Thursday, March 26, 2009

Uh oh, those quantum kids are goin to mess it all up for me and Einstein..or not?

Before we begin, I will define a key idea as I will not be returning to its definition or orgin in this particular discourse; Nonlocality is the possibility of physically affecting something without touching it or touching any series of entities reaching from here to there...this poses a threat to special relativity as according to Einstein, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Needless to say, Einstein was not down. In fact, he and two friends published a paper regarding the existence of entangled particles (evidence of nonlocality) and deemed this aspect of quantum mechanics 'strange and dubious' and assumed that this type of nature was apparent only, a mathematical anomaly surely.

Niels Bohr on the other hand, responded immediately with an incredibly prescient refutation highlighting Einstein et cie's use of the word reality and impressed the significance of subject and object, the conditions under which it makes sense to ask questions, and the nature of human language.

Okay, now, in the most recent issue of Scientific American, there is an article on entanglement and briefly the authors highlight what this would mean in terms of time travel. When considering special relativity and nonlocality, one must recall that sp. relativity is based on the impossibility of transmitting messages faster than the speed of light. After all, if sp. relativity is true, one can argue that no material carrier of a message can be accelerated from rest to speeds greater than that of light. And one can argue that a message transmitted faster than light would, according to some clocks, be a message that arrived before it was sent. The kind of nonlocality encountered in quantum mechanics calls for an absolute simultaneity...posing a very real threat to special relativity as subjectivity is IT in terms of relativity.

However, as Stephen (Eloise) Hawking (and a lot of other physicists) has emphatically proposed, a possible key to the ultimate theory of everything/the universe is the melding of quantum mechanics and relativity. Ugh, how to do this...


Oxford mathematical physicist Roger Penrose worked with Stephen (Eloise) Hawking to show that the collapse of a massive star would inevitably lead to a singularity* and that it must be surrounded by an event horizon (the zone surrounding a black hole from which nothing can escape**).

*Singularities can also be divided according to whether they are covered by an event horizon or not (naked singularities). According to general relativity, the initial state of the universe at the beginning of the Big Bang, was a singularity-a tiny point of infinite density where the laws of physics break down.

The equations of general relativity tells us that at the moment of the big bang, everything in the universe would have been infinitely squeezed together and the universe would have been compressed into a single point (the singularity).

Other types of singularities predicted by general relativity are found inside a black hole: any star collapsing beyond a certain point would form a black hole, inside which a singularity (covered by an event horizon) would be formed.

The Penrose-Hawking singularity theorems are a set of results in general relativity which attempt to answer the question of when gravitation produces singularities. A singularity in solutions of general relativity is one of two things:
a situation where matter is forced to be compressed to a point (a space-like singularity)
a situation where certain light rays come from a region with infinite curvature (time-like singularity)

Now, I ask, why do we remember the past instead of the future?

You see, the second law of thermodynamics says that if we currently have a low entropy system (a measure of the disorder of a system/chaos and specifically in thermodynamics, a measure of the disorder of molecules in a system), we can expect to have a high entropy system in the future. The law tells us that as you go back in time, things get less and less random (i.e. a glass falling off a table would break into millions of pieces (more random/disorder) but rewind and all the pieces would come together to form the one glass (less disorder/chaos)... Entropy is the only quantity in the physical sciences that seems to imply a particular direction for time.

Does the origin of the thermodynamic arrow of time lie in the nature of the big bang? Does consciousness have its weird hand in our perception of time beginning in the past, passing through the present, and then moving forward into the future? As we go "forward" in time, the second law of thermodynamics tells us that the entropy of an isolated system tends to increase or remain the same; it will not decrease. Thus one could, theoretically, consider entropy measurement as a kind of clock.

Is there a connection between the thermodynamic arrow of time and the psychological arrow? For it seems to be that memory and our capability of such is intimately connected to the arrow of time. Considering braincells as computer bits and its correlation to the outside world as that of memory, the law explains the growth of such correlations with time a forward movement, propelling toward the future, rather than the past (entropy growing as time passes).

However, this is not the only option.

There are peoples, like the Aymara, who associate that which is ahead as past and that which rests behind, the future...dope.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
- Omar Khayyám

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Behind the scenes


Minkowski dies

George Minkowski is the communications officer on the freighter.

Hermann Minkowski was a German, Polish, Jew mathematician who, for our purposes, used geometry to solve difficult problems in the theory of relativity. In 1907 he realized that the special theory of relativity could be best understood in a four dimensional space, in which the time and space are not separated entities but intermingled in a four dimensional space-time.

The beginning of his address delivered at the 80th Assembly of German Natural Scientists and Physicians (September 21, 1908):
The views of space and time which I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.