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Newton’s Cradle

The strict particle model presented in my book on physics makes no distinction between the quantum level and macro level when it comes to motion.

For example, electrons do not magically hover in cloud formations around atomic nuclei. They bounce up and down in harmonic resonance with the nuclei.

This means that we can use classical physics to explain the subatomic. This requires an aether and a few special rules when it comes to the exact structure of subatomic particles, but nothing too outrageous. There is no need for anything completely new or unheard of.

The study of motion at the macro level becomes the same as the study of motion at the subatomic. Experiments performed by Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton can be directly applied to our thinking about the subatomic.

An interesting setup in this respect is Newton’s cradle which illustrates how energy is propagated from one object to another.

In our mind’s eye, we can scale this setup down to the molecular or subatomic. We can imagine the cradle to be a line up of molecules, or part of the surface of an atomic nucleus.

When such a setup is hit by an incoming object, energy propagates through it like a pressure wave. We can imagine the subatomic particles involved being inflated and subsequently deflated as the wave progresses through the setup.

The last particle in the setup will be hit by the full force of the energy wave. If free to move, it escapes the setup. If securely fastened, the energy wave rushes back again.

We can imagine a molecule vibrating for a long time after a direct hit. We can equally easily imagine the surface of an atomic nucleus oscillating at a given frequency after being hit by an energetic electron.

As for the macro setup of Newton’s cradle itself, we can imagine each steel ball as enormous molecules. The pressure wave resulting from the first steel ball hitting the next expands through each ball before concentrating all energy at a point directly at the other side, at the exact point where the neighboring ball lies at rest. Energy is in this manner transferred from one ball to the other.

What happens at the subatomic is exactly the same as what is happening at the macro level. Energy is transferred from one object to another in a wavelike manner, and it is the time delay in doing this that we generally refer to as inertia.

If two perfectly elastic objects of identical inertia collide, one being in motion and the other at rest, all kinetic energy is moved from the incoming object to the target object. This is because the time delay required for the transfer is identical for the two objects.

However, if the incoming object has more inertia than the target, the incoming object will have too little time to transfer all its energy to the target. The target is thus put in motion without completely stopping the incoming object.

If the incoming object has less inertia than the target, we get the same problem, but with opposite effect. The incoming object hits the larger and more sluggish object. The time required to distribute energy through the larger object is too long for the smaller incoming object. Only a small percentage of the energy is therefore transferred. The smaller object bounces back out the way it came, with only a portion of its energy transferred to the larger object.

This is why bullets do not slow down very much as they cut through the air. Even if the total weight of the air between a gun and its target is more than the weight of the bullet, each air molecule is so tiny that they do not have the time to absorb much energy.

Things of vastly different inertia, or energy level, do not interact strongly with each other. There is a mismatch in time delay for strong interaction to occur. This in turn, explains why zero-point particles interact strongly with each other and weakly with their energetic counterparts.

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