Skip to comments.The Universe Made Simple
Posted on 05/25/2004 8:01:29 PM PDT by RonzoEdited on 06/07/2005 12:27:06 PM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]
Can you access the flash of emancipation you felt the first time you were able to stay up on a bike or propel yourself through the water? Can you remember the way your new knowledge enhanced your life? And can you recall the gratitude you felt toward those people who had the skill and the patience to pass that knowledge along to you?
(Excerpt) Read more at theatlantic.com ...
Uh-oh. Bell-bottom jeans and paisley pants aren't dead after all?
No. But don't run off to the local Wal-Mart trying to find a pair anytime soon, I think they've been sent to a parallel universe...
Kind of an interesting article...
Cool!!! Now I understand those occasional deja-vu's I experience.
You and your friends might find this article insteresting...
Anybody who can "access the flash of emancipation..." has probably yet to learn how to tie his own shoes -such writing!
You're my science guru on FR, one good ping deserves another.
Thank you so much for the article, Ronzo. I really like Green's presentations.
betty boop, you've probably already recognized the "time is a plane and not a line" phenomenon raised in discussing extra time dimensions.
This theory might yet explain the unresolved "lost sock" mystery!
(Or would that be the loose-string theory?)
The Ultimate Unified Theory of Everything includes: Photons, Croutons, Neurons, Futons, Carrions, Gravitons, Crayons, and Morons.
What I thought at first were flashbacks from my experimental years, I discovered were actually astral projections into one of them parallel universes. But don't ask me how I did it.
You forgot 'Klingons'
Non linear time flow - sounds like a Slaughterhouse-Five type of existence
Okay, enough of the humor. I really wanted to know why everyone uses the word, 'dimension,' as in three dimensions or even eleven dimensions when they are describing infinite space? I thought dimensions were attributes (length x width x height) of solid, finite objects. Wouldn't it be more descriptive to use the word, directions, when describing the attibutes of space? Even Bradly Jay uses the word, dimension, to describe the three attributes of space as though it were finite.
I don't think it was an accident that we have three directional space to set three-dimensional objects into. A perfect fit every time.
Well, that was just a passing thought, but I wanted to ask a better question:
Is an object moving in space having an un-interrupted journey (smooth) or is the object just changing spacial coordinates in a jerky-like motion, but in increments so tiny that it can't be physically observed, vibrating (the moving object disappearing) beyond the quantum and coming back in another location? Like the frames on a movie film which, when rolling, have the appearance of smooth motion only because of the after-images we have in our mind merges in synch with the appearance of the next frame which was actually in a different location before it was projected.
Please bear with me on this. I'm completely void of knowledge and technical terms in this field except for the few books I've read. And 'C' from where I come from is usually followed by the word, note. Thanks.
No, I'm not stringing you along here, for I think the bungee string may account for the snapping back and forth between 'dimensions' -- the end of the pendulum I've been stalking. Heh.
"My own feeling, therefore, is that if we are revealing God's handiwork through our research, I'm happy to be part of that journey. If, on the other hand, all we're doing is revealing laws of physics that have governed the universe from the beginning until today, then I'm happy to be part of that journey, too. So whichever framework it fits into, I think the work itself is noble and interesting and very, very worthwhile."
I like his attitude. Too often brilliant scientists are arrogant pricks.
Personally, I've got four simultaneous "paralell" lives that I am living right now. And I'm having a great time in each one!
Rod Serling, eat your heart out!!!
As far as the motion, if it refers to an living object moving, then the motions would be jerky, just because of the molecular shape of muscles and how they operate. As far as motion of an object through space, where it was merely momentum carrying it a distance, I would venture to guess that the movements would be smooth on a scale of Macro-time (what we percieve) but on a micro-scale that there is some jerkiness. It all depends on if the universe can be divided smaller than strings, onto infinity. If it can, then motion would be smooth, otherwise, both time, and motions would be jerky. Come to think of it, it would be smooth to all perceptions, whether we could observe the motions individually, because if we are living in the time reference that the motion is being observed in, then we would not see time skip, and therefore we would miss the pauses in motion that accompany the pauses in timeflow.
If this makes no snense, then its just because I'm rambling and it has turned into a train-of-thought writing style.
Thanks for the response,Gid. Making headway, I think. Could the micro-scale jerkiness be related to Planck time, which would translate into Planck distances as well?
Yup, made sense. We must be on the same train of thought. Welcome to Free Republic, Gid.
Actually, weare all figments of something's imagination!
I recently read Greene's THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE. I was very impressed with the clarity of his explanations for non-physicists like me. I bought his arguments about the "elegance" of including additional dimensions to reconcile quantum mechanics with special relativity in a grand unification of forces. I even understood that I was not supposed to be able to fathom the other dimensions, even after because in the model they would have to be too small in scope to probe.
Greene did a wonderful job explaining the "standard model" theories and their limitations. However, I was a bit disappointed about some of the later chapters on string theory. I felt queasy everytime he mentioned Calabi-Yau shapes or certain paradoxes like this, "According to the light string modes, the universe is large and expanding; according to the heavy modes it is tiny and contracting." (p. 251) At certain points the physics almost became a dissertation on topology and I lost grasp of why the details of a theory about strings too small perhaps to be detected would be relevant to any laymen except the very most interested. Black holes, and space-time relativity (an example he gives about extending the life of particles called muons by accelerating them was trippy), as counterexamples, seem inherently cool to many people. (There is also a fascinating example about walking through walls undisturbed, something that could, but VERY unlikely, happen b/c of uncertainty principles.)
Having stated what I thought were the books shortcomings, I have to say that I enjoyed it tremendously on the whole, appreciated Greene's effort to explain something very complex to non-physicists, and took on faith that the mathematics he alludes to do make string theories worthy endeavors for physicists to pursue.
When physicists can explain the universe as simply as understanding a computer, then I'll be ready for them!
Well, the simplicity was expounded upon over dozens of pages. It wasn't so simple that I didn't have to reread certain things or that I could regurgitate everything to another person. Let's just say I had a sense that I was absorbing most of the information, at least until he started getting into the details of string theory. Greene's explanations of concepts were colorful and presented in small enough pieces for me to comprehend. By the way, I am speaking of THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE and not the book emphasized in the interview link, though both are about the same topic.
Dammit, I spent 8 years learning to be an arrogant prick! Don't dismiss it so quickly. You laymen need to learn the fine points of arrogance...
"I didn't spend 5 years in evil medical school to be called Mister." - Dr. Evil
The flash of inspiration. These days it's not so much flash as ooze.
LOLOLOL! Thanks for the ping!
I do, Alamo-Girl; but Green seems to suggest that, however many dimensions there are -- 11 in current string theory -- that only one of them will be a time dimension. It seems the balloon analogy -- of the inflationary universe -- allows for those tiny, crabbed, "curled up" ten spatial dimensions to do all their work in one time dimension -- the one that we can "picture." At least, that appears to be the jist of Green's presentation. Once the universe has expanded sufficiently, the idea is the harmonic signatures of these teensy curled up dimensions become "audible," and therefore observable.
If such observations confirm the mathematical predictions, we're home free -- string theory can be said to have been observed in action.
And yet I have questions, probably idle ones. One is that for string theory to be correct, we must understand that it has been at work regardless of the space/time frame that enables us to recognize it. If the theory is correct, and these ten spatial dimensions altogether specify every particle known and yet unknown in the universe, then obviously, they have always been doing that, "from the beginning." If we add the idea of vacuum fields, or zero point fields, each with its own signature particle, then we are effectively dealing with a universal phenomenon, for fields are understood to be universal. My question is: Where do we put the idea of universality into a framework that calls for only one dimension of time? It seems to me that, in a very real sense, universality carries the idea of that which is timeless, ever persisting at least so long as the universe lasts.
He writes, "...conventional theories do break down when you try to push them all the way back to the beginning. We believe that string theory does not break down, but it still is a very complicated theory when you try to apply it to time zero itself. So far, no string theorist has succeeded in using the theory to peel back the obscuring layers and reveal what happened at the start. But the hope is that we will shortly be able to do that."
I dunno. It may be premature to start numbering time dimensions before we can understand what happened at "time zero." I wonder what the math might have to say about that.
Maybe someone can shed further light on these intriguing issues.
Please correct me if I am wrong but wasn't it Einstein that said time was a creation, a persistant illusion? If you will permit me to be a little metaphysical, I would like to think that the other strings we cannot see are dimensions of the spiritual - angels, demons, our spirit. Since God spoke the world into being (see Genesis 1) would it not also make sense that he controls events in all dimensions through sound? These filaments (strings) are sound in particle form, correct? Another analogy I like to think about is that we are dancing on the strings of God's violin. So to get back to my idea, if time is created but does not seem to apply to God or the spiritual world, then it would make sense to me that time is only one dimension - one that we can sense. What do you think?
"Whereof we cannot speak thereof we must remain silent."
Wittgestein's excellent, and timeless, advice.
Indeed, Greene is only speaking in the interview of the conventional, compactified Kaluza-Klein extra spatial dimensions, but in his presentation on PBS (I think it was) he also spoke of the higher dimensional theories, inter-dimensionality and included Cumrun Vafa in the program (extra time dimensions). For that reason, I believe he is open to the other theories as well.
Plus, he said this in the article:
But I digress...
I certainly do agree with you that it is premature to count the dimensions or to characterize them in terms of number of spatial and number of temporal or to require that they be in total compactified or higher dimensional!!!
Einstein said that "Reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."
And you are right on target with the observation that space/time is created as the universe expands. It doesn't pre-exist. Space/time are not separate in the math, i.e. time is geometric.
And the point you raise about harmonics is at the root of the physical realm whether looking at string theory or quantum field theory. The strings are not however in particle form, they are the structure (the geometry) of the harmonics.
What we sense as time passing is often called an arrow of time or a timeline. In relativity it may be called a worldline. But time to us at these space/time coordinates of the universe are not the same as it would be to someone elsewhere.
For instance, on a black hole a week might elapse while on earth it would be 40 years. Here is a great website with graphics and animations to help explain special relativity: The Space/time Wheel. Be sure and check out the chart at the bottom and then start with the postulates at the top menu and browse through the graphics. It is a beautiful presentation!
When I first read the following article, the Scriptures about God speaking it all into being welled up inside of me!
The MAXIMA, BOOMERANG, and DASI collaborations, which measure minute variations in the CMB, recently reported new results at the American Physical Society meeting in Washington, D.C. All three agree remarkably about what the harmonic proportions of the cosmos imply: not only is the universe flat, but its structure is definitely due to inflation, not to topological defects in the early universe.
The results were presented as plots of slight temperature variations in the CMB that graph sound waves in the dense early universe. These high-resolution power spectra show not only a strong primary resonance but are consistent with two additional harmonics, or peaks.
The peaks indicate harmonics in the sound waves that filled the early, dense universe. Until some 300,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe was so hot that matter and radiation were entangled in a kind of soup in which sound waves (pressure waves) could vibrate. The CMB is a relic of the moment when the universe had cooled enough so that photons could "decouple" from electrons, protons, and neutrons; then atoms formed and light went on its way.
Are you an anti-metaphysical logical positivist or did I just annoy you?
No - not a Wiener Kreis acolyte. ;^)
Just common sense English analytical school.
Now that was a WIERD book (Slaughterhouse Five)....but must reading...
Personally, I think there's something to the idea of time being ultimately non-linear, though Greene obviously doesn't think so, nor do any of the string theorists. If time is one-deminsional, it can't be anything but linear.
Usually the Atlantic Monthly does not allow this sort of sillyness...must have gotten past the editors. But then they do like those big $5 words...even if they don't use them very well...
Many years ago, just for fun, I ran an experiment on my own laundry to see what happened to lost socks. I used a permenant ink marker to assign a number & letter to each pair of socks (they were mostly white tube socks) to see how many I would loose over time. (Yes, I was board...)
The experiment ended a miserable failure after three years: I never lost a single sock.
How did you realize they were parallel universes, and not OUR universe...
I agree fizziwig. Normally I don't post science articles because they are either too technical or too arrogant! But this guy seems like he actually has humility, and a gift for explaining things in everyday language....
Thanks for the quick book review Tex! I was thinking of getting a copy of this myself. I'm fascinated by physics, but am put-off by the math, which I don't really understand all that well, if at all!
Give me that extra time dimension then, Alamo-Girl! It seems clear to me that a more elaborated concept of time, a much better theory needs to be found in order to explain such things as duality, non-locality, and superposition, which have been observed under laboratory conditions. Even under laboratory conditions, these phenomena would seem to require superluminal velocities in order to occur. I gather the speed of light is posited as a universal constant/constraint in relativity theory, such that were two entangled particles from opposite ends of the universe to get together for a spontaneous love fest, and this happens instantly, spontaneously, we cant explain under either Newtonian or Einsteinian theory how that could have happened.
In such scenario, travel time would be nil; time would seem to be a null factor with respect to such effects if we understand time as measurable in terms of particular configurations of velocity and mass, moving from point A to point B through a topography featuring other massive (more or less) objects capable of exerting gravity effects on passing bodies. And thereby causing the space through which the primary space-time body is moving to curve. Which would seem to suggest that a more massive body can affect the mass and velocity of passing objects moving relative to it.
Im with you, Alamo-Girl: Geometry is the very language we need to describe such relations. Geometry seems to propose most useful language for describing the features of the reality that man and nature seem to be commonly, collectively subject to.
I figure that the various geometries as originally conceived and described were personal visions from Euclid and his ancestors in Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Plato, et al., to the present day. That is, a novel geometry elaborated represents the singular vision of the particular geometer who articulated it. And in an honest culture, such products of mind and spirit are not any kind of fly by night routine.
Just to give an example: Reimann conceived a particular geometry that flew in the face of Euclidean orthodoxy. Apparently, this was a gift received via imagination and experience. Yet far from being a merely subjective belief, it appears that Reimanns geometry referred to real things far beyond Reimanns subjectivity. For when Einstein needed a conceptual base for his speculations into relativity theory, he picked Reimanns geometry right off of the shelf: For it furnished the best description of what Einstein in his deepest, most intense mediations and reflections encountered as already out there in reality. Thus I imagine the geometer as a type may be more artist than scientist. And so given their invaluable achievements, both Reimann and Einstein were great artists as well as great scientists/mathematicians.
Alamo-Girl, you and Thermopylae have broached a number of issues today that I want to think about some more before I reply. When I come back, maybe the problem would be: What must have been loaded into the Singularity of pre-Space/Time-Zero, such that a living universe of the particular configuration we now observe (in all its harmonious branches) could possibly become the way that it is, and continue to maintain in that way?
This to me is the single most fascinating question that can be asked.
The string theorists are trying to work this problem from the inside out. Do you suppose there is any way this same problem could be worked from the outside in?
That is from the Whole to the Part, instead of the other way around?
Just wondering, asking. But then I must be famous for my dumb questions by now. Oh, well
. Good night to dear A-G and T! God bless you and all of yours
Unfortunately, that may not be possible. Computers are specifically built in order to *be* understandable by their owners. The universe's properties, on the other hand, don't seem to have been formulated with a consideration for what might seem "easily understandable" for us.
In fact, J.B.S. Haldane's famous line may well be very true: "The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we *can* imagine."
Or on a more flippant note, there's Mark Twain's, "Of course truth is stranger than fiction: Fiction, after all, has to make sense."
The point of course is that fiction is purposely constructed so as to make some sense to the reader -- but reality is under no such restriction whatsoever, and is often such that it makes little or no sense to human notions of how things "ought" to be or "ought" to behave.
The universe just is what it is, whether we can wrap our minds around it or not.
That's not what some of my customers tell me!
The rest of your post is well taken, it did not come into being to be comprehensible by me. I just wish someone could explain a few concepts with decent analogies, I do that for my customers with their computers.
This whole "curved time thing" is too difficult, I just see time as being simply linear. I guess my computer grasps it that way, too!
LOL! I'm so glad you decided to join Free Republic Thermopylae! Your humor is well appreciated.
One of the best ever authors for making science understandable was the late Isaac Asimov. He wrote hundreds of essays (many collected in several dozen books) which addressed one aspect of science or another (e.g. the Periodic Table, gravity, etc.) and covered it with striking clarity for the general public.
And more than just covering a topic, he often made a point of taking the reader on a tour of *how* that topic was first discovered, *what* had first gotten scientists on its trail, *which* false starts they had explored, and *why* the current theory was arrived at and seems to be the inevitable explanation for the phenomenon being considered.
All too often science is presented as a dry, "here are some facts and equations, memorize them". Asimov was one of the few authors who took the time to show a nonscientific audience just how science actually works to root out truth and discard error and nonsense, and why it has been so successful in uncovering so many of the secrets of the universe.
In short, he answered not just "what" science knows, but how we know it, and why it's probably correct -- or at least pretty close to it. In fact, one of his essays, "The Relativity of Wrong", did a great job of showing how even "wrong" theories are often "right" to some degree, like how Newtonian or "classical" physics wasn't entirely "right" (it didn't include the effects of quantum physics or Relativity), but it wasn't even close to being all "wrong" -- even today most physics calculations can be done with great accuracy using only classical physics. Science is about "narrowing in" on answers, about getting closer and closer to the whole answer over time.
Many articles by various authors cover *what* science has discovered -- Asimov was a master at showing *how* and *why* those discoveries occurred, how the scientific method is successful, and all the fun drama of the "detective story" that lies behind most scientific discoveries or theories.
Asimov also frequently walked the reader through scientific or mathematical analysis of various problems or topics, in order to show how logical conclusions were arrived at, instead of just presenting a declaration with a "take my word for it".
I learned more real science from Asimov's fun little essays than I did in many of my school science courses.
There's been no one to fill his shoes in that way.
For some odd reason, I do not share his confidence in this matter, though it would be interesting to see what they would come up with.
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