archive

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Symmetry

A while back I finished reading a truly awful book on superstrings and the theory of everything and all that. I haven’t been paying attention to current developments -- I only just heard about blazars and magnetars. I’ve been busy. Time was when I knew everything a layman was likely to know about black holes. Mind, that was the seventies, but it was an interest of mine.

So in this awful book there was a lot of talk about symmetry. Now I’m reading a good book on the same topic, and it’s reviewing Einsteinian relativity, and that’s okay because review is a good thing. But it’s gotten me to thinking. There are three dimensions of space -- height, width and depth. For each of these dimensions, motion is reversible: up/down, left/right and forward/backward. The physical universe (not a redundancy) is defined in our experience by four dimensions, the three of space, and the fourth of time -- spacetime.

Here’s the thing. Time for us runs only in one direction. It is not reversible. We can only move into the future, and never the past. So the question that occurs to me is, where are the other two dimensions that would flesh out time, to make it symmetrical with space? There are six, uh, directions for the, er, axes for space, and only one for time. Where are the other five? We know one of them as “the past” -- which would be the backward temporal counterpart of the forward/backwardness of “depth”. But what of the other two dimensions, that would complete the presumed triad of which “time” (future/past) is only a part?

Spacetime is called that for a reason. There is no space, without time. There is no time, without space. Space is defined by the existence of matter, and matter is simply some form of energy. Energy, by definition, must be some sort of movement, and movement requires time: first a thing is at point A, then, later, further along in time, it is at point B. Whatever it is that is moving -- whether some ultimate indivisible infinitesimal particle, or the peak of some matrixless wave -- and however it moves, time is essential. Without time, there is no matter. Likewise with time -- something has to happen, for time to be the thing in which it happens. Only matter can happen.

I think I’ve been right so far. It is really pretty basic. But now I’m going to just start making things up. Space is a pretty simple idea, made more complex by the complexity of matter. It’s not just atoms anymore, but quarks and the like, which seem to be collapsed dimensions. Like a burrito. I don’t know. All that is on a micro level -- sort of a strong, weak, and electromagnetic level. Then there’s the macro. Gravity. See what I’m saying? Gravity is the odd man out -- like time. Four forces, four dimensions. Three that are closely grouped, one that is 32,000 times different. (Alas for me, now it seems I have to suppose there are two missing counterparts to complete a triad symmetry of gravity (which is missing the backward direction of antigravity, as time for us is missing the past). No worries -- I’m sure I can do it.)

But let’s keep it simple. Tee hee.

There is something missing, from the universe. Entropy is a problem. Things fall apart. How did they get highly organized to begin with, that they are falling apart from that initial state? We see everywhere an increase in chaos, and we see no where the natural creation of higher-state order. (There is a distinction between order and organization that you might know or intuit.) It’s as if a force was once present in the universe, an organizing force, that has disappeared. It’s as if something set a top to spinning, and now that top is wobbling and will eventually topple and be still, with nothing to start it spinning again. Heat death. I will not postulate what such a force would be. I suggest its one-time existence simply to point out the possibility that important things go missing from the universe.

As for time, I suggest one of the complementary dimensions would be consciousness -- something to apprehend the passage of time and the existence of matter. I suggest that this idea finds support in the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics. Simply by making a measurement, an observation, which is a function of consciousness, the fate of the thing observed is altered. I paraphrase the idea, of course, but you see my point. Consciousness is physical. It is a property of the universe. Indeed, it may not be time that is limited to only forward motion, if tachyons exist (do I seem to recall that anti-matter moves backwards in time? -- or is it some science fiction idea of reverse universes. No matter;) What seems clear is that our apprehension of time can move only forward. Consciousness, a physical property of the universe, moves only forward. If tachyons are not real, then time too moves only forward. And just like matter, consciousness cannot exist without time. Thoughts flow.

And the third supposed member of the triad? Well the partner of consciousness (psyche/soul) is spirit. Let’s not get religious, though. Let’s call it pneuma. There is no known matrix, through which electromagnetic waves travel. But waves, by definition, need to travel through something. A wave without a matrix is meaningless -- like space without time. The matrix used to be called aether, but that idea is unfashionable. Here I am, bringing it back. Pneuma, breath, air, wind -- filled with leaves and laughter and warmth and light.

How lovely a universe that would be. To think that just as our thoughts are projections on the screen of our souls, the universe itself is a dreaming within God’s spirit, the matrix of reality removed from our direct awareness just as the sustaining principle of order has been supplanted by entropy, even if only for a time. We might suppose that the uncertainty which is a necessary aspect of the cosmos that we know, is only a limit like the one we experience with time. Uncertainty is the state of the world as we know it, but our perceptions are not comprehensive. And for all that we cannot make all observations, there is some greater mind than ours, that can see both position and velocity, knows both past and future, and can be both here and there at the same time. Relativity makes the concept of instantaneous an impossibility. But God seems to favor absolutes.

I saw a very amusing teeshirt yesterday. "And God said: '∇ • E = ρ / εo; ∇ • B = 0; ∇ x E = - ∂B/∂t; ∇ x B = μoJ + μoεo∂E/∂t.' And there was light." Beautiful. I actually laughed. It made me happy. Physics, you see, is the most deeply religious of all the sciences. It is God's psychology.

Anyway. These all seem fairly obvious ideas, and I’d expect there to be theoretical answers all written up and published, of which I am unaware -- perhaps with fancy equations and all that, which support or dismiss any of my testable speculations. I don’t know. I’m just lying here, naked of course, eating grapes and doing what I do -- speculating about the meaning of life and the nature of existence. This is how I spend my leisure time. I write it out so I don’t forget it before I finish the thought. But no complaining from you. You didn’t have to read it.


J

No comments: