Friday, 13 July 2007

Mightn't it be Quite Simple?

I'm currently reading The Fabric of Reality by David Deutsch. OK, some of you may know, I've been on it for two months, but I've got a bad habit of reading more than one book at a time. There are six by the bedside as we speak.

Anyway, back to Mr Deutsch.

He remains confident that the answers to the last big theoretical questions are in reach.
Soon we will know all the Hows and Whys. From then on, it will be just be about us finding better and cleverer ways to apply this knowledge.
Though of course, discoveries will still be made. Understanding evolution didn't stop us finding undiscovered life forms.

I think he's right.
I don't think there is much mysterious any more.

In fact I am prepared to a hazard a guess as to how simple- and close- the answers might be.

How to finally reconcile Quantum Mechanics and Einsteins Gravitional theory is one problem.

Now a physicist will tell you that one of the unsatisfactory parts of our current worldview, is the plethora of sub atomic particles.
There are about five hundred in theory. It's too complicated a model. Complication is rarely reality.
We are at the same point chemists were a hundred years ago. A hundred elements. What made them different?
The answer was in the way they were built. They all actually consisted of electrons, protons, and neutrons in differing numbers.

In some way, surely, the same must be true of sub atomic partcles. But how?

I would say simply, that we look at the great division in them. Half are massless and travel at 186,000 miles a second. The rest are massed and don't.

Now massed particles have a wave function, just as light particles do. But the frequency is infinitely higher, if we use that term here. It seems reasonable to assume that a particle's form is entirely a product of it's wave function, if you think about it. Maybe above a certain wave function, a particle warps the space around it, as the sun does at a bigger level. This warp, of a particle travelling round in a circle at lightspeed, creates mass.
This is just my musing here, I add.

Looking wider, Stephen Hawking's recent calculations about black hole decay, are a breath of relief for anyone who hoped for reassurance of understanding the universe.
For it meant that the laws of thermodynamics still reign supreme, unchallengeable even a black hole.
These state;
1. In any process, the total energy of the universe remains constant.
2. There is no process that, operating in a cycle, produces no other effect than the subtraction of a positive amount of heat from a reservoir and the production of an equal amount of work
3. As temperature approaches absolute zero, the entropy of a system approaches a constant

And you know what this means, don't you?

It means that the laws of thermodynamics operate even in a singularity.
It means they operated even in the instant of the Big Bang, and would operate identically in ANY universe you chose to postulate.
Alone amongst all the laws of physics.
The rest, as they stand, MIGHT simply be properties of our own.

So, in the instant of creation, we are left with a quanta of energy, and the laws of thermodynamics.

Which means we can confidently say that everything else, the strength of gravity, the strength of nuclear forces, the evolution of life, are all the result of that one variable appearing at a mathematical point, plus the laws of thermodynamics.

And it all eventually leads to heat death.

It does really look that simple.


Anonymous said...

Thats much what I concluded myself... but what about the bit in Event Horizon where they all change into monsters? Explain that then...

Anonymous said...

Wow, you are way too smart! I have been forced to watch a few NOVA specials and I still don't get teh concept of gravity! I do understand String Theory though!

Anonymous said...

The discourse is to dense for me to even muster some kind of intelligible comment. Sometimes I think the rhetoric gets in the way of the simple truths.

Anonymous said...

Very unwise of you to pronounce the imminent coming of total comprehension. ;)

... reminds me of the Victorian who stated that 'everything that could be invented already had been invented' after the invention of the steam engine and telephone.

Anonymous said...

Hm ... as Sergeant MacCruiskeen used to say, you are getting very close to the essential inheritent interior essence which is hidden in the roots of the kernel of everything. :)

Anonymous said...

The concept of gravity, Jenny is that massive bodies distort space/time. Einstein posited that space and time were the same 'material' you could name it ... spacetime :-)

A cube of space before you now is not the same space that it was a second ago or a second after ...

When you have a planet such as ours the spacetime around it is attracted inwards towards the center of the planet (center of gravity), anything passing through the compressed spacetime is drawn towards the center of the planet.

Imagine someone standing on a trampoline and the indentation their feet make in it. Then drop a ball onto it and it will roll into the dip.

Crushed - your article still doesn't explain space and time; particle theory is good - but what is spacetime exactly ? Does time actually pass or is this an illusion ?

Anonymous said...

Now explain to me string theory, because I don't understand that.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you use math, physics, and chemistry in your blog, too! I thought it was just me. Thank God!

Anonymous said...

Mutley- You are right. This is hard to account for.
Quite why wardrobes lead to Narnia is a little hard to account for also. Quantum Uncertainty?

Jenny- Enisten's Gravity sees space as warped by mass. The Eartyh would travel in a straight path, but the sun massively warps the space around it, so the earth travels in an ellipse.

Alexys- Sorry. I just enjoy the odd bit of theoretical speculation.

David- Max Planck's teacher told him not to go into physics, as they'd pretty much worked everything out!
I'm just guessing, really. But a lot of physicists do think that most of the major theoretical paradigm shifts have ben passed through.

Sean- I find it all fascinating. The idea of human existence being a simple consequrence of thermodynamics raises a lot of implications.

E-K- In a simple sense, time is simply the rate of change. At a simple level, the Planck Tick, the shortest time unit, is the shortest conceivable unit, as the Planck length is the shortest length. Thing is, at this level, time and space are in fact discontinuous- you cannot have 1.3 Planck Units or 1.3 Planck length.

I simply see spacetime as the rour the initial energy quants takes to reach heat death. It is the unravelling and dissapation of energy.
That's how I interpret it.

String theory sees particles as 'strings' of energy, their frequency determined by differential vibration. There are many good points to the theory. It's pretty mathematically accurate in its assertions, the 11 dimensions bit seems theoretically correct, but it seems to be in a bit of disfavour at the moment.

One of its advantages is it eliminates the need for gravitons - theoretical gravity particles. this is one of those annoying areas where Quantum theory postulates a particle which is completely unnecessary in Einstein's theory.

Anyway, I still am puzzled, what happened to your blog??

Anonymous said...

Lucy- Occasionally. There isn't too much of a pattern in what gets posted round here.
In facts my maths is pretty atrocious.
I have one of those butterfly minds that flits around.

Anonymous said...

My blog is back Crushed. I recommend The Fabric of the Cosmos to you. Timespace is viewed as a solid chunk through which we move:

Edward III is still there in 1327 'now' - the interesting thing about this theory is that future events are already there waiting in 2027 'now'. I use the word 'now' loosely because I can't think of another way of putting it.

This seems to suggest that our lives follow a template that is already pre-ordained.

My blog is zapped but I have started a new one if you click on my name (new address). I thought it would be a good idea to 'go on the wagon' as I was becoming consumed by the hobby. I lasted 2 days and I'm obviously hopelessly addicted.

Jenny, you've just been blog-rolled. Not because you think I'm a pervert (which I am) but because you know the secret of strings.

Anonymous said...

Is it simply that all there ever is and ever was is energy. That space, time, matter gravity are all the same unit except showing different characteristics under different conditions/pressures both real and metaphorical ?

The great cooling you are talking of is the end of entropy, basically the ceasing of all movement of all energy in all its forms and a collapse into the ultimate singularity (black hole) from whence we came ?

And is it possible that some ripple in that nothingness could provide the impetus for the catalyst that is the birth of a new cosmos from the black hole from whence we came ? Is this impetus what people mistakenly took to be God ? LET THERE BE LIGHT ! An apparently motivic force which turns out in all actuallity to be quite inanimate, soulless and heartless.

Was there ever a question 'why ?' outside the human mind ? Perhaps just an isolated answer 'All just is.'

And have you tried one of those chunky Kit-Kats yet ? Fucking delicious.

Anonymous said...

Well, I would say that progress through time is the a result of the way we experience change. Deutsch gets quite into the idea that all possible options of any partcle's movement exist, but we only one of those options. Since our actions are themselves governed by chemical reactions, governed partcle movwments, evrything YOU coull be possivly have done, you have done any one of those infinite realities that happen as we speak, he argues that they're all equally real.

I tentatively suggst that only one is actually real.
The one which leads the universe to entropy quickest.

You see my easy summation of the laws of thermodynamics, the way I see it, are;

All energy brings dissipates itself by the path of least resistance.

I believe that simply IS the sole governing law of physics.

Anonymous said...

...He remains confident that the answers to the last big theoretical questions are in reach.
Soon we will know all the Hows and Whys...

Sigh. The humanistic dream. Tower of Babel all over again.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why the strong nuclear force only operates at such short distances, or why gravity is so much weaker than the other fundamental forces. Apart from that I pretty much understand exactly how the Universe operates.

Anonymous said...

I pretty much understand how a can opener operates.

Does that count ? I imagine the principle is similar ?


Anonymous said...

Crushed-what is it about man (as a general term, of course) that seeks to define and prove? It seems we have always struggled with acceptance and faith in our quest to know our environ. A little mystery is still good.

Anonymous said...

Lord SB- Ultimately everything that exists moust be logically reducible. Through Empirical Observation and Theoretical reasoning, then ultimately there is no compelling reason why we won't know all the answers one day.

Deutsch could be wrong.
Kelvin said in 1905 that there where only two unssolved mysteries in physics; black body radiation and the failure to detects the Ether.
The answers to both those problems showed that the universe was far more complex than they'd been hoping.

Ed- Einstein said that gravity wasn't really, a force simply a feature of warped space.

It's possible that the other three forces are similar in some way, in which case their relatuve strengths would simply be determined by the TYPE of warp. If we envisage spacetime in eleven dimensions, we could be looking at warps in other dimensions.
By other dimensions, we don't mean co-existant dimensions here, we mean wrapped up inside space and not observable above atomic level.

Merlin- Well, in the sense that it operates under the laws of thermodynamics, yes.

Helen- Interesting point. There IS actually a scientific answer as well!
Surplus male energy, put simply.
The Black widow eats the male straight after sex. It's useless now. Might as well have his tissue to feed the kids with.
In most insect specie, the colonial societies evolved partly to use up the energy of all the males not involved in breeding.
Using up spare male energy is a problem in nature.
Most carnivorous predators solve it by having them fight and slaughter eachother for mates. This is simple Darwinism at work. Of course, it accelerates the process, because the most energetic with most surplus energy breed more and produces offspring with more surplus energy. This is why predatory species evolve quicker in terms of morphological change.

It is that huge surplus of social energy available, that when channelled sensibly by a species capable of conceptualisation and communication that has led to the dramatic acheivements of the last ten thousand years.

Instead of eighty percent of us being slaughtered before twenty five- the life of Homo Erectus, we turn this to mastering our environment and pulling ourselves upward.

Even when when we have solved these complexities, there will be mysteries.
As I say, We understood evolution a long time ago. It doesn't stop us finding strange new forms of life, whose place in the scheme is a mystery.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, and where is all the anti-matter?

Anonymous said...

Einstein may or may not have been right, but if it is not a force just the bending of space then some effect must cause the bending. The bending is caused by the presence of matter so how does that differ from the presence of a proton causing an electrical force?

Anonymous said...

Visualize whirled peas...

Anonymous said...

Oh I give is worse than Mr EKs guest post.. oh blimey!! I am contacting me old mate Foucault about this!

Anonymous said...

"A laugh for the fool of the world who thinks he can make things work
Tried to build a new Jerusalem
and ended up with New York"
--Bruce Cockburn

To put it another way: anyone who thinks we're this close to answering all the big questions is a bit deluded, in my not so humble opinion.

Remember 42.

Anonymous said...

Ed- The same could be true of all forces, they just have effects in different ways. If a quark be seen as a photon with a hugely higher frequencty than an ordinary photon, creating a warp in space and therefore travelling at the speed of light around on itself, then the the remaining three forces (EM, SN, WN)would all be similar in principle to gravity.

Anti-matter is the big unresolved question.
A bit like the failure to discover the Ether!
I have no opinions, I'll admit. Though I worry when I hear attempts to bring back the cosmological constant.

Lilith- I'm visualising them now. Does this mean all particles are green?

Mutley- It's not rocket science.
Hang on-
You're right. It IS rocket science.

Benji- It may well be so. But the answers, when we do find them, will be simple.

Thomas Huxley, on first hearing Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection;

'Of course! How remarkably stupid that no one thought of that before!'

Anonymous said...

Work very good, thank you

Anonymous said...

I thought that all particles were made up of combinations of quarks. Re anti-matter, it's not the same as not being able to see the ether, because if conservation of energy/mass is true then there must be somewhere enough anti-matter to cancel out all the matter that is clearly here, or is there another part of the universe identical to this one but made of anti-matter? Perhaps it is too far away for us to have met it yet.

Anonymous said...

Visualised whirled peas ...

Good grief !

Anonymous said...

Gosh, you are so scientific! Now tell me why everything hits you when you're down. I always seem to have about 6 books on the go at a time, too.

Anonymous said...

David- Thanks. Did you use the translator?

Ed- Protons and neutrons are made up of thre quarks each. Electrons, phptons, neutrinos etc are fundamental particles.
Problem is we tend to assume isotropy in our universe- it's part of the model- so the assumption is that for some reason we just don't see the dark matter.
Part of the reason for the assumption of dark matter is gravity. Every galaxy we observe must contain a lot more mass than we can see.

E-K- Best not to try.

Welshcakes- It's a bad habit of mine. They're usually on very different subjects, as well, though I tend to go through phases.

Anonymous said...

Electro Kevin...thanks for the explanation on gravity! I totally get it now! As for String Theory...that is much too advanced you for!