I noticed that physicists use the word physical as an adjective to modify many different types of words. I was curious to understand how physical modifies the words it is applied to as an adjective. It appears that physical is like a physical operator: it maps a non-physical word into physics:
Physical takes a plain word W and it transforms it into a property of physics. PW is a new word, not a modified W. For instance, adjectives small and large may change the scale of the word but physical changes its meaning and effectively creates a new word. Since physics is immune to semantic arguments from non-physicists I am not worried that this article will cause any kind of harm to physics. Just for my own understanding.
I noticed that the most important difference is with quantity and physical quantity.
Quantity and physical quantity
There is a fundamental difference between quantity and physical quantity. Physics assumes as an unstated truth that what is measured is physical:
This is not true. The pun that what is measured is necessarily physical is a professional propaganda.
Measurement is defined like this:
measured quantity = a unit – measured multiple of the unit
There is no other way to measure and there is nothing in measurement that says that what is measured is physical or not physical . Therefore what is measured is quantity not physical quantity.
Meaning and physical meaning
Physical meaning is
physics that is hidden behind a mathematical construction.
There is something called physics and this thing is hidden behind a mathematical construction. This sounds a lot like mysticism to me. I thought that physics was a mathematical science and not metamathematical mysticism. The prototypical hidden meaning hidden behind a mathematical construction gracing physics has been the occult, i.e., hidden Newtonian force. As I understand it, physical meaning is not related to measurement, it is an interpretation of the hidden.
Reasoning and physical reasoning
Reasoning without the “physical” is rationalism. As rational scientists we treat the mathematical framework as a mathematical framework and do not assume that there is hidden “physics” in mathematics. In mathematics we look for mathematical objects, like patterns. Physical reasoning on the other hand assumes that nature is physical therefore there must be hidden physics behind the mathematics and looks for them. And finds them. How? By labeling mathematical patterns with colorful labels and calling them physical fields, physical particles, physical forces and physical anything. Therefore, if physical semantics is practiced by physicists it is legal physics. The world is only semantically physical.
Model and physical model
In this case model is called physical because it is a model that explains physical nature. So nature is physical pun again.
Theory and physical theory
Physical theories have hidden physics in them. Where are they? Again you can find them in colorful labels. A proportionality constant may be called “Newton’s universal constant of gravity” and because it is called “Newton’s universal constant of gravity” a proportionality constant is assumed to be a physical constant of nature. All these suggest that what physicists mean by physics is “label mechanics.” Or more correctly “legal labels mechanics.”
Observable and physical observable
Physical observable is a physics term of art. What is measured is not an observable what is measured is distance.
Law and physical law
Law legislate society. Physical law legislates nature.
Commentary and physical commentary
Personally I see nothing wrong that physicists fit measurements into an elaborate legal system called mechanics, pardon me, physical mechanics, because this is how nature works. Standard is the thing. As Buckminster Fuller said
There are no solids. There are no things. There are only interfering and noninterfering patterns operative in pure principle . . .
I would say “in pure definition” because the world is definitional. The world is physical only by definition. It’s not surprising that physicists’ Standard Model explains observations well. It is a fit to observations in which various mathematical patterns are labeled by physicists with ideological labels. Standard Model is a definition. If physicists dropped their search for hidden physics and saved phenomena with mathematics then physics will look more like a science. Shut up and fit, as Max Tegmark would say. But this is impossible. In physics Newton’s words are sacred. Newton decreed in the Principia that his disciples shall search for hidden qualities in nature by studying motion. This is the physical program Newton ordered his disciples to continue to do until the second coming of the Kingdom of Science. Don’t hold your breath. A bureaucratic habit can never be changed. And looking for hidden physics in nature is a strong physical habit of a huge bureaucracy. It will never change.