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Jonathan Kerr: on 10/11/12 at 19:10pm UTC, wrote (PS. The above post was of course a joke! JK)

Jonathan Kerr: on 10/10/12 at 14:33pm UTC, wrote Hello, thanks. well, you've obviously been doing some multiple voting, but...

Jonathan Dickau: on 10/10/12 at 0:59am UTC, wrote Hi Jonathan, Thank you for the thoughtful remarks left on my page. I...

Jonathan Kerr: on 10/7/12 at 12:54pm UTC, wrote Just an additional note - people have been discussing some questions about...

Jonathan Kerr: on 10/4/12 at 22:11pm UTC, wrote Thanks very much Pentcho, it's very much appreciated, and I felt it here....

Pentcho Valev: on 10/4/12 at 17:27pm UTC, wrote Peter, I am referring to my essay for the first time (it is no longer in...

Anonymous: on 10/4/12 at 16:54pm UTC, wrote Jonathen, Pentcho. "But I don't think you'll ...find assumptions specific...

Pentcho Valev: on 10/4/12 at 16:07pm UTC, wrote Yes Jonathan we disagree on what's wrong with relativity but I somehow feel...


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To build the ultimate artificial mimics of real life systems, we may need to use quantum memory.

October 18, 2017

CATEGORY: Questioning the Foundations Essay Contest (2012) [back]
TOPIC: There May Be a False Assumption in the Minkowskian Geometry That Led to Block Time, Which Disagrees With Quantum Theory on Whether the Future Already Exists - A Short Look Through the Clues About Time by Jonathan Kerr [refresh]
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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Aug. 6, 2012 @ 15:50 GMT
Essay Abstract

Work on quantum gravity has highlighted some inconsistencies with time, and there may be a false assumption in our overall view of time. In a short look through the clues, here it is shown that the two levels of time we seem to find in physics, block time and the apparent motion through time, can’t both be real. Given the fundamental unpredictability of small-scale events in quantum theory (widely accepted for eighty years) the two levels disagree over whether the future is already decided, and whether the future already exists. Assuming that only one level is real leaves two possibilities. Both are examined, and the essence of the Rietdijk-Putnam argument, which led from Minkowskian geometry to block time. Some of the clues, such as the permanent age differences between objects left behind by time dilation (which have been measured very accurately recently[1]), are not well addressed in views in which motion through time doesn’t exist. Special relativity (SR) has been extremely well confirmed by experiment, but the spacetime interpretation has not, and because it defines time as a dimension different from the others in some ways, time could also be different in other ways. These two points make a false assumption in the Minkowskian geometry possible. Even a minor one could remove block time, leaving a dynamic universe as in quantum theory.

Author Bio

Jonathan Kerr is an independent British physicist, published in peer reviewed journals, who since 1995 has worked almost entirely on the physics of time. This led to the book ‘The unsolved puzzle: motion through time in physics’ (2012, forthcoming).

Download Essay PDF File

Pentcho Valev wrote on Aug. 6, 2012 @ 20:35 GMT

I tried to make out whether you regard gravitational time dilation as real but couldn't. So let me ask you a question:

David Morin: "The equivalence principle has a striking consequence concerning the behavior of clocks in a gravitational field. It implies that higher clocks run faster than lower clocks. If you put a watch on top of a tower, and then stand on the ground, you will see the watch on the tower tick faster than an identical watch on your wrist. When you take the watch down and compare it to the one on your wrist, it will show more time elapsed."

Do you also think that the watch on the tower, when taken down, will show more time elapsed?

Pentcho Valev

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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Aug. 6, 2012 @ 21:17 GMT
Hello Pentcho, thanks for your post.

Yes, I think gravitational time dilation is real, and a good clue that motion through time is real. I've argued that of the two levels of time - only one of which can be real - motion through time must be the real one. I've talked about gravitational time dilation as leaving lasting traces behind it several times - to point out one of them... "When objects accumulate elapsed time at different rates, permanent age differences remain." That's what you were asking about.

In the places where I've mentioned illusions, I'm only trying them out, and finding that they simply don't fit the clues in all areas. In the 'Conclusions' section at the end it sums up the thread of the argument, shows why only one of the two levels can be real, and then says that motion through time has to be real, not an illusion. I hope that answers your question.


Pentcho Valev replied on Aug. 6, 2012 @ 22:00 GMT
David Morin further claims that the gravitational redshift Pound and Rebka measured was due to gravitational time dilation:

David Morin (p. 4): "This GR time-dilation effect was first measured at Harvard by Pound and Rebka in 1960. They sent gamma rays up a 20m tower and measured the redshift...

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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Aug. 6, 2012 @ 22:33 GMT
That's an interesting question. There are two main interpretations for the gravitational redshift. Relativists tend to prefer the version where you can take time out of the picture, because we don't understand it. So they often say that photons climbing out a grav field have their energy sapped by the climb, and try to explain the effect purely in terms of gravity affecting light. But this doesn't fit all the facts.

Clifford Will, in his excellent book about the tests of GR, 'Was Einstein right', asks the key question - if a signal is emitted at one height and received at another (a la Pound-Rebka), does the wavelength change steadily on the way, or is it emitted at a different starting wavelength, and then keep that wavelength? He says there's no way to know, and that it doesn't matter anyway. He says we can only work with observables. That point of view is understandable. But he then mentions that there is a way to find out which is true, but we can only find out indirectly. He then mentions an elapsed time experiment, with two clocks at different heights.

This shows that the starting wavelength is different at different heights, it doesn't change en route, and that of the two interpretations, the one with the time rate included is the accurate one. And yet physics students are very often taught the other version. Morin is right. I hope this helps.

But I should say that there's some ambiguity surrounding this, and it's less cut and dried than I've made it seem when summarising it.


Georgina Parry wrote on Aug. 6, 2012 @ 20:59 GMT
Dear Johnathan Kerr,

I have read your essay. I too am very interested in the topic of time. It is good that more and more people seem to be taking "the time problem" seriously, taking apart the issues and thinking about it. It is clearly written and comprehensible and relevant to the essay question. So it ticks all those boxes.

I would have enjoyed your essay much more if it was not...

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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Aug. 6, 2012 @ 21:51 GMT
Hello, thank you. I'll read it.

Best wishes, Jonathan

Azzam AlMosallami wrote on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 00:35 GMT
Dear Kerr,

I'm interested in your essay. I hope you read my essay . I discussed your topic in a comprehensive sense, and I solved all the contradictions between quantum and relativity depending on the latest experimental result. My latest paper solved the contradiction regarded to GR and quantum field theory.

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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 09:58 GMT
Hello Azzam,

thanks for your post, I'll read your essay. Best wishes,


John Merryman wrote on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 02:54 GMT

I've been offering up a very basic solution to these problems, but it hasn't garnered much attention. To quote the abstract of my own essay;

"Time is experienced as a series of events and with its philosophy of measurement as reality, physics treats time as a measurement from one event to the next. I argue that time is the changing configuration of the extant, turning...

view entire post

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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 09:39 GMT
Hello John, thanks for your post.

I looked at this kind of view of time in 2002, when Paul Davies mentioned something like that in an article in Scientific American. He says:

“For example, an electron hitting an atom may bounce off

in one of many directions, and it is normally impossible to

predict in advance what the outcome in any given case will

be. Quantum...

view entire post

John Merryman replied on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 10:47 GMT

The reason for gravitational and velocity based time dilation is because since nothing can exceed C, as the motion of electrons within atomic structure is close to C, when the frame of this structure is accelerated/gravitationally attracted, the electrons slow down, so the combination of internal action and external velocity doesn't exceed C. So the rate of change within the atom...

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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 12:57 GMT
Thank you, yes, sorry - there's clearly more to your view than my initial picture of it. Will look some more I have time, rushing to get on a plane tomorrow.

Best wishes, Jonathan

Eckard Blumschein wrote on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 06:49 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

You concluded "block time and the accompanying picture must be false". You correctly realized that the block-time view is rooted in an observer-dependent perspective considering "the same event in the past for one observer but in the future for an other one".


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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 09:13 GMT
Dear Jonathan Kerr,

I enjoyed your essay on time. It's quite surprising that only in the 21st century are large numbers of physicists addressing this problem, that is, questioning the reality of relativity's block time. Your analogy about the car repair may be the best explanation one can come up with. Only in the last few years have I rejected block time. I assume that before that I just accepted it unquestioned as "implied by relativity", but without dwelling on it or its consequences.

Your arguments are excellent and convincing. You seem cautious, almost hesitant to come to your conclusion. Perhaps because you haven't nailed down exactly the faulty step. I think you've come close. You've certainly demonstrated that "remote NOWs" are an ill-defined and unmeasured (almost certainly unmeasurable, even undefinable?) concept. If you haven't already, I suggest you read Daryl Janzen's essay and Israel Perez's essay. Their view of "cosmic time" within the context of relativity seems relevant.

Good luck in the contest,

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 09:54 GMT
Hello Eugene,

thank you very much. I'm cautious partly because that's the correct approach when criticising established physics. There are too many people who dismiss long standing ideas with a wave of the hand, and that often shows a failure to look into them properly.

I'll read your essay, and the ones relating to cosmic time that you mention, thanks. Best wishes,


Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 18:02 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

Yes, I appreciated why you were cautious, that was not a criticism. As you note in response, so many critics go 'full speed ahead, damn the torpedos' that it was both unusual and refreshing to find caution in overthrowing a century old accepted paradigm.

I am pleased that you will read my essay. Unlike the nature of time (perhaps the final mystery) the nature of the wave function may be succumbing to measurements and even, to some degree, to logical analysis. Just as the implications of block time lead to many hard-to-accept conclusions about secondary issues, the concept of 'superposition and collapse' have led to hard-to-swallow implications, as I note on one of the more recent comments on my thread; 'down the rabbit hole'.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Joe Fisher wrote on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 15:53 GMT
Dear Doctor Kerr,

As a layman, I found your splendid readable essay actually compellingly understandable. In my essay Sequence Consequence, I have taken a position diametrically opposite to the Minkowski spacetime one by insisting that one real Universe could only be existing once here and now. You state: “The readings on clocks and the motion of light at short range might give the impression of general simultaneity links across space. But long range simultaneity might be more hypothetical, and not real in any active way.” There is a problem here in that all supposedly separable scientifically fabricated phenomena are automatically corrupted by the insertion of measuring identical unit standardization. Science is a religion that uses numbers.

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Jayakar Johnson Joseph wrote on Aug. 8, 2012 @ 05:49 GMT
Dear Jonathan Kerr

Nature of time differs as the paradigm of universe we assume changes, in that the emergence of discrete time in accordance with plank time varies. In virtue of this, I think, Minkowski space is expressional only in lambda-CDM cosmology, in that the observer is 0-D; and not with paradigms that have premise of cyclic time.

With best wishes


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Jayakar Johnson Joseph replied on Sep. 7, 2012 @ 06:04 GMT
Regret for the spelling mistake on this post. Please read, ‘Planck’ instead of ‘Plank’


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Anonymous wrote on Aug. 19, 2012 @ 13:19 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

As your essay demonstrates the question of time is undoubtedly a major stumbling block when trying to simplify and unify the theories of physics. What if time is not a dimension at all, but is imposed on physics by us, sentient beings with memory who saw the world around us change, and needed a book-keeping method to label the different states of this world? A timeless universe works quite well from the point of view of physics if all changes are local linear and causal as in some models like mine. It is only when we try to measure things that relativity enters the picture, but SR is not the only possible relativity!

For example let Lorentz transformations regulate the length of measuring rods, not of space itself (as in SR) nor time itself contract, just clocks slow down. It can be argued that Einstein did no service to physics by declaring the speed of light constant. This made measurement absolute, but the universe became relative. More sensibly let the speed of light have a maximum but be otherwise variable (measurement is relative) while the universe is absolute - ie a universal 'now' can be imagined. Einstein himself said that a variable speed of light is required in GR.

A timeless universe seems feasible in Beautiful Universe Theory , and was discussed in my fqxi essay Fix Physics! - I will be happy if you have a look at these qualitative and speculative papers.

With best wishes,


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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Aug. 19, 2012 @ 19:56 GMT
Hello Vladimir,

Good to read your essay, and there's a lot that I agree with there. Also entertaining and funny, the architecture analogy, and relevant as well.

As you say, we need a paradigm shift, with new fundamental principles, from which we rebuild. But how to see which starting point? I can show a few pointers, and that it has to be entirely new.

There are around ten different ways of seeing current physics, and the difference between them is often simply the order in which we put things. This concept is fundamental, while this concept is emergent, and further up the food chain. The speed of light is constant, and we adjust everything to that. Or the speed of light is variable, and we put something else underneath it. These alternatives are often equivalent, and we have a puzzle that can be rejigged into various different arrangements, but none necessarily leads to real progress.

It's easy to say let's cut through the Gordian knot, if we can't decide which of the loose bits of string coming out of it should be worked from. But I say if you look carefully, there are clues as to what the starting point should be, and they should lead (to make a truly mixed metaphor) towards a new set of concepts that will be like a sword to cut through the whole knot.

The deepest cracks in our present picture are the very places where the best clues are to be found about what the real picture should look like. Time is the deepest crack in our picture. Things really don't match up there. This crack has been papered over until recently, but now we're having to look right into it instead, because of quantum gravity.

You say time isn't real, and that only the 'now' exists. Most people who say time isn't real say the opposite - that the 'now' doesn't exist. Block time, which comes unavoidably out of Minkowski's geometry, has led many to think time doesn't exist in the sense that motion through time doesn't exist. Instead, they think every 'now' moment exists at once, and they all sit there alongside each other in a block. That's the standard GR view, in as far as there is one. It isn't talked about a lot, as you need at least one unexplained illusion to make it work.

But the differences in time rate in different places look very real, and are not addressed in either of these views. I've studied the idea of an illusion, it doesn't work, for several reasons. I say that motion through time has to be real, and in my essay I've shown that one of our two pictures of time has to be ruled out, as they can't co-exist.

What I'm saying to you is that if you try ruling out block time, and say that the rules about simultaneity at a distance are slightly different from what we think (which is very possible as we don't understand time, but have depended on assumptions about time in Minkowski's geometry), then you get a picture of a dynamic universe, in which motion through time is real.

So in the deduced picture motion through time is somehow real, and to me this view has been arrived at via a very logical sequence of reasoning, as in my essay - you can test every step on the way. And in this picture time seems to run at different rates in different places, so that should be the starting point, and to me it seems much more likely to lead somewhere than other starting points that lead off from here...

Hope this is of interest, best wishes, Jonathan

Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 03:49 GMT
Dear Jonathan

I liked your clever explanation above about the order in can which one takes up various assumptions and try to make them fit together. One can term it your Theory of Theories. But surely not all starting points are equal or even will work at all in some cases? The resulting theories are subject to certain criteria - that they work in all levels, obviously, but also that Occam's Razor applies - how simple will the resulting scheme be? And even Beauty (Dirac's own criterion on whether a theory is correct). For example of the latter : SR is beautiful in its own little sphere of applicability, but it becomes ugly when it complicates things like GR for no good reason. Starting out that a speed of light is constant creates complications down the line it is not a good starting point.

The crack about the Gordian Knot was a poetic comment on my article by a friend, but I see that I should have qualified it as such. Physics works well enough now not to attempt to destroy it in one sweep, without building an alternative theory!

About Time: Starting out with Minkowski spacetime is a non-starter for me. I will keep trying to make sense of the starting points I have assumed in my theory and see where it leads. If there is no time dimension one can say that everything is simultaneous - is that what is meant by block time?

Thanks, and with best wishes,


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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Aug. 26, 2012 @ 06:44 GMT
Hello Vladimir,

sorry, I didn't find your reply until just now. Thanks. Block time has time as a dimension, and the universe is a frozen 4-dimensional block. This comes out of Minkowski spacetime, and causes so many contradictions that something else may well be needed.

I wouldn't try to remove the Gordian knot of this puzzle without replacing it with something else, as you say. But I've mentioned a few clues about what the starting point might be, and it seems to me that motion through time must be real somehow, so that could be a starting point. This general avenue is comparatively unexplored, as block time has drawn attention away from it. So that's my area of interest... good luck with your work, both artistic and scientific.

best wishes, Jonathan

Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Aug. 19, 2012 @ 20:01 GMT
PS I didn't say that time is or isn't a dimension. I'm just looking at the clues and drawing conclusions, trying to limit the possibilities.

Daryl Janzen wrote on Aug. 20, 2012 @ 20:04 GMT
Dear Jonathan:

I like your essay. I think you present an interesting analysis of a concept that is very muddled. In particular, I was glad to see you repeatedly bring up the problem with the supposed illusion of time in a block universe. You might like my favourite quotation from Milic Capek, which I think expresses this problem beautifully:

"We shall deal only briefly with an...

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Aug. 22, 2012 @ 05:59 GMT
[As Daryl's post was also added to the discussion on Edwin Eugene Klingman's page, my post is here and there too:]

Thank you Daryl for your kind and interesting comments on my essay, also the same to Edwin. Daryl, I wasn't referring to your essay before, having only flipped through it until just now. I think it's very good, and unlike many of these essays, I agree with you about some...

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Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Aug. 22, 2012 @ 07:14 GMT
Daryl and Jonathan,

Thanks for these comments. I had been tending to take the view that time is 'emergent' somewhat in the sense of Julian Barbour's essay in which one can simply 'factor out' time and retain only actions and distances as in his equation 5 (page 8) and his final equation. But that seems to reduce everything in the universe to 'local' action, and I now think that that is just not sensible. In fact, I suspect it essentially demands simultaneity. I have not put the effort into this that either of you have, so I cannot defend this idea as well as either of you, but I'm pretty sure that Daryl's 'Cosmic time' or 'flow of time' is on the money. This semi-infinite universe cannot possible hang together as local actions and local distances with time only a way to keep local score.


Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Daryl Janzen replied on Aug. 22, 2012 @ 21:01 GMT
Hi Jonathan and Edwin:

The local reconciliation of temporal passage that's supposed to come from denying a metrical relation between events that exist outside one's past light cone is Howard Stein's thing. However, as Craig Callender pointed out in "Shedding Light on Time", by positing that "at least one event in the universe shares its present with another event's present", which he...

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Aug. 22, 2012 @ 16:09 GMT
I have read a conversation with Julian Barbour in which he says motion through time must be caused by some sort of psychological illusion. To me that approach fails in trying to interpret gravitational time dilation, and tends to need a second illusion, interacting with the first one, when interpreting motion time dilation. Two interacting illusions does not make for a good explanation.

It is also denying the problem, and rather like marking the unexplored areas on a map with 'here be illusions' (just as the old map makers marked unexplored areas with 'here be dragons'). Barbour says time is 'nothing dressed up in clothes', like the emperor's new clothes. He's looking at it mathematically, but it's a conceptual problem - initially anyway.

To me the thing that is like the emperor's new clothes is the fact that the illusion approach dismisses the laws of physics, and hence physics itelf and much of our world, as an illusion. Some people have simply pretended not to see the problems with block time, because like the emperor's new clothes, it has been the standard view, to be accepted. Only recently have we been questioning it, because we need to if we are to get to quantum gravity.

Best wishes, Jonathan

Daryl Janzen replied on Aug. 22, 2012 @ 21:30 GMT

I typed up my previous comment before seeing this one, so I added it there. I agree with what you're saying here about people pretending not to see the problems associated with a block universe, and chalking things up to illusions. I think this happens because people don't want to change the basic way they think about the theory. The problem with that, I believe, is that the basic way people like to think about the theory---as dynamical---is demonstrably incompatible with what the physical theory has to say about the way they like to think about the theory.


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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Aug. 23, 2012 @ 06:08 GMT
Hello Daryl,

in reply to your last two posts, I agree with the latest one, that people don't want to change the way they take SR.

They take SR with spacetime, and yet spacetime may be entirely wrong. It is impossible for anything to move through spacetime, almost by definition. Spacetime distances include imaginary numbers, which people accept in an 'emperor's new clothes' kind of way. But this may have no physical meaning. And, for instance, an event 4 minutes ago on Mars has zero separation in spacetime from right now where you are on Earth. All this may have no physical meaning. And because it leads to block time which requires illusions, spacetime is very questionable.

Spacetime hasn't been tested, and like string theory, it can't be tested. Suppose it's entirely wrong - imagine sweeping it away. We'd be looking for missing pieces of the puzzle in a new landscape. Much of our present conjecture would be irrelevant.

You talk about relating things in space, but the issue is, can we relate things in time? That's what we don't know - we know a lot more about space. We have reason to think we can't relate things in time as we have been doing, because look where it led - it led to block time, which doesn't work with the real world we observe. So time may be different. It may be meaningless to relate points in time at all. We don't know. All out attempts to relate points in time may have failed to work. But within the light cone, light signals give us an alternative method, meaningful, but perhaps just a crude approximation, perhaps also ultimately irrelevant to the way time really is.

Best wishes, Jonathan

Chris Lisle wrote on Aug. 29, 2012 @ 17:25 GMT
It seems to me, an admitted lay observer, that the basic problem you demonstrate between block time and time in motion gets down to causality versus conscious. If the universe follows a set of cause and effect and consciousness is not real, then the future can be predicted - aka block time. If consciousness is real (separated from what we understand to be the physical universe), then it seems to me that consciousness, unpredictable as it is, interjects an unknown factor of causation into a otherwise predicatable cause and effect physics equation, and the future is unknown, thus supporting a time in motion theory.

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Aug. 29, 2012 @ 18:42 GMT
Hello Chris,

thanks for your comment. It seems to me you're talking about the question of whether consciousness affects what happens in quantum theory. As I mention in the essay, I think when you have an unsolved mystery, the first thing to do is to admit it's an unsolved mystery. How we should interpret quantum theory is an unsolved mystery, and like with the mystery of time that I've looked at here, the good thing about facing up to the fact that we don't know the answer, is that you can then start working things out about what kind of answer it might be. That's like looking at the holes in the jigsaw, and allowing for them, and trying to guess what they look like.

With quantum theory, some (such as Eugene Wigner) say that consciousness is involved in the answer at some deep level. Personally, I think not, but it's an open question.

You seem to think that idea and cause and effect can't both be true, and you put cause and effect with block time. But block time removes cause and effect, or threatens to, because without motion through time, and a sequence of events with one event preceding another, it's hard to see how cause and effect can happen.

That's what I've argued, and I think cause and effect is unavoidable - it happens without the intervention of human consciousness. The landscape of this planet was being shaped by natural forces a long time before humans evolved here. And when they did, all of their science was based on cause and effect.

But consciousness is still real, it just doesn't act instead of cause and effect. That's how I see it anyway, hope this makes sense...

Best wishes, Jonathan

Chris replied on Aug. 30, 2012 @ 21:27 GMT
Hi Jonathan, thanks for replying. I don't articulate very well, I apologize. I was actually trying to concern myself with the problem you define, which is block time vs. time in motion (meaning infinite possibilities). As I understand the theory of relativity, speed affects the passage of time, thus I could travel to and fro from past to future assuming that was physically possible. This suggest block time, that there is a set past that can't be changed, but theoretically could be changed if I went back and killed myself. That seems to be a paradox of block time, that all things are set and knowable. It seems block time paradox assumes only cause and effect without allowing for the possibility of conscious as a separate intervening element (because conscious allows for infinite possibilities, parallel universes etc).

It seems to me that motion through time allows for the possibility of conscious as a separate element, unlimited possibilities that can't be "pre-ordained" with block time.

I am very interested in your issue and would like to make sure I fully understand.

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Aug. 29, 2012 @ 19:24 GMT
PS. You seem to think the question of whether or not the future exists depends on whether it is predictable. But it isn't about that (and even a predictable future doesn't necessarily have to exist yet).

It's about whether the future actually exists already for other reasons. In block time, it exists already because all of time is already laid out, like a dimension. I've tried to show by reasoning that this can't be the case.

Anonymous replied on Aug. 31, 2012 @ 16:27 GMT
Jonathan, as a history major, I note this about your ideas, which may or may not be true. I only offer this because it is something that jumped out to me. I know that "bias" is an important part of ascertaining the truth, and that bias plays an important role in scientific experimentation. Thus, I offer the suggestion that you disagreement with the "illusions" of block time may be rooted in a...

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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Aug. 31, 2012 @ 21:43 GMT
Hello. Not sure if it's Chris or someone else, welcome anyway.

There are so many things you haven't understood in your post that it's hard to know where to start. You seem not to understand the physics at all, which would fit with... your having studied history, not physics. So let's talk about history first, at least you'll understand me. I agree that a linear view of history is sometimes...

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Aug. 31, 2012 @ 08:47 GMT
Hello Chris,

you have it right where you say that in relativity speed affects the passage of time. Where you mention time travel, I'd say don't think about that for now, it's confusing everywhere you find it, from physics to hollywood. And we don't know if going back in time is possible. Also leave many possibilites to one side, and many universes, which are also confusing ways of looking...

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Pentcho Valev wrote on Aug. 31, 2012 @ 10:11 GMT

You wrote: "We may have been held back by too often assuming that Minkowski's assumptions about the time dimension are inseparable from SR. But a theory can be absolutely right without its interpretation being right, and only the core of SR has been confirmed by experiment."

Has it? The core of special relativity is shielded by what Lakatos calls "protective...

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Aug. 31, 2012 @ 12:38 GMT
Hello again Pentcho,

it can be a matter of taste what constitutes the core of a theory, but it is comparatively clear what has been confirmed by experiment. In SR a key part of the core is the time dilation equation, from the Lorentz-Einstein transformations. This has been confirmed many times, a good example being the experiment with muons at CERN in 1976, in which travelling near to c led...

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Pentcho Valev replied on Aug. 31, 2012 @ 14:32 GMT

You wrote: "This looks like time itself being affected, because the lifetime of the muon in its restframe had been measured accurately before then."

If you knew how the lifetime of muons "at rest" is measured, you wouldn't be so sure:

"Experiment 1: The lifetime of muons at rest (...) Some of these muons are stopped...

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Aug. 31, 2012 @ 15:04 GMT
This page has links to several hundred experiments that have confirmed the core of special relativity:

I'm not going to discuss them all with you for many reasons, including some that have exclamation marks. One reason is that I don't know if even that would convince you of what we know clearly from experiment. Some people don't want the clues, they don't want to know what's out there. Instead they want to fit some other idea to the world at any cost.

Being right doesn't make Einstein divine, a lot of people are right about a lot of things. And a lot of people are wrong about a lot of things, and they frequently include people who deny SR. As you can see from my essay, I'm not one to follow blindly - I've questioned many things relating to SR, including Minkowski's work, which Einstein took onboard, and believed. He's not a sacred cow to me, and I think he was wrong about some things. But look at that page with the experiments, you look through them. It just is like that - we don't know why, but it is.

Best wishes, Jonathan

Pentcho Valev replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 08:56 GMT
You don't want to discuss fraudulent experimental evidence, Jonathan? Why not? Let me refer you to perhaps the greatest fraud:

Open Questions Regarding the 1925 Measurement of the Gravitational Redshift of Sirius B, Jay B. Holberg Univ. of Arizona: "In January 1924 Arthur Eddington wrote to Walter S. Adams at the Mt. Wilson...

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 12:28 GMT
Hello Pentcho,

In most areas of science people are simply trying to find out the truth. But there are a few areas where sadly people have a bias about what they hope to find.

In those areas, to put it mildly, you can't believe all you read on the internet. Relativity is one of them. In areas such as that there are people trying to show the standard view to be wrong, for reasons...

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Pentcho Valev replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 12:38 GMT

You wrote: "I believe SR to be right but the spacetime interpretation to be wrong."

That's all I need to know, Jonathan. Thank you for the discussion.

Pentcho Valev

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 16:38 GMT
Yes, there are many who take both to be right, and quite a few who take both to be wrong. But if in fact neither of these approaches is accurate, and instead the theory is right but the accompanying picture is wrong, then an interesting new landscape appears, which is comparatively unexplored. It may hold answers that haven't yet been found. Thanks for the discussion,

best wishes, Jonathan

Pentcho Valev replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 17:36 GMT
Just a suggestion: Sooner or later you will have to answer the question:

Can Minkowski spacetime be presented as a deductive consequence of Einstein's 1905 two postulates?

If the answer is yes, you will have to question the postulates - the combination "true premises, false conclusion" is forbidden by definition. If the answer is no...

Best regards, Pentcho

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 21:43 GMT
Of course Minkowski spacetime is not a deductive consequence of any part of SR. A good relativist would never claim that it is, but people often imply it. It's just that spacetime looks like it might well be true, and if you make time a dimension as similar to the other dimensions as possible (and it still isn't very similar), then you get what looks like a few things clicking into place. And what...

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Yuri Danoyan replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 22:23 GMT

I think right time for reading my essay

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Pentcho Valev replied on Sep. 3, 2012 @ 04:52 GMT

You wrote: "Of course Minkowski spacetime is not a deductive consequence of any part of SR."

Are you joking, Jonathan?

John Norton: "That the speed of light is a constant is one of the most important facts about space and time in special relativity. That fact gets expressed geometrically in spacetime geometry through the existence of light cones, or, as it is sometimes said, the "light cone structure" of spacetime. (...) So if we mean a spacetime that also behaves the way special relativity demands, then we have a Minkowski spacetime."

Pentcho Valev

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 3, 2012 @ 11:01 GMT
Hello Yuri,

thanks, will read your essay.

Hello Pentcho,

It's you that must be joking! You're saying that you can rule out ALL possible interpretations other than spacetime? How do you know? What kind of thinker would say that all possible interpretations, including all as yet unknown and unimagined ones, are ruled out? John Norton certainly isn't saying that, he's a...

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Sep. 8, 2012 @ 15:27 GMT
Hello Jonathan,

As you know from reading my essay; I also have some problems with the standard formulation based on Minkowski space. I look forward to reading your essay, which is on my short list of what to read next. I have many thoughts about the nature of time question. I find block time to be an inadequate representation, both physically and philosophically, but I'll read through your essay before I say more.

Thank you for your kind remarks on my essay forum page.



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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 8, 2012 @ 16:27 GMT
Thanks, and for your positive reply there. Look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes, Jonathan

Gurcharn Singh Sandhu wrote on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 14:54 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

I have read your essay and I appreciate your novel viewpoint. Even though our views regarding SR may not fully coincide, I agree on the main thrust of your argument regarding time. All authors in this contest have presented their viewpoints in different styles. In the grand maze of the unknown it is important to consider all possible alternatives and different viewpoints for...

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 21:28 GMT
Hello Gurcharn,

thank you for your kind comments on my essay, I'm glad you appreciated it.

To me, the arguments about relativity are off the point unless they mention existing experimental results. We all know the concepts are sometimes counter-intuitive, that means nothing. Things often 'confound common sense' and still turn out to be true. The stale old debate about how to take SR is a dead argument to me, it has been largely won by SR supporters, who have a lot of experimental results to back up their position. This page has links to several hundred experiments, and I don't discuss anti-SR stuff unless people have gone through them:

I think much of the confusion arises because the interpretation is wrong. But the actual theory is unavoidably right. How you frame it doesn't necessarily matter, people have been going round in circles with that for most of a century. I'd say look at the experimental results, and try to come up with an interpretation that fits them. But don't criticise it - the experiments show that something like that is true, whether you believe it or not. But we have absolutely no idea what SR is describing. It's describing something, we just don't know what.

Best of luck to you... Jonathan

Yuri Danoyan wrote on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 16:02 GMT
Whether the Future Already Exists....

I think generation #2,generation #3 are the effect of Influence from Future, just hints from the Future.

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 17:23 GMT
Hello Yuri,

thanks. These papers suggest that there may be influences on the present from the future, but how can one suggest something like that without first putting forward a conceptual picture of time? Time does certain things, we know exactly what it does, but not why. To me something physical is clearly going on, and I think a reliable conceptual picture is needed before anything else - and it must be one that fits the clues well.

Our present interpretation of what we know about time has major problems (see my conversation from today and yesterday with George Ellis on his essay page, who thinks the same, and has argued very strongly that standard block time is wrong). But the spacetime interpretation tends to deflect people from investigating these questions, because what we observe then looks like something unassailable to do with the dimensions, and wrapped up in the nature of the time dimension somehow.

But without a reliable conceptual picture of what the equations are describing, why try to guess what time might or might not do? People who look only at the mathematics might do that, some tend to work as if they have the whole picture in front of them already.

Anyway, that's my take on it. In the second paper you refer to, they suggest drawing a card and using it to decide how to operate the LHC, and they say this might make it shut down totally. I'm not objecting to this on the grounds that it's a form of gambling, but the LHC was very expensive, and if they think that will happen, they shouldn't risk damaging it. There has to be a cheaper version of this experiment.

Best wishes,


Yuri Danoyan replied on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 22:46 GMT

read please also my essay

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Yuri Danoyan replied on Sep. 15, 2012 @ 11:13 GMT
Superdeterminism is delete all difference between past, present, future.

See my analogy book as Parmenides

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Yuri Danoyan replied on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 16:21 GMT

What is your attitude to Gerard 't Hooft

Discreteness and Determinism in Superstrings ?

arXiv:1207.3612 (replaced) [pdf, ps, other]

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Member George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 18:44 GMT
Hi Jonathan

I agree with what you are trying to do. As stated on my thread, I don't believe simultaneity is of importance; what does matter is that block spacetime has a future boundary that keeps moving so that the spacetime block grows. It's a way of putting the two times you mention together.

Best wishes

George Ellis

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Daryl Janzen replied on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 16:28 GMT

You're Sleepwalking. You're clinging to an operational definition of simultaneity that's inconsistent with your model, and claiming that simultaneity doesn't matter, and the corresponding argument from special relativity---that the relativity of simultaneity implies a Block Universe---doesn't matter, while promoting a theory that's inconsistent with the definition of simultaneity...

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 19:52 GMT
Hello George,

Thank you for your kind comments on my essay. My complements again for arguing very strongly for a flow of time in your arXiv paper earlier this year. The Schrödinger type thought experiment you devised comes near to showing that the future has to be unfixed, and that's a real achievement.

Best wishes, Jonathan

[To anyone interested, the discussion has been on George's page, from 9th September, and some of the points in and surrounding my essay get summed up there.]

Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 21:22 GMT
I should also say that I've set out what I see as a major weakness in the EBU (emerging block universe) picture there, and which hasn't been refuted.

Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 20:28 GMT
Hello Daryl,

I'll say something about the part of your post that was to me. What I meant when talking to Gurcharn in asking him to refer to experimental evidence was that as far as I'm concerned, some aspects (only some) of the criticism of SR make a stale argument. It has been going on for most of a century, and I'm not sure how it's ever going to stop. People go round in circles, and we all see SR slightly differently. There many different ways of seeing it, and a lot of them are equivalent.

But of course, there are areas where the discussion goes on in a meaningful way, and I absolutely believe you when you say that you've taken experimental evidence into account. I found your essay very much more interesting than Gurcharn's, to be honest. To me, the difference between you and him was that he made statements like 'relativity confounds common sense', which is irrelevant, because many things do that are still true.

I think you and he are very different, but you have one thing in common perhaps - you shouldn't ask me. It's between you and relativists such as John Baez. Anyone criticising SR, after so much water has gone under the bridge, should go straight to the people who are seen as authorities on it, I'd say. I've had email exchanges with John Baez, but I think SR is right, so we didn't have to take off our jackets. The page I referred to a week ago or so with a long list of experimental results was one of his. I can't vouch for what's there, but anyone arguing that SR is wrong should certainly look through some list of that kind.

Best wishes, Jonathan

Daryl Janzen replied on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 22:33 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

Thanks very much for the response. I completely agree with you about SR, and not disregarding it just because some aspects are counter-intuitive. I also think it's the correct description of physical phenomena in its domain of relevance, and only wish to reconcile a different interpretation with the mathematical theory, which I see as being more consistent with all the experimental evidence. Thanks for your reassurance that you see my argument as taking experimental evidence into account. I agree with you that the standard interpretation is incorrect, while the physical description may well be right.

I think you've hit on an important point in your comment to George on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 20:33, where you wrote that "Because motion through time is not an illusion (in your view and mine), it needs a physical mechanism to explain it. And that mechanism should fit the clues well - it should show why motion through time is slowed down in certain situations, and why the equations that describe how it is slowed down apply." I've got a different idea about how this explanation can be realistically achieved than you, which I didn't discuss in my essay. I'll maybe try to show it to you sometime. Although our ideas about how to reconcile a flow of time with the theory are different, as we've previously discussed, I do appreciate your opinion.

Regards, and best wishes, Daryl

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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Sep. 15, 2012 @ 09:40 GMT
Thanks Daryl,

sorry so late in replying. It has been a pleasure to discuss these things with you (mainly on Edwin Klingman's page), and I do respect your opinion, and your approach to physics in general.

Warm regards, Jonathan

John Merryman wrote on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 02:47 GMT
"But when one thinks of the present as enduring, with the ideal past emerging in its wake, as an unreal thing about which records exist in the present, and the ideal future as something that's anticipated in the present,"

Jonathan, Daryl,

Sometimes the best mysteries are when the answer is hiding in plain sight. It's not that the present "moves" from past to future, but that what...

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 14:44 GMT
Hello John,

I have to say - someone who thinks they have an answer no-one else could find might not have understood the question.

The bits of your post that aren't more suited to a poetry site include a point I refuted two weeks ago in a clear way. You then changed what you were saying completely, but have now gone back to your original approach, and have posted it on my page again....

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John Merryman replied on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 16:36 GMT

I'm sorry if I missed your rebuttal. Your last comment in the previous discussion thread was;

"Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 12:57 GMT

Thank you, yes, sorry - there's clearly more to your view than my initial picture of it. Will look some more I have time, rushing to get on a plane tomorrow.

Best wishes, Jonathan"

Since you didn't specify whether the observers were moving toward, or away from each other, only that they were passing, I assumed you meant toward each other.

Apparently I caused some offense and will not bother you further.

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John Merryman replied on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 16:39 GMT
Further note; Yes, you did say "slowed down," so I should have inferred redshift.

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 17:59 GMT
Yes you switched to doppler effect, it was about time dilation. I didn't have time to explain, and I don't now. No offense and best of luck. And doesn't time go fast when you're on this site, I thought it was two weeks ago... best wishes, JK

Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 20:22 GMT
Well, looking at it, there clearly was more misunderstanding than I thought, so sorry. I meant two observers passing each other, moving in opposite directions. There's only time dilation at that point, and each sees the other slowed down. But I can see that it could be taken as being about the Doppeler effect. JK

John Merryman replied on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 03:53 GMT

I wasn't trying to give offense and if I may seem presumptuous, it is because I do see it as an important point. Having been flipping through the conversations, it seemed as though your discussion with Daryl was circling around this point and I thought I'd offer it up again, since you hadn't seemed to have digested it the first time. Your response though, to take a minor feature...

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 22:30 GMT
Hello John,

it seems to me you're not interested in a real discussion, that's why I've given up trying. You say:

"Your response though, to take a minor feature of the larger argument, assert it's wrong without specifying why, than dismiss the entire argument on that basis, is the usual reaction I get from those who think there are no fundamental issues to discuss".

But what...

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John Merryman replied on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 23:20 GMT

The story of the twins is analogy. Everything is built up from quantum processes, from chemistry, to biology, to mechanical clocks, so if the quantum rate runs faster, as on gps satellites, then everything emerging from these processes runs faster as well, including metabolism, thus one twin ages faster.

I'm just not sure how my use of a common analogy disproves the observation that tomorrow becomes yesterday because the earth rotates.

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 02:27 GMT
If the twins pass each other in the street, walking in opposite directions, then as they pass, each is seeing the other in slow motion. That isn't consistent with your explanation. If the clues were such that they fitted your explanation, it would be a much, much easier puzzle. Now let's leave it, best wishes, JK

John Merryman replied on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 11:14 GMT

No problem. Life is very complex and we all have varied and varying physical perspectives, both spatial and temporal, as well as the ideas to try to make sense of them.

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Lloyd B. Johnson wrote on Sep. 15, 2012 @ 02:32 GMT
I agree that one must define Time in terms of motion. Additionally, it seems reasonable to assume that similar physical results must have, at their base, common causes. That is the path I've taken in an attempt to determine the nature of Time. So, Gravitational Redshift, Cosmological Redshift, and doppler shifts must result from the same physical cause. To that end I prefer to look at the nature...

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 15, 2012 @ 08:55 GMT
Hello Lloyd,

This isn't meant to be a platform for trotting out our theories, though you'd never know from looking at this site. For that reason, in my essay I've just said that I think we need a new interpretation for SR, and set out a rational argument that the existing one doesn't fit what we observe.

So I'm not going into discussions on theories that land here, unless the...

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 15, 2012 @ 17:57 GMT
PS I don't want you to feel you can't answer those points, I just mean we should keep to the general discussion generally... JK

Hoang cao Hai wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 14:09 GMT

Very interesting to see your essay.

Perhaps all of us are convinced that: the choice of yourself is right!That of course is reasonable.

So may be we should work together to let's the consider clearly defined for the basis foundations theoretical as the most challenging with intellectual of all of us.

Why we do not try to start with a real challenge is very close...

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 16:06 GMT
I guessed that this post had been sent to more than one essay page, and found that it had. I also have trouble understanding it.

But best wishes, JK

Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on Sep. 22, 2012 @ 14:50 GMT

I very much appreciate the clarity and intelligence of your essay. And I agree that the "block time" concept is a major obstacle to a deeper understanding of physics -- but I don't think that Minkowski's spacetime is the problem.

As Stein pointed out back in the 60's, what the Rietdijk-Putnam argument disproves is the Newtonian notion of a single present moment "now" that applies to the entire universe simultaneously. It shows us that we shouldn't think of the universe as "moving through time" all at once, as a single vast object. But this has nothing to do with the physical "now" that can actually be experienced, from any particular point of view in spacetime.

This is one of the issues I dealt with in my essay ("An Observable World") -- unfortunately I tried to get way too much into that essay, so I'm afraid the arguments aren't very clear. But I tried to show (in Section 3) that Minkowski's geometry is completely different from that of a static, 4-dimensional "block universe". The problem is not with his geometry, but with our traditional way of theorizing about the physical world as if we could stand outside of it and describe it as an object.

I agree with you that physics needs to come to grips with the time as we experience it happening around us. What Minkowski's geometry shows us is not that this aspect of time is illusory, but that it's essentially local. It shows us that my "here and now" is not physically related to other places and times by means of any spacelike "time-slice" through a 4-dimensional block, but through a web of back-and-forth light-speed connections.

The deeper problem here is that we haven't yet learned to conceptualize the physical world that can actually be experienced, from inside. In many papers on time, the notion of a local present moment is just rejected out of hand, as "solipsistic" -- as if our physical location in spacetime were something "subjective". The main point of my essay was that physics needs to describe not only the objective structure of the world but also the internal structure of physical interaction through which information becomes observable, in specific local contexts.

So I don't think we should reject the "block universe" picture. It's entirely reasonable to spatialize time, to imagine it as if it were a 4th spatial dimension -- as we do in all our diagrams that put space on one axis and time on another. It's obviously helpful to visualize dynamics this way -- but we have to avoid confusing this picture with the more fundamental one given by Minkowski, representing the structure of spacetime that can actually be seen from inside.

This contradicts the argument you make in your first section, that we have to choose one or the other view of time. I think both are equally important in understanding physics, though not equally fundamental. I realize this view is unusual, and I've struggled to find ways to express it. I hope you'll find time to look at my essay and let me know if it makes any sense to you.

Thanks again for your excellent work -- Conrad

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 22, 2012 @ 20:37 GMT
Hello Conrad,

thank you very much for what you say, I really appreciate it. I'll read your essay.

I have two points to make - the first is that I don't think you understand why the Rietdijk-Putnam argument rigourously rules out any possibility of motion through time existing at all (if Minkowski was right). You sound surprised that people talk as if our position in time is subjective, but according to Minkowski spacetime, it unavoidably has to be. I haven't read Stein, but it sounds like he was writing immediately after the shocking discovery in the '60s, and trying to cushion the blow. But since then it has been worked through and understood, and without at least some adjustment to Minkowski spacetime, you simply get motion through time not exisitng.

The reason is straightforward - it's that the difference between past and future is entirely observer-dependent in some situations. That means it has to be perception-based, and has no reality outside the observer.

But as you quite rightly say, SR leads to local time rates, which can't be connected up at all. I'm saying that this local aspect makes the very long distance simultaneity required for the Rietdijk-Putnam argument questionable. But if simultaneity at a distance only applies within the light cone, block time then no longer applies at all, removing the confusion about time that we have nowadays, and allowing what we observe to be real.

Incidentally, I've shown on George Ellis' page that the kind of adjustment he tries to make in his EBU (emerging block universe) approach doesn't work, because this observer-dependence for the difference between past and future still arises. There's a need to remove block time in any form.

I hope this makes sense, best wishes,


Conrad Dale Johnson replied on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 14:07 GMT
Hi Jonathan -- Sorry I couldn't respond sooner. But I don't agree that the "block universe" view follows from Minkowski "unavoidably" or otherwise. Stein's argument has been picked up and elaborated many times since the '60s, most recently in the George Ellis paper you and he were discussing in the comments to his essay. You're right that the "block universe" does seem to be rigorously proved...

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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 12:20 GMT
Hello Conrad,

as I said when I replied before, I hadn't read your essay. But to me it's great - I've been amazed by the clarity of sections 1 and 2 reading them this morning. I love the way you write, it seems to me you think like I do, trying to get each idea across in a way that can be really assimilated as you go. And what you write seems important to me.

Because these kind of...

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Conrad Dale Johnson replied on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 15:11 GMT
Jonathan --

It's very heartening to me to get such a positive response; thanks very much. The block time idea clearly needs to be overcome, and I look forward to seeing how you deal with it in your book. Your essay does a fine job of pointing out the difficulties of treating "now" as an illusion, a matter of perception. If such a basic aspect of all our experience is illusory, what are...

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 02:29 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments on my essay forum page. They are appreciated. I've been sidelined by unexpected responsibilities, but I expect to get caught up on reading and comments soon - now that things are back to normal (more or less). I'll read and comment on your essay as soon as I can, and I'll respond to your comments back on my essay page if it seems appropriate.

All the Best,


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Member Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 03:05 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

I think your essay is right on target, and it rates very high in my opinion. Let me make a few remarks. First, let me say that I don't believe the manifold structure of spacetime persists to arbitrarily small scales, but this in of itself is hardly a radical position anymore.

1. I agree that one ought not to begin with mathematical models of time (or anything else!), but ought to begin with physical concepts, and then use whatever mathematics is necessary to get the job done. This may lead to mathematics that is “less convenient,” but so be it! Choosing mathematically convenient but physically dubious models has caused too many problems in physics to even begin to list.

2. An excellent point you make: “Often more than one conceptual picture is described by similar mathematics.” Likewise, there is often more than one choice of mathematical formalism to use in attempting to make a physical idea precise. Often the differences among these conceptual pictures or formalisms involve physical issues at the periphery of what is being considered when the theory is first developed. Only later are the distinctions recognized as important, and by this time it has often become “common knowledge” that a particular marriage of concept and formalism is the “only way to go.”

3. You say “And then other physical laws, which also depend on there being a timeline (or rather, many), and behind them fundamental principles like cause and effect, which also depend on a timeline.” Now, this is something I have thought about a great deal. Do cause and effect depend on a timeline, or does time depend on cause and effect? Or are they two ways of talking about the same thing?

4. You say, “Within the light cone, where events are in range of each other, there’s a clearer sequence - one can say an event happens before another if it can influence it by getting a light signal there in time. This short range way of relating events has meaning, based on causality. But it doesn’t mean there are long range time links across space, as in Minkowski spacetime.” This, in my opinion, is the crucial point. The physical order is the causal order, and the “time-orders” given by choices of reference frame are not physical. They represent extra, noncanonical information added for mathematical convenience and should be given no weight when discussing issues of existence.

5. Continuing from 4, I believe another aspect of this false assumption is the “symmetry interpretation of covariance.” Covariance in special relativity is, conceptually speaking, the statement that different inertial frames are “equally valid,” and the usual way of making this precise is to invoke the symmetry group of Minkowski space (the Poincare group). I do not think this is the best interpretation, especially when one generalizes the discussion from special relativity to general relativity and then to the fundamental structure of “spacetime.” I think a better interpretation is in terms of order theory. The causal order on Minkowski space is defined in terms of the light cones, and an event E is simply unrelated to events outside its light cone in terms of the causal order. Imposing a time order on Minkowski space refines the causal order by artificially relating E to most of the events outside its light cone (all those outside the same “spatial section.”) Different frames of reference, then, are different refinements of the causal order. However, it is obvious that such a refinement carries no canonical physical meaning. The physical information is contained in the causal order, which does not imply a block universe.

6. These topics are a major focus of my essay, On the Foundational Assumptions of Modern Physics. Since you have evidently thought about these issues deeply, I would be grateful for any further thoughts you might have on the subject. I think that "spacetime" is essentially a way of talking about cause and effect, and that geometry is a very good approximation to this at currently observable scales.

Congratulations on an excellent contribution! Take care,

Ben Dribus

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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 23:06 GMT
Dear Ben,

It was very good to get your post, thank you. I agree with what you say, and found it heartening to get such a response. I'll read your essay.

Your points 1 and 2 are very well put, and I agree with them - you set these things in a wider context. For instance "Choosing mathematically convenient but physically dubious models has caused too many problems in physics to even begin to list".

I think the causal order can be what applies in your points 4 and 5, as you say, without being the most fundamental thing in your point 3. When we try to establish simultaneity across a distance (or an ordering of events across a distance), then to me the potential for a causal order can be used to trace the relationships between events. That may be simply a convenient system.

It doesn't mean causality necessarily leads to the flow of time. You say: "Do cause and effect depend on a timeline, or does time depend on cause and effect? Or are they two ways of talking about the same thing?". I'd say a flow of time is required for cause and effect to happen. It looks that way because the time rate slows down and speeds up in certain situations. And the two ways in which this can happen seem rather different. I can't see how this kind of thing could happen to cause and effect on its own, though perhaps you see it as a dimensional thing with causality wrapped up in it. But to me an underlying flow of time is needed, as George Ellis has argued for in a recent arXiv paper. Without that I don't see how you can get causality going in the first place.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading your essay, and thank you for your comments.

Best wishes, Jonathan

Anonymous replied on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 02:55 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

Thanks for the response, and I'll look forward to your remarks on my essay. I can already anticipate some of your potential criticism, but the criticism of the wise is far more valuable than the agreement of the ignorant!

Regarding the question of whether time or causality is "more fundamental," or if they are two different ways of talking about the same underlying structure, I note your emphasis on the permanent effect of time dilation as an important clue regarding the nature of time. The "pure causal" response to this might focus on the "objects" that are "aging," examining what an "object" really is in the context of a single fundamental structure (at the classical level). Something which I don't yet know your view on is whether "matter-energy" is something that "lives in spacetime" or if "spacetime" and "matter-energy" emerge together from some sort of microstructure, which is the case for many approaches to quantum gravity.

In any case, perhaps we can discuss this more when you have had time to compare our ideas. Take care,


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Hoang cao Hai wrote on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 07:20 GMT
Dear Jonathan Kerr

Your presented is very interesting.

But it seems you have not decided on the final choice.

Do you think:

Actually, it was too simple to the extent that we can not "doubt" that: that is it.

Let relax with essays and my new theory and hope to get your opinion.


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Pentcho Valev wrote on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 17:30 GMT

You wrote (on Giovanni's page): "Pentcho, briefly, you and I have already discussed this question at length on my page, and I have shown you to be wrong, in a way that even you eventually didn't argue back about. The reason we call it "the spacetime interpretation" is because it's an interpretation. It's untested - unlike SR, which is extremely well confirmed by experiment. People...

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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 22:02 GMT
Hello Pentcho,

well maybe we agree, as I also think spacetime is sometimes nothing more than a useful system for diagrams of SR. But I thought the question was, is spacetime a necessary consequence of SR. I think almost no-one would say it's the only possible interpretation, and few would say it's a necessary consequence, though people do imply it sometimes. I suppose I was trying to show you where the whole edifice of relativity, as it is now, has a genuinely questionable area. Spacetime is one part of that set of ideas that hasn't been tested. But I know you have your own view of SR - anyway, you can check what I've said if you want, and ask people how spacetime detaches from SR. (Btw, I went to that cafe in Holland Park today, nice to think of Lee Smolin and João Magueijo sitting there talking.)

Best wishes,


Pentcho Valev replied on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 23:02 GMT

Let us replace special relativity with the deductive closure of Einstein's 1905 postulates:

W. H. Newton-Smith, THE RATIONALITY OF SCIENCE, Routledge, London, 1981, p. 199: "By a theory I shall mean the deductive closure of a set of theoretical postulates together with an appropriate set of auxiliary hypotheses; that is, everything that can be deduced from this set."

Now the difference between us can be clearly defined: I believe Einstein's light postulate is false, you will probably start looking for false "auxiliary" hypotheses. But we must agree on one thing: if spacetime is "flawed", some member of the set is false, and we should expose it.

Pentcho Valev

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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 23:25 GMT
Hello Pentcho,

I'm glad you agree that if spacetime is flawed, then there's a flaw somewhere in what led to it. That's what I've said in my essay. I've said Minkowski's assumptions about time may be wrong, and specifically about simultaneity across a distance. This is perfectly possible without SR being wrong, as anyone will tell you if you really ask.

Let's just agree to disagree about SR itself, earlier on I did post the address of a page with links to many experiments confirming it. And if you think a flaw in spacetime has to mean a flaw in SR, then just ask any good relativist if SR could be right but spacetime wrong. And if he says that one is a consequence of the other, then give me his email address, and I'll have a word with him!

Best wishes, Jonathan

David Rousseau wrote on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 19:56 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

Your essay is well written, accessible, interesting and defends valuable fundamental points. I am sure it will do well! I was glad to see your defence of real change, and hence of things existing wholly in the present and causal powers being real factors in explanation-building. In our essay Julie and I argue that the concept of energy commits us to a view of material things as capable of changing, and link this to the ability to build scientific explanations. If this on the right track then the block universe model cannot be a realistic view, just as you so clearly argue.

I greatly enjoyed reading your essay, and hope you will find ours interesting too. Good luck in the competition!

Best regards,


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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 23:43 GMT
Dear David and Julie,

Thank you very much. It's good to see more people questioning the block universe picture - after it was accepted unquestioningly for so long - and your ideas sound very good. I've argued that physics itself requires motion though time, and it looks like you've hit on a specific example of that arising, and can show it in a detailed way. I'm looking forward to reading your essay.

Best wishes, Jonathan

Pentcho Valev wrote on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 23:40 GMT

You wrote: "Minkowski's assumptions about time may be wrong, and specifically about simultaneity across a distance."

Then you should formulate the false assumption in an explicit manner. But I don't think you will be able to find assumptions specific for Minkowski that are alien to special relativity.

Pentcho Valev

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Author Jonathan Kerr replied on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 23:49 GMT
Hello Pentcho,

I've said in my essay that the false assumption is that an event can be both

past and future, in two different viewpoints.

Best wishes, Jonathan

Pentcho Valev replied on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 05:11 GMT

You wrote: "I've said in my essay that the false assumption is that an event can be both past and future, in two different viewpoints."

This is part of some people's interpretation of spacetime, not a (physical) assumption from which (physical) conclusions can be deduced. If that is the problem, then there is no additional feature of spacetime that can be logically or experimentally falsified - spacetime is just as perfect and falsifiable as special relativity. The problem is with the interpreters, not with spacetime.

Pentcho Valev

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 08:05 GMT
Hello Pentcho,

Well I partly agree on that. It is a physical assumption, but not a fundamental one, which is what I think you mean. As I've said in the essay, it's an assumption that is basic in the sense that many other assumptions stem from it.

The more fundamental physical assumption underlying it (which I think is false) is one of Minkowski's, but not initially of Einstein's, though he took it onboard later. It's that simultaneity has meaning across distances beyond the light cone. I think you should see that I am not what you oppose - I am also critical of aspects of the existing use of relativity, as it stands at present. We disagree on what's wrong with it, and are in different places on the spectrum of views. But I think you should really argue with the people who are at the far end of the spectrum, who would defend that entire set of ideas.

Best wishes, Jonathan

Pentcho Valev replied on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 16:07 GMT
Yes Jonathan we disagree on what's wrong with relativity but I somehow feel either of us has the potential to get on the right track (if he's on the wrong one now).

You get maximum rating from me.

Pentcho Valev

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Anonymous replied on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 16:54 GMT
Jonathen, Pentcho.

"But I don't think you'll ...find assumptions specific for Minkowski that are alien to special relativity."

As you say, it's in the interpretation. HM described "Imaginary c+v", which is certainly not real c+v but is observable apparent c+v when not using Proper Time (i.e. observed from another frame). This is not interpreted as inconsistent, but as Lorentz suspected (1913 - see my essay) it is.

Jonathen. I was hoping you'd manage to get to read my essay (27/9) as I think it's logical mechanisms and ontology may shed light on the dilemma you discuss, confirming precisely where it was SR went wrong, stemming from one assumption. I look forward to your views.

Very best wishes


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Pentcho Valev replied on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 17:27 GMT

I am referring to my essay for the first time (it is no longer in the contest):

Shift in Frequency Implies Shift in Speed of Light

The problem is, as always, in the wavelength - is it varying or is it constant.

By the way, you may wish to see another varying-wavelength interpretation of the Doppler effect (moving observer) - I have just started a discussion in sci.physics.relativity:

Pentcho Valev

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Yuri Danoyan wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 14:31 GMT

I am also thinking about two levels of time.

Levels o Parmenides and level of Heraclites

You can read my essay 1413


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Peter Jackson wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 23:29 GMT

A handful of the missing jigsaw puzzle pieces emerge from applying the structures of logic (TFL and PDL) to the evolution of interactions over no zero time at a qauntum scale. I try to describe these in my essay, but as motion is difficult to visualise many haven't assimilated the complete ontology. I think you will. I hope you'll get to read it as I think it may be foundational.

I look forward to your comments (and possibly your book). Do you like a bit of theatre?

Best wishes


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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 20:18 GMT
Hello Peter,

thanks, I'll read it when I can.

Best wishes, Jonathan

Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 11:32 GMT
Dear Jonathan - thank you for your explanations and your good wishes in your last message above that I have just seen.


Hello. This is group message to you and the writers of some 80 contest essays that I have already read, rated and probably commented on.

This year I feel proud that the following old and new online friends have accepted my suggestion that they submit...

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John Merryman wrote on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 17:37 GMT

It is very undiplomatic to tell someone to "leave" it, on their own thread.


I'll bring this to your page, and try to explain, for the nth and last time, what - to be fair - you genuinely don't seem to understand. No-one else will tell you that your ideas simply don't fit the evidence or the physics, they'll all go on letting you think the ideas could be right. Only I am boring enough to try explain it to you.

Time dilation is a single effect, described by a set of equations, and if only the observed time rate is needed, then it's just one equation. That equation works for many situations, it's very general. To explain the effect, you have to come up with a conceptual picture that works for all those situations. You can't have it fading evenly and steadily into a different explanation in some situations, and then fading back again into your original explanation on the other side. The equation shifts by degrees you see, from one situation into another. So any explanation needs to cover all situations. That's why I made the point about the two observers passing each other in the street, going in opposite directions. Each sees the other in slightly slow motion, and your explanation fails there.

Each is in fact observed with a slower metabolism than the other, because every process is observed slowed down - this may be an illusion, or each may somehow actually be slowed down from the other point of view. But citing changes to metabolism as the CAUSE of time dilation simply doesn't work.

If that was the cause, we wouldn't have pondered this for a century, it would have been very much simpler to deal with. The reason is that the mathematics would be different! And it would allow a whole range of possible explanations of that kind, but no-one even considers them, because they don't fit. Being a good mystery, it rules out a lot of intuitive explanations.

Your last post was full of errors, no-one will point them out, not even me.

Please leave this now, thanks, and good luck.

Best wishes, Jonathan"


First off, my point is not about relativistic measures of duration. It is about whether time emerges from action, ie, the changing configuration of what exists/the present, such that it is events going future to past, or whether it is simply a measure of duration from one event to the next, past to future, resulting in such concepts as blocktime.

If you can figure that out, then maybe we can consider what causes duration to vary in different situations and from different points of observation. Is it because of the geometry of spacetime, or because duration is subject to context, whether actual, such as with gps satellites, or perceptual, as with those observers you are fixated on.

That you don't seem able to understand it is a different issue might go towards explaining why those schooled in the established paradigm haven't considered this. I think Edward Anderson provides a very vivid example of this disconnect, as he first explains time as manifestly Machian, then delves into how it is best measured. The issue is not measurement, the issue is cause!!!!!!



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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 20:04 GMT
Sorry, I didn't know you'd mind. I was just trying to get it off Ben's page, mine or yours would have been fine. But as we'd already posted briefly on your page, I went back there. I wouldn't have posted about it further at all if you hadn't raised it with Ben, but because you did, I went there and apologised, and put the apology on your page too, in case there had been a misunderstanding. Anyway, I've tried to explain what I was saying, and to bring the focus to the question we were looking at, I can't do more than try. Let's agree to disagree,

best wishes, Jonathan

John Merryman replied on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 20:57 GMT

Not a problem. I only pointed out our communications in response to his suggesting raising the subject with you.

I don't know that we have reached a point of disagreement, since we seem to be talking past each other, on slightly different issues.

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 21:13 GMT
Whatever, no worries. Good wishes to you. JK

Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 07:37 GMT
If you do not understand why your rating dropped down. As I found ratings in the contest are calculated in the next way. Suppose your rating is [equation] and [equation] was the quantity of people which gave you ratings. Then you have [equation] of points. After it anyone give you [equation] of points so you have [equation] of points and [equation] is the common quantity of the people which gave...

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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 12:04 GMT
Hello all,

Thanks for comments and discussions. I hope that will go on, I can be contacted here and by email, I forgot to put my email address on the essay, but it's .

As you can see from my posts here and on other pages, I'm generally more interested in what can be shown to apply, more or less anyway, than in avenues that are suggested as being possible. I'd say my essay has a tendancy to show something to be the case, and I hope anyone looking at it will bear in mind that aspect of it, and hopefully find it there.

It only does that alongside the prevailing view of quantum theory as fundamentally unpredictable, and not necessarily in the context of a hidden variables approach. Perhaps one shouldn't assume that it must be either one or the other - but with the unpredictability that in current physics is thought to underlie QM, the whole argument holds, and much of it holds anyway.

By the way, I've bookmarked an exchange between Ben and Conrad on Conrad's page , Sept 22-4, which is a very good overview type discussion of approaches to QM.

Anyway, best wishes to all,


Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 12:54 GMT
Just an additional note - people have been discussing some questions about the voting on the contest blog ( ) since Oct 5th, as quite a few essays suddenly dropped rapidly in position over the last 48 hours of voting. The organisers found some multiple voting had been going on, and removed the extra votes.

My essay stayed in the top 35 for two weeks from sept 20th, usually between positions 20 and 25, and was at 31 on Thursday 4th. Then in the last 24 hours of voting, it dropped more than 70 positions. Ah well! I don't know why that happened, but perhaps the positions up to the last 48 hours are more indicative. Anyway, I've had a very good response to my essay from colleagues, both in the ratings and more importantly in the discussions, particularly from Ben. The ratings should be in the margin of things anyway - the forum has been very good, and to me the event in general, and most of us have learned a lot from the exchange of ideas.

Best wishes to all, Jonathan

Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Oct. 10, 2012 @ 00:59 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

Thank you for the thoughtful remarks left on my page. I apologize that I was not more diligent, as I skimmed, but never finished reading your paper for detail. I am sorry if my failure to cast a vote for you in time contributed to your drop in score. I was still rating essays at the final hour, though, and I rated at least 25-30 essays in the final 48 hours. This may have contributed to fluctuations somewhat.

I appreciate your willingness to communicate. I shall continue to participate, and I'll comment here once I have given your essay a complete reading.

All the Best,


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Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Oct. 10, 2012 @ 14:33 GMT
Hello, thanks.

well, you've obviously been doing some multiple voting, but I'm sure in your case not of the kind that the organisers said they'd had trouble with!

I look forward to your comments, thanks a lot.

Best wishes, Jonathan

Author Jonathan Kerr wrote on Oct. 11, 2012 @ 19:10 GMT
(PS. The above post was of course a joke! JK)

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