Skip to comments.Astronomers Deal Blow To Quantum Theories Of Time, Space, Gravity
Posted on 03/28/2003 5:49:29 PM PST by vannrox
Huntsville - Mar 28, 2003
For the second time in as many months, images gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) are raising questions about the structures of time and gravity, and the fabric of space.Using two HST images, astronomers from Italy and Germany looked for but did not find evidence supporting a prevailing scientific theory that says time, space and gravity are composed of tiny quantum bits.
Using existing theories, the team led by Dr. Roberto Ragazzoni from the Astrophysical Observatory of Arcetri, Italy, and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, calculated that infinitesimally small quantum-scale variations in space time would blur images of galaxies seen from vast distances across the universe.
Instead, when they looked at both diffraction patterns from a supernova and the raw image of a second galaxy more than five billion light years from Earth, they saw images much sharper than should be possible if quantum-scale phenomenon operated as previously supposed. Their research is scheduled to be published in the April 10, 2003, edition of Astrophysical Research - Letters.
"The basic idea is that space time should fluctuate," said Ragazzoni. "If you are looking at light from a huge distance, this light passing through space time would be subject to this fluctuation in space time. They should give a distorted image of the far universe, like a blurring.
"But you don't see a universe that is blurred. If you take any Hubble Space Telescope deep field image you see sharp images, which is enough to tell us that the light has not been distorted or perturbed by fluctuations in space time from the source to the observer. This observation is enough to rule out this effect on the quantum scale.
"You can say," said Ragazzoni, "that this measurement constrains the quantum gravity theory to certain parameters."
This report comes a month after physicists at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) announced their unsuccessful attempt to use an image from an HST interferometer to find evidence of Planck-scale effects. Taken together, the independent research findings might force physicists to reexamine the scientific underpinnings of the quantum theories of gravity, time and space.
To look for the quantum blurring effect the European team used a parameter from optics, the Strehl ratio, to calculate how sharply the telescope should be able to resolve an image of the distant light source and its first Airy ring - a signature of the interference of the rays of light entering a telescope.
If the popular quantum theories were correct, space-time effects should blur light from distant sources beyond the telescope's ability to resolve them.
"Without a theory to describe this, I think it's hard not to agree that it is time to start to consider theories that do not require this Planck scale, at least not like it is now," said Ragazzoni. "From an experimental point of view, there is no establishment. We are proud to have established in as rigorous a manner as possible the parameters of this quantum effect."
The Planck-scale quantum theories of time, space and gravity were derived from attempts to calculate the theoretical limits to electromagnetic energy, according to a UAH physicist, Dr. Richard Lieu.
By inverting Albert Einstein's theory of relativity (E=mc2 becomes m=E/c2), physicists could calculate how much mass should be added to a photon as it gains energy. Using that, they calculated a theoretical limit to how much energy a photon might contain before gaining so much mass it would collapse into a photon-sized black hole.
That theoretical upper limit was then used to set theoretical limits on time. One cycle of a photon carrying that much energy would last 5 x 10-44 seconds, an interval called Planck time. As the shortest potentially-measurable interval of time, theorists speculated that time moves is Planck time-sized quantum bits.
In his theory of general relativity, Einstein theorized that time, space and gravity are different manifestations of the same phenomenon, much as light and thunder are signatures of the electrical discharge in lightning. If time is made up of quantum bits, that would also mean space and gravity should also be composed of quantum units.
Since the expected blurring "signature" of quantum space time isn't seen, however, it might mean that time isn't made of quantum bits, and neither are space or gravity.
But come to think of it, the last reboot was a lulu.
I know, really. Next they're going to be telling us that hubris is made up of something called hubrons.
At least a couple. Also check out Permutation City by Greg Egan.
You are incorrect. Time is a necessary component of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Our attempts to measure time are arbitrary, as a "second" is no more a universal constant than is a meter. But the flow of time is a consequence of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, as entropy would have no meaning if time was a human "invention" or simple product of human observation.
Second, the motion of any body within a uniform gravitational field can be best described as that path that takes the longest proper time, or, from another perspective, an object in a gravitational field always moves from one place to another so that a clock carried on it gives a longer time than it would on any other possible trajectory. So regardless of any units you use to measure it, time does have a real existance outside of observation, because it directly effects the behavior of systems without any observation necessary (the planets falling towards an unknown sun behave differently than an object in the Earth's gravitational field, regardless of whether anyone "measures" anything.
Your declaration might have been true if time was a constant, but, like all physical quantities, it is variable. Electricity is not simply a "measurement," even though the units we use to measure electricity are arbitrary and our measurements usually are only of a difference in electrical potential (just like time is measured in differences). Read up on space-time theory and relativity theory and you will see that you are quite mistaken. Time is a quality all its own...
God does not play dice with the universe.
- Albert Einstein
Since Einstein was instrumental in developing the quantum theory, as an explanation of certain photo-eletric effects, I do not think he objected to it. The remark quoted was in reference to the Copenhagen interpretation of the uncertainty principle of Heisenberg, I believe.
That's right. And the relativity of time works like this: the rate of time is in inverse proportion (slower) to how much you hate what you are doing (sitting in the doctor's office waiting room) and in direct proportion (faster) to how much you love what you are doing (snuggling with your honey).
Now that we have space and time worked out, solving the problems of politics and economics should be a snap.