What we’ve learned, so far

The first two paragraphs of post number 1 of this blog, in June of 2011, laid out a set of goals for this publication.

“The aim of this blog is to be the home of enquiries of a particular type, those that take something we think we know,  some subject on which there may be a lot of information and many findings, studies, conclusions, questions that seem almost fully answered but still not quite complete, not quite satisfying, a little vague; that perhaps, by employing a different point of view, a different perspective, a new look, may yield different results. As Will Rogers is supposed to have said, (or Mark Twain or Groucho Marx, who knows for sure?) “It ain’t what you don’t know that hurts you, it’s what you know that jes’ ain’t so.”

Our history is full of insights, unique new views of previously accepted ‘knowledge’, or ‘facts’, that after being examined in a new light, turn out to be so obvious that people say, “Why didn’t we see that before?” And as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “How many centers have we fondly found, which proved soon to be circumferential points!””

In his book, Investigations, Stuart Kauffman relates a probably apocryphal, possibly plausible assertion that when the Conquistadores first arrived off the shores of the new world, their galleons were not seen, were invisible to the native populations, because those peoples had never seen any such, had no conceptual basis for what had appeared before their eyes. I have had a similar experience while sailing in these northern waters when suddenly, with no sound, a massive mound, the dorsal form of a gray whale arose out of the water on my port side and just as silently disappeared again, leaving no trace of its passing. “Did I see what I just saw?” I asked myself before the associative regions of my cerebrum kicked in and I knew what I had just seen. A similar thing occurs when one puts on a pair of colored glasses, or polarized sunglasses. Different things in the environment appear, or common impressions are suppressed, letting new images, impressions, enter our consciousness.

In the universe of scientific model building or theorizing the same thing can occur. Replacement of a prior paradigm or model is sometimes generated by new data or experiments, or by the failure of some important element by new information or test result. The accepted scientific method is observe , correlate, postulate, test, accept or reject, but continue testing But sometimes a new theory can arise out of looking at previous observations and test results through new filters, different colored glasses, so to speak, and suddenly seeing the possibility of a new model for the same, old data. I’m not sure if there is a current word for this kind of process, but it happens.

In Cosmosapiens, John Hands’ book on the origins of first, the universe, and then, of sentient life on this part of it, he defines science as:

The attempt to understand and explain natural phenomena by using systematic, preferably measurable, observation or experiment, and apply reason to the knowledge thereby obtained in order to infer testable laws and to make predictions or retrodictions.

He then defines retrodiction as:

A result that has occurred in the past and is deduced or predicted from a later scientific law or theory.

 Hands uses these definitions, for the most part throughout his book, to point out the deficiencies and incompletenesses of currently accepted theories, but offers no replacements or additions that might improve their completeness or consistency with current observations or results. Retrodiction comes close but seems too passive a term to allow for the notion that such a new look at old data or results might lead to actual abandonment of an old model and its replacement with one that more completely covers both the old data and the new observations. Suggestions would be welcome.

Anyhow, as I look back, I sense that this is what I have been led to, in the 5+ years of thinking and writing. In some instances, I have asked the question directly, “Is this something we thought we knew and are only now wondering if we were correct? Do we know enough now to change what we thought? or is there more work to be done? On the other hand, these explorations have led to the notion that a new model actually exists and have laid out, first in sketch form and then more completely in two books a more complete description of that replacement model. So far, I have, in my own mind, successfully abandoned some old terminology that either once or still permeates scientific discourse. Forces have already been replaced by the word interactions, a more general but also more ambiguous description of what hold the parts together. A new word or concept seems necessary. The old concept of cause and effect, as in Newton’s F=MA now seems to apply only here in the zone of middle dimensions. At the submicroscopic level of the beginnings of universes and their continuous growth into complete entities with, in one at least, a working biosystem, “cause and effect” should be replaced with the concept within which structure and rules “enable” the development of order out of chaos rather than “cause” it. Old notions (as in quantum field theory and quantum electrodynamics) with their multiplicity of particles and associated fields, need to be replaced with a simpler, single universal field, turbulent but generative, of what the ancients called “ponderable matter”.

Diligent readers, perhaps even casual ones may have noted that I have also abandoned the term “laws of nature.” This use of “laws” has always seemed to me to carry excessive overtones of intention, perhaps brought over before the enlightenment started the trend away from divine, god-like notions about nature itself. What science has done is to uncover, not laws, but patterns, correspondences, that have led to some, but not all, predictabilities. All of this is because I believe, strongly, that for clarity of communication, a writer must consider not just a simple meaning of a term but also its related, sometimes ambiguous associated meanings in the minds of his readers. This is not all, but represents some of my current thinking. I will continue down this path. I am currently rereading at the suggestion of a friend, the work of Stuart Kauffman of the Santa Fe Institute about the origins of complex systems. Kauffman is exploring complexity in the origins of life here on earth and possibly in other parts of the universe as well, in search of a new “general” biology. Parts of his quest parallel my own, and parts diverge, as in his acceptance of the big bang, but as he says repeatedly, he is not a physicist, so I forgive hime for this deviation.

Thanks to all who read these meditations and observations. I hope they sometimes stir up some new lines of thought.

Posted in 6 General, 7 What do we know? | 1 Comment

In the beginning was energy

“….during the 1820s, when explaining magnetism, Michael Faraday inferred a field filling space and transmitting that force. Faraday conjectured that ultimately, all forces unified into one.

In the early 1870s, James Clerk Maxwell unified electricity and magnetism as effects of an electromagnetic field whose third consequence was light, travelling at constant speed in a vacuum. The electromagnetic field theory contradicted predictions of Newton’s theory of motion, unless physical states of the luminiferous aether—presumed to fill all space whether within matter or in a vacuum and to manifest the electromagnetic field—aligned all phenomena and thereby held valid the Newtonian principle relativity or invariance.” (Wikipedia, Fundamental interaction)

In contrast, today’s physicists look at nature, the universe, the cosmos in a fundamentally more complex way. For them the world behaves very differently. It is made up of a large number of distinct and different entities or substances, at last count at least 61 “particles,” of what substance no one claims to know, along with multiple hypothetical others that have not been actually discovered but which must exist to explain the behavior left unexplained by the first sixty-one. These “fundamental particles” of some substance interact as the result of four “fundamental” forces in the classical, Newtonian, sense, expressed as “interactions” in the more modern terminology. The interactions operate differently depending on the scale of the investigation, that is, whether we are referring to the submicroscopic world of particles or the macroscopic world of cosmology and the interactions of stars, galaxies and the other unreachable entities.

Wikipedia has a chart of these interactions, reproduced below:

interactions-from-w

As one can see from the chart these have been precisely defined, their strength and basic connections measured or calculated, so someone, or many someones, have agreed that this is the way the world works, and that the missing parts and relationships just remain to be discovered. And there are missing and contradictory parts. For example, the greatest question of the whole of modern physics is how the first of the four, gravitation, relates to the others. And what is the origin, the causation of these four, that is, where did they come from? and why are there just four? and how is it that some work concurrently on more than one particle and some are only tied to a single one? And, my most important question, how, exactly have these forces’ existence, strength, behavior been determined at this level, where no one has actually seen a particle? How are these entities described? Well, there is a great deal of redundancy involved here. Let’s look at one or two. A proton, for example, is described as being made up of three quarks. A quark is described as being one of three constituent parts that make up a proton. That’s neat, but—what does it tell us about what a quark is, or a proton?

Basically, it appears that as soon as a “particle’ has been discovered, its place in the pantheon of particles is determined by the energy required to generate its appearance. It is then assigned a value based on that energy level and how it is deemed to fit in the “standard model” of the universe of small things, the hadrons and fermions of existence. If there appears to be no particle to explain a certain phenomenon, a new one is hypothesized to be the one that provides the explanation. Then enormous sums are allocated to “find” this imagined entity and a great hullabaloo arises if a new one appears, or is even thought to have appeared.

I have a colleague who is, to my mind, a strict reductionist, whose favorite question at this point is, “And where did that one come from?” or , “What came before that?” Fundamental questions, to be sure. Modern physics, in its “standard model” incarnation has no answers to these questions. OK, matter is made up of particles, 61 of them, count ’em. But what are the particles made of ? Well, “we don’t know yet,” or, “they just are, accept it.” And those little babies are held together by forces, four of them. And what causes there to be forces? Again, “we don’t know.” Still, whenever I have suggested that there might be gaps or contradictions in the standard models, a great outcry arises, “These are the most tested and confirmed models in scientific history! How can you question this?”

Is there a way out of this conflict? Is there a way to simplify these models? How can we give rest to William of Ockham, the first ambassador of parsimony, whose dictum is that the more simple model of science is more likely to be the most correct, who must be spinning in his grave even as we speak? I think there is. And we can start by setting the “standard models” aside for a moment and going back to Einstein’s first theory and linking it to Faraday’s and Maxwell’s insights.

When we link those together, it seems likely that before there was matter, there must have been energy. In no creation model is there ordinary matter without a source, with the exception, of course, of the various creation myths that preceded the advent of scientific enquiry. (and, of course, the big bang) The step following then becomes simple: we must assume that:

The basic, fundamental stuff of the universe is energy.

 Without energy, nothing would exist. This truism is manifested by the concepts of entropy, “heat death, ” and a multitude of similar physical “laws.” Einstein expressed this in his most brilliant conception as E= mc2. In this equation, “E” is the measurable entity we call energy. “m” is the measurable entity we call matter. And “c” is the measured constant we call the speed of light. This equivalence of matter and energy is an accepted standard throughout most of the scientific world. Particle physicists express this principle in describing the “mass” of their tiny entities in the values of energy, in electron volts. Again, without a basic level of energy, nothing could exist. That energy, that basic stuff, is manifested to us as a turbulent but generally consistent electromagnetic field, its energy level hovering around a temperature of 2.72 degrees Kelvin (2.7° K.). To the professionals in the field, that number looks suspiciously like the measured temperature of the current “evidence” of the big bang, the CMBR. That is no coincidence. If there were no big bang, an idea that is slowly taking hold throughout the world of cosmology, then that observed value must belong to some other phenomenon. This is my candidate.

Are there other evidences of the existence of that field? Here are a few. 1) The limit on the velocity of light, c, and other EM radiation, from gamma rays up to long wave radio transmission, all requiring some medium in order to exist (The standard answer to this is simple denial “Electromagnetic radiation does not require a medium for its propagation.”; 2) The fact of the transmission of those phenomena through what is otherwise perceived as “the vacuum,” or “empty space.” 3) the observable fact of gravitational and magnetic attraction, and, in the case of magnetism, repulsion, invisible but clearly observable phenomena. I could cite others, like the curvature of light by gravitation, or by magnetic fields, called “gravitational lensing.” All of these , in the presently accepted models of physics and cosmology, the so-called “standard models,” have exceedingly complex, even contradictory explanations. The existence and universal presence of a field make all of these phenomena more simple and easy to explain.

A second justification for the presence of the field is that it makes clear that whatever was present at the beginning of what we see as our present universe is still here and observable today in and all around us. No hypothetical big bang, expansion, acceleration, element creation, even divine purpose, is needed to describe how it came to be and is in continuous creation as we speak. The evidence is all around (and in) us. All of the “standard models” require “singularities,” events that happened once but can never happen again, making them conveniently unavailable to observe or test, like the “virtual particles” modern physicists seem fond of, that must be there but don’t exist long enough to observe. Or entities that must be there but cannot be actually seen like black holes, neutron stars, Higgs bosons, waveforms.

The universe is simpler than we have been made to think. All of the 61+ “particles” and their anti- cousins are really just misperceived phantoms, “wrinkles in a mist.” Instead of 61+ fields, there is one, turbulent, subject to distortions and disruption, things we are familiar with in our oceans, our atmosphere, in the behavior of nearly all observed phenomena.

This model is also simpler in that its description does not require different, “extra” dimensions. These phantom entities are the result of the fantastic illusion that if something shows up in a mathematical equation, it must be a real, physical entity. A “dimension” is not a first-order point event but a second (or higher) order abstract descriptor. dimensions are conceptual entities we use to describe the things we observe in the real world. We use them to locate one thing in relation to another or to a reference point in “space.” And we use them to describe the size and form of things we have so located. “How many dimensions are there?” As many as we need for any particular descriptive task, but they are not mysterious forms out there in the mist demanding that we conform to their rules or laws.

Richard Feynman was correct. We have wrestled for close to 100 years with incomplete models of the structure and origin of the universe. Because there has been no way to resolve of their contradictions, we have begun to see it as an intractable problem. Several modern physicists have drifted off into poetry and philosophy, where the rigor of scientific investigation need not be applied. Speculations and hypotheticals have taken the place of logic and realism. A step back and a new look has become essential.

 

Posted in 2 Being and Nothingness | 2 Comments

The Missing Sentence in Einstein’s General Relativity

“Many—perhaps most—of the great issues of science are qualitative, not quantitative, even in physics and chemistry. Equations and measurements are useful when and only when they are related to proof; but proof or disproof comes first and is in fact strongest when it is absolutely convincing without any quantitative measurement.

Or to say it another way, you can catch phenomena in a logical box or in a mathematical box. The logical box is coarse but strong. The mathematical box is fine-grained but flimsy. The mathematical box is a beautiful way of wrapping up a problem, but it will not hold the phenomena unless they have been caught in a logical box to begin with.”

—John R. Platt, Science,1964

Albert Einstein’s canonical 1916 paper titled “The Foundation of the Generalized Theory of Relativity” contained many implied assumptions. His concept of “spacetime” (Raumzeit in the original German) was based on an understanding among scientists that the terms “space,” “time,” and “dimensions” had a clearly understood meaning. They were primarily mathematical meanings, space being the hypothetical container of all physical things in the universe, time the measure of the duration or persistence of those things, and dimensions, the measurable qualities of space and time. Of course, no one had ever experienced space, in and of itself, it couldn’t be seen, felt, or tasted. Time could only be measured as whatever fraction one chose of certain regular variable of experience, passage of the sun across the heavens, the cycles of day and night, the seasons in certain parts of the world. And dimensions were how one located objects relative to some reference point, or determined their size and shape relative to other “things.” Again, no one had seen, tasted, felt, or perceived in any way any physical substance of space, time, or a dimension. They were seen as not measurable, not perceivable qualities of the universe.

So why did Einstein choose to use them to describe the workings of that special phenomenon we call gravity. We may never know, but one reason might be that they were conveniently available mathematically and had been used by other mathematicians to relate to actual physical entities, notably by Poincaré, and Minkowski. They ended up as fundamental assumptions in his mathematical theory of gravity, and were accepted as fundamental, with few, if any questions as real, physical entities with real, physical characteristics.

But just imagine how, if Einstein had made these assumptions clear at the beginning, if he had opened his paper with the following sentence, what might have been the intellectual consequences?

“Let us assume that the hypothetical entity we designate as “space” is, in and of itself, a real physical entity, and that it possesses three unique characteristics we will call spatial dimensions, themselves possessing real physical characteristics, designated as “up-down,”, “right-left”, and “to-from,” measuring its value in spatial units; and further, that the hypothetical entity we call “time” is a real physical entity, and that it possesses as a unique characteristic a fourth dimension, measuring its value in time units “forward and back.” If we accept these assumptions, then the source and origin of the phenomenon we call “gravity” can be explained as follows.”

On reading the full paper it is clear to the reader that these assumptions are implicit in the words that follow, else the published text would not have physical meaning and would constitute only a hypothetical exercise in mathematics. However, the text is explicit in asserting that it constitutes a generalization of the assertions of the prior work, Special Relativity (On the electrodynamics of moving bodies, 1905), in order to include gravity in its purview. Einstein was a consummate mathematician. His formulae are elegant, consistent, and complete, but because of their non-physical assumptions they fail to reflect a physical, even a logical, reality. Rather, they are derived from a geometry, not from observations of the physical world.

To understand the theory’s assertions in full it is necessary to define its terminology as clearly as possible. The two key questions of course are: What is space? Is it a true physical entity that we can identify, locate? Can it or portions of it be described as to its nature and composition? Or is it alternatively like other real things, a magnetic field, for instance, only describable and its existence inferred from, its effect on other entities? Can we measure its intensity, direction or substance? is there proof that it is “real,” either logical or mathematical?

And what is time? Is it a force, moving one direction? Is it malleable independently of objects, events, phenomena? Like the question concerning space, can we examine a portion of it and determine its physical characteristics? None of these questions have generated an unequivocal answer. “It’s just there, everybody knows that!” is a common answer. And “everybody knows what time is!”

The most generalizable definition of space seems to be that it is the hypothetical container of all of the identifiable entities contained in what we call the universe. Its physical characteristics are hard to define except that it is unmeasurable in its extent and unfathomable in its depth. Descriptions of “outer space” usually specify that it is essentially “empty” except for the identifiable heavenly bodies like stars, planets, galaxies, etc. and clouds or nearly invisible wisps of hydrogen gas, cosmic dust, or in the most extreme sense, something called “quantum fluctuations,” an unknown substance, that participates in also unknown behaviors and causations. It is also referenced as “the vacuum” with the admonition that it is not really the same as the technical definition of a vacuum, that is, a space within a container that has been mechanically evacuated of all air, etc. It is, in astronomy, most usually considered to be that empty space between the stars “out there.”

In recent years, based primarily on anomalous observations of the behaviors of planetary and galaxial movements, what has been called gravitational lensing and the like, and on calculations of the numbers and assumed mass of what we can actually see in the night sky, space is also thought to contain mysterious substances thought to play a part in these anomalies. These have been named “dark energy” and “dark matter” and their total contribution to the mass of the universe has been more or less precisely calculated. So, space is not just an empty container, not a true vacuum. But what exactly is it then? And how can we best understand it?

When Isaac Newton was developing his mathematical models of the behaviors of the planets, he found that solving the relative gravitational influence of three or more planetary bodies was extremely difficult using the mathematical tools of his time, so he conveniently chose to ignore the effect of the moon on the orbit of the earth around the sun to obtain a useful approximation. Later, when Albert Einstein offered an newer model of the structure of the universe, he assumed that empty space was, in fact, actually empty. While earlier scholars and cosmologists felt the need for space to be a substance, to account for the transmission of light, for example, Einstein’s mathematical model of the universe had no need of substance, so an early assumption of an all-pervasive “ether” could be left out of his equations. Even though he later conceded that there must be something filling his “space” for the things he said were happening there to actually exist, he never made allowance for them in his equations. On the other hand, he left in place the assumption that the hypothetical “space” itself had physical characteristics, that is, it could be stretched, curved, distorted, etc. in the neighborhood of massive objects like planets that Newton earlier had assumed were exerting a force of attraction on other nearby and distant bodies. This force was called gravity.

In Einstein’s new construction of the universe, all is contained in what he called a spacetime continuum. A continuum in mathematics is considered a smooth, unbroken entity without interruptions or breaks. In one definition, it expressed as: a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes may be quite distinct. In General Relativity’s continuum, there are no indicated or assumed limits. There exists an entire branch of mathematics for these entities called continuum mechanics.

To make his mathematics of the universe work, Einstein drew on the prior efforts of two other geniuses, Henri Poincaré and Hermann Minkowski who had developed systems that added a fourth variable, time, to the three accepted spatial dimensions. Adding time was important in describing systems in motion. But adding time was also problematical, because time, like space, was an entity that lacked real, physical attributes. It was not something you could see, taste, smell, touch. All it’s necessary attributes for a role in the physical world had to be arbitrarily added to it.

A very early writer on almost every subject, St. Augustine of Hippo, in the 5th century wrote, “I think I know what time is, until someone asks me to explain it. If nothing had ever occurred, the there would be no need for a concept of past time. If nothing were yet to occur, there would be no need for future time. If nothing were, there would be no need for present time.” And Newton said, “In another sense, time might be considered as simply duration.”

The concept of time is inextricably tied to the existence of “things,” their persistence, their duration. In the words of the joke, “Time is just one damn thing after another.” What time is not is a mysterious giant clockwork out among the stars measuring out our days.

So, Einstein’s physical universe, it’s observable behaviors, motions, forces had to be derived from those of two, until now, nonexistent entities, space. the hypothetical container, and time, the hypothetical measure of continued existence. Spacetime, is then a construct meld together by something called dimensions, but dimensions, in the real world, are simply systems of measurement, not physical entities in and of themselves.

So, if Einstein had made his assumptions explicit, instead of leaving the impression that, somehow, space and time were real entities, with physical characteristics enabling them to be bent, curved, compressed. extended, how would we today be explaining the orbits of the planets and stars, how would we be explaining the phenomena of gravitational lensing. Would we still be looking at Newton’s laws of motion? Or would we be seeking a new approach, looking at our last hundred years of observations and emerging patterns with different eyes, perhaps? Or would we have found a new paradigm, re-examining another concept to explain the speed of light, gravity, magnetism? Would there still be a search for the link between relativity and quantum mechanics, say, or would QM also be looking in other directions (It has it’s own contradictions to resolve, of course)?

Make no mistake, Albert Einstein was a true genius, in conceptual thinking, in mathematics. And he sensed that there was something missing in his theory. He hinted at that in his talk at Leyden in 1920, when he said , in effect, “the presence of an ether is essential for the theory of relativity to work..” So why do we still see “space” as empty? How do we explain how light and other electromagnetic phenomena are transmitted ? What is the reason light has a fixed speed limit? How can we speak to our friends instantly, so to speak, across the world? Surely there is a medium that bears those signals. General Relativity, that is, Einstein’s theory, has been useful, but why have we ignored its faulty assumptions? General Relativity is an elegant mathematical box. The corresponding logical box is, unfortunately, a poorly constructed container based on unprovable, unsupportable assumptions.

Space is not a thing. Time is not a thing. Dimensions are not things. They cannot be observed, manipulated, bent, curved, deflected, or managed in any way by human action or by cosmological or gravitational forces. They cannot be isolated in the laboratory, examined in the field, tested, or potentially disproven. Their existence or nonexistence cannot be objectively shown. And yet. . . . one of the principal “standard models” of physics and cosmology rests on the exactly opposite assumptions, that these hypothetical man-made concepts, measuring systems, imaginary constructs, are in fact, real things. I think 100 years is long enough to depend on this illusion.

Posted in 2 Being and Nothingness | 3 Comments

Is “something” out there?

In 2012, the well-known science writer Jim Holt produced a fascinating book titled “Why does the world exist.” In it he explores what some philosophers have called the prime question of philosophy, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Now, I have always had a problem with the use of the word “why.” For me it always implies causation or intent, as if some entity, conscious or not, faced a choice, “should there be something? or just nothing?” and came down on the side of something. A scientific question should be more in the form of, “How did it come about that there is something rather than nothing,” but we won’t quibble in this case, particularly since the author goes on to invoke the whole range of the religious, the philosophic, the literary, and the scientific for answers to his question. The principal argument in many of these cases seems to be whether “something” can arise out of nothing. Unfortunately not just the religious and philosophers assume that possibility, but many who claim to be scientists. Some modern physicists have written entire books based on the claim that the universe, that is, our universe not only could but did arise out of nothing, by means of a great explosion of nothingness, or something they call, without definition, a “quantum fluctuation.” I’d like to start from the position that, regardless of what, that the great mass of something that we presently inhabit and are a part of, had to itself start with something.

As with any creation myth, the question will remain, “How and from what source did that primal something itself come into being ?” Perhaps, in the words to come, we will come to some agreement about possible answers to that question. But, of course, perhaps not.

There are a few, perhaps just now in what some call the information age, that actually appear to believe that that the world, that is, our universe, may not actually exist. That what we see, taste, touch out there is something created by us, only in our heads, or alternatively, that this entire assemblage, ourselves included, is no more that a vast complex simulation, a computer model, so to speak, by an author in another (real?) universe. For the sake of this argument we will say, “If you choose to believe that, then this discussion is not for you, so you may leave the room. Please close the door as you go, and report directly to the principal’s office for reassignment. You will not receive credit for this course.”

Others, who actually accept that there is a real world outside our heads are almost universally in agreement that, whatever existed before this world, that there must have existed something that had the potential of becoming the universe we are part of. That potential, in the same sense that Newtonian physics calls potential energy, contained in itself the possibility of becoming “something.” Personally, I am convinced that this “potential” substance or phenomenon, there at the supposed beginning of our universe did not mysteriously disappear but is still here, doing its work of creation and sustenance of this (temporarily) existing construct. Therefore, there should be evidence of its existence and presence. Two questions remain: what does it consist of? and what is the evidence of its presence?

First, I think we can dismiss and abandon all candidates for this role for which there is no conceivable test. Among those I first place all “big bang,” “something from nothing,” “chaotic expansion,” “quantum fluctuation” candidates. As soon as there exists a “something from something” possibility, all of these others become discards. So also do those who pose “something as yet undiscovered,” possibilities, like Hoyle’s “C-field,” a substanceless hypothetical without a hint of what it might consist of, but is only a filler for a blank, empty place in his theory. So, too, all of those theories that demand an arbitrary “constant,” that can be changed as desired to fit a preconceived outcome. What’s left? The trash bin is already spilling over the edge. Well, I don’t think it can be particle-based. As you know, I’m convinced that the particle approach is , while not a dead end, is more a terminally open-ended situation, characterized by an unending string of new, mysterious “particles” streaming out from the LHC.

In one sense, of course, the “prime question” is moot. Unless you are one of those we just sent out of the room, there is agreement that there actually is “something.” So we can move on to ask what it might be, even if we can’t determine where it cam from. As some of you already know, I have a prime candidate. Let’s start from the evidence. Staring from the nearby, the local, I am sitting at my desk facing my computer screen, typing the letters that appear in front of me. But I am not directly connected to that screen, by wires, mechanical linkages, strings, or sound waves. My keyboard is what is called “wireless,” meaning there is no “physical” connection to effect this messaging, but it is sent and received remotely via some medium I cannot see taste. or touch. Now I long ago gave up my belief in magic in favor of a conviction that there existed some physical cause for every physical phenomenon, so I must believe that this messaging miracle is making use of a physical medium that my frail sensory system cannot detect, except through its effects on things I can detect. Is this the medium we are looking for?

Let’s step away a little further. Near my right hand lies an iPhone, model 4s, also not physically attached to any wire or box or other device. But I can touch its face in a particular spot and after a moment’s delay speak to and actually see an image of, my twelve-year old grandson at a distance of 3000 miles away in New York State. Through a system that sends my message to an antenna, then to an orbiting satellite and back to earth, all of the time maintaining clarity, consistency and completeness, via a similar medium as the one between keyboard and screen. Is this the same medium?

A leap further, beyond the limits of this planet and its earth-bound devices. At a nearby observatory, I can “see” by means of light in the visible range, as well as by energy in the range of gamma rays, x-rays, radio waves, the images of and behavior of phenomena we have come to call stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies, at distances estimated to be billions of miles from us, in the reaches of outer space. Slightly closer at hand I have just seen images from a device sent to orbit the planet Jupiter, millions of miles away, those images also transmitted via a medium that must fill the space from there to here. Again, are these all the same medium? From the fact that they successfully use the same methods and systems and devices, it seems they must be the same.

To me, the inescapable conclusion is that there exists a single medium, both nearby and distant, that has the same character and structure, the same useful features, that it can be made use of both near at hand and at great distances. It is not air, because we know there is none of that out in the starry regions of space. The “standard models,” unfortunately, posit mysteries, “dark energy” and “dark matter” and seem comfortable with those characterizations. Others seek yet more “particles,” even virtual ones, meaning they don’t exist for long enough to be detected.

My choice is something that we have detected and make use of every day. And what is that? Let’s approach this logically.

We know from Maxwell’s Equations, tested and proven, that the presence of a moving magnetic field generates an accompanying electric field. And vice versa, a moving electric field generates a magnetic field. And since we also know, at the scale of fields (and, if they exist, of particles), everything is in perpetual motion, Voila! where there is one there must be the other. The second important premise is that, in the probable event that a Big Bang never happened, whatever something that was present when this, our local universe, had its birth, must still be around. What was there then is still here today, or by the commutative property of mathematics, what is here today must have been around then. An electromagnetic field is here today and is the medium for light and all the other coherent EM radiation we live with and make use of, that is, in fact one the most important tools of modern life. Perhaps that is the medium that enabled and still enables the creation and persistence of what we call the perceptible universe, from the tiniest perceptible entities out to the distant and magnificent stars and galaxies we search out and study so assiduously. Perhaps that is the answer to the question of “how is it that the speed of light has the limit it has?” And how is it that there is something rather than nothing.

The supposition follows, that, Yes, there is an existent electromagnetic field, detectable in what has until now been known as the CMBR, mistakenly assumed to be the echo of a big bang. And detectable as the origin and medium for light and all other EM radiation. And as the source of gravity, planetary magnetic fields, the condensations we call stars and galaxies, even the perceptible phenomenon we call matter. Remember, E = mc2. If this is true, then the universe , its origins and history, suddenly becomes a simpler narrative, more accessible and clear, with new doors and windows opening for our research and our use, Perhaps?

This alternative to the so-called “standard models” is something I have tried to document in two books and nearly six years of articles in my website at enquiriesnw.com, first sketched out in the picnic at the edge of the universe in 2011, followed by imagine darkness in 2015, as well as continuing discussions online. This has been mostly the result of looking at current science and by what John Hands calls retrodiction, the examination of prior research outcomes and discoveries, from the point of view that those results might have been misattributed to existing theories, not examined independently as potentially resulting from other causes. As I search for alternatives and test my model, this may change, of course, but it seems to be holding up, so far.

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Time Dilation Revisited

In his explanation of time dilation, Einstein explains the principal in this way:

(from: The Foundation of the Generalized Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein, 1916) (parenthetical inserts by the author, cs)

 “In order to see this we suppose that two similarly made clocks are arranged one at the center and one at the periphery of the circle, and considered from the stationary system K. According to the well-known results of the special relativity theory it follows — (as viewed from K) — that the clock placed at the periphery will (appear to) go slower than the second one which is at rest. The observer at the common origin of co-ordinates who is able to see the clock at the periphery by means of light (traveling at a finite velocity) will see the clock at the periphery (appear to be) going slower than the clock beside him. Since he cannot allow the velocity of light to depend explicitly upon the time in the way under consideration(why not?) he will interpret his observation by saying that the clock on the periphery “actually” goes slower than the clock at the origin. He cannot therefore do otherwise than define time in such a way that the rate of going of a clock depends on its position,” (relative to himself).

The observer’s conclusions as to the actual rate of the clock’s apparent falling behind is in fact a function of his position relative to the clock’s, not that the peripheral clock is actually measuring the passage of time at a slower rate than the clock at the exact position of the observer. The apparent observed difference lies in the fact that the observation takes place at a significant distance from the observer and his observation is tempered by the finite velocity of light that enables his observation. To say that “time” itself on a distant clock goes slower is a logical fallacy. To an observer at the periphery this observation would not obtain.

In nearly all of Einstein’s assertions, this kind of assumption appears, here, and in his discussion of the simultaneity of two events seen from a moving train etc., all depends on the finite velocity of light or of sound. Relativity is all about observation, as it appears to contradict actuality. If one accepts that the mechanisms of observation are finite in their operation, not as said in the underlined sentence above, then one can accept that the two clocks are simultaneous, not that one is recording time intervals at a slower rate as the other. To describe reality, that is, that the two identical clocks are measuring the passage of time at exactly the same rate, the observer, knowing that his observation of the distant clock is significantly altered by the time passing until the image of that clock reaches him, must make the necessary correction in his calculation (t=d/v).

This has bothered me for a long time, since my interpretation of the role of physics is that its purpose is to describe reality, not to assert that “this is how the world appears to us, not as it actually is.” When he (AE) says that because of the time lapse in observation between that of an observer on a moving train and one in a stationary location proves that two events did not actually “occur” at the same time is also a fallacy. In fact, by measuring the time lapse between the two observations and knowing how far the train has travelled, one can actually determine the velocity of light, or of sound, depending on the nature of the observation.

In the text of Einstein’s On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies (1905), the argument is expressed this way.

“If at the point A of space there is a clock, an observer at A can determine the time values of events in the immediate proximity of A by finding the positions of the hands which are simultaneous with these events. If there is at the point B of space another clock in all respects resembling the one at A, it is possible for an observer at B to determine the time values of events in the immediate neighborhood of B. But it is not possible without further assumption to compare, in respect of time, an event at A with an event at B. We have so far defined only an “A time” and a “B time.” We have not defined a common “time” for A and B, for the latter cannot be defined at all unless we establish by definition that the “time” required by light to travel from A to B equals the “time” it requires to travel from B to A.”

 If, however, it is desired to have an objective view of this phenomenon, one must postulate the existence of a third observer at C, an equal distance from A and B, whose observations will show that the hands of both clocks have moved an equal distance. The time required for light to travel from A to C is the same as the time required for light to travel from B to C. No discrepancy between the two clocks will be seen. “Time” has not slowed .

The 1905 paper draws a misleading conclusion, which is then cited as confirmation for the same misleading statement in the 1916 paper.

The question to be asked here is whether we are talking about “real” events or about unexamined hypotheticals in which one important factor, the finite velocity of light, has been ignored. The particular falsehood here is the statement that the observer at A has no choice but to conclude that “time” itself has slowed at point B.

This also goes to another important point, that in both papers, the author assumes that what we call “time” is a real, physical entity, capable of distortion by external causes, when it is, in fact, simply a measurement methodology to describe the duration or persistence of objects, events, or phenomena. It also raises important questions about the “truth” that time slows dramatically, approaching zero at lightspeed “c,” as in the famous twin paradox, wherein the twin flying in space at near light velocity supposedly ages at a vastly slower rate than the one remaining stationary on earth.

We look up at the stars and they are                                                                                                  not there. We see the memory                                                                                                             of when they were, once upon a time.

—Jack Gilbert (1925-2012)

Charles Scurlock – 6/29/2016

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Daddy, where did I come from? (Chapter One)

A question in a theoretical physics forum on the web. “Are there any new models of the universe since the standard models arose in the last century?” No one knew of any except for those  that get called get called crackpot in these discussions. But some of them may not be as crazy as others.

Here is a start. First, abandon all presuppositions and start with observations. Einstein’s spacetime was a hypothetical structure setting itself up as a real entity. It led to multiple theoretical offshoots that simply complicated (overly so) all following theories. It was beautiful, and it felt right, but at it’s center was a mathematical assumption, that “spacetime” was a real physical entity that could be distorted, stretched, bent. something no one has still ever seen. And, of course, it didn’t say where all this might have come from.

Then came LeMaitre’s conjecture in 1927, “suppose this all started with a single event, a sudden creative expansion from a single point, maybe? That would explain the notion of an expanding universe, based on Hubble’s idea, and then we maybe could trace it backwards and maybe see when it might have happened.” Fred Hoyle pooh-poohed this and called it “a big bang.” But guess what, the name stuck. And it’s still around today. But there were still questions about it, like, it didn’t explain many of the observations of the astronomers, so a “bump” in the expansion was added, called “inflation.” No one could still suggest what might have started it either, so many ideas popped up, even a rationalization for the idea of something from nothing. Even the philosophers had a problem with that! So let’s set those models aside for a minute, and go back to starting with things we’ve actually observed.

Step 1) In 1964, two Bell Labs radio-astronomers went searching for distant evidence of objects giving of radio waves. Wilson and Penzias detected a background “noise” coming from all directions as they searched the heavens with their big horn. And guess what again, The experts exclaimed, “We must be seeing the echo of “the big bang. That just proves it happened!” And that stuck. They called it the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, CMBR, for short, now shortened further to just CMB.

Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:

The CMB is a snapshot of the oldest light in our Universe, imprinted on the sky when the Universe was just 380,000 years old. It shows tiny temperature fluctuations that correspond to regions of slightly different densities, representing the seeds of all future structure: the stars and galaxies of today.[

Since then that “background” has been confirmed multiple times. It’s a lot like that static you used to hear when you spun the radio dial between stations.. We can safely say we know it’s there. Let’s say that this “snapshot” is actually what they say, “the oldest light in our universe,” but let’s say that it’s not the echo of something like a big explosion, or the ripples from millions of novae exploding through the cosmos, What is everywhere is a field of background radiation, electromagnetic in nature, the original essence of the cosmos, that may have been there forever. Imagine it as an energy field manifesting itself as electromagnetic radiation, at an average temperature of 2.725° K. existing everywhere, unmeasurable, unfathomable, our primal preferred inertial frame of reference. That then generates the real question, “How did we get from there to here, from the shimmering darkness of this primal field to a universe bursting out of its bounds with seemingly solid masses of stars, galaxies, planets, different materials, life!”

Step 2) Then let’s accept that matter, as we call it, is energy transformed by some process or set of processes that we can see happening today in our local world. We know it works the other way, we’ve seen nuclear explosions. Some have felt them. Think E=mc2. What might those assembly processes be? What could encourage these organized, coherent objects, events, phenomena to arise out of that shimmering darkness? Well, one might include the fine scale turbulence, that shimmer in the energy field itself, much like we see in our atmosphere and oceans, our local examples of turbulence, i.e. full of currents, stratifications, concentrations, dispersals. Think chaos theory. And just as in those examples, temporary reinforcements, reverberations and resonances can lead to temporary emergence of stable patterns, like whirlpools in water, typhoons in the atmosphere, sound patterns, music, down to dust devils in the desert. So can temporarily stable entities arise in the cosmos.

At first, these would be tiny and local but because we are talking about concentrations of energy, and we know that the intensity of “hot spots” or disturbances carry with them distortions of the medium around them, we can see that we’ve developed a more intense region surrounding and reinforcing the effect that started it all in the first place. Example: a hurricane starts as a small low pressure local storm, but its effect is to increase in size and intensity as it draws energy in toward it’s heart. And until some disruptive event occurs, like making landfall on a coast, it continues to grow and intensify in a rule-based form.

So now we have at least one, maybe more points of high energy and distortions in the region surrounding them, regions of higher energy that by their presence alone, encourage more energetic activity. And we know our hot spots are surrounded by an unlimited supply of energy, even if it’s only at 2.725° K.

Note that we said “temporarily stable” earlier. In cosmic terms, and at cosmic time scales, temporary can mean from a femtosecond up to billions of years, and we have local, contemporary evidence of both, just as we have local, contemporary evidence of the existence of similar entities.

Step 3) So what have we got to? A) a medium out of which orderly, perceptible entities can arise and become stable, even if only temporarily. B) high energy points of many sizes serving as focal points of high energy regional distortions of the underlying field. Now fit this model into Einstein’s General Relativity. Those regional distortions could easily be seen as the “curves of spacetime” that he imagined caused what we call gravity, except now they are manifestations of a real substance, an energy field, not a mathematical abstraction made up of two non-real hypotheticals. So suddenly we have physics, not just a mathematical abstraction.

And how do we get from gravity to magnetism? Well, we set some of those regions of high energy concentration to spinning. And this spinning further disturbs the field and from that disturbance arises the power of a magnetic field with its axis at its center giving it direction and polarity.

Does this give us a hint at possible explanations for some other mysteries? Well that field, that vast source of energy called in our ignorance “empty space” might just be what the mystical physicists have taken to calling “dark energy.” And those regions of distortions in the field might just be that other new favorite mystery “dark matter.” It’ s worth thinking about. Like, wouldn’t that behave just like gravity?

There’s more to come, of course. We need to get from little points of energy on up to stars, and galaxies, and ultimately, us. But we’ve got lots of other known mechanisms right here in the local real world that we can see as possibilities. There are phase transitions that work to make more stable forms, there are the mechanisms of rule based processes like Cellular Automata, Self-organizing systems, and Self-organizing Criticality. There’s fractal geometry to suggest some of the rules that the universe might be following, recursive geometries that demonstrate how the same simple rules can apply in both the micro- and macro- worlds. And if we give up on the unresolvable mysteries of relativity and quantum mechanics and substitute continuum mechanics; if, instead of quantum field theory with it’s dozens of interacting fields surrounding every “particle,” we think of one field, distorted locally by the presence of energy “hotspots;” if we think of the primal field as an elastic solid instead of a hornet’s nest of buzzing “particles,” we might find a route of inquiry leading to new insights as to how the real world works, and a real understanding of how the microworld relates to the macroworld. This is, of course, just a start.

There’s more. Chapter 2 is coming.

If you’re still interested, much of this is tied together in my books and the articles on my website. I invite you to take a look at them. And try to imagine the world in a different way.

Charles Scurlock June 10, 2016     www.enquiriesnw.com

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The Languages of Physics

A recent subject (question?) posted on a theoretical Physics forum asks, “What happens when one of a pair of entangled particles crosses an event-horizon?” This presumably simple question assumes agreement on a) what is an entangled particle?, b. what is an event-horizon?, etc., c)do any two physicists agree on those meanings?,  etc.  After first wondering what possible purpose the answer to such a question serves in the happenings of the real world, one realizes that it serves a real purpose in pointing out the problems the obscure languages of modern physics pose for the ordinary reader, you and me.

In talking about the concepts and issues we are concerned with here in the real world, Zone of Middle Dimensions, it is important that we make sure that we are speaking the same language. Language is, of course, a latecomer in the evolution of human thought. Up until about 100,000 years ago with the advent of homo sapiens sapiens the fossil evidence indicates that we did not even have the anatomical structures necessary for the rapid vocal interaction needed for the development of a complex spoken language. Certainly we had some sort of primitive symbolic communication, necessary for a developed social structure, for cooperation in the hunt, for interactive behavior in the cave or tribe, as early as homo erectus some 1.8 million years ago, but not the sophisticated and subtle systems necessary for the communication of concepts and ideas. Written language, a true form of symbolic communication, has only been with us for a very short time, since about 3400 B.C. The marks we see on this page, the way in which the ideas and concepts we are now passing between us, have been available only a very short time.

Now, of course, language governs all communications between individuals and groups. It is transmitter of knowledge between generations. But for language to do its job, even within just one of the many tribal, ethnic, national languages we use, there must be agreement on both its syntax and its meanings. A word used in one science or discipline develops meanings from its context. When used in another, it brings those earlier associations along with it. If we are not very careful, we may use a word to mean something that seems very clear to us but which carries associations that either muddy its meaning in another context or interfere with its carrying concepts or models we wish it to invoke.

In physics, astronomy, and cosmology, there are many such examples, the use of the word “particle” for one. I carried in my head for many years my 11th grade chemistry teacher’s assertion that an electron had no mass. It bothered me that such an important “particle”, one so important in our daily lives could be so insubstantial. We now are told that it presumably has a mass though that mass is very small. But “particle”, meaning “small part” in the language of classical physics, has become for physicists something which occupies a point in space, so small that it can only be detected by the track that it leaves behind, and perhaps by the mathematics that describes its behavior.

Physicists have identified many particles now, with unique and sometimes fanciful names, defined by mass, angle after a collision, spin, and the curvature of their tracks. There are others postulated to exist, not yet identified, but necessary to explain the existence or behavior of “known” ones. We publish papers, books, hold conferences to discuss their most obscure characteristics.

But pick up any book on particle physics, even in its more obscure versions such as “superstring theory” and you will find copious use of the term “discovery”. It is as if there has been the fortuitous opening of an obscure archaic volume, and there, in words of fire, perhaps, is the key to “Relativity”.

We might more appropriately, see these discoveries as “inventions”, for that is what they are. Einstein did not “discover” relativity, he created it as a model, a metaphor, of how the universe and its constituent parts might work. He created it in a true metaphorical language, mathematics, even though he may have seen it in his head as a conceptual model.

The value of such inventions is measured in terms of their level of completeness, and their testable and confirmable predictive power. They live and die based on these tests. But to call them “discoveries” imputes to them the sense that they must be eternal verities, found as if they were jewels pulled from the depths of the earth and destined to live and prevail forever. No true scientist believes that of these “discoveries” so let’s call them what they are. Still we can pick up even a skeptical book, as Peter Woit’s “Not Even Wrong”, with its scathing and convincing dismissal of superstring theory, and find every new equation in cosmological history described as a discovery.

We are also guilty, in many instanced, of what we might call the misuse of metaphor. A couple of examples come to mind. Edwin Hubble the astronomer, looking deeply into the far reaches of the universe in the 1920’s, deduced that distant galaxies were moving away from us. In his now famous red-shift observations, he also noted that the farthest distant ones were moving faster than those nearby. The proof of these observations convinced Einstein that his belief in a “flat” non-expanding geometry was false and led to the abandonment of the controversial cosmological constant in his equations. This observed expansion was accompanied by the observation that this expansion would appear the same from any point in the universe. But this expansion was not considered due to the outward motion of the galaxies themselves away from each other, but, out of deference to the Einsteinian entity of “spacetime”, was attributed to the expansion of space itself. The too simple analogy that was commonly used was that of a balloon on which the galaxies were represented as ink dots, which, as the balloon was blown up, appeared to be moving apart, but remained in place in relation to one another. (We now know from subsequent observations that this is not necessarily true, some irregular galactic motions have been determined.)

The analogy fails in two ways: first, it suggests space as a kind of curved ‘flatland’, when in fact, space as conceived then and now, must be what lies inside the balloon; second, it ignores the simple logical expression that if a equals b, and b equals c, then a must equal c. Movement apart is equal to movement apart.

Space, in all literature using relativistic terms, is always given the attributes of a substance. The literature gives it a structure, but only a mathematical structure. When reduced to diagrams or illustrations as having a flat, positively curved, or negatively curved nature, it is represented as a plane, a sphere, or a saddle, with the planets, stars, galaxies arrayed on its two-dimensional surface. It is no wonder that ordinary minds have trouble understanding its essence.

A similar problem occurs in explanations or representations of what is called the “big bang”, the supposed moment when everything began–from nothing. In attempts to make it either clearer or perhaps more dramatic we are asked to imagine that the universe has reached its limit and has begun to contract. Imagine, you are instructed, all of those planets, stars, galaxies headed back to their starting point, rushing ever faster, colliding, being crushed, subsumed, giving off enormous volumes of energy, ultimately grinding together in the true mother of all explosions, and then returning to nothing. It is reminiscent of the comedy routine of a few years ago of the two Las Vegas casinos competing furiously with each other with ever more extravagant entertainments until one advertises, “This Week; The Hydrogen Bomb; One performance only!”

What is left out of this metaphor is that, if there were such a beginning explosion, none of those massive constructs, those planets, stars, galaxies, would have already existed.

Let us now, here declare the First Law of Metaphor: “Metaphors of reality must obey the laws of reality!” (but within limits: nothing in this law shall be construed as to constrain poets).

Perhaps the most confounding element of our use of language is our confusion of levels of meaning. People, particularly politicians, sometimes married couples, find themselves at odds because they seem to be “talking past each other”. Alfred Korzybski, in Science and Sanity, lays out a system of “orders of abstraction” close adherence to which helps to avoid this difficulty. In Korzybski’s system a point-event constitutes a first-order abstraction, that is, the observation, the sensory perception. A statement about that point-event, its initial description, even an exclamation of pain if the point-event was touching a hot stove, constitutes a second-order abstraction; a statement about that exclamation, a third-order abstraction, and so on. It is easy to see how a dialogue where one party is discussing the event while the other is discussing the reaction(s) to the event can lead to a significant loss in the communication. Bertrand Russell and A. N. Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica, uses the term “logical type” in laying out a similar theory. Strict adherence to these principals is often lost both in scientific literature and in popular accounts of scientific breakthroughs and leads to more controversy and confusion than we normally expect from scientists.

(This post, with minor modifications, was first published in 2011, as Appendix B of my book, “the picnic at the edge of the universe.“)

 

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