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amrit: on 1/19/10 at 19:26pm UTC, wrote PS actually I would like ta attach this file

amrit: on 1/19/10 at 19:24pm UTC, wrote Hi Petkov Space-time is a math model, time is not part of space, time is...

Eckard Blumschein: on 11/23/09 at 7:29am UTC, wrote Dear Lev, Ancient mathematics arose from applications. Geometry was...

Lev Goldfarb: on 11/17/09 at 23:39pm UTC, wrote I forgot to add my name to the previous post.

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Eckard Blumschein: on 11/17/09 at 19:34pm UTC, wrote Dear Lev Goldfarb, I am not sure whether or not the notion dimension is...

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FQXi FORUM
November 25, 2017

CATEGORY: What's Ultimately Possible in Physics? Essay Contest (2009) [back]
TOPIC: Lessons from failures to achieve what was possible in the twentieth century physics by Vesselin Petkov [refresh]
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Author Vesselin Petkov wrote on Oct. 5, 2009 @ 16:22 GMT
Essay Abstract

For several decades there has been no breakthrough in fundamental physics as revolutionary as relativity and quantum physics despite the amazing advancement of applied physics and technology. By discussing several examples of what physics could have achieved by now, but failed, I will argue that the present state of fundamental physics is not caused by the lack of talented physicists, but rather by problematic general views on how one should do physics. Although it appears to be widely believed that such general views cannot affect the advancement of physics I would like to draw the attention of the younger generation of physicists to three reasons that might have been responsible for failures in the past and might cause problems in the future: (i) misconceptions on the nature of physical theories, (ii) underestimation of the role of conceptual analyses so successfully employed by Galileo and Einstein, and (iii) overestimation of the predictive power of mathematics in physics.

Author Bio

Vesselin Petkov received a graduate degree in physics from Sofia University, a doctorate in philosophy from the Institute for Philosophical Research of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and a doctorate in physics from Concordia University. He taught at Sofia University and is currently teaching at Concordia University. He wrote the book "Relativity and the Nature of Spacetime" (Springer 2005) and edited the books "Relativity and the Dimensionality of the World" (Springer 2007), and "Minkowski Spacetime: A Hundred Years Later" (Springer, forthcoming). He is a member of the Governing Board of the International Society for the Advanced Study of Spacetime.

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Uncle Al wrote on Oct. 6, 2009 @ 01:53 GMT
Is the vacuum isotropic in the massed sector? Do (metaphoric) left and right shoes falsify the Equivalence Principle? Nobody has ever looked. Physics does not include opposite geometric parity atomic mass distributions as tests. If the vacuum is demonstrably and selectively anisotropic in the massed sector (an empirical left foot): 1) Einstein's elevator has a massed exception, 2) Angular momentum is not conserved (Noether's theorems), 3) BRST invariance uniting the effects of an accelerated inertial frame of reference and the effects of a massive body in perturbational string fails. The whole of physical theory, classical gravitation and quantum mechanics, is reduced to a heuristic given a devastating empirical footnote immune to all prior observations.

The "shoes" are macroscopically and chemically identical, maximally enantiomorphic atomic mass distributions: Single crystals of left- versus right-handed quartz (berlinite and analogues, cinnabar, benzil, tellurium, selenium...) or single crystals of left- versus right-handed glycine gamma-polymorph computationally qualify. The apparatus is an Eotvos balance, http://www.npl.washington.edu/eotwash/experiments/equivalenc
ePrinciple/newWashPendulum.jpg

You need not complain about the stultifying ossification of contemporary physics. You need only look where nobody else dares - breaking the political logjam. Attached glycine3.png is a section of of space group P3(2) gamma-glycine crystal structure as a stereogram, two turns of the threefold left-handed screw axis. Space groupP3(1) is the right-handed mirror image. Glycine packs 127 atoms/nm^3, quartz 79.6 atoms/nm^3.

attachments: glycine3.png

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Robert L. Oldershaw wrote on Oct. 6, 2009 @ 02:11 GMT
Well, well! It is certainly nice to hear someone define and discuss the relevant problems with theoretical physics so candidly and accurately.

No doubt the "confederacy of you-know-whats" will close ranks against you.

Regarding the question you ask at the end of your paper, I have a somewhat radical answer. You can find it by going to the following website and choosing the paper: "The Hidden Meaning Of Planck's Constant".

http://independent.academia.edu/RobertLOldershaw/P
apers

Congratulations! Simplex signilum veri.

RLO

www.amherst.edu/~rloldershaw

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Anonymous wrote on Oct. 6, 2009 @ 07:13 GMT
Vesselin

I agree strongly with your emphasis on philosophy - but philosophy is mainly rhetoric; therefore subjective. Logic is also important and less subjective.

You emphasize the physical reality of the four dimensional continuum and that this was somehow "proven ? " by Minkowski & Mermin. One cannot prove physical reality; one can only observe/measure it. Minkowski can't, and Mermin can't, prove it is 4D. They can express their philosophical preference for a 4D representation.

ALL measurements are in the "NOW". It is impossible to measure Duration (see the winning essay of the previous competition). Measurements of duration are actually measurements of spatial changes of configuration, e.g. the sun was there at that-now, now its here at this-now. We can of course map multiple nows to an extended time if we find that useful mentally, but we cannot observe such a thing.

You write "Unlike Poincare, Minkowski appears to have realized that special relativity, particularly relativity of simultaneity (which IMPLIES the existence of MANY spaces) ..." etc. - my emphasis.

The logic here is faulty. Special Relativity mandates that because of a finite velocity of (electro-magnetic) observation = physical experience, each observer (unless co-located like quantum superpositions) has (a) a different observable part of the same one physical universe, and (b) each observer's measurements of the same events will differ. However SR also mandates that because of the constant speed of e-m all the different measurements can be rationally correlated by the Lorentz transforms so that their is no conflict, i.e. all observers are observing the same set of absolute events = the same space or universe.

So it is OK in SR to assume there is one common space that we all exist in (don't we ? ) - BUT it is not possible to impose one absolute co-ordinate system (preferred observer). SR gets rid of absolute space but not our shared space. That is why he called it a theory of Relativity. Scientifically our measurable experience of the same universe is relative to the observer.

Taking Minkowski's logic for empirical reality is not a philosophic choice I could - reasonably - recommend. That it is very useful mathematically is - rationally - very true.

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Oct. 6, 2009 @ 16:30 GMT
Dear Anonymous,

You wrote : "ALL measurements are in the NOW." In my understanding exactness of physics allows only to distinguish between past and future. The NOW has no duration. I see notions like today a deliberate and often reasonable blur. So we seem to have problem to understand each other. I called my essay G., G., R. - votes for ultimate realism, and I hope to find others who confirm my attitude.

Dear Vesselin,

The title of your essay evokes the hope you gave examples for failures to achieve practical results like for instance quantum computers and SUSY. Reading your essay, I got the impression you blamed the physicists of a century for they did not consequently enough follow the excitement of Minkowski. Unfortunately Minkowski died soon after his sensational claim, maybe related to it. How would he judge it decades later?

If you will read my essay please do it with care as to avoid mistakes.

What about set theory, I am a German and studied the original papers. Dedekind, Hausdorff, Fraenkel, even Hilbert and indirectly Ebbinghaus admitted the ultimately missing basis. The late Fraenkel restricted his preference for set theory: It is just more exotic, not so boring as the mathematics before. I know that I will lose any support here when I do not unconditionally obey the mandatory belief. So is science, so is life.

Regards, Eckard

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Terry Padden wrote on Oct. 6, 2009 @ 23:03 GMT
The "anonymous" post was mine.

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Oct. 8, 2009 @ 00:05 GMT
Dear Vesselin,

I would like to comment on one of your main points that

“the views which might prevent physicists who hold them from arriving at new results are those that regard our theories only as good descriptions of the world and that insist on not considering the ‘most successful abstractions to be real properties of our world’ ”.

I believe that the situation is not as straightforward as you suggest. These, as you call them, “unproductive views” are also responsible for moving us forward, because they also allow some researchers who hold them to move on to a new paradigm much easier compared to those who have *convinced* themselves that the paradigm they learned during their formative scientific period is the “real thing” and hence cannot be seriously questioned. Since we are not Gods, we must approach ‘the reality’ via some formalism which may or may not be the final one.

In other words, it is important to keep in mind that our physical models are as good as the quality of the match between our underlying formalism and the reality.

Incidentally, regarding your “second example”, I do not believe that Minkowski (or in general a pseudo-Euclidian) space has much to do with ‘reality’. ;─)

I gradually arrived at this point and discussed it in several of my earlier papers (addressing information science perspective) when I realized that the introduction of a negative sign (for time) into the quadratic form measuring the inner product is a quite desperate but still inadequate attempt to address the reality of time. Moreover, such step immediately raises the following important question: If time (- sign) is incommensurable with space (+ signs), what about the commensurability of many other variables? On which basis do we decide on the issue of commensurability?

So, in this sense, the great Poincaré was not quite wrong. ;─)

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Vesselin Petkov wrote on Oct. 10, 2009 @ 02:34 GMT
Thank you All for the comments and please forgive me for being unable to respond so far. I have been struggling to meet two deadlines (during the semester!).

Vesselin Petkov

P.S. In fact, just a quick note: Dear Lev, regarding your "I do not believe that Minkowski (or in general a pseudo-Euclidian) space has much to do with ‘reality’." I hope you will examine the essence of Minkowski's argument in the italicized sentence on p. 3 as I suggested there. Now, a hundredth years after Minkowski we owe him a careful examinations of his arguments.

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Philip Vos Fellman wrote on Oct. 11, 2009 @ 18:31 GMT
Dear Vesselin:

There are some good ieas in this paper. On the other hand, there are also some serious category errors, as Terry Padden points out. Not only would I have to say I stand in the same camp with Terry as regards discourse, but you don't have to read my paper (and I hate guys who use the posts as a way to shoehorn in advertising of their work) to understand that Minkowski is just as guilty of the Lorentz error as Lorentz himself was. In this case, it has to do with proper time and the notional measurement of a particle along a world-line where "nothing happens". Minkowski's error (as Julian Barbour pointed out in last year's essay) is that he still tries to derive time and worldlines exogenously. I think if you take a look at what John Baez and Jeffrey Morton are doing with quantum categorification and n-category theory you might find stronger tools for solving some of the problems which have held back progress in quantum field theory and quantum gravity for the last several decades.

Cheers,

Phil

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Anonymous wrote on Oct. 12, 2009 @ 03:01 GMT
‘In this sense, I think, Einstein was right that quantummechanics is essentially incomplete. It is unrealistic to assume that an electron, for example, does not exist between measurements. But if it exists, it is something and we should know what that something is.’

Einstein’s problem was that he supposed that objects can have an existence outside, independent of interactions. If, as quantum field theory says, particles are as much the source as the product of their interactions, then we cannot ask how they are ‘from themselves’, as they have no such independent existence. Though we can ask ‘what that something is’, we can only answer it by acknowledging that

it has no reality outside the continuously varying interactions it takes part in, which define it, and concentrate on why nature needs its specific properties to be able to create itself.

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Steven Oostdijk wrote on Oct. 13, 2009 @ 12:06 GMT
Dear Vesselin,

Congratulations with your essay. I really liked reading it. It discusses some taboo topics very candidly. I only missed a conclusion at the end.

I do have some problems with your literal interpretation of Minkowski:

Take for instance a car (or rocket in case you want something closer to lightspeed). It is able to accelerate in a straight line. How is that possible with Minkowski's interpretation of time? It should curve. For me that is a falsification of his postulate that the time vector is pointing in a orthogonal imaginary dimension and following Karl Poppers' scientific method his theory should be dropped. Maybe I could pose the point differently: what physical proof do we have that time moves in an orthogonal imaginary dimension?

(Please don't start about wordlines or Pythagoras, I'm just simply talking one dimensional distance, velocity and acceleration vectors here).

Good luck with the contest!

Steven Oostdijk

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amrit wrote on Oct. 15, 2009 @ 17:24 GMT
Dear Dr. Petkov

I read your paper and see that you think space-time being physical reality. According to my and some other researcher space-time is math model only, quantum space itself is timeless. Time is run of clocks in quantum space.

Do we have any experimental data space-time being physical reality ?

yours amrit

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James Putnam wrote on Oct. 17, 2009 @ 22:32 GMT
Dear Dr. Vesselin Petkov,

I see you are busy with semester deadlines and with answering other messages that precede mine. However, should you find the time, I chose one item from your essay to pose a question. You said:

"Moreover, Einstein himself described the realization that a person falling from the roof of a house does not feel the force of gravity as the happiest though(t) in his life. ... A conceptual analysis of Newton's gravitational theory could and should have revealed, long before Einstein realized it, that a falling body offers no resistance to its acceleration. This means that the body is not subjected to any gravitational force, which would be necessary if the body resisted its fall. Therefore, the falling body moves non-resistantly, by inertia. But how could that be since it accelerates?"

Even during Newton's time, why would anyone expect that a person in free fall should feel the force of gravity? It appears to me that Newton's theory predicts that no falling object should experience any sensation of a force acting on it even while the force of gravity is acting on it. The force of gravity acts evenly on all parts of the object. If there is no compression or other type of physical distortion, then why would anyone feel an effect due to falling freely due to the force of gravity. Thank you.

James

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Darwin wrote on Oct. 18, 2009 @ 11:23 GMT
Hi,

I must concurr with the criticism of some of the participants above.

First of all, there is no reason to expect that discoveries of the scale of quantum physics and relativity can be made every 20 years. For the discovery of the experimental method it took some 2000 years.

Second, there has been in the last 30 years or so a more "quiet" progress in many areas of physics - maybe less in particle physics. But there it's very likely because of instrumentation (more and more difficult to get to higher energies) rather than lack of imagination.I don't think "believing" in the reality of virtual states would help this community. Ultimately, what guides theorists is experiment, and if this is not available the problem is not that there are no theories but quite the opposite. (It is possible that this constant progress for instance in solid-state physics would lead to better and better detectors, allowing us to peek deeper in the Universe.)

About the lack of reality of the electron at some times: sounds good, but the problem is that you can choose to detect the electron at any moment or point in space. And it's there where it should be according to the standard theory. So, hard to escape the conclusion that it exists all the time there - even if you don't look. Otherwise one has to admit that the electron knows about our intention of detecting it and it materializes in the right point in space-time, whenever/wherever we do choose to put a detector.

To conclude, if the solution would be that some kind of strong belief in the reality of certain concepts is needed, I am sure we would have say a unified theory by now, simply because out of that many smart stringers around I bet there must be some who believe in the reality of Calabi-Yau manifolds :-).

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Vesselin Petkov wrote on Oct. 19, 2009 @ 04:05 GMT
I will start addressing the critical comments and answering the questions.

Dear Terry,

"One cannot prove physical reality; one can only observe/measure it. Minkowski can't, and Mermin can't, prove it is 4D"

1. Mermin is in the opposite camp.

2. Please read carefully Minkowski's explanation of length contraction given on pp. 3-4 of the essay. It is also explained there that length contraction is impossible if the contracted body is three-dimensional (3D); the worldtube of the body must be a real 4D object in order that length contraction be possible. So experiment does prove the dimensionality of physical objects (length contraction was experimentally tested in the muon experiment in the muon frame; see G. F. R. Ellis and R. M. Williams, Flat and Curved Space Times (Oxford University Press, Oxford 1988) p. 104).

"So it is OK in SR to assume there is one common space that we all exist in (don't we ? )"

I am afraid it is not OK at all. Again, please read Minkowski's own argument given on p. 3 of the essay. The essence of his argument is that one space implies a preferred observer - see Minkowski's quote on p. 3.

"SR gets rid of absolute space but not our shared space."

That is incorrect - see Minkowski's paper if you question the representation of his arguments in my essay.

Vesselin Petkov

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Vesselin Petkov wrote on Oct. 19, 2009 @ 04:32 GMT
Dear Terry,

I am sorry for this follow up. I believed it was evident, but in order to avoid any misunderstanding let me say this as well.

I do not know what you mean by "there is one common space that we all exist in (don't we ? )". However, I hope you do not base this statement on what we perceive, because what we believe we " perceive" as one common space (through the distances between objects) does not constitute even a space - at the moment 'now' we "perceive" a mixture of volumes of spaces corresponding to different past moments of time (the volume of space around the sun we "perceive" now is 8 minutes old - the time it takes light emitted from the sun to reach us).

Space constitutes a class of simultaneous events. That is why, if space were one, there would exist a single class of simultaneous events in contradiction with relativity.

Vesselin Petkov

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Vesselin Petkov wrote on Oct. 19, 2009 @ 06:19 GMT
Dear Eckard,

Thank you for your comments. Concerning:

"The title of your essay evokes the hope you gave examples for failures to achieve practical results like for instance quantum computers and SUSY"

one should ask, I think, more fundamental questions first. For example "What is the quantum object?" And then, and if necessary, questions of the type you mentioned.

Regarding your essay and set theory, I will do my best - I have just started to have some time mostly during the weekends.

Best regards,

Vesselin Petkov

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Vesselin Petkov wrote on Oct. 19, 2009 @ 06:33 GMT
Dear Phil,

Thanks for the comments. I must say I have never heard of Minkowski's error (would you tell me where exactly in his essay Julian Barbour pointed out such an error?).

I do not think Minkowski made any error on spacetime related issues. This is not just my personal opinion - try to analyze the kinematic relativistic effects by assuming that Minkowski did make a mistake about issues involving proper time and worldlines and you will see that those effects would be impossible.

Best,

Vesselin Petkov

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Vesselin Petkov wrote on Oct. 19, 2009 @ 06:50 GMT
Dear Anonymous (who wrote on Oct. 12, 2009 @ 03:01 GMT),

Thank you for your comments with which I, unfortunately, disagree. Here are the reasons. You wrote:

"it has no reality outside the continuously varying interactions it takes part in, which define it".

What about a free electron, for example? Say an electron approaching the double-slit screen in interference experiments with single electrons. The electron is something and we have the right to ask "what is it?"

Even if I agree with you that the electron is in constant interactions, the question is still valid - "What is that thing that interacts?"

The major failure of the 20th century in quantum physics, I think, is not pursuing the answer to the question "What is the quantum object?"

Best regards,

Vesselin Petkov

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Anton W.M. Biermans wrote on Oct. 21, 2009 @ 04:05 GMT
Dear Vesselin,

If an electron cannot express its charge if there would be no other charge in the universe, then it cannot be charged itself, so a property is something which is shared and communicated between particles. If in a self-creating universe particles have to create each other plus the spacetime to be in, then they are as much the product as the source of their interactions -which is the origin of quantummechanics. If real particles are virtual particles which by alternately borrowing and lending each other the energy they need to exist, force each other to keep reappearing again and again after every disappearance and so oscillate between opposite states, then they preserve each other's properties and at the same time express them as a force between them by exchanging the energy they need to exist.

This means that though an electron certainly can live far from protons, it never is free, isolated from the continuous energy exchange it owes its existence to, so its behaviour always will depend on every object inside its universe, it exchanges energy with, however subtle their influence may be on its behaviour. If we were to isolate it from its interactions, cut off its energy exchange, then we annihilate it. It is because the observer or his probe is usually such a tiny part of the environment which defines the particle, that he assumes it to have an autonomous, interaction-independent existence. However, the idea of an object having such an absolute kind of reality is a religious notion, as it refers to a creator creating it for once and all, provide it with all its properties to happily live ever after, which, besides being far outdated in the age of quantummechanics, for other reasons (Laplace) is a problematic notion. It is because we still cling to the classical idea of particles as some kind of tiny pebbles autonomously acting only as the source of their interactions, their field, why quantummechanics seems so weird -and will remain incomprehensible as long as we do. What an electron is can only be answered by investigating its behaviour, requiring the observer to specify his relation to the particle, the interaction, the field he observes it from, its distance, velocity etcetera. The task of the physicist is to find out why it interacts the way it does, whether he can find some mechanism or evolutionary process which explains its behaviour, its apparent properties. A quantum object, then, can be defined as something which is as much the source as the product of its interactions.

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Member Tobias Fritz wrote on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 15:54 GMT
Dear Vesselin,

very interesting essay! I agree with much of what you wrote, in particular the necessity of conceptual analysis in fundamental physics. There are some points though where I disagree; let me just explain those that I have not seen mentioned so far:

(1) In the third paragraph, you write that "He [Lorentz] believed that the time t of an observer at rest with respect to the aether [...] was the true time". Taking this seriously, it seems that the reason why Lorentz failed to discover relativity was precisely because he attributed a real independent existence to a theoretical entity! (Namely absolute time.) This conclusion is the exact negation of yours.

(2) Many physical theories have theoretical reformulations in terms of different mathematical entities. For example, general relativity in terms of a metric can be reformulated as teleparallelism, as MacDowell-Mansouri gravity, in terms of frame fields, or whatever. How do you decide which of these represents the actual physical reality? Would you ascribe physical existence to, say, the metric, although it is not a fundamental field in some reformulations? Besides GR, the same question applies to Lagrangian vs. Hamiltonian mechanics, the holographic principle, and probably much more.

(3) Concerning the emergence of mass from interactions and how this is accounted for in the standard model: I believe that these contributions are exactly what one considers when renormalizing particle masses in quantum field theory. For example in quantum electrodynamics, this should be given by the Feynman diagrams contributing to the electron self-energy. Self-interactions are accounted for much more naturally in quantum field theory than in classical field theory.

best regards, Tobias

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B N Sreenath wrote on Oct. 25, 2009 @ 16:49 GMT
You have,I feel,really grasped why present day generation of physicists have failed to reconcile GR with Quantum-Mechanics.It is not only lack of conceptual analysis but more importantly of framing proper concepts which lie at the foundation of the problem,which is lacking in them.

Thanks,anyway,for your article and let it be the eye opener for those who want to solve the above problem.

Best regards

B N Sreenath.

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Vesselin Petkov wrote on Oct. 25, 2009 @ 18:22 GMT
I continue with my answers:

Dear Steven,

I believe the fairest way to answer your question is if you try to do it yourself. I would love to do it, but first I have to convince you that you may be preventing yourself from proper understanding by starting with "Please don't start about wordlines or Pythagoras." In any case you are implicitly using worldlines - "It should curve." That "it" (what curves is precisely the worldline or rather the worldtube of the rocket (because the rocket is an spatially extended object). In Minkowski's interpretation the proper time of an object is the length of its worldline - if the object accelerates its worldline is curved and therefore its proper time is also "curved".

What you are writing - "the time vector is pointing in a orthogonal imaginary dimension" - is correct (except "imaginary") but it does not lead to any contradictions. As your rocket accelerates its instantaneous spaces corresponding to different moments of the rocket's time do not remain parallel to one another (as is the case with a uniformly moving rocket) - they are inclined to one another and at any moment of the rocket's time the instantaneous time direction (I will not use "the tangent to the curved worldline of the rocket and that moment/event") is orthogonal to the instantaneous rocket's space at the same moment.

Let me ask you to examine carefully the foundations of relativity before declaring that worldlines, proper times, instantaneous spaces are just labels. You can see right away that those are not part of a terminology game played by physicists. Imagine three uniformly moving rockets - 1, 2, and 3 in addition to your accelerating rocket A; all move in the same direction. 1, 2, and 3 move with normalized speeds (say, 0.1c, 0.2c, and 0.3c, where c is the speed of light) relative to a "stationary" object (a fifth rocket). As A accelerates it will chase the three uniformly moving rockets. At one moment of A's time A will be instantaneously at rest with respect to 1 (both will have the same instantaneous velocity relative to the "stationary" object). This means that A and 1 will instantaneously share the same space and time at that moment; therefore A's time direction will be orthogonal to A's instantaneous space at that moment (because 1's time direction is orthogonal to 1's space). The same scenario happens when A's speed momentarily coincides with the speed of 2 and 3. But 1, 2, and 3 are in relative motion which means that they have different classes of simultaneous events and therefore different spaces (since a space constitutes a class of simultaneous events). This example demonstrates why the spaces of A that correspond to different moments of A's time are not parallel to one another.

Good luck with the contest too!

Vesselin Petkov

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Phil wrote on Oct. 25, 2009 @ 21:57 GMT
Vesselin

I believe all three of your postulates are correct. I applaud you on your essay and wish you good fortune. Have you read the 'Perfect Symmetry' essay by P Jackson? If not you should, if you have look a bit deeper, it proves your postulates correct and is very exciting. You think the same from different routes, yours is clearer but he has though much further onwards.

Best wishes

Phil

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Vesselin Petkov wrote on Oct. 26, 2009 @ 00:37 GMT
Dear Amrit,

When Minkowski united space and time he called the new entity 'the absolute world' and argued that the postulate of the absolute world represented relativity better than the relativity postulate. Whether or not what we now call spacetime itself is real is a separate question. I simply explained Minkowski's point of view that relativity implies a four-dimensional world. That is why I understand your question "Do we have any experimental data space-time being physical reality?" in a sense whether we have experimental evidence that the world is four-dimensional.

Minkowski himself emphasized that the new view of space and time is forced upon us by experimental physics. I tried to show on p. 3 of the essay that a hundred years after Minkowski we should have done better - we should have continued Minkowski's arguments and realized that not only would relativity (as a theory) be impossible in a three-dimensional world, but most importantly the experiments that confirmed its predictions would be impossible if the macroscopic physical bodies (devices) involved in those experiments were three-dimensional.

It is not necessary to trust Minkowski or anyone else. If you doubt that the world is four-dimensional and believe that relativity is perfectly possible in a three-dimensional world, trust only yourself, but do it professionally - assume that the world and the macroscopic objects are indeed three-dimensional and analyze relativity of simultaneity, length contraction, time dilation, and the twin paradox, for example, and see whether they will be possible. Minkowski already gave the correct relativistic explanation of length contraction in his paper (reproduced on pp. 3-4 in the essay). Let me repeat that length contraction (which along with time dilation is a specific manifestation of relativity of simultaneity) was also experimentally tested in the muon experiment in the muon frame; see G. F. R. Ellis and R. M. Williams, Flat and Curved Space Times (Oxford University Press, Oxford 1988) p. 104. If you like you can compare your analysis with that in Chap. 5 of ref. 8 in the essay.

Best wishes,

Vesselin Petkov

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Oct. 26, 2009 @ 22:34 GMT
Dear Vesselin,

You mentioned Minkowski's argument that spacetime is forced upon us by experimental physics.

I would like to object that future evades measurement. Past events are unchangeable, future ones are uncertain except for the toy of an assumed closed system. Wrt reality, the two cones combine apples and fruits.

Do not get me wrong. I appreciate equations which are more elegantly written with the box symbol instead of nabla and delta. However, I cannot see a new quality in 4D.

You argued "experiments that confirmed its predictions would be impossible if the macroscopic physical bodies (devices) involved in those experiments were three-dimensional" and furnished an example: "experimentally tested in the muon experiment in the muon frame". Maybe, I am not the only one who would not be in position to realize and ultimately exclude some sort of self-deceptive misuse of inapt mathematics. It is just my gut feeling that white holes, the Rosen bridge, and similar outgrows of 4D theory are merely science fiction.

I vote for restriction of physics to falsifiable theories.

I am an EE. Voltage and current are measurable fundamental quantities. Reactive current, imaginary voltage, evanescent modes, and the like are fictitious components without a likewise direct physical meaning independent from their undoubtedly plausibly agreed role in an arbitrarily chosen system. A complex impedance could not at all be free of arbitrariness if we did not already arbitrarily chose the sign of the imaginary part of the kernel in the definition of Fourier transform.

Regards,

Eckard

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Vesselin Petkov wrote on Oct. 27, 2009 @ 20:02 GMT
Before continuing with my answers I cannot resist the temptation to address the above (Eckard's) post since I find it tellingly unfortunate that he wrote it immediately after my answer to Amrit's question where I specifically addressed the kind of doubts he had and the type of statements he made.

Dear Eckard,

You wrote: "I would like to object that future evades measurement. Past events are unchangeable, future ones are uncertain except for the toy of an assumed closed system. Wrt reality, the two cones combine apples and fruits. "

How do you know that? That is the whole point of the issue (of the reality of the Minkowski absolute four-dimensional world) that we have to resolve. You cannot start working on this issue by explicitly taking for granted an answer to what has to be determined - whether or not the future events are uncertain.

You can, of course, write "It is just my gut feeling that white holes, the Rosen bridge, and similar outgrows of 4D theory are merely science fiction." In fact, we all are entitled to our views. But I think what everyone of us should constantly keep in mind is that Nature does not care about our personal opinions. That is why, in my answer to Amrit I briefly outlined what I regard as the best way to test our views - try to see whether the ultimate judge (the experimental evidence) has something to say about these views.

What you wrote in your last paragraph starting with "I am an EE" will be addressed in my answer to Tobias Fritz' post. But I can say right now that the very essence of the art of doing physics is to identify which theoretical concepts in our theories have counterparts in the external world.

Best wishes,

Vesselin Petkov

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Oct. 28, 2009 @ 14:20 GMT
Dear Vesselin,

Yes, what I wrote does at least in part refer to your attempt to belittle Amrit's doubts. And Yes, I agree with you: We may approach to the ultimate truth by means of proper interpretation of experience and experiments.

I also agree that "the whole point of the issue" is "whether or not the future is uncertain".

You are claiming:²... the very essence of the art of doing physics is to identify which theoretical concepts in our theories have counterparts in the external world."

I will write a detailed reply and put it on my thread 527.

Regards,

Eckard

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Rickard wrote on Oct. 28, 2009 @ 14:43 GMT
My Dear Vesselin

Your axioms are excellent, and mathe must be tamed by reality, indeed I think it has now been and your proposition proven - read Peter Jacksons paper behind his essay here, (but dig deep as it's obscured to test his own axiomns) - The assumption that a formulae can take the placce of a physical process it what's been screening the truth. Yoiu are thereby proven correct.

Best wishes

Rickard

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Anonymous wrote on Oct. 29, 2009 @ 11:55 GMT
Vesselin

Thanks for your responses of 19th October. I have been busy with my own site and other discussions, as you have no doubt been, and not had time before to consider your response. Some comments:

1. In the second part of your response you wrote "I do not know what you mean by "there is one common space that we all exist in (don't we ? )". However, I hope you do not base...

view entire post


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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Oct. 29, 2009 @ 15:30 GMT
I would like to support Anonymous who here very understandably explained his pets: Rational is not just meant in its mathematical sense but stands for theoretical constructs in general while reasonable refers to the side of experience including not too mathematically diluted experiments. Alone for this clarification Anonymous deserves high rating. Sorry, I put you Vesselin into the drawer of the many who I consider not on the right way.

Regards to Anonymous,

Eckard

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NARENDRA NATH wrote on Nov. 1, 2009 @ 13:18 GMT
Sorry i failed to note the freshness of your essay and specially the three point advice/suggestion you have given for the younger generation of phyicists. Bravo, it is needed.

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Terry Padden wrote on Nov. 2, 2009 @ 04:44 GMT
I am getting so used to being "Anonymous" that i will have to have new monograms sewn on all my linen.

I must go and talk to my seamstress

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Nov. 2, 2009 @ 16:05 GMT
After it got clear to everybody whom I support instead of Vesselin Petkov, everybody should vote for Terry, even those who consider me a moron who's bold style challenges the gods or even suspect me to be the devil. We are absolutely independent from each other.

Eckard Blumschein

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Philip Vos Fellman wrote on Nov. 2, 2009 @ 18:03 GMT
Hi Vesselin:

What I characterize as the "Minkowski error" is the notion that it is possible to have a geodesic simply because one has a particle, or preferably, and I know this is central to the categorical problem of quantum mechanics "a quantum object". I am not going to try and define the quantum object here, as we seem to have about a dozen different definitions and theories in any case. My point was that you cannot derive time exogenously from changes within the light cone. The Barbour piece from the FqXi contest is only a quick reference to the clock problem. What you really want to look at to see the structure of his argument is "Relativity without Relativity" http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/gr-qc/pdf/0012/0012089v3.pdf, especially the treatment of geodesics and Jacobi actions (and Julian’s categorification of "good" and "bad" Jacobi-type actions and Karel Kuchar's recognition that BSW was both a Jacobi type action and a non-standard form local square root. I know this is a bit obscure for the average reader and I apologize for this.

In non technical terms, let me borrow Julian's phrase, "Change does not occur in time. Rather dynamics relates all changes in the universe to each other". What I call the Minkowski error is the assumption that it is possible to have a geodesic where the only change is the "flow" of time, because, like Julian and Peter Lynds, I believe that fundamentally "time does not flow", and that the perceived "flow" of time is an artefact of the human nervous system. I probably stop a step short of Julian's timeless universe, but agree that time is a second order variable in quantum cosmology. My point is that implicit in Minkowski's view is the notion of time as independent of dynamics. I think this is an incorrect construction of geodesics. It's a carry-over from Newton's old idea that the rate of the flow of time is one second per second, which I think from any of the current quantum mechanical theories is at best problematic and at worst nonsensical.

Cheers,

Phil

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Nov. 8, 2009 @ 15:24 GMT
Hi Vesselin,

In connection with our brief exchange here regarding the reality of Minkowski space, I just wanted to draw your attention to the paper by Brown and Pooley “Minkowski space-time: a glorious non-entity”, which you no doubt aware of (since you contributed to the same collection “The Ontology of Spacetime”).

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Author Vesselin Petkov wrote on Nov. 8, 2009 @ 20:20 GMT
Again, before completing my answers a brief comment to address the above post.

Hi Lev,

Of course, I am aware of the paper by Brown and Pooley. However, it is on a completely different issue - that spacetime itself is not an entity - which is a relativistic generalization of the old debate on whether or not space itself is a substance (an entity). What a section of my essay discusses are Minkowski's own arguments for the reality of what he called "the absolute world" (that the world according to relativity, not just spacetime, is four-dimensional). To see why a lot of physicists and philosophers of science think that Minkowski's arguments for the four-dimensionality of the world are irrefutable, assume, for example, that the rod measured two observers in relative motion is a three-dimensional object. As shown on pp. 3-4 of the essay such an assumption contradicts relativity and the effect would be impossible.

Harvey Brown's position is self-consistent - he tries to find a dynamical explanation of what the majority of relativists think is just geometry. In order to answer the question Brown poses the issue of the dimensionality of the world should be resolved first. Like Minkowski and many physicists and philosophers of science I think there is ample evidence for the four-dimensionality of the world - as Minkowski advocated the kinematic relativistic effects themselves are manifestations of the four-dimensionality of the world. I tried to show in the corresponding section of the essay that relativity would be impossible if the world and the macroscopic physical objects were three-dimensional. That is why my view on the nature of spacetime itself is not surprising - as a non-entity cannot be curved (as gravity is a manifestation of the curvature of spacetime), I think spacetime itself cannot be a non-entity no matter how glorious.

Vesselin Petkov




Lev Goldfarb wrote on Nov. 8, 2009 @ 22:28 GMT
Vesselin,

OK. Let me suggest the following possible scenario, which I briefly address in my essay (and which might be endorsed by a number of quantum gravity researchers).

The time is not a ‘dimension’ but is embodied in the structural/relational (event-based) representation that we proposed as a generalization of the concept of natural numbers. The latter, as you know, was responsible for both, our concept of time and that of ‘dimension’.

The proposed representation is informational and may be primary in relation to any directly observable, i.e. spatial, representation. Hence the latter might quite well be the result of the instantiation of the above informational/structural/temporal representation.

So under such scenario there is no time ‘dimension’, but time is simply embodied in the streams of events initially encoded informationally and only then instantiated spatially.

According to this scenario, ‘time’ is *qualitatively different* than the spatial entities and cannot be lumped together with them at all, even if one brings in the “─” sign in the Minkowski quadratic form.

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Author Vesselin Petkov wrote on Nov. 8, 2009 @ 23:35 GMT
Lev,

Physicists are interested only in those possible scenarios that do not contradict the experimental evidence. What you proposed is in a direct contradiction with relativity which appears to have been realized a hundred years ago by Minkowski.

If time were not a dimension then the world would be three-dimensional (3D). Consider again Minkowski's own explanation of length contraction and you will see the contradiction:

Assume that a 3D meter stick is measured by observers A and B in relative motion (A could be at rest with respect to the meter stick). As a spatially extended 3D object is defined in terms of simultaneity - all parts of the meter stick taken simultaneously at a given moment of time - the meter stick constitutes a class of simultaneous events. Therefore, if the meter stick were a 3D object (a single class of simultaneous events) the two observers would measure the same 3D object, i.e. A and B would share the SAME class of simultaneous events in contradiction with relativity.




Lev Goldfarb wrote on Nov. 8, 2009 @ 23:56 GMT
Vesselin,

Who said that “the meter stick constitutes a class of simultaneous events”?

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Nov. 9, 2009 @ 00:32 GMT
The new formalism suggests that any object has to be approached in light of its *generative* structure, i.e. in light of the event structure associated with its generation. So from that point of view, the meter stick has not appeared suddenly out of nowhere, but has some ‘formative’ history that can be associated with it. To simplify things, the generative structure we associate with it is the same as specified by the Peano axioms for natural numbers (after all, how else can you approach the meter stick?) .

In this case, although the event *structure* is the same, their spatial instantiations (for the two observers) could be different.

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Author Vesselin Petkov wrote on Nov. 9, 2009 @ 05:27 GMT
Lev,

Concerning your surprising question:

"Who said that “the meter stick constitutes a class of simultaneous events”?

I think you yourself can answer it by trying to give a definition of a spatially extended 3D object (even in pre-relativistic physics) when its existence in time is taken into account. Or you can recognize this definition, which is almost explicitly used in any textbook on special relativity when length contraction is derived by employing the Lorentz transformations.

I would suggest that you first state clearly what is the dimensionality of the world according to relativity and of the meter stick. Statements like "the meter stick has not appeared suddenly out of nowhere, but has some ‘formative’ history that can be associated with it" mean nothing, if the most relevant question is not answered. When you address that question you will realize that you have been placing new and confusing labels on well-established concepts:

"although the event *structure* is the same, their spatial instantiations (for the two observers) could be different."

Just compare:

"Although the worldtube of the meter stick is the same, the instantaneous spaces of the observers A and B intersect the worldtube at different places and A and B regard the two resulting 3D cross-sections of the worldtube as their 3D meter sticks."

I hope you now see that your statement above makes no sense in a 3D world. I would like to ask you to analyze this point carefully before replying.

From your essay and what you have just written I have the feeling that you have been doing one of the things I wanted to warn the younger generation of physicists not to do - overestimation of the predictive power of mathematics in physics. Any effort to find a novel approach deserves compliments and should be regarded as a brilliant endeavor. But two things should be constantly kept in mind - (i) a physical model comes first, and (ii) mathematics should not be confused with physics.




Lev Goldfarb wrote on Nov. 9, 2009 @ 15:01 GMT
Dear Vesselin,

I can see now clearly that we will not be able to progress in our discussion (as I actually anticipated in my post of Oct 8.), since you are constantly referring to “well-established concepts” and some orthodox views as representing patent on ‘reality’. (By the way, I don’t believe that physics has a satisfactory “definition of a spatially extended 3D object”.)

As to your last statement:

“But two things should be constantly kept in mind - (i) a physical model comes first, and (ii) mathematics should not be confused with physics.”

I can only say (together with almost all greatest physicists) that one should not separate completely the physics from the formal language it relies on, since the latter becomes an integral part of physics. In addition, as Leonardo da Vinci suggested, “Theory is the general; experiments are the soldiers.”

It also appears to me that what you prefer to call “physical models” are those closer to a mechanistic view of realty.

Finally, I just want to mention that I suggested to you to view the meter stick and observer A and the meter stick and observer B as two pairs of interacting processes, where each process should is viewed as comprised of a stream of events, which appears to me to be a reasonable candidate for a “physical model”.

Best wishes,

--Lev

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Author Vesselin Petkov wrote on Nov. 10, 2009 @ 06:11 GMT
Dear Lev,

If you travel west in Canada and happen to stop in Montreal, we could meet and continue this discussion since we appear to have drastically different views on how one should do physics (of course, the ultimate proof of whose view is the correct one is what each of us will achieve in science).

I should tell you, however, that I will friendly not allow you:

(i) to continue to avoid answering the central question in this discussion - what is the dimensionality of the world according to relativity;

(ii) to make claims based on not proper reading of what we discuss - e.g. what you wrote: "what you prefer to call “physical models” are those closer to a mechanistic view of realty" (which is not true at all).

And I will be also glad to discuss in detail what you "say (together with almost all greatest physicists) that one should not separate completely the physics from the formal language it relies on". Statements like this might be used to justify attempts to present mathematical theories of unproven physical hypotheses as physics, especially if one thinks that the theory is more important than the experiment.

Best wishes and hope to see you in Montreal,

Vesselin




Lev Goldfarb wrote on Nov. 10, 2009 @ 15:19 GMT
Vesselin,

Alright, since this is also the main thrust of your and many other essays, I will take up your suggestion to discuss the relationship between physics and its formal language (that will also address your (ii) ).

Let me begin by asking you: How do you separate physics from the formal language it uses? Please give me one ‘purely physical’ fact separated from all the ‘formalities’.

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Author Vesselin Petkov wrote on Nov. 14, 2009 @ 21:45 GMT
Dear Lev,

I agreed with you that on this forum we could not resolve the differences between the two main existing views on the role of mathematics in physics. But since that issue is of extreme importance for the advancement of physics I proposed to continue the discussion if you come to Montreal (given the fact that you live in Canada).

That is why I do not understand why you wrote "I will take up your suggestion to discuss..." The other thing I do not understand is how you could ask me a question, whereas you have been repeatedly refusing to answer a question I asked - a question that would have helped you realize that your claim "time is not a dimension" contradicts the experiments, which confirmed the kinematic relativistic effects.

Despite that I will answer your question by giving you one of the examples I discuss in a course I teach (and that will be my last post on this issue). Since we already mentioned it, take for instance length contraction - mathematics is the same but physics is different. There are at least two possible physical interpretations - the widely accepted Minkowski's explanation or the still alive deformation explanation (the initial Lorentz-FitzGerald contraction); next month in Paris there will be a talk on the second interpretation.

Let me put it another way - you measure (experimentally) length contraction (as in the muon experiment in the muon reference frame) and some claim that this experimental fact could have two different physical interpretations described by the same mathematics.

Best wishes,

Vesselin




Eckard Blumschein wrote on Nov. 17, 2009 @ 00:13 GMT
Dear Vesselin Petkov,

Lev Goldfarb pointed us to the Ontology of Spacetime and in particular your contribution "Is There an Alternative to the Block Universe?

I appreciate you giving a lot of historical background: St. Augustinus already understood that there is no present between past and future. Presentism goes back at least to Aristotele who considered the world only real at the very moment. Let me ask why and what did he, what do we mean with real or existent?

If I am looking back, then I am looking at definitely existing influences only from the past, the closer the more relevant. Mostly it does not matter much if my temporal distance is a little bit shifted.

Likewise a plan of mine for next year is uncertain rather independently from the exact datum right now. It is a question of reasonable fuzziness if I say I am just doing something instead of nonsensically strict speaking "I will continue to do so within the next nanosecond".

Time is often seen as related to the natural numbers. This was surprising to me because every natural number is positive. Do all natural numbers exist?

While it is unlikely that someone else already wrote the following number

63812048449901753396ß255010733067ß433568542567984256
74586727586724357982,

I do not follow Dedekind who claimed having created a new number. To me any natural number is just a stop of Archimede's endless procedure n

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Nov. 17, 2009 @ 03:51 GMT
Vesselin,

My apology, I misunderstood you when you suggested

And I will be also glad to discuss in detail what you "say (together with almost all greatest physicists) that one should not separate completely the physics from the formal language it relies on".

However, you missed the main point: I have not at all refused to answer the question you asked. (I am assuming that you are referring to your “(ii) what is the dimensionality of the world according to relativity”).

Please note that this question fits well within the issue I have pointed out. First, the very concept of dimensionality is not a physical but mathematical concept. Second, when I suggested that time is not a dimension, the proper way to understand this statement is through its formal content (again, dimension is a mathematical concept!).

Third, I believe that *fundamentally different* ‘physical’ interpretation can arise only when the existing formalism is not adequate.

Once more, there are hardly any physical concepts that we understand, and recognizing that, modern physicists have openly adopted funny terminology (e.g. quarks, color, etc.). Moreover, practically all classical physical concepts are of ‘mechanistic’ origin, including mass, energy, etc. I am actually surprised that you seem to be unaware of the fact that during the last century we have learned that spoken languages, including physical terminology, cannot deal adequately with the ‘physical reality’ (without heavy reliance on the formal concepts).

Again, best wishes,

--Lev

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Nov. 17, 2009 @ 10:36 GMT
By the way, I'm not denying the role of 'physical' intuition, but even that is not separated from some formal content.

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Nov. 17, 2009 @ 17:44 GMT
Sorry for my mistake:

I forgot that the larger or smaller sign is not tolerated here. So possibly an important idea of me got lost.

Let me try, recall and continue: ... n results from m+1. While Cantor's naive set theory has been based on a firm set or "block" of "all" natural numbers, I cannot confirm any necessity to assume a largest natural number. The natural numbers cannot be completely set but they are to be considered endless. One can biject the numbers 1,2,3,... to the numbers 2,3,4,...

Incidentally, Cantor ignored this impossibility to freeze the natural numbers in his proofs, in particular in DA2.

Laymen understand, as already did Spinoza, that the pseudo-quality "infinity" can neither be enlarged nor exhausted. Nonetheless, it is often reasonable to use "infinity" like a block.

What about countability, I argue, any set of natural numbers is countable but "the" set of "all" natural numbers is something qualitatively quite different and uncountable.

The block universe is imagined to extend in space from - infinity to + infinity in three orthogonal directions. Isn't this a considerable enlargement when compared to the just positive natural numbers? If one considers space with respect to a point belonging to a particular object, then one can use the always positive distance to all other points of space.

Such individualized space might be considered like a block that is open-ended.

I could agree that there are two likewise unilaterally infinite "blocks" of time: Past time and future time.

Would such consideration contradict

a) Einstein 1905

b) Minkowski 1908

c) neither E nor M?

Regards,

Eckard

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Nov. 17, 2009 @ 19:34 GMT
Dear Lev Goldfarb,

I am not sure whether or not the notion dimension is only a mathematical concept if mathematics is understood as did Hilbert who supported Cantor's paradise.

Georg Cantor came to the same silly result as already Albert of Saxony (1316-1390). He wrote: "Je le vois, mais je ne le crois pas" (I see it, however I cannot believe it).

Concerning Vesselin Petkov's argumentation, I dislike that he concludes that 4D must be correct because otherwise the theory of relativity was wrong. I would prefer always concluding the other way round. Petkov reminds me of Palmstroem who concluded that his dead was an illusion.

Regards,

Eckard

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Nov. 17, 2009 @ 20:22 GMT
Eckard,

It's interesting: actually it was within mathematics that measurement business started several thousand years ago, and so math was there before physics. ;-)

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Anonymous wrote on Nov. 17, 2009 @ 23:38 GMT
Eckard,

You say:

"I am not sure whether or not the notion dimension is only a mathematical concept".

What could possibly be the 'physical' concept of dimension?

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Nov. 17, 2009 @ 23:39 GMT
I forgot to add my name to the previous post.

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Nov. 23, 2009 @ 07:29 GMT
Dear Lev,

Ancient mathematics arose from applications. Geometry was related to engineering and strictly separated from profane use of numbers for administration. Aristoteles (384-322) added metaphysics including the notion infinity after (meta) physics.

I do not know who introduced the notion dimension (lat. dimensio = measurement; extension). I just read papers by G. Cantor who obviously referred to the traditional three dimensions of space.

The worrying diversity of mathematical dimensions were fabricated later.

According to current opinion among physicists, the question 3D or 4D relates to whether or not one is ready to accept silly consequences of anticipatory physics. Common sense tells us that fatalisms is bad.

Regards,

Eckard

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amrit wrote on Jan. 19, 2010 @ 19:24 GMT
Hi Petkov

Space-time is a math model, time is not part of space, time is run of clocks in space.

Yours amrit

attachments: Physical_Time_is_based_on_Motion_Psychological_Time_is_based_on_Neuronal_Dynamics.pdf

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amrit wrote on Jan. 19, 2010 @ 19:26 GMT
PS

actually I would like ta attach this file

attachments: 2_In_what_way_are_related_psychological_time_and_physical_time__sorli_2010.pdf

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