countless scientists who have worked harder than Einstein, but no one can surpass him. This is why not everyone has the gift of thought experimentation.
Of course, with the continuous development of human civilization, there will be many great scientists like Einstein who are gifted in thought experiments in the future. It is these great scientists who applied their own thought experiments to create new basic scientific theories and guide human civilization to move forward.