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J. C. N. Smith: on 10/15/12 at 12:54pm UTC, wrote Hi Georgina, Congratulations for having moved on to the final phase of...

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CATEGORY: Questioning the Foundations Essay Contest (2012) [back]
TOPIC: Rethinking a Key Assumption About the Nature of Time by J. C. N. Smith [refresh]

Author J. C. N. Smith wrote on Jun. 20, 2012 @ 17:07 GMT
Essay Abstract

This essay challenges an assumption, far too commonly held within the scientific community, that the operational definition of time is the final word of science on the nature of time, an assumption ripe for rethinking. The essay proposes a view of time which complements the operational definition, and, in so doing, dispels a glaring disconnect between modern science and what generally is viewed as common sense.

Author Bio

J. C. N. Smith is retired from the CIA's former Office of Scientific and Weapons Research. Reading, thinking, and occasionally writing about issues related to time have been his avocation and passion for more than 45 years, with specific aims being to gain a deeper understanding of the universe and its workings and to peel away misperceptions which may be impeding advances in modern physics. He has published several monographs on the nature of time.

Pentcho Valev wrote on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 07:33 GMT
J. C. N. Smith,

You are going to repudiate the block universe and "the notion that the distinctions between past, present, and future are illusory" but not "any of the many useful theories such as Einstein's theories of relativity". How about time dilation and the relativity of simultaneity, these breathtaking consequences of Einstein's 1905 light postulate? Is it true that the travelling twin will come back younger than his sedentary brother? In my view, problems involving time dilation and relativity of simultaneity have all to do with the block universe and "the notion that the distinctions between past, present, and future are illusory". If you are consistent, you will have to repudiate the miraculous consequences (time dilation, relativity of simultaneity) and in the end Einstein's 1905 light postulate as well. I think Lee Smolin is moving in that direction:

http://www.fqxi.org/community/articles/display/148

"Many physicists argue that time is an illusion. Lee Smolin begs to differ. (...) Smolin wishes to hold on to the reality of time. But to do so, he must overcome a major hurdle: General and special relativity seem to imply the opposite. In the classical Newtonian view, physics operated according to the ticking of an invisible universal clock. But Einstein threw out that master clock when, in his theory of special relativity, he argued that no two events are truly simultaneous unless they are causally related. If simultaneity - the notion of "now" - is relative, the universal clock must be a fiction, and time itself a proxy for the movement and change of objects in the universe. Time is literally written out of the equation. Although he has spent much of his career exploring the facets of a "timeless" universe, Smolin has become convinced that this is "deeply wrong," he says."

Pentcho Valev pvalev@yahoo.com

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Author J. C. N. Smith wrote on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 12:38 GMT
Hi Pentcho,

Thanks for reading my essay and for your insightful comments. The points you're raised are very much on the mark in terms of the need to sort out the wheat from the chaff of things we ultimately choose to retain from among the artifacts stemming from relativity. I chose not to try addressing this in the limited space available in the essay. My inclination, however, is to see if we can sort out what to keep and what not to keep on the basis of utility. Relativity allows us to plug numbers into equations and crank out answers that we find helpful and "correct" regarding practical things we otherwise would not be able to accomplish, such as building and using our satellite-based Global Positioning System in which relativistic effects have a role, for example. That's useful! It's a tool we should retain and use. This should be our litmus test, in my view.

What isn't useful, in my view, is a mode of thinking about the nature of time which somehow prevents many of us from recognizing the real, objective flow of time which is going on all around us as the physical universe evolves. We need a different paradigm, as I've spelled out in reference 7 to my essay. Regarding whether time is real or not, it depends entirely on how we define the word "time." This also is discussed at some length in reference 7. If you have time, please check it out.

I'm hopeful and optimistic that Smolin will help us sort this all out correctly. In his book The Trouble With Physics he wrote, "More and more, I have the feeling that quantum theory and general relativity are both deeply wrong about the nature of time. It is not enough to combine them. There is a deeper problem, perhaps going back to the beginning of physics." (p.256) I agree! Moreover, I've heard from a reliable source that Smolin plans to publish new books on the nature of time later this year. I'm looking forward eagerly to reading them!

jcns

Pentcho Valev replied on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 14:35 GMT
Hi J. C. N. Smith,

If absolute simultaneity is correct and the relativity of simultaneity wrong, as Lee Smolin, Julian Barbour, Craig Callender and perhaps all clever Einsteinians now know, then Einstein's 1905 light postulate is false and any "confirmation" of Einstein's relativity will turn out to be either refutation or hoax on close inspection. Take the GPS "confirmation" for instance:

http://www.ipgp.fr/~tarantola/Files/Professional/GP
S/Neil_Ashby_Relativity_GPS.pdf

It relies on the interpretation of the frequency shift in terms of time dilation, but if the light postulate is false, the frequency shift will have to be interpreted in terms of shift in the speed of light - no place for time dilation in this interpretation.

Pentcho Valev pvalev@yahoo.com

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Wilhelmus de Wilde de Wilde wrote on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 14:58 GMT
JCN: I have read with great interest your essay. The what you are calling "objective reality" isn't it in fact your Consciousness ? If you accept the idea of the "Block Universe" you can more easily understand simultaneity that is not dependant on objective experiences. For more see pls my earlier essay " Realities out of Total Simultaneity".

Good luck with the contest.

Wilhelmus

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 17:19 GMT
Wilhelmus,

"The what you are calling "objective reality" isn't it in fact your Consciousness ?"

That is not how I see it, Wilhelmus. No, I believe (rightly or wrongly) that an objective reality exists independent of my consciousness. As I wrote in my essay, I believe that there is a real universe. It is this real universe which I call objective reality. Relative to the whole, my consciousness and I are but one infinitesimally small portion of that real universe.

I did take a look at your earlier essay Realities Out of Total Simultaneity. In truth, however, I must admit that your thinking far exceeds my capability for comprehension. I tried but failed to understand what you mean when you wrote:

"So, once we reached this WALL of Planck, behind it we would experience the non causal dimensions of the origin of our own space-time and many other universes, which also means that after this Wall there is no separate past, no separate now and no separate future. It is the All in One, the Total Simultaneity (from now on to be called: T.S.) where all possible pasts, now's, futures and places of all thinkable and non-thinkable universes are simultaneously "present", comparable with our memory where all the events of the past have an equal place, only active thinking replaces this events in a linear causal sequence. This TS is what we will refer to as a fifth omnipresent dimension.

[...]

. . . Mankind "feels" however this infinite TS presence, not as a pure physical phenomenon but as a "spiritual" experience. Since the beginning Myths and Legends of other worlds accompany us, religion is one of the pillars to understand our universe, it is like the Theory of Everything that scientists are looking for. The human mind however "believes", and these beliefs emerge as the fourth reality the social reality."

I regret to say that my poor brain simply does not allow me to fathom the meaning underlying those words. This no doubt is my own failing. Your ideas clearly are exceedingly complex. Regardless, good luck with your program of study, and yes, let's do continue to admire the nightly sky. That much I can understand.

jcns

Wilhelmus de Wilde de Wilde replied on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 14:02 GMT
JCN: I feel honored that you took the time to read my essay and really analyse it. I think that the subjective reality is created by our consciousness. Our consciousness (in my view) has contact with TS (like an antenna) and so with its entangled counterpart (probability) in this "dimension". In TS there is no causality, no cause and event, each probability in TS is "reality" but not as amaterial entity but as ,I do not know to call it other as "probability", it is just the way of being a causal human mind cannot understand. However the fact that the entanglement of the consciousness and its counterpart does exist we have a "feeling" that there is something else, this feeling is in ancient times (and still now) expressed as "religion", the Faith in God(s). Imagine the counterpart of your consciousness in TS as a point on a infinite line (both ways), then always the point where your counterpart is has the same distance to both sides of infinity, so it IS everywhere in this non causal infinity. It is eternal because there is no longer a cause that is vanishing. In our causal universe however our consciousness is a limited entity, it has a beginning and an end. (birth and death). In TS the eternal point that formed a unit with the consciousness here is eternal. So your life there is eternal, but not in the causal way. This is my explanation of religions and mythes, that mankind always has cherished, just because of the fact that we have a "feeling" (the entanglement with TS) about something eternal.

Wilhelmus

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Joe Fisher wrote on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 16:38 GMT
After reading your absorbing essay, I still think that the contemplation of time is a religion that will only ever require some sort of human conditioned belief in its utility. Reality has no shape. The fact that the earth appears to be round when seen from a distance might be because we can only see it by looking at it through round eyeballs. We know from actually living on earth that the part of it we are standing on is indubitably flat, as are the oceans which comprise three fifths of the earth surface. Whereas time abstractions contain proliferations of identical states such as seconds, minutes, hours and light years, reality contains no such identical collections as every study of snowflake composition has revealed. Each star is comprised of a differing always changing size and structure and each star is set at an always differing intervening distance from every other star in the Universe. Each star is unique. It is all very well to think that time must have started when the Universe commenced providing the Universe actually began whether it was by the comprehensive detonation of nothing or by Godly request for illumination, it is quite another matter to think that one can measure a unique state by comparing it to a fixed common repeatable standard of measurement such as time. Every unique state has to have a unique duration. The only condition that could be truly unique is eternity. To assert as the scientists do that this galaxy is older than some other galaxy is simply incorrect. The actual Universe is eternal. Just as the Universe stays in one place because all of its integral parts are perpetually in motion, so too does the Universe maintain its eternal structure by allowing all of its integral parts to have apparently differing durations.

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Author J. C. N. Smith wrote on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 17:41 GMT
Hi Joe,

"Reality has no shape."

Aren't you being just a bit too hard on reality here, Joe? How would you like it if somebody said you have no shape? (Just kidding!)

I can't tell for sure from your comments whether you've given up on trying to understand the universe or not. I'm still optimistic that we'll continue to chip away at it little by little until we get a lot closer than we are now. But we'll only get there if we persevere. Nobody ever said it would be easy. Hang in there, Joe!

jcns

Anonymous replied on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 14:45 GMT
Dear J.C.,

I have to ruefully admit to my having a shape and it is not an impressive one by any means. Reality cannot and does not have a shape. What would the acceptable scientific ascertainment of reality shape be? How could shape be scientifically distinguished from shapeless? How could reality contain shape and shapeless constituencies? While it is true that seemingly separate realistic objects can temporarily be considered to have a definable shape, the totality of reality does not. I do not think that the Universe is understandable. I believe that opposite states attract, similar states abide, and states on the brink of becoming identical -after first exchanging propensities- then merge into a new state. The real Universe can attract abstract ideas about its inception and continuance because of the opposite containment of reality to abstraction. The reality of the Universe has to persist because all of its seeming substantive parts are really similar. Abstract ideas about the Universe have fluctuated over the years from Ptolemy to Newton to Einstein and many others. Essentially, I think all abstraction is unwholesome.

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Jun. 25, 2012 @ 14:46 GMT
Hi Joe,

"Abstract ideas about the Universe have fluctuated over the years from Ptolemy to Newton to Einstein and many others. Essentially, I think all abstraction is unwholesome."

Whether abstraction is "unwholesome" or not is, I think, in the mind of the beholder. Moreover, it strikes me that abstraction is virtually inevitable. How can thinking beings exist and *not* engage in abstraction? Were it not for abstraction wouldn't we all still be living in caves and hunting with sticks and stones and eating plants and raw meat whenever we were fortunate enough to acquire it? Or perhaps I'm missing your point about the nature of abstraction?

jcns

Anonymous replied on Jun. 26, 2012 @ 15:59 GMT
Dear J.C.

As Oscar Wilde sagely opined: Everything in moderation, including moderation, I am somewhat appalled by the extent and absolute dominance of the amount of abstract ideas that are inflicted upon us every day. When did it become more important to us what we thought compared to that which we actually sensed? Why is not one Reality 101 class taught in any of our schools? Do you not think that it might be best to teach our children how to grow his and her own food, and how to cloth his and herself and how to find and maintain a suitable shelter, rather than inculcating them with the esoteric mysteries of algebra and calculus?

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Pentcho Valev wrote on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 21:58 GMT
JCN Smith,

You are too cautious in dealing with the problem of simultaneity:

"It will not have escaped the attention of readers closely familiar with this topic that the word "simultaneity" has not appeared in the current essay until this sentence. Simultaneity clearly is a topic which has loomed large in writings on the philosophy and science of time. I believe that the concept of time proposed in this essay has strong implications for the notion of simultaneity, but I beg forgiveness for choosing not to address that topic in this essay, which already has grown far too long and unwieldy."

Julian Barbour is less cautious:

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/ias/earlyca
reer/events/time/programme/julian_barbour.pdf

Aspects of Time, Julian Barbour, Warwick, August 24th 2011: "Was Spacetime Glorious Historical Accident? (...) ABSOLUTE SIMULTANEITY RESTORED!"

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/ias/final_
version_of_bulletin_autumn_2011.pdf

"Julian reasoned that TIME SHOULD NOT BE FUSED WITH SPACE: it emerges from the timeless shape dynamics of space. Ratio is everything that is meaningful in physics, and the size of universe is far less fundamental than its shape. An instant of time is one configuration of the entire universe at one instant, he claimed, and ABSOLUTE SIMULTANEITY SHOULD BE RESTORED."

The danger comes from the fact that the relativity of simultaneity is a direct consequence of Einstein's 1905 light postulate. Restoring absolute simultaneity is tantamount to declaring that the light postulate is false.

Pentcho Valev pvalev@yahoo.com

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Author J. C. N. Smith wrote on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 23:07 GMT
Hi Pentcho,

Thank you for those references. Yes, Julian Barbour and I appear to see eye to eye on many aspects of time. He wrote, "The relative configurations, or shapes, of the Universe do not occur at instants of time . . . they are the instants of time." I wrote, "A particular time is identically equivalent to, and is completely defined by, and only by, a particular configuration of the universe." I can't speak for Mr. Barbour, of course, but I see these as being two only very slightly different ways of expressing exactly the same concept of time.

I believe that the significance of simultaneity, per se (as a separate issue), is vastly over-rated. Once we understand that any particular time is identically equivalent to a particular configuration of the universe, the notion of simultaneity becomes almost secondary. Any particular configuration of the universe (i.e., any particular time) is what it is. The universe has one, and only one, real history. Unfortunately, due to limitations of sensory data, the evolving configurations of the universe are intrinsically unknowable to individual observers, but that does not mean that particular real, albeit evolving, configurations do not exist.

As I explained in my essay Toward a Helpful Paradigm for the Nature of Time, "events" are merely local, transitory subsets of larger, evolving configurations of the universe. Hence, it is possible that various events indeed *may* be simultaneous. Unfortunately, our knowledge of such simultaneity is precluded by limitations of sensory data. Theoretically, simultaneity is not only *possible*, but is *inevitable* for some events. The full practical import of this fact, however, is still less than crystal clear to me.

jcns

Pentcho Valev replied on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 12:14 GMT
Sorry JCNS but the notion of simultaneity CANNOT be secondary. If the consequent is false, that is, if simultaneity is absolute and not relative, as leading theoreticians seem to believe, then we have to conclude that the antecedent, Einstein's 1905 light postulate, is false as well. But the falsehood of the light postulate implies an unprecedented catastrophe in science:

Albert Einstein (in a letter to Freundlich): "If the speed of light is the least bit affected by the speed of the light source, then my whole theory of relativity and theory of gravity is false."

http://www.ekkehard-friebe.de/FP_C4_PP.HTM

Bryan Wallace: "Einstein's special relativity theory with his second postulate that the speed of light in space is constant is the linchpin that holds the whole range of modern physics theories together. Shatter this postulate, and modern physics becomes an elaborate farce."

http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/astro-ph/pdf/0305/0305457v3
.pdf

Joao Magueijo: "In sharp contrast, the constancy of the speed of light has remain sacred, and the term "heresy" is occasionally used in relation to "varying speed of light theories". The reason is clear: the constancy of c, unlike the constancy of G or e, is the pillar of special relativity and thus of modern physics. Varying c theories are expected to cause much more structural damage to physics formalism than other varying constant theories."

Pentcho Valev pvalev@yahoo.com

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 15:47 GMT
Pentcho,

Once again, thank you for the excellent references. The Magueijo paper ( http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/astro-ph/pdf/0305/0305457v3.pdf ) especially raises a pertinent issue:

". . . The speed of light is a quantity with units (units of speed) and in a world without constants there is no a priori guarantee that the meter sticks are the same at all points and that clocks spread throughout the universe are identical. Clearly if a *dimensionless* constant is observed to vary . . . that fact is unambiguous." (pp. 5-6)

Now, perhaps somewhat ironically, one direct logical outgrowth of my view of the nature of time is that speed is *not* a quantity with units; it is a dimensionless quantity. This conclusion is developed in my essay, Time: Illusion and Reality ( https://sites.google.com/site/smithjcn/time ).

The reasoning runs as follows: 1.) a particular time is identically equivalent to, and is completely defined by, and only by, a particular configuration of the universe; 2.) The configuration of the universe changes if, and only if, some portion of the universe is displaced relative to some other portion; 3.) In order to observe and measure a change in the configuration of the universe (and, hence, a change from one particular time to another) we must observe and measure a displacement of some portion of the universe relative to some other portion. But displacements are measured in units of (what else?) displacement! Time changes (i.e., changes from one particular time to another) equate to displacement changes. Thus, speed may be seen in this light as being a dimensionless quantity.

jcns

Pentcho Valev replied on Jun. 23, 2012 @ 15:01 GMT
Hi JCNS,

Concerning the importance of the notion of simultaneity:

http://www.pitt.edu/~jdnorton/lectures/Tsinghua
/Tsinghua.html

John Norton: "The second step is Einstein's discovery of the relativity of simultaneity. This is the breakthrough that showed Einstein how to reconcile his principle of relativity with the constancy of the speed of light."

Clearly by replacing the relativity of simultaneity with absolute simultaneity, a direction in which most of today's theoreticians secretly or openly move, one makes the principle of relativity and the constancy of the speed of light irreconciliable again. Curiously, the principle of relativity then becomes reconciliable with the variation of the speed of light predicted by Newton's emission theory of light (c'=c+v). I am sure some of the rebel theoreticians know that.

Pentcho Valev pvalev@yahoo.com

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Paul Reed wrote on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 05:40 GMT
JCN

We have had this exchange previously.

There is only one form of simultaneity, which is in timing, and it is 'at any given point in time'. As at that point, which is a present in the proper sense of the word, though it has occrred, there is a definitive reality (ie physically existent states). Subsequent to that there is alteration. So there are different existent states, at another subsequent point in time. These alterations vary in the rate at which they occur. Comparison of these rates is timing. Time does not exist, as usually conceived. The rate at which any given change occurs, does.

Paul

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 11:31 GMT
Hi Paul,

Yes, we have had at least a similar exchange previously.

"Time does not exist, as usually conceived. The rate at which any given change occurs, does."

I honestly think that I understand the point you're driving at with this statement, Paul. If so, it's why I made clear in my essay that I am not criticizing the operational definition of time, per se. It is the operational definition which provides a convenient way for us to accomplish the "timing" you refer to.

A "rate" is merely a way to compare changes. Whether a rate "exists" or not depends on what you mean by "exists," I suppose.

It strikes me that this is the reason our previous discussions have tended mostly to conclude in an impasse. We end up quibbling about definitions of terminology. Not a trivial issue, and not one that I intend to trivialize. Words are important. For some reason I've yet to fathom, however, our discussions tend not to converge, but rather to remain on separate, more or less parallel trajectories. It always reminds me of the saying that using words to express an idea is like using lumber to build a tree.

Moreover, Paul, I can't tell from your comments whether you agree with the point I've tried to make in my current FQXi essay or not. Are we in agreement on that or not? Or is it not possible to say, given our apparent terminological disconnects?

jcns

Paul Reed replied on Jun. 23, 2012 @ 09:28 GMT
JCN

Specifically:

“A "rate" is merely a way to compare changes. Whether a rate "exists" or not depends on what you mean by "exists," I suppose”.

It is not that a rate is a way to compare changes. The point is that it is a rate at which something is physically occurring that is being compared, ie a rate is being compared with another rate. And it is the rate at which...

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Jun. 23, 2012 @ 12:25 GMT
Paul,

'There is no change occurring within any given physically existent reality, because if that was so, that would comprise more that one existent reality. And there can only be one existent state at a time."

This statement beautifully captures the crux of our differing views. It's still not clear to me, however, whether our failure to achieve a meeting of the minds is due to a disconnect over terminology or a disconnect over substance or perhaps some combination of the two.

I'll try one more time here to explain my view. A particular configuration (or "arrangement" or whatever term you'd prefer) of the physically existent reality that we refer to as the universe *defines* a particular time. The configuration of the universe *does* change (this is one of our most primitive empirical observations). Each separate manifestation of that changing configuration is, *by definition,* a separate time. So when you say that "there can only be one existent state at a time" you are really saying (from my perspective) that there can only be one time at a time. Yes, I'm in violent agreement with you, there can only be one time at a time.

The configuration of the universe changes. A previous configuration included dinosaurs roaming our planet. The current configuration does not. These are two different configurations and two different times. There is no risk of there ever being more than one time at a time.

Btw, I've heard rumors that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Mulberry Bushes has begun monitoring our exchanges, so we can't continue going round and round this same poor bush forever. On the other hand, I *would* like to see us achieve a meeting of the minds if such is possible, but I've about exhausted my explanatory arsenal. I don't know how better to explain my view.

jcns

Author J. C. N. Smith wrote on Jun. 24, 2012 @ 14:10 GMT
Paul,

I may be hallucinating, but I sense that we're making progress.

"So, yes, we have particular time, particular existent state (incidentally, this is in respect of anything, could be the universe, or a ball, or you)."

We agree here, Paul, and this, for me, is the key to the whole concept. I simply choose to think in terms of the existent state of the most inclusive thing...

view entire post

Paul Reed replied on Jun. 25, 2012 @ 05:41 GMT
JCN

“…is not, according to my view, "a unit, as in timing," nor is it, "by definition, definable by the quickest at which any given alteration occurs."

Aha:

1 If it is not timing then what is it? Timing requires points which represent start and finish and the points in between are units of the measuring system (duration). Now, as in any measuring system, one can choose any common denominator (unit) as the reference, so long as it has the required attributes. It is just that some are better.

2 Since timing is the comparison of the rate at which any form of change occurs, then that which occurs quickest (whatever form of change it might be-probably movement of elementary particles(?)) when comparing any change one to another, constitutes the unit of timing. One could say this is the ‘tick’ rate of our reality. It takes that duration for any alteration to occur. Many forms of change take more than one of those ‘ticks’. This is why (above 1) any reference is OK in so far as the same ‘mistake’ is being made every time. And the only real problem is that some degree of differential which occurs is not being identified, but then we are usually conceptualising a sequence of change at a much higher level than that which actually occurs anyway. So, crystal oscillation is a considerably slower form of change compared to elementary particle occupying adjacent spatial position.

Another way of responding to your “Quickest relative to what”, is to point out that everything is a ‘clock’. Everything is changing. But the changes can be very slow and not consistent. So the snail crossing my garden does not provide a ‘good’ clock. There is change (in that physically existent states occur which when compared have differences). These changes can be in respect of all sorts of attributes. [It may well be that change, although manifest in many different ways, is the function of one, or very few, factors, but that is a different issue]. Timing is about comparing the rate at which these disparate alterations occur. Speed is about comparing only a particular form of change. So is colour, texture, noise, heat, etc, etc, etc. Therefore, it is all timing really, ie comparison to establish differences. It is just that timing compares anything and everything, irrespective of what form of change it is.

We agree on the last point. There is relentless reconfiguration, but for some number of these in a sequence, they have superficial characteristics which mean it can be identified as an ‘it’ (leaf). The important point to remember is that this is only so in respect of that conceptualisation. In reality, each configuration (physically existent state) was considerably different from the preceding ones.

Paul

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Jun. 26, 2012 @ 10:43 GMT
Paul,

"If it [a point in time] is not timing then what is it?"

What you call "a point in time" (which is, I believe, the same as what I call "a particular time") is identically equivalent to, and is completely defined by, and only by, a particular configuration of the universe.

The configuration of the universe changes if, and only if, some portion of the universe is displaced relative to some other portion. In order to observe and measure a change in the configuration of the universe (and, hence, a change from one particular time to another) it is necessary to observe and measure a displacement of some portion of the universe relative to some other portion. But displacements are measured in units of (what else?) displacement; i.e., length. Speed, therefore, is a dimensionless quantity, being a measure of length per length (distance per distance).

"Now, as in any measuring system, one can choose any common denominator (unit) as the reference, so long as it has the required attributes. It is just that some are better."

We appear to agree here.

". . . everything is a "clock". Everything is changing. But the changes can be very slow and not consistent. So the snail crossing my garden does not provide a "good" clock."

Again, we appear to agree here. Moreover, I'm quite taken with the idea of your snail clock. It might be quite useful for timing the movement of things such as glaciers, or me prior to my first coffee of the day. I could boast of operating at blinding speed.

jcns

Paul Reed replied on Jun. 27, 2012 @ 05:34 GMT
JCN

The physically existent state is not ‘defining’ a point in time. It is in one particular state at that point in time. But you choose the point, and then established what existed at it. So it is timing, as I said.

“The configuration of the universe changes if, and only if, some portion of the universe is displaced relative to some other portion”.

I do not know what causes alteration. But alteration can involve more than displacement (though you might be using the word displacement as an alternative to alteration, ie not just movement/spatial position?). You are aware of it because when comparing one existent state with another (which is all you have) differences are manifest. You can calibrate these differences by comparing them against each other, or against one chosen common denominator. Timing is just comparing any rate of any change against any other rate of any change. Sheep moves vis a vis bell tolls. Speed, etc is comparing similar types of those changes, ie the relative rates of change in spatial position.

Re snail clock. Often it is good discipline to pick a ludicrous, but logically correct, example, because it demonstrates what is really going on. Yep the whole world could be run in accord with snail time. Everybody would have a snail on their wrist/mantelpiece/wall, etc, etc. Instead we commonly have quartz oscillations. But this emphasises what timing really is, and what is being measured.

Paul

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Sridattadev wrote on Jun. 25, 2012 @ 18:24 GMT
Dear JCNS,

I have read your essay and come to understand your point of view in establishing the human experience of time as a valid representation of time and that there is a flow of time. Time like consciousness of a being is both relative and absolute in nature. When we deal with relative time by being in local consciousness of I am a human at this moment, yes then there difinitely is the flow of time from past to present to future. When our consciousness merges with universal conscience (when one attains singularity), then one stops to count the events one is experiencing and the time becomes absolute or infinite, this is when the phenomenon of all realities existing simultaneously at once happens and this is what some scientists are describing with their models. Both aspects of time are equally true, its just our choice to experience one over the other that determines the time at that moment. Duality is as real as singularity and relativity as true as the absolute. I "am" a relative being, i in me is the absolute.

Please see Conscience is the cosmological constant.

Love,

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Paul Reed wrote on Jul. 5, 2012 @ 12:18 GMT
Eintein and an urban myth

It is commonly assumed that Special Relativity is that which was written in 1905, or at least most of it. This is not so. In propounding General Relativity, of which 1905 was effectively a ‘first draft’, Einstein had to resolve the significance of light. There are two key words in 1905. When stating the two postulates, he writes that they are: “only...

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Author J. C. N. Smith wrote on Jul. 6, 2012 @ 01:42 GMT
Paul,

I've read through your essay quickly a couple of times now. Must admit, however, that I don't know exactly what to make of it. First, I claim no expertise on the subject of relativity, so won't even attempt to comment on the accuracy of details in your essay.

I gather, however, from your lead-in sentence and from the theme of this essay competition that the assumption you're questioning is a commonly held belief that special relativity arrived, "fully fledged" as it were, in Einstein's 1905 paper, 'On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.' Is that correct? If so, what would be your primary reason for "debunking" this belief, and what would be the practical consequence of doing so?

I tend to have trouble comprehending many aspects of discussions about the speed of light, at least partly because I believe speed should be thought of as a dimensionless quantity, effectively being a ratio of two displacements, as explained earlier in this blog and in my essay, Time: Illusion and Reality.

jcns

Paul Reed replied on Jul. 6, 2012 @ 05:25 GMT
JCNS

As said above, this is not the essay. Over the past year many people have spoken of SR, two I know of very recently. I always say X, where X is a reasonably short post, this is just X+. It could probably be expanded (and improved) a little further, but I got the 'urge' to get that down on paper yesterday. In answer to your question, then the presumption I'd be questioning is that 1905=SR, and SR = what Einstein said it did. But that is not a 'physical' assumption. Knowing what SR actually is, ie as opposed to GR, in accordance with what the author said, seens to me to be a good start point fro, which to then comment on them.

Paul

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Jul. 7, 2012 @ 23:58 GMT
Hi jcns,

Your enjoyable essay is easy to read and easy to agree with. You reject the simple logic of Greene, to the effect that "if all space is out there, then all time must be out there too." That's pretty simplistic. Instead, you seem to opt for an 'everywhere simultaneous' approach of a universal present, with messages from very far away places reaching us in the far future. Much more believable.

As you point out, there is nothing about the operational definitions of "time" or "clocks" that necessarily implies "block time" or an existing past, present, and future. You seem to conclude that there are real distinctions between past, present, and future. One perspective on this is that only the present is real; past and future are mental constructs --past based on records or memory and future based on logical projection from the past.

If your "wrong assumption" that you are rejecting is "block time", I agree with you, and one wonders how such an idea could have survived for a century.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Jul. 8, 2012 @ 12:09 GMT
Hi Edwin,

Your comments are directly on the mark I'd say, with just one minor exception; block time, per se, is not the assumption I'm challenging. Rather, block time is just one of several "hard-to-swallow" conclusions which mainstream physic currently holds as stemming logically from the assumption I *am* challenging, which...

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Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Jul. 11, 2012 @ 18:31 GMT
Dear jcns,

I would direct your attention to Daryl Janzen's essay. It is a fantastic essay and also provides a link to his recent PhD dissertation which is, believe it or not, a very exciting read. He arrives, I think it's safe to say, at much the same conclusion that you and I do, but in a much more scientific and professional manner. Perhaps the most important essay yet published in this contest.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Avtar Singh wrote on Jul. 11, 2012 @ 21:05 GMT
Dear JCN:

I enjoyed reading your paper, especially as the nature of time described in the paper is described in quantitative detail based on the Gravity Nullification Model (GNM) described in my posted paper, From Absurd to Elegant Universe, and my book, The Hidden Factor: An Approach for Resolving Paradoxes of Science, cosmology, and Universal Reality.

My paper describes the classical time as that experienced in the Newtonian frame (V=0) and no-time or fully dilated time in the relativistic frame of a light photon (V=C)In between these two states, there are infinite number of intermediate clocks and times.

Sincerely,

Avtar Singh

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Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Jul. 16, 2012 @ 23:53 GMT
Dear JCN Smith

I enjoyed reading your well-written essay - it addresses an important and timely question (no pun intended). You have reconciled the world of physics with that of human beings swept on the wave of continuous mutability. I found however that there is one related topic you have not addressed (unless I read your essay too quickly!): Einstein's treatment of time in SR as a dimension that can expand when measured from another inertial frame. This notion that time *itself* dilates, clever as it is, is really bizarre but has come to be accepted as a reasonable notion by modern man. Rather, following Lorentz it is clocks that slow down, not time itself, (and measuring sticks contract not space itself contract) in those situations.

In any case both in my FQXI essay and my 2005 Beautiful Universe Theory I concluded that time as a dimension is unnecessary to formulate a working theory of physics. But that still leaves my heart beating, more or less in synchronicity with the watch ticking on my wrist!

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Paul Reed replied on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 06:15 GMT

“Einstein's treatment of time in SR as a dimension that can expand when measured from another inertial frame….”

Clocks do not slow down, as in timing is affected. They are just objects, like those measuring sticks. The hypothesis was that dimension altered under certain circumstances. This may, or may not be correct. The explanation of it was incorrect from the outset. But an incorrect explanation of a hypothesis does not mean the hypothesis is incorrect. The fault lay in their understanding of time (simultaneity by Poincare), and then substituting light speed for distance in an equation with the fault inbuilt.

SR, as defined by Einstein, involves:

-no gravitational forces

-only motion that is uniform rectilinear and non-rotary (which is in effect, stillness)

-fixed shape bodies at rest (no dimension alteration)

-light which travels in straight lines at a constant speed (no curvature)

Please read my posts in my blog, 11/7 19.33 & 13/7 11.24

Paul

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Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Jul. 21, 2012 @ 10:41 GMT
Paul,

you may well be right, but my understanding of relativity is just enough to cling to a few notions. I need to study the matter more deeply and mathematically before I can respond to your statements. My problem is lacking the stamina for and interest in the sort of extended discussion of historical positions that you have! Perhaps we are saying the same thing in different ways, who knows? No hard feelings I hope.

Cheers

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Author J. C. N. Smith wrote on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 00:26 GMT

"I found however that there is one related topic you have not addressed (unless I read your essay too quickly!): Einstein's treatment of time in SR as a dimension that can expand when measured from another inertial frame."

Not addressed explicitly in my essay is the idea that what we single out and refer to as "inertial frames" are simply portions of, or subsets of, one, all-inclusive, evolving universe. Particular times are identically equivalent to particular configurations of the entire universe, including the configurations of any and all inertial frames. What we perceive as the flow of time is, in reality, nothing more and nothing less than the evolution of this physical universe, an evolution governed by rules which we strive to understand and which we refer to as the laws of physics. The only "clock" which really matters in this context is the universe itself.

I'll take a look at your Beautiful Universe Theory. If you ever have both the time and inclination to read more about my view of time I'd recommend my essay Toward a Helpful Paradigm for the Nature of Time.

Paul Reed replied on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 06:23 GMT
JCN

Please note the above response to Vladimir. Although the first draft of what is now 13/7 11.24 appeared here on your blog (5/7 12.18).

The significance of an inertial frame of reference is that it is (according to them) not undergoing dimension alteration. If a reference is, then calculations can be done, but they are more tricky, and you need to be aware first that this is taking place.

Paul

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Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Jul. 21, 2012 @ 11:12 GMT
(Paul, please see my reply above to explain why I respectfully do not want to go into this tack further).

JCN,

I touched on Einstein's notion of flexible space and time in Q3 of my essay: it is one of his three assumptions that I do not agree with. The others being the point photon and that gravity warps spacetime. In the accompanying figure I drew a box labelled One Absolute Universal Frame so I pretty much agree with your position. In my other comments and writings I theorize that the Universe is absolute and that it is possible to assign a Universal Time to local events as they evolve. It will take too long to explain this further and clearly, even if I could.

Cheers

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John Merryman wrote on Jul. 23, 2012 @ 16:54 GMT
JCN,

I've been thinking about why I haven't commented on your clear and entirely correct essay. Basically it is because you don't go into the point I seem to obsess over, that our perception of time as the present moving from past to future is only a reflection of the changing configuration of what is, that turns future into past. Not wanting to appear churlish, egotistical or petulant, but not being able to avoid the observation, I refrained from commenting. From my perspective, trying to understand the issue of time as effect of motion, not eternal flow, or geometric foundation, without referring to this, is like trying to refute epicycles and a geocentric cosmology without mentioning the earth is spinning west to east, rather than the heavens moving east to west. Yet it seems no one else finds this important, even those whom I otherwise agree with. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why.

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Jul. 23, 2012 @ 19:12 GMT
Hi John,

Not to worry; we all know you're not churlish, egotistical, or petulant. Thanks for your comments, with which I agree. In the excitement of all the give and take in these various blogs, you may by now have forgotten a brief exchange we had over on the blog for your own fine essay. It went as follows:

________________________

JM: "It is not the present moving from the past to future, but action turning future into past."

jcns: On this point, I would suggest a somewhat different formulation. For what it's worth, I believe it would be a more accurate description of reality to say "it is not the present moving from the past to future, but action turning present into different present."

JM: I read your comment earlier on my phone and it set some wheels turning. You are correct that it is a series of presents, or rather the changing configuration of what is present, but the gist of my essay was not so much just a description of time as effect, but why we understand it the way we do and how what seems so evidently obvious, isn't so clear on further reflection. . . . So my efforts are to counteract this presumption of linear progression from past to future as fundamental and to do that means to emphasize the nature of the events as particular configurations that are being created and replaced. Many people do spend much of their present fixated on events other than the present, to the extent the real present can be quite nebulous. In order to deconstruct that mindset, I have to use the tools in the toolbox.

_______________________

It's my sense, John, that we're in pretty good agreement about all this. In the unlikely event that you ever find any spare time (didn't I read something about you working multiple jobs?) you just might enjoy taking a look at another, longer essay I've written, Toward a Helpful Paradigm for the Nature of Time.

jcns

John Merryman replied on Jul. 23, 2012 @ 20:16 GMT
JCN,

I know we are in agreement, that's why I'm running this situation by you, to see what you think. For me, it is a point that stands out like a sore thumb, but it just seems inconsequential to others and I'm trying to figure out if I'm making more of it than necessary, or if I am just far enough ahead of the curve that it's over the conceptual horizon to others.

Physics, with its focus on measurement, only re-enforces the sequential vector. One only has to listen to Julian Barbour and his version of block time to see just how far down the rabbit hole this assumption is carried. Yet viewing it from the perspective of future becoming past, it is just dynamic physical reality and so many of the pieces fall into place; why clock rates are variable, multi-worlds not being destiny, but probability, etc. It's not like there is much debate over the nature of temperature, yet both are effects of action and both underlay our conscious understanding of reality. The only difference with time is our confusion over which is the scale and which is the needle. By treating the physical present as the needle, we lose sight of the fact it encompasses all of reality, not just a dimensionless point on some larger scale.

Just picking your brains in what I see as a cooperative effort.

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Georgina Parry replied on Jul. 23, 2012 @ 20:16 GMT
John,

that alternative viewpoint of passage of time has been very helpful to me. I thanked you, I think particularly for our discussions on time, in my previous essay.

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Member George F. R. Ellis wrote on Jul. 24, 2012 @ 06:12 GMT
Dear J C N Smith

I like this essay and in essence agree with it. A lot of the problems with time come from not realising that in relativity theory, time is defined along worldlines rather than by surfaces.

George Ellis

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John Merryman replied on Jul. 24, 2012 @ 10:47 GMT
George,

If I may just add a thought to that, what if we were to go the full three dimensions and consider time as volume? Would it be a form of temperature, ie, the higher the levels of activity, the faster the rate of change and vice versa? Would that explain variable clock rates, that at the speed of light, there is no internal atomic activity, thus no change and no time?

Isn't C2 essentially an expression of volume, that when we release the energy in mass, we get that exponential increase in volume, ie, an explosion? If so, than wouldn't gravity be the opposite; M=e/c2, a contraction of volume as energy condenses into mass? Possibly such that the missing mass on the perimeter of galaxies is actually due to the excess of cosmic rays actually discovered there and how they might be coalescing into interstellar gases?

The arrows of time then pointing both inward to ever denser mass and ordered structure, but also outward, as energy is released, expanding out to take up other forms and structures, thus a cycle of generation and regeneration, as the energy of the present moves onto other forms and events, while the resulting structures of these forms and events recedes into the past....

Sorry to interrupt.

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Jul. 24, 2012 @ 16:00 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

Thank you for reading and commenting favorably on my essay. Having read your April 2010 article in FQXi on 'The Crystallizing Universe,' and other papers you've written, I know you are among those who have given this topic a great deal of thought, thus making your opinion of even greater importance to me.

Rather than go into specific details here, I would ask you for one huge favor: if you could add yet one more item to your undoubtedly already daunting reading queue, I would be deeply grateful if you could eventually find or make time to read my somewhat longer essay Toward a Helpful Paradigm for the Nature of Time, which spells out my thinking in a broader perspective.

Suffice it to say here that I believe physics has reached what Thomas S. Kuhn called a "crisis," and it is only through a thorough and candid reexamination of fundamentals that real and meaningful progress will be made.

Best Regards,

jcns

Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Jul. 24, 2012 @ 16:33 GMT
John,

I hope you will forgive me if I don't comment at length here on specific details of your long post from earlier today and directly above. I'm trying to digest too much information too quickly. Not being a speed reader, this becomes problematical.

Thanks to your helpful "heads up," yesterday evening I viewed Julian Barbour's 81-minute lecture on shape dynamics at the Perimeter Institute. Very interesting! I love the quotation from Mach which he cited: "It is utterly impossible to measure the changes of things by time. Quite the contrary, time is an abstraction we arrive at from the changes of things." Yes, exactly! Clearly, the thinking of Mach and Poincare are as fresh and timely as ever! I'm currently reading Poincare's 'The Value of Science.' Brilliant. Highly recommend it. Agree that much is lost or distorted in efforts to condense Barbour's ideas into 5-minute sound bites. More later.

jcns

Daniel L Burnstein wrote on Jul. 24, 2012 @ 23:59 GMT
Hi JCNS,

I really enjoyed your post. It is one of the most lucid treatment of the problem of defining time that I have read. The exposition was clear and the reasoning easy to follow.

The only shortcoming that I can see is that, though you explain that time corresponds to the sequential rearrangement of the components of reality, in essence, that the accepted notion of time is an...

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Author J. C. N. Smith wrote on Jul. 25, 2012 @ 00:55 GMT
Hi Daniel,

You wrote, "In my opinion, we need to make a distinction between reality and representations of reality by models or concepts. I think we're confusing the two when it comes to time."

I couldn't agree more. It's basically the old problem of the map not agreeing with the terrain. If we look and look and look and still can't arrive at a correlation between the map and the actual terrain, then which do we finally believe? It seems that modern science has chosen to believe the map. Physics has disavowed the reality of a distinction between past, present, and future, and it has disavowed the reality of an objective flow of time. If this isn't choosing the map over the terrain, then I don't know what is. Yes, of course we must be wary of falling into yet another trap analogous to believing that the sun revolves around the Earth, but what further proof of the true nature of reality (the terrain) do we need before physics finally agrees to -- at a minimum -- reevaluate the map?

Earlier in your post you wrote, "I think the essay contrives its conclusion into agreeing with accepted theories. But you can't have it both ways. If time is not physical, then you must reevaluate, even reject many of the dominant theories."

I take your comment to heart. I've struggled with this, too. This is a bit of a sticky issue. The fact of the matter, however, in my view, is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the operational definition of time. It is an extremely useful tool. I doubt that physics would be possible without it. But we must guard against extending the notion beyond its rightful range of applicability. Lacking Einstein's theories, we would be hard pressed to do some extremely useful things such as build our satellite-based Global Positioning System, for example. Relativity works! It gives us useful equations. We can plug numbers into the equations and get numbers out which allow us to do useful things and which agree with reality. Somehow, utility should be a part of any litmus test for what to retain and what not to retain of existing theories. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water!

If you can find time in your busy life, I'd like to recommend that you take a look at three other essays I've written on the topic: Time: Illusion and Reality , On the Impossibility of Time Travel, and Toward a Helpful Paradigm for the Nature of Time. These flesh out some of the ideas which were only touched on in this current essay.

jcns

Daniel L Burnstein replied on Jul. 25, 2012 @ 02:16 GMT
Concerning relativity and GPS, it is a myth that the latter wouldn't be possible without the former. See here.

Similar myths link quantum-mechanics and solid state electrics. Both GPS and electronics are feats of engineering and classical physics.

That a theory works is a good thing, but refusal to question a theory that works prevents from considering that it may also be only an approximation of reality.

It is possible to do physics without what you define as the operational definition of time. See my essay or book.

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Jul. 25, 2012 @ 15:31 GMT
Daniel,

*If* what you are saying is correct, (I'm certainly in no position to weigh in authoritatively on the validity of your assertions, pro or con here) then these are indeed extremely serious matters to be taken into consideration in deliberations about the fundamental underpinnings of relativity and quantum phenomena.

I have looked only very briefly at your 'Introduction to Quantum-Geomety Dynamics.' It clearly deserves a more careful examination and critique, not only by me, but by others more deeply immersed in the field than myself. My quick look at your chapter on time shows much to like. I certainly concur with your observation that "Changing an aspect of reality affects its representation, but changing a representation does not inversely affect the aspect of reality it represents."

I can, and will, say, without equivocation, that science, especially physics, has long been laboring under a serious misperception about the fundamental nature of time, and the toll of this misperception has been far heavier than is generally recognized. People are only now finally waking up to a suspicion of this fact and actively seeking alternate, better ways of thinking about the nature of time.

In fact, as I have explained in my essay Time: Illusion and Reality (which I recommend adding to your reading queue), the fundamental role and purpose of clocks is to provide a convenient shorthand notation for conveying information about configurations of the universe. Somewhere along the line, too many have lost sight of this fact. In that essay, I have argued, on the basis of this understanding of the proper role of clocks, that even the equivalence of mass and energy can be derived without resort to relativity.

It is incredibly heartening to see some some of our most highly regarded and prominent scientists taking an active leadership role in the quest for a better explanation for the nature of time. For example, I have heard from a reliable source that Lee Smolin will be publishing new books on the topic of time later this year.

As David Deutsch has said, "The way to converge with each other is to converge upon the truth." (From 'The Beginning of Infinity,' p. 257.) With so many smart people eagerly and objectively seeking the truth, how could we fail to converge upon it eventually?

jcns

Pentcho Valev replied on Jul. 25, 2012 @ 16:22 GMT
When a deductive theory is considered, "seeking the truth" can only mean "questioning the truthfulness of the postulates or the validity of the arguments". If you believe the postulates are true and the arguments valid, "seeking the truth" is pointless - you should simply accept that all the conclusions of the theory are true and leave it at that.

Nowadays the implications of special relativity are criticised by many smart people but a strict taboo is imposed on questioning the two postulates. George Orwell calls this "crimestop":

http://www.liferesearchuniversal.com/1984-17

George Orwell: "Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity."

Pentcho Valev pvalev@yahoo.com

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Author J. C. N. Smith wrote on Jul. 25, 2012 @ 18:31 GMT
Hi Pentcho,

Only by virtue of the fact that I'm acutely attuned to the subtlest of clues regarding human emotions and written expressions thereof was I able to detect what some might describe as a hint of cynicism in your comments?

Unfortunately, you have raise what I regret to say is a valid concern. It is hard to dispute that some non-zero fraction of scientists have in essence staked their careers and reputations on the status quo and the maintenance thereof. These are the folks who appear to be of the opinion that if any idea which differs from orthodoxy were any good they already would have thought of it long ago.

The good news, however, is that there is a growing number of scientists who do not fall into that category. If this trend continues (and how can it fail to continue with physics in its current state of crisis?), these will form a critical mass dedicated to an objective reevaluation of fundamentals, as witnessed by the current FQXi competition.

My own spirits in terms of a positive outlook on the possibility that physics will reevaluate its position regarding the nature of time were raised by orders of magnitude when I read the following words of Lee Smolin: 'More and more, I have the feeling that quantum theory and general relativity are both deeply wrong about the nature of time. It is not enough to combine them. There is a deeper problem, perhaps going back to the beginning of physics.' (From 'The Trouble With Physics,' p. 256) When first-tier scientists go on record, in writing, as holding views such as this, then there is good reason to hope that we will get to the bottom of things. My own essay in this competition and those I've published elsewhere were written with the specific aim of throwing gasoline on this cognitive spark.

Hang in there, Pentcho, I'm optimistic that things will only get better!

jcns

Pentcho Valev replied on Jul. 27, 2012 @ 10:10 GMT
Hi JCNS,

Don't rely so much on Lee Smolin and other heroes of today's science. They have always known that Einstein's 1905 light postulate is false and were quite ready to abandon it 10 years ago but then, for unknown reasons, decided to save special relativity:

http://www.logosjournal.com/issue_4.3/smolin.htm

Lee Smolin: "Special relativity was the result of 10 years of intellectual struggle, yet Einstein had convinced himself it was wrong within two years of publishing it."

http://www.amazon.com/Trouble-Physics-String-Theory-Scie
nce/dp/0618551050

Lee Smolin, The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next, p. 226: "Einstein's special theory of relativity is based on two postulates: One is the relativity of motion, and the second is the constancy and universality of the speed of light. Could the first postulate be true and the other false? If that was not possible, Einstein would not have had to make two postulates. But I don't think many people realized until recently that you could have a consistent theory in which you changed only the second postulate."

http://www.amazon.com/Faster-Than-Speed-Light-Speculation/dp
/0738205257

Joao Magueijo, Faster Than the Speed of Light: The Story of a Scientific Speculation, p. 250: "Lee [Smolin] and I discussed these paradoxes at great length for many months, starting in January 2001. We would meet in cafés in South Kensington or Holland Park to mull over the problem. THE ROOT OF ALL THE EVIL WAS CLEARLY SPECIAL RELATIVITY. All these paradoxes resulted from well known effects such as length contraction, time dilation, or E=mc^2, all basic predictions of special relativity. And all denied the possibility of establishing a well-defined border, common to all observers, capable of containing new quantum gravitational effects."

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E03
E7D8143FF932A05751C1A9649C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

"Perhaps relativity is too restrictive for what we need in quantum gravity," Dr. Magueijo said. "We need to drop a postulate, perhaps the constancy of the speed of light."

Pentcho Valev pvalev@yahoo.com

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Pentcho Valev replied on Jul. 27, 2012 @ 11:58 GMT
Ten years ago the Great Revolution in Science was just around the corner:

http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/waseinstei
nwrong/

Paul Davies: "Was Einstein wrong? Einstein's famous equation E=mc2 is the only scientific formula known to just about everyone. The "c" here stands for the speed of light. It is one of the most fundamental of the basic constants of physics. Or is it? In recent years a few maverick scientists have claimed that the speed of light might not be constant at all. Shock, horror! Does this mean the next Great Revolution in Science is just around the corner?"

http://www.rense.com/general13/ein.htm

Einstein's Theory Of Relativity Must Be Rewritten, Jonathan Leake, Science Editor, The Sunday Times - London: "A group of astronomers and cosmologists has warned that the laws thought to govern the universe, including Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, must be rewritten. The group, which includes Professor Stephen Hawking and Sir Martin Rees, the astronomer royal, say such laws may only work for our universe but not in others that are now also thought to exist. "It is becoming increasingly likely that the rules we had thought were fundamental through time and space are actually just bylaws for our bit of it," said Rees, whose new book, Our Cosmic Habitat, is published next month. "Creation is emerging as even stranger than we thought." Among the ideas facing revision is Einstein's belief that the speed of light must always be the same - 186,000 miles a second in a vacuum."

http://roychristopher.com/joao-magueijo-frontier-cosmology

"Likewise, Joao Magueijo has radical ideas, but his ideas intend to turn that Einsteinian dogma on its head. Magueijo is trying to pick apart one of Einstein's most impenetrable tenets, the constancy of the speed of light. This idea of a constant speed (about 3×106 meters/second) is familiar to anyone who is remotely acquainted with modern physics. It is known as the universal speed limit. Nothing can, has, or ever will travel faster than light. Magueijo doesn't buy it. His VSL (Varying Speed of Light) presupposes a speed of light that can be energy or time-space dependent. Before you declare that he's out of his mind, understand that this man received his doctorate from Cambridge, has been a faculty member at Princeton and Cambridge, and is currently a professor at Imperial College, London."

Pentcho Valev pvalev@yahoo.com

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Daryl Janzen wrote on Jul. 28, 2012 @ 07:55 GMT
Dear J. C. N. Smith,

Congratulations on your essay, which clearly presents our common world-view involving true temporal passage. As you know, I believe you have the right idea about what's basically wrong with the relativistic description of the nature of time, that leads to the logical conclusion of a block universe. I hope you won't mind my adding two comments as per our previous...

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Author J. C. N. Smith wrote on Jul. 28, 2012 @ 16:38 GMT
Dear Daryl,

"I hope you won't mind my adding two comments as per our previous exchange."

On the contrary, I welcome and appreciate your always thoughtful and insightful comments. There is much worthy of pondering in what you've written. I'll try to begin addressing a few of your specific points here. Before going there, however, I'd like to step back and look again at some basics....

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Bob Reichman wrote on Jul. 28, 2012 @ 16:46 GMT
Thank you, Mr. Smith. Prior to reading this essay, I'd limited my thoughts on parallax to the displacement it creates when viewing objects from different locations in space. Now I see that both an observer's place AND time skew event perspective.

Before I'd read Dava Sobel's 'Longitude,' before I'd heard of Einstein or took a big-boy swig of relativity, before I'd even been able to correctly parse a sentence - I was vexed and awed by the endlessness of time. One can argue about what bookends the universe. There's no consensus about form or features that existed prior to the big bang. Most have little clue how it will all end; the Big Crunch theory has few remaining supporters. Despite the fact that thinking about it has kept me awake at night, there's a reassurance in time's constancy. The same can't be said for space, atoms or even gravity.

Perhaps it's so elemental that it shouldn't be epiphanous to me, but thank you, too, Mr. Smith, for crystallizing in my mind that "now" is the precise location of everything in this moment - the sum of all where's. By convention, we create an artificial date simply for the convenience of reference and abbreviation. Does now also include where/when every shadow is hitting every surface, every thought and motivation firing along every neuron, the mirage of every rainbow or reflection that really isn't there? Thinking of those things that challenge quantification must drive physicists mad.

My brain's 'check engine' light just came on.

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Jul. 28, 2012 @ 22:06 GMT
Hi Bob,

Thank you for reading my essay and for your kind comments. Glad to see you leaving a footprint in the sand, so to speak, here at FQXi, perhaps just the first of many, with any luck (for the rest of us here). I know you have much to say that would be of interest to many here.

And please don't feel like the Lone Ranger; my brain has been running with the 'check engine' light on for so long that even the 'check engine' light itself is on the verge of giving up the ghost. But we muddle on as best we can. It's too much fun to imagine giving up or quitting. Like those addicted to a soap opera, we want to know how it will all turn out in the end. In that regard, I'm thrilled to see what looks like some worthwhile progress being made in getting our arms around some of the knottier problems of physics/cosmology. Or at least in refining some of the questions, which in itself represents worthwhile progress.

Cheers!

jcns

Member George F. R. Ellis wrote on Jul. 30, 2012 @ 20:28 GMT
JCN

I applaud your realistic view of the nature of time, as well as your caution "please donʼt confuse what are mathematical descriptions of reality with the underlying objective reality itself". Well said! Eddington said he same beautifully in his book The Nature of the Physical Universe.

George Ellis

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Yuri Danoyan replied on Aug. 6, 2012 @ 16:11 GMT
Dear F. R. Ellis

I am waiting long time for discussion with Julian Barbour,but he keep silence

and now representing for you my counter-thesis

The special theory of relativity understood by Einstein as a four-dimensional space-time continuum implies a kind of superdeterrninisrn with the future completely determined down to the smallest detail. This was the reason why Einstein...

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 16:54 GMT
Dear Yuri Danoyan,

[I originally posted this in Julian Barbour's blog 'From Time to Space,' where you had asked why I was ignoring your posts.]

Please accept my apologies for appearing to ignore your posts addressed to me. It was not my intention to be rude. A big reason I've not replied is that I don't know exactly *how* to reply.

You wrote in my blog "Only posible reconcilation between Parmenides and Heraclites is the Cyclic Universe in modern Penrose version or oldest Heraclitus version."

I regret to say that I have not yet studied Penrose's latest thinking on cycles of time (I intend to do so as soon as time permits!), but barring the unforeseen I must count myself among the disciples of Heraclitus as an unapologetic presentist.

I hope this helps. I'll post this again where your comments appear in my blog as well.

jcns

Yuri Danoyan replied on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 17:13 GMT
Dear Jennifer

First of all i would like introduced to you my essay in the last context

http://www.fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/946

If it interesting for you we can return to problem of time.

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Author J. C. N. Smith wrote on Jul. 30, 2012 @ 23:06 GMT
George,

Thank you very much for your supportive comments; they are much appreciated. A dear friend once said to me, "you have a firm grasp on the obvious." I took his remark in a much more favorable light than I believe he had intended. It is surprising that what seems "obvious" to some is not at all "obvious" to others. This has much to do with our paradigm for reality, I suspect.

The point about not confusing mathematical descriptions of reality with the underlying objective reality itself is an example of the need to avoid confusing the map with the terrain. If, after we have looked and looked and looked, we still fail to see a correlation between the map and the terrain we ultimately must decide which to believe. While remaining acutely wary of falling victim to "sun revolving around the Earth" misinterpretations of our empirical observations, I finally tend always toward a belief in the terrain rather than the map. Otherwise, the precipice not shown on the map could become a real-world problem.

It's my perception that those who deny the reality of distinctions between past, present, and future are favoring the map over the terrain. Objective reality about the nature of time is all around us, staring us squarely in the face. Particular times are identically equivalent to particular configurations of the universe, and what we perceive as the flow of time is, in reality, nothing more and nothing less than the evolution of the physical universe, in my view.

I've added Eddington's book to my reading list, and have already ordered a copy. (What would we do without the internet?) Thank you for the recommendation.

Cheers,

jcns

Avtar Singh wrote on Jul. 31, 2012 @ 15:14 GMT
Dear JCN:

I agree with your conclusive statement:

“They would, however, require us to abandon an unspoken assumption that the operational definition is the final word of science on the nature of time. Adopting such a new and innovative way of thinking about the nature of time, based on a paradigm which I believe more accurately reflects the underlying objective nature of reality, could only have long-term beneficial effects on science.”

My posted paper – “ From Absurd to Elegant Universe” and my book – “The Hidden Factor: An Approach for Resolving Paradoxes of Science, cosmology, and Universal Reality” not only vindicate this statement, but actually demonstrate that the operational worldly definition of time can reveal only 4% of the material reality and unable to explain the majority 96% (dark energy and dark matter) of the universal reality. My paper describes the classical time as that experienced in the Newtonian frame (V much smaller than C) and no-time or fully dilated time in the relativistic frame of a light photon (V=C). In between these two states, there are infinite number of intermediate clocks and times (V between 0 and C).

Numerous successes of the widely accepted theories – quantum mechanics and general relativity, against experiments limited to the worldly and solar system have blinded us to misapply or impose operational time on cosmic scale that leads to the current paradoxes of physics leading to an absurd universe. My paper shows that the observations of the universe and galactic expansion can be predicted without an absolute cosmic time. The fundamental assumption of an absolute Cosmic Time or clock is WRONG since it does not support the universe observations and leads to unexplainable paradoxes and inconsistencies. The current operational (Newtonian) definition of an absolute time and space is only good enough for the worldly and solar system related physical phenomena and not valid at the universe scale.

Sincerely,

Avtar Singh

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Aug. 1, 2012 @ 14:55 GMT
Dear Avtar,

I apologize for not reading your very interesting essay and commenting on it much sooner. I have been too easily overwhelmed by an embarrassment of riches in terms of having so many interesting essays to read and attempt to understand, insofar as possible.

You wrote, "Science today is at the crossroads searching for resolutions to some serious paradoxes and puzzles paralyzing its leading theories. The mission of science to achieve a unified theory is founded on the basic premise that there exists a single universe and one set of universal laws that the theory would reveal to explain the observed universe. This mission is marred by the uncertainty and confusion of the multiverse that presumes parallel universes with their own varying sets of laws."

For whatever it is worth, I could not be in more complete agreement with you on these points. There is abundant evidence that physics and cosmology have reached a point which Thomas S. Kuhn described as a "crisis." This FQXi essay competition is an excellent example and illustration of exactly this point.

With regard to parallel universes with their own varying sets of laws, is this not simply a re-defining, for the sake of convenience, of the term "universe"? If these hypothetical parallel universes are things we can contemplate, then they certainly are part of our one, comprehensive intellectual universe.

Regarding detailed comments on the specific technical details of your essay, Avtar, I regret to say that I am not sufficiently well versed in the technical nuances and subtleties of these topics to comment meaningfully. Far better for both of us if I leave such comments on technical specifics to those whose expertise far exceeds my own, of whom there are many.

Regardless, good luck in the your future work and good luck in the essay competition. [Also posted on the blog associated with your essay.]

jcns

Avtar Singh wrote on Aug. 1, 2012 @ 22:43 GMT
Dear JCNS:

Thanks for reading and commenting on my paper.

You have asked - "With regard to parallel universes with their own varying sets of laws, is this not simply a re-defining, for the sake of convenience, of the term "universe"?"

Parallel universes are brainchildren of quantum mechanics and they represent standalone and un-connected universes separate from our universe. This is simply an unverifiable and entirely theoretical postulate that offers a last-resort explanation for many observed weird quantum phenomena.

In my paper, I offer an explanation for the parallel universes that represent simply various different relativistic states of the mass-energy-space-time continuum of one universe.

Regards

Avtar

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Yuri Danoyan wrote on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 03:03 GMT
Dear JCNS

I would like reminding you one quote: “If we are going to restore causality, we shall have to pay for it and now we can only guess what idea must be sacrificed.”(P.A.M. Dirac, Directions in Physics, 1978) Lectures delivered during a visit to Australia and New Zealand August/September 1975

My concept of time (see my reply to Ellis in the your essay)can explain, why some time we must forget about time.To my opinion i guess what supposed to be Dirac. Name of sacrifice is Time.

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Yuri Danoyan replied on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 19:05 GMT
Along with Present there is the Eternal, which Julian calls Platonia.

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 19:17 GMT
Dear Yuri Danoyan,

[I originally posted this in Julian Barbour's blog 'From Time to Space,' where you had asked why I was ignoring your posts.]

Please accept my apologies for appearing to ignore your posts addressed to me. It was not my intention to be rude. A big reason I've not replied is that I don't know exactly *how* to reply.

You wrote in my blog "Only posible reconcilation between Parmenides and Heraclites is the Cyclic Universe in modern Penrose version or oldest Heraclitus version."

I regret to say that I have not yet studied Penrose's latest thinking on cycles of time (I intend to do so as soon as time permits!), but barring the unforeseen I must count myself among the disciples of Heraclitus as an unapologetic presentist.

We all have too many interesting things to read and try to keep up with these days.

jcns

Yuri Danoyan replied on Aug. 13, 2012 @ 10:01 GMT
Dear j.c.n.

Roger Penrose conception about the Second Law

of thermodynamics and Big Bang.

http://accelconf.web.cern.ch/accelconf/e06/PAPERS/THESP
A01.PDF

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Author J. C. N. Smith wrote on Aug. 14, 2012 @ 15:34 GMT
In the admittedly doubtful event that anyone ever reads through this blog all the way down this far, I'd like to add a couple of paragraphs by way of "fleshing out" Section 6 of my essay, "The Meaning of Past, Present, and Future and the Flow of Time." Had I thought of it in time, I'd have added the following two paragraphs to the essay before submitting it to the competition.

The terms 'past' and 'future' refer to configurations of the universe which we can visualize in our imaginations and about which we can speculate and hypothesize, but which have no objective reality for those of us who are living in the present. Our empirical observations lead us to conclude that the 'past' consists of those configurations of the universe which once had an objective reality, i.e., which once actually existed. These past configurations subsequently have evolved, through physical displacements of the various bits and pieces relative to one another, into the 'present' configuration, some portions of which we can perceive with our senses. And we infer that this configuration will evolve into yet others which we imagine as the 'future.'

We can only engage in educated speculation about what sorts of things will or will not be included in future configurations of the universe. By understanding the laws of physics, we can predict, or extrapolate, more or less accurately, the likely future configurations of at least some gross, observable features of the universe, up to a point, but we observe no empirical evidence of the objective reality of these predicted configurations. We find no 'fossilized remains' of the future as we do of the past, the reason being that the future, unlike the past, has never existed.

These two paragraphs are drawn from my earlier essay, On the Impossibility of Time Travel and are germane to the current essay as well.

jcns

Peter Jackson wrote on Aug. 14, 2012 @ 15:48 GMT
Dear jcns

I do love you no nonsense style and no bullsh*t viewpoint. Physics needs more of this approach, not closed minded by any means, but eminently sensible.

Yes.. at least 'rethink and repudiate' some assumptions only apparently logical. I deal with this in depth in my own essay, and argue that the 'imaginary' time, and thus imaginary speed (c+v), of special relativity is purely apparent time and speed in the same way that the cars on the opposite freeway lane to you are only doing 'apparent' 140mph. It only becomes REAL 140 when you meet and interact via an acceleration (or rapid deceleration in that case!)

I also applaud your "don't confuse mathematical description..with reality."

Your score is languishing too low and I'm happy to pledge my troth to its elevation.

I do hope you read and manage to penetrate mine. It came out a bit densely layered.

Best of luck

Peter

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Aug. 14, 2012 @ 18:22 GMT
Dear Peter,

Thank you for taking the time to read my essay and for your favorable comments, which are much appreciated. Glad you like my somewhat "down to earth," "reduced BS" or perhaps "BS lite" style, for lack of better descriptors. I do try to keep things simple, but hopefully not too simple.

Apologies for not having gotten over to read your essay yet. I'll move it up nearer the top of my "to do" list! So much to read, so little time!

Cheers,

jcns

T H Ray wrote on Aug. 22, 2012 @ 17:13 GMT
Hi jcns,

All best,

Tom

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re castel wrote on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 15:02 GMT
jcns,

I was hoping for your more solid proposition that agrees with my ideas. You left me hanging though...

I think what is needed is simply a bias in the corporeal occurrences in order to preserve the "distinctions between the past, present, and future".

The bias will establish that the transformations of the clock called the universe simply occurs in unison with time's duration process.

I might have just that bias intimated in my work.

castel

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Author J. C. N. Smith wrote on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 15:24 GMT
Dear re castel,

Thank you for reading and commenting on my essay.

"The bias will establish that the transformations of the clock called the universe simply occurs in unison with time's duration process."

It's my view that the transformations of the clock called the universe *are* time's duration process. If the configuration of the universe did not change (i.e., if there were no "transformations" to use your term) there would be no flow of time. The evolution of the physical universe is what we perceive as the flow of time.

jcns

re castel wrote on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 14:10 GMT
jcns,

my idea is that duration is totally 'abstract' while the motion is corporeal (altho we also have abstractions of the motion). motion and duration occur in unison. corporeal motion is fundamental and abstract duration is also fundamental.

even if motion transformation is not apparent, the fundamental motion occurs, hence the fundamental duration occurs.

the idea of an unchanging "configuration of the universe" does not ring true to me, since I see the universe as a motion construct - i.e., because motion is the fundamental essence of mass, energy, light, gravity, electromagnetism, and every part of the universe that is contained in space.

the physical universe, in all its evolutions or transformations, is the overall motion that we perceive. because the universe is inherent motion, the bias is inherent. and duration is inherent.

motion is characterized as velocity which is distance per unit time. with v the velocity, d the distance and t the time, v=d/t indicates that t=d/v, such that t=t, which signifies that t, as an occurrence, is independent, while v depends somewhat on t by the definition v=d/t. (here, d represents static space, which is not an occurrence, not a current or flow.) v and t signify inherent flows.

so, I draw distinction between the two ideas. "evolution", the motion, is not the "flow of time", not duration - motion and duration are related but they are not the same occurrence.

but I think we agree about the idea of a hierarchy in the cosmos for a rational conception of time...

my apologies for the bothersome comments; I was simply intrigued by your essay.

thanks.

castel

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re castel replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 14:17 GMT
correction:

by "every part of the universe that is contained in space" I mean the kinetic definitions, not the space-occupant that receives the kinetic definitions.

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 15:37 GMT
Dear re castel,

First, your comments definitely are not "bothersome"! I hope I didn't come across in my reply as thinking or implying that they are. And I'm pleased that you were intrigued by the essay. No apology is called for. That's what these blogs are all about: discussing our ideas. If we all agreed on everything 100% of the time, there'd be no need for FQXi.

> "the...

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Anton Lorenz Vrba wrote on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 15:19 GMT
Hi  JCN

In my opinion the concept of time is no more mysterious than say the concept of length. Nature links the two by the fundamental constant c that is the speed of light.  Any changed perception  of time immediately implies a similar changed perception of length.

Remember, if time did not exist then movement is not possible. Time is fundamental physical entity. We never have philosophical discussions on say length, as we can visualise one metre, one second you cannot visualise but can only experience it; this makes time mysterious.

Regards

Anton @  (  /topic/1458  )

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 19:16 GMT
Dear Anton,

> "Remember, if time did not exist then movement is not possible. Time is fundamental physical entity."

I prefer to think of it somewhat differently: if movement did not exist, then time is not possible. What we *perceive* as "the flow of time" is, in reality, nothing more and nothing less than the evolution of the physical universe.

I agree with you that time should not be thought of as mysterious. We have made time *seem* mysterious by virtue of muddled thinking about its true nature. I have written about this in my essay Toward a Helpful Paradigm for the Nature of Time.

Cheers,

jcns

Gurcharn Singh Sandhu wrote on Sep. 3, 2012 @ 14:48 GMT
Dear JCN Smith,

I read your essay and found it very interesting and well written. I highly appreciate and agree with your viewpoint.

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 building a consolidated common approach.

As you know, with arbitrary assumptions we can build wonderful fantasies. But to come close to building a model of reality, we must use barest minimum of assumptions and such assumptions that are used must be plausible and compatible with physical reality. For this reason I think FQXi has chosen a most appropriate topic for this contest.

Kindly read my essay titled,"Wrong Assumptions of Relativity Hindering Fundamental Research in Physical Space".

Best Wishes

G S Sandhu

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Donatello Dolce wrote on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 13:37 GMT
Hi J. C. N. Smith,

Galileo has taught us that time can only be defined by counting the number of cycles of a phenomenon which is supposed to be periodic. For instance we suppose that the characteristic periodicity of an atomic clock is always the same in order to guarantee that the unit of time does not vary in past, in the present or in the future. The importance of the assumption of intrinsic periodicity is also present in Einstein definition of relativistic clock which is "a phenomenon passing periodically through identical phases ...". As I argue in my essay Elementary Time Cycles the notion of time requires the introduction in physics of a principle of intrinsic periodicity for elementary isolated system. If we do so quantum mechanics with all its axioms can be mathematically derived and its paradoxes have elegant explanations. For instance consider the wave-particle duality where to the energy there is associated a recurrence in time through the Planck constant, this means the every elementary particle is a reference clock.

I hope you will enjoy my essay as I did with yours,

Best regards,

Donatello

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Hoang cao Hai wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 15:37 GMT
Dear

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 and are the focus of interest of the human science: it is a matter of mass and grain Higg boson of the standard model.

Knowledge and belief reasoning of you will to express an opinion on this matter:

You have think that: the Mass is the expression of the impact force to material - so no impact force, we do not feel the Higg boson - similar to the case of no weight outside the Earth's atmosphere.

Does there need to be a particle with mass for everything have volume? If so, then why the mass of everything change when moving from the Earth to the Moon? Higg boson is lighter by the Moon's gravity is weaker than of Earth?

The LHC particle accelerator used to "Smashed" until "Ejected" Higg boson, but why only when the "Smashed" can see it,and when off then not see it ?

Can be "locked" Higg particles? so when "released" if we do not force to it by any the Force, how to know that it is "out" or not?

You are should be boldly to give a definition of weight that you think is right for us to enjoy, or oppose my opinion.

Because in the process of research, the value of "failure" or "success" is the similar with science. The purpose of a correct theory be must is without any a wrong point ?

Glad to see from you comments soon,because still have too many of the same problems.

Regards !

Hải.Caohoàng of THE INCORRECT ASSUMPTIONS AND A CORRECT THEORY

August 23, 2012 - 11:51 GMT on this essay contest.

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Member Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Sep. 24, 2012 @ 20:29 GMT
Dear J. C. N. Smith,

I enjoyed your essay. Like you, I don't agree with the concept of the block universe. I prefer to think of time as a way of talking about cause and effect; where causes precede effects.

I think the block universe is a symptom of taking the abstract geometric notion of spacetime too seriously. Einstein generally thought in terms of obviously physical concepts, such as causes and effects, observers, relationships among events, etc. However, for centuries scientists had thought of "space" and "time" in geometric terms, and it was inevitable that within a few years relativity would be expressed in these terms as well, albeit with a different type of geometry.

If one believes that the universe really "is" an abstract manifold that is just "there," then it's easy to fall into the block-universe way of thinking. However, if one believes that mathematical concepts like these are just idealized ways of talking about what actually happens, no such problem arises.

I wish you the best of luck with the contest! Take care,

Ben Dribus

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Pentcho Valev wrote on Sep. 24, 2012 @ 21:23 GMT
Hi JCN Smith,

You wrote in your essay: "In taking a closer look at the operational definition, which simply defines time as being that which is measured by clocks, we see that it appears to be a perfectly fine and reasonable definition. It establishes a relationship between the word "time" and measurements produced by physical devices called clocks. Beyond establishing this relationship, however, the definition does not have anything more to say about the underlying nature of reality. Perhaps it is at least slightly surprising, therefore, that reasoning which is based on this definition leads to a theory - - special relativity - - which in turn leads to reasoning which purports to reveal some extremely deep insights into the underlying nature of reality. Specifically, such reasoning purports to reveal that perceived distinctions between past, present, and future are illusory."

Here you implicitly ask an important question: What happens in the transition from the operational definition to the "deep insights" of special relativity that makes those "deep insights" so unacceptable? Your wording makes the answer almost obvious (although you don't take that direction): some additional assumption, e.g. Einstein's 1905 light postulate, must be false.

You get maximum rating from me.

Pentcho Valev

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Hoang cao Hai wrote on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 09:52 GMT
Dear uncle J.C.N.Smith

A proposal of the vision wide and deep!

Would be worth more if uncle bravely give a definition (as the draft) to starting do.

Hải.Caohoàng of THE INCORRECT ASSUMPTIONS AND A CORRECT THEORY

August 23, 2012 - 11:51 GMT on this essay contest.

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Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 09:32 GMT
Dear JCN Smith

Hope this finds you well.

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 their ideas to this contest. Please feel free to read, comment on and rate these essays (including mine) if you have not already done so, thanks:

Why We Still Don't Have Quantum Nucleodynamics by Norman D. Cook a summary of his Springer book on the subject.

A Challenge to Quantized Absorption by Experiment and Theory by Eric Stanley Reiter Very important experiments based on Planck's loading theory, proving that Einstein's idea that the photon is a particle is wrong.

An Artist's Modest Proposal by Kenneth Snelson The world-famous inventor of Tensegrity applies his ideas of structure to de Broglie's atom.

Notes on Relativity by Edward Hoerdt Questioning how the Michelson-Morely experiment is analyzed in the context of Special Relativity

Vladimir Tamari's essay Fix Physics! Is Physics like a badly-designed building? A humorous illustrate take. Plus: Seven foundational questions suggest a new beginning.

Thank you and good luck.

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Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 09:31 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
$R_1$
and
$N_1$
was the quantity of people which gave you ratings. Then you have
$S_1=R_1 N_1$
of points. After it anyone give you
$dS$
of points so you have
$S_2=S_1+ dS$
of points and
$N_2=N_1+1$
is the common quantity of the people which gave you ratings. At the same time you will have
$S_2=R_2 N_2$
of points. From here, if you want to be R2 > R1 there must be:
$S_2/ N_2>S_1/ N_1$
or
$(S_1+ dS) / (N_1+1) >S_1/ N_1$
or
$dS >S_1/ N_1 =R_1$
In other words if you want to increase rating of anyone you must give him more points
$dS$
then the participant`s rating
$R_1$
was at the moment you rated him. From here it is seen that in the contest are special rules for ratings. And from here there are misunderstanding of some participants what is happened with their ratings. Moreover since community ratings are hided some participants do not sure how increase ratings of others and gives them maximum 10 points. But in the case the scale from 1 to 10 of points do not work, and some essays are overestimated and some essays are drop down. In my opinion it is a bad problem with this Contest rating process. I hope the FQXI community will change the rating process.

Sergey Fedosin

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Georgina Parry wrote on Oct. 12, 2012 @ 03:20 GMT
Dear J.C.N. Smith,

I stand by my comments on the clarity of your writing and the importance of the subject material. Its good that your essay will remain here for future reference.I can see from your essay thread that you have had a lot of very positive response to it. Including from member George Ellis.

Your tennis match analogy is very fitting. Quote"....Top players must compete against comers." It is a good way to think about the opportunity that is provided by this competition and to keep the individual endeavours in perspective. You are a good sport and have done a fine job responding to the many replies you have received. I have really appreciated your enthusiasm for my essay and your having 'listened' to me rambling on. Thank you. Best regards Georgina

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Author J. C. N. Smith replied on Oct. 15, 2012 @ 12:54 GMT
Hi Georgina,

Congratulations for having moved on to the final phase of competition . . . very well deserved! I'll be looking for you among the ultimate winners.

Thanks for your kind words over on my blog. Much appreciated. At the risk of repeating something I may have mentioned to you in an earlier post, I hope you'll add Sir Arthur Eddington's book 'The Nature of the Physical World' to your list of "must read" books, in case you've not already done so. Written in 1928, it is a wonderful look into many of the topics near and dear to our hearts, and offers a bit of a "time capsule" of thinking from that era. The book is available from Amazon, among other sources. George Ellis recommended it to me, for which I owe him a debt of gratitude.

Best of luck to you for the future, here and elsewhere!

jcns