May the Force Be With You

Written by: Tony Harris, January 31, 2016


As storm troopers march on, heralding the biggest ever Hollywood box office success, we should perhaps ask ourselves what is ‘force’. There are actually only four known forces in the universe. Gravitation is a force. This is a force that exists between any two objects of mass. Since the earth has such enormous mass, it is readily experienced in our daily life as all the objects that we come into contact with are attracted to the earth. Then there are the ‘weak’ force and the ‘strong’ force. We don’t really experience these much. Well, only insofar as they hold atoms together and so we actually do experience them in everything we see, touch, smell, taste and hear! But it has always been our experience that atoms tend to stay together so we don’t think about them much.

Electromagnetism is the last force. Once we had thought that there were two forces, electricity and magnetism. However, in 1865 the Scottish physicist, Maxwell, produced equations demonstrating that they were actually different phenomenon of the same force. Then he took one of those leaps in understanding, which defy any logical progression, that elucidate the fundamental fabric of world in which we live. He showed how their combined action produced electromagnetic waves. Electromagnetic waves cover ‘radio frequency’ (where E&I play) and lower frequencies, up through microwave, to light, to x-ray, gamma waves and higher frequencies. Everything that we see or can detect emits or interacts with electromagnetic waves.

So that is everything right? Well not quite. There is this stuff called ‘dark matter’. Although it might sound like a skeleton in grandma’s closet, it is actually a little more copious; depending I suppose upon your grandmother. It is thought that ‘dark matter’ actually constitutes almost 85% of the matter in the universe and frolics about in the Milky Way amongst other places. We are not even sure what it is made up of. We only know that it does respond to gravitational forces but not electromagnetic.

Indeed, there may be other forces on the ‘dark side’ which we are yet to learn about. Adjusted for inflation, ‘Gone with the Wind’ is the currently highest revenue grossing film. Time will tell if the Star Wars will supersede the Civil War.

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