Rollin' Like Sisyphus

Physics As Performed By Abbott & Costello — Part 5

Posted in Who's On First? by Huckleberry on May 30, 2014

Not on your side.

Not on your side.

Time is a funny thing.
Listen to any physicist opine on what troubles him about cosmology or quantum mechanics, and you’ll hear a lot about gravity – it’s the sexy black box that we can’t even locate, that we just assume is there because while we can extrapolate it’s effects, we don’t know what it is. Like just about everything else in existence, gravity is impotently weak at the quantum level and unfathomably powerful at the cosmic level; to make a whole lot of math work, it’s assumed that one of the many permutations of our vibrating strings is a super-sub particle called a graviton, though no “direct” evidence of its existence has yet been encountered. More placeholders and more inferences to make math work.
If you take away nothing else from this series of posts, please remember that the sum total of our practical, actual knowledge – despite our resident astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s adamance to the contrary – is humiliatingly dwarfed by the sum total of what we don’t and possibly cannot know.
So what the Hell does gravity have to do with this?
So happy you asked.
The foundation of Einstein’s theory of General Relatively rests on a set of field equations that describe the physical space we call The Universe as a unified entangled entity known as spacetime. Rather then the previous model of 3-dimensional space, Einstein gave us a 4-dimensional model where time was just another plot point on a coordinate grid, as susceptible to gravity as mass and energy. I’m not going to go off into the weeds with the current theories of 10- and/or 11-dimensional spacetime. The extra dimensions are in part an effort to reconcile Einstein’s equations with the vagaries of quantum mechanics. For practical purposes, all you need to know is that according to the theoretical framework, time is simply another aspect to be measured, which depends almost completely on one’s perspective at a given moment.
Which leads us away from a steady-state, passive and impartial universal model (one that makes sense) to one that is wholly dependent on an observer observing something. At the largest scale, time is an integral component of the universal expansion that we can actually see, along with the entropic effect that we can accurately measure; at the smallest scale, time may very well not exist at all. Many of the linear, straightforward assumptions we make about the “flow of time” don’t apply to sub-particles and waveform fields in relation to each other – all experiments on this level are essentially corrupted by the observer, which we’ve already covered, but the agent for the corruption in nearly every instance is time itself.
So how in the Hell does time “not exist” at the quantum level?
In a Relative universe, time is but one function of motion of an observed object in relation to the observer. As we already covered in the first post of the series, for photons and other massless particles with a fixed constant for velocity, there is essentially no motion from the particle’s perspective, and only the act of observation supplies the temporal dimension to the particle’s infinite-yet-momentary existence. Put another way, at the quantum level, we’ve already established that you can observe either a particle’s position within a field, or its momentum. For time to function as we know it at that level, you must be able to observe both in the same observation.
Yet again, we keep bumping into that problem, that perception is the path to existence.
But Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t have time for that.
I think I’ve only got about two (maybe three) more of these posts left – 1 to discuss the experiment, 1 to discuss Backward Time Interpretation as a direct result of that experiment, and 1 to cap everything off with my own Alex-Jones-Style, Hopelessly-Lost-In-The-Tall-Grass ideas on the topic.
My apologies.
I’ve tried to cap this off in a brief number of posts, but it just isn’t working out that way.


3 Responses

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  1. Doom said, on May 30, 2014 at 12:14

    You are doing quite well. Splendid, indeed. Just remember it is all a story, even if you absolutely know it isn’t. Because, even if you know it isn’t? It is. Urhm, don’t take it all so seriously. Just enjoy the ride. It’s much more pleasant than using the one paddle we were given to try to row upstream. Okay, that isn’t true, for… *cough* some of us. *cough*

    But just enjoy anyway. I am. I think. Well… that’s my story on this subject. Can’t wait for the rest of yours. I’m patient, I have the rest of my life, and then some.

    As for time? I, personally, believe that time isn’t even what it seems on our, human, worldly, level. It’s not quite just perception based, either. I can’t quite twist my neck around that particular corner and see well enough to describe it. And… I could just be insane. But… I think there are… oddities regarding time, even when scaled. Observation of the observation… alters the thing. But if you are quick you can begin to see something very strange, like mirages, ambiguities… something. Time isn’t quite what it seems. More like gravity, or heat, than a fixed event… Or like water! Or more like mercury is to metal as we commonly know metal, time is less a ‘metal’ and more a liquid. Never mind, just… Something.

  2. Giraffe said, on May 31, 2014 at 14:46

    I am digging the series.

  3. El Borak said, on May 31, 2014 at 17:03

    Epicycles, FTW.

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