Saturday, September 22, 2012

Truth, Time and 'Absolute Space'

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

When Galileo was compelled to recant, it is said that he muttered inaudibly under his breath: "...but it does move". 'It' being Earth, of course. The Catholic Church had maintained its doctrine of an unmoving Earth in unmoving space, a 'God's eye view' of absolute space about unmoving objects. The Church insisted upon its version of the way the universe was created and worked.

If I should ever be compelled to recant my liberal, progressive views of both politics and metaphysics, it will be because the American right wing will have created and enforced a dictatorship of both the very stupid and those who choose to be ignorant; however faith based this vision may be it is best described as a faith based tyranny.

Those who know better but rationalize their accommodation with such a dictatorship epitomize what Existentialists call bad faith! Any school curriculum, any dictatorship derived from either deliberate ignorance or bad faith must be opposed to be replaced by a true democratic system based on egalitarian principles subject to reality checks and pragmatic expectations.

My views are entirely consistent with any religion based on 'faith'. Faith does not require proof or even meaningful sentences. Faith is just that: faith. But 'certitude' –certainly the best word to describe the more militant fundamentalist churches –is inconsistent with both faith and science. One cannot have faith if one is certain and if one is certain faith is not required. It cannot be both ways. Therefore, religion, by definition, must not be militant. If militant, it ceases to be religion and becomes dogma. Even the fundamentalist baptist church in which I grew up "preached" that the acceptance of Christ must be chosen freely! It follows, then, that if it is coerced or induced through brainwashing, the choice is not free. Like a bad vaccination, it doesn't "take".

One is reminded of the storied contest that pitted the storied attorney, Clarence Darrow vs William Jennings Bryan who was, in many respects, a very admirable and honest person. Nevertheless,  at Dayton, TN he supported state efforts to impose upon a curriculum a religious agenda. By definition, faith cannot be imposed. An oath imposed by law or coerced at the point of a gun or threat of excommunication is invalid. The very notion that religion can be compelled is self-contradictory.

A more recent example is Sarah Palin whose record of trying to put creationists on School Boards is anathema to those who believe in freedom of religion as guaranteed in the First Amendment. This is not a matter of faith; creationists believe their theory to be fact. As their acts have now made this a political issue, it is fair game for debate. For them creationism is not a matter of faith but of fact. The truth is that creationism is a pseudo-science that they would have us teach in school science classes. I oppose that because creationism is not science. I would oppose it for that reason even if I subscribed to creationist ideology. I am convinced that creationists would oppose in any case, confirmation that their position is ideological, inflexible, dogmatic, utterly without any empirical support whatsoever. As Cafferty said of Palin: "...   this women is one 72 year old's heartbeat away from the White House and if that doesn't scare you it should."

Creationism is not science but faith, in fact, "bad faith". As science, the creationist ideology is easily disproved. Andromeda has been proven to be about 2.5 million light years from Earth. Ergo: we see Andromeda as it was some 2.5 million years ago. If we can look up at the sky at night and see Andromeda, we have destroyed "creationism". Creationists are wrong!  Seeing it proves that the universe is exponentially older than the the mere six thousand years ascribes to it by Palin et al. If we can see it at all, creationism is wrong.

The distance to Andromeda can be determined precisely.
By comparing the absolute and apparent magnitudes, Ribas's team concluded the Andromeda Galaxy is 2.52±0.14 million light-years from Earth. This agrees perfectly with the Cepheid-based distance to Andromeda: 2.5 million light-years. The newly determined distance, however, does not depend on assuming a distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud. The agreement means astronomers can probably trust Cepheid distances to more distant galaxies, such as those in the Virgo and Fornax clusters.
--First direct distance to Andromeda
This alone disproves Palinesque nonsense. We can see Andromeda; Palin is wrong.
I found Andromeda as a kid in Odessa, TX. I had nothing more than a good pair of hand-me-down binoculars, a shaky tripod and a star map. It is the only Galaxy visible to the naked eye. If we had discovered no other object, we must conclude, therefore, that the universe is very old. Most scientists are agreed that the age of the universe is some 13.7 billion years. Recently, astronomers have discovered that is the oldest object yet discovered, a galaxy some 13.7 billion years from our own Galaxy, the Milky Way. It is a relic of our early universe. When Astronomers look into space --deep or otherwise --they are, in fact, looking back into time. The new discovery has taken us where no man has gone before.

Of course, there are many objects much, much more distant than Andromeda; the new discovery is the best example to date. Even prior to this recent discovery, scientists were buoyed by images from the Hubble telescope, considerably more advanced than a simple pair of hand me down 7x35 binoculars duct taped to a half-assed tripod. That and a cheap telescope were my tools as a youngster enamored with astronomy.

Theory is good! The 'creationist' position with regard to the teaching of 'creationism' in public schools, however, is a straw man. Every curriculum I have ever seen teaches science as theory. But creationism is not science nor is it a scientific 'theory'. Scientific theories are subject to being disproved and upon being disproved ––discarded. Religious dogma, by contrast, is 1) believed and/or espoused upon faith – not fact; 2) almost never provable one way or another even by experiment; 3) embraced or adopted upon 'decrees' issued by an 'authority' of some sort; in every imaginable instant it is a self-appointed 'authority'. The process differs little from that of 'the Church' in Rome which opposed Galileo. They were the 'authority' and Galileo was not. Galileo was compelled to recant for having proposed that the Earth revolved about the Sun. It is said he muttered inaudibly under his breath: "...but it (the Earth) does move"!

The authority of the church was, in the final analysis, merely assumed. It was asserted, conveniently, by those who had assumed it. It was decreed from the top and compelled with horrific threats of torture here on Earth and eternal fiery hell in the "after life". Churches of almost every persuasion may all be alike in this respect. Upon no proof or evidence, they presume to tell rational human beings what to think. The authoritarian nature of organized religion, thus, nullifies the individual conscience. In all matters verifiable, the church may be at odds.

In Existentialist terms, the worst creationists espouse their theory in bad-faith. They know it to be untrue but insist that you believe it. Many may know it to be untrue or --as bad --beyond verification by any means. But they will espouse it anyway. This is dis-honest. This is "bad faith". This is a crime against truth. As Bertolt Brecht said:
"A man who does not know the truth is just an idiot but a man who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a crook!"
Fundamentalists are crooks. Meaningful theories are subject to proof or disproof. Articles of faith, by definition, are not. If an assertion can be proven, there is no need for "faith". Because of the genius of our founders, people are free to act upon their religious convictions and may worship in the church of their choice –or not! Anyone insisting that religious faith be taught in schools financed with your tax monies violates your rights, specifically "Freedom of Religion" guaranteed you in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This is the law!

'My good friend Douglas Drenkow wrote:
On the other hand, the Left – from the beginnings of humankind – has challenged us to think for ourselves, in both matters of reason and faith, while respecting those who have proven themselves advanced in studies or achievements in various fields.
That describes what should be our role. The First Amendment is respectful of those who profess a faith in "good faith" and guarantees a right of dissent for those who are of differing persuasions. Jean-Paul Sartre and Bertolt Brecht have defined 'integrity' far more effectively than any 'bible thumping' fundamentalist preacher that I had been forced, as a child, to endure. Both Sartre and Brecht addressed the issue of bad faith, essentially, the condition in which an individual appropriates a false notion of self. The fashion photographer Richard Avedon was even more succinct than was Brecht (quoted above):
You cannot expect another man to carry your shit!
Jean-Paul Sartre had his own version:
A man is nothing else but what he makes of himself!
The GOP –as a whole –is premised on "bad faith". Recent GOP Presidents –Ronald Reagan, Bush Sr., Bush Jr. –courted the religious right in bad faith. The two Bushes, specifically, may be cause for alarm. Both were members of Yale's infamous "Skull and Bones", a secret society about which John F. Kennedy had warned the nation in his so-called "Secret Societies Speech". What little is known of the Skull and Bones leads one to believe that it is a Satanic Cult at odds with both religion, enlightenment, the various pursuits of verifiable truth. To the extent that much organized religion in America (especially the 'super churches' of the 'super' fundamentalist evangelical movement) is but a mass manifestation of 'bad faith'.

People do not seek religion because they wish to be moral. I would challenge any assertion that there is a statistical correlation between the espousal of religion and morality. On the other hand, moral people may be found among atheists and agnostics.

I am in good company when I am criticized for raising doubts among the faithful. Upon his conviction on similar charges, Socrates was forced to drink hemlock. He might have saved himself had he re-canted –a tactic favored by the most "establishments". The tactic is, In fact, a Faustian bargain in which one trades his soul for his life. Because he believed that "a man's soul is his self" [the existentialist point of view], St. Thomas More turned down the "offer". In Robert Bolt's great play "A Man for All Seasons", More tells his daughter, Meg:
...when a man takes an oath, Meg, he's holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers –he needn't hope to find himself again.
That is a description of "bad faith". Later, when More is sold out by the ambitious Richard Rich: "Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world... But for Wales?"

Another great existentialist play from the period is Jean Anouilh's Becket; ou l'honneur de Dieu. As the title suggests, Becket, having first served his King with distinction, found his honor in the service of God. To act contrary to that would have been, for Becket, the supreme act of bad faith. Forced to make the existential choice, Becket chose the honor of God above his duty to his King. Somewhat simplistically, he lost his life but saved his soul. Poor Galileo! He saved only his life.

I saw both movies in the same year in which I heard Stokely Carmichael address an audience at Cullen Auditorium on the University of Houston campus. It was historic –Stokely Carmichael's promise to keep alive the revolution that the assassinations of RFK and Martin Luther King Jr the following year would end. With them, the "dream" seemed to have perished.

JFK could have made the Faustian bargain with the Bush crime family that even then, via the Sr Bush, was directing CIA efforts against Cuba. RFK threatened the same people. Just recently, a BBC documentary established that RFK's "killer" was most certainly the CIA. Martin Luther King, of course, represented the 'black' revolution that would have rocked the establishment.

If a man's soul is his "self", then one may never find it in "organized religion", a standardized journey through preconceived dogma. By definition, every individual must take this journey and experience it. The journey differs with each individual; therefore, it cannot become scripture. However, the "form" seems always to be the same: the individual, in crisis, is given or confronts a choice: his life or his soul. It is no coincidence that this form is likewise the structure of almost every work of literature worth reading or watching.

Science and the Pursuit of 'Self'

I am quite sure that 'gravity waves' are a type of electro-magnetic wave like light, radio waves, and certain waves reaching Earth from deep space. It is tempting to imagine an inter-galactic space craft with sufficient energy to produce it's own gravity waves relative to a local field. The degree to which it is either negatively or positively in or out of phase with the surrounding gravity field just might get you from one planet to another, or from one star system to another. If I were to design such a craft, I would make it look just like the sleek craft that Klaato and Gort emerged from in "The Day the Earth Stood Still". Klaatu barada nikto

'Particle' and 'wave' are just words to describe a 'noumenon' --as Immanuel Kant called things as they just are –before names are stuck on them, things NOT as they are perceived or measured but things in the state of mere being. As I recall, Kant may have referred to it a God's eye point of view. Not a "God's view" is the "snapshot" we make of waves. We may think of a particle as the "snapshot" we make of a "wave". Waves, by definition, are manifested only over time, however short that instant may be.
Certainly –Heisenberg's "uncertainty principle" is verbally stated thus: a particle's position or its velocity may be measured at any given instant but not both at the same instant. I like the photographic analogy. If I use a slow shutter speed, my photograph of some object making a looping motion as it moves from point A to point B will look like a solid object if my shutter speed is –say–one half second or longer depending up the lateral speed of the object photographed. See: Pablo Picasso: Light Painting

An object making a looping motion while moving from point 'A' to point 'B' will look amazingly different if photographed at 1,1000th of a second than over a period of 1,2 or 3 seconds or an hour, a day! Depending upon how quickly the 'object' is moving. At very fast shutter speeds, my photographs are sure to suggest the shape of the "actual object". The question is: what is the "actual object". Point being, the faster my shutter speed, the closer I get to the actual shape of the object but at the expense of being able to determine its speed. This is the visual proof of Heisenberg's 'uncertainty principle' which I summarize thus: either the position or the speed of an object may be precisely determined but not both at the same time. This is the very crux of quantum mechanics.

For me, this principle evokes my recollection of seeing Pablo Picasso's lighting paintings for the very first time. Over a period of several seconds, his "light pen" has created an object, the shape of which is limited only by Picasso's imagination. If the shutter is is made longer, a different shape will emerge. As the shutter speed is made faster, Pablo's creation becomes increasingly smaller. Likewise, physicists hoping to pin down sub-atomic particles. As Heisenberg discovered: we pin down the location of a particle at the expense of learning its velocity; we may pin down its velocity at the expense of learning its shape.

As a child on a road trip with may parents, I asked by father: how fast are we going? My father answered: "...fifty miles per hour". I responded: what does that mean? He answered: "...over the course of an hour we will have gone fifty miles." I responded as a child might: "But how fast are we going right now?" I might not have known, at age 5, that my question was consistent with if it did not invoke Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.

At the Movie Theater

By definition, a shadow, or projection of a 3D object, indeed, any n-dimensional object will always be 2D. In other words, an (n-1) dimensional image; a 3D object makes a 2D 'projection' or, by analogy, a 2D shadow. Physical reality may, therefore, consist of 3-dimensional projections of 4D objects just as a 'time-line' through Platonia may be considered the 3D projection of a higher dimensional reality of at least four dimensions. Our world may be but "images" or "shadows", integrated projections of a 4th (or higher ) reality. We are not living in a movie; we are a living movie!

Depending upon its forward velocity, a looping object will describe a sine wave as it moves. In those instances, orbits are "frozen" sine waves. The moon, for example, orbits the earth but describes a wave as it follows the Earth in its orbit about the sun. An electron orbiting an atom makes a sine wave if both electron and nucleus are in motion...and they are always in motion. Depending upon how it is "photographed" (to use the analogy) it is both a particle and a wave. Electrons are particles if their position is pinned down, but waves otherwise. At the quantum level, particles are still blurs but smaller blurs. One wonders if anything really exists at all.

To use the photography analogy again –what shows up on the 'photograph' depends upon the shutter speed. Slow shutter speeds make blurry photographs in which small objects may appear to be large and blurry. A very fast shutter speed will result in a smaller, sharper object. Similarly, Heisenberg's equation describes the relationship between the accuracy of a position vis a vis a velocity. A precise determination of velocity can only be made at the expense of a precise determination of the object's position.

The question that I asked my father was really not a bad one. At that age, however, I could not have known the power of graphs, slopes, tangents and co-ordinates to any given point on a curve. It does make sense to say that at an infinitesimally small "point" representing an "instant", a speed is "X". One could define the car as the fourth dimensional shape manifested over the duration of a one hour trip. Theoretically, I could take a long exposure photograph of the entire trip. The result would not resemble a car. It would resemble a "string". String theory?

Zooming in to the quantum level, I will learn the shape of particles but I will have done so at the expense of the fourth dimensional shape manifested over the course of "trip". I like the description of "gravity waves" –that they are ripples in the fabric of space-time. I found some very interesting GIF animations of gravity waves in a 3-D graphics program. That, of course, is a projection twice removed --but nevertheless one gets the idea. If a craft is ever built utilizing the interference patterns generated by two dissimilar wave fronts, inter-stellar travel will allow one to "surf" the universe. Thought of in this way, such a craft is also a time machine.

The work of Julian Barbour is consistent with Occam's Razor. I believe that Barbour did not find it necessary to posit additional dimensions as he must surely be convinced that they are not necessary to his hypothesis. Barbour's theory is fully developed within four dimensions. If one is otherwise satisfied or convinced of Barbour, then the question is: what purpose is served by positing additional dimensions?

An atomic clock works like any other clock, that is, it measures time against oscillations of a known duration. For a Grandfather clock, it is the oscillations of a pendulum. For an atomic clock it is the oscillation of electrons about a nucleus. I have problems with the conventional MODEL of the atom depicting electrons orbiting a nucleus. As atoms are always in motion, those "ORBITS" are oscillations. Likewise, the moon is said to orbit Earth but because the Earth itself is in motion about the sun, and the sun about the about the center of the Galaxy, and the Galaxy about the center of the 'local group' etc, etc, ALL, it would appear, are oscillations. The universe is an oscillating machine.

Also see: Nasa Seeks 'Warp Drive', Anti-Gravity Space Craft


Anonymous said...

"But 'certitude' –certainly the best word to describe the more militant fundamentalist churches --is inconsistent with both faith and science." - LH

Len, that statement alone depicts the very core of humanities most perilous condition as we enter this century, and it could not have been made any more clear. The fact that these people are exploited (one way or another...not to mention their own need to dominate) and used in the political process is legacy for any of the old world systems and hierarchy's, no doubt and now in America today, this culture has been allowed to en-bed it's self throughout our political process... more so then I can ever remember. The scary element with this scenario will be how easily it will be to draw on those of the religious 'faithful' to join those of religious 'certitude' liken it to the mainstreaming of the extreme right-wing ideas that we see casually promoted as the 'norm' today, and as you say...these two groups have merged.

Thanks for your wonderful writings, they are knowledgeable and entertaining, they speak within and beyond our unique American experience, as you are a cultural icon for the human race, and continue to strive for truth.
I rarely leave this blog not being enlightened in some small or large way...


Unknown said...

Benmerc, your comments humble me but encourage me to continue this blog and re-double my efforts. I am fortunate, indeed, to benefit from such sincere encouragement. Now that Bush is out of office, bloggers must find a way to build. We must all move forward. That's not to say that the GOP is off the hook or that Obama is beyond criticism. It is, at least, an opportunity to build a progressive coalition and one that will not be anti-education or anti-intellectual.

Modern Space Guru Full said...

This is so much more than i needed!!! but will all come in use thanks!!