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Physicist Claims Time Has a Geometry 447

sciencenews writes to tell us that a physicist at Stanford has just recently published a peer review website for several physics lectures focusing on a single underlying idea that "time is not a single dimension of spacetime but rather a local geometric distinction in spacetime." The science is presented quite clearly and originally uses GPS systems as a point of focus. From the article: "Not too long ago, people thought the Earth was flat, which meant they thought that gravity pointed in the same direction everywhere. Today, we think of that as a silly idea, but at the same time, most people today (including most scientists) still think of spacetime as if it were a big box with 3 space dimensions and 1 time dimension. So, like gravity for a flat Earth, the single time dimension for the 'big box universe' points in one direction, from the Big-Bang into the future. A lot of lip service is given to the idea of "curved spacetime", but the simplistic 3+1 'box' remains the dominant concept of what cosmic spacetime is like."
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Physicist Claims Time Has a Geometry

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2006 @09:34PM (#14643874)
    Is available at the author's website, [].
  • proof (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2006 @09:36PM (#14643879)
    I always knew my high school geometry teacher came from another dimension.
  • time curves (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hao Wu ( 652581 )
    Would this allow for a Mobius []?

  • by ubiquitin ( 28396 ) * on Saturday February 04, 2006 @09:40PM (#14643890) Homepage Journal
    I agree that there aren't a lot of people who intuitively reach to the Lorentz transform [] to explain the progression of time, but there are plenty of obvious reasons for that. Not sure it takes a Stanford physics prof. to make what is essentially a epistemological point though.

    For kicks, check out one way to visualize the spacetime wheel. []
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Well, I don't think any serious GR-aware _physicist_ would think that in curved spacetime that time is somehow one global axis any more than left/right or up/down is - such coordinate systems are only locally valid, and physicists talk openly of your time axis being tilted more and more toward the singularity so that it lies in your inescapable future if you're unfortunate enough to enter a black hole. Maybe it does take a Stanford professor to make it clear outside physics circles, or something. It's eith
      • by logicnazi ( 169418 ) <> on Sunday February 05, 2006 @03:24AM (#14644833) Homepage
        You are missing his point (as the post right below you suggests). The first claim he makes is that there is a transverse red-shift from gravity in addition to the normal one predicted by GR.

        In other words not only is there are redshit if we fire a lazer up into space from the earth (i.e. light leaving a gravity well) but even if we just shine a laser from one point on the earth's surface to another there should be a small redshift as well. His argument is that one would expect to see such a reshift in a accelerating frame because the light is traveling farther than it would at constant velocity.

        Personally I'm skeptical of this argument at the moment because whether or not one would see a redshift is going to depend on the effect of that acceleration on the clocks. As the rocket speeds up the time dilation from SR increases as well, perhaps the right amount to compensate for the increased difference. At the very least the thought experiment doesn't produce a clear result (and it is always possible that multiple solutions are compatible with it).

        As an aside the question of whether there is a global constant progression of time or it differs from location to location is just a matter of naming. The scientific community has decided to call the effects from acceleration/velocity changes in the passage of time because such a description seems to be more productive and simpler. However, one could describe the same phenomena by saying time progresses at the same rate everywhere but all physical processes slow down/speed up. Or to say it another way the Lorentzian theory of an ether with shrinking rulers and faster clocks is experimentally equivalent to SR and the same thing should be possible to do with GR (so long as there are no closed curves in time e.g. time travel)
      • Well, I don't think any serious GR-aware _physicist_ would think that in curved spacetime that time is somehow one global axis any more than left/right or up/down is The interesting thing, however, is that "serious GR-aware physicists" generally don't bother with the spacetime concept when they are performing numerical calculations. Instead, they use a 3+1 model where time does actually have a privileged position. This, for example, is how all simulations of binary black hole systems are performed.
    • by ZombieWomble ( 893157 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @09:52PM (#14643927)
      In the derivation of the Lorentz transformation (and consequently, in how most people envision 'spacetime'), we have one time 'direction', which is the same at all times, in all places - all that changes in a relativistic picture is the projection of the spacetime motion onto the time axis.

      Conversely, what I think this professor is suggesting that it's not quite so simple as dealing with a single axis, but rather a collection of them, which would mean it's not possible to consider our motion through time with regard to one solitary axis, which would have an effect on many aspects of relativity (although not in the Lorentz derivation shown at the link in your post, I don't think, since in that case our spatial and time axis are simply defined as being the directions of relative motion anyhow, so there this point is moot).

      Of course, I could be completely wrong, as it's nearly 2am, I haven't looked at his slides, and my report is turning my brain to mush. I'll have to have a look in the morning when it works again.

      • Where you go wrong in your post is you miss the key point of relativity. It is true that the Lorentz transform tells you how to go from one time dimension to another. What is not true is your assertion that the initial time dimension is privileged in the transform. The transform is fully symmetric, and in math, that's not just the observation that the two directions merely "look" the same, it is the observation that they are so thoroughly the same that there is no way to tell them apart. (Symmetry arguments
        • Sorry, I did see this [] before posting, but re-reading the parent comment to my comment made it too easy to say "professor".
        • Ah, I apologise for the fuzzy wording in my post, but that wasn't precisely the idea I was trying to communicate. Although it's now even later, I'll try again before I get some sleep.

          I did not mean to assert that time experienced by objects was identical in all frames, nor that some frame had a particularly special interpretation. When I referred to a single time axis, I meant the single time term in the 4-vector (x,y,z,t). This is obviously valid for the two particle system used in the typical derivation

          • He's going beyond special relativity by allowing both special relativity, but also the unions among geometries which, with their relativistic delays and apparencies (e.g. red shifts), explain a lot:

            1) time is non-linear within the same object, when the object is accelerating (and all objects are accelerating at all times; there is no restful object in the universe--relativistically), so measurements that were thought to be predictable through redshifts are not in fact predictable through the means we've bee
        • by Stalyn ( 662 ) on Sunday February 05, 2006 @12:37AM (#14644400) Homepage Journal
          What are you talking about? The Lorentz transformation has only one degree of freedom in the time dimension. We call it the future or the past. This guy is suggesting that time has more than one degree of freedom. Which is nothing new... []
        • by cygnus ( 17101 ) on Sunday February 05, 2006 @01:08AM (#14644487) Homepage
          It takes a real genious to recognize that there is more than one time direction, and that it is "truly true" and not just mathematical sophistry or convenience. But the name of that genious is Albert Einstein, not Alex Mayer.
          That's an interesting theorem. May I suggest another... One may not become an arbiter of genius until one learns to spell 'genius.'
    • by bobhagopian ( 681765 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @09:59PM (#14643948)
      Agreed. I wondered why a physics professor would take the time to make an obvious and meaningless point such as this (I'm not trying to be mean here, just honest). But a Google and Stanford directory search reveals that he is NOT A PROFESSOR (which he never claimed, Slashdotters just assumed). He is an "Affiliate", which probably means that he's an employee. In fact, it appears that he is a patent examiner [] from Oakland, CA.

      I was pointing out his employement as a patent examiner as an explanation of why he might not know all that much about general relativity, but I just now realized how ironic [] that is.
      • Googling around a bit, I found reference to an Alex Mayer that was a physics student involved in a Research Experience for Undergraduates program in 1999 at NC State, and another in 2001 recieving an undergraduate tutoring award.

        This isn't neccesarily the same person, but it sure raises suspicions. Then, I decided to hit google scholar and search for physics articles dealing with gravity with mayer as an author. The only one I found that came close was AB Mayer, and the author of the linked article is AF
        • I found this reference [] :
          Multidimensional Time Simplifies General Relativity
          Authors: Mayer, Alexander
          Affiliation: MIT
          Journal: American Physical Society, Second Meeting of the Northwest Section 2000 May 19-20, 2000 University of Oregon Eugene, Oregon, abstract #CP1.013
          Publication Date: 05/2000
          The Minkowski metric is interpreted to imply that time is multidimensional. Multidimensional time simplifies the derivation of equations describing gravitational relativistic phenomena and challenges inte
      • "I was pointing out his employement as a patent examiner as an explanation of why he might not know all that much about general relativity, but I just now realized how ironic that is."

        And in other news it's discovered how come so many poor patent applications are approved... :)

        (apologies to A. F. Mayer as I have no reason to suspect he's not good at his job, but if they're all vying to be the next Einstein it does explain things)

        this additional sig includes a portrait of Mohammed in support of freedom of
      • by kalidasa ( 577403 ) on Sunday February 05, 2006 @11:33AM (#14645849) Journal
        Alexander Mayer is a visiting scholar at the Physics department at Stanford, which means that he is likely either an adjunct professor or a post-doctoral student, though he may be a PhD candidate. If you simply looked at the pages for the Physics department at Stanford, you'd have found that easily, rather than confining your search to the university's directory.
      • hi,

        [disclaimer: i am an experimental high-energy physicist -- i am not an "expert" on GR but it's a sucker bet that i know more about GR than most of y'all do]

        i've gone through the lengthy lecture presentations and mayer meets the (or at least my) criteria for good science from a theorist -- he makes specific predictions which can be tested against empirically obtained datasets -- however, i didn't do the nasty integrals required to be done to see if he was simply lying and i will have to take him at his wo
        • by elwinc ( 663074 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @10:50AM (#14650516)
          Thanks for the post. Physics was my undergrad major, but my formal physics ended there, so I'm even less qualified to comment; on the other hand, this is SlashDot!

          Given that caveat, I found Mayer worth a serious look. He's got a number of references showing measurements that GR does not explain. The most convincing stuff is from GPS satellite measurements which show an unexplained sawtooth pattern with a period of two cycles per day and an amplitude of several feet (or nanoseconds). GPS satellites and ground stations explicitly correct for the general relativistic effects of the earth's gravity well, so any anomalies would be very interesting. But he's also got anomalies in measurements of hydrogen 21 cm radiation and in the effect of Ganymede on signals sent from the Galileo spacecraft.

          If Mayer faked the anomalies (but I believe they're real), he would be shot down in no time. Assuming the anomalies are real, then any theory that can explain them in addition to the rest of the effects explained by GR (precession of Mercury's orbit, redshift of a gravity well, etc) deserves a serious look.

          One other point. In grad school, when we students complained about the many annoyances involved in writing and publishing our work, my advisor would say "50% of science is communication." There's alot of wisdom in that. There are plenty of cranks (or not so cranky folk) out there tugging on physicists' sleeves and saying "Einstein was wrong and I have a notebook full of equations to prove it!" I know such a fellow myself, but it would take weeks to examine his equations and maybe months to explain his errors. What he and his ilk lack is the ability to communicate like a scientist. Anyway, where I'm going with all this is that Mayer suffers no such lack. His 'Lecture 1' document is much better than average writing by a scientist. While this doesn't prove his equations are better than Einstein's, it is further reason why he deserves a serious look.

  • Robert Heinlein used this as the central idea of his book "Then Number of the Beast" in 1986 The Number of the Beats []
    • So what is the optimal BPB for any given beast if the spacetime is curved? -- 666, of course!


    • Multidimensional representations of time do not get you to Oz. "Pantheistic solipsism" does, according to the book. The central idea of that book was that the world was all myth, and as such there's no reason you can't hop from myth to myth, as long as your particular myth was written by someone who will script you to do it. The parallel universes were only parallel in that they were all represented in works of fiction.
    • Then Number of the Beast

      His universe had 6 totally straight dimensions with no curvature (at least to the extent it was important to the story. This article talks about curvature in the time dimension, which was pretty fundamental to relativity 100 years ago, so this is not a new idea.

      I don't think RAH's idea of rotating to make use of unused dimensions would work because most of the theories currently around which use extra dimensions assume that we can see the extra dimensions, but don't use them becaus

  • I think this scientist doesn't quite know what is going on. The reason that spacetime is spelled together and not "space time" is preciselly because it is to be regarded as one entity : spacetime. Talking about time separately as being or not being curved is speculation, because there is no "time" separate from "space".
  • hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bobhagopian ( 681765 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @09:46PM (#14643908)
    Perhaps someone should tell him that general relativity has already been invented. Physicists know that time has geometry---it is, after all, a part of spacetime, which has geometry. With regard to his claim that GPS has unexplained anomalies, he may be right. However, GPS is based on the Schwarzschild metric, which assumes a non-spinning, point-like mass. The earth is neither of these. Accordingly, there will be small corrections due to the combined effect of earth's spin and its density profile. At present, we are unable to calculate those corrections (we've only solved some important special cases, because the math is so hard), but they almost certainly explain the GPS deviations.
    • Re:hmm... (Score:2, Informative)

      Physicists know that time has geometry---it is, after all, a part of spacetime, which has geometry

      Wasn't this the point he was trying to make? People are very familair with the concept of multiple spatial axes which can lead to spatial geometry (and hence spacetime geometry) but that time is taken as a single, fixed axis, which he thinks isn't the case, which would lead to differences in how many aspects of relativity would have to be interpreted?

      Once again, as I mentioned in a post I made above: It's

      • by JQuick ( 411434 ) on Sunday February 05, 2006 @07:20PM (#14647428)
        Please stop harping about Lorenz and time.

        In his paper "On the Cause of Geodetic Satellite Accelerations and Other Correlated Unmodeled Phenomena", via the American Geophysical Union in December 2005, he outlined specific modifications to general relativity. The paper's Abstract begins:

        "An oversight in the development of the Einstein field equations requires a well-defined amendment to general relativity that very slightly modifies the weak-field Schwarzschild geometry yielding unambiguous new predictions of gravitational relativistic phenomena."

        The result of this amendment is an additional relativistic effect. As you may know, in general relativity, the velocity of light is a constant. Thus one's velocity relative to a photon can result in a shift of measured frequency, i.e. the red-shift, or blue-shift of spectra. Also, since the theory claims that accelerated reference frames are identical, this shift is also observed due to gravitational acceleration.

        The author claims that gravitationally induced red-shifting is also dependent on the angle through which a photon travels in a gravitational field. In addition, the theory discusses gravity and angular momentum. An accelerating electric charge emits electromagnetic energy. Though long theorized, a similar gravity wave has never been observed. The author suggests that angular momentum, e.g. spinning and orbiting masses emit electromagnetic energy as well. Thus, orbits even in a perfect vacuum will decay. As a spinning body slows, or orbital momentum decays, this energy will be balanced by radiation in the microwave range.

        The additional source relativistic red shift, and the additional changes with respect to conservation of momentum, have profound cosmological import, if true. The theory passes the simplicity and beauty tests admirably. What I particularly like about his presentation has to do with testability.

        He discusses numerous problems with the GPS and geodetic satellite systems, various puzzling data from several deep space missions, the orbits of planets and moons, and show how his equations account for the discrepancies in the data. He also proposes a number of simple experiments which could prove or disprove his theory. He predicts what to look for in terrestrial microwave radiation, and suggests experiments that could be run using existing satellites which could prove or disprove his theory. He also suggest that other scientist look at data which has already been collected but which he has never seen, and predicts what patterns might confirm the theory.

        From the ground up, the ideas are well reasoned, and his approach seems scientifically sound.

        Time gets into the mix, because the broader ramifications of the theory are large. Imagine a space ship under constant acceleration. On the floor (aft bulkhead) place two clocks communicating via pulses of light. He shows how each clock (even though they share the same acceleration reference frame) will each view the other as slow. By virtue of general relativity, pairs of clocks on earth should likewise each view the ticks of another clock as slow. Thus, there is no common, universal time. The rate of time is a local attribute at each location.

        The cosmological implications if this theory are also impressive.

        There is no need to posit dark matter or dark energy. They are discussed only to account for missing matter and the expansion of the universe. However, if this theory is true, the universe is not expanding, thus removing the need to postulate dark energy. The matter needed to keep galaxies from flying apart is no longer needed. Rotating galaxies are radiating microwaves and slowing down, not being gripped by dark matter. The universe finite and unbounded. It is neither expanding nor contracting.

        No big bang would have happened. Remember the history of the theory? It was attempting to account for red shifted stellar spectra and for the microwave background. If the red shift is a relativistic phenomenon (not the result of unive

    • We shouldn't forget the effect that the sun and moon's gravitation may have on the orbit of satellites. VERY, VERY minor I agree. But perhaps enough to explain some anomolies.
    • Close (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Saturday February 04, 2006 @10:34PM (#14644050) Homepage Journal
      Time is generally regarded as a "special case", in that it is not possible to move backwards in time, or rotate an object such that the time axis is pointing along a space axis and vice versa. Well, almost. I'll argue that it does actually allow the latter, just not in any trivial case.

      Spacetime perceives time as a one dimensional vector that is orthogonal to all other vectors. Because relativistic equations for time, distance, mass, etc, use a sqare root function, you get imaginary distances and imaginary time when an object exceeds C. Usually, an imaginary quantity means that you're looking at the wrong axis.

      (Trivial case in point: when solving a quadratic equation, if the parabola doesn't intersect the X axis, you will get a complex number. If you break that down into real and imaginary components, the imaginary components correspond to the displacement in the Y axis for that solution's real component value in the X axis.)

      Ergo, if a tachyon exists, it would experience a spacial axis as "time" and the time axis as space, UNLESS "time" is not a single axis, in which case all bets are off.

      In consequence of not having a telephone-number IQ, I can only speculate wildly, but I'm going to guess that the relativistic equations do indeed refer to some measure of bleeding between space and time and that no further dimensions are required - for GPS or for any other phenomena governed by relativity. (Superstrings being about the only exception I can think of.)

      I personally think that part of the problem is that time IS regarded as "special", whereas perhaps it would be better if it were regarded as special "only as far as absolutely necessary". To the extent that specialness is an extra parameter, you want to eliminate all extra parameters as far as possible (and no further).

    • He's someone that even thinks that people actually thought Earth was flat, when a spheric Earth has been known for a *very* long time and has even had its size fairly well estimated by the ancient Greeks.

      Maybe Cro-Magnon thought the Earth was flat, if he ever wondered about its shape, but that "not too long ago, people thought the Earth was flat" (straight from the article) myth should be left to rest once and for all.
      • You're both right. No educated person has thought the Earth is flat for a long time, but the vast majority of people were not educated.

        Eratosthenes [] did a bang up job.

    • Disclaimer: I am a mathematician, not a physicist, and I am not even a geometer. The ramblings here meant to be taken as nothing more.

      I think you might be right. Given that he claims to be marketing his ideas in his book to the layman, it seems likely that he is just rephrasing some of the ideas of general relativity. Most people think of spacetime only in the context of special relativity where you have a simple Lorentz space, and so the complaint that people think about spacetime with a single time axi
  • by iamelgringo000 ( 928665 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @09:51PM (#14643924)

    The novel idea that there are an infinite number of time dimensions in the Universe revolutionizes gravitational theory and much of modern science with it. A number of outstanding scientific mysteries are definitively solved, including observations that lead to the concepts of 'dark energy' and 'dark matter'.

    A number of outstanding scientific mysteries are also solved with my new unpublished theory that 1+1 = 2. Doesn't mean that the idea holds water, though.

    I think that many problems in academia are because of "publish or perish" advancement. I think this is an example in point.

  • by vistic ( 556838 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @09:52PM (#14643925)
    If time has many dimensions then I wonder why we perceive it to go forward only (though at different relative rates depending on relative speed). The reason why we perceived gravity to point down only was just a matter of not being able to see the big picture, although I would have thought more people would have noticed the Earth is round sooner, the curve is clearly visible from most mountaintops. So what's the big picture we need to see in order to see more dimensions to time? How do we step back and notice the slight curve in the horizon?

    It sure seems like time goes forward only, from my own day to day observations. My mind can't even comprehend what going another direction (except for "backwards") would even mean as a concept.

    • Unless you're editing a movie, it really doesn't make sense considering time as a an axis. It's almost as if time is a cohesion of forces expressed cumulatively across all forces in the universe. As objects move, the relative difference in forces expresses a change. That is time.

      So perhaps time would be best understood not as a straight line, but as water sloshing around in a bathtub.

      Another aspect of space-time may be a non-uniform fabric. We understand gravity as a curvature of space time. Perhaps th
    • It sure seems like time goes forward only, from my own day to day observations. My mind can't even comprehend what going another direction (except for "backwards") would even mean as a concept.

      The "arrow" of time is a consequence of the second law of thermodynamics: physical systems tend to go from ordered states to disordered ones. That's why, for example, you see the glass fall off the table and break, but you don't see the pieces jump from the floor back to the table and reassemble themselves. Most equ
      • Well, you could say that "space is just nature's way or keeping everything from being in the same place". That doesn't tell us anything about space.

        It might be that from a different perspective, everything can be 'happening' at once, so to speak. Some number of years ago, pretty much everyone thought that the earth was flat, and the celestial bodies rotated around it on fixed spheres. Turns out, no one knew what the hell was going on. Maybe we have a gross misunderstanding about the basic nature of time
    • I would have thought more people would have noticed the Earth is round sooner, the curve is clearly visible from most mountaintops

      I've never understood this argument. I mean in the way past you would be familiar with hills, and familiar with mountains, familiar with valleys, and other such features. One would not be too familiar with globes, and any planets one is aware of appear to be flat discs in the sky. Wouldn't it be more logical to blame the curve on such things as hills or valleys, which are kn
      • Well, one of the better arguments that the people of antiquity had for a round earth would be the simple fact that when a ship comes up over the horizon, the sails are seen before the hull. Since there are no reasonably permanent irregularities such as hills and valleys on the oceans, the only way to explain such a thing would be to theorize that the earth has a curve. Combining that with the curve seen on mountaintops it would not be difficult for the ancients to deduce the roundness of the earth. The p

        • "Since there are no reasonably permanent irregularities such as hills and valleys on the oceans"

          Sorry, I apologize in advance because I do agree with you but that statement triggered the nitpick in me *can't resist* :)

          You (and other Slashdotters) might very well be aware of the following and it is not in any way intended as any form of criticism. I sincerely apologize for any wrongful or lacking details (should be plenty of those), I am not an oceanographer and do feel free to correct me if wrong.

          It's funny
    • by MickLinux ( 579158 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @11:06PM (#14644142) Journal
      Having read enough of the article (more specifically, the large PDF file linked to at the bottom right), I can say that his idea is that locally, time points in a single direction, much as gravity does. But elsewhere, time points in a different direction.

      I can't say whether I agree or disagree with him. I'd have to see his maths.

      If I did, I'd have to conclude that I couldn't say whether I agreed or disagreed with him -- I'd have to understand his maths.

      If I did that, I probably couldn't say whether I disagreed or agreed with him. I'd only be able to make strange aardvark-like noises.

      However, as for my own current understanding of time, I'd have to say that time appears to be a log of the order of interactions, and secondary derivative interactions, and so on... thus making it locally constant, and globally pointless.
    • If time has many dimensions then I wonder why we perceive it to go forward only (though at different relative rates depending on relative speed).

      How exactly would you perceive time as moving forwards or backwards? Time could very easily move forward and backwards, you just wouldn't be able to detect it. If you could reverse time while a person was drawing a picture, you'd see that with each reversed second that data is erased from the finished product. The perception that time moves forward for us, m

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2006 @09:55PM (#14643935)
    "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime, doubly so."
  • by Gromius ( 677157 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @10:00PM (#14643949)
    Not meaning to troll or anything but this has quite a few of the silly science traits. Not saying its junk but a healthy skeptical approach is necessary here.

    Basically if it was the genuine article, I would expect the website to list his position with Standford (he appears not be facutly) and his previous work. I didnt see that. The power point presentation has all the signs such as lots of pretty graphs and pictures which "prove" this (although admittedly this is better than most) and a lot of big words. What I would expect to see is a bit of hard maths and maybe one example, he's coming on far too eager. Also he focuses on what it fixes, what does it break? I want some predictions for experiments to measure. Its easy to explain one or two effects with a theory, the real test is what does it predict. I would also expect a link to a preprint explaining this and its abstract. I would go so far that any serious scientist would post a preprint on as the first step of going public.

    I'm very doubious about any werid and wonderfull theory coming from somebody who is outside the world of science, as theres a lot of chafe out there. Just go the poster session of the APS annual meeting to see what I mean. Okay its helpfull to keep an open mind, Einstein came from the outside with his really werid seemly crackpot theories but that happens rarely.

    Now just to point out I'm not saying its junk, I havnt read it yet, just saying it appears to raise of a few of the warning flags.
  • by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @10:03PM (#14643958) Journal

    In my experience, scientists who work with such issues are quite clear on this point (and, so far as I can tell, have been for eighty some years).

    But for other sorts of scientists (e.g. biologists), engineers, and the rest of us, who only need to calculate things to five or ten decimal places or so, assuming that the time points in the same direction throughout the area of interest (and generally that space is flat and such) is reasonable--so reasonable, in fact, that we'd be nuts not to work with that as an assumption.

    If I'm tracking the migration of some sort of beetle or planning a system of trusses to support a load or deciding if I should walk or drive to the store for milk, I would have to be mad to start out treating spacetime as a fine-grained network of plank-scale events with information flow between them determining the local geometry of space time (and thus the direction of time). Likewise with the effects of nearby astronomical bodies--if they were big enough and close enough to seriously distort spacetime I'd have a lot bigger problems to worry about. On average, to the level I'd ever need to deal with in these sorts of cases, it is now and the future is coming up later and the past is what already happened.


  • Flat Earth (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pinr ( 596626 ) <`pinr' `at' `'> on Saturday February 04, 2006 @10:11PM (#14643987)
    "Not too long ago, people thought the Earth was flat" It's a common misconception and almost modern myth that people in the recent past believed the earth was flat. The truth is that it was generally accepted by most learned people that the earth was spherical from the 1st century onwards and many argued so much earlier. You can read more about this here: []
  • by f97tosc ( 578893 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @10:14PM (#14643997)
    Reading his paper/presentation it seems like he is throwing out the theory of relativity, and most of modern astrophysics.

    I am a bit skeptical towards those who make revolutionary claims like this and publish it to the general public instead of in scientific journals.

  • Only Time will tell...

    teehee~ (sorry.)
  • by mickyflynn ( 842205 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @10:21PM (#14644014) [] -- This is one myth that really needs to die! Even more so than that Betsy Ross was involved with the American Flag.
    • Not strictly true. The "" page is right that flat earth cosmology was never, ever accepted by any Christian intellectuals. But pre-scientific belief in the ancient world (for example, in Greece before the 6th or 7th century bc) the idea that the earth was flat was very common, because the things that make the sphericity of the earth apparent weren't yet obvious to them (beginning with the shadow the earth casts on the moon during a lunar eclipse). This was a time when "astronomers" had a hard time u
  • direction(s) of time (Score:5, Informative)

    by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @10:22PM (#14644018) Homepage
    I admit I haven't read every word of his two massive sets of lecture slides. He seems to be trying to make the case that various anomalies in astronomical and geodetic data point to something wrong with general relativity. That would be cool, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and although we know that general relativity is not the correct theory of gravity at the Planck scale, there's every reason to believe that it's correct at the classical scale. If you want to read about tests of classical general relativity, check out the book Was Einstein Right? by Clifford Will. He discusses various alternatives to general relativity and how they've been tested.

    There is definitely a good case to be made that the past-versus-future arrow of time is not fundamental. Basically our psychological sense that the past is different from the future comes from the direction of the thermodynamic arrow of time, but the second law of thermodynamics doesn't come from the basic laws of physics (which are essentially time-reversal symmetric) but from the boundary conditions of the universe: for some reason unknown to us, we had a low-entropy big bang. The meaning of "past" is really "that way to the big bang."

    It's also probably true that in a complete theory of quantum gravity, the picture of three space dimensions plus one time dimension (3+1) would break down completely at small scales. The whole idea of distance and dimensionality is probably a large-scale approximation that loses its validity at small scales. There is a strong argument [] to be made that for fundamental reasons, spacetime must be discrete, not continuous, at the Planck scale. The only people seriously trying to construct discrete theories of quantum gravity right now seem to be the people doing loop quantum gravity (not string theory, which uses a flat 3+1 background of spacetime). For a good popular-level account of this kind of stuff, see Smolen's Three Roads to Quantum Gravity. In loop quantum gravity, they are able to construct an infinite set of possible universes (each one is a type of knot), but the problem is that none of them can be proved to resemble flat 3+1 spacetime, even asymptotically. In other words, there's no way you can even take this tangle of events and figure out whether it has anything like time and space that you can define on it. It's like being a flea living in a world that consists of threads woven together. On your scale, can't be sure whether it's a one-dimensional piece of yarn, a two-dimensional piece of fabric, or a three-dimensional wad of wool.

  • Actually... (Score:2, Insightful)

    ...people never thought the world was flat. For millenia, we've noticed that you see the top of a ship in the horizon before the rest of it, which was attributed to the world's spherical shape. One of the great Greek mathematicians also accurately determined the circumference of the Earth within a couple of miles, if I recall.
  • "Imagine that 'the arrow of time' in the Universe, like gravity on Earth, is pretty much the same everywhere, yet also different everywhere relative to everywhere else. That means that the 'arrow of time' points in different directions in spacetime depending on where you are, so time has a geometry just like space has a geometry. The novel idea that there are an infinite number of time dimensions in the Universe revolutionizes gravitational theory and much of modern science with it. A number of outstanding
  • This is a well crafted scam to get Department of Homeland money. Just look at the data! Our GPS satellite network is suffering from a sawtooth anomaly! The only way to fix this and restore security to our country is to give this guy DoH grant money! :)
  • Well I read the article and went through the power point presentation using Open Office :-)

    I must admit, I'm convinced that time is different depending on where a person is. I know it for a fact 'cause where I'm sitting it took FOREVER to work through that presentation! Ugggghhhhh....
  • ".but at the same time, most people today (including most scientists) still think of spacetime as if it were a big box with 3 space dimensions and 1 time dimension. ..."

    That is, if by most people you mean .000001 percent of the population.
  • I'm not that great at math but my conception of time has always been that time is our movement through dimensions that we can't directly sense. Probably a naive concept but it always worked for me and probably not as silly as the idea of flat one directional time.
  • by Sunlighter ( 177996 ) on Sunday February 05, 2006 @12:14AM (#14644322)

    Jump to page 25 of the second set of slides, where the author shows two time vectors at an angle to each other. If you have two observers, one with each time vector, then each observer thinks that the other is slowed down. Each sees redshifted light from the other.

    This angle between time vectors can be caused by gravity or by the curvature of the universe.

    In the gravity case, it is used to explain discrepancies in all sorts of measurements, from the Pioneer spacecraft, to the changes in the orbits of various celestial bodies, to discrepancies in the GPS, to the apparency that a U.S. atomic clock and a French one will each think the other is ticking slower. This is what most of the first slide show is about.

    In the cosmological case, the idea is that the universe is round (see page 28 of the second presentation) and that the redshift that we think is due to the expansion of the unverse is actually due to the curvature of the universe, i.e., a galaxy around the universe from us will appear to have slower time, because its time vector is going in a different direction than ours. A galaxy ninety degrees around would appear to have time completely stopped, so it would be invisible to us (frequency of zero). Galaxies further away than that would be going backwards in time from our perspective, but we can't see them.

    This is an idea I have not seen before. It seems really neat to me. It seems plausible but then (a) I can't personally verify the observations that he claims validate his theory; he could have produced fake graphs and they would fool me, but I would think it would be easy for him to get caught at that, and (b) even though I've had calculus up to differential equations, I never had non-Euclidean geometry or higher-dimensional stuff, so I can't actually follow his calculations very well. Then again, I didn't try very hard.

    We shall soon see if he has made a significant error. The numbers and the observations will tell the story; either they work out, or they don't.

    • by n54 ( 807502 )
      IANAP but I agree with you, these are interesting ideas and I think too many of the other posters are too quick to judge the merits of them (so far I've only read the introduction myself, needed a break before attempting lecture one lol).

      His ideas/modifications should be fairly easy to test extensively as he proposes them as solutions to a whole lot of current problems and datasets. I'm fairly confident he has done that to his own satisfaction already (anything else would be academic suicide). Not only that
  • Any student could have told you this,

    Time slows to a crawl whenever the class is boring, tedious and generally uninteresting. Conversing time speeds up for anything fun or interesting.

  • ...of his theory is the following (in my opinion)

    He disputes the existence of a big bang, or any other kind of origin to the universe.

    Paraphrasing the last page of his full paper, the universe is the manifestation of eternity and the infinite.

    Personally, after reading his full paper once, I believe that I will have to re-re-re-read it before i can determine if there is a flaw in his reasoning.

    However, I do think he is on to something.

    There may well not have been a big bang, or any other definite "

  • by Max Threshold ( 540114 ) on Sunday February 05, 2006 @02:33AM (#14644725)
    Can I get a research grant now? Kthx.
  • by tyrione ( 134248 ) on Sunday February 05, 2006 @03:02AM (#14644792) Homepage

    If you look at his colleagues, ng.html []

    then cross-reference a few of them: []

    Douglas N. C. Lin, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz: 1991

    If you look him up he is all over about Astrophysics and applied mathematics.

    Betty Young, Santa Clara:

    Betty Young, Physics, a 1-year award from award from the University of California-Berkeley, on an NSF prime contract, providing $36,406 in continuing support for CDMSII: A Search for Cold Dark Matter with Cryogenic Detectors at the Soudan Mine. []

    Now if you research Betty you find this: ng.cfm []

    Associate Professor Santa Clara University
    Santa Clara, CA 95053

    Professor Young received a B.S. degree in Physics from the San Francisco State University in 1982. In 1990, she received a Ph.D. from Stanford University where she worked on the development of cryogenic particle detectors with superconducting sensors. After graduate school, she spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Particle Astrophysics at UC Berkeley. Since coming to Santa Clara in 1994, Professor Young has established a research group at Santa Clara University and continues to work with the multi-institutional Cold Dark Matter Search (CDMS) collaboration.

    Now whatever becomes of this Alex Mayer and his credentials are yet to be determined. However, I doubt Stanford would even allow him web space under the Physics department if he didn't have the credentials to back it up.

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Sunday February 05, 2006 @06:30AM (#14645201) Homepage
    No they didn't. Find me one reference - other than the satirical Flat Earth Society - for that. If he can't even get his blurb right, what hope for his science?

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.