Thinking In Time And Space


When I was a child I wanted to be a Theoretical Physicist. Maybe the fact that Albert Einstein was somebody I looked up to might have had something to do with it. However, looking back into it, he was an influence but not a determining factor. My father had a bigger hand in what I wanted to be in addition to my own curiosity. I remember clearly playing, as a child, that I was an interstellar and time traveler. It was not, however, your standard child play … it was more mental.

While my childhood is long gone and I have abandoned many of the topics that interested me then, Theoretical Physics remains an interest. I do not have the required time to pursue it in the manner I would normally do something that interests me – all time consuming – so I stay at a very high and abstract level; conjectures, theories, mere ideas and imagination.

Two very basic and important elements in Physics are Time and Space. These elements can also be understood as concepts and used as basic building blocks. One small disclaimer, while I believe that Mathematics is a Universal language – and by it I mean Universal in the cosmic sense – I will not use it as part if this writing. I would like to say that is because people will not be able to follow, but the truth is that I am way too rusty in it.

Some definitions first:

Space

1 A continuous area or expanse that is free, available, or unoccupied : a table took up much of the space | we shall all be living together in a small space | he backed out of the parking space.
• an area of land that is not occupied by buildings
an empty area left between one-, two-, or three-dimensional points or objects : the space between a wall and a utility pipe.

2 The dimensions of height, depth, and width within which all things exist and move : the work gives the sense of a journey in space and time.
• (also outer space) the physical universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere.
• the near vacuum extending between the planets and stars, containing small amounts of gas and dust.
• Mathematics a mathematical concept generally regarded as a set of points having some specified structure.

Time

The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole : travel through space and time | one of the greatest wits of all time.
• the progress of this as affecting people and things : things were getting better as time passed.
• time or an amount of time as reckoned by a conventional standard : it’s eight o’clock Eastern Standard Time.
( Time or Father Time) the personification of time, typically as an old man with a scythe and hourglass.

When I think of space I think in multiple levels. Just like the definition above, I think of the standard mathematical construct – a point in space is defined as 3 points, one on the x plane, one on the y plane and one on the z plane – I guess I can not escape my training. I think about the laws of Physics – two objects can not occupy the same space concurrently (but that is in 3 dimensions). I think of the house I live in, the office I use every day, the car I drive. I also thinking about distance. The distance from my office to my home, from my home office to the bedroom, and so on.

But the space that concerns me most is the distance between celestial bodies, such as planets, stars and galaxies; similarly, the distance between atoms, electrons, protons, neutrinos. The full understanding of these spaces are key to understanding Physics and thus, the Universe. Often times I ask people what kind, or what size, of a space they can hold in their heads. The most interesting one was “from here to the door”. I though the person was kidding, but it was true. He could only “imagine” the distance he could “see”, which was from where he was to the door. The interesting part was that he fully understood the question and the concept I was after. The rest of the answers were a combination of confused looks to small distances. The reality is that by-and-large people did not comprehend the question and/or have a limited way in which they think about the subject. Not everybody is bothered with such triviality.

When I ask the same question of myself the answer is very different. I can keep in my mind, in my imagination, in my consciousness, several million light years. I know it sounds not only presumptuous but strange. I can travel in just instances across large expanses of the Universe. I can see it in my mind and I can feel each meter going by. But what I can not see is the details.

I can see planets, but not if the planets are inhabited. I can see the color of their atmospheres but not the content. I can bounce from sun to sun and feel their warmth. The Universe is enormous. And the several million light years that I can keep in my mind are but just an tiny portion of the Universe. The Universe is infinite; so a few million light years means nothing. So, proportionally speaking, I can keep in my head not more than “from here to the door”.

While space is something in the “here and now”, time is a different story. Presented to the same “space” question but in regards to time, all people I have asked are at a loss. First, they do not understand the question. After I explain, they do not understand the concept. The question/concept is simple: How long a time can you “remember” and/or “perceive” in your mind.

I can keep billions of years in my head. However, unlike space, I can not travel through time. I wish I could, but I can not. The past is in the past and the future is yet to occur. I am not in particular a student of history. I like history as it serves the purpose of providing a somewhat of a context for understanding events, their cause and effect and how current events are influenced from past events. But history is hardly a means to “travel” to the past.

So, what do I exactly mean by saying I keep billions of years in my head? I feel that I have a good understanding of time and how events have a potential for unfolding. I do not claim, and I want to be clear about this, that I have a full and precise understanding of how events unfold, but only a full understanding that events do unfold and there are ramifications – this is obvious. The question I often ask is: If I could go back to the past and change something, would I now enjoy my children? The cold answer is “most likely not but I would have other children to enjoy”; or “my reality would be different so it does not matter”. And I also want to be clear that I love my children more than anything.

Extend the above simple example to prehistoric man. Or even beyond. What would have happen if a rock that fell to the left had fallen to the right when the primordial soup had first come together. An extra Carbon? Maybe Silicon? And beyond? What was there beyond … if The Big Bang Theory is what happened what happened instances after or before? And finally, what was there before the big bang?

Similarly, what does tomorrow hold in store for me? And in 10 years? What about my kids in 50? Or great-grandchildren in 100? Humanity in 1000? And how will the Universe look in 1 Million years? And that is where I stop, believe it or not. I keep questions in my mind, events with different possibilities and cause and effect from before the alleged Big Bang to 1 Million years in the future. As I said: Billions of years. After that my thoughts become confused, diffused and all together incoherent – you can argue that it is my general state of being, but … hey, pot shots later please.

An important question: Do I subscribe to The Big Bang Theory?

The important answer: Absolutely not.

Surprised? I hope not. When I was about 13 I had my first formal Physics class in High School. In grammar school Physics was a part of Math and Science. Argentina at the time had a different school structure than now. Grammar School was between 6 and 12, and High School between 13 and 17 or 18 depending if you went to a Normal or  Technical school. In class we were explained The Big Bang Theory. In its simplest terms the theory states that at one moment there was a singularity, like a dot made by a pencil and the next moment it expanded to our current universe; and in the expansion process, big amounts or energy were released, thus, BIG BANG!!

Most of my classmates did not really get it. However, being in a technical school they took is as dogma. A few of us scratched our heads. Half of us had come from a very strong religious background. So, the teachings of The Bible came to bare on  the discussion that ensued. The other half – I was amongst this second half – had come from a strong science background. For a time the discussion was monopolized by the religious folks. They brought up some good points; of course, all based on religious views. The teacher was somewhat of an ignoramus and could not intelligently or eloquently discuss The Big Bang from a religious point of view.

Eventually the religious chatter gave way to the science geeks. The teacher was a little better prepared for us than for the other students. But not that much more. My chief argument was that “while the creationist views did not make much sense in general given fossil evidence across multiple subject” – somebody said background radiation? – “The Big Bang Theory did not make sense either in spite of the fossil evidence” – again, background radiation anyone? – “How can a singularity no bigger than a pencil point be so dense as to “pack” all the necessary “matter and energy” to spawn the Universe? And what was there before the Big Bang – “NOTHING” would just not cut it.” The teacher was dumbfounded.

There was no conclusion to the discussion and it soon died out as the teacher continued with the lesson. What a wasted opportunity!!

The basic principle of the conversation remained with me to this day. Evidence needed to be found to support the theories, including creationism. I embarked on a life long venture to discover the evidence. I started with religion; I was foolish enough to think it was the easiest and most accessible. We will leave that for a different blog post.

Science, while still lacking, provided many of the answers I was looking for. But not all of them. To this day “modern” Science lacks the same depth that religion has achieve over a much longer life span. But it will get there and I suspect religion would not be anywhere close.

I do have to say that I have a great deal of respect for religious people, specially the ones that can carry out a conversation in “scientific” terms – and even better if there is some libation fueling the mood. Being able to have faith is enviable.

What do I propose as an alternative theory? For starters, the Universe has always been and will always be. While it may sound as a cop-out, I feel very strongly that from a logical point of view it makes more sense. Consider Einstein’s conservation of mass and energy: No mass is lost but transformed; no energy is lost but transformed. No matter how dense a singularity can be, in my wildest imagination I can not conceive it to have as much mass as the imaginable Universe has – not to say the rest of the Universe, the un-imaginable.

What I can imagine is all of the celestial bodies’ and their gravitational field synching up and attracting each other. This occurred a long time ago; trillions and trillions of years ago, if not more. We now observe the Universe expanding, but to an observer on those times, the Universe would have been contracting. As the bodies got closer together, their collective gravities started to tear the bodies apart further increasing the overall gravitational field and accelerating the bodies to each other converging in some “Point” in “Space”.

Again, from an observers point of view, it would have looked as a very dense singularity  and relatively speaking, possibly as a “lead point”.

At some point in time gravity was so strong that all bodies collapsed on each other creating a massively dense – not only mass but also energy in the form of gravity – conglomerate of bodies to a point that stored and potential energy in the system became so large that it needed to be released. And this release is what has become known as the “Big Bang”.

Maybe I need to restate what I previously wrote – it is not that I do not believe in the Big Bang, but that I think the theory is incomplete and erroneous in its assumptions from a timed events point of view.

There is another point that needs to be brought up: What is the definition of “ … some ‘Point’ in ‘Space’”? In other words, how is this point expressed and what is its dimensionality? And again … that is a topic for a different post.

Further Reading:

http://www.fortunecity.com/emachines/e11/86/big-bang.html

http://www.universetoday.com/2008/06/13/thinking-about-time-before-the-big-bang/

http://www.tomcoyner.com/before_the_big_bang_there_was__.htm

https://filer.case.edu/dts8/thelastq.htm

1 Comment

Filed under General, Interesting, Thoughts

One response to “Thinking In Time And Space

  1. Comments should be fixed now!!

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