imagine darkness: the making of the simple universe

Publication notice:

 I’m pleased today, February 17, to announce the publication of imagine darkness: the making of the simple universe, in a paperback edition. The book is the continuation and expansion of the model I first sketched out in the picnic at the edge of the universe, published as an ebook in 2011 and re-released in paperback format on January 1, of this year.

the simple universe described in this account is a new model of the origin and structure of the universe as observed from our local, and only, vantage point here on earth. It is based on just what we can observe, not burdened with mysticism, fantasy, hypothetical dimensions, belief in paradoxes or contradictions, mechanistic contrivances, or mathematics substituted for reality. Beginning with the rediscovery of a single fixed relativistic frame of reference, the electromagnetic ether, it enables us to resolve or dismiss the multiple paradoxes and contradictions of the current “standard models” of physics and cosmology and replace them with a new and simplified theory of everything. Along the way this account provides new insights into the commonly accepted belief systems around relativity, particle theory, quantum theory, the second law of thermodynamics, E=mc2, and the velocity of light, and offers a simplified, rational, and reality-based alternative, It accomplishes this by seeing with new eyes the same body of evidence, the same observations, that, through misattribution or misuse have supported the current incomplete and contradictory theories for the past 100 years, as well as by applying what we have learned since those theories were first proposed.

 the simple universe is the model of modern physics and cosmology I’ve been working on for more than a dozen years and I finally feel I’ve gotten it right. These two books came out of long conversations with friends and colleagues who were interested in “the big questions” and who weren’t satisfied with answers that were too mysterious and complicated. But searching the literature for clarity soon turned up the fact that there was no clarity, not even among those experts who claimed to know the subjects and the answers.

What we finally discovered was that, for too long, we’ve lived with the untenable logical assumptions of the big bang and so-called “quantum” everything. It is painful to read that we have all the answers when almost none of it can be accepted without a “willing suspension of disbelief” at every level. We are told that 1, it all came from nothing, 2, it’s expanding into nothing, 3, that it can’t be measured or explained, 4, it’s all mathematics. 5, it’s all information, 6, that it didn’t exist at all until we observed it, 7, time and space didn’t exist until we came along, 8, it exists in a mysterious other dimension (or dimensions), and so on and so on. The arguments are infinitely circular, energy is what makes the world go around and the world going around is what generates energy.

Common sense tells us that the dimensions we have created are what we use to describe the size and shape and location of things, they are not things in themselves; the units of time we created are for measuring the duration of events and phenomena and the persistence of objects in space, and are not real things in themselves. Einstein invented an imaginary entity he called spacetime and invested it with real physical characteristics and none of the experts challenged him on it before it became the de facto standard model. Bohr, Heisenberg, and the Copenhagen Crew told us that we could never understand their mystical theories, Richard Feynman said nobody could, so the physics professors told their students to forget trying to make it logical, just calculate!

Unfortunately, in modern physics, logic and common sense have lost their place. When mathematicians took over physics they decided that just being honest describers of the real world was not enough; math could just take over and be the real world. That way only a few people could understand it and the math could be the new holy writ. The experts could declare victory and that was it. Dissenters were dismissed as cranks and crackpots. Unfortunately a few are just that, but still the questions they raised are not being answered.

It was way past time to take back reality. That’s what imagine darkness tries to do. The fundamental mysteries of the standard models are reduced to just one, down from the dozens mentioned above. The structure of everything turns out to be explainable by information we have all around us. Some of the mathematics may be reusable but the fundamental logic of the universe needs to be seen ‘with new eyes’ in an entirely different way. I welcome your thoughts and your challenges. I hope for many. Thank you.

This book, as well as the preceding one, are available through Amazon, through this web site at and other outlets.

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What (exactly) is energy?

What is energy?

A recent post on a LinkedIn web discussion poses this question, with conditions. It rules out, wisely, simple mathematical expressions and the like, along with the typical circular, non-realistic explanations you get about gravity or magnetism or forces. The questioner seems to want at least a verifiable description of an object, an event, or a phenomenon that can be examined, evaluated. I am afraid he will be disappointed. I’ll try to explain why.

For me, “what is energy?” is the fundamental question that underlies all the theories of physics, cosmology, origins, etc., from the universe to even life, itself.

It is, like gravity and magnetism, actually two of its manifestations, something that many experts will claim to understand, without a clue as to its sources or origins. We have teased out many of its patterns which we then designated as its “laws.” We know its effects at a wide range of its power, from high to low. We know it exists and, within limits, how to manage and control it. What we lack is a truly physical description and any theory of its ultimate sources and origins.

I have been wrestling with these questions for a long time and in my own model, called modestly, the simple universe, energy is the only remaining fundamental mystery, so don’t expect an answer, beamed down from on high. It is the only remaining mystery, as opposed to the dozens that you find everywhere in the theories of thinkers from Democritus to Bohr, including everything from the Hindu Vedas to “strings.”

I can describe energy—as a fundamental vibrations across a null point of the elemental constituent of everything— everything, that is, all objects, events, and phenomena of the real world. The real world, for me, is what exists outside of our heads; everything that, as the novelist Robert Heinlein once described, as “what is still there after you have stopped believing in it.”

How do we perceive energy and how do we ‘know’ it exists? Well, we can detect it at its possibly lowest point on our detectors and collectors as what has come to be known (mistakenly, I’m convinced) as the CMBR—a generalized level of vibration throughout the cosmos— a boiling pot, at a very low temperature by our measuring techniques, but still apparent in every direction and at all distances we can reach.

Its more directly perceptible manifestations are, of course, in its local concentrations, in everything from a tiny refrigerator magnet up to galactic scales in the furthest reaches of our universe.

The way these manifestations have occurred and become known to us have been by processes themselves known to us, that is, by random interactions in that field, by reinforcements, resonances and phase transitions leading to temporarily stable entities of which we ourselves are a part. And, of course, in cosmic terms, ‘temporary’ can mean billions of years.

Albert Einstein postulated a universe describable by four ‘dimensions.’ Three of these are obvious, length, breadth, and height, although many more are available to us for describing the more complex entities we encounter. He also proposed a fourth descriptor which he denoted as ‘time,’ although it is better termed as ‘duration’ or ‘persistence,’ without which no real entity could exist. In any universe so described. However, the other ‘killer variable’, fundamental and essential to the existence of anything, must be energy, the very stuff of creation, the root of all that exists, even though we may never know precisely its constituents, its origins, or its source.

These are the principal arguments in my forthcoming book, imagine darkness, in which I lay out more detailed explanations of how all of this originated and ultimately has played out in the world today. Expect its publication in the next few weeks.

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dark energy, dark matter—in the simple universe

This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “Imagine Darkness, the making of the simple universe.” in part reiterating the points made in an earlier post, titled “Dark What” (June 2012). It is updated with new information and support from some new findings by astronomers. Thanks for reading it. I would welcome your thoughts and comments.

dark energy, dark matter

In early 2007, the journal Nature published the results of a study by a team of astronomers led by Richard Massey of Caltech, detailing their efforts at mapping the extent and nature of “dark matter”, that mysterious and as yet invisible substance that is presumed to make up the greater part of the physical mass of the universe. The university released its own notification of the publication, a portion of that press release is shown below.

New 3-D Map of Dark Matter Reveals Cosmic Scaffolding

SEATTLE—An international team of astronomers has created a comprehensive three-dimensional map that offers a first look at the weblike large-scale distribution of dark matter in the universe. Dark matter is an invisible form of matter that accounts for most of the universe’s mass, but that so far has eluded direct detection, or even a definitive explanation for its makeup. The map is being unveiled today at the 209th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, and the results are being published simultaneously online by the journal Nature. According to Richard Massey, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology who led in the map’s creation, the map provides the best evidence yet that normal matter, largely in the form of galaxies, forms along the densest concentrations of dark matter. The map reveals a loose network of filaments that grew over time and which intersect in massive structures at the locations of clusters of galaxies. Massey calls dark matter “the scaffolding inside of which stars and galaxies have been assembled over billions of years.” Because the formation of the galaxies depicted stretches halfway to the beginning of the universe, the research also shows how dark matter has grown increasingly clumpy as it continues collapsing under gravity. The new maps of dark matter and galaxies will provide critical observational underpinnings to future theories for how structure formed in the evolving universe under the relentless pull of gravity.

The bolded text is a clue to the underlying assumptions held in general in the astronomy and physics communities in regard to the structure of the universe, that is, that it all arrived via a “big bang” and that the dark matter scaffolding existed at a time prior to the appearance of stars, galaxies, and clusters and, in fact, provided a major part of the basis for their development. In the tradition of modern physics, “dark matter” is assumed to be particulate, that is, of the same substantial nature as so-called ordinary matter, a term that covers all of the visible, to us humans, elements of the universe. So, is there another possible interpretation of this impressive body of data than that proposed by Massey and his colleagues? I am convinced that there is. In his paper, Gravitational Theory, Galaxy Rotational Curves, and Cosmology Without Dark Matter, for instance, the physicist John W. Moffat also clearly asserts, “The gravitational lensing of clusters of galaxies can be explained without exotic dark matter.”

In the non-particulate universe of my own and others’ concepts, “dark matter” is not “particulate,” not at all mysterious, and may have little or nothing to do with expansion. It is more likely to have arisen along with the development of the large energy-dense masses of stars, galaxies, and clusters than to have been around first, to serve as “scaffolding.” Dark matter is more likely to be a manifestation of the natural distortions of the field that we see around the presence of magnets or powerful electric currents right here on earth in our local environment, less a “chicken or egg” manifestation than a more or less “chicken and egg” event. To explain this further, I have borrowed some of Massey’s exhibits as follows:

The image below is a “dark matter” contour map of a segment of a Hubble image. According to Richard Massey, the colored points in the image are ordinary matter, i.e. stars, galaxies and clusters in the Hubble image. The contours then show the gravitational lensing intensity surrounding each of them, Massey calls these areas “dark matter,” scaffolding within which new star formation is encouraged or supported. My alternative construction of this data is that the ordinary matter consists of high energy concentrations in the electromagnetic ether, concentrations we identify as stars, galaxies, and clusters, and what the contours actually indicate are the intensity of field distortions these create in their vicinity, the otherwise invisible energy distortions that, it is true, do encourage the formation of what we will ultimately see as new stars, galaxies and clusters out of the energy of the field.

DM contours

Figure 3.1 Massey’s “dark matter” contour map. The various colors show different types of ordinary matter but all their structure is built within the much more massive scaffolding of dark matter. (Massey: Nature)

In the computer simulation, below, one can visualize the location of field distortions surrounding the high energy concentrations we perceive as stars, galaxies and clusters. The apparent hard lines of the cloudlike forms are merely a representation of a selected threshold of perception. In actuality (if I may use that term) the intensity or energy level of these distortions probably follows a smooth curve, as other fields exhibit, i.e. falling off in intensity as the cube of the distance from the core. One can generalize from this conceptualization that we here in our galaxy, in fact, undoubtedly inhabit just such a region of “dark matter”, but we cannot detect it as Massey has been able to do by using Hubble images of regions at a distance from us. We can also see these regions as analogous to what we do perceive locally as magnetic, electric, and electromagnetic fields, which we also know are not particulate. This can also be seen as an explanation for the apparent “curvature of space” envisioned by Einstein. Light, itself, seen now as a visible range of frequencies carried on the background frequency of the electromagnetic ether, not through the vacuum of space, would naturally have its path distorted in traversing these regions, thus explaining Eddington’s 1919 observation of the curvature of light predicted by, and seen then as confirming Einstein’s relativistic model.

Massey w:light beamsMassey w:light beamsFigure 3.2 Computer simulation, “dark matter scaffolding” by Massey. This image, created by Richard Massey through his analysis of Hubble images, gives us an idea of how the “dark matter” surrounding the high energy phenomena in the universe might be seen if it were visible. The bright elements within these magnetic fields are not from the original images but were added to show how the structures might be organized. For example, our galaxy might be one of those bright dots. The yellow line represents an undeflected path of light, the orange one how a light beam is likely deflected by the higher intensity of the distorted field. (Lines added by cs)

In a universe that is entirely made up of a wide range of distortions of the background field, (not of little billiard balls of “particles”), these so-called regions of “dark matter” do not consist of anything like a particulate ether forcing expansion of the universe as proposed by some authorities, but are simply distortions of the field arising from the presence of the high energy distortions they surround. Ernst Mach predicted this phenomenon when he stated, “… the ether not only conditions the behavior of inert masses but is also conditioned in its state by them.”

So here is the truth of the mysteries of “dark energy” and “dark matter.” All of everything is made up of energy, in various states depending on how and in what region of the universe it arose. That field, which we have chosen to call the ether, is all there is of what the mystery lovers among us choose to call dark energy. It is a field that while internally turbulent is fixed in its location. It is not going anywhere. Those regions of that field that have undergone distortion, increases in energy density where they surround and permeate those high energy, perceptible entities that have, up until now, been identified as objects, with a property called “mass,” is what those same experts have called dark matter. Our portion of the universe, our star, our galaxy, have taken part in this process. The energy concentration we call the milky way has generated a region of distortion of the field, a region characterized by a higher energy density, a region of dark matter so to speak. We live in that region. It surrounds and permeates us and affects the way our stars and planets behave, as we affect it, as Mach pointed out so many years ago.

Powerful evidence of these assertions have appeared in two studies in recent years. British researchers, M. Lockwood, R. Stamper, and M.N. Wild published in NATURE (Vol. 399, 3 June 1999. Pages 437-439), a paper entitled A Doubling of the Sun’s Coronal Magnetic Field during the Last 100 Years. They point to a doubling of the intensity of the sun’s field in that period. The reason for this occurrence is obvious in the model of the simple universe. Our entire solar system has moved into a region of increased energy density, that is, we have moved closer to the center of a system surrounding a high energy concentration in the field. One can picture this clearly if one imagines the orbits of our little group of planets around the sun. If the sun were fixed in position relative to the ether, or one fixed reference frame. then the planetary orbits would describe a series of concentric ellipses. But the sun itself is in motion, and into a region of higher energy density. One has then to imagine the orbits of our system as describing helices as the center of their rotation itself moves laterally relative to the ether and relative to other systems also in motion. (See Jamal Shrair, The fact remains, our solar system has moved in the last 100 years deeper into a region of higher energy density and the result is that our sun’s magnetic field has doubled in strength.

So here arises the need for a new vision of the precise notion of gravity, if “dark matter” is not actually subject to its “relentless pull”, but is a totally different kind of manifestation of the structure of the field; and a new look at expansion, assuming it really exists, as probably the creation of new concentrations (stars, galaxies, clusters) arising with help from the universe’s absorption of energy from the surrounding (and permeating) field of the cosmos.

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Olbers’ Paradox: the brightness of the universe and the dimness of the mind

One hears these days, in both the serious scientific literature and its popular press parallels, of two of the great unsolved mysteries of modern science, particularly in the fields of physics and astronomy. These are the mysterious “dark energy,” and its lesser companion, “dark matter.” Unfortunately, when a modern physicist speaks of “dark energy” he is describing not just something that must exist because of the effects it appears to have but, in fact, something that can be shown to be a completely non-existent fantasy, even if you take “dark” to mean “not yet identified or observed.” There is energy out there but nowhere can it be described as “dark.” One has only to look at the latest images from the Planck project, seen by the more easily impressed among us as something called the CMBR, or “cosmic microwave background radiation,” once hailed by the true believers in the big bang as evidence of that imaginary occurrence, cooled down by 13.7 billion years of travel through the cosmos.

Olbers’ paradox is a one time conundrum originally expressed by many thinkers but given its name by the German amateur astronomer Heinrich Olbers. Simply put, Olbers hypothesized that if the universe were infinite and populated evenly with stars, then one must of necessity be visual in every possible line of sight, and hence the night must then appear uniformly bright, which is obviously not true. The key to this puzzle lies first in the word “visual,” since that limits the issue to the narrow range of electromagnetic frequencies available to human vision. If one surveys the night sky at, say, a radio frequency, the sky is uniformly bright. The second answer is, that even at normal light frequencies, the problem is one of distance, in that the light from stars at great astronomical distances suffers from having been distributed in all directions and that its intensity has as a result, fallen off at the rate of the square of its distance from its point of origin. The light from those distant points is simply too dim to be detected, and so does not contribute to the brightness of the night.

Another key word in the paradox is “infinite.” A true big bang believer “knows” that the universe has an edge, because nothing could possibly exist more than 13.7 billion light years away.

The big bang, and its concomitant theories of universal expansion have become the “standard model” of modern cosmology. They are seen as the ultimate explanation for all phenomena observed in the night sky despite the observation by some astronomers of stars apparently much older than the supposed age of the universe; serious doubts about and arguments against the Hubble “redshift” law, the basis of the expansion theory, even by Hubble himself; and the finding of numerous anomalies in the observations of nearby quasars in other apparently cosmologically distant galaxies. The standard model rules!

This is where the dimness of the mind enters the equation. What we seem to have here is what the astronomer Hilton Ratcliffe has described as— “the pervading tenet of human behavior… seek out, then believe with absolute conviction and utter disregard for rational experience, that which is dark and mysterious.” He goes on, “Every time we have a Standard Model of anything, no matter what, disciples experience an apparently irresistible urge to accept proof before the miracle has occurred.” The big bang has occurred, supported even, perhaps not surprisingly, by the Pope himself. Perhaps the passage of time will work this out, but don’t hold your breath.

A more disturbing, perhaps even frightening aspect of this tendency (are we born this way?) of this aspect of human behavior is what we might call the politicization of science in our modern American society. Not necessarily of science itself, but of the reporting and response to its findings in relationship to political and governmental policy.

Beliefs and opinions on such subjects as climate change, on evolution, are the prime subjects we hear debated these days, but many others are high on the list. We, and most educators have for many years been of the conviction that the best way to manage the conflict is by increasing education and knowledge of any disputed subjects. and that the spread of rational thought would prevail but recent studies support the old saw that says, “Don’t bother me with facts, I know what I believe.” In a column on Sunday, July 6, 2014 in the New York Times, Brendan Nyhat of Dartmouth College reports on studies that confirm that even people highly educated in science and math just aren’t ready to accept a scientific consensus when it contradicts their political or religious views. Max Planck’s observation that getting the establishment in science to accept a new theory that contradicts the old is impossible, and that our best hope remains that the establishment eventually dies off, is still in effect. The brightness of the facts and evidences of science are perhaps too easily dimmed by the clouds of political and religious belief. “Unfortunately,” Professor Nyhat concludes, “knowing what scientists think is ultimately no substitute for actually believing it.” Even among scientists themselves.


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The Cosmic Background (and foreground)

A couple of days ago, this image was published as Astronomy Picture of the Day, on NASA’s website of that name. It struck me as a perfect illustration of a point I have been trying to make as I was studying the whole business of the expansion of the universe, the varying interpretations of redshifts, the anomalous observations of low redshift quasars in among high redshift galaxies, the “quantum” explanations of gravitational redshifts, and the like. The image and its “explanation” are taken directly from the website. My comments follow.

CMB dipole

The CMBR is not, as naive theorists suppose, a leftover from the big bang, an event that never happened. What has been called the CMBR, is, in fact, the image of the background field that permeates both our universe and the extended cosmos in which it arose and in which it currently resides. It is, in fact, what our more speculatively inclined peers call “dark energy.” The image above shows the effects of the motion of our local position relative to the fixed reference frame of that cosmos, and explains many previously unknown phenomena, particularly the constancy  of “c,” the velocity of light.

From any given point our velocity relative to that fixed frame consists of the sum of our earthly rotational velocity, our orbital velocity relative to the sun, the orbital velocity of the sun relative to the Milky Way, the velocity of that galaxy  relative to Local Group of galaxies, the Local Group’s velocity relative to the Virgo Cluster, and that cluster’s rotational velocity relative to the cosmos. That is a very large number. We are spinning very fast in this “boiling pot” of the cosmos.

The image is, of course, highly color-enhanced, as are most representations of red- and blueshifting, but it gives a dramatic sense to the magnitude of our motion, which, of course, none of us actually feel, as well as dramatic proof of Galileo’s first conceptualization of relativity.

What I  am trying to explain, in all of my current work, is that it is true that this field is primordial, in that it existed long prior to all of the reality we perceive and all the reality that was there for billions of years before we evolved to observe it. But it didn’t arise out of nothing. It isn’t the cooled-down residue of some explosion dreamed up by an explosion-loving physicist. I can’t explain how it came to exist, but I can demonstrate that it does exist and that it’s existence can explain all that we do see and experience here in this reality that we (temporarily) inhabit.

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Creation Myths and The Simple Universe

Creation myths are of many types and varieties. Some have to do with Gods as personalities, as in the Greek and Norse mythologies. In these the world (the universe) is created as a result of a conflict or cataclysm, familial or tribal, between warring creatures in another place (or dimension), as a place to which one group or the other, typically the defeated one, is banished, or flees to. In others, worlds are the deliberate creation of a god-like creature, the Christian God for example. The purpose of this creation is left unstated. An experiment, perhaps,? a new toy? to test his powers? In Alan Lightman’s satirical novel, Mister G, the hero wakes up one morning and out boredom, perhaps, says to himself, “I think today, I’ll make a universe.” Which he proceeds to do, in a delightful process which enlightens him and us. Mister G’s act is of the global sort. His universe appears fully formed, even though he tinkers with it as he goes along, adding details, and eventually, inhabitants with whom he interacts in unique ways. The Christian Bible’s creation myth is also global. “Let there be light!” God says, and there is light. Most scientists struggled to accept this kind of instantaneous creation, including the few who said, “We don’t need no creation, the universe has always existed!” This was known as the “steady state” model, championed most recently by Fred Hoyle and others.

The biblical version, a “global” type of creation, had its rebirth in the twentieth century in a new form masquerading as science. We have no record of contemporary critical reaction to the biblical model, but Georges Lemaitre’s concept, of a universe expanding from an initial point, which he called “the primeval atom,” drew a quick response from Hoyle, who derisively branded it as “a big bang.” As often happens in our sound-bite driven public discourse, the name quickly lost its derisive connotations and became the popular name for this old, but seemingly brand new idea. The biblical one sprang, like Venus from the head of Zeus, directly from the mind of God. The big bang, on the other hand, sprang from nothing, thereby contradicting thousands of years of natural philosophy, that “something” could never emerge from nothing. Basically the argument seemed to be, “We can’t hope to know what might have been there before this massive explosion, so “nothing” is as good as anything else as a possible progenitor.”

The Simple Universe is a different kind of model. Where the accepted “standard model” is global, TSU is incremental. Where the standard model is first explosive then expansionist, TSU is evolutionary, growing by small increments, perhaps many of them over short periods of a few million years or so, but proceeding by resonances, aggregations, adaptations, trials and error, phase transitions from criticality to higher levels of stability. Where the standard model sees the universe appearing miraculously out of nothing, TSU arises out of an entity, a field, known to exist today; and by mechanisms we can observe in our everyday zone of middle dimensions. Where the “standard model” is not only anti-commonsense and understandable by only a highly placed and highly favored scientific priesthood, TSU is easily comprehensible to most if not all moderately educated persons interested in the universe and its origins.

The process by which this all comes about is not so hard to understand. A simple environment and a few simple rules govern the growth and form of a coral reef, a swarm of insects, a flock of birds. Most large complex organisms, geological formations, events like earthquakes volcanic eruptions, and phenomena like hurricanes and tornados have arisen in a similar fashion. Nearly every large complex system results from many small entities responding to simple rules. Some examples: a flock of birds has no leader. What we see in their formation and its fluid modulations is the result of each individual guiding its behavior by observing that of his one or two or three immediate neighbors and responding by maintaining his own direction, separation and height according to those observations. Major events like earthquakes result from the accumulation of small movements and resistances in the earths crust as it moves to a critical condition, where it takes only a small change in conditions to result in a massive change in the system. Two keys to these processes are essential to this understanding. One is the existence of an environment that within itself is in constant vibratory motion. The other is that each such environment is subject to turbulent behavior in the form of flows, currents, nonlinear conditions. The universal electromagnetic field certainly satisfies the first of these requirements. Its turbulence and the presence of pink noise (1/f noise) is clear from the need to filter those frequencies out by the Planck satellite.

These characteristics of the field support the behaviors of self-organized criticality, fractal geometry, and cellular automatism particularly resulting from its iterative vibratory nature.

TSU then is a product of known processes without the need for unsupportable assumptions, processes or mechanisms. It can be explained without the need for imaginary, virtual particles or contradictory, quasi-mystical inventions. It is a quantum leap in the direction of truth.



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How Many Dimensions Make a Universe?

Modern physics is full of references to “dimensions.” A mathematical term in use since who knows when, it became attached with quasi-mythical associations soon after Albert Einstein coined the term “raumzeit,” or spacetime in the early part of the 20th century. Actually Einstein drew the concept from two other mathematicians of his time, Poincaré and Minkowski, who first posed the use of time as a fourth dimension to clarify some of their mathematical formulae, but considered the resultant 4-dimensional construct as imaginary. Einstein instead made his “four-dimensional continuum” a central part of his Theory of General Relativity, published in 1915. For Einstein, space and time became parts of the real universe, even though neither has any real attributes that are discernable to the human sensory system.

As a young man, fascinated by science, and its literary counterpart, science fiction, I was enthralled by the notion of a mysterious fourth dimension, the idea of time travel, and possible movement into another universe through “wormholes” in spacetime, translation into a another dimension, and the like. Only later, when my education caught up with my fantasies, did I understand what was really meant by a dimension and began to question how one could be considered an actual entity in the real world. This is what I learned, and from it came a new understanding of how error can become institutionalized and almost a permanent part of our consciousness.

A dimension is nothing more or less than a descriptive term in language that refers to certain attributes of objects, events, and phenomena, the entities that make up the class of real elements  in the world. As a descriptor in a language it is not real in the sense that it is discernable outside of our consciousness but occupies a level of abstraction higher than the real entities it describes. Dimensions are applied to measure, describe, communicate quantifiable attributes of objects, events, and phenomena, as in denoting the length of a line, the length and breadth of a planar object, or the length, breadth and height of a solid, what we call a 3-dimensional entity. For example, a rectilinear box can be described by stating the value of those three attributes of the object, in whatever dimensional units common to the location or region in which the object is located. Common units are, for instance, feet and inches in the U.S. and some other English language speaking countries, in meters, centimeters, etc. in those regions where the metric system is in use. But you can make up your own as long as you explain them to your audience.

For an object that has a form that is more complex that that of a rectilinear box, additional dimensions my be required to describe  and measure its form and character. A toroidal form, for example, might require dimensions for its outside diameter, its cross sectional diameter, and the cross-section’s  rotation through 360°, in this case still only three dimensions but different ones from the previous example. You can see, however, that different types of objects require different dimensions for their appropriate description. The dimensions described are the so-called spatial dimensions. Besides being used to denote the size and  form of objects, there may be dimensions that locate an entity relative to other entities, either established reference points, as used by land surveyors, or separation distances between one entity and another.

In short, I think that it is apparent that there may be an unlimited number of so-called “dimensions”, but they are inseparably tied to the object, event, or phenomenon they describe; they do not exist as actual entities in and of themselves in some abstract region of the cosmos.

We use dimensions to describe events and phenomena as for instance, a storm system or hurricane. We describe it as being located so many miles from land, in a specific direction, as having winds of certain velocities at specific altitudes, as being of a certain size, as growing in intensity or weakening; each of these descriptive terms are quantifiable, and can be called dimensions.

In my fifty plus years as a practicing architect, I became intimately acquainted with the importance of dimensions. Without them, I could not communicate my desires and intentions to those who would implement my plans and turn them into useful products. I used them both to describe the products and their locations. And I used dimensions to describe other characteristics that had to be included in the final work. These included the capacity of heating and ventilating systems, the quantity of water to the plumbing systems, the voltage and current carrying capacity of electrical components. Each of these values was a “dimension.”

There is another set of dimensions of course, Loosely referenced in the discussion above, in talking about air, water, electricity, and in the storm example, there is the question of movement and its characteristics of velocity and acceleration. The calculation of these elements requires another dimension which we commonly refer to as time. Time is talked about by everyone and for centuries has escaped being understood. For our discussion here, it is important to understand that time, like space, exists only as a conceptual entity in our heads, not outside of them in some mysterious realm. Like space, you cannot reach out and grasp a handful or a cup full and examine it in your laboratory. Like space, you cannot bend it, curve it, break it slow it or speed it up. Its place in our quiver of descriptive tools is as a measure of the duration or persistence of objects, events, or phenomena. It is also nothing more than a descriptor, its units of measure derived from the observed regular periodicity of other events such as the recurrence of day and night, or the passage of earth around the sun. We use it in this way to calculate the velocity or acceleration of objects, events or phenomena or as a measure of their duration. The old joke is correct, “Time is just one damn thing after another”. It has no meaning or existence in and of itself except as it relates to the duration, the persistence of the real entities in the universe.

For the last hundred years or so, physicists have been guilty of misapprehension, misattribution, misrepresentation and downright misuse of the conceptual entities they call space and time, and what they have designated as the “dimensions” of those concepts. Einstein was not the first, only the most famous to propose a “four-dimensional” continuum (three spatial dimensions plus time) as a model for the cosmos, and to build a complex mansion of theories on that hypothetical ground. For the last thirty or so years people who call themselves theoretical physicists have built mighty dream palaces on that platform; string theory, SUSY, branes, multiverses, and the like, none of which are testable or can be the basis for predictive research or can be seen to have any relationship to the real world. I believe that this descent into unreality is the result of despair at trying to build something real on an unsupportable platform.

People ask, “How many dimensions are there?” The simple answer is, “There are as many as you need.”  They have nothing to do with the structure of the universe, only as a way to measure, describe, and communicate our observations. The mathematicians have great fun playing with “multidimensional” worlds and concepts. These exist only in their heads, and, it seems, leave little room for real thinking. The math is not reality, it’s only one tool for describing it. But until we find a way to move physics back to its real original task, that of understanding and explaining reality, there is little hope of progress.

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