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February 20, 2018

ARTICLE: Back to Mach [back to article]
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T H Ray wrote on Jan. 3, 2009 @ 17:32 GMT
First, I agree with Lee Smolin that Julian Barbour is already assured a place in physics history whether he is right or wrong. His questions always shine the brightest light into the deepest intellectual caves.

Second, I think he is right in principle and wrong in details.

Mach’s pure relativism implies a closed dynamical system, as does Barbour’s shape-changing universe. In fact, when one considers a three-dimensional network of interacting bodies, shape-change is guaranteed at every scale of analysis, because each “snapshot,” or “time capsule,” as Barbour has elsewhere labeled the instantaneous state, will vary by choice of scale. That is, the snapshot of small interacting particles will, with high probability, differ, even radically, from the snapshot of large interacting particles taken in the same instant. Objectively, then, we could never know the shape of the universe at any instant, because we could never agree on the boundary conditions; we could only say the shape of the universe varies according to the scale of observation. Then, of course, we run into a contradiction with special relativity and Lorentz transformations, by assigning a preferred inertial frame, which I think is a fundamental assumption of any geometry taken independently of inertial dynamics.

And yes, I think Julian is right, that the Newtonian “invisible background grid” is merely replaced by expanding spacetime in the modern relativistic view. I just don’t consider it a weakness of general relativity—the “absolute ruler” is the speed of light limit. We might remind ourselves that Einstein only extends Newton, and that in spite of the name “relativity,” Einstein’s theories deal with the absolute and that Mach is the true relativist. It is a strength of general relativity, as well, that it can accommodate but does not demand a closed universe; the assumption makes our finite models better behaved, yet there is little in the phenomenology of the physical world or in the language of mathematics that justifies the assumption.


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amrit wrote on Jan. 5, 2009 @ 17:24 GMT
Dear Dr. Barbour

You saying "time does not exists" I would not agree.

Might be that time is not part of space, that space is atemporal (timeless) and time is a cooredinate of motion i atemporal space. So time exists only when is measured. This is close to your statement but keeps time as a basic physical quantity and this time will remain we want or not.

It is more about right understanding of time and not about its existence.

yours amrit

attachments: 2_In_The_Theory_of_Relativity__Time_is_a_Coordinate_of_Motion__Sorli__FOUNDATIONS_OF_PHYSICS_2009.doc

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Don Limuti wrote on Jan. 6, 2009 @ 08:00 GMT
Wonderful tribute to Barbour, his FQXI essay on time is one of the clearest and most logical. Here are a few thoughts (from a different perspective) that may help his thesis.

1. Time may be an illusion but clocks are real. To have an event there must be a clock. To have a time a recall from "memory" is made of a previous clock event. A calculation is made using a "standard clock" to determine duration. This calculated duration is time. So, it is reasonable to say time is an illusion since it is not completely "objective". Note that this methodology is quantum mechanical in nature.

2. Space can only be recognized in terms of measurement events that involve standard clocks and rods and "memory". And yes space would also be an illusion because it is not completely "objective". In this way of looking at it, time is more fundamental than space, and clocks may be more fundamental that time.

3. Why are clocks so fundamental? Because all matter totes around its own clock. All matter is quantum mechanical in nature and thus has a wavelength and period. That period sure can be considered a clock.

Interesting food for thought.

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amrit wrote on Jan. 6, 2009 @ 16:00 GMT
we gave to distiquish between physical time and psychological time:

Time as a “coordinate of motion” is not elementary physical quantity as energy, matter, space and motion are; time exists only when we measure it. Time is invented by man in order to describe motion in atemporal space. We have to distinguish between:

-psychological time - the basic model of the mind in which we experience motion

-physical time - where symbol t represents number of units of time as a coordinate of motion in atemporal space.

The difference between these two is not clear yet. Main stream of science consider time to be fundamental physical reality not being aware that scientists “project” their physiological time in physical reality. Universe is an atemporal phenomenon. We cannot think that universe run in time, because we do not have any evidence for that. Opposite is truth: we experience atemporal universe in psychological time and we describe motion in atemporal space with physical time that is only a scientific tool and not fundamental physical reality.

Through psychological time we experience flow of material change in atemporal space in a linear way: present moment X is followed with present moment X+1, present moment X+1 is followed with X+2 and so on. Actually atemporal space that we experience as a present moment is always the same. Linear time “past-present-future” is a mind model in which we experience flow of material change that run in atemporal space. This means that eternity is not infinitely back from the present moment and infinitely ahead from the present moment, eternity is contained in the atemporal space, it means in this present moment.

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James Putnam wrote on Jan. 6, 2009 @ 16:10 GMT
Congratulations Dr. Barbour. Our understanding of the operation of the universe is incomplete. I think most understanding still lies undiscovered. Hopefully you, with your exceptional talents, can continue to bring clarity to physics theory. Perhaps you are correct that the universe is not expanding and that time is unecessary. However, this grant gives you relatively more time, or changes of position, to expand, or change the shape of, your theory of the universe. Best wishes to you.


James Putnam

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amrit wrote on Jan. 7, 2009 @ 10:57 GMT
James time can be unnecessary.

Put away all clocks on this planet and there will be total chaos.

Time is measure of motion (of material change) in atemporal space.

yours amrit

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D R Lunsford wrote on Jan. 7, 2009 @ 12:31 GMT
Here is all you need to know about time:

Mach was wrong because the real problem is the joint origin and co-extensiveness of both spacetime and matter. There is no empty space, and no spaceless material - they blend together but are in a sense frozen apart by group contraction from SO(3,3) -> SO(3,1) x C.

Einstein was completely correct as a second approximation to Newton's first. The actual correct idea was Weyl's although he did not realize it, nor I think understand its implications.

(paper reference attached for those interested)


attachments: 33physics1.pdf

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amrit wrote on Jan. 7, 2009 @ 20:01 GMT
yes space does not finish where matter start, space exists also inside matter, space is 4D and matter is 3D, both are made out of the same stuff, but time here is only a measure of motion of matter in space that itself is atemporal

attachments: IIGSS_ATPS.pdf

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Brian Beverly wrote on Jan. 8, 2009 @ 00:59 GMT
If I have learned anything from this contest it would be this article has perfect timing when we consider it relative to the end of the essay contest. I think Mach's ideas should be extended to other places in physics. Our understanding of black holes is one such place. (the river model has always bothered me). It was refreshing to see that Barbour is modest because physics is a difficult and humbling science, he sets a great example for other physicists.

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D R Lunsford wrote on Jan. 8, 2009 @ 02:09 GMT
Amrit - no the picture that emerges from a strict application of Weyl's ansatz is space-time-matter - with no boundaries - space in itself disappears, as does matter, and they are one thing - which in some low regime are frozen out - contracted - into matter living in spacetime.

Mach was wrong, his idea was a chimera - Einstein was right, and Weyl was righter. Time is both duration (coordinate time) and persistence (conservation of matter), which at the lowest level are intermingled.

In an historical sense, Clifford's idea of matter as geometry was much closer to reality than Mach's idea of reciprocal, conditional existence and remote action. Weyl says everything is local, and provides the answer.


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D R Lunsford wrote on Jan. 8, 2009 @ 16:07 GMT

I see very little humility among modern physicists, or essayists, or bloggers. And your comment about Mach and black holes seems to me to be just word salad. What do you mean? Mach's idea is that matter isolated in an otherwise empty world feels no interaction. This is tautological to begin with, and how on earth do black holes come into this picture? I'm sort of sick of black holes. I prefer thinking about gravity again and not worshiping at the altar of horizons.


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Brian Beverly wrote on Jan. 9, 2009 @ 01:26 GMT

I apologize I was referring to a model of black holes that I’m not sure is well known. When I searched for links that discussed the river model all of them somehow included my former black holes professor Andrew Hamilton. I think the following excerpt from the article and the below links will put my “word salad” :) in the proper context:

"[Mach the multi-talented scientist who discovered the sound barrier and gave his name to the eponymous numbers suggested something similar in the late 1800s, rejecting “absolute” measurements and replacing them with relative, or relational, ones. To get a handle on Mach’s viewpoint, imagine a particle spinning out in space. If there were no stars forming a back-drop against which to measure the particle’s motion, can we really say that the particle is moving? To Mach, the answer was no, in an empty space there is no distinction between the particle spinning and the particle being stationary.

When Newton penned his laws of motion, Barbour explains, “He thought he’d seen ‘the anatomy of God.’” And to Newton, God looked pretty much like three-dimensional graph paper. On top of this invisible coordinate grid, balls rolled, apples dropped, planets orbited.

To Newton, our particle could definitely be said to be spinning, because it was moving relative to the fixed grid of space. All one needed to understand the universe was full knowledge of where each object was on the grid, and when, according to the ticking of an invisible absolute clock.]"

The River Model’s Basic Description:

The River Model’s More Advanced Description:

Kudos for thinking about gravity again I hope you also don’t include the many worlds interpretation and “consciousness” because I’m sick of hearing about those ideas too.

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amrit wrote on Jan. 11, 2009 @ 19:49 GMT
Dr. Lunsford

in the universe there is one energy that appear as matter and space and electromagnetic radiation

time is a measure of motion of energy in space that is atemporal

time has nothing to do with conservation of mater, coservtion of energy-mater is related to first law of thermodinamics, so if universe really expand we have to answer from where energy of expnding space (made out of quanta of space) is comming from

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Anonymous wrote on Jan. 12, 2009 @ 07:59 GMT

You are not getting the idea - you must stop thinking of matter "in" spacetime and think of them as one thing - in everyday conditions matter freezes out - this corresponds to a group contraction. In dense matter conditions one can no longer invariantly assign a distinction to matter, antimatter, space and time alone, Lorentz invariance is lost, and the world is a 6-d vacuum. The vacuum has been pushed back to account for matter as part of its structure, that is, matter has been made part of a general spacetime of signature +++---. The linked paper demonstrates the idea in action and recovers GR + Maxwell in one limit, then Maxwell alone in a second one. This freezing out amounts to a simple process of group contraction, much as Galilean invariance and absolute time can be had by contracting the Poincare group. In the current viewpoint, absolute matter existing inside spacetime represents a contraction of SO(3,3) -> SO(3,1) X C(1). The world is really a 6-D vacuum with three timelike dimensions - in a particular frame one of these is coordinate time (duration), while the other two support matter and antimatter in mutual interaction (persistence). In the uncontracted state duration itself is not an invariant concept and cannot be separated from persistence. Philosophically, the measurement of duration demands fixed, absolute matter that is conserved in order to construct clocks - this is how persistence and duration are linked.

Mach's idea was completely opposed to this, assuming matter a priori then demanding a spooky distant action of indeterminate form. In this it is no better than the Lorentzian ether. In fact it is erroneous to imagine isolated matter in otherwise empty space - this is a gedanken ansatz that is simply impossible. One should stick to realizable goals and be rid of impossibilities up front.


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amrit wrote on Jan. 12, 2009 @ 11:50 GMT
Hi Lunsford

Does time run in vacuum or is only motion happening there?

I think about mater and space as a different forms of energy. Time is moeasure of motion of energy forms.

You give time too much importance, you see time as a part of physical rality and time is not that

basic in universe is motion of energy forms in space , time is a man invention to measure energy flux, energy change

try just for one hour thinking in this way and you will see your picture will be much more elegent amd clear

yours amrit

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amrit wrote on Jan. 12, 2009 @ 11:53 GMT

read my article on file attached ETERNITY IS NOW

attachments: 1_ETERNITY_IS_NOW___Sorli__2009.pdf

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D R Lunsford wrote on Jan. 13, 2009 @ 06:49 GMT

You need to stop thinking about time "running" - that is based on a condition where clocks are possible, matter is frozen out, and measurements can be made. This is the main point - measurement of duration depends on the persistence of matter - one cannot separate duration from persistence - when we allow the latter to fluctuate, the former becomes problematical. Conservation of matter cannot be separated from the concept of duration but they are separate ideas.

Ontologically, a "vacuum" is in its nature static and unchanging - it is our perspective on it from the frozen 4D world that makes change apparent. This "pushing back" of the vacuum is a time honored road to progress in physics - Maxwell did it with the displacement current - Einstein did it with relativity - Bohr and others with QM. Any really new physics idea amounts to a redefinition of the vacuum so that it becomes more encompassing. See the paper "Emptiness and Relativity" by David Finkelstein, here:


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amrit wrote on Jan. 13, 2009 @ 17:08 GMT

this is the main point: one has to separate duration from persistence.

Universe runs with persistence, universe is a system in a permanent dynamiy equilibrium, no beginning no end

but run of the universe happens in atemporal space, has no duration at all. we give sense of duration of material change by measuring them


see article on file attached

yours amrit

attachments: 1_ETERNITY_IS_NOW_sorli_2009.pdf

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amrit wrote on Jan. 13, 2009 @ 17:14 GMT
regarding article

I meditate for 30 years to discover that shunyata - emptiness is timeless. This my experience I brougth in science as The Theory of Atemporality.

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John Merryman wrote on Jan. 14, 2009 @ 03:16 GMT
Prof. Lunsford,

"This is the main point - measurement of duration depends on the persistence of matter - one cannot separate duration from persistence - when we allow the latter to fluctuate, the former becomes problematical. Conservation of matter cannot be separated from the concept of duration but they are separate ideas."

Can "matter be frozen out?" No matter how small we go, even to strings, with their external vibrations and internal dimensions, it seems we are describing process as the basis of matter, so that if "matter" didn't fluctuate, it wouldn't exist, have "duration," in the first place.

Quoting Finkelstein,

"Renouncing such a successful common-sense absolute as the point-event in space-time leaves an emptiness which can be experienced either as empowerment and liberation or anomy and nausea, depending mainly on one’s prior practice in coping with emptiness and relativity."

It seems the coupling of time with space over-reaches, when it ascribes "points" to time. As a measure of "duration" a point would have none. Zero. So "matter" wouldn't exist, since there would be no motion, or fluctuation.

I think time is an property of motion, not the basis for it. It is hard though, to consider motion, without first considering the space, ie, potential for motion. So it would seem that space is the basis for motion, which is the basis for time.

My essay was making the point that time, as a property of motion, goes from future potential to past circumstance, as opposed to traveling along this fourth dimension from past to future. So while physical reality goes from past to future, as it creates and consumes "states," these states are information which travels from future to past. So energy and information go opposite directions of time. I bring this up because it seems that laws amount to a form of information. As such, they would not be Platonic ideals dictating reality, but emergent properties, as Finkelstein seems to be concluding. As emergent properties, they form the basis for further emergence. Laws organically growing from previous manifestations. Not a mechanical universe of immutable determinism.

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amrit wrote on Jan. 14, 2009 @ 13:50 GMT

universe is in a permanent dyanamic equilibrium, motion is a fundamental property of the universe

so it is pointless to think that it would not ba a motion


- Sorli A. Dynamic Equilibrium of The Atemporal Universe (2008)

motion is not related to duration

we relate motion and duration with measuring motion with clocks

so motion has no duration at all, universe is atemporal

we love in eternity that is now, being aware of that or not it is so

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John Merryman wrote on Jan. 15, 2009 @ 02:16 GMT

I'm in general agreement. Though I wouldn't say time doesn't exist, rather as a consequence of motion, it is closer to temperature, rather than space. There is a basic conceptual limitation in describing space as "three dimensional." Dimensions are projections and as such describe direction and distance. Using the speed of light to relate units of duration to linear units of distance is logical, but it doesn't fully describe the relationship between motion and space. Another concept of space is volume, which is a non-linear description of space, just as temperature is a similar non-linear description of motion. The same logic which uses the speed of light to describe time as dimension/projection/duration, could also relate temperature and volume, as the temperature of a given quantity of energy relates to the volume which contains it, so that temperature could be described as another parameter of volume, in much the same way as time is described as another dimension to space.

I think the problem is the assumption that time goes past to future. This is a fundamental intuitive assumption, as our minds function as a linear process of cause and effect. Our recording of time is as narrative, that linear projection from past to future, yet past and future do not physically exist, as the energy to manifest them is currently occupied by the present. It is this energy manifesting the series of states which creates time. These states are time and they go from future to past. Simply put, tomorrow becomes yesterday because the earth rotates, rather than that we travel a fourth dimension from past to future. Even with quantum fluctuations. The quanta go from past fluctuations to future ones, as the particular fluctuations go from future to past. It is the fluctuations which are time. As each fluctuation happens, the previous has faded into the past.

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amrit wrote on Jan. 16, 2009 @ 10:00 GMT
hi john

yes, as you say: time exists,

but time to exist has to be measured

we live in space only and not in time

time is a measure only

I drop termin "atemporal" because people do not like it


sure also termin "space" is not clear as in the universe we observe only distances between objects and not space

physical base of space is gravity field

attachments: Time_is_a_measure_of_motion_in_Space_Sorli__2009__arXiv.doc

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amrit wrote on Jan. 16, 2009 @ 15:46 GMT
john, you write:

The quanta go from past fluctuations to future ones, as the particular fluctuations go from future to past. It is the fluctuations which are time. As each fluctuation happens, the previous has faded into the past.

no fluctuations are not time, time is measurment of fluctuations, fluctuations are motion, and time is not motion, time is measure of motion

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John Merryman wrote on Jan. 16, 2009 @ 17:02 GMT

"Live" is a verb.

Without the function of process, there is no form. A non-fluctuating vacuum.

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John Merryman wrote on Jan. 16, 2009 @ 17:09 GMT

"time is measure of motion"


(So is temperature.)

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amrit wrote on Jan. 16, 2009 @ 18:09 GMT
thanks god

we are two now...........

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John Merryman wrote on Jan. 18, 2009 @ 01:28 GMT

Hey, time is on our side.

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John Merryman wrote on Jan. 18, 2009 @ 18:59 GMT

Time and space are linked. By motion.

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amrit wrote on Jan. 19, 2009 @ 11:04 GMT
Steve, stars move in space only, elementary particles move in space only, and time is a measure of motion.

That objects move in time is a biggest misunderstanding of today science.

see in details on file attached

attachments: Time_is_a_Measure_of_Motion_Sorli__2009.pdf

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amrit wrote on Jan. 19, 2009 @ 11:08 GMT
Steve you say:

Time and space are different but linked

tell us how in which sense bout are diffrent

and how in which sense both are linked

no one here has answer on that because time is not physical reality as space and matter are.

space-time as a physical reality is a pure APRIORY preposition thst was never proved

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amrit wrote on Feb. 1, 2009 @ 15:56 GMT
Common belief is that for every event to happen time is needed. In quantum world is not so. Information and energy can transfer without time passing. This puzzle is resolvable with understanding that time is a measure of motion in space. Nothing run in time, all run in space only. When we measure duration of some quantum phenomena time can be zero. This means that phenomena happens immediately, that phenomena is an immediate and timeless transfer (ITT) of energy and information.

attachments: 1_Immediate_Timeless_Transfer_of_Energy_and_Information_Sorli__2009.pdf

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amrit wrote on Feb. 7, 2009 @ 19:10 GMT
Hi Steve

in quantum world things can happen without time passing,

they are immediate, so time is not a fundamental physical reality, time is a measure of motion.

yours amrit

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Feb. 10, 2009 @ 18:29 GMT
Hi Amrit ,

I am understanding your message ,yes time is a measure of motion ,but don't forget one thing ,the quantum world is different and many secrets are still to discover .

We are linked with the quantum world but we live in a real world where Time and Space are essential for a logic building ,the mathematic is different than the physic reality .

Krausz of Vienna University ......100 attoseconds - or 10^-16sec.

Krausz used ultraviolet-light pulses of 250-attosecond duration to

excite electrons in atoms of neon, raising them to a higher energy

level......A 10^-15


Are you sure time is immediate?



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amrit wrote on Feb. 13, 2009 @ 08:52 GMT
steve time is measure of motion of energy

electron is an energy packet that “jumps” from one quanta of space to another quanta of space

for one jump time is zero, for million jumps time is still zero, this means that electron moves with infinite speed

photon is an energy packet that moves with the light speed,

see more on file attached

attachments: ITT_phenomena__sorli_2009.pdf

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Feb. 13, 2009 @ 15:14 GMT
Hi dear Amrit,

Thanks ,I am seeinng now and it's more clear for me ,indeed,your study is very interesting .

(I),(E) − t v transfer 10 0, 35 immediate (atemporal) I,E transfer

(I),(E) t v − 10 0, > 35 > temporal I,E transfer

Quantum information transfer and quantum energy transfer via particles

have a light speed. Quantum information transfer and quantum energy transfer

directly via quantum space are immediate. Time of transfer is zero, speed of

transfer is infinite. We introduce here Immediate-Timeless Transfer (ITT) of

information and energy as physical phenomena that exist. For human mind is

unusual that some phenomena happen with no time passing,

but experiments.

It could be interesting to do the link with Dark energy and Dark mass ....

What do you think about the super gravity of a Black Hole ,perhaps it's a super velocity of rotation of an elementary particles (coded)....


shows opposite. ITT phenomena are becoming part of scientific research.

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Georgina Parry wrote on Mar. 13, 2009 @ 07:35 GMT
That was a very interesting article for me. It was also very good to see a face that goes with the name. Now I understand what Julian Barbour is attempting to achieve and I think it is courageous.

I agree that space is not expanding. I agree that time is not fundamental. I can see why the idea of the changing shape of the universe may seem an interesting avenue of research and also why having no absolute frame of reference might be appealing.

However it is on these two last points that our ideas diverge. According to my line of reasoning there must be a cause of subjective time even if in objective reality it does not exist. Constant change is necessary.

That change is the constant loss of potential energy of the matter of the universe which is equivalent to motion afore along the 4th dimension. This causes matter to form and matter comes together into structures, observed as gravity,as well as giving rise to subjective time.

This is apparent when the orientation of the 4th dimension is visualised extending from aft space to every point on the exterior surface of an object to the interior centre of gravity and beyond into afore space. Objects travel in this way, and will always take up the position of lowest potential energy possible or most afore along the 4th dimension.

Rather than having no absolute frame of reference the prime Quaternion model relates the universe to the hypersphere structure that gives rise to it. Motion in relation to the exterior and interior of the hypersphere can be considered and direction according to the dimensions of the hypersphere.While it is impossible to see objective reality to confirm the existence of such a geometric entity, it does provide a model that works.

As I have said elsewhere I did think that Julian's essay was very good and I am glad to have learned more about him and his work and approach by reading this article.

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Mikel137 wrote on Dec. 7, 2010 @ 02:43 GMT
An image that recurs to me often through many years is that of a continuity of something close to dimensionality such as SU(2) X U(1) or the SO(3,3) -> SO(3,1) x C of D R Lunsford above (which looks promising).

Going from the outside in:

In the continuity at and NEAR the surface of a gravitational body, the dimensions change from those in space-time (as interplanetary, interstellar and intergalactic space) and those in isotropic acceleration toward the center, and time such as geological time, within moons, planets and stars.

On the "outside" in space-time this continuity supports radiation in the energy part of the mass-energy relation, and the motion of material objects. The time domain is a part of the velocity dimension which is evident in the speed of light c and in the simpler paths trajectories and orbits of objects. The dimensions outside are as above, SU(2) X U(1) or the SO(3,3) -> SO(3,1).

On the "inside" within gravitational bodies it supports the existence of the massive part of the mass-energy equivalence, and a time domain in which that existence is not always guaranteed forever, as in stellar radiation and planetary radioactivity. The dimensions inside appear to be at least time, acceleration and an isotropic form, rotation, two surface dimensions (longitude and latitude).

I have not rationalized the continuity well though it appears to be true continuity. It seems to require approaching the subject field with almost diaphanous imagination because the field is not understood or well conceived by our neurons. It is like repairing an integrated circuit with fish's flippers or paws.

Part of the problem is that length is a construct of measuring sticks, and planetary sizes and orbits, etc. while its only fundamental and absolute form appears to be in the Planck length. Similarly, time is a construct of the rotation of the earth and fractions and multiples of that, while the only absolute and fundamental unit of time appears to be the Planck time. That is, pending this millenium's review of the whole of physics from the earliest languages to the attainment of the Moon.

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