With regard to space access tech

Discussion in 'Astronomy, Exobiology, & Cosmology' started by Boris, May 23, 1999.

  1. Boris Guest

    There's lots of talk about the things we already know -- like light sails and antimatter drives. However, I'm confident that there's still a lot of fundamental physics to be discovered. These discussions probably will end up sounding like Jules Verne's ideas about getting to the moon: by getting shot out of a cannon.

    There certainly are possibilities of manipulaing the structure of space, or even matter itself.

    For example, what if we could completely negate the inertial properties of matter -- thus accelerating to any speed (including faster than light). And what if we could actually reverse those inertial properties, so that matter would prefer acceleration over rest -- thus effectively using the fabric of space to push it as fast as we want! Electromagnetic radiation by definition propagates at speed of light -- but through what medium, why or how is still not known; what if we could make matter propagate at speed of light by similar principles? Heck, it may even turn out that matter and light propagate naturally at some harmonic multiple of c, implying that there could be things that move at 2c, 3c, etc!

    The possibilities are endless, and I'm not the one to think of them all. But certainly I'm optimistic about humanity eventually getting to the stars, most likely through technology we can't even foresee in our wildest dreams...
     
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  3. Even if the inertial properties were cancelled, the interstellar craft would be subject to Einsteinian space time. Therefore the speed of light would would still be the limit. The craft would become more massive as the speed of light was approached and time would slow down as experienced on the craft. This of course would apply only to an outside observer, everything would seem normal on board the craft. Another concern with near light speed travel in normal space time is collision with any matter in the craft's path. Even collisions with sparce intersteller gas (let alone passing through a nebula) would cause severe radiation on board the craft. Also, as the craft approaches another solar system there is the more catastrophic chance of collision with an object in the Oort cloud or Kupier belt while still far out from any planets. I think the answer may lie in superstring physics. It is believed that superstrings make up quarks, which make up everything else. If this is true superstrings would be the "unified field" everyone is looking for. And for superstrings to be possible physics / mathamatics predict the existence of 11 dimensions in order to be stable. This would give us 7 unknown and unused dimensions that we could possibly travel through. The microcosmic and macrocosmic are linked. Perhaps we could use this link to circumvent the ordinary four (h x w x d x time) dimensions that currently limit our travel.


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    MGM
     
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  5. Sirius B Guest

    Boris and MGM both have very well thought out points of view. I would like to introduce something that is a bit more SCI-FI if I may, can anyone entertain the idea of an interstellar mode of travel that involves "thought?" I mean, could there possibly be a way to travel (albeit virtual) from point "A" to point "B" without enduring any of the harsh elements that are placed on our "ooh-soo" fragile bodies? Wouldn't that allow us to study other environments and to gather information that could be used to help us right here on Earth? What do you think?
     
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  7. poduri Guest

    light is a condition...either on or off!
     
  8. Boris Guest

    With respect to the light speed limit: the increase in mass is an increase in the inertial mass, not the gravitational mass. This is what one of my conjectures is about: if we can circumvent inertia, this unbounded increase in inertia as one approaches the speed of light would never happen! But the point may be moot anyway -- the relativistic effects appear because there's an assumption of no absolute frame of reference. That's a philosophical assumption that has a 50% chance of being wrong. I'm wagering it'll be wrong -- call me old-fashioned, but I just can't accept the idea that EM 'waves' propagate through *nothing*.

    There's got to be some sort of an ultimate 'aether' that gives rise to waves, particles, matter -- that even encompasses what we call 'space' with its three degrees of motion and ability to stretch or expand. Lately, there's been evidence of a universe-wide inflationary force pushing everything away from the point of the Big Bang; such effects can't exist in a vacuum -- they must be a manifestation of the underlying medium that gives rise to the observable physical reality. The inflationary thing may be a false alarm, or here to stay; but, regardless, we have too many examples of 'action at a distance' that, in my opinion, inescapably suggests an underlying frame of reference. Maybe it'll end up being some n-dimensional string, maybe something we can't even liken to an object we are familiar with -- the point is, possibilities are endless and we are only at the beginning of the road.

    But the concerns about collisions with all the cosmic 'dirt' are certainly valid. We'd need some kind of an energy shielding technology, like in Star Trek or Star Wars, before we could realistically hope to travel anywhere near light speed. Then there's of course the possibility of traveling along some other dimensions -- but as those are currently nothing more than mathematical possibilities I wouldn't hold my breath (especially since they are supposed to be 'wrapped up' upon themselves at sub-quantum scales).

    As for 'travel by thought' -- what's that about? Thought is only a congregation of electrochemical activity in the brain; it has no more capacity for travel than the patterns of electrical currents in the hardware of your computer. It can certainly take you places, but if you want to go anywhere for real, thought alone won't get you very far

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  9. There will definitly be more tech advances in the travel of interstellar space. In fact, humans will never cease to gain more knowledge. Even if we create robots thousands of times smarter the us, they will never find out all the secrets of the universe. Every partical found in the universe is formed by smaller and smaller particals. The deeper we get into a particle the more sub particles we will find. If i'm not mistaking, even a photon must be made of smaller structures. This type of particle regression can also be used to look at our universe. All the galaxies combined might make up a tiny particle, and then a whole bunch of those tiny particles would make up another bigger particle. So when I think of universes inside other universes i think of this concept. Our universe along with countless others might be the fundamental particals of a whole nother universe inside itself, Possibly with life.......(the life would be unaware that a tiny little particle in its body would be our HUGE universe)

    The same thing applies with us. Mabye there lies countless universes in the particles of our body.

    When i think about reality this way, a BIG BANG doesn't really seem so big.
    What do you'all think??????????????
     
  10. Plato Guest

    Boris,

    I think we all agreed that the ether theory was a dead end at the beginnin of this century. The thing that you are looking for is the underlying field.
    Photons are the quanta of the maxwell field like electrons and other spin 1/2 particles are quanta of the dirac-field. Relativistic quatuantum fieldtheory (a whole mouth full) shows that particle fields which are gauge invariant (this means that they stay the same under Lorentz transformations) give way to particles and their interaction particles. This means that the maxwell field can be derived from the dirac field if one makes it gauge invariant.

    Changing the properties of timespace to travel at greater then lightspeed would involve making a wormhole where the lightspeed is like n times the speed in our universe and making at the same time the restmass of your spaceship much smaller. This will make your ship upon entering a wormhole go much faster then light without violating conservation of impuls. This means that there will be no sensation of acceleration either, space itself will simply fold up in front of you and stretch out after you. This way you also don't have to worry about colliding into other matter because you make your own space where there is no other matter then your spaceship. Of course this made convenient abstraction of how to make such a specific wormhole, but that's science fiction.

    Double Overdrive, you amaze me !
    This is exactly the theory I had some years ago. You do realise that the sets of universes are also dimision wise sets of each other. What I mean is that the tiny universes are of 2 dimensional creatures and that the creatures who are made of our and simular universes are 4 dimensional creatures and so on. This might go on to infinity. This means that each possible stage of universal evolution is present in these sets of universes. This is the flaw unfortunately, there must also be a universe how is in it's big bang (or big crunch) fase and thus annihilating each single elementary particle that it is made of thereby also destroying al the sub universes al the way down to our universe. This means our universe can't exist ! Which it clearly does.

    Besides current theory has it that photons, electron and quarks are the fundamental particles of which matter and energy exists. String theory claims they are vibrating strings so there is no real place anymore for those tiny universes. Anyway they could never be verified to exist because they by definition don't interact with our universe so on comes Occams Razor and cuts the over abundant fat away.
     
  11. currently we haven't even saw whatt an electron looks like. How can we infer that the electron (photon or quark) is made of NOTHING... There has to be some way these are constructed. If it turns out there are other sub-particles that make up these particles, then there is no denying that at a very small level other universes can exist. Cosmology still hasn't solved how fast our universe is moving (this is differen't from expanding) Maybe our universe has the property of an expanding particle which IS CREATED (hence the BIG BANG) Maybe all universes are created in a big bang scenario, which in turn will create other sub-universes (similar to the INFLATION THEORY)

    If any of you have seen the Men in Black movie you will know kinda what i'm talking about. At the end of Men in Black is show the camera zooming out until you see our whole universe, then suddenly many universes like ours start to form a particle. About a second later the camera zooms out into a pro-universe type thing, where there is an alien planet with odd forms of life.

    I believe that the "grey aliens" that supposedly visit Earth, come from pro-universes (or sub-universes). If you think about it, all they have to do is shrink themselfs down to our size. That means they can instantly travel to anywhere in our universe. When they leave our universe and go back to the pro-universe, they can place themselves anywhere in their own universe instantly. This type of travel through universes could be alot more efficent then trying to learn how to overcome the speed of light limit. Personally I don't believe in worm holes that stay just in our universe. The "worm holes" would have to go to sub or pro universes to acctually "warp" to a specific location.

    -Double Overdrive
     
  12. Boris Guest

    Plato:

    With respect to your discussion of fields and particles: have you ever wondered what is a field? And what is a particle? Or, more accurately, that thing we call a particle, which also behaves as a wave when nobody is looking. How do these Maxwell and Dirac fields, which were postulated for Newtonian space by the way, implement themselves within a relativistic space-time? What is time -- is it really a dimension, or simply a manifestation of thermodynamics? What is really a 'spin'? A 'flavor'? 'Strangeness'? We've got lots of names for the various behaviors we observe among 'particles' -- but we have no idea why these particular behaviors, and not any others, are manifested, nor why in the particular combinations we observe. How are these so-called fields (which are localist) reconcilable with 'instant action at a distance' that is observed with EPR-like experiments? What is it exactly that a wave function represents? How can something that extends over the entire universe collapse instantaneously, given a light-speed limit? And those Lorentz transforms you mentioned -- they only work when there's an ultimate speed limit, like speed of light! So they aren't even reconcilable with quantum behavior!! Too many unanswered questions -- that's why I'm totally dissatisfied with today's explanations coming from GR and QED. Too many mathematical models, but no understanding of what it is that they really model...

    Your concept of wormholes is flawed. From the traveler's point of view, spacetime inside a wormhole is no different than outside -- there's still the light-speed limit, and your gravitational/inertial masses are the same. It's just that you are taking a shortcut within the fabric of spacetime itself -- like going through the center of the earth rather than around along its surface. In general with GR, universe has more than just 4 dimensions; there are additional dimensions along which spacetime bends -- it is along those dimensions that you travel differently when you go through a wormhole.

    As for the propulsion you described -- that's Alcubierre's warp drive which has nothing to do with wormholes. And with this sort of drive you don't create space -- nothing can create or destroy space. You simply contract space in front of yourself and expand it behind. So if there's an object in front of you, you'll end up 'squeezing' it even more, thus concentrating its energy, and then slamming into it anyway -- so you'd really need an energy shield.

    With respect to the infinite size regression hypotheses: not surprisingly, I've had similar thoughts in my own time. I think everybody who is interested in physics comes up with such a hypothesis sooner or later. Several snafoos: on the small scale, we seem to have a size limit called Planck's scale -- about 10^-33 m or something. Below this limit, everything turns into a chaotic quantum froth and no object can remain self-consistent for any time. Interesting question here: is the quantum froth real, or just a bad prediction of an incomplete theory stretched to a limit?
    On the large scale, of course, we have more room to speculate; but to really find out we'd have to come up with a way to take a peek outside of our spacetime confines -- which may not be possible at all. Or maybe someday it will happen, and then who knows

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    Plato: energy can't be created or destroyed, not even in a Big Bang (or so we think). So, where does all the matter/energy go after a big crunch? Where does it come from during a Big Bang? These questions actually would lead one to hypothesizing about parallel universes, as Stanford's Andrei Linde had done for example.
     
  13. Plato Guest

    Boris,

    it seems this discussion stirrs up a few emotions. If I have seem to arrogant in my previous post then a apologize.

    About fields. Yes I have had quite some thought about them and what they represent, I did my thesis on electroweak interactions so I think I kind of know what I'm talking about. May be some rust has come to some of my knowledge since it has been three years since I studied the subject extensively but that is just what happens if you give up one thing and start doing another.

    So what is a field ? Contrary to what you said Maxwell fields and Dirac fields are theories who where amongst the first who tried to reconcile relativity with quantum mechanics. The Maxwell fieldtheorie for example is a much richer and correcter way to describe electromagnetism then Maxwell did in the 19th century. Still Maxwell's equations where already in Minkovsky space without him realising this. It was this discrepancy with Newtonian space that Einstein lead to his relativistic theory. It was made in the late 1920'ies together with the Dirac field.

    Before we go any further on the field theories there has to be a clear understanding of time and space and their interaction with matter because like it or not but Einstein's GR is also a field theory.
    Time is as much a dimension as space is, in fact the latest theories suggest that there is little or no difference between them. (See Hawking 's theories on the big bang and the concept of imaginary time) Besides thermodynimics only defines an arrow in time not time itselve. There is still time needed to make anything happen, hell without time one can't even think about it, it is not because a state with low energy is more likely than a state with high energy that their also will be a transition between them. A transition implicates time as a predesposition.

    Now that we have come to terms with that (I hope) we are confronted with a timespace volume which we fill totally and everywhere with a field. A field is simply a property of timespace which it has in everyone of it's different points. Mathematically one could think of a volume in three dimensions where each point of the volume represents say a density of mass. The density can vary in each point of the volume and so does the field that fills up timespace.

    This field is the thing that does the waving and this waving is quantized and these quanta are the elementary particles that we know. Suppose we take a Kalusha-Klein field Lagrangian, f we choose the field to be scalair of nature with a (meaning it has no direction in space) we get bosons with zero spin. If we choose the field to be vectorial, as is the Maxwell field, we get spin 1 bosons. This means photons are the quanta of the underlying Kalusha-Klein field equations for vectorfields. Once you go to tensorfields you get al the other spins.
    These are bosons, to get fermions you must use the Dirac field. Scalair diracfields don't really exist because the lowest dimensional fields are the dirac spinors who are in fact 4 different states a spin up fermion, a spin down fermion, a spin up anti-fermion and a spin down anti-fermion.
    Ok, enough about that or I'm lost in a dissertation about fieldtheory.

    Action at a distance is not really the problem in EPR though, there is no real transfer of energy or matter needed to explain that and not even a transport of information that can be extracted (as you so kindly pointed out in our discussion about it a month ago (has it been that long?)). This phenomenon is part of the theory since it is explained by way of collapsing wavefunctions.

    You do seem to know a lot more about wormholes than I do, could you recommend a good site on the subject if I may ask.
    The way I saw wormholes (maybe wrongly) is as connected black holes. And of black hole I do know that once behind the event horizon there is no connection what so ever with our own universe so constants like lightspeed and restmass might be different there...

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    greetings,
    Plato
     
  14. Plato Guest

    Boris,

    I almost forgot your last comment on creation of energy. In field theories energy can be created from the vacuum in the form of particle/anti-particle pairs. This is allowed if the pair get's annihilated right after that. They are called vacuum fluctuations. The universe can be seen as one big vacuum fluctuation, in a different way of course since it clearly has no anti-universe or not that we know of till recently. The universe kind of borrowed the energy from the vacuum but like every loan it has eventually to be paid back hence the big crunch or the entropy death in an infinite universe. Experimental evidence is tending towards the last since it seems the universe has been speeding up since the big bang rather then slowing down. ( http://science.nasa.gov/newhome/headlines/ast25may99_2.htm )

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    greetings,
    Plato
     
  15. Sirius B Guest

    Boris,
    You seem to have this topic pretty well "thought" out.

    When I mentioned Space travel by thought, I wasn't trying to step on your scholarly explanation of the physics involved. I was merely trying to get some feedback (from someone who obviously knows about the subject)on the ideas presented in the movie "CONTACT." Wasn't that method of travel done by "thought?" Was that just "written in the script" or is there some sound, scientific explanation for what took place?

    If it could happen, it would seem to be the ideal method of travel (although I do like DOUBLE-OVERDRIVE'S pro-universe, sub-universe idea).
     
  16. In the movie "contact" she didn't travel by thought, she traveled through multiple worm holes. Those worm holes slowed down time to almost zero, to the obsevers on Earth it seemed like she passed right through the machine. But since she was going faster than light, time slowed down to the point where one instant on Earth was equal to her 18 hour experience. This property of the movie could have seemed to show some odd form of travel (such as thought) but the machine accually opened up the worm hole she traveled through.

    I believe worm holes are the only realistic method of conquering the speed of light barrier. Thought is only remembering of a certain thing, or contemplating about a certain thing that has already happened (Although we still don't know how some persons exibit ESP, which could be insight into time travel.)

    Finally, "Contact" was a very well written movie (Wasn't it written by Carl Sagan?). There was no twiching of the current cosmological theories. In fact, I believe that in the end of the movie it seem more likely that she didn't travel to another planet, that is was just a hoax set up by that space guy. I believe this because the extraterrestrials wouldn't have know how to write enginnering blueprints that we could have understood (plus the space guy gave the decoders a large hint into how to solve the message they got from vega.)

    -Double Overdrive
     
  17. Sirius B Guest

    "Hey" D.O.
    Thanks! That was the most "concise" and well thoughout explanation I have heard yet. I loved that movie however, I was never able to determine if she traveled or just "thought" she traveled. Thank you very much.

    So, the idea of traveling by mere thought is NOT a valid one after all.

    I read a book about the Dogon tribe (in Africa). Apparently, they were able to travel to another place in the cosmos (near the system of the star Sirius B)without the aid of a vehicle (THE SIRIUS MYSTERY/Rober K.G. Temple). There was also a program on (eons ago) called "IN SEARCH OF" hosted by Leonard Nemoy (did I spell his name right?)in which an explanation was given regarding this subject.

    Do you recall any such program? What can you tell me about this "Dog" Star and it's apparent inhabitants (now residing in Africa).
     
  18. Boris Guest

    Plato: sorry if I sounded emotional, that was not at all the intent. In fact, I rather enjoyed discussing this with you up to now, and especially now since you seem to know much more about QED than I do. Here's a few points that stand at the top of the list of things bothering me; all my other worries basically arise out of these few things.

    You mentioned the necessity of time as a dimension for description of any process. I patently disagree. You see, at first it seemed like a natural idea to me, but then the more I think about it the less natural it becomes. I suggest that time is ultimately quantized as well as space; I'm suggesting there is an ultimate granularity to spacial coordinates, and a corresponding granularity to time defined by the period of a field change propagating through the smallest length of space. Now, time becomes simply an index, and you can think of the unfolding physical universe as a sequence of video frames keyed to that index. This is what I'm talking about: time is really just a manifestation of the speed of propagation of a field disturbance within the local patch of the universe. By affecting the speed of propagation of field waves (e.g. through gravitational effects perhaps), we can speed up or slow down time. But, viewed this way, we could never reverse time, nor make a discontinuous jump 'into the future'.

    With respect to 'fields' -- you are basically asserting scalar/vector/tensor potentials. Again, what is behind those 'potentials'? For example, temperature in a room is a 3-D field of scalar potentials. But it actually represents agitation of air molecules at each point. In a similar vein, what does an electromagnetic field represent? That's the 'aether' I was talking about -- not in the same sense it was used by Maxwell and others, but in a more generic and fundamental sense -- as the stuff that *everything* is ultimately made of. The quantization of things at the small scale, in my opinion, testifies to an ultimate quantum 'matrix' that gives rise to all phenomena in the universe, where the matrix is itself quantized.

    Dualities really get me nervous. When a particle is both a particle and a wave, when something can exist and not exist at the same time, when events in the universe are both local and global, when gravity is both a spacetime curvature and a graviton field -- I get really upset. These things tell my gut that what we've got is a hack; just a hastily stapled-together mathematical house of cards. While we still have dualities taking center stage in our physical theories, I will never be satisfied. There must be something deeper, that makes a photon appear as a particle at one time and a wave at another -- something akin to molecules that manifest themselves as a crystal at one time, and a gas at another.

    Of course, as put by a famous asshole, "that's just my opinion, I could be wrong."

    Now, when we start getting into Steven Hawking and imaginary time, I'd really advise you to take anything he (and other leading physicists) says with a grain of salt. These guys are constantly on the cutting edge, so they just give you their latest interpretation -- being perfectly aware that it's incorrect. The reason they throw these ideas around in the first place is to help the community as a whole gain more insight, and work things out better so that all the pegs fit into all the holes. For example, in GR there's been at one time a lot of excited talk about time and space exchanging roles beyond the event horizon of a black hole (i.e. the particle begins to move along time, and age along space). Turns out these findings were only a result of a bad coordinate system that distorted the math. As soon as they found a more suitable coordinate system, time again became time just as space returned to being space.

    About locality vs. nonlocality: nothing is reconciled, despite the field theories. Einstein himself couldn't marry the localist model of GR with globalist QED. It's plain and simple: everything GR does involves localized, causal phenomena, while QED has things happening instantaneously on a global scale (still causal, but no longer localized). GR and QED are dual in this sense, just like photons are dual, being a particle and a wave at the same time. See my opinion above concerning duality...

    Also Plato, let me run this by you and see if I've got it right. As far as I understand, a wave function for a particle represents, among all other things, the position and momentum of the particle. Position and momentum are given as probabilities that drop off continuously. Now if that's so, then there's a nonzero probability that any given particle could be at any point in the universe. This means the wave functions stretch out over the entire universe. How, then, can something so enormous instantaneously collapse upon measurement? (Isn't that the phenomenon that the EPR paradox builds on?) Very very strange, when you actually think about how such functionality could be implemented -- I mean at some level along some dimension, the entire universe must be just a point!

    Anyway... The wormhole stuff. Actually, I didn't get it off a web site; I took a GR class where we calculated out some of the properties of a wormhole. But basically, any 'Introduction to General Relativity'-type book usually has a chapter on "wormholes", or "Einstein-Rosen bridges". You could drop by a bookstore or a library, pick up the first GR book, use the index to find the topic and it'll probably take you all of 5 minutes to get throgh it, given your mathematical background. Sorry I can't be more helpful.
    Basically, the main flaw in your idea of 'joined black holes' is that there's no singularity at the center -- no infinite spacetime compression anywhere throughout the wormhole. Sure, you still have the gravitational tidal forces, but for large enough (wide-throated) wormholes those forces should be survivable. And you can reverse course at any time inside a wormhole. The point may be moot, since wormholes naturally collapse, and to hold them open you'd need so-called 'exotic matter' with negative energy -- something we see not even a hint of.

    What you may be confusing with wormholes is rotating black holes. Those have a ring singularity instead of a point singularity, and when one builds a Penrose diagram of a rotating black hole, it seems you can enter the black hole, fly through the ring singularity and then continue on your way out to a 'parallel universe'. But within that universe, you still have a rotating black hole, so you can choose to go back and come out in yet another parallel universe. There's an infinity of such universes, as a Penrose diagram of a rotating black hole tiles a 2D plane. Of course, this is all probably sheer doodoo, since nobody knows how 'spacetime' really behaves near a singularity.

    As for the energy thing: yes, you can have virtual particles all you want, but it won't help you create space as you originally wrote

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    Also, I don't agree with your interpretation of the universe as a quantum fluctuation. Before spacetime appeared, there was nothing to fluctuate! The entire universe is just an expanding three-dimensional 'bubble' of spacetime; who knows what's outside that bubble -- in fact I doubt we would ever find out. And even if the bubble expands forever and we suffer a thermodynamic death, no balance would have been restored, since where you had no bubble now you have an ever-larger bubble! (Hmm, maybe one day it'll just 'pop'?

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    That could be a fun ride...)
     
  19. Boris Guest

    To Contact fans:

    Yes, there indeed was supposed to be travel through wormholes. And it wasn't the 'space guy' (Haden). The movie was based on Carl Sagan's book 'Contact', and if you read the book, you'll realize it was supposed to have happened for real. The whole point of the 'confusion' about whether the journey happened or not was to examine the relationship between hard science and 'faith' -- something Sagan himself was keenly interested in. But anyway, 'Contact' is a great sci-fi book; I highly recommend it.
     
  20. Sirius B Guest

    I think I will read Sagans "Contact"....
     
  21. Boris and Plato,

    I thank you two for the lively discussions on field theories, GR and QED. I am extremely interested in all these topics as my background is heavily skewed in the biological and biochemical sciences. So any websites, books, etc., you would reccommend would be greatly appreciated.

    Do either of you have any theories of your own for faster than light travel using present day science with some logical extrapolation?

    In the realm of science fiction, so much talk is done about "engineering space time." How possible is this? It seems to me that our understanding of the fundamental nature of space time, the fabric of the universe is limited.
     
  22. Boris Guest

    DragonMage:

    Your questions are precisely why I decided to start this thing off. (Come to think of it, the title probably was not the most appropriate choice).

    Personally, I don't have any theories (yet

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    ), but I've got ideas concerning where the present science may be skirting the issues; I've been trying to push my ideas out there, to see if anybody can send them crashing down in flames. You're welcome to do the same!

    As for books, websites, etc. I personally prefer to learn from books rather than websites. For a layman, there have been written many wonderful books that convey the main ideas without going into all the hairy math. The books below I read while still in high school; they are the ones that piqued my interest. Obviously, no math background is required.

    For relativity, I highly recommend "Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy" by Kip S. Thorne. This, by the way, is the guy who helped Sagan with his wormhole ideas for Contact.

    For inflationary theory and the Big Bang, read "Wrinkles in Time" by George Smoot and Keay Davidson.

    I don't really have any layman's books to recommend for QED. Plato?

    As for engineering spacetime: the only way we know of 'reshaping' it is through gravity -- not very helpful. I do agree with you on the point that our knowledge is definitely limited, and very probably quite incomplete.
     
  23. Plato Guest

    Boris,
    You said you took a GR class, may I ask what your major is ?
    About quantification of time, this seems like a nice idea to me, I heard it before though and it made sense to me only at a basic level. The problem is here why do you want to do that ? Are you just taking quantummechanics and saying like : 'Ok, so energy is quantized and so is spin, so why shoudn't time and space be quantized ?' This reasoning is a bit to akward for me, I like to see some math of what the consequences are of such a thing before I go any further on that line of thought. Besides do you think it is possible to verify such a thing in experiment ? If it isn't falsifyable it's not a scientific theory as Popper would say.
    Besides, quantization is not the basic thing of quatummechanics (as strange as it may sound) the wave-function is. Unfortunately the name wave-function is a bit misleading, it doesn't describe a wave like we are used to see like waves of the ocean or sound waves. There are no underlying material parts doing the waving and the wave is not waving in real space.
    (Man, I must be sounding pretty dense here, next thing you know I'm saying that God works in mysterious ways...

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    )
    This is the formula of a plane wave like you where talking about : \psi(x,t) = A e^{i ( x p - E t)/ \hbar}.
    I jused the notation of Latex, I hope it is understandable.
    You see we have a complex function, these are not real observables. This means that the wave itself is not an observable, what can be observed are the eigenfunctions of it, like energy and impluse. In a planewave energy and impluse are exactly known, this means that the probability to find a particle is zero. You won't find it ! Mind you we are talking about a two dimensional wave, only x and t are the variables and the space is an infinite plane ! How do we calculate the probability to find the particle in a certain place ? We take the wave funcion, multiply it with it's complex conjucate and this real value (in fact it's the squared amplitude of the function) is the probability function. Of course you have to normalise the amplitude over the entire volume where the wave stands so if this volume is infinite, A becomes zero (you can verify that quite easely with some calculus).

    Regarding fields I think you have to make a mind jump here. I think I might be wrong on this but I have the feeling that what you call ether might be the same as what I call a field, in as that a field is something that fills the entire volume of timespace and in fact is a property of each point of timespace. It's like if you have a set of lines then each element has the properties length and orientation (to some predifined frame). Spacetime can be seen as a set of points which have the property \psi(x,y,z,t) !

    Regarding dualities, in the mathematical field equations there are no dualities, there is no particle and no wave you have only the wavefunction. The problem lies in our 'common sense' view of how the universe is made up, a thing is something or it isn't, it can't be both ! The thing is, we never perceive the universe as it is, what we are doing is modeling it and try to fit the results of the model with what we can mesure in reality.

    About imaginary time, I didn't really took the idea from Stephen Hawking but he used it in the same way as Wick did when he wanted to get rid of the infinities that plague all fieldtheories. You see fieldtheories might be the most powerfull tools we have to tackle the mysteries of subatomic physics, they are also predicting total nonsense in regards to the same elementary particles that they claim to describe. For example if one uses QED to calculate the mass of an electron (one presumes here that mass is an electromagnetic effect as arising from it's self-energy) one gets an infinite mass ! These are very tricky things who were bluntly disregarded in the 30 's by the very physicist who invented the fieldtheories, in the 40's it was kind of solved be a mathematicle very devious thing namely subtracting 2 infinite quantities from each other. The thing is with energy that it is not an absolute quantity, it depends on where you choose your zero point. So if one claims that the vacuum itself has an infinite amount of energy, one just subtracts that from you original calculation of the electron mass and ... boom you get the real electronmass ! That is just bull you will say because if one substracts an infinity quantity from another one can get just any number what so ever ! Well, the math might sound scewed but really it isn't. In the seventies it was shown however that if one does the calculations in a euclidian 4D spacetime (with time rotated over 90° in the complex plane) there are no infinities at all ! This proces of getting away with the infinities is called renormalisation. So that is why I kind of liked the idea of imaginary time because it seems that the singularity of the big bang is also gone if one takes this in stead of real time.

    About locallity, I think you have been misinformed QED is as local as GR as is any other gauge theory like QCD and electro-weak theory. In QED photons are the mediators of the electrodynamic force and they are subject to the lightspeed of course.
    The problem with GR is that if one quantizises the gravitationfield, the theorie is not renormalizable ! This is the biggest reason why quantum physics and general relativity have not been reconciled up until now. May be stringtheorie will prove to be the unifier, who knows...

    About rotating black holes, is it true that spacetime itself gets wrapped around the black hole ? I heard there were some astronomical confirmations of this exotic behavior while they were studying neutron stars...

    About the borrowed energy, I don't really know how inflation works but I thought the energy it needed was just borrowed gravitational energy from the vaccuum, anyway if we can borrow energy from the vaccuum it just might be possible to kind of create a wormhole and hold it open long enough to slip through it : Stars, here we come !

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    greetings,
    Plato
     

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