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Deep in thought: What is a “law of physics,” anyway?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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One thing that’s both disconcerting and exhilarating about physics is how many seemingly simple questions remain unanswered. When you hear the questions that physicists struggle with, you sometimes say to yourself, Wait, you mean they don’t even know that? Physics might be defined as the subject that tries to figure out why the world may look incomprehensibly complex at first, but on closer examination is governed by simple laws. Those laws, applied repeatedly, build up the complexity. From this definition, you’d presume that physicists have at least sorted out what they mean by "law".


Why should nature be governed by laws? Why should those laws be expressible in terms of mathematics? Why should they be formulated within space and time? These were the questions posed at a fascinating workshop two weeks ago at the Perimeter Institute, the sequel to a workshop held at Arizona State University in December 2008. One of the participants, Sabine Hossenfelder, talked about it yesterday at Backreaction, one of the most consistently thoughtful of all physics blogs. The bottom line is that the organizers had better start planning on more sequels, because the questions seem as intractable as ever.

I don’t think I’d ever been to a conference quite like this workshop. Where else could I have heard a derivation of the theory of quantum mechanics, an argument against polytheism, and a trick for giving directions to a place you don’t know, all in the span of a couple of hours? The participants were a mix of physicists and academic philosophers. These two communities were very close in the days of Einstein, but then drifted apart. In his book Dreams of a Final Theory, particle physicist Steven Weinberg had a chapter entitled "Against Philosophy" that summarized the disdain physicists of his generation felt for the subject. But as I wrote in an essay several years ago, times are changing, largely because many physicists think their search for a unified theory is stalling for a failure to think through philosophical questions. At meetings where the two groups come together, they strike me as quite compatible. The philosophers in attendance tend to have training in physics, and the physicists, even if they can’t tell their Hegel from their Heidegger, are eager to learn.

Their main difference is style. Physicists tend to speak rather loosely and rely on mathematics to back them up, whereas philosophers are more meticulous rhetorically (sometime to a fault). Physicists also have a tendency of interrupting speakers with questions early and often, preventing the philosophers from ever getting to their point. "Philosophers are much more civilized than physicists are," mused (physicist) Niayesh Afshordi.

What really made this workshop odd, though, is that, with a few exceptions, the talks were long on assertions and short on arguments. It was essentially a three-day brainstorming session, meant to provoke and send the participants home with new ideas they might eventually weave into their work, rather than convey concrete results. That very quality makes writing a blog post about it as challenging as summarizing Proust. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and settle back.

What are laws?

The first several speakers went straight for the question of what laws are. Among them were philosopher John Roberts of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Video of his talk is here.) A law not only describes a pattern in nature, but distinguishes between patterns that arise by chance and those that are always there, independent of the particulars of a situation. What this means is frustratingly tricky to pin down, and it gets worse when you talk about the entire universe. If the universe is all there is, how could it have been any different? If it couldn’t have, then what’s the difference between a chance pattern and an inherent one?

Roberts reviewed some leading philosophical schools of thought, found them wanting, and argued that the concept of a law is inseparable from the way that physicists discover laws. Their main tool is a controlled experiment, which, by its very nature, looks for patterns that hold whatever the specific conditions might be. I confess that I didn’t understand how Roberts’s approach helps with the questions we most care about: Why is nature is patterned rather than chaotic? Why does a law gleaned from one situation (say, falling apples) works in unrelated situations (orbiting planets)? But it does seem useful to acknowledge that our laws, even if they capture some objective reality, are conditioned by our process of discovery.

The following speaker, physicist Marcelo Gleiser of Dartmouth, made a similar point in a physics-y way: science, he said, is very tool-dependent. But he then went off in a different direction, arguing that a final theory is a false dream because new tools invariably mean new discoveries. Backreaction has more commentary on his talk, which you can watch for yourself, and there’s always Gleiser’s new book. Throughout the workshop, the participants kept returning to the concern that there may be no final, unified theory, but only a patchwork of theories.

My own reaction was that although it’s useful to caution against clinging to preconceived ideas about a final theory, Gleiser was too insistent on seeing the glass of physics as half-empty. We may be ignorant of much, but we know a remarkable amount, too, and everything we see indicates that nature is governed by simple laws. Observers are making new discoveries all the time, but new discoveries don’t mean new laws. The vast bulk of what they find can be understood using existing laws, and the exceptions arise in situations where laws come into conflict, suggesting that reconciling them will provide an explanation for the exceptions, too.

In the question-and-answer period after Gleiser’s talk, astrophysicist and novelist Janna Levin of Columbia University, made a good point that although physicists often draw a contrast between observation and pure thought, our minds are shaped by the physical world, so our thoughts, too, represent an indirect form of observation.

A later speaker, physicist David Wolpert of the NASA Ames Research Center, also sounded some caution. The main purpose of laws is to make reliable predictions, but this goal might be inherently unachievable. Using a variant of the argument that Kurt Gödel used to prove his incompleteness theorems, Wolpert showed that there are predictions that physicists can never guarantee to be correct. One cute implication is the "monotheism theorem": there can be at most one omniscient god. If there were two, they’re be able to read each others’ minds and run into paradoxes of circularity. For more, watch the talk, read the paper, or, even better, reread your John Milton.

How do physicists choose laws and test them?

Philosopher Chris Smeenk of the University of Western Ontario picked up the question of how to formulate a law of the entire universe. A law typically applies to multiple situations such as reproducible experiments, yet there is only one universe. But he argued that a unique universe still has multiple levels of approximation. Physicists routinely start with a crude guess for planetary orbits or particle behavior and gradually refine it. Each of these steps of refinement, Smeenk suggested, is a distinct situation that allows you to test the laws. Watch the video here.

In the Q&A period, English physicist Julian Barbour said that people overstate the role of reproducible experiments in classical physics, anyway. In practice, a single experiment can be plenty. Only in quantum physics does repetition become essential, because quantum theory is probabilistic and probability implies multiple instances.

I found common ground between Smeenk’s talk and a later one by Carnegie Mellon philosopher Kevin Kelly. Kelly sought to explain Occam’s razor: the precept that the best law is the simplest one that fits the data. The razor is one of those ideas that physicists use all the time without really thinking why — or whether it causes them to see simplicity that isn’t necessarily there. The leading argument for why the razor works comes from probability theory and holds that simple theories really are more likely to be correct than complex ones; American Scientist magazine had a fantastic article in 1991 that laid out the case. But Kelly put forward a different explanation: the razor works because a simpler law is less likely than a complex one to be retracted. It can be considered the first step in a series of successive approximations. It might need to be enhanced and augmented, but it’s less likely to be flat-out wrong.

Kelly compared it to giving road directions. Suppose a driver comes up to you and asks for directions to a place you don’t know. You want to be helpful and not admit your ignorance. What should you do? The trick is to choose the route that leads to the most places — probably the nearest freeway or the road leading downtown. That way, you’ve got the best chance of sending them the right way and sparing them from having to double-back. Kelly said Occam’s razor puts physicists on the best route to the right law, even if it can’t pick out that law. Video of his talk is here.

Is time illusory or real?

The real fireworks at the workshop came from disagreements over time — not over whether the speakers were running behind schedule and cutting into the coffee breaks, but over whether time itself is a derived concept or a fundamental one. Does time emerge from something deeper or is it an irreducible part of the natural world? In our current issue, philosopher Craig Callender of U.C. San Diego lays out the case for the first option, based partly on Barbour’s ideas.

Barbour has a typically English understated sense of humor. "I’m happy to let go of time," he told the workshop participants. "I did it about 40 years ago." His talk, which you can watch here, was masterful, if unconventional. It did not lay out a scientific argument in the usual sense: a pile of data and formulas that bludgeon even the hardest skeptic into grudging acceptance. Rather, Barbour took us on a guided walk through the forest of his fertile mind.

For instance, as a metaphor for the universe, he drew a circle (see photo above) with 24 red and blue dots. There was a logic to the coloring: it maximized the variety of color sequences around the circumference. If you didn’t know the color of a dot, you could deduce it by looking at all the others and figuring out which color would maximize the variety of the whole. It reminded me of one of those logic puzzles where you don’t know what color hat you have on your head, but can figure it out by seeing what hats everyone else is wearing.

The universe, Barbour suggested, is a bit like this. The particles that constitute it do not have built-in properties such as spatial position. Instead those properties arise from the relations among the particles. A particle is ascribed a certain position by virtue of what relations it bears to all the other components. He described how particle relations might be categorized geometrically and how such basic concepts as position, length, duration, and simultaneity can then be derived. The only geometric property he had to presume, rather than derive, was angles between lines. In fact, if you think about it, when do you ever observe a length? You always infer length from angles, such as the angle between light rays subtended at your eyes.

Barbour is not the only physicist to argue that the fundamental laws of nature are "conformally invariant," meaning that they have no built-in sense of scale, but do involve angles. In a theory such as relativity theory, those angles represent cause-effect relations.

The main trouble I had with the talk was that I didn’t see how the abstract ideas related to the world we experience. Time seems so real. How did it arise? Why is the world structured in the very special way that is needed to give rise to time? In short, what do we really gain by saying that time isn’t real?

Talks by two other physicists put some flesh on the bones of the emergent-time idea. Kevin Knuth of the University of Albany showed how you can begin with a network of cause-effect relations and recover space and time from them. For more details, read his paper or roll the video. Philip Goyal of Perimeter showed that you can even recover the entire theory of quantum mechanics from such a network. His talk is here.

An irony is that Barbour used to be a lonely voice for this option, but it is becoming the mainstream view. It is now more radical to suggest that time is foundational. That is what the unlikely pairing of physicist Lee Smolin of Perimeter and political philosopher Roberto Unger of Harvard Law School did. Like Barbour, they didn’t really present an argument, but a manifesto.

Smolin took issue with what he called the Newtonian Paradigm, the conceptual division of nature into two elements: (a) the state of the world, and (b) the laws of physics. The state of the world is defined in space. In classical mechanics, such as the rules that govern a pool table, the state consists of the positions and velocities of objects. The laws of physics operate in time. They take one state to the next. Smolin suggested that this framework, though it works well for everyday situations, runs off the rails when applied to the entire universe. It leads to conclusions that he and Unger called absurd, such as the "block universe" — the proposition that all times, past and future, are equally real. Watch their tag-team talk here.

The most tangible idea I took away is that if time is real and the future is genuinely open, then the laws of physics might themselves change. You can either take the laws of nature as fixed, in which case time emerges, or take time as fixed, in which case the laws of nature evolve. To me, this sounds like the restatement of a controversial argument made by the French physicist Henri Poincaré a century ago. Smolin and Unger find the latter view more natural, but it runs into two immediate problems: What evidence is there that the laws have ever changed? And if they do change, are those changes themselves subject to laws? If so, you’re either caught in an endless regress of laws, meta-laws, meta-meta-laws, and on and on, or you have to suppose that some laws really are fixed.

Ultimately, the manifesto will prove its worth only if it leads to a fleshed-out theory. The best attempts so far are Smolin’s own cosmological natural selection, Fotini Markopoulou’s quantum graphity model for spacetime, and Petr Horava’s emergent-space proposal.

Could black holes be responsible for the accelerating universe?

By this point, my head was throbbing with deep thoughts. Niayesh Afshordi’s talk came as a relief. It had equations! It cited observations! It made predictions! It didn’t tell me that everything I thought I knew was wrong! All it tried to do was explain away dark energy. At any other conference, that would have counted as dauntingly radical. Here, it was effacingly modest.

The model he presented took off from two speculative but plausible ideas. First, space is filled with an invisible fluid — an aether — as predicted by some proposed quantum theories of gravity, such as Horava’s. Second, black holes give off feeble radiation, as predicted by almost every quantum gravity theory. Afshordi calculates that the radiation should heat the aether and, like bringing a pot of water to a boil, generate a (negative) pressure throughout the cosmos. Such a pressure is the quintessential attribute of dark energy and has the consequence of speeding up cosmic expansion.

In other words, quantum gravitational effects might mimic dark energy. This model neatly explains why cosmic acceleration began several billion years ago rather than all the way back at the big bang: it took a while for black holes to form and heat up the aether. The paper is worth reading, and the talk isn’t bad, either.

If you’ve made it all the way to the end of this blog post, you have truly proven yourself an aficionado of physics, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments section! You’ll be pleased to learn that I hope to invite many of these researchers to present their ideas in the print magazine over the coming years.

Photograph of Julian Barbour by George Musser

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  1. 1. hastigo 2:54 pm 06/8/2010

    There’s a word I didn’t read which for me better exemplifies Occam’s
    It is…<i>parsimony</i>.
    Which emphasizes that the best is the least, the most economic
    thesis, presentation or idea.

    Lovely ‘take’ …wish I’d been there too…nonetheless

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  2. 2. hastigo 3:13 pm 06/8/2010

    There’s a word I didn’t read which for me better exemplifies Occam’s
    It is…<i>parsimony</i>.
    Which emphasizes that the best is the least, the most economic thesis, presentation or idea.

    Lovely ‘take’ …wish I’d been there too…nonetheless

    P.S. the ‘marco polo’ link is redirected

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  3. 3. gmusser 3:25 pm 06/8/2010

    That quote was meant to be tongue in cheek.

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  4. 4. gmusser 3:28 pm 06/8/2010

    True: I was being a little sloppy here. An emergent property is real, even if it is not fundamental.

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  5. 5. jack.123 6:28 pm 06/8/2010

    It never stops amazing me that when I look up at the starlight,the photons that I am looking at are millions if not billions of years old,and the fact that there may signals hidden within the light makes it even more awesome.

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  6. 6. jtdwyer 8:26 pm 06/8/2010

    blockbuy – The expansion of spacetime is indicated by the ubiquitous redshift of light from distant galaxies. Relatively nearby galaxies (in the ‘Local Group’ or cluster of galaxies) are orbiting their collective mass, often moving towards us (observers in the Solar system), but all distant galaxies appear to be receding away from the Milky Way (actually all distant galaxies, including the Milky Way, effectively recede away from each other, since the intervening intergalactic spacetime is expanding).

    There is no indication that spacetime within galaxies is expanding.

    Wikipedia is generally an outstanding source of information, and it’s free. However, I can’t recommend their entry on universal expansion very highly as an introduction. In lieu of a better source, issue a Search for ‘expanding universe’, for example, at:

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  7. 7. Maritza 1:23 am 06/9/2010

    Your exposition is excellent and illuminating as to the morass in which physics has been sinking during the past two decades. I have nothing against philosophy, but it seems we are going back to theMiddle Ages. The quest for a final theory is really a metaphysical aspiration and ois leading physics deeper and deeper into so called scientific theories which by their very nature cannot be falsified. On the other hand, these so called theories have done away with Occam’s razor, as the number of unprovable string thories increases almost exponentially; the same is happening to the number of so called fundamental particles hypothesized to explain imaginary processes postulated by the zoo of string theories. At present we have many more ad hoc "fundamental particles" than before the Standard Model. Whatever happened to reductionism? The word may not be politically correct right now but it is inevitably linked to the search for the "simple laws" to which physics still aspires.

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  8. 8. Maria Isabel 1:25 am 06/9/2010

    Your exposition is excellent and illuminating as to the morass in which physics has been sinking during the past two decades. I have nothing against philosophy, but it seems we are going back to theMiddle Ages. The quest for a final theory is really a metaphysical aspiration and ois leading physics deeper and deeper into so called scientific theories which by their very nature cannot be falsified. On the other hand, these so called theories have done away with Occam’s razor, as the number of unprovable string thories increases almost exponentially; the same is happening to the number of so called fundamental particles hypothesized to explain imaginary processes postulated by the zoo of string theories. At present we have many more ad hoc "fundamental particles" than before the Standard Model. Whatever happened to reductionism? The word may not be politically correct right now but it is inevitably linked to the search for the "simple laws" to which physics still aspires.

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  9. 9. jtdwyer 5:00 am 06/9/2010

    Isn’t accurate predictive abilities overrated as proof of accurate representation of real physical processes? For example, Ptolemy of Alexandria was able to mathematically predict the motions of the planets in the sky as if they orbited the Earth. For hundreds of years, his successful formulas were regarded of proof that the Sun and planets orbited the Earth.

    Classical Mechanics models gravitation as an imaginary attractive force. General Relativity does not describe a physical force producing the gravitational effect; it only represents the effect that the presence of mass imparts to a system of space-time coordinates. Quantum Mechanics does not support particle mass: matter collapses when a quantum gravitational effect is introduced.

    While these models produce useful results simulating specific effects, they obviously do not adequately reflect the physical processes producing those effects. Quantum Mechanics even
    includes algorithms that do not represent any known physical processes, but are required for the model to produce accurate results. Experienced modelers used to call these ‘fudge factors’, referring to the practice pushing a shot in a game of marbles.

    Since these models do not represent physical processes but merely mimic their results, there is no conceptual basis for integrating them. As long as our objective is merely to calculate useful results for discrete problems, we have little chance of guessing a grand unified theory of everything. At least, not without a lot of ‘fudging’.

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  10. 10. jsilbert 5:56 am 06/9/2010

    Thanks for an illuminating summary of a very exciting colloquium.
    It is amazing to me, however, that questions about laws, time, patterns, quantum entanglement, etc., can be discussed without any reference to consciousness. Are we looking at Schiaparelli’s canals?
    More amazing is that not only does nothing in modern physics explain the phenomenon of consciousness…the question never even comes up!

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  11. 11. gmusser 9:52 am 06/9/2010

    I don’t quite agree. No one is talking of abandoning the search for empirically verifiable laws – it’s just that this search demands us to confront philosophical questions. Historically, questions that people used to think were purely metaphysical were in fact physical as well. For instance, the concept of the atom was once thought to be metaphysical; how could you ever observe such a tiny thing? Now we regularly observe and manipulate them. So I would be careful about calling anything "unprovable" or saying that a theory cannot be verified "by its very nature". Such statements never stand the test of time.

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  12. 12. 10:55 am 06/9/2010

    As to the existence of time, from the standpoint of this individual (non-physicist, cracker-barrel philosopher), the ‘past’ has never been directly experienced nor the future. The only direct and verifiable ‘time’ is this moment. Thus, the multitude of inferences are what is called in Zen, "putting legs on a snake". However, I would not be a party pooper and speculation on the (unobservable) nature of reality is great fun.

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  13. 13. Carlton22 11:24 am 06/9/2010

    We are in a box and trying to determine the who, what, when, where and why of how the box was created and the rules that govern conditions in the box.

    Lets, for a minute, think outside of the box. Imagine that you are infinite Light, Energy and Consciousness and that you want to expand your awareness of yourself. Where do you begin? You are unbound and unlimited therefore you do not want to limit yourself and your potential to be more of yourself and yet you do not want to empower an untested potential of yourself with the power to destroy yourself. So what do you do?

    One thing you could do would be to compartmentalize a portion of yourself wherein you could allow a process of self discovery for each unique potential identity of yourself to explore. Because you are trying to expand your awareness of yourself you do not want to impose your will on the developing potential, you want it to self-discover and self create an aspect of self that is unique and that will expand your own self awareness of yourself. You would probably want to establish a matrix (time, space, dimension, etc) in which the developing self could navigate and which would delineate the self from other developing selves otherwise it would not be able to differentiate itself from the whole and that would defeat the purpose.

    The compartment, the matrix, the self and everything in the compartmentalized environment would be composed of your own Light, Energy and Consciousness and would Innately be Intelligent. The self would have the powers to create and use your Light, Energy and Consciousness in performing the acts of creation just as you do. But again, you do not want the self to inadvertently self destruct, and yet you do not want to interfere in the process of self discovery. You want some kind of self correcting mechanism whereby the self will learn from its experiments in self discovery. The self has a unique identity and all energy that the self uses would be stamped with that identity. Because the self is in a compartment, the energy used by the self cannot escape to harm yourself and therefore must return to the unique self and this would be the mechanism of learning whereby the effects of the use of that energy would be made known to that self so that it may self correct.

    Of course there would be many other aspects of the compartment that would in some way "mimic" the Totality outside of the compartment but which would allow an orderly environment, laws and principles, that apply within the compartment but which begin to blur at the edges.

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  14. 14. Glenk 12:35 pm 06/9/2010

    I imagine the speed of light is a fundamental property of the Big Bang. A weaker BB, slower light, stronger BB faster light. I also imagine that all matter, not just light is endowed with this BB speed. You, me, my atoms, yours, my flashlight, all moving at the speed of light, but parallel to each other so we don’t notice it. We just get older. If I turn on the flashlight, the light exits perpendicular to us and we say it went 186,000 MPH. In between us relatively stationary people and the light ray are those things moving at less than the speed of light. They move at some angle through space-time and the trigonometry of that angle gives us the Lorentz contraction and also time dilation.

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  15. 15. Glenk 12:49 pm 06/9/2010

    jack123, the photon might also be brand spanking new. Only a wave function or "probability wave" came before your eyes from across the cosmos. An atom in your retina got an electron energy bump capturing a photon from a virtual photon/antiphoton pair. I read that then the wave function "collapses". Does it recede back in time to where it originated? Does it take the antiphoton back with it?

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  16. 16. himanshu 4:20 pm 06/9/2010

    This particular paragraph (allow me to paraphrase it as such):

    "The most tangible idea I took away is that if time is real and the future is genuinely open, then the laws of physics might themselves change. You can either take the laws of nature as fixed, in which case time emerges, or take time as fixed, in which case the laws of nature evolve. To me, this sounds like the restatement of a controversial argument made by the French physicist Henri Poincaré a century ago. Smolin and Unger find the latter view more natural, but it runs into two immediate problems: What evidence is there that the laws have ever changed? And if they do change, are those changes themselves subject to laws? If so, you’re either caught in an endless regress of laws, meta-laws, meta-meta-laws, and on and on, or you have to suppose that some laws really are fixed."

    is the most interesting from the philosophical point of view. This is since, speculative realism school of philosophical thought is very close to what gets mentioned here. I do not know, if Meillassoux (the guy with the contingency model) has actually come across this or if the physicists have come across his idea of absolute contingency, wherein, thee laws are such that what doesn’t exist now, could possibly turn up in the future. The coming into existence of god in the future is most notably cited in this regard. Now, I would not know, if you have read the philosopher in question, but, what do you think of this proposition?
    I have not had the time to listen to the lecture, its in the process of downloading at the moment of typing this comment, but would certainly be eager to post a follow up after watching the lecture.
    thank you,
    himanshu damle

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  17. 17. suejones 5:22 pm 06/9/2010

    Scientists propose ontological and epistemological perspectives, without critical analysis, and these are often embedded or implicit in most theories. Such perspectives are tacitly accepted as "true", and yet one only needs to look at the range of quantum interpretations to see that ontology is a complex subject, with no consensus being established on just what "reality" is.

    Add to this the problems of theory laden observations, socia constructivist theories, problems with deduction and induction – at the heart of scientific methodologies – then I for one welcome the reconcilliation of philosophy and science. A critical approach to theoretical frameworks is best done meta theoretically. A great article.

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  18. 18. donzzz 8:37 pm 06/9/2010

    The "Laws of Nature" are neither matter or energy – they are the phenomena that control the action and interaction of all matter and energy in the universe. They are universally invariant, conditions may change but the laws never vary. They created the universe (space) and determined its size. The concept of the "laws of nature" and "universal space" are the same. Where the "laws of nature" end, universal space ends. Nothing can exist beyond their domain, not even space. They are the framework of the universe that give it its personality. What would the universe be like without inertia or gravity, etc.. They create the personality of the universe.

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  19. 19. Frumious 12:56 am 06/10/2010

    Yup- my head hurts too (in a good way)… right, that we experience time as real- and if it’s not, what’s the substrate and why/how do we experience it? One thing that comes to mind is that we are of the same "stuff" as what time "is", and therefor, it is as real as we are. Or not…. …. ….. (Ack!!)

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  20. 20. Roopa 7:27 am 06/10/2010

    After a long time, am reading something really intriguing, fascinating, and this has rekindled the interest I had in Physics many years back. Thanks for the thought-provoking ideas discussed.

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  21. 21. JohnDuffield 9:44 am 06/10/2010

    Very interesting article. Re laws, I was reading "A Zeptospace Odyssey" by CERN’s Gian Franco Giudice who maintains that symmetry dictates the laws of physics. If you don’t have a copy, find it on Amazon, do a search inside on "symmetry", then look at page 151.

    Re time, George, I’ve read your "Hole in the Heart of Physics". Can I volunteer that it’s horribly simple when one sheds all preconceptions and examines what’s actually observable. What clocks "clock up", is motion though space. Time, like heat, is a an emergent property of motion. It exists like heat exists. The temperature of a container of gas is a measure of the average motion of the gas molecules. The thing we call "the time" is a cumulative measure of motion, usually calibrated against the local motion of light. Stop the clock or freeze the frame and you stop motion, not time. You can’t literally climb from one temperature to another, and in similar vein you have no freedom of motion in the time "dimension". Time doesn’t flow, and we don’t travel through it. There’s no evidence for this whatsoever, hence time travel is science fiction. The "stasis box" is science-fiction too, but it’s useful to demonstrate something: get in the box, and the "stasis field" prevents all motion, even at the atomic level. So you can’t move, your heart doesn’t beat, and you can’t even think. When I open the box five years later, to you it’s like I opened the box as soon as you got in. You "travelled" to the future by not moving at all. Instead everything else did. And all that motion, be it the motion of planets or people or clocks or atoms or light, was through space. Not through time. Time is just a measure of it.

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  22. 22. jtdwyer 12:48 pm 06/10/2010

    JohnDuffield – Yes, except that the progression of time is >inversely< related to motion, or is it velocity?

    That the progression of time on the surface of the Earth and at altitude, for example, is influenced by the equivalent potential velocity of local collective mass, even though only rotational motion is imparted, indicates that time is not so directly related to motion.

    That the progression time effectively stops as velocity approaches the speed of light indicates that, perhaps as the energy of the universe is completely dispersed time will nearly halt.

    Kinda like a Tuesday night in Stringtown, if you’ve never been there…

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  23. 23. JohnDuffield 1:47 pm 06/10/2010

    I’d say motion rather than velocity, jt. But note your use of the word "progresses". There’s a lot of figures of speech when it comes to time, jt. People are raised with the concept that it’s something that flows or even stops, but when you look hard at what’s there, all you can actually see is things moving through space.

    If you stay on Earth with a parallel-mirror light clock, the thing you’d call the time is merely a cumulative measure of the back-and-forth motion of the light, like this: ||. If I take a round trip in a fast spacecraft with an identical light-clock, you’d say the light is moving like this: ////. But I’m moving too, so I see it like this: ||. If I could look back at your light-clock, to me yours would look like this: ////, hence the symmetry of the twins paradox. When I turn around the symmetry is broken, and when we meet back up, the same amount of time has "passed" because the total light-path lengths between your parallel-mirrors and mine are the same. We meet up at the same time regardless of our clock readings. I’ve been subjected to what we call time-dilation because ALL local motion during my journey occurred at a reduced rate because of my motion through space. It reduced the local motion of my clocks, body, nerve impulses, electron spin, and light.

    All of the mathematics of relativity still holds, because all we’re doing here is assigning priority to motion rather than time. The fun starts when you start looking at gravitational time dilation and reading up on the original Einstein material.

    Sorry, the wife is calling, gotta go.

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  24. 24. jtdwyer 6:25 pm 06/10/2010

    Correction – I had intended to write:

    That the progression time effectively stops as velocity approaches the speed of light indicates that, perhaps as the energy of the universe is completely dispersed time will proceed at some maximal rate.

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  25. 25. jtdwyer 4:08 pm 06/12/2010

    JohnDuffield – I’m uneducated and purposely intent on not researching the conventional comprehension of you example, but reasoning through it myself. So, take my comments as you will…

    Regarding the twin light-clocks, If there’s a separate distant observer relatively motionless from the Earth, he would see the motion of the spaceship indicated on your clock but not mine, both throughout the motion of your initial trip and your return. Your light path length would exceed mine. That is why space travelers do not age as much as those waiting at home, correct?

    In your equivalent light path case, you would have to travel to some distant point, then I would have to travel to that point to meet you, correct?

    Sorry, I can’t do the math and therefore expect can’t fully comprehend the Einstein.

    If time were a product of motion, then will time exist when the expansion of the universe has fully dispersed all of its energy? At what rate will it progress? I am dismissing the seemingly apparent universal acceleration produced by some ‘Dark Energy’.

    Thanks for your help.

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  26. 26. crowhill 8:52 am 06/14/2010

    It’s very interesting that the idea of a cosmic "ether" — long the brunt of jokes — is a serious idea again.

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  27. 27. AlBme 1:21 pm 06/14/2010

    Here’s my thought:
    It seems logical that at the smallest possible scales, where one would presumably observe the most fundamental laws of nature, those laws would have to be exceedingly simple and few in number since there isn’t enough stuff, or space for that stuff to do stuff — much less time to do that stuff for more complex laws to exist at that domain. Complexity, therefore, must emerge from these simplest of laws.

    George Carlin would be proud.

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  28. 28. tichead 1:16 pm 06/15/2010

    Epistemology and ontolgy begin to overlap when we ask such questions, especially when the realms of quantum mechanics (qm) and relativity challenge our most rational and intuitive beliefs and understanding.

    Albert Einstein (AE) didn’t like qm because he felt it did not model reality, particularly after the qm proponents decided in the Copenhagen Interpretation (CI)(1927) that no models of reality are possible. The probabalistic quality of qm precludes certainty in any experiment. The main purpose of qm according to the CI is to provide a mathematical framework for organizing and expanding our experience, not to attempt to define our reality. Part of this interpretation derives from the uncertainty of when an event happens. In a high energy collider, does the event happen when the particles collide, or when the detectors detect the result of the collision, or when the computers sort the results, or when the experimenter sees the results, or when the brain gets the information from the eyes? More precisely, when does the wave function collapse? The mathematician John Von Neumann discusses these questions in his book "Theory of Measurment"(1932).

    When combining the the above with Heisenbergs Uncertainty Principle, and Bohr’s priniclple of complementarity, we are forced to consider the concept of the anthropogenic universe. That is, the universe is the way we ‘see’ it because that is how we choose to ‘see’ it. This then would lead to the notion that Laws of Physics are one of our tools for defining the universe and that such ‘laws’ are not absolute except as we choose that they be so.

    So the boundry between knowledge and existence is seriously compromised in the qm universe. Sort of a long way back to Descartes: "I think, therfore, I am." AE prefered a more classical approach in which the observer and the observed are distinct from each other; the event happens whether it is observed or not.

    The irony is that AE was a firm proponent of absolute ‘laws’ of physics, whereas, qm indicates that ‘laws’ of physics are relative.

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  29. 29. mike cook 11:40 pm 06/16/2010

    Just finished Smolin’s book: THE END OF PHYSICS, but I didn’t sense where he and Unger were heading. Perhaps I was distracted by all the bashing of the stringy establishment.

    The rest of the seed article here got me thinking. I have been picturing strategically placed black holes in and surrounding our galaxy as perhaps possible for the Dark Matter effect. There could be enough BH’s to do it and we know that there is some relationship between the supermassive BH at the galactic center and the rotational velocity (which is too fast to be accounted for by visible matter) out at the edge of the galaxy.

    If there are a whole lot of BH’s out there that formed contemporaneously with the big BH at the center, they could have formed from similar processes in the same era and that explains their correlation.

    But now BH’s are also being evoked as radiators of information to the outer edge of the universe itself! In fact, the pressure of this info transfer may explain the Dark Energy effect.

    From string cosmology we can picture the whole outer shell of the universe as a holographic library recording the entire history of the universe.

    Imagine that we build a spaceship with a small motor and fuel supply, but a powerful computer we build in space is capable of plotting out a launch trajectory that will sling shot fuel packets around everything that moves in our section of the universe. In fact, these fuel packets will reproduce themselves and gobble up all available energies, even making more computing power so that all resources can be beamed at our original spaceship, pushing it on towards the speed of light.

    Relativisitic effects on the spaceship will cause us to see the universe actually collapsing to a point directly in front of us as we approach the speed of light. Also our spacecraft is expanding infinitely in its width dimension, nearing the area of the former shell of universe, which is now diminishing to the size of a pea in front of us as we get very near to c.

    Through our industrial space process of accumulating energy and info and beaming it all together so as to propel our spaceship we have turned the universe inside out. Like an astronaut falling into a black hole, an outside observer sees our time aboard the speeding spaceship as getting very slow.

    On the spaceship, we see time as normal, but events on the microscopic universe that is our target seem to have speeded up as everything shrank and are just blindingly fast. Is this whole conjecture consistent with time emerging from flowing of info?

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  30. 30. tichead 11:41 am 06/17/2010

    In a recent medidation I danced with Shiva (Vishnu was sitting this one out) who informed me the laws of physics don’t matter anyhow because the ‘big crunch’ already started, we just don’t know it yet. Dark matter is the manifestation of the ‘big crunch’ and there is nothing dark energy can do to stop it. See ya’ll on the other side of the singularity, I’m going to have a beer and watch the sunset on the beach.

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  31. 31. Imre von Soos 3:57 pm 06/17/2010

    A practically unrivalled, very well composed and expert presentation, for which I congratulate George Musser, and to which I add some thoughts.

    "Laws" exist only in the human sphere. Whatever regularity we observe outside of it, reflects only the natural, harmonious performance of everything else. For having laws, an extrinsic lawmaker should exist; a conscious and rational subject who decrees them. Is there a law needed for musical scales to be harmonious?

    The sine qua non quality that characterizes the phenomenal world is movement. Without movement there exists no physical manifestation; there exists only a static state without content, devoid of energy and matter, and thus devoid of space-time, which are thus co-emergent, co-existent, interdependent, interacting and co-evolving constituents of a dynamic universal process.

    One of the fundamental concepts introduced by Einstein was that space and time are not independent concepts, but constitute an unique, four-dimensional spacetime reference system, with width, depth, height and time as the four co-ordinates of all events. They have neither concrete existence nor universal parameters by themselves. The spatio-temporal correlations of events are conceptual fundamentals: only through their concept may movement, change, and spatial, temporal and causal order be perceived and defined. Neither spacetime, nor space or time "move", or "flow", or "expand", or serve as a containing or conveying medium for matter or energy-radiation. Should space be a containing medium and expand between galaxies or galaxy clusters, it would do so also within and between stars, you and me, as between the nuclei and the electrons of the atoms. I would also like to remind, that for those people, who happen to live on a planet at what we call the fringes of the universe, we are the ones who are living at the fringes of the same isomorphous and isothermal universe.

    Every observer considers himself and his reference-system at absolute rest, at the origin of a double helix of relative movement, extending both ways towards the speed of light, and constructs his world-view and the laws and equations to describe it, accordingly. However, his observations will be correct and understood by him only if his consciousness expands to transcend the stationary world-view.

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  32. 32. tichead 10:50 pm 06/17/2010

    Albert Einstein, when asked, "Why do we have time?" responded: "Otherwise, everything would be happening at once."

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  33. 33. Imre von Soos 7:10 am 06/18/2010

    Thoughts on the posting of tichead at 01:16 PM on 06/15/10

    There are no such things as "our experience", or "our reality", that can be scientifically organized and provided a mathematical framework for; regimenting thought with it. Experience and reality are personal: functions of particular potentials.

    Conscious observation is essential for the QM wave function to collapse. This is a point where Schroedinger’s famous paradox about Quantum Mechanical Superposition of States limps, because a cat, as a conscious entity, is continuously conscious of its state of being, into which "the wave function continuously collapses"; gets fixed as an objective reality. Should the paradox have been about sulphuric acid dropping – or not – onto a piece of metal and dissolving it; and should the whole container been destroyed without previously observing the results, it would not have made its mark on the progression of events and would have disappeared from it irrecoverably.

    These thoughts might even bring to the interesting conclusion that objective reality is built on subjective structure; that even that part of physical reality that can be expressed in absolutely concrete terms, is of subjective origin. Think also of David Bohm’s implicate and explicate orders. It might even have implications for investigating the boundaries between the quantum and classical worlds.

    I like to paraphrase Descartes thus: I think, therefore the Universe is.

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  34. 34. paparus 12:00 pm 06/18/2010

    Very interesting. Especially about aether. I have been convinced that aether was thrown out about couple of centuries ago with experiments that measured the light speed in space. It have been proved that no aether in space. Hm… I’m confused.

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  35. 35. paparus 12:22 pm 06/18/2010

    I’ve glanced on – aether theme. I’m newbe in phisics and only started, but. Ok. there is aether in space. Then it should bend the light at least, and if it is boiled why the universe so cold and we are a facing a big freeze at the end? And, moreover. As I know the pressure/tempreture is linear so the universe should expand with constant speed. Why we are acclerating.

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  36. 36. tichead 10:57 pm 06/19/2010

    to: Imre von Soos at 03:57 PM on 06/17/10. Truly salient points.

    regarding your post at 07:10 AM on 06/18/10: my experience is my reality. I have nothing else. This pile of atoms and subatoms that I identify as me can only experience through my five known senses and, if I happen to be adept at certain mystic practices, perhaps more senses. Regardless, I am that which I experience. When the experience becomes plural, ie. "our" experiences, then I tend to identify reality as more than simply my experience. This is where science begins, it is no longer just me, it is repeatable and verifiable, anytime and anywhere. Consequently, I am skeptical of events alone and focus more on processes.

    The process that appears to me most notable is the technological expansion of experience. Technology extends our senses. QM expanded relativiy, relativity expanded classical mechanics, classical mechanics expanded the Ptolemaic system, etc., primarily due to technological advances such as the telescope expanding our sensual awareness. Even the virtual realm we use in this discussion expands information beyond what I could personally experience.

    If I may be so bold as to state a law then it would be this: every entity employs pattern recognition to reduce the amount of energy required to adapt to new experience. Put another way, when we experience repeatable and verifiable results for any given query, we indentify those results as a pattern and give them the status of "Law". The entropic result is that disorder is reduced and and energy is conserved. We don’t have to think about the same thing differently each time we encounter it. We accept it as valid. In a more prosaic sense: we know there is water at this location, we don’t have to ask ourselves each morning where to go to find water each day. The pattern of going to this place each morning for water to drink becomes a law.

    Continuing with the water metaphor, this tends to exclude that water may be available somewhere else. And, on the way to the other source of water, we may find food sources that are not available on the way to the first water source. So it is with laws of physics, new experience expands the paradigm and prior laws are shown to be limited to the prior paradigm.

    As to "I think, therefore the Universe is." That is true only if I am the only thinking entity in the Universe. That we are having this discussion, I think the Universe would be, even if we were not. We just wouldn’t know it…or would we…

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  37. 37. Imre von Soos 6:53 am 06/22/2010

    Greetings tichead and all.

    Thanks for reacting, which keeps the intracranial contents ticking. The more rational the divergence, the better.

    I can well imagine that what I write will not be over-popular by many, mostly for emotional reasons, but it is better to face the truth than to be hit by it one day.

    Think about it! But also think about the possibility that I might be completely wrong and so might be all the others we have ever heard and read about. But you have to decide it for yourself and rationally: why.

    My remark about "law" was a reaction to George Musser’s line that "you’d presume that physicists have at least sorted out what they mean by "law"". According to my computer’s dictionary of synonyms, "law" means rule, commandment, regulation, decree, act, edict, ruling, bylaw, directive. I must admit that I am rather allergic to all that these labels represent, ever since I existed for four years under communist reign of terror, the "laws" of which I have actively resisted and countered with great predilection.

    I am just as allergic to the dogmas and "laws" of some scientific belief systems, like, for instance: The Universe has Big Banged itself out of a dimensionless singularity that contained all actually existing energies and matter, infinitely heated up and condensed to zero size, including the "laws" of all their behaviours and interactions (heated up and condensed, or not), according to which it compulsively behaves and interacts ever since.

    Particular realities are, or should be, dynamic, and are built up of sensory and intuitive perceptions, informations and experiences, and the intellectual processing of all these inputs. Every new input, processed together with the existing state, will produce a new dynamic particular reality. Considering that not even making love is a fully shared experience with your partner; that the microscope and the telescope expand the sensual awareness only of those who know what they see when looking through them; and that the intelligence-spectrum of the species homo sapiens spans from IQ50 or less to IQ220 or more (sharing the span between IQ50 and IQ90 with the apes, monkeys and some tarsiers and birds), not even on the lower levels does generalization stand up.

    My words "I think, therefore the Universe is" can be understood best from some lines from one of my books, hoping that the webmaster is not going to chuck it out for being too long:

    "Wholeness is seen as primary – wrote David Bohm – while the parts are secondary, in the sense that what they are and what they do can be understood only in the light of the whole. And perhaps I should also add here that in each sub whole there is a certain quality that does not come from the parts, but helps organize the parts. . . The quantum theory implies that ultimately the relationship of the parts and whole of matter in general is understood in a similar way. This approach of wholeness could help to end the far-reaching and pervasive fragmentation that arises out of the mechanistic world view.
    "In this flow, mind and matter are not separate substances. Rather they are different aspects of one whole and unbroken movement. .. The ability of form to be active is the most characteristic feature of mind, and we have something that is mind-like already with the electron."
    By introducing into the Schroedinger equation a wavelike information field called the superquantum potential, Bohm established a theoretical instance within physics, demonstrating, that science can remain rational and coherent while involving the realms of the underlying principles, what he called the implicate order.
    Erwin Schroedinger, another far outstanding nuclear physicist of the twentieth century, supports Bohm’s thoughts: "Let us now return to our ultimate particles and to small organizations of particles as atoms or small molecules. The old idea about them was that their individuality was based on the identity of matter in them…The new idea is that what is permanent in these ultimate particles or small aggregates is their shape and organization. Hence this life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of the entire existence, but is, in a certain sense, the whole; only this whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in one single glance. This as we know, is what the Brahmins express in the sacred, mystic formula which is yet so simple and so clear: "Tat tvam asi.", this is you…and not merely "someday" but today, every day she is bringing you forth, not once, but thousands upon thousands of times, just as every day she engulfs you a thousand times over, for eternally and always there is only now, and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end."
    And neither has it a beginning, and is thus the womb of the infinite becoming that is manifested in substance, incident and mode – structure, event and process; in the movement, change, and the spatio-temporal and causal order of energy and matter; while matter itself is not a conglomeration of "things" but consists of by its underlying principle ordered "processes" in interwoven and interdependent system-relationships of energy-quantums.

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  38. 38. tichead 11:26 pm 06/22/2010

    Imre von Soos: I’m with you on the concept of wholeness. It fits my universe view. However, to use Bohm’s desciption of ‘explicate’ and ‘implicate’ order, I experience only the explicate order due to sensual limitation to my five known senses. Implicate order is only revealed by instruments that expand my senses. As instruments reveal more of what was once implicate, then that experience becomes a function of my explicate experience.

    Consequently, the line that divides explicate from implicate is always shifting such that awareness of the explicate order is always expanding and showing that more awareness awaits ‘on the other side of the line’.

    Regarding the wholeness you mention: more information, ie: expansion of explicate awareness is reductionistic. We are breaking down large concepts into continually smaller sections which it would seem to me moves us away from the wholeness. Joseph Campbell refered to such smaller sections as the ‘emanations’. From a one, (perhaps the singularity prior to the big bang), came a two, (perhaps space/time and mass/energy), then came all the emanations.

    As we are explicate order beings, ie. one of the emanations, we are removed from direct implicate order experience. We don’t live our present lives in the singularity that became the emanations. If David Bohm was able to do so, then I thank him for showing us that it could be. But he seemed rather explicate to me.

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  39. 39. mike cook 9:53 am 06/23/2010

    David Bohm saw that the way out of QM weirdness was to picture time-reversed messenger particles as coming to us from future events. This view of things implies that the future is already as fixed as the past and we arrive at this picture most naturally by extending special and general relativity’s understanding of spacetime as a frozen milieu, wherein the "time" dimension really only applies to the relative motion of the observer who will perceive a different slice of the frozen milieu depending on his momentum.

    Some argue against this view by ridiculing it as "block" time and wondering where all the blocks are stored when not in view.

    Enter the discussion about seven more curled up dimensions. Two points can be quite separate in our three common spatial dimensions, but they may be exactly the same point in the seven curled up dimensions. This is important because theorists such as Lisa Randall suggest that forces leak or lap over from the hidden dimensions, which act in effect like Einstein’s "hidden variables" idea to get rid of QM.

    But my favorite criticisms of Big Bang ideology invoke the understanding that it is wrong to invoke the claim that the common three dimensions are expanding in any physical sense at all when we have no point of reference outside the Big Bang sphere because spacetime itself is gushing from the BB.

    Therefore, the economical thing to do is to simply view the universe as of a fixed size and explain the red-shifting of light as merely one of the many phenomena that change with the passage of time. Light matures by shifting towards lower frequency and also perhaps by slowing everywhere at a uniform rate. All other "constants" change as well over billions of years.

    This evolutionary view of the universe does not need us to suppose that the universe goes on well beyond its visible limits, which is non-empirical fantasizing, and it does leave us with the interesting question of why we appear to be in the center of the visible universe.

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  40. 40. tichead 12:48 pm 06/23/2010

    Mike Cook: Just when I thought I was getting a tenuous grip on QM you had to stomp on my mental fingers with Bohm’s time reversed messenger particles. Ouch. I don’t want to think that hard. I’ll switch hands and have some Wheaties.

    I like the simplicity of an assumed static state of the universe. If all frames of reference are expanding at equal rates, then so too would any insturments used to detect such expansion. William of Occam wields his mighty razor again.

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  41. 41. Imre von Soos 9:48 am 06/24/2010

    I have enjoyed reading the last three postings for the direction they have taken.

    I have always called what Bohm calls the "implicate order": the ‘underlying principle’ the ‘I’, or, in a holistic summation, the ‘Infinite I’, or simply the ‘Mind’, the ‘Spirit’, the ‘Psyche’; none having, however, anything to do with any religious notion; and which is defined by Carl Gustav Jung as "The psyche is the world’s pivot: not only is it the one great condition for the existence of a world at all, it is also an intervention in the existing natural order, and no one can say with certainty where this intervention will finally end. … The psyche is the greatest of all cosmic wonders and the sine qua non of the world as an object. It is in the highest degree odd that Western man, with but very few – and ever fewer – exceptions, apparently pays so little regard to this fact. Swamped by the knowledge of external objects, the subject of all knowledge has been temporarily eclipsed to the point of seeming non-existence."

    So we are – each and every "I" of us (not only humans but everything else in a holistic order, every sub-whole, every individual cell of us, and "we have something that is mind-like already with the electron" as Bohm has stated it) – implicate order beings, underlying the explicate order in which we express ourselves and which we build and evolve during the sojourn called life in the explicate reality. We communicate with each other in the explicate order, using explicate order means and references. How this material world can dominate is well demonstrated in the actual materialistic world and science. It should be a strong caveat, however, that the antithesis to materialism is not religion, but spirituality.

    The "time-reversed messenger particles as coming to us from future events", "the future is already as fixed as the past" and "understanding of spacetime as a frozen milieu" would be very hard for me to bring in connection with David Bohm’s thoughts. He had very many exchanges of thoughts with Krishnamurti, which helped him to extend his thinking, none, however, in a direction these quotes would indicate. They certainly are very much against my grain.

    All that Mike Cook wrote about the Big Bang and the connected ideologies, I couldn’t agree more with; as I also do with tichead’s most logical last remark, However, these manifestations are generally rewarded with insidious ostracism by the mainstream Cosmological Community.

    By the way, my Universe is a constant flow, living, conscious, thinking, rational, self-configuring, dynamically stable, holistic, mind over matter, timeless Being. And it fits into whatever I observe or know.

    Those, who would care for some enlightenment regarding what insidious ostracism means in the cosmological community, I refer to the following words of Michael Miller:
    "For about 30 years Arp’s most important observations have been under academic ban; they contradict cosmological orthodoxy. That orthodoxy has denied observing time on the big telescopes to Arp and others who make discordant observations. It has excluded their most important discoveries from major journals. As far as the popular press is concerned, this small heroic band of observers just don’t exist; their observations go unreported."

    Also a highly enlightening reading is: An Open Letter to the Scientific Community ( signed by over 500 scientists and Published in New Scientist, May 22, 2004)

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  42. 42. Eureka999 1:51 pm 06/27/2010

    Fundamentally, there are so many unanswered questions, simply by reason of the fact that what we have discovered is more or less correct, but the fudaments of it all have not been discovered. Where does E=mc2 come from? Is there a more fundamental energy equation?

    The answers to these question opens up a whole new vista onto phyics which is at once more explanatory and more understanftable at the quantum level. See: The formulation of harmonic quintessnec and a fundamental energy equivalence equation. Physics Essays 23: 311-319.

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  43. 43. Eureka999 2:01 pm 06/27/2010

    I would say a fundamental rethink of quntum physics and energy equivalence is required. In order to study the very large we may we may need to understand the very small far better. See: String quintesence and the formulation of advanced quantum gravity. Physics Essays 22: 364-377, and The formulation of harmonic quintessence and a fundamental energy equivalence equation. Physics Essays 23: 311-319.

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  44. 44. tichead 2:18 am 06/28/2010

    Imre von Soos: Thanks for the mention, you might enjoy "Life and Enery"(1962), Isaac Asimov.

    So, how does your latest post address the question posed by the article? Each of us is a pile of atoms. Each atom existed at the moment of the ‘big bang’. Consequently, each of us is of that which was the ‘big bang’. So, here we are, an explicate pile of ‘a being’ in a universe of implicate order. Thus, we use those senses most familiar to us to define our universe. Now, all that is fine until someone, ie. the scientist at ‘The Copenhagen Agreement’, tell us that the whole scene is a crap shoot, a roll of the dice. But, they give us an ‘out’, a way to influence the outcome of the ‘roll’. All we have to do is decide what we want to come up on the dice. Does that mean that what we want is what will always come up? No. It means we have a way of determining how often what we want will come up. Therefore, holistic or spiritual intent is superfluous. That only leaves experience. So, I would tend to ‘The Copenhagen Interpretation’ of reality. "No models of reality are possible". With an exception, is there not always an exception, that being my post at 10:57 PM on 06/19/10: "The entropic result is that disorder is reduced and and energy is conserved" when we state a "Law" of physics, temporary as it may be.

    Eureka999: We welcome fresh ideas, however, you sent us a link to an opinion blog ("oplog"; is this redundant? As in, the definition of a blog is an opinion.) about an untestable theory with no link to the author of the theory. Response is impossible.

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  45. 45. tichead 2:25 am 06/28/2010

    Ecxellent post. Lots to consider. Thanks and sorry I didn’t read it properly the first go-round three weeks ago.

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  46. 46. Eureka999 12:37 pm 06/28/2010

    Isn’t David Bohm’s theory just the same as the Wheeler and Feynman theory. Specifically EM travels both backward and forwards in time.

    The backwards in time, half of the signal is reflected forward in time by the perfect reflector (the big bang), arrives exactly when it left, and continues forward (advanced) towards the perfect absorber ( the accelarating universe). So the signal appears fully advanced.

    This explains both entanglement and the arrow of time. It does less well at explaining entanglement sudden death (ESD).

    This ESD is better explained by the phase wave and group wave velocity concept, introduced by de Broglie and largely accepted but not largely discussed. Fundamentally the product of the phase and group wave velocities is c^2. This tells us that the phase wave velocity for a particle should be tachyonic. If it tends towards it maximum of c^2 then it would appear almost instantaneous to us. Hence entanglement and the de Broglie wavelength is explained.
    Indded the de Broglie wavelength and other thing such as energy equivalence is also explained.

    See: The formulation of harmonic quintessence and a fundamental energy equivalence equation. Physics Essays 23: 311-319.

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  47. 47. Imre von Soos 12:31 pm 06/29/2010

    I have addressed the question posed by the article in a previous comment, tichead, but I will try to elaborate on why I am allergic to so-called "Laws of Nature", which are in reality not of "Nature" and neither of "physics" the latter being only a study of the physical behaviour of energy and matter but of some scientific paradigm-sharing communities, who are twisting them around according to their actual predilection. Here are a few examples:

    The second law of thermodynamics simply states the observable and logical fact, that "heat cannot flow from a colder to a hotter body in a self-sustained process"; and that entropy is the measure of diffuse energy. This simple and logical statement based on quotidian observation, and the to it related concept, has turned, through some weird ‘random neural mutation’, into what Stephen Hawking expressed in his book thus: "This [the second law of thermodynamics] says that in any closed system disorder, or entropy, always increases with time. In other words, it is a form of Murphy’s law: Things always tend to go wrong!"

    Hawking’s explanation of this theory of his is, that "the second law of thermodynamics results from the fact that there are always many more disordered states than there are ordered ones"; and that "Our subjective sense of the direction of time, the psychological arrow of time, is therefore determined within our brain by the thermodynamic arrow of time. . . we must remember things in the order in which entropy increases."

    A completely closed system must be by its very definition adiabatic, involving neither loss nor gain of heat, or any other kind of energy. There is no magic in that: it conforms with the principle of the conservation of energy and of matter. In other words: entropy exists only in the particular energy-potential of a particular element of an open system. In short: entropy is a local, relative phenomenon. Nobody could as yet explain to me how entropy became equated with disorder.

    The concept that distributing and ordering is a creative act is opposing actual cosmological theories for two reasons. Firstly, because the concentration of inter-stellar dust into quasars and galaxies and globular clusters of various formations, including their governing harmonies, are considered by science to be probabilistic chance-happenings; and secondly, because the idea of ordering in the direction of the "cosmological arrow of time" is contrary to the entropy/disorder oriented time-progression professed in the actual scientific credo.

    In the neo-Darwinian but not Darwin’s! vocabulary, ‘naturally’ means ‘randomly’, ‘ad hoc’. Anybody who is not swearing on this kind of a materialist/nihilist bible is declared a "creationist", fought against even in the Court of Law in the U.S., is out of universities and out of print.

    On the other hand, here is a nice quotation by evolutionary and micro-biologist, Elisabet Sahtouris:
    "In this newer framework or cosmovision, biological evolution is holistic, intelligent and purposeful. Notions such as entropy in a non-living universe, running down to its death, no longer apply. Rather we see a living universe, with a metabolism like that in our bodies, with its continual creation from the ZPE as anabolism, while entropy can now be seen as catabolism — continual dissolution for purposes of recycling. In this version entropy does not lead to the death of the universe because the universe is capable of replenishing itself continually."

    Not even my bicycle is a "pile of atoms". What is underlying its whole evolutionary history and its actual existence are a lot of creative thought-forms. As a physical manifestation, it exists on this implicate order. It can be destroyed, melted in and recycled into another bicycle, but this will be done on the foundation of the implicate order. My car does not take me from A to B: "I" am driving, through my body, my car from A to B, if I want to express "myself", the implicate Being there. This wants to express that in my own, idiosyncratic reality "being" is of the implicate order; the physical manifestations of that "being" car, driving, body are of the explicate one.

    Eureka999: I have never come across any writing of David Bohm that would have occupied itself with flowing time; especially not with EM travelling both backward and forwards in time. Also, I am not the follower of the "Big Bang" and the "expanding universe" credo.

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  48. 48. gesimsek 5:32 am 07/29/2010

    There is an important passage in Islam’s sacred book Qur’an, where Abraham asks God how He will put every creation back together after the End. God answers by telling him to put domesticated birds on different locations and calling them back from where they are. I think every particle in the universe have virtual built in space-time spin in themselves and they are actualized by another energy source in another dimension. This actualization we call is time and it is always in flow. Even we can observe this actualization we cannot change it because we do not have the enough energy to affect subatomic spin. In the same way living things are also space-time bound as observed in genetic cloning, always shorter life-span in each copy (some reference in the movie AI).

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  49. 49. clinesteronbeademungen 1:25 pm 09/15/2010

    Yes, time for much more reading/re-reading required after this.

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  50. 50. soaralone1 6:26 pm 11/18/2010

    The fuss with all confusion lies in the theoretical work. How about non-theoretical proofs of many of the unknowns that can be derived from real, known evidence. And tests and reported observations require no explanations. If it is real and well known, no explanations especially need to be explained.

    There is new work being presented shortly on The Nature Of the Universe using the label TNOU. This requires no theories from any source. It is based soundly, mathematically on Maxwell’s EM work and Planck’s quantum energy relations. As one can easily manage that a complete understanding of TNOU must totally enclose – not necessarily define – the Theory Of Everything, TOE. TOE exists in our real world -huh, real universe. Please visit for the beginnings. This is a real request to begin how TNOU will give some very real answers to the questions science has of the universe.

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  51. 51. IBLKG 7:15 am 11/21/2012

    The laws of Physics are based on theory, observation, and practical knowledge; in other words the laws govern only what we think we know. In scientific learning we experiment to answer uncertainty or to prove a hypothesis; for example, presume to travel faster than the speed of light or to harness a power of over-unity: such ideas are impossible if bound by the “theoretical” laws of physics; however, discovery and imagination have no boundaries when unleashed.

    For example, when man first attempted to exceed the sound barrier, the concept was based upon what the physicists and engineers knew or thought, but they were not always correct in their perceptions (assumptions). Time and time again they had to re-think an idea; otherwise, there would have been no reason to prototype and test. Concepts are usually askew in the beginning and only evolve after new discovery or observation. The laws of physics govern only what we know about what we think we know; they cannot govern the unknown.

    Isaac Newton stated that imagination is a greater power than education (think about that for a minute). Step outside of what you do know and then discover what you didn’t know. Don’t get trapped in egotistical dogma. Educators should emphasize the need to think creatively rather than as a puppet; they should always admit to not knowing the answer when they don’t and not be angered if challenged. The teacher and experts can learn too; we are never so smart that we can no longer learn.

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  52. 52. IBLKG 8:12 am 11/21/2012

    Correction, not Isaac Newton, but rather Albert Einstein.

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