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CATEGORY: The Nature of Time Essay Contest (2008) [back]
TOPIC: This Time - What a Strange Turn of Events by Philip Gibbs [refresh]
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Philip Gibbs wrote on Oct. 21, 2008 @ 09:19 GMT
Essay Abstract

In relativity time is bound to space by the symmetries of spacetime. In the general theory the symmetry is covariance under diffeomorphisms but in string theory this extends to the full permutation group acting on spacetime events. This huge symmetry has profound implications for the nature of time, causality and the way we see our place in the universe.

Author Bio

Philip Gibbs earned his PhD at the University of Glasgow in 1985. Since then he has worked as a software engineer in various technology driven industries. As an independent researcher he has maintained in interest in aspects of fundamental physics and mathematics. He has 12 published papers.

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Dr. E (The Real McCoy) wrote on Oct. 22, 2008 @ 15:28 GMT
Hello Phillip,

Loved your essay!

You write, "Minkowski used the symmetry in the Lorentz transformation to bring together space and time making them merely different dimensions of spacetime. Yet time is somehow different in our mind."

But time is also very different from space in our *physical* reality and relativity's equations!

In Einstein's 1912 paper, he wrote the...

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Oct. 22, 2008 @ 21:11 GMT
Dr E. Thanks for taking the time to read my essay and make so much comment. I'll respond to some of your points now and come back to others when I have more time. I read your essay too, It is interesting but very different from my approach, so I doubt we'll find much common ground! Still it is interesting to discuss.

You asked "Have you read Lee Smolin's THE TROUBLE WITH PHYSICS and Peter Woit's NOT EVEN WRONG?".

Yes I have. I agree with some of what they say and diasagree with some other parts. Smolin and Woit actaully have different messages.

Smolin talks quite negatively about string theory but his overall message is not that string theory is wrong. His message is that any theory of quantum gravity whether ST or something else should be done in the spirit of general relativity, which means it needs to be background independent. Because of this he advocates that too much funding is going to string theorists who work from the perspective of particle physicists and more funding should go to alternative relativity based approaches.

I am more positive about string theory (although I am not a string theorist as such) but I agree with Smolin's message on background independence. I dont have much to say about the funding issue since it does not really affect me.

Woit's message is much stronger. He says that string theory has failed as a TOE because he thinks it will not be testable/falsifiable. I disagree with him but I still dont disagree with him about everything. For example I that sometimes string theory is often overhyped in the media.

I think it is a shame if this has grown into a bit of a feud between string theorists and "alternatives" such as LQG. More progress is made when concepts from one approach are applied to another but that seems to be not happening.

You also ask "have you read STRING THEORY IN A NUTSHELL? On the first page they state that String Theory is a non-finite theory."

I haven't read that one. String theory as a perturbation series probably diverges but the same thing happens in qunatum field theory. The point is that we need a well defined non-perturbative formulation which we dont have yet. My idea is to use symmetry (especially event symmetry) as the principle to help find it.

Looking through the essays, I think I may be the only author so far who sees string theory as relevant to the question. I dont think that is representative of the physics community as a whole.

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Oct. 23, 2008 @ 06:15 GMT
Dr E says: You conclude with, "To come to terms with such physics we must be prepared to work without the use of temporal causality. It is a hard principle for physicists to give up. Some are prepared to give up all structure on spacetime except causality. They don’t go far enough."

The major paradism shifts of science have been about giving up concepts we thought were fundamental and replacing them with something else. Copernicus abolished our idea that we are at the centre of the niverse. Einstein gave up absolute space and time. In quantum theory we lost determinancy.

Physicists recognise that we need to give up more cherished concepts to get at quantum gravity. Different approaches are characterised by what people thiunk should be given up and what should be kept. Perhaps we need to give up everything and the big question is just what order to do it in.

The concepts that I vote for keeping the longest are symmetry, quantization and information. These are things which seem more fundamental to me than geometry and temporal causality. Some physicists advocate keeping causality. I think that time symmetry (i.e. CPT) runs deeper than the asymmetry of time's arrow. Low entropy is just a local feature of cosmology and the way it affects the organisation of information.

My course is close to that of Rovelli when he says "Forget Time". He also notes that some people want to keep time and cites a paper by Smolin. Smolin uses temporal causality in his theories about cosmic evolution. Similar notions are fundamental to Eternal Inflation which is popular with some string theorists. You can also look to approaches such as Causal Set Theory to see the way that some physicists have thrown out everything except cauasality. I think this is wrong. Symmetry is more fundamental. Temporal causality has to go.

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Matti Pitkänen wrote on Oct. 23, 2008 @ 07:02 GMT
Dear Philip,

I recall that we have been in email exchange for years ago and I remember your excellent home page!

I think that your idea about permutations has something in it. My main criticism is that the reduction of everything to combinatorics leads to a loss of diffeo-structures and even the notion of topology. For instance, the notion of mass requires not only continuity but...

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Anonymous wrote on Oct. 23, 2008 @ 07:12 GMT
Dr E says: "Space, time, temporal causality--all of these are very, very real *physical* entities!"

I absolutely agree that they are real. They are as real as the surface of the sea whose existence cannot be denied. Yet the surface of the sea is just an interface between air and water. If you could observe it at the atomic level you would find that its position is not so well defined and its existance is blurred. And when a storm blows up the surface of the sea can be broken. Eventually it breaks down into a foaming mess and the surface vanishes even at macroscopic scales.

The existance of spacetime is similar to the existance of the surface of the sea. At small enough scales it disappears and all you see are the particles and waves of matter. Spacetime geometry maps the relationships between the events where (and when) particles interact. At high enough temperatures the whole thing breaks up, spacetime evaporates.

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Oct. 23, 2008 @ 08:14 GMT
Dr E asks "Do we have to quantize gravity?"

It is a frequently asked question and many people have offered detailed answers to it before so I'll just give my overall view.

We dont have any experimental result that requires quantum gravity and I doubt we will have one for a very long time. But general relativity and quantum mechanics as separate theories do not give a consistent theory of physics. There are realms where they must come together. Even as separate theories they break down. General relativity breaks down at a black hole singularity while the standard model of particle physics breaks down at high energies.

Somebody might try and claim that these things dont have or need explanation because we can never experience them, but one day we may be able to observe the gravitional radiation left over from the big bang and the effects of quantum gravity will be imprinted on it.

Perhaps you are saying that we can bring GR and QM together without quantum gravity. You suggest that there are no gravitons. I did not mention gravitons in my essay because gravitons are a feature of perturbation theory in quantum gravity. My approach is inherently non-perturbative so gravitons are not so important.

In whatever way you try to bring together GR and QM you face the same problems. Even if you try to describe the universe without quantum gravity you have to describe an interface between them. This is a hard constraint to meet. We dont yet have any complete description of how this could be done so whatever your views about quantum gravity there is still a hard problem that needs to be solved.

Quantum gravity is not necessarily about breaking gravity down into discrete quanta that you could call gravitons. Anything that brings GR and QM together in a mathematically consistent and complete way that fits existing experimental constraints would be a valid candidate for quantum gravity.

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Oct. 23, 2008 @ 09:48 GMT
Dear Matti,

I'm pleased to see you in the competition. I agree with you about the mathematics of clifford algebras, braids, quantum groups, category theory etc.

It is a curious thing that these same mathematical ideas arise unforced in different approaches to quantum gravity. It must be a sign that they have some real relevance.

There are of course major differences in your approach and mine. The main ones would be firstly that I try to work within the confines of string theory while you see your appraoch as a generalisation of it, and secondly that you are motivated by cognitive ideas that I avoid. Yet when we do our maths there is much in common. The same is true of many different approaches. It is this convergence of mathematics that gives us hope that the quantum gravity puzzle is soluable even if further empirical input is some way off.

The necklace algebas I constructed have not been studied in much depth by mathematicians. It would be nice to know more about how they relate to the Kac-Moody and the Von-Neumann algebras for instance.

In my essay I did not go into depth about the maths because it would not be possible to do it justice in 10 pages but I am glad you have seen some of the cited papers. The simplest necklace algebras describe a supersymmetry that includes event-symmetry. It is an algebra of discrete fermions or qubits on strings. Once confined to strings the fermionic statistics can be generalised to anyonic statistics. The permutation groups become braid groups and the algebra is quantised.

It turns out that there is a quantisation procedure that can be repeated in the spirit of multiple quantization with a new dimension being added to the algebraic structure each time you quantise. Multiple quantisation is another recurring theme in physics. It was advocated by carl von Weisacker for many years. It made its appearance in string theory in the form of Green’s Worldsheets for Worldsheets in the 1980s. Actually I think that Rovelli's idea of thermal time is also linked to this because thermalisation is analogous to quantisation and the time dimension emerges from it in the same way.

KG Schlesinger related multiple quantisation to forming functor categories. I think this is in the right direction but some extra twist is needed to complete the idea

To better undertsand the necklace algebras you need to study their invariants. This is similar to the problem of understanding the entanglement of qubits and it requires the mathematics of hyperdeterminants. Certain multipartite configurations are related to the exceptional groups as described by Michael Duff in his work on dualities in string theory. This is how I see my work making contact with the 9+1 dimensional formulation of string theory that is connected to the mathematics of the octonions and the group E8.

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Dr. E (The Real McCoy) wrote on Oct. 23, 2008 @ 16:02 GMT
Thanks for the detailed responses, Philip!

Your words bring to mind the thoughts of a Nobel Laureate physicist: "The master antitheory of the age is the idea that there is no fundamental thing left to discover, so that the world we inhabit is simply a swarm of detail that belongs to no one and thus can be legitimately handled by business tactics-resource management, competitive...

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Oct. 24, 2008 @ 05:43 GMT
Dr E.

Thanks for your further comments. First off I want to make it clear that I am not going to be drawn into a discussion of your essay in this thread. People who read here will be looking for discussions about my essay and I dont want them to have to wade through stuff which belongs in your area. I am happy to discuss any points of cross-over between my approach and that in other essays but I have already said that I find your approach very different from mine ad there is little in common to discuss here.

On the merits of sring theory, you quote a number of Nobel prize winners who have spoken out against it. Much as I respect the work of these great physicists, I do not regard them or anyone else as authority figures. In science all arguments stand on their own merits irrespective of who says them.

You also quote Gross who is one of the leading lights in the string theory world, and Kaku who was involved in string theory earlier on. The point they were making is one that is famiiar to all string theorists, i.e. that the fundamentals of the theory are not understood.

One of the problems with the string theory culture is that many people look for the papers written by its leading lights and then build on their work. At this year's string conference Gross was begging people to look elsewhere for new ideas, or for old ideas that can be reexamined. I think he has a very good point. The younger generations are the best at having original ideas so they need to look more to themselves for inspiration.

You mention that Peter Woit has talked about the sycophancy in American Acedemia. He may be right. I dont have much direct experience of American Academia but I have seen a similar thing when working for large American companies. The point is consistent with what Gross is saying. People need to make their own judgements rather than following the work of others. If the American system does not encourage it, the same is not true in all other countries. John Baez seems to have escaped all that by shifting to work on n-category theory which is much more open and international. He is a very smart guy. But there are people in the n-category world who are applying their ideas to string theory and opening up some very new and interesting perspectives.

My essay is about using symmetry to try to understand the foundations of quantum gravity abnd string theory in particular. The fact that I am not am not any kind of authority figure in physics means that people will be slow to listen, but in the end the idea will live or die on its scientific merits alone. If others are not ready to take up the idea then I need to do more work on it myself to build up the case. I think this point is equally relevant to all the "independent reaserchers" out there.

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Matti Pitkänen wrote on Oct. 24, 2008 @ 08:07 GMT
Dear Philip,

necklase algebras were a new acquitance to me. Thank you for mentioning them. Maybe they are also relevant for TGD.

The symplectic fusion algebras of symlectic QFT, whose structure constants I managed to guess just few days ago, are braided commutative and associative and form a structure known as disk operad in category circles.

These algebras are built from elementary buildong block algebras of arbitrary dimension by replacing one or more elements of algebra by this kind of algebra: this corresponds to an improvement of measurement resolution by replacing a point in a collection of point associated with braid with N points in a little disk around it. Thus these algebras correspond to a collection of trees with each node having arbitrary number of branches and form therefore a fractal.

Quite generally, the notion of operad seems to code for the notion of measurement resolution and what is to improve it.

Best Regards,


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Philip Gibbs wrote on Oct. 24, 2008 @ 12:47 GMT
Hi Matti,

Yes the necklace algebras are less well known. Likewise I am unfamiliar with some of the stuff you use like the Von Neumann algebras. I will have to look at those.


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Brian Beverly wrote on Oct. 25, 2008 @ 00:49 GMT
I enjoyed your paper; I have also suspected graph theory might play an important part in physics because it is axiomatic, mathematically rich, and embodies symmetry. I liked seeing the connections from random graphs to random matrices and then tying it all into quantum physics.

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Nov. 2, 2008 @ 14:14 GMT
Brian Hi and ks for your comment.

I agree with what you say about random graphs and matrices. My own interest in both stems from my doctorate work on Lattice Gauge Theories (1985). I remember a lattice conference where some people were reporting on using random triangulations for quantum gravity. I recall thinking tha if I was working on that I would drop the triangles and just look at random graphs.

I did a short postdoc at Edinburgh where the physics dept was also looking a lot at neural networks. I did some random graph computations on their computer arrays while I was there. After I left I bought a small computer and continued to try to get spacetime to emerge from random graphs, but I soon realised that it would require a complicated form for the action and my computer would not be powerful enough.

In my work on lattice QCDs I had been working with matrices for the quark fields so the move from random graphs to random matices was an obvious one to take. I was out of touch with the literature so I did not know that other people were looking at random matrix models until later when the WWW arrived.

I think that people who worked on field theory from continuous models have been slower to take up these ideas, but it is happening slowly. Of course mathematicians have been studying both random graphs and random matrices for much longer but their research is not directed so much at physics.

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Nov. 4, 2008 @ 10:42 GMT
Matti made this very good point:

"I think that your idea about permutations has something in it. My main criticism is that the reduction of everything to combinatorics leads to a loss of diffeo-structures and even the notion of topology.For instance, the notion of mass requires not only continuity but also diffeo-structures and isometries if one believes that Poincare invariance is behind...

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Narendra Nath wrote on Nov. 8, 2008 @ 08:05 GMT
Dear author and other commentators belonging to Theoretical Physics! i am a bit of an outcast experimentalist in this wonderful discussion on the 'Nature of Time'. There is life because there is time. Thus, creation, living and destruction by way of death are all facts of human life as well as other Creations in this physical Universe of ours! It is hard to discard the concept of TIME, as also the space that provides motions to take place, as positions change with time. Now, we are all discussing the nature of time itself. There is an interesting analog of time with energy in the Uncertainty relations, being conjugate quantities. If there is no time, energy becomes infinite. In fact, to explain the decay of an alpha structure inside an unstable nucleus, one can illustrate the overcoming of the coulomb potential barrier coming from the uncertainty corresponding to the frequency with which the alpha particle hits the unstable nucleus boundary region. Motion is an observed fact that involves both energy and time. Without the two, we can't discuss any motion. Further, the time has to be linear/continuous, if sanctity of any measurement is to be maintained. The discreteness is also allowed within the domain of Uncertainty relations. Thus far, everything is fine.

May i request the wise theoretician friends to enlighten me with the questions about the nature of time that seem to defy proper understanding. i am sure there are some that we all are supposed to discuss to clarify some facts about time that we don't understand in any scientific phenomenon.

Sorry if i appear to be naive and foolish in raising the issue in a simpleton manner.

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Nov. 9, 2008 @ 10:01 GMT
Neranda Nath

Thank you for your comment. You are asking for a list of questions about time that theoretical physicists think need answering. I can't answer on behalf of all theoretical physicists, but I will give you my list ordered with the ones that I think are more metaphysical towards the end. Many physicists avoid metaphysical questions so they would avoid the latter ones (unless they...

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Narendra Nath wrote on Nov. 9, 2008 @ 14:58 GMT
Dear Philip,

Thanks for the response listing questions that need the answer about the nature of time so far as Physics/cosmology is concerned. Let me list some of my doubts about the nature of time below:-

1. As time unit has been defined in Physics on the basis of territorial confinement in the solar system. Can it hold true on the cosmic scale!

2. Uncertainty relation of time/energy indicates that if time uncertainty is zero, energy becomes infinity. Won't it indicate the birth of the universe with such a scale of energy?

3.Space/time are concepts introduced by us but Gravity is a fact of nature independent of such concepts.

4. The concept of Quantum gravity has come about on account of the behavior of black holes in cosmology. Are there other processes that require quantum nature for gravity! Basically, the gravity is a macroscopic quantity with no significance for the microworld of atoms/nuclei/particles. As the latter provided the indication for quantum physics, how come gravity, in the absence of the discovery of 'graviton', can be justified.

5. i don't understand how the LGT theory, based on space/time coordinates, becomes relevantly applicable to quantum /gravitational aspects?

6. Time and temperature in thermodynamics appear to be parallel in nature. Can one of these represent the whole search for truth in physics? Inversion/reversal get ensured on symmetry considerations for both these parameters.

i am not sure if all the above points are relevant for you to consider under your essay. However, the theme of the essay may allow consideration of the above points! NN

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Anonymous wrote on Nov. 10, 2008 @ 09:00 GMT
1. As time unit has been defined in Physics on the basis of territorial confinement in the solar system. Can it hold true on the cosmic scale!

Yes, physics works surprisingly well at cosmic scales. For example the observations of stella spectra from distant galaxies shows just how universal chemistry is.

2. Uncertainty relation of time/energy indicates that if time uncertainty is zero, energy becomes infinity. Won't it indicate the birth of the universe with such a scale of energy?

This sounds like the Turok-Hawking model where the universe starts as a vacuum quantum fluctuation. in nay case the generalised uncertainty principle from quuantum gravity says that the minumum precision for a measurement of time is the Planck length, which implies an uncertainty eceeding the planck energy. The Planck unit of energy is the about the amount of energy needed to run a 60W light bulb for a year

3.Space/time are concepts introduced by us but Gravity is a fact of nature independent of such concepts.

space and time are just as real or unreal as gravity. The question is at what point do they emerge from more fundamental concepts and how?

4. The concept of Quantum gravity has come about on account of the behavior of black holes in cosmology. Are there other processes that require quantum nature for gravity! Basically, the gravity is a macroscopic quantity with no significance for the microworld of atoms/nuclei/particles. As the latter provided the indication for quantum physics, how come gravity, in the absence of the discovery of 'graviton', can be justified.

The effects of quantum gravity are too small on anything we have been able to observe. We may be lucky enough to find some phenomena where QG is significant, but even IF we dont the serach for a single consistent thoey of quantum gravity is not without hope or merit.

5. i don't understand how the LGT theory, based on space/time coordinates, becomes relevantly applicable to quantum /gravitational aspects?

My point was just that ideas from other areas can be applied in different situations. Think about how your own background and experiences may have affected your own thinking on fundamental concepts and you should get my point.

6. Time and temperature in thermodynamics appear to be parallel in nature. Can one of these represent the whole search for truth in physics? Inversion/reversal get ensured on symmetry considerations for both these parameters.

Dualities of similar sorts have proven very useful in physics. When you understand one model as being dual to another you can often use the duality to learn lots of things about each model by looking at its dual.

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NN wrote on Nov. 11, 2008 @ 06:29 GMT
dear Philip,

the above anonymous post appears to be from you.Thanks for the same. I agree with the clarifications pointed out. best wishes for your essay, with the request that my essay may also succeed in soliciting some critical comments from you!

There are several perspectives about the Mysteries of the Universe i dared to introduce, e.g., possible constituents of the primordial matter, dark matter and the presumption that the field strengths of unified as well as four manifested components change with time, more so in the early universe of 1/2 billion years!

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Narendra wrote on Nov. 11, 2008 @ 14:30 GMT
Dear Philip,

i have responded to your also post on my essay. Kindly see. May be it answers partially our curiosity about some common

points in our essays.

Physics started as Philosophy in Europe and that spirit still needs to be maintained. Somehow, lengthy comments by some of us makes me confused about the issues involved, but i have respect for the feelings of such posts as genuine.

i do agree with you that ideas from another field can benefit greatly in another totally different field. However, all such ideas should be subjected to self critical analysis before implementation. This may help provide greater relevance and enhance the innovative aspect too. A tendency to quick implementation using Mathematics needs to be checked.

In your own field of Computer Science, i find several people relying 100% on computer without consideration for the capabilities of the human mind. That can not be duplicated by computer which is good for fast calculations according to your ideas that get incorporated through software, nothing more or less. Interacting aspect may well come with Quantum Computers that are still some time away!

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Phil Gibbs wrote on Nov. 14, 2008 @ 09:46 GMT
Does anyone else have trouble loading my essay in Internet Explorer or is it just me? I find the browser hangs when I click on the essay link. The PDF was generated from Word using microsofts own PDF generator so I did not expect any incompatability. I have no such problems with anyone elses essay.

If anyone does have this problem there is an easy workaround. Right click on the link "Download Essay PDF File" above, and select "Save Target As..." from the popup menu. Once it is saved on your filesystem it can be opened with Acrobat (PDF viewer) as a local file.

If anyone still has trouble please let me know by posting here about it.

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Phil Gibbs wrote on Nov. 14, 2008 @ 10:36 GMT
A central idea of the thesis in my essay is that symmetry is still important in going beyond our current understanding of physics. Actually it is a dual message. One half of it is that time reversal symmetry (or CPT at least) should not be ignored in deeper theories of quantum gravity or cosmology. In other words we should not be looking at models where temporal causality running in one direction...

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Phil Gibbs wrote on Nov. 14, 2008 @ 11:57 GMT
I mentioned the holographic principle in my essay and mentioned it as another justifcation for the idea that string theory has a hige hidden symmetry. I want to say a bit more about what I meant by that.

First a gistorical note. The idea of a holographic universe was much vaunted by David Bohm in the 1970s as what he called the holomovement. There was also an idea about holography as an...

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Narendra Nath wrote on Nov. 14, 2008 @ 15:07 GMT
Dear Phil,

You posted three on 14 Nov. and all these are elaborations by you on your own essay. My post of Nov., 11 was left untouched in the process.

i note that you have indicated about the theories, including a quantum theory for ' consciousness '.i fail to understand how a non-physical parameter can be quantified using scientific methodology developed thus far. Awareness at lower level and other higher states of consciousness are estimated by human experience. One can parametrize the brain functions to the extent we have understood its biology. The human mind is talked about but it is something taht may well have its confines extended far outside the concerned body. It is here that one may consider the higher states of consciousness to be significant. Cosmic consciousness/mind is the total knowledge/intelligence that has generated our Universe and all objects therein. It is just not possible to scientifically parameterize consciousness, through the concept of Planck length or otherwise. These are based on space/time concepts and the constancy of the velocity of light.

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Nov. 14, 2008 @ 18:29 GMT
Dear Narendra,

Thanks for your previous comments. I thought they were perfectly reasonable and rounded off the discussion nciely. I didn't appreciate that you expected further replies and I did not really have anything to add anyway.

As a general point of protocol I dont necessarily feel oblidged to respoind to all comments that appear here, although the ones I have had so far have been worth answering at east in part.

I only mentioned the subject of conciousness so that I could distinguish between the Bohm/Pibram holographic paradism and the 'tHooft/Susskind holographic principle. I am only really interested in the latter.

Actually I dont really have a theory of conciousness and would neither agree nor disagree with most people's opinions on it.

I think that our comment threads are a good place to make further points about our essays even if nobody asks about them so you may see a few more posts of this type from me if I find the time.

best wishes

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Narendra wrote on Nov. 15, 2008 @ 06:16 GMT

i am sorry that you felt compelled to respond.As i admired your essay, i felt like seeking your ideas on ' consciousness'. You say that you want to remain a bit confined on this aspect in view of your professional interests. Fine, all good luck in your activities. Personally, i feel the interaction of science with 'consciousness' may well provide expanding paradigms for the benefit of science itself. The same was emphasized by me in my essay in the competition! No need for you to comment anymore on this response.

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Phil Gibbs wrote on Nov. 15, 2008 @ 09:35 GMT
I'd like yo asnswer dome more FAQs here and am wondering if the system will allow HTML equations so here's a test

S = ½T∫d2ξ√(-h) hab ημν ∂aXμ  ∂bXν

and another

Δ = ann-2

(ri - rj)2

i < j

cheers Phil!

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NN wrote on Nov. 15, 2008 @ 15:05 GMT
Appreciate your sense of humor, am already posting on another dozen essays. All good luck in your professional endevors. Nath

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Phil Gibbs wrote on Nov. 15, 2008 @ 19:41 GMT
Thanks Nath, Good luck!

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Cristi Stoica wrote on Dec. 6, 2008 @ 14:30 GMT
Dear Dr. Philip Gibbs,

I enjoyed reading your essay, and the way it presents the relational approach to recovering the spacetime as emerging from the event symmetric physics.

Best wishes,

Cristi Stoica

“Flowing with a Frozen River”,

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Dimi Chakalov wrote on Dec. 20, 2008 @ 17:48 GMT

In your Essay, you wrote: "However the arrow of time is a cosmological influence left over from the big bang, not a fundamental property of the laws of physics. We should not build temporal causality into our fundamental theory."

I think it depends on the interpretation of time. If we consider the hypothetical Heraclitean Time, as emerging along with the emergence of 3-D space, we are in the murky waters of quantum gravity: please check out the so-called biocausality here.

Sorry for giving links to my web site. I learned about this contest on December 2nd, and was too late to submit my proposal.


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Philip Gibbs wrote on Dec. 21, 2008 @ 21:25 GMT
Dimi, Quantum Gravity and the small scale structure of space-time is what interests me most, even if it is still a murky subject. The idea based on event-symmetry is that the big bang singularity has a huge unbroken symmetry which accounts for its low entropy.

For intermediate scales temporal causality is valid but on very large scales greater than the size of the observable universe causality could be more complicated. Perhaps something like your biocausality applies.

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Dimi Chakalov wrote on Dec. 22, 2008 @ 00:15 GMT
Phil, please notice that the so-called biocausality is supposed to cover everything that can be put into 'the whole physical universe', simply because 'potential reality' is a notion much wider than 'physical reality'. The idea goes back to Aristotle, as I'm sure you've noticed by following the link in my preceding posting. In other words, I can install "boundaries" on 'the whole physical universe'. Can you?

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Jan. 6, 2009 @ 11:28 GMT
Symmetry has been fundamental to every unification step taken in the history of physics.

Symmetry removed us from the centre of the universe.

It underpinned the relativity of Galileo and Einstein.

It unified electricity and magnetism.

Quantum theory brought us permutation symmetry of particles and further unifications from gauge theory.

The quest to further...

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Feb. 11, 2009 @ 10:22 GMT
I remember thinking about coincidences on the eve of the new millenium. Such a day comes round only once in every 365,242 days. As the hour before midnight approached the coincidence rose to a 1 in 8,765,820 chance. If only I could have such luck in the lottery, I thought. One minute before midnight I was experiencing a one in half a billion moment rising to one in 30 billion for a second before Big Ben struck. Then the power of the moment faded away as I watched the firework display over the Thames and turned to go home.

Nine years on the coincidence does not seem so great. In a liftime of 80 years I would have a one in twelve chance of experiencing a new millenium. But wait - what about the coincidence of being alive now in the long history of the universe? After 13 billion years during which the universe has existed I am now in the middle of just a short 80 year (ish) lifespan. That's already a one in a 160 million chance coincidence lasting my whole life. What if I count the future as well? the universe could be habitable for many more billions of years and we currently think it will exist for ever. What sort of coincidence is life then?

This paradox can be removed if we think about time in the same way as we think about space. We see no coincidence in the fact that we live on a friendly blue planet which occupies a tiny volume in the vastness of uninhabitable space. We are simply here because we could not exist anywhere else. In the block picture of spacetime our location in time is no more of a coincidence than our location in space. We do not exist beyond our lifespan and should not regard it as luck that we happen to be alive at this time. The apparent paradox comes about only when we think in terms of the flow of time as part of our experimence, but that flow must be an illusion, unless you belive in very large coincidences.

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Mar. 11, 2009 @ 17:22 GMT
The results are finally out. Many of the winners were people whome I admire and amd happy to see them win. For the rest of us it has been something of an anticlimax because we got no feedback from the judges about our essay. We dont even know how many judges there were or where they came from, and we dont know if we made the shortlist of 50 essays or not. That makes it very difficult to know...

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Mar. 12, 2009 @ 10:38 GMT
This year I am walking towards my fiftieth anniversary of my time in the universe. At this age I find that the ability to take on new mathematics fades, but experience brings a wider perspective that allows deeper insights. I dont have students to pass on my knowledge to, so as I "retire" from physics I will use this space to drop a few pearls of wisdom that some younger researchers in quantum...

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Mar. 15, 2009 @ 08:02 GMT
The aspect of this contest that gave me most disquiet is emphasised in the FAQ where is says

"each applicant must provide a brief biography with his or her entry. Judges are free to consider or ignore this information."

In other words judges are given full authority to judge entrants on the basis of who the applicant is rather than the content of their essay, if they wish.

For someone like myself who sits outside the institutional system it would not be worth entering unless there are explicit statements in the rules that the entrants are to be judged on essay content alone, and this must be made transparent by providing enough details of the judging process for us to see that fairness has been observed.

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Brian Beverly wrote on Jul. 16, 2009 @ 06:53 GMT
Congratulations! I just read about it. If I'm not mistaken viXra is a complete permutation. I'll be submitting any preprints there for sure and I know you'll allow them :)

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Phil Gibbs wrote on Aug. 4, 2009 @ 14:41 GMT
Brian, We will look forward to seeing your work submitted to viXra. After less than a month we already have 80 e-prints archived, not a bad start.

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