Posts Tagged ‘einstein’

100 Interesting Things: #5 Time

March 1, 2010

The Law of Conscious Relativity states that time slows down when you’re at the dentist and speeds up when you’re doing a Sudoku.

Einstein knew time as the fourth dimension, after the three spacial dimensions. Try this: a body, motionless in space, is moving through time at the speed of light. Move the body in space and it will move a little “slower” through time. As the body goes faster through space, time, relative to it, slows down. Of course, this raises more questions than it answers about relativity, but I find it a nice way to visualise the screwyness of how time slows for fast moving “bodies”, i.e. movement just “borrows” a little from the arrow of time.

Anyway, the only reason we are so puzzled by time is because our thinking processes and general experience is intertwined with it. We experience time passing at a certain speed (according to the Law of Conscious Relativity 🙂 ) because our brain itself is a clock. Our experience corresponds to the speed it ticks in much the same way as the number of calculations a computer can do in a second corresponds to how fast its clock ticks. (My old ZX Spectrum went at 50 ticks per second, and could therefore do 50 operations per second).

Our brains are record players spinning at a certain rate through time. The record is the outside world. The stylus is our consciousness, our “present”. We sleep when the tone arm lifts.

Thoughts about the Universe

January 1, 2010

This is a bit indulgent but I am supposed to be a sci-fi writer so here’s some scientific thinking:

There is a problem in modern physics that doesn’t seem to want to be solved. That is, the incompatibility between Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. String Theory and M-Theory are our best attempts to unify quantum mechanics and gravity (don’t ask me how), but there are a couple of things I don’t like about String Theory.

The idea String Theory hooks you with is elegant and easy to understand: that all sub-atomic particles are in fact all manifestations of the same tiny “strings”, but the strings vibrate at different frequencies giving the different particle properties that we see at the macro level. Then it gets trickier: the strings actually are only one dimensional (what the?) and they vibrate in eleven dimensional space (they’re taking the piss). What’s more, dimensions 5 to 11 are too small to see. They are “curled up” apparently – tinier than atoms (what do they take us for?).

Somehow I don’t think Einstein would have liked the theory because it is impossible to imagine. It is unsatisfactory because it is impossible to conceive of those 11 dimensions (although it is fascinating to try). It is similar to the problem I have with the big bang theory as it stands, which states that everything started from an insanely tiny point in space that was insanely dense that exploded in a Big Bang and has been inflating ever since. I mean you cannot imagine all space and time being compressed to a tiny point because you immediately start thinking about a little dot in, well, an empty space. But the empty space is not supposed to have existed before the Big Bang, because all space and time supposedly came from that little dot. My intuition tells me that if a theory cannot be properly imagined then it must be bollocks.

My dad, John, got me thinking when he described a theory he has about all this. I can’t do it justice here because I don’t understand all he was telling me, but some of his ideas were something like this: The matter in galaxies was not all created in the Big Bang, but is in fact generated continuously by the galaxy. At the centre of most galaxies is a super-massive black-hole, which according to hawkins, are not completely black – they radiate something or other. These black holes, in my dad’s theory, are actually made of antimatter and so repel the ordinary matter that it creates. The black hole will “weigh” roughly the same as the matter it creates, and so if you add all the matter and antimatter from a galaxy together (i.e. the stars and the super-massive black hole in its centre) you get nothing. Well, actually you will have a little more antimatter because the stars will have radiated heat and light and since E=mc squared the energy loss means some mass loss. So the repulsive force slightly outweighs the attractive pull of gravity (from all the stars) and so over millions of years you get the spirally shape of the typical galaxy. Of course, if you believe this theory then the entire big bang model is put into question. Fred Hoyle’s steady-state model becomes more attractive.

Anyway, I think this idea is very elegant, that galaxies are kind of fundamental and self-sufficient. John Webber has an explanation of what is going on at the quantum level too. Again, these words are only an interpretation of what he told me. His idea is a bit similar to string theory in that the most fundamental “thing” is something that has a variable property to evoke the different particles of matter that we observe in experiment, electrons, protons and so on. But he evokes a model reminiscent of the old “ether”, which is interesting. Now, the ether was proven not to exist a long time ago, but this idea is not the ether, only something similar. I would like to call it the “mesh” instead of the ether. The mesh, like the old ether, is something that exists everywhere, and everything that exists exists in the Mesh. The mesh is a three dimensional grid of points, and each point has a value. It could be modelled in a computer as a 3d array of integers, where empty space is a 3d array where all the values are zero. The 3 dimensions of space and 1 dimension of time that we experience is not the same as the Mesh but are isomorphic with it, just like a running computer program is not the same as the code, but is isomorphic to it. A running computer program is a manifestation of the code running on the machine. Our reality is to the Mesh as a running computer program is to the code. If you alter a line of code in a program you might change something in the running program, like the colour of some textual label on the gui or even cause a bug. If you alter a value in the mesh you could cause a particle to change into another particle in reality, or perhaps trigger some nuclear reaction.

How does the mesh help to explain anything? Well for one, perhaps it gives some idea as to why the speed of light might be constant, because perhaps the speed of light is isomorphic to the speed with which value changes ripple through the mesh. In Einstein’s theory of general relativity (which of course I am not questioning because it has been proven by experiment) the speed of light is constant but gravity and/or relative velocity alter one’s perception of the passage of time and the perception of space. In other words space and time is “curved” by gravity. I’ve never been happy with this description. It curves with respect to what? If we have the Mesh, we can say that space and time curves with respect to the Mesh.

The Mesh might also begin to explain why we cannot reconcile quantum mechanics and relativity. The two theories accurately predict measurements we make with experiments but they seem to contradict one another. For example relativity allows the singularity (the point of infinite mass from the which our universe has supposedly sprung from) but this is an absurdity in quantum mechanics. I wonder if the two theories cannot be reconciled because in fact they are describing different things. Maybe when we study the very very small – matter at the atomic scale, we are actually “seeing” the Mesh. Intuition tells us that our everyday spacial dimensions, as measured by say, centimetres, can always be made smaller. You can always have 0.1 cm or 0.01 cm or 0.001 cm. When we study very tiny objects we have always assumed that the object can actually be measured using our everyday measurements. But in fact they can’t because when we study the very tiny we’re actually looking at the Mesh.

This begs the question: well which one is reality then?, the Mesh or the everyday world? The answer is that it is the Mesh which is the reality. Quantum mechanics models reality, whereas relativity only models what is projected into our human worlds by the Mesh. Or to put it another way Niels Bohr was looking at the code whilst Einstein was looking at the running program.