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Please also note that we do not accept unsolicited posts and we cannot review, or open new threads for, unsolicited articles or papers. Requests to review or post such materials will not be answered. If you have your own novel physics theory or model, which you would like to post for further discussion among then FQXi community, then please add them directly to the "Alternative Models of Reality" thread, or to the "Alternative Models of Cosmology" thread. Thank you.

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FQXi BLOGS
August 25, 2019

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Your Invitation to FQXi's Online Essay Contest Award Ceremony & a Call for Questions! [refresh]
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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali wrote on Aug. 20, 2014 @ 21:05 GMT
The judges have made their decisions…and we can now (almost) reveal the winners of this year's essay contest, which asked: "How Should Humanity Steer the Future?" We had 155 entries this year and we're awarding 16 prizes. Thank you to everyone who entered, read the entries, commented, and voted for their favourites.

This year, we're doing something a bit different with the announcement of the big winners. We're inviting you to tune in to a live webcast of the award ceremony, where you can join FQXi directors Max Tegmark and Anthony Aguirre as they reveal the top 3 prize winners. Our first prize winner will walk away with $10,000, and our two second prize winners will each take home $5,000.

The event: The FQXi Essay Contest Award Ceremony 2014

The time: Thursday 21st August, 1pm EDT

The place: Here



This is also your chance to quiz the winners, so please post your burning questions below. To aid you in framing your questions, I have permission to reveal the panellists…but I cannot yet tell you which of them has won first prize, and which two are runners-up. You'll find out -- as will they -- tomorrow at the ceremony!

So congratulations to our panellists, who between them have won the top 3 prizes. They are listed here in alphabetical order:

Daniel Dewey, who wrote about "Crucial Phenomena"…

Sabine Hossenfelder, who told us "How to Save the World"…

Jens Niemeyer, who outlined "How to avoid steering blindly: The case for a robust repository of human knowledge".

Please post your questions and comments below (or tweet them to @FQXi).

We've also been busy announcing the names of our six 3rd place winners ($2,000), five 4th place winners ($1,000) and two special prize winners ($1,000) on twitter and Facebook. You can check out the list of the winners who have been revealed so far here. Congratulations to each of them for providing some thought-provoking reading matter.

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Aug. 21, 2014 @ 02:31 GMT
It is an interesting selection, but I'm not seeing many which really address the actual current deterioration of our social, civil and economic structures, with the resulting conflicts arising from this loss of forward momentum. It's not as though this dynamic hasn't been evident from a basic reading of the news over the last several decades and it seems the downward momentum has only increased since the contest was first announced. The financial crisis and lack of accountability, the Arab Spring, increasing religious and tribal conflicts, etc. are all very much in the news, but it seems much of what is addressed in this contest is tangental.

Maybe what we need is not simply a bunch of individual ideas, but a conversation. It's not as though many of these processes couldn't be addressed as expressions of thermodynamics. We all want to define reality in terms of our favorite frames and models and many of these essays do just that, but do they really encompass the forces at work? No, not really. A big reason for that is many of the really big issues, from religious beliefs to environmental destruction, will not be solved by debate. Yet enormous forces are going to be unleashed in the foreseeable future and our only viable hope for "steering the future," will be if some of these effects can be directed to counteract one another.

Good Luck All.

Regards,

John Merryman

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Stefan Weckbach wrote on Aug. 21, 2014 @ 05:41 GMT
Dear Max and all,

my burning question is wether or not i inwardly moved the past few days with some extraordinary velocity relative to you. Having checked all available resources i assert that today seems to be August 21, 2014 and today is the announcement of the essay contest winners, but due to the contest guidelines this announcement should be at August 31, 2014. What happened?

Well, it also could be the case that the guidelines have changed...

Anyways, my answer to the quiz is that Daniel Dewey gets the first price. If your decision for this result does not change until the announcement of this big winner, the two second prices go to... yes!

Thank you for inviting me to the Award Ceremony, i happily accept the invitation!

Best wishes,

Stefan Weckbach

P.S. I like alphabetical orders!

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Roberto Paura wrote on Aug. 21, 2014 @ 12:32 GMT
Very interesting essays, all of them!

I was mainly attracted by the one of Jens Niemeyer. A repository of human knowledge is not a new issue, but you have exposed the problems in depth. Well done! The question is: do you think a top-down approach as the one you suggest in the essay can really fulfill the aim? I think it could be hard to find political or institutional entities interested in spend money in such a project. On the contrary, a bottom-up approach like the one used by Wikipedia seems to me a better solution. I know Wikipedia is not a real repository, as you say, because of its lack of detail levels. But maybe it could be possible to use the Wikipedia approach for the construction of repository, starting from the knowledge already stored there and finding people who can deepen this information.

Roberto Paura

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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali wrote on Aug. 21, 2014 @ 12:39 GMT
Thank you John, Stefan and Roberto...I've made a note of your comments and questions.

Stefan, as you note, time is relative! Actually, we brought the announcement forward because we wanted all the top prize winners to be involved in the panel discussion and this was the best time for them.

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Vladimir Rogozhin wrote on Aug. 21, 2014 @ 13:21 GMT
Dear friends,

I congratulate all the winners and all the contestants with the completion of the Contest! This Contest is of great importance for solving the most fundamental questions of modern "LifeWorld" and Science - the "forward-looking" at the spaceship called "Earth".

I hope that the ideas of participants of the Contest will be an important impulse for a reliable steering the future.

I thank heartily the team FQXi and Contest Partners for the opportunity to participate in the Competition.

All the best,

Vladimir Rogozhin

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Aug. 22, 2014 @ 02:49 GMT
Congratulations to the top prize winners and thank you FQXi for the video prize announcement. It went well for a first attempt at linking people live from around the world. I don't think the odd technical difficulty here and there mattered. Not knowing if it would all fall apart horribly added to the anticipation. I appreciated hearing why the top three were selected and their own thoughts on the essays they each wrote.

I can't help thinking, with the combination of needing more research to tell us what to do and complacency in the face of information overload, of the wizards of the Unseen University stuck on the island in "The Last Continent" (Terry Pratchett.) Without a clue about survival, they set about searching the island for a library where there ought to be, they reason, a book on how to build a boat : )

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Georgina parry replied on Aug. 24, 2014 @ 09:23 GMT
I appreciated replies to my comments from Jens Niemeyer and Daniel Dewey in the discussions of their essays during the contest.

Step 5 of Sabine's five step plan was a step too far for me.

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christopher inman wrote on Aug. 23, 2014 @ 09:07 GMT
I was most struck by Sabine Hossenfelder's essay and so wanted to comment that the communication of what needs to be done, even with checklists and within one's self, may not be as straightforward as one might hope. A tool for the packaging and framing of the information needed for the informed decision making which she notes might usefully include the principles of thought uncovered by people like Daniel Kahneman (Thinking Fast and Slow).

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Schatzie Dudee wrote on Aug. 24, 2014 @ 21:21 GMT
Yay!! I have carried around a copy of Sabine Hossenfelder's essay since she entered it into the contest. It is excellent, thought provoking and, above all, important to solving the real world problems desperately needing real solutions. I'm so glad that she was one of the winners. Congrats to all!

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Georgina Woodward replied on Aug. 26, 2014 @ 01:47 GMT
Its funny how things work out. The right course of action given a particular set of concerns might not be the right course of action. Concern about fossil fuel use might encourage green alternatives such as oil from oil palm, which has lead to large scale habitat destruction or maize which directs potential food into fuel use. Concern about getting fresh water to people might lead to depletion of ground water reserves that have lasted thousands of years by pumping out too much on a regular basis, making a bad situation worse in the long term. Concern about heart disease has lead countless people to take up low fat diets, upon the advice of 'experts' that are actually detrimental rather than beneficial to their health. You get the idea. Without having access to the full facts its easy to make snap decisions where it may actually have been better to take no decisive action at all. Relying on a brain implant to filter information down to only what is needed to make a "global" decision compatible with personal goals is not going to save the World but will allow more decisive action for better or worse. People will feel they are doing the right thing because they have acted and will no doubt seek or be given information to support that view rather than information that makes them feel bad. If you have helped build a well you want to see smiling children playing with the water, not thirsty people with wells run dry.

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Lorraine Ford replied on Aug. 26, 2014 @ 11:55 GMT
Hossenfelder's step 5 (Upgrade priority maps to brain extensions) is like Orwell's "Big Brother is watching you", only updated to "Big Brother is controlling you".

I don't take it seriously - it's not a feasible option.

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Aug. 26, 2014 @ 13:05 GMT
Sabine's fifth step is not only feasible, it is already practiced every day by those who value rational, objective knowledge.

Learning is feedback. As she says in her abstract, a point which the essay richly pays off:

"The root of the problems that humanity faces today is that our adaptation as a species has fallen behind the changes we have induced ourselves." What we have induced ourselves, we can correct ourselves.

The most primitive organisms learn by environmental feedback. If every individual in this complex environment of information we are challenged to navigate has free access to the variety of pathways available, as Bee says, "The potential of cheap information will be fully realized when information about our social systems is directly fed back into our brain and we can truly feel the consequences of certain decisions."

Professionally, I have personally dealt with testing and evaluation of weapons systems that are completely modeled by computational means. Why do we test them anyway? -- because the real world does not operate on the parameters of perfect information input to the program, and any slight deviation can be disastrous, sending the system out of control; we want to know those potential consequences. Just so -- an individual testing the consequences of personal decision making can only benefit by mapping the abstract model in her brain to the real information of her environment.

Our challenge as a society is to make that information free and available to all, equally. Rational societies cannot be achieved by irrational individuals.

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Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Aug. 25, 2014 @ 17:11 GMT
Does anyone find that highlighting the top rated community and public vote essays serves any purpose but to make obvious the pointlessness of the scoring system?

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Zeeya replied on Aug. 25, 2014 @ 17:36 GMT
Hi Tom,

I appreciate your frustration on this point. I hope that it will encourage new people coming in to look at some of the essays that didn't win, but were still rated highly. But yes, it is a little strange...

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Aug. 25, 2014 @ 20:33 GMT
Zeeya, I am not frustrated, only confused. How does one allow that essays that go unacknowledged by the judges are rated highly?

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Christian Corda wrote on Aug. 26, 2014 @ 11:24 GMT
Congrats to all the winners! I think that this year judges have been more meritocratic than last year, when I strongly protested.

I have only a remark: this is the second subsequent year in which the Community Rating Winner has not be considered by the judges. In my personal opinion, the Community Rating should deserve a better attention. It could be a good think to re-insert a Community Prize as it happened in the first FQXi Essay Contest in which Carlo Rovelli obtained the First Community Prize.

Cheers, Ch.

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Vladimir Rogozhin replied on Aug. 26, 2014 @ 20:21 GMT
Hi, Christian,

Contests FQXi - the beautiful and great cause for the movement of world science to bigger openness in the solution of fundamental questions of Science and Humanity. I also think that we need a new stage in the promotion of the Contest and results management system.

Also important is the question of promotion of the results of the Contest and a wide representation of ideas. Now the ideas is lost in the texts. Need more the clear presentation of ideas contestants, for example, in tabular form. Has been six Сontests and it is good to see all the main ideas of the contestants in one place.

Sincerely,

Vladimir

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Vladimir Rogozhin wrote on Aug. 26, 2014 @ 19:36 GMT
Dear friends,

After our answers to the fundamental question "How Should Humanity Steer the Future?" is to ask: "How to promote ideas that were born thanks to this Contest?".

I promote my ideas through the media: Internet portals "Foreign media" (in Russian), "Infobae", "The Washington Post", "American Thinker", "Foreign Policy", "The Diplomat", "Delfi", "Space", "Virgin" . I also...

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Gyenge Valeria wrote on Aug. 31, 2014 @ 11:48 GMT
Congratulation to all this contest winners!

Re: Tom's "Does anyone find that highlighting the top rated community and public vote essays serves any purpose but to make obvious the pointlessness of the scoring system?"

Re: Christian's "...I think that this year judges have been more meritocratic than last year, when I strongly protested."

Re: Vladimir's...

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Anonymous wrote on Sep. 2, 2014 @ 00:28 GMT
Tom thank you for your replies.

Daniel Kahneman has talked about two kinds of thinking that humans use. Fast and slow thinking Lots of our thinking is fast and happens automatically, either because it is very important to act fast, such as a startle response or because the decision to act is uncomplicated and does not require a lot of effort to choose the correct course of action. Daniel Kahneman give the example of driving a car without a lot of thinking about it unless something out of the ordinary occurs. Then the slow deliberate thinking takes over as the event must be analysed and an appropriate decision made. Fast thinking uses less energy than slow thinking so there is an advantage to using fast thinking but slow careful, deliberate, thinking is also important.

A problem with the brain chip idea, it seems to me, is turning what ought to be slow thinking issues, that take time and effort, into fast thinking ones.So if someone asks why did you do that? the person asked might not actually know because they only acted according to the chip choice, which was deemed in keeping with personal ideology. So the arguments for and against that action might not be known. And then it might be reasoned that I don't need to know because the chip will ensure I do the right thing. Thus free will and responsibility are taken away. There are other questions regarding reliability. Is the chip utterly impartial,or does it reflect the bias of the manufacturer? Is it foolproof or capable of misinterpreting, or using incomplete or biased information for decision making? Can it malfunction and can it be hacked? Do the potential benefits outweigh the risks?

The World does not need saving by human beings, it will continue on without us. What humanity needs is to maintaining or create conditions that are conducive to continuation of human life. Not without irony it can be asked; Do we need to stop being human to spare humanity?

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Georgina Parry replied on Sep. 2, 2014 @ 00:31 GMT
That Anonymous, Sep. 2, 2014 @ 00:28 GMT was me.

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Sep. 2, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
Georgina, we are looking at this in entirely different ways. You are imposing value judgments on an issue I see as value neutral. I don't think Bee Hossenfelder has introduced personal values, either.

Do my eyeglasses force me to see the world by different values? They do help me see more clearly than without them, and thus able to take in and process more information and avoid potential hazards in front of me.

People are driven to bad -- meaning destructive -- decisions by hormone imbalances, chemical and electrochemical reactions, head trauma, tumors, fevers and a host of other manifestations of ill health.

To take an extreme example, suppose an implant aided a schizophrenic to distinguish between disembodied voices and the actual coping reality that he has to deal with. That doesn't imply zombification (which barbaric treatments such as electroshock and prefontal lobotomy do suggest) -- it implies the restoring of "normal" brain function within the range of the rest of us crazy people. If the object is to allow the sufferer to choose his own brand of craziness rather than being controlled, whether by natural or artificial means, the result is liberating, not sinister, not Orwellian.

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Georgina Parry replied on Sep. 2, 2014 @ 02:08 GMT
Tom,

I have already said that in some cases such as Parkinson's disease (where the treatment itself can cause horrible side effect of uncontrolled sinuous movements) or tetraplegia (for which a chip would allow mental control of a prosthetic limb/limbs) a brain chip would be liberating.

A chip for helping a schizophrenic deal with a psychotic break from reality without addressing the cause is totally wrong way of thinking about how the illness should be managed. The psychotic episode is usually triggered by environmental stresses so the best treatment is to address lifestyle issues causing the manifestation of illness and temporary medication to normalize brain function. Once diagnosed a schizophrenic can be made aware of those triggers that lead to psychotic episodes and should be avoided and warning signs that thinking is abnormal so that medical or psychological assistance can be given during times of stress. I agree people can make bad decisions,for a number of reasons, to err is human, but does that human fallibility require a brain implant cure?

Tom I don't have issue with the bulk of Bees excellent essay. Yes priority maps may be very useful to have at our finger tips. Rather than it being a good thing that Bee has not made a value judgement I think it is unfortunate. Perhaps there was not sufficient time to look at the issue more deeply instead of just considering it a time saving device that would make life easier. Such an issue should be considered controversial and worthy of debate, being a step towards trans-humanism, and perhaps the start of the slippery slope. When would a value judgement be appropriate in your opinion? With miniaturization of computers using spikes rather than binary it could soon be possible to implant an AI in the brain to assist with thinking. Would that upgrade be just like giving a person a microscope to see more clearly in your opinion or is it changing what it means to be a human being?

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Georgina Parry wrote on Sep. 2, 2014 @ 00:30 GMT
That Anonymous, Sep. 2, 2014 @ 00:28 GMT, was me.

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Sep. 2, 2014 @ 12:01 GMT
"When would a value judgement be appropriate in your opinion?"

It's always appropriate in the case of personal choice, and never appropriate when imposed from the outside (as when religionists impose public policy based on their beliefs).

"With miniaturization of computers using spikes rather than binary it could soon be possible to implant an AI in the brain to assist with thinking. Would that upgrade be just like giving a person a microscope to see more clearly in your opinion or is it changing what it means to be a human being? "

The eyeglasses example again applies. Is a person who wears glasses or has lazik surgery less human? Human beings more than most organisms have the capacity to participate in their own evolution.

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Akinbo Ojo wrote on Sep. 22, 2014 @ 19:07 GMT
Tom, Peter,

Being someone in white coat may I come to the aid of both of you without charging a professional fee.

Peter to Tom: You suggest; If one of two people move towards a pair of photons approaching from a distant galaxy, then the one which will eventually reach the moving observer effectively changes speed to c wrt that observer from that instant.

The alternative is,...

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Peter Jackson replied on Sep. 22, 2014 @ 20:11 GMT
Akinbo,

The fluctuations always propagate at c locally. I also agree your description apart from this; If one of the observers decides to move towards the source when the signal is only half way, which observer 'position' do you then use?!

In my schema alone it's the one on interaction. Yours can't use that as the light won't be 'aware' of future decisions of the observer! yet it must have some reference for c beforehand. I use the local medium.

Tom uses the eventual observers speed as the reference in all cases!

Imagine you send a signal to Voyager 2 (at c) instructing it to turn around. Then, when it's nearly there, you send a 2nd signal. Do you expect the speed of that 2nd signal to suddenly change wrt YOU just because Voyager has turned to head your way? I suggest not. The signal will continue at it's original speed until it interacts with Voyagers antenna. The oscillations are then sent down the connecting waveguide to the computer at c in Voyagers rest frame. No mystery or paradoxes!

That precisely applies the Sagnac and M&M cases you agreed, predicts the postulated results of SR, matches observation, and I suggest the logic is irrefutably consistent.

I know that another hypothesis has been long institutionalised, so is it me who needs the tablets or those who accept it?

Best wishes

Peter

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Sep. 22, 2014 @ 22:19 GMT
"Does light travel at all?"

In time? No. That's why c is constant.

"To measure this speed, all that is needed is to note the distance between source and receptor at (before) emission and divide this by the difference between time of emission and the time of reception."

And the speed of light will always be -- in a vacuum -- the value of c. On the interval (t,T), t = 0, T = 1. In other words, integrating t --> T, time is identical to unity.

I prescribe for you several evenings with Einstein and Infeld, The Evolution of Physics, followed by a significant dose of Susskind and Hrabovski, vol i of The Theoretical Minimum. I feel fine, thank you.

You guys need to hit the books.

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Sep. 22, 2014 @ 22:51 GMT
" ... oscillations are then sent down the connecting waveguide to the computer at c in Voyagers rest frame."

At rest relative to what? One must grasp the rudiments of relativity before one is able to see what bollocks one writes about it.

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Sep. 22, 2014 @ 22:30 GMT
What if light fundamentally travels as a wave, then the point of contact with the receiver would be the path of least resistance and this is the "straight line," as opposed to some discrete stream of particles, all managing to traverse billions of lightyears of space with such order that the source is fairly clearly located?

Tom,

"In time? No. That's why c is constant."

Yet it does travel in space. Possibly because only space has extension, while time and light are only physically present?

Regards,

John M

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Sep. 22, 2014 @ 22:45 GMT
"Yet it (light) does travel in space. Possibly because only space has extension, while time and light are only physically present?"

John, one has to understand -- as I have said so many times -- that neither space alone, nor time alone, are physically real.

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John Brodix Merryman replied on Sep. 23, 2014 @ 00:15 GMT
Tom,

You yourself referred to time alone, that light doesn't travel in time, to which I agreed!

Now I think you might also agree, no guarantees, that light does travel in space?

No?

Regards,

John M

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Sep. 23, 2014 @ 00:30 GMT
"Now I think you might also agree, no guarantees, that light does travel in space?

No?"

No. John, didn't you even read what I last wrote? An interval of time is measured only in spacetime. There is no physical measure of time otherwise.

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Sep. 23, 2014 @ 02:29 GMT
Tom,

" An interval of time is measured only in spacetime. There is no physical measure of time otherwise."

To which I also agree. It is called "frequency." As in cesium atoms.

But the question was; If light doesn't travel in time, which was your observation, does it travel in space?

Regards,

John M

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Sep. 23, 2014 @ 16:52 GMT
Oh, John, you make my head hurt.

I wrote, "An interval of time is measured only in spacetime. There is no physical measure of time otherwise."

And you replied, "To which I also agree. It is called 'frequency.' As in cesium atoms."

That's not called frequency. It's called oscillation. The frequency (cycles per unit time) of the oscillation is the characteristic energy of an atom.

"But the question was; If light doesn't travel in time, which was your observation, does it travel in space?"

I answered your question. Light doesn't travel in time. It doesn't travel in space. It travels in spacetime. The physical measure of oscillations of an atom is limited to the speed of light, just like timelike separated classical phenomena -- we count complete cycles of oscillation because we cannot accurately record on the tiny scale of spacelike separation between half-cycles.

I so wish I could convince you and Peter that actually studying the literature could help you break your shared habit of preferring navel-gazing over the objective world of science.

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John Merryman replied on Sep. 23, 2014 @ 22:21 GMT
Tom,

You have me there. Frequency is what is produced by oscillation.

It takes a well educated and refined thinker to keep that distinction in mind, as opposed to some self educated plebe, such as my self.

Nature is like that though. Everything is connected and yet full of detail that we do our best to sort out and understand both the distinctions and the networks of connections. Take, for instance, such concepts as space and temperature. Now obviously a scientific mind such as your own understands that one cannot conceive of temperature without some reference to space and all of space will have to have some temperature, even if it is absolute zero.

Yet what is really interesting is how this process of education can turn on itself and make judgments that run counter to the process of making such distinctions. Obviously I refer to your compulsion not to be able to distinguish between the concepts of time and space, based on a hundred year old insight that they are fundamentally connected.

So while for some of us, reality is a bit blurry out of sheer ignorance, for others the inability to clarify concepts is actually a function of the very schooling on which our knowledge is based. As I keep arguing, knowledge is a function of perception and there is no objective perspective.

Regards,

John M

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John Merryman replied on Sep. 23, 2014 @ 22:47 GMT
Tom,

"An interval of time is measured only in spacetime. There is no physical measure of time otherwise."

"The frequency (cycles per unit time) of the oscillation is the characteristic energy of an atom."

Yet aren't we looking for the measurement, not what is being measured? As you have said previously, "time is a scalar." Isn't the scalar the frequency?

Regards,

John M

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Gbenga wrote on Oct. 2, 2014 @ 13:42 GMT
I have written earlier (much earlier during the active posting of the essays) about the coordination of the essays on this platform. It is not because my essay was not among the winning essays but because the method is fundamentally wrong.

The essence of this platform is to allow new thoughts, intellectual debates and probably recommendation of the potential logical arguments. To achieve these and many more, I strongly recommend the following as I have done before.

1 Essays submission should be made confidential until after deadline.

More than half of the submissions revolve around the same issues. This is because new authors get inspiration from the earlier author. I was the first to raise concern about environmental issues, no wonder then when other follow suit. Unfortunately, the earlier authors become old fashioned and suffer experimental defeat. While do author wait till the last week of submission before posting their essays. Lock the earlier essays and reveal the title ONLY until after the deadline. Forum discussion should only continue after the deadline.

2. Of course, my essay was among the first forty essays. But there are quite many other essays in fact more beautifully composed and logical than many of the shortlisted ones. The arbitrary and deliberate habit of cutting down of rated essays disallowed such essays appearance. The management must do something about this.

3- I also recommend that each year essay should be made available to relevant organization. Like "How humanity should steer the future" can be made available to the UN etc. I mean the potential relevant essays.

4-I recommend the management to be more innovative about the work on this platform.

I congratulate the winners. After all, without others they cannot be winners. I encourage others who have spent energy and time to remain resolute.

Yours Gbenga

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