By Dr Beck, circa FEB2016
“I Really Appreciate Science. Technology and Cute Experiments are Cool, too!” – this would be the name of the website I want to start. The first installment would be:
The nature of evolution can be regarded as cooperative dissipation of energy. Every stage of evolution, including the steps that gave rise to molecules, to people out of slime, and the competition between species, proceeds by dissipation of energy. Molecules did not aim to reproduce. They simply stumbled on it. The motivation of all change is the dispersal of available energy and the spontaneous collapse towards chaos.
(We ended up with, I Really Appreciate Science.)
Moving Towards Simplicity
in my second installment I would summarize how our physical understanding is moving forward and towards simplicity by eliminating the need for purpose.
Now, we move even further towards it by eliminating the need to impose laws and rules. Things happen as they do, laws and rules are like “Facebook status updates” on their behaviour and character.
Take classical physics, as exemplified by Newton’s Laws of Motions. The mind-numbing “common sense” of Newton’s Laws actually conceal their incomprehensibility, except as “Facebook status updates” and a way to calculate outcomes.
When they are inspected, their explanations fall apart, and are seen to be illusory, like 3D animation.
Gravity’s Ultimate Rainbow
In my third installment I would start out again with a summary something like we have thus far learned that as we examine the universe and things, they get ever more simple to comprehend. First there is no need for purpose; there is only the dispersal of available energy towards chaos. Second, there is no need for rules or laws – those are only “Facebook status updates” and the ways we came up with to calculate outcomes.
Newton’s Laws of Motion were given as an example of classical physical laws. Let’s get a closer look into stuff prejudiced by Newton’s Laws a little more.
The nature of 4D spacetime is not what it seems to be, it is “warped”. Warped spacetime means that what we perceive as straight lines are not straight lines at all. They are “off” from what are truly straight lines. So, instead of rules and laws explaining why “things” turn from straight lines under gravity – like a 28 lb. weight for distance thrown by a Highland Games athlete – we shall adopt a simpler, perhaps surprising, alternative. We shall take the view that 28lb. weights for distance invariably follow straight lines at uniform speeds, but their trajectories look bent to us.
The path of Earth around the sun is a line that is close to being perfectly straight and traveled almost at a uniform constant speed, but we perceive it as a closed path and varying elliptical orbit. “Gravity” is the word we use to signify this distorted view. Motion is really extremely simple: motion is uniform and straight, period. It merely seems distorted by the presence of matter.
No such thing as gravity. All the forces that bond atoms, nuclei, and the deepest components of particles, can be seen as arising from the simple interchange of particles. “Force” is a name we give for the behavior of particles, and stuff they make up, being played out in the arena of spacetime. Spacetime, with its curvature forms the stage; particles distributed as waves pursue straight lines; but particles break off from particles and travel straight to other particles and impress on them their own motion. “Force” is the name of this interchange of particles. There is nothing else to force, including gravity.
(Again, this was written 6 years ago! Tempus fugit.)
Spacetime – 4 dimensions united
In a fourth installment I would just summarize the last three installments by saying that as we probe deeper into stuff, it gets simpler to explain and hopefully to understand. But there are still questions. For example, since spacetime is so important to our universe, we should ponder why do we have the spacetime we do? Why four dimensions, 3 of space and 1 of time?
This question has been taken up by physicists, and calculations made of various possibilities in a “universe of stuff” like ours. I will post a diagram by a very cool physicist named Max Tegmark (ThanX Julie!) that was previously posted on Facebook summarizing those ponderings. It turns out that if our existence were of smaller spatial dimensions, it would be too simple and nothing would really occur or evolve in spacetime. Certainly not a self-conscious species like us. If it had larger spatial dimensions, it would be too unwieldy and unstable. We wouldn’t survive too many evolutions before the universe would be completely done in. Now all this does not mean things didn’t evolve this way at first as energy dissipated into chaos, but it was too simple, or too unstable, or limited to time particles (tachyons) etc., that it went no where fast and had to re-form. Or, in competition with our universe it could not survive. Finally, our set-up was the only one “working” and here we are in 3D space and 1D time, holding on with our fingernails.
So, not only is a universe like ours the only kind that can survive its own creation, but also its the only kind of universe that has the capability of becoming self-aware. The freedom of motion permitted by the three dimensions of our space is just enough, but not too much, to enable them to adjust their paths subtly and to avoid disaster. What it also means is that it can never be absolutely symmetric. Somethings have to be off-kilter, just enough, for evolution to do it’s stuff.
A Proportionality Constant of Spacetime
In a fifth installment of this website, I would summarize our simple view that all we observe in our 4 dimensional universe is driven by interactions that disperse available energy. And more, that our 4 dimensional universe is the only universe made up of space and time that could survive with the right amount of stability and instability to allow evolution and the dispersal of energy towards chaos. Yet, there remains gaps and still more questions in our thinking. What is matter and mass, for example? And energy, what’s that? Is this all simple, too? In fact, they are simple. We know Einstein’s famous equation E= Mc^2 (this is how math and physics majors write “squared” with a ^2) showing that Energy is equal to Mass times the square of the speed of light, c.
Let’s start with the speed of light, the little “c”. The little c was picked when it became clear from experiments that the speed of light was a constant no matter how you measure it, whether jogging, or standing still, or traveling on a train. Always light moved at a constant speed. That’s unlike anything else we can measure. If you are on a train and measure anything else moving in relation to you, you will measure a different speed than if you measured it standing still. Think of a catastrophic head-on collision of two cars each moving at 50 mph. If you were unfortunate enough to be in one car, the other car would look like it was travelling 100 mph towards you! Not so with light. If you were in a car moving 50 mph and you were targeted by a state trooper and his laser speed gun, you would measure the speed of the laser light as “c”, the same speed that the trooper would measure the speed of laser light as “c”, standing still. As you move towards him, the time it takes light to reflect back to him is shorter and shorter. He can easily calculate your speed by measuring the time difference in reflections, because the speed of light is constant.
So, is there something “special” and “mystical” about the speed of light? I know when I started learning about stuff, a few teachers treated it as mystical. Or as something that could only be understood by a few great men, like Einstein (maybe, just maybe, because they didn’t understand it themselves?). It’s something, like Newton’s gravity. We just had to accept it to the point it numbed our brains. The speed of light is constant “c”. It’s constant “c”, because it’s the speed of light. Or the most mind-numbing mysticism of all, “You can’t travel ‘faster’ than the speed light. Why not? You just can’t.”
K.I.S.S. is a great concept for understanding our universe. It’s brought us this far. Look for the simplest explanation that disperses energy. We have a universe of spacetime made up of 3D space and 1D time dimensions that is tied together. It exists and evolves, because it can equate or transform dimensions of space (measure in feet, yards, meters, etc.) into the dimension of time (measures in seconds, hours, etc.). It needs some kind of proportionality constant that can do the conversions, and it has to be constant throughout space and time. And that constant is what we call the speed of light (measured in feet per second or meters per second, etc.) It equates a certain amount of space to a certain amount of time. That’s all it is! Nothing mystical; nothing a carpenter or mason, or assistant manager at KFC can’t understand. The proportionality constant of our universe happens to be about 299,792,458 meters per second or 186,000 miles per second, or 671 million miles per hour. Or about one foot per nanosecond. It just so happens that some particles like photons are constantly transforming space and time, moving as waves and particles. Lucky for us, because we can then measure them and begin to figure this stuff out.
The Knotty Question of Matter
I will lay out what would be the sixth installment to the website. Looking at Einstein’s relatively simple equation equating Energy to Matter and mass, E=Mc^2, we saw that the speed of light is really the proportionality constant between the space dimensions and the time dimension. When a constant is multiplied to a constant, c*c = c^2 for instance, the product,c^2, is also a constant. This quantity c^2 is acting as a proportionality constant between energy and matter (what constitute mass).
What is matter? What is the nature of particles in spacetime? Whoa, that is a massive question (no pun intended). Here we skirt the speculative, but altogether rational realm based on recent experiments verifying the Higgs Boson and other particles. The Higgs Bosons are identified as the conveyors of mass to particles.
On thing that has been explored, mostly in theory and experiments like those that discovered the Higgs Boson, but also in astrophysical observations of distant galaxies, black holes, quasars, supernovas, and proto-galaxies through the use of ‘gravitational lensing’ or knotting of spacetime is the persistence of what are thought to be knots. The persistence of knots in 3D space so closely resembles the persistence of particles, that it suggests particles are nothing more than knots in spacetime! Now we begin to see the source of forces.
A knot of spacetime, a particle, is embedded in spacetime, and its twist will twist the surroundings locally. Think how a rope twists as you twist it in a spiral. That twist in turn twists, and the warp is propagated into the 3D distance. Gravitation, or the warping we call gravitation, is then just the consequence of the embedding into spacetime of its own knots. The greater the knot and knottiness of the object, the greater amount of Higgs Bosons travelling in their straight, uniform paths are “entrapped” and then exchanged, the greater becomes its mass, and greater its distant influence.
(That’s it for Our Origins posts from 6 years ago.)