Square Water Ripples
Monday, June 04, 2007
If someone offered you the ability to change one physical law or physical phenomenon, what would you choose?
I have thought about this (don't ask why), and I can only think of one thing. No, it's not to reverse gravity, or change the speed of light.
I want to make water ripples propagate in square shapes.
As simple and beautiful as the circles left behind when water drops fall on a calm lake, I want to see square ripples.
The simple fact of changing this phenomenon would change our whole universe. For one, Newton's elegant inverse law of gravitation would stop predicting gravitational motions around massive things. E would not equal mc2
Changing how a water ripple propagates is likely to affect the molecular structure of matter. The ripples we see are the result of matter reacting to an external force; in this case the water drop has an effect on the entropy of the whole system.
What we see in water ripples are molecules obeying natural laws, which generate chain reactions among millions of electrons orbiting small nuclei. Making the chain reaction to represent itself in square "waves" should change everything. It is a case of energy propagation. And for some reason, a perfect circle is the most efficient to do this. So forcing it to be a square brings up a set of different physical laws.
Increasing or decreasing the speed of light presents different challenges. But the speed of light is a fundamental truth for us, and we can't really "see" it (forget the electromagnetic waves that represent colours). Changing gravity is interesting, too, but what is gravity anyway? Is it really the curvature of space produced by massive objects?
Changing ripples to square shapes seems to be less harmful than updating one of the constants of the universe, yet much more interesting to look at, and with unmeasurable consequences.
Would the earth be round? Would a straight line be the shortest distance between two points in a "sphere"? I'm venturing to say no.
Note (Nov 28, 2008): I have had a few requests about permission to use this image in different places. I neither took the picture nor own the rights to it. I found it here http://people.rit.edu/andpph/exhibit-3.html
If I were the thing granting your wish, I'd probably do something clever by making water non-newtonian in an exciting way which, with appropriate localised boundary theories in the laws of the universe, wouldn't have to affect very much at all...