Posted by: graemebird | January 28, 2007

The Need For An Improvement Of Process In High Physics

I made this comment at Ambit Gambit in response to an article about bringing the great theologian Saint Augustine into sub-atomic physics. Now on one level I think its a good thing to be raiding these really smart buggers for ideas. But I came down negative on this approach in this specific instance. I made the following comment:

“We have no evidence for TIME itself. We have no evidence that time is anything more then what you would get when you divide a distance by a steady velocity.

Its a necessary concept but a derivative one.

So its really pushing it for physicists to play make-believe and pretend that there is some unicorn called space-time.

This is why they’ve gotten themselves bogged down and stuck. Because they have let all sorts of arbitrary assumptions creep up into their work.

I like Augustine (Lord give me chastity but not yet) but we ought to be sweeping out as much crud from the models as possible.

Not adding more.”

When you are stuck by all means throw in a speculative assumption and build a new model to try and fit the data…

But in this process that modern physics has been going through they have missed out a necessary step.

You want to then go back and see if the data can be fitted WHILE DEEP-SIXING THE SPECULATIVE ASSUMPTIONS. Or at least some of them.

Can we deep-six attraction-at-a-distance…? Can we deep-six fourth, fifth and sixth dimensions and still fit the data? Can we deep-six time itself (that is; only use it for convenience and not assume it to be some PRIMARY thing)?

Can we deep-six the light-speed limit and still derive E=M(C Squared)?

Apparently Einstein did this in the 40’s. Why didn’t people follow his lead?

Einstein would put arbitrary assumptions in the mix to try and get a working model. Well fair enough. Thats the way to do it. But the above was him pulling out an arbitrary assumption and still deriving a key finding.

This is why physics has been getting bogged down and increasingly ridiculous.

Yes its good to throw the assumptions in if it means you get a working model.

But then the institutional emphasis ought to be on

1. Going after Convergence and

2. throwing the excess assumptions out.

Throw in some sand to make the pearl then get rid of the sand.

The job is not done when you have a single working model. The idea at that point is not to be so stupid as to confuse this single working model with revealed truth.

And the institutional imperative ought to be then to find and perfect COMPETING models that have thrown back out some of the arbitrary assumptions.

This is entirely in line with the thinking of another good Catholic boy. This one not from North Africa like Augustine, but instead from a place near Surrey in England.

Gentleman named William.

And Willian came out of Ockam.



  1. you’re right, Graeme. This speculation is absolute BS. Let’s establish retrocausality is probable (as opposed to possible) before we start making up these fairy tales. But I’m still puzzled over why you don’t think time doesn’t exist. What happens instead?

  2. Well you can see that there is a need for the concept of time. Since as soon as you go to talk about it you find you cannot do without it.

    But there’s no need to think of it as a primary thing.

    Everything is moving relative to something else. But some things move with a sort of regularity about them. We measure time by this movement. The passing of the years and days.

    Some things are happening simultaneoulsy. Now to define something as happening simultaneously we would say that they are happening at the same time.

    But still we don’t have evidence here for time as such. We only have evidence for things moving in regular ways and for the possibility of things happening at the same time at distance from eachother.

    Do you understand yet?

    I’m not saying we can do without the concept. But there is no evidence that its not merely a DERIVATIVE concept.

    So when you are talking of SPACE-TIME you are already at two stages of presumption.

    You are already at flying pink elephant stage.

    No dude I think speculation is good. And I think adding speculative assumptions to put together a working model is a good thing too.

    But institutionally they have to then put as much effort into throwing the assumptions back out and comiing up with competing models.

    Otherwise they’ll get to gridlock like they are in today.

  3. What this gives us is an opportunity to set physicists and modellers to work to see if they can do some data-fitting and get up a whole slew of models that don’t make a bunch of the assumptions that have accumulated in the past.

    The first thing to do would be to dust off that work that Einstein allegedly did where he got rid of the light-speed assumption and still derived e=m(c squared).

    That would be a good start.

  4. But GB, questioning the idea of time is hard to understand. Forgetting the relativities of bodies moving around in predictable motion. We are born and die. That interval counts for something. there is a unit of “space” there which we call time.

  5. Right. I don’t question that we need it as a concept. But when it comes to Physics it would be safer if they considered it a derivative concept.

    Like if someone interupts you in the middle of a sentence after you’ve mentioned the time……. and that person says: “There’s not such thing as time” and then later he says….”At six pm I’m going for a swim” then you’d be right to think he was playing silly-buggers.

    “We are born and die. That interval counts for something. there is a unit of “space” there which we call time.”

    Its not totally evident that there is anything primary beyond movement here.

    But its pointless to deconstruct things when you have useful concepts to understand things better. Like I wouldn’t say “No thats not a table its wood”
    Or “no thats not the sun its gas”. Or “thats not a bed its quarks” “No thats not Jason soon thats quarks”..

    These are silly deconstructions and pointless concept-destruction. Nontheless the evidence for time as a seperate thing is just not there.

    So for the professional model builder, data-fitter-guy and physicist this represents an assumption that he could try to throw out. A potentially superfluous assumption.

    For me and you its pointless to throw it out. But for the physicist he ought to try throwing it out.

    That this throwing things out ought to be part of his professional practise and part of institutional practice is my main point.

    These guys as a collective appear to have an anti-Occam-bias going on here.

    Einstein-idolatry screwing things up perhaps.

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