Re: Universal Constants (this is getting a bit long and going a bit off topic...)
From: Tony Christney <acc@u...>
Date: Thu, 12 Feb 1998 11:15:45 -0800
Subject: Re: Universal Constants (this is getting a bit long and going a bit off topic...)
Just to add to the madness that is our Universe...
>At 23:36 11/02/98 -0700, you wrote:
>>With the tread of FT Background including a discussion about time, I
>>though that I would throw out the following for discussion.
>>Hypothesis: There is no universal measurement.
>>Every measurement is relative, that is is defined in comparison to
>>something else. Examples:
>General relativity, I believe?
General Relativity implies that gravity, mass and energy are far more
bizarre than anyone had previously imagined. They are intimitely
connected, yet all have to be postulated in order for physics to work
at all (you can't derive mass, it just is...)
>>states, Oscar's Razor comes into play. (Oscar's Razor states that you
>>cannot tell both the energy state and position of an electron. This is
>>because the act of observing an electron changes its state). Again,
>>scaling up from subatomic to newtonian level presents a problem. *It
>>be Oscam's Razor. My brain is fading now.
>Almost :). I believe it's Hiezenberg's Uncertainty Priniciple (and even
>I may have spelled his name wrong). Actually, as I remember, you can't
>measure the amount of energy an electron of itself has - the energy
>of an electron is down to where it's orbiting round an atom and you
>the amount of energy it gives off when it changes orbits in the form of
>radiation. These *are* (as far as I remember) universally constant.
Nope, Heisenberg's U P says that the energy _can't_ be constant. Even a
laser has a spectrum (albeit very narrow).
>>Corollary: Since there are no universal measurements, there is no
>>for communication. You say math is a constant? Math is good for
>>describing facts, but unless you have a consensus on the measurements,
>>it is less useful for describing theory. And how do you describe
>>democracy, freedom, ownership and other such concepts mathematically?
>You can't. But there *are* certain things which are apparently to us
>actually constant. Two examples would be the speed of light (which
>constant in the normal universe) and the ratio of a circle's radius to
If the speed of light is constant, then what is the speed of light when
measured by a photon?, ie, how fast does a photon "feel" like it is
For example, it takes a finite time for a photon to go from A to B,
but since the photon is travelling at the speed of light the distance
between A and B is zero, time stands still, and the photon takes an
amount of time to go from A to B, which contradicts the fact that it
get to B (very quickly, I might add!).
Quantum Mechanically, the photon is actually everywhere in the universe
at the same time, until it is detected in a particular place. This has
be so, because for a photon to be emitted, it also has to be absorbed
(we can't have a "leaky" universe, can we?). Hence it has to "know" that
it will be absorbed before it can be emitted! Again, another
If nothing can travel faster than light, then how does that little
know about its absorber when it is , say, 10 million light years away?
Feynman tried explaining this, but even he ran into troubles. A
of mine had the priveledge of metting RPF and asked him about it. His
was that "that is just crazy stuff!" (typical Feynman).
As for the immortal Pi, try drawing a circle on a sphere! Then Pi
for every circle of a unique radius! Kinda like how a triangle on a
can have interior angles that add up to more than 180.
As an aside, many physics students learn the concept of a closed,
yet infinte universe through the analogy of standing on an inflating
At any point on the baloon, the space around that point is expanding
that point. The further you look, the faster that part is moving away
you. Hence the quest for the elusive Hubble Constant. The problem is
you consider the point directly opposite you on the balloon. Whichever
you look, that point is moving away from you at the maximum speed
However, if you look in opposite directions simultaneously, the point(s)
seem to be moving towards each other! In fact, if you look all the way
to your own back, things get even more bizarre! Could this be what we
seeing when we look at Quasars? Are they actually the same thing that we
see when we look in the other direction? Would someone standing near
a Quasar see US as a living in a Quasar, while things around him seem
>Whether this allows you to communicate effectively with an
>alien species is a separate issue. In terms of the FT universe and
>measurement you can have a standard measure of time - there are various
>ways to do it like atomic decay rates etc. But if you have FTL comms
>can just have a universal speaking clock :). That's presuming you have
>travel. If you only have very very near light speed ravel then your tim
>up the kaibish too. ( I am presuming whatever FTL system you use
>suffer from relativistic effects). even then, some of the newer
>FTL' particle effects (like spin reversion) COULD be used to make for
>standard time measurement regardless of distance.
(Just when you thought I was done, ha ha ha!)
Even atomic decay rates are not constant. Its impossible to slow them
enough! And when they are slow enough, they have already decayed down to
lowest possible energy! Interstingly, the atomic clocks used in orbit
GPS (among other things) keep different time than identical clocks on
As you can see, if I were to write sci-fi, I would probably confuse
so much that I wouldn't even be able to write an intro! My readers would
likely see my name on the cover and just leave it on the shelf!
BTW, I don't really expect anyone to reply to these comments. Most of
questions I am posing have no (known) answers. Indeed, some of the
may have no meaning at all! I'm just trying to show what can happen when
"logic" is applied to something completely outside of our realm of
experience. Some things just are, and we have to learn to accept
contradiction in order to preserve our sanity...
>"Reality never lives up to all that it used to be.."
> Beth Orton 'Best bit'
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