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Where Do Space and Time Come From? New Theory Offers Answers, If Only Physicists Can Figure It Out

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

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SANTA BARBARA—”Maybe we’re just too dumb,” Nobel laureate physicist David Gross mused in a lecture at Caltech two weeks ago. When someone of his level wonders whether the unification of physics will always be beyond mortal minds, it gets you worried. (He went on to explain why he doesn’t think we are too dumb, though.) Since his lecture, I’ve been learning about a theory that seems, at first, to confirm this worry. It is so ridiculously hard that it could be the subject of an Onion parody. But at the same time, I’ve been watching how physicists are trying to power through their intimidation, because the theory promises a new way of understanding what space and time really are, at a deep level.

The theory was put forward in the late 1980s by Russian physicists Mikhail Vasiliev and the late Efin Fradkin of the Lebedev Institute in Moscow, but is so mathematically complex and conceptually opaque that whenever someone brought it up, most theorists started talking about the weather, soccer, reality TV—anything but that theory. It became a subject of polite conversation only in the past couple of years, as math whizzes who take a peculiar pleasure in impossible problems dove in and showed that the theory is not impossible to grasp, merely almost impossible.

Inspired by their bravery, I’m going to take a crack at explaining this strange beast, synthesizing lectures I’ve attended by Steve Shenker of Stanford University, Andy Strominger of Harvard, and Juan Maldacena of the Institute for Advanced Study, as well as informal chats with Joe Polchinski of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics and Joan Simón of the University of Edinburgh. I’m sure they’ll set me straight if I get something wrong, and I’ll edit this blog post to reflect comments I receive.

Vasiliev theory (for sake of a pithy name, physicists drop Fradkin’s name) takes to extremes the basic idea of modern physics: that the world around us consists of fields—the electrical and magnetic fields and a handful of others that represent the known forces of nature and types of matter. Vasiliev theory posits an infinite number of fields. They come in progressively more complicated varieties described by the quantum-mechanical property of spin.

Spin is perhaps best thought of as the degree of rotational symmetry. The electromagnetic field along with its associated particle, the photon, has spin-1. If you rotate it 360 degrees, it looks the same as before. The gravitational field along with its associated particle, the graviton, has spin-2: you need to rotate it only 180 degrees. The known particles of matter, such as the electron, have spin-1/2: you need to rotate them 720 degrees before they return to their original appearance—a counterintuititive feature that turns out to explain why these particles resist bunching, giving matter its integrity. The Higgs field has spin-0 and looks the same no matter how you rotate it.

In Vasiliev theory, there are also spin-5/2, spin-3, spin-7/2, spin-4, all the way up. Physicists used to assume that was impossible. These higher-spin fields, being more symmetrical, would imply new laws of nature analogous to the conservation of energy, and no two objects could ever interact without breaking one of those laws. The workings of nature would seize up like an overregulated economy. At first glance, string theory, the leading candidate for a fully unified theory of nature, runs afoul of this principle. Like a plucked guitar string, an elementary quantum string has an infinity of higher harmonics, which correspond to higher-spin fields. But those harmonics come with an energy cost, which keeps them inert.

Vasiliev and Frakin showed that the above reasoning applies only when gravity is insignificant and spacetime is not curved. In curved spacetimes, higher-spin fields can exist after all. Maybe overregulation isn’t such a bogeyman after all.

In fact, it may be a positive good. Higher-spin fields promise to flesh out the holographic principle, which is a way to explain the origin of space and gravity. Suppose you have a hypothetical three-dimensional spacetime (two space dimensions, one time dimension) filled with particles that interact solely by a souped-up version of the strong nuclear force; there is no gravity. In such a setting, objects can behave in a very structured way. Objects of a given size can interact only with objects of comparable size, just as objects can interact only if they are spatially adjacent. Size plays exactly the same role as spatial position; you can think of size as a new dimension of space, materializing from particle interactions like a figure in a pop-up book. The original three-dimensional spacetime becomes the boundary of a four-dimensional spacetime, with the new dimension representing the distance from this boundary. Not only does a spatial dimension emerge, but so does the force of gravity. In the jargon, the strong nuclear force in 3-D spacetime (the boundary) is “dual” to gravity in 4-D spacetime (the bulk).

As formulated by Maldacena in the late 1990s, the holographic principle describes a bulk where dark energy has a negative density, warping spacetime into a so-called anti-de Sitter geometry. But this is just a theorist’s playground. In the real universe, dark energy has a positive density, for a de Sitter geometry or some approximation thereof. Extending the holographic principle to such a geometry is fraught. The boundary of 4-D de Sitter spacetime is a 3-D space lying in the infinite future. The emergent dimension in this case would not be of space but of time, which is hard even for theoretical physicists to wrap their minds around. But if they succeed in formulating a version of the holographic principle for a de Sitter geometry, it would not only apply to the real universe, but would also explain what time really is. A lack of understanding of time is at the root of almost every deep problem in fundamental physics today.

That is where Vasiliev theory comes in. It works in either an anti-de Sitter or a de Sitter geometry. In the former case, the corresponding 3-D boundary is governed by a simplified version of the strong nuclear force rather than the souped-up one. By biting the bullet and accepting the borderline-incomprehensible Vasiliev theory, physicists actually end up easing their task. In the de Sitter case, the corresponding 3-D boundary is governed by a type of field theory in which time does not operate; it is static. The structure of this theory gives rise to the dimension of time. What is more, time arises in an inherently asymmetric way, which might account for the arrow of time—its unidirectionality.

It gets even better. Normally the holographic principle can account for the emergence of one dimension, leaving the others unexplained. But Vasiliev theory might give you the whole kit and kaboodle. The higher-spin fields possess an even higher degree of symmetry than the gravitational field does, which is a lot. Higher symmetry means less structure. The theory of gravity, Einstein’s general theory of relativity, says that spacetime is like Silly Putty. Vasiliev theory says it is Sillier Putty, possessing too little structure to fulfill even its most basic functions, such as defining consistent cause-effect relations or keeping distant objects isolated from one another.

To put it differently, Vasiliev theory is even more nonlinear than general relativity. Matter and spacetime geometry are so thoroughly entwined that it becomes impossible to tease them apart, and our usual picture of matter as residing in spacetime becomes completely untenable. In the primordial universe, where Vasiliev theory reigned, the universe was an amorphous blob. As the higher-spin symmetries broke—for instance, as the higher harmonics of quantum strings become too costly to set into motion—spacetime emerged in its entirety.

Perhaps it is not so surprising that Vasiliev theory is so complicated. Any explanation of the nature of space and time is bound to be intimidating. If physicists ever do figure it out, I predict that they’ll forget how hard it used to be and start giving it to their students for homework.

George Musser About the Author: is a contributing editor at Scientific American. He focuses on space science and fundamental physics, ranging from particles to planets to parallel universes. He is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to String Theory. Musser has won numerous awards in his career, including the 2011 American Institute of Physics's Science Writing Award. Follow on Twitter @gmusser.

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

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  1. 1. Stue Potts 6:51 pm 04/12/2012

    Regardless of whether or not the Vasiliev theory is correct, I would wonder where those fields came from. Once their origins were determined, I would wonder how/why there are dimensions in which fields can exist.

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  2. 2. geojellyroll 6:55 pm 04/12/2012

    The issue with this type of explanation is that it is a house of cards built on a house of cards built on…

    Think of baseball… the rules make sense to someone who plays baseball. Step outside and the rules have no value to explain anything. , ‘He’s out’. Why? He swung 3 times. So? ‘three strikes and your out’. Why?…until some circulatr logic closes in on itself.

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  3. 3. Johnay 9:14 pm 04/12/2012

    Likewise, geojellyroll, the laws of the universe at their most graspable (if you release an object held above the ground it will fall down, you need light to see, etc.) might make no sense to someone outside the universe.

    Point being, your critique tells us nothing about the type of theory at hand that isn’t also true of any possible theory of physics in this universe.

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  4. 4. HMS003 8:58 am 04/13/2012

    One way to help understand this is to see fields as nothing more than sets of transformations. Not to sound mystical, but asking where they come from is akin to asking, “where does math comes from?”; we shouldn’t see that as a well defined question.

    We might be able to ponder the notion of discreteness to some extent and how sharp boundaries begin to form. We can also begin to ponder the notion of measurement.

    In any case, when we talk of fields, what is fundamental is that there is a process we can define that adds structure to an otherwise featureless object. So if we think of the vacuum state as an otherwise featureless object (an amorphous blob) the field can create or annihilite structures (features) in that blob.

    If we attempt to probe the new feature we might find ourselves obeserving a dizzying array of other features allowing for the definition of associated fields that are responsible for those features.

    The point is that we are really beginning to deal with physical consequences of continuum mechanics.

    One thing to keep in mind in all this is the interpretation of the uncertainty principle. All the uncertainty principle says is that there is an inverse linear relationship between position and momentum. Bohr was able to demonstrate to Einstein that this can be successfully extended to a relationship between Energy-momentum and space-time.

    With that in mind, it is correct to understand that we should be able to subdivide space-time to whatever level of detail we want, but that effort comes at a cost in terms of increased Energy-momentum.

    That additional probe requires more and more structure and their associated features, and at the boundary of infinity one exhausts the ability to ennumerate those structures and features, this gets to Gross’s point about being dumb. We simply do not have sufficient ability to capture all the information.

    In this sense, the physics that we normally think about are simply surface features of a much deeper and more complex entity. This brings some interesting discussions about cutoffs associated with mass, but that is something for another day.

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  5. 5. SpoonmanWoS 2:15 pm 04/13/2012 god, you’re right! If you look at of the things spewed out by the so-called “experts”, none of it makes any sense unless you’re part of their inner circle. They’ve all been lying to us all this time and we’ve been too stupid to notice!

    Oh, man, where would the world be without your insight? Obviously, if something doesn’t make sense to you or I it must NOT be true even though there are people to whom it does make sense. Phew! You’ve truly saved us from wasting all of this time learning and exploring. Thank you, geojellyroll! Thank you!

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  6. 6. Richard Lloyd 3:09 pm 04/13/2012

    This certainly makes sense to me. Needs tweaking, but essentially seems pretty solid (pun intended).

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  7. 7. Travza 4:59 pm 04/13/2012

    Time to get the flame retardant sprays ready. We are going to have a flame ware on our hands soon.

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  8. 8. rknight101 6:12 pm 04/13/2012

    Obviously, the Stork brought them…

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  9. 9. And Then What? 6:19 pm 04/13/2012

    I wish I had the ability to articulate my thoughts better, because maybe then I would have half of a chance at explaining,to myself, what it is that keeps nagging at me about the true nature of Space-time and why some of its workings that we have managed to observe and quantify seem like the obvious result I would expect. The first thing that comes to my mind is that we are not, and will never be, an independent observer of our Universe. It is fundamentally false to think that any constituent part of a whole thing can purport to be an independent observer of such whole thing. Every theory that we come up with from the simplest to the most complex has its primal roots firmly planted in the basic structural components that provide structure to the Universe as we know it and hence to us. Perhaps at a conceptual-based level that is why some of what we discover seems self evident when viewed in retrospect.
    Take for example the concept of Dark Energy. It is widely thought to be a repulsive force originating within what we term normal Space-time and that it has the effect, at the Cosmic level, of overpowering Gravity so that Space-time itself expands at an accelerating rate. To those who have read some of what I have written before I apologize in advance for bringing up my thoughts on “Thresholds” once more, but in any event here we go. So if Dark Energy trumps Gravity at the cosmic level I submit that there must exist a “Threshold Point” where the scales are tipped, in favor of Dark Energy, and that such a point should be amenable to Mathematical description.Finding such a point I will leave to better Mathematicians than me. This says nothing about what Dark Energy may be it simply assumes that if Dark Energy pervades Space-time in some relatively homogeneous fashion and if it is uniform in its effect then perhaps as the force of Gravity diminishes the Static Dark Energy Force becomes dominant. But now lets throw another curve into the equation and assume that the observed accelerating expansion of our Space-time by what we call” a repulsive Dark Energy Force” emanates not from within our Space-time continuum, but it is, in fact, the result of and “attractive force” acting on the very fabric of our Space-time due to the existence of, for want of a better description, a Space-time diametrically opposite to our own, and following a higher law of Entropy seeks to balance the equation of existence between itself and our Space-time.
    Think of it this way: Before the big Bang there was “nothingness” and on this canvas of this nothingness our concept of Space-time was born. But it in itself is a miniscule blip on the Nothingness of the “before the BB” and perhaps we are just now beginning to glimpse the eventual return to the Nothingness as our Space-time spreads out and eventually is absorbed back into the nothingness from which it came.

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  10. 10. And Then What? 6:40 pm 04/13/2012

    Further to my earlier post: Keep in mind when I described conditions before the BB as”Nothingness” it was just a word I picked, out of pure convention, for something whose properties are unknown to me. If in fact such a thing did exist I am fairly certain any sentient beings existing within it, would strongly object to my description of it. The fact that we exist in a particular Space-time with certain characteristics in no way precludes the existence of other States with characteristics entirely alien to our concepts of Reality.

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  11. 11. And Then What? 7:39 pm 04/13/2012

    If we keep making enough noise in our little part of the Universe maybe the really smart people will drop by to see what the racket is about. Wouldn’t that be a hoot, some semi smart Alien pops up between Earth and Mars and says, “Hey if we answer all your stupid questions will you guys keep the noise down. The rest of us are trying to get some sleep out here and Oh, by the way try not to make any Black holes with what we give you”. Now that should take the Pomp out of the Pompous.

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  12. 12. dumbeast 8:05 pm 04/13/2012

    “Vasiliev theory (for sake of a pithy name, physicists drop Fradkin’s name)”

    I say boo to that. His name was Efin Fradkin. C’mon, physicists. EFIN FRADKIN! I’m thinking of changing my name to that.

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  13. 13. 9:15 pm 04/13/2012

    I have no idea what any of this means, but this article was AWESOME! I barely, barely, barely grasped the “quantum” half of “The Quantum and the Lotus”,and this just blew all of that away!

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  14. 14. denke42 2:55 am 04/14/2012

    More support for Eddington’s (or Haldane’s or someone’s) allegation: “Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.”

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  15. 15. Stue Potts 7:01 am 04/14/2012

    “Not to sound mystical, but…”
    I’m not sure there are any other means of approaching questions like this. The concept of a preexisting “Nothingness” (an oxymoron) eludes me. The origin of existence itself is unimaginable. Is there any way to imagine a Nothingness that lacks even a dimension? A Nothingness without space? It’s convenient to speak of the Big Bang as the origin of all we know of, but how does a Big Bang occur in a true Nothingness?

    And Then What? nicely described some of the problems we face while staring slack-jawed at these questions. And denke42 put it even more succinctly.

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  16. 16. 12:33 pm 04/14/2012

    To HMS003

    Are fields merely sets of transformation, a mechanism of description and in substance no existential entity exists at all? Is description or non-description of features of an entity, by whatever means whether mathematically or a theory or cognitively, establishes the existence of an entity. An entity may exist by virtue of its existence and its existence is not dependent upon description.

    Now fields are real existential entities, appearing on scene in some sequential order in cause-effect relation. My conjecture states space/time – gravity – e.m. energy – matter as the sequence.

    Nevertheless the above, if fields are some real existential entities, some realities, we should be able to comprehend the same at cognitive level. Complex mathematical formulation, theories, particle nature of fields whether photon or electron or graviton merely appear sophisticated means of description and logical understanding of reality but they are not reality per se. After all what we can say regarding the structure of a photon or electron. At the most, indivisible particles/bundles of or matter that carries some quantitative bundles of energy/charge/mass/spin. But is it reality? Not sounding mysticism, but stating a hard reality, failure of our consciousness to grasp the full deapth of reality , where our consciousness integrates with reality , points to the direction that thro’ the extent scientific means we may never be able to penetrate the deepest ends of reality, a state of “the deafness of David Ross” as stated at the commencement of this article

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  17. 17. HMS003 12:45 pm 04/14/2012

    If I look up nothingness I come upon the website:

    If we start with the original question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”, we must first recognize two things, first that the sentence presumes causality (with the use of the word why), and second it presumes there is a framework in which the question is meaningful.

    It is worthwhile to understand that the are several fields that begin to intersect when this question is raised, namely linguistics, mathematics, computer science and physics. Of those four, physics stands out as being different from the others in that it deals with analysis of things that have tangible properties outside of the human mind, where as the others deal with logical structures that we have defined.

    Most of the progress on this question has been in the areas of mathematics and computer science. It is here where there is a framework where our notion of different orders of infinity is well defined, and where the consequences of that distinction are readily apparent. Namely that statements can be made that can be neither proven nor disproven within any discrete logical framework. This just means that there are limits in our capabilities that has nothing to do with lack of imagination but it actually has to do with are ability build formal discrete frameworks where questions always have answers (I would add that there still is some question about whether mathematics based on manipulation of visual images instead of symbolic representations might provide more depth since those can have order of the continuum, however it seems intuitive that there is a limit there as well).

    The physical perspective is a little more interesting. The example of the study of CP violation is a case in which there is a framework where a question similar to “Why is there something rather than nothing?” can be asked in terms of matter and anti-matter imbalance. Here we have questions of symmetry, which has definite meaning within a physical context which can be translated into a mathematical framework. Symmetry is one of the interesting cases where a definition has meaning within both discrete and continuous mathematics.

    There are some other items one must keep in mind as well. First of all, there is a definite semantics problem associated with how words are defined within a particular context. Secondly, we have to understand that our understanding of universe reduces down only to the statement that every physical thing we observe shares a common origin. Thirdly, we can understand that there is a framework (namely QFT) where we can eliminate notions of causality in terms of analysis of free fields.

    My one thought on how best to understand nothingness has always come down to the question of boundaries and convergence. If for example I define a function N(t)=Nmax(1-EXP(-kt)) I can certainly understand that EXP(-kt) decreases to zero or nothing at the limits of infinity. If I further look at the definition of nothingness ( and think of nothingness as a state of being nothing then I can begin to understand nothingness as a type of boundary at infinity.

    Once again we find ourselves beginning to walk into territories of mathematics with the notion of limits. In physics we begin to associate these ideas with the notion of physical singularities.

    In any case, our notion of nothing and nothingness are very closely associated with the notion of limits and boundaries, which is very closely related to notions of discreteness. That we can partition is something that should be surprising, and although it is natural, it is not necessarily intuitive how we are able to do it, except to say that we are limited in our ability to process information about our world, and discreteness is a convenient way to approximate.

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  18. 18. HMS003 1:00 pm 04/14/2012


    I think we definitely have no hope of ever understanding everything. I think that we are just beginning to develop the ability to prove that we will always be forced to accept a little ignorance about the world around us. In fact, quantum mechanics has proven that we have to accept locality over objective reality as demonstrated by the various experiments involving Bell inequalities.

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  19. 19. And Then What? 9:36 am 04/15/2012

    IMHO There is an even more compelling question to answer when talking about the search for a TOE and that is: If I come up with a way to Mathematically describe something does this automatically lead to the logical conclusion that such a thing exists or may exist in Reality? That is really the fundamental underlying question that needs to be answered when talking about “any” Theory, which is founded on unproven Mathematical assumptions. If you believe that the workings of the Universe are inextricably connected in a one to one relationship with Mathematical Existence so that anything that can be Proven to have “Mathematically Existence” must also exist in Physical Reality then perhaps our Universe “is” pervaded by an Infinite number of fields with an infinite number of Spin numbers, whose interactions give existence to us and our Universe, but if it is possible to prove “just one case” where something may have Mathematically “Existence”, but it cannot exist in Reality then perhaps a great many so called Theories while having Mathematically Existence founded on perfectly logical assumptions are just elegant examples of the what can be constructed by gifted Mathematicians plying their trade.
    As someone who has dabbled in the fields (no pun intended) of Abstract Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, Physics, Stellar Astronomy and Logic, during my University years, there is a nagging question which always floats to the surface when I hear that such and such a Mathematically based Theory has been put forth to explain the workings of our Universe. I think: Yes but does every instance of Mathematical Reality have a “Physical Reality” identical twin? If someone could prove to me, using Mathematics, that it is not possible to have Mathematical Existence without Physical Existence then I would be prepared to give more credence to unverified strictly Mathematically theories. Until then I remain, yours truly, forever sceptical. At the risk of alienating the Mathematical crowd, I would suggest that most gifted Mathematicians are so deeply in love with Mathematics that they, like all mesmerized lovers, may be blinded to the possible existence of shortcomings of the object of their affections.
    If we ignore the aforementioned question then I believe that every Mathematical theory, while they may be monuments to the Mathematical genius of there proponents, will have to stand in an ever-growing line of like theories awaiting physical verification that may never come.

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  20. 20. 10:59 am 04/15/2012

    And Then What

    Mathematical formulations and deductions is a mode of description and understanding a physical reality at logical level. But reciprocal of this may not always be true. A, reality, whether physical or non-physical, may or may not be representable in mathematical form. For example, our entire cognitive process, having innumerable elements, is a reality -though one may not term this as a physical reality. But our thoughts are a reality. Still there is no full-fledged mathematical model for even a single element of cognitive element. Is there any full fledged theory, having a load of mathematics, for the most popular emotion of love on the patterns of theory of gravity. can any theory predict the quantum of love in a person after certain period? But does this means emotion of love does not exist?

    It appears to me that as we delve more deeply into the higher echelons of nature or that part of nature which is laced with consciousness, we find ourselves handicapped to express the reality in mathematical form. For example, leaving aside attributes and features, what set aside matter particle(electron)from energy particle(photon)? what is the inner structure of an electron? we shall simply say that electron is an indivisible particle of matter which carries certain certain charge, mass and spin. When we ask further, why it can’t be sub-divided further Or does it actually spins or spin nos are only mathematically attributes to represent a property? Similarly, when a photon is emitted or absorbed by an electron, is orbital jumping a real spatial jumping?

    Delving deep into reality creates a scenario toward which David Ross points in his musings ” may be we are just too dumb” and Ross is not ordinary person, he is a Nobel laureate.

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  21. 21. 1888junkteam 2:21 pm 04/15/2012

    trying to understand the universe is like counting to the end of infinity or figuring out where pi ends it will never happen because the complexity of the universe is layered n nested on the micro and macro level but there is a definite difference between life n death. and the light of our existence is what drives us for answers

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  22. 22. copleysq 3:01 pm 04/15/2012

    Basically we think in harmony with what i call Cosmic Abstract
    Relationship — the source of everything, including dark matter, life
    beyond our grappling imaginings, fractals, strings, knots and a sphere
    outside that dances with gravity; before big bang and after
    Perlmutter´s whimper—eternal relationship abstract cosmic.

    Cosmic Abstract Relationship reconciles Einstein and Bohr.
    Everything participates in infinite abstract cosmic relationship; even
    how come we love roses and the beautiful moon, and Lana Turner and
    Clark Gable; we enjoy relationship because it is what we are.

    A tragic failing in logic is the ignoring of vector—what is the
    direction of the thought: Without relationship there could not be, e
    g, electrons; relationship comes first; electron comes from
    relationship. Abstract relationship is that without which, nothing;
    and with which, all.

    Everything is the effect of relationship expressing itself; it does
    so in pattern and repetition, thus producing form; form lives. This
    is tracked by time; time is the trail of events; form in relationship
    with time is life. We foolishly reify time, as much else; reification
    is the curse of philosophy, making things of ideas.
    We must distinguish between the real (cosmic) and the actual (your chair).
    And especially between rational and reasonable — those words must
    be cleaned up! A madman can convince you rationally, but you are
    saved by being reasonable — we do not believe in witches.
    We must be able to conceive top down etc, instead of building up
    brick by intellectual brick. Take different perspectives at various
    elevations. Random does not mean chaotic; random is in relationship.

    Our brains develop physically by Interest in relationship of
    survival; this is the dynamic “why” under Friston´s use of Bayes.
    Intelligence wants to express relationship after birth congruent with
    before birth, and make itself safe and thriving.
    Repression opposes us in this, fighting awareness and intuition,
    and replacing imaginative/spiritual intuitive creativity, by planting
    The notion of beginning is absurdly reific. There is no need for
    there ever to have been beginning. Relationship simply IS.
    Evolution expresses relationship of individual with environment;
    evolving happens, together.
    All physics forces express cosmic relationship; that is what they
    do; they are expressions of cosmic relationship.
    Study cosmic abstract relationship—note the physics effect of
    observation, as part of relationship.
    In sleep we juggle like five year olds and playful computers, thus
    being freely creative. We hide this in the unconscious, away from
    Relationship equals(identity) Relationship cubed times Relationship
    cubed then to the nth power.
    There is nothing but Relationship-manifesting-itself.

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  23. 23. CasualReader 8:27 pm 04/15/2012

    Dear copleysq:
    > R=R3xR3n

    R cubed times R cubed, quantity to the Nth is just (R^6n), aka R to the quantity six times n. And what the heck is n in your equation?

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  24. 24. Dr. Strangelove 10:52 pm 04/15/2012

    I wonder if Vasiliev theory can make testable predictions in the real world. Or else it isn’t even wrong! We might as well dismiss it as useless. All theories are wrong but some are approximately correct and useful.

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  25. 25. Postman1 12:03 am 04/16/2012

    @Dr. Strangelove Any ‘theory’ which is unfalsifiable should instead be called ‘Dogma’.

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  26. 26. rosyatrandom 7:40 am 04/16/2012

    Asking where the relationships and laws come from is not, I think, as profound a question as it seems.

    If the boundary layer were to exist (and we’ll set aside the meaning of ‘exist’, just for now), and patterns and relationships within it _could_ be hypothetically drawn that would correspond to those of the Vasiliev theory, and they could then represent our universe as we know it, then I do not think there needs to be a concrete metaphysical act of joining-the-dots.

    If you have a substrate rich enough to be abstracted into representations of conscious beings in a complex reality, then it should not matter one iota to those beings whether those abstractions are ‘carried out’ in some way.

    Furthermore, why stop at the substrate? We’ve already done:

    [Simple Boundary Layer] —abstraction—> [Complex Universe]

    (if the substrate/boundary layer is not simpler than the universe, then why bother in the first place?) so it almost seems amiss to not continue the chain:

    [Simpler Substrate] –abstraction–> [Simple Boundary Layer] –abstraction–> [Complex Universe] –abstraction–> [Conscious Minds]

    The most obvious thing to do is to carry on the abstraction until get to a fundamental base case, something that cannot be reduced any further, but can be abstracted to ever more complex things. In my head, I imagine that base case to be something akin to the empty set. Also, I imagine that every possible abstraction chain leading up to [My Current Mental State] to be valid.

    Hmm. Anyway, I think I’ve blathered on enough….

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  27. 27. VernW 11:47 am 04/16/2012

    I am a lover of myth, especially those written as poetry or as a complex mathemtical formula. Time and change are synonomous, without a change in location or condition the universe is static and time dosn’t exist.
    The Chime, (change and time), was rung and here we are,
    circling questionably around a star.
    I’m working on a formula for this.

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  28. 28. And Then What? 8:03 pm 04/16/2012

    Something to ponder as you fall asleep?
    Mind Food:
    If life is but a game.
    With we the Pawns to move.
    What holds the board that’s played upon?
    And are We set in grooves?

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  29. 29. sidelight 9:49 pm 04/16/2012

    I’m drawn to the symmetry-breaking structure concepts, beginning with the fundamental symmetry-breaking of the uncertainty principle. And, what robs the higher spin symmetries of the energy to set them in motion? Uncertainty?

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  30. 30. donaldsge 10:44 pm 04/16/2012

    It’s simple. Time does not exist. Stop trying to find something that is not there. Be a scientist and start with the null hypothesis until there is evidence of time. Events move to the next event. Time doesn’t matter. Time is a construct of the mind, albeit, a very useful construct.

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  31. 31. Dr. Strangelove 1:29 am 04/17/2012

    Einstein said the distinction between past, present and future is just a stubbornly persistent illusion. But entropy has a direction in time. So while it’s a lovely idea that time does not exist, it may not be realistic.

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  32. 32. donaldsge 1:39 am 04/17/2012

    Entropy would be moving from one level of energy to the next level. That movement happens even if time doesn’t exist. Yes, it goes in one direction, but again, events move from one event to the next. It is a lovely idea that time doesn’t exist, but still, evidence causes a move from the null hypothesis.

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  33. 33. 12:48 pm 04/17/2012

    Certain aspects of space-time e.g. nil existence of time and entropy still in position appear correct mathematically and from theoretical considerations (which is the approach of a scientist), but a deep insight leads to a position which carries no meaning. What is the meaning of energy and matter without the existence of space-time. On cessation of space-time, matter-energy shall also dissolve. If space-time are constructs of mind, some illusions, cognition of matter-energy shall be even bigger constructs.

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  34. 34. Dr. Strangelove 8:57 pm 04/17/2012

    If time doesn’t exist, then all events are happening simultaneously in different parts of space. That is contrary to observation. You don’t see a person aged 0 to 80 years old all at once. For that to make sense, you have to postulate that at each instant, the person is located in a dimension of space we can only observe one at a time. You have to postulate a universe with multiple dimensions or a multiverse.

    Occam’s razor dictates it is more economical to assume that time exists than to postulate a multiverse.

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  35. 35. donaldsge 9:23 pm 04/17/2012

    Notice how it is always “space-time” or something related to “matter” or “energy”. It is always something that is not JUST time. Things move from one event to the next. Time is not necessary. People move from 0 to 80 “years” from one event to the next. We label it as “time”. Time is just a measurement.

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  36. 36. And Then What? 5:03 pm 04/18/2012

    If, as I suspect, the Universe truly is “unfolding as it should” then we humans are most likely just one of many similarly fashioned, evolving constructs, fashion by “It”, by which it may eventually be equipped to fully comprehend and, possibly control, Its destiny, but I suspect that now is certainly not that time. If it were then we would not have to struggle so hard to understand our surroundings. We may turn out to be one of Its many “failed attempts” that lay discarded on Its Laboratory floor, if you will. It is disconcerting, to most individuals, to face this as a possible reality, but nevertheless it may be true. What does this have to do with this topic you ask? Well if we do turn out to be such a “failed attempt” then perhaps all of our current speculations surrounding what we term Space and Time may simply be manifestations of our personal delusions about the working of “our” Universe and, have no real value with regarding to the understanding of the “actual” Universe. Of course there will be those who say such an assumption presupposes the existence of and intelligence guiding the workings of the Universe, but perhaps even our concept of an intelligent sentient entity is a flawed. As I said I don’t think we are anywhere near reaching the point where we, as a Species, can “dot every I”, or “cross every T”, in the eventual equation of a TOE, if there is such a thing, but it is fun to speculate isn’t it.

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  37. 37. Dr. Strangelove 9:56 pm 04/18/2012

    “Things move from one event to the next. Time is not necessary. People move from 0 to 80 “years” from one event to the next”

    If time doesn’t exist, then things move only in space. So you should be able to observe one person with multiple ages from 0 to 80 moving in space. Somehow we’ve never observed such thing though it’s a lovely idea.

    BTW Einstein wasn’t suggesting time does not exist. He only thought time shouldn’t be restricted in moving in only one direction from past to future. But even that is debatable.

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  38. 38. And Then What? 7:44 am 04/19/2012

    To my twisted mind, maybe the question boils down to one of semantics. We determine that, as you say, things move from one event to another and we say, “Time has passed” and Einstein combined this notion into his Mathematical description of what has become known as Relativity. His work was considered monumental because he combined Space and Time into Space-Time. The problem with us is that, for millions of years before his work they were considered separate entities and we, as a species, in general, have a hard time getting past that conception. If we had never had any concept of Time before Einstein’s work then maybe Space-Time would have been called something entirely different, and maybe somewhere some other species actually does call it something different. What I am saying is that without many of our preconceived notions perhaps this whole question of where Space and Time comes from would take on a whole new perspective when viewed from a different point of view and so maybe, just maybe, we are being held back in our advancement by our innate inability to evolve beyond our inbred ability to process our environment in a specific way. That is why I believe we are like babies in our playpen whose are just simply ill equipped to understand the larger Universe around them. Fortunately for babies they have adults to keep them alive long enough for them to advance. We adults, on the other hand, are not so fortunate I think this is why we came up with the concept of Deities and their, accompanying Religions and rules of conduct,to protect us from ourselves. I am not at all certain that this is such a bad thing at this point in our development.

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  39. 39. Dr. Strangelove 10:09 pm 04/19/2012

    IMO it is not a problem of semantics. Though that is also a problem according to Wittgenstein. (Imagine the guy was hailed the greatest 20th century philosopher just for saying the problem with philosophy is we can’t express our ideas in words)

    We can call the Moon, X or whatever. But its existence and physical properties will not be in doubt just because we changed its name. Time exists as far as science is concerned. But if we want to dwell in philosophy and metaphysics, perhaps time doesn’t exist or for that matter, you don’t exist at all. Maybe you’re a figment of the imagination of some hyperintelligent pandimensional being.

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  40. 40. donaldsge 10:40 pm 04/19/2012

    Dr. Strangelove,
    Please provide solid evidence of time other than the fact that it is a measurement (and space-time doesn’t count).

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  41. 41. EyesWideOpen 11:56 pm 04/19/2012

    Fascinating theorem. Suppose one works backwards starting at the assumption the present universe is in the time phase (at that infinite point in the future from where physicists think we are now). Working backward, everything has already “happened” (for want of a more concise word). The universe is in the “end game,” home stretch, what have you. If true that would explain how everything is happening “all at once” (i.e. in parallel universes) now, and may reveal what “comes next.” If our present is a dimension of pure time then it changes our whole understanding of science and reality.

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  42. 42. And Then What? 8:49 am 04/20/2012

    @Dr. Strangelove
    It would appear that I might be a living example of Wittgenstein’s postulate, since it seems I once again failed to elucidate my thoughts properly, but, of course, it is a poor tradesman who blames his flawed work on his tools. I did not mean to give the impression that I believe that Time did not have existence per se. I probably should have said that perhaps Time never had “independent existence”. That is, that which we now call Space-Time exists and, has always existed since the instant of the BB, and we, because of our mental evolutionary endowments, have gradually modified our view of It as we became more intellectually equipped to deal with our Reality. At first we perceived it as two separate entities Space and Time. Then we perceived it as a composite of the two, which we call Space-Time, and we discovered ways to Mathematically describe it and its observable effects in our discernible Universe. Now we struggle to advance our knowledge and understanding and we look for a TOE. Our logical train of thought is founded on the principle that we should now have enough basic information to derive such an all-encompassing theory. This may be one of our biggest mistakes ever.
    The lack of a complete understanding of the intimate connections linking Matter, Energy and Space-Time combined with recent discoveries surrounding the possible existence of Dark Energy, in particular, should be enough to tell us that things may not be as the first appear.
    For example we have evidence that Matter can move through Space under the influence of Gravity. We also have evidence that Space can move around, or through Matter as it expands since Matter, under the influence of Gravity, can go against the expansive force of Space, but we also know that Matter can be carried along by Space as it expands. These two apparently mutually exclusive notions would appear to exist in relative harmony and, to my knowledge I know of no reason that this be so, And,of course, there remains the question of where Energy fits into these intimate connections and its possible impacts.
    I suspect that when we get a better handle on what the Dark Energy Force is, and where it originates, we will have a better understanding of things and perhaps be better equipped to formulate a TOE, maybe.
    You comment about my existence as possibly a figment of the imagination of some hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional Being made me smile.
    You should be so lucky.
    I wonder what Freud might have said about those who would attempt to carry on a conversation with such an Entity?
    In any event if I ever get my Mental GPS calibrated and do make it out of this Forest,of sometimes confusing, details I will let you know.

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  43. 43. donaldsge 2:11 pm 04/20/2012

    I do appreciate your candor and humor.

    “Figment” and “construct” of the mind are different.

    Apart from a measurement or space-time, the concept of time as a real entity without evidence is similar to a faith-based system. Belief in the existence of time is hard to let go, much like faith-based beliefs. There are lots of arguments, narratives, and descriptions, but no evidence.

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  44. 44. Quinn the Eskimo 9:44 pm 04/22/2012

    Where Do Space and Time Come From?

    for lack of a better answer, as with all science where science fails, GOD.

    Subject to revision as we learn something more.

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  45. 45. donaldsge 8:11 am 04/23/2012

    Please, let’s not go there. This is a science blog. Thank you.

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  46. 46. Lucky Sobti 2:06 am 05/4/2012

    Where does space and time emerge from?

    1. God and ‘Akasha’(space) always existed. ‘Akasha’ is part of God domain.
    2. Out of a state of ‘Tam’ emerged a state of ‘Kshoba’. Where ‘Tam’ is the actual state we were in when the world was born, and ‘Kshoba’ is the state of disturbance or lack of equilibrium or stir caused by the will of God to effect creation.
    3. It is this ‘Kshoba’ which sent out light and sound into ‘Akasha’(space).
    4. Riding piggyback on light was ‘Prana’.
    5. Light existed in ‘God domain’, in a dormant state and was released due to the stir (‘kshoba’).
    6. Until the release of light there existed a state of (equipoise) ‘Tam’, and what we now call ‘space-time’ continuum had not manifested itself.
    7. It is with the movement of light that time emerged.
    8. Like God, space also existed unconditionally but had a singularity in its dimension.
    9. This singular dimension of space was eternal and being so could not display the dimensions of length, breadth and depth.
    10. The emergence of light and its accompaniment of sound instantaneously gave ‘Space’ a four dimensional effect with the introduction of time.
    11. Matter is created out of space, light, sound, ‘prana’ and time. The more dense matter is, the more congealed are its basic ingredients. The differing qualities exhibited by different matter are caused by the diverse effect of ‘Prana’. (Out of ‘Prana’ is evolved everything that we call energy and that we call force. It is ‘Prana’that manifests itself as gravity as magnetism, as actions of the body, as nerve currents, as thought force. The sum total of all forces in the Universe, mental or physical when resolved back to the original state is what we call ‘Prana’.
    12. Matter on dissolution becomes space and ‘Prana’, it then reconstitutes into some other matter depending in the potentialities of its constituents.
    13. Should there be dissolution of all matter in the Universe; light, sound, and ‘Prana’ would return to ‘God domain’ and time would disappear until the next ‘Kshoba’.
    14. There is internal and external time. There is movement in the confines of subatomic particles and this movement is measured as internal time. The evolution of a particle from order to disorder and back to order bears a time reference to itself. The time perceived to pass through the psychological field is that of thought propagation, stagnation or retardation in the mind domain.
    15. Suffice to say, if there is no space for any internal or external movement there would be no time.
    16. Time is Space’s bridesmaid and tends to its creative potentiality. Space feeds time templates into actualizing its potential.

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  47. 47. RickBeers 9:27 am 06/9/2012

    There are many Theories of Everything. My personal favorite is QES. Modeling is based in String Theory with additional factors.

    Most TOE do not account for instantaneous things like entanglement. String Theory itself does not account for gravity. But QES accounts for all physics, to include all anomalies in physics.

    The author is offering $50 to the first person that can find any valid contradiction with observable physics.

    Interesting is that even though QES is based in physical science, the author provides an application related to the Intelligent Universe theorists and potentially describes Inception and Karma.

    I hope QES is true, because the pathway of experiments described is then the building blocks for intergalactic travel, time travel, and much much much more.

    Based on QES one person described a pathway were everyone could have immortality. Oh oh oh and according to QES we all currently live eternally because we “repeat”. If we live in a continuum and the continuum is part of instantaneous relationships, then everything repeats.

    So don’t worry about dying, after the next Big Bang and 13.7 billion years, you might be doing pretty much the same things again. It was more complicated then that, but that’s what I got out of it.

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  48. 48. RickBeers 9:42 am 06/9/2012

    “Faith supports the first step of every journey.
    Every Scientist begins every journey with Faith.
    The purpose of Faith is to be destroyed by Truth.
    Faith without the Journey is Self-Deception.
    Self-Deception is the Greatest Evil,
    because self-deception preys on the troubled soul.
    Leaders of Religion are Demons in disguise,
    training diciples to deceive themselves,
    to ignore contradictions.”

    Not mine, copied it from somewhere. Really like it.

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  49. 49. pardnerh 6:34 pm 09/6/2012

    The visible material we observe as the remnants of gamma ray bursts are not retained in the matter isolated in the black hole when collapsed or trapped light/matter forms an Event Horizon. Young blue stars swirl about the edge of Black Holes/Event Horizons, in an elliptical fashion, as they are no longer bound by the gravitational field as this weight/matter no longer is observable to them or our naked eye. We do not observe directly Black Holes as their masses/weight/matter have exited the universe to become Event Horizons in another self made dimension/universe. We only observe what was/is left behind. Time does not stop in a Black Hole; it only begins as it did with our own universe from the time of our own origin/event horizon. We cannot observe it/black holes because it/they exceed the speed of light relative to the primordial origin. Time does not only stop for these black holes in the primordial universe but begins again as it expands into another dimension from the dawning of an Event Horizon. The shockwave of the implosion is all we are left to detect these ongoing events, the universe giving birth. Think about it like this, what, when, and where was our own universe before it started, did it have a dimension and time preceding its own dawn/event horizon? Yes, theoretical physicists need to think out-loud as some have championed this rebirth scenario. Do Black Holes have anything to do with the Bright Light that flashes to life in an Event Horizon?
    Great Mysteries offer tricksters to guide us to new destinations, while it is in the Journey that we are to appreciate the signposts of posit placed along the way. Science works in strange ways especially when we put up barriers or limits, like the speed of light or the beginning of time relative to our Universe; but not another. Does the quandary of the origins of Native People in the Americas have anything to do with the peopling/arrival of our species in the Old World? Nobel Stanford Physicist Robert Laughlin warns us that evolution in thought is an event that is played out over and over again as we arrive in time to find new horizons.

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  50. 50. htoknow 9:38 am 12/17/2012

    “Esoptrics: The Logic Of The Mirror” is the cosmological theory I’ve been honing since 1957. In it, time is objective or subjective. Objective time is “universal time” & “time as the measure of relative duration”. Objective time is in units called “alphakronons” (K ), a minimum segment called “ultimate time” & “u-time” and always c. 10^-96 sec.. Esoptrics thus says all duration is an integral multiple of one alphakronon, such as 2K, 3K . . . . 2^385K. Subjective time is “particular time” & “time as the measure of change”. Subjective time results because, for Esoptrics, the Universe’s ultimate constituents never change continuously but engage in states of excitation each of which is, for some number of K, internally changeless. As long as an ultimate engages in a temporarily changeless state, that static state’s relative duration can be expressed in the terms of K by those able to calculate it; but, for the ultimate engaging in that static state, objective time has no effect upon it and in no way registers with it. For it, time, as the measure of duration, is at a standstill, and only time, as the measure of change, is of any relevance to it. Esoptrics thus challanges Newton’s first law of motion. Instead of saying what’s at rest or in motion tends to stay that way, it says every ultimate is ever engaged in changing from static state of excitation to another at some definite rate (in the terms of K) and tends to continue doing so at that rate.

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  51. 51. everyrosie 12:50 pm 05/9/2014

    I truly appreciate your attempt to explain this very complex theory. Unfortunately I can’t currently wrap my brain around it. Hopefully the physicists that I trust with this stuff will figure it out soon and pass the knowledge around!

    Rosie |

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