Archivo de la etiqueta: Filosofía

1984

All great books have one thing in common. They present deep philosophical inquiries, often clad in superb story lines. Or is it just my proclivity to see philosophy where none exists?

En 1984, the immediate story is of a completely totalitarian regime. Inwardly, 1984 is also about ethics and politics. It doesn’t end there, but goes into nested philosophical inquiries about how everything is eventually connected to metaphysics. It naturally ends up in solipsism, not merely in the material, metaphysical sense, but also in a spiritual, socio-psychological sense where the only hope, the only desired outcome of life, becomes death.

I think I may be giving away too much of my impressions in the first paragraph. Let’s take it step by step. We all know that totalitarianism is bad. It is a bad political system, we believe. The badness of totalitarianism can present itself at different levels of our social existence.

At the lowest level, it can be a control over our physical movements, physical freedom, and restrictions on what you can or cannot do. Try voting against a certain African “president” and you get beaten up, por ejemplo. Try leaving certain countries, you get shot.

At a higher level, totalitarianism can be about financial freedom. Think of those in the developed world who have to juggle three jobs just to put food on the table. At a progressively subtler level, totalitarianism is about control of information. Example: media conglomerates filtering and coloring all the news and information we receive.

At the highest level, totalitarianism is a fight for your mind, your soul, and your spiritual existence. 1984 presents a dystopia where totalitarianism is complete, irrevocable, and existing at all levels from physical to spiritual.

Another book of the same dystopian kind is The Handmaid’s Tale, where a feminist’s nightmare of a world is portrayed. Aquí, the focus is on religious extremism, and the social and sexual subjugation brought about by it. But the portrayal of the world gone hopelessly totalitarian is similar to 1984.

Also portraying a dark dystopia is V for Vendentta, with torture and terrorism thrown in. This work is probably inspired by 1984, I have to look it up.

It is the philosophical points in 1984 that make it the classic it is. The past, por ejemplo, is a matter of convention. If everybody believes (or is forced to believe) that events took place in a certain way, then that is the past. History is written by the victors. Knowing that, how can you trust the greatness of the victors or the evil in the vanquished? Assume for a second that Hitler had actually won the Second World War. Do you think we would’ve still thought of him as evil? I think we would probably think of him as the father of the modern world or something. Por supuesto, we would be having this conversation (if we were allowed to exist and have conversations at all) in German.

Even at a personal level, the past is not as immutable as it seems. Truth is relative. Lies repeated often enough become truth. All these points are describe well in 1984, first from Winston’s point of view and later, in the philosophically sophisticated discourses of O’Brien. In a world existing in our own brain, where the phenomenal reality as we see it is far from the physical one, morality does lose a bit of its glamor. Metaphysics can erode on ethics. Solipsism can annihilate it.

A review, especially one in a blog, doesn’t have to be conventional. So let me boldly outline my criticisms of 1984 así. I believe that the greatest fear of a normal human being is the fear of death. Después de todo, the purpose of life is merely to live a little longer. Everything that our biological faculties do stem from the desire to exist a little longer.

Based on this belief of mine, I find certain events in 1984 a bit incongruous. Why is it that Winston and Julia don’t fear death, but still fear the telescreens and gestapo-like police? Perhaps the fear of pain overrides the fear of death. What do I know, I have never been tortured.

But even the fear of pain can be understood in terms of the ultimate fear. Pain is a messenger of bodily harm, ergo of possible death. But fear of rats?! Perhaps irrational phobias, existing at a sub-cognitive, almost physical, layer may be stronger than everything else. But I cannot help feeling that there is something amiss, something contrived, in the incarceration and torture parts of 1984.

May be Orwell didn’t know how to portray spiritual persecution. Por suerte, none of us knows. So such techniques as rats and betrayal were employed to bring about the hideousness of the process. This part of the book leaves me a bit dissatisfied. Después de todo, our protagonists knew full well what they were getting into, and what the final outcome would be. If they knew their spirit would be broken, then why leave it out there to be broken?

Percepción, Física y el papel de la luz en Filosofía

Realidad, como lo percibimos, no es del todo real. Las estrellas que vemos en el cielo nocturno, por ejemplo, no están realmente allí. Ellos pueden haberse movido o incluso muerto en el momento en que llegamos a verlos. Esta irrealidad es debido al tiempo que tarda la luz de las estrellas y galaxias distantes para llegar hasta nosotros. Sabemos de este retraso.

Incluso el sol que nos conocemos tan bien que ya es de ocho minutos de edad para el momento en que lo vemos. Este hecho no parece presentar particularmente graves problemas epistemológicos – si queremos saber lo que está pasando en el sol ahora, todo lo que tenemos que hacer es esperar durante ocho minutos. Sólo tenemos que 'correcta’ las distorsiones en la percepción debido a la velocidad finita de la luz antes de que podamos confiar en lo que vemos. El mismo fenómeno en el ver tiene una manifestación menos conocida en la forma en que percibimos los objetos en movimiento. Algunos cuerpos celestes aparecen como si se están moviendo varias veces la velocidad de la luz, mientras que su 'real’ velocidad debe ser mucho menor que la.

Lo que es sorprendente (y rara vez resaltado) es que cuando se trata de detectar el movimiento, no podemos respaldar a calcular en la misma clase de manera que podamos para corregir el retraso en la observación del sol. Si vemos un cuerpo celeste que se mueve a una improbablemente alta velocidad, no podemos calcular qué tan rápido o incluso en qué dirección es "realmente’ en movimiento sin tener que hacer ciertas suposiciones adicionales.

Einstein eligió para resolver el problema mediante el tratamiento de la percepción como distorsionada e inventar nuevas propiedades fundamentales en el ámbito de la física – en la descripción de espacio y tiempo. Una idea central de la Teoría Especial de la Relatividad es que la noción humana de una secuencia ordenada de eventos en el tiempo necesita ser abandonada. De hecho, ya que se necesita tiempo para que la luz de un evento en un lugar lejano para llegar hasta nosotros, y para nosotros a tomar conciencia de que, el concepto de 'ahora’ ya no tiene ningún sentido, por ejemplo, cuando hablamos de una mancha solar que aparece en la superficie del sol justo en el momento en que el astrónomo intentaba fotografiarlo. La simultaneidad es relativa.

Einstein redefinió lugar simultaneidad utilizando los instantes en el tiempo detectamos el evento. Detección, como él lo definió, implica un viaje de ida y vuelta de la luz similar a la detección por radar. Enviamos una señal que viaja a la velocidad de la luz, y esperar a que la reflexión. Si el impulso reflejado a partir de dos eventos nos llega en el mismo instante, entonces ellos son simultáneos. Pero otra manera de ver las cosas es simplemente llamar a dos eventos simultáneos '’ si la luz de ellos nos llega en el mismo instante. En otras palabras, podemos utilizar la luz generada por los objetos bajo observación en lugar de enviar señales a ellos y mirando a la reflexión.

Esta diferencia puede sonar como un tecnicismo argucia, pero sí hacer una enorme diferencia en las predicciones que podemos hacer. Elección de Einstein resulta en una imagen matemática que tiene muchas propiedades deseables, incluyendo el de hacer un mayor desarrollo teórico más elegante. Pero a continuación,, Einstein creía, como una cuestión de fe, parecería, que las normas que rigen el universo deben ser "elegante.’ Sin embargo, El otro enfoque tiene una ventaja cuando se trata de describir objetos en movimiento. Debido, por supuesto, no utilizamos radar para ver las estrellas en movimiento; nos sentimos más que la luz (u otra radiación) viniendo de ellos. Sin embargo, el uso de este tipo de paradigma sensorial, en lugar de "detección de radar-como,’ para describir los resultados del universo en una imagen matemática más feo. Einstein no aprobaría!

La diferencia matemática genera diferentes posturas filosóficas, que a su vez filtrarse a la comprensión de nuestra imagen física de la realidad. Como una ilustración, Supongamos que observamos, a través de un telescopio de radio, dos objetos en el cielo, con aproximadamente la misma forma, tamaño y las propiedades. Lo único que sabemos con certeza es que las ondas de radio procedentes de estos dos puntos diferentes en el cielo nos llegan en el mismo instante en el tiempo. Sólo podemos adivinar cuando las olas comenzaron sus viajes.

Si asumimos (ya que rutinariamente hacemos) que las ondas comenzaron el viaje más o menos en el mismo instante en el tiempo, terminamos con una imagen de dos 'real’ lóbulos simétricos más o menos la forma de verlos. Pero hay otra, posibilidad diferente y que es que las ondas se originaron del mismo objeto (que está en movimiento) en dos instantes diferentes en el tiempo, alcanzando el telescopio en el mismo instante. Esta posibilidad, además, explicar algunas propiedades espectrales y temporales de estas fuentes de radio simétricos. Entonces, ¿cuál de estas dos imágenes debemos tomar como real? Dos objetos simétricos como los vemos o un objeto que se mueve de tal manera que nos dé esa impresión? ¿Realmente importa lo que uno es "real"? Real no '’ significa nada en este contexto?

Relatividad Especial da una respuesta inequívoca a esta pregunta. Las matemáticas descarta la posibilidad de un único objeto que se mueve de una manera tal como para imitar dos objetos. Esencialmente, lo que vemos es lo que está ahí fuera. Sin embargo,, si definimos los eventos por lo que percibimos, la única postura filosófica que tiene sentido es el que se desconecta de la realidad detectada a partir de las causas que están detrás de lo que se está detectando.

Esta desconexión no es infrecuente en las escuelas filosóficas del pensamiento. Fenomenalismo, por ejemplo, sostiene la opinión de que el espacio y el tiempo no son realidades objetivas. Ellos no son más que el medio de nuestra percepción. Todos los fenómenos que ocurren en el espacio y el tiempo no son más que haces de nuestra percepción. En otras palabras, espacio y el tiempo son construcciones cognitivas surgen de la percepción. Así, todas las propiedades físicas que atribuimos al espacio y el tiempo sólo se pueden aplicar a la realidad fenoménica (la realidad de 'cosas-en-el-mundo’ como lo percibimos. La realidad subyacente (que mantiene las causas físicas de nuestra percepción), por el contrario, queda fuera de nuestro alcance cognitivo.

Sin embargo, hay un abismo entre los puntos de vista de la filosofía y la física moderna. No en vano, el físico ganador del Premio Nobel, Steven Weinberg, pregunto, en su libro Sueños de una Teoría Final de, ¿por qué la contribución de la filosofía a la física había sido tan sorprendentemente pequeño. Tal vez es porque la física aún tiene que llegar a un acuerdo con el hecho de que cuando se trata de ver el universo, no hay tal cosa como una ilusión óptica – que es probablemente lo que Goethe quiso decir cuando dijo, "Ilusión óptica es verdad óptica.’

La distinción (o falta de ella) entre la ilusión óptica y la verdad es uno de los debates más antiguos de la filosofía. Después de todo, se trata de la distinción entre el conocimiento y la realidad. El conocimiento es considerado nuestro punto de vista sobre algo que, en la realidad, es 'realmente el caso.’ En otras palabras, el conocimiento es un reflejo, o una imagen mental de algo externo, como se muestra en la siguiente figura.

ExternalToBrain

En esta foto, la flecha negro representa el proceso de creación de conocimiento, que incluye la percepción, actividades cognitivas, y el ejercicio de la razón pura. Esta es la imagen que la física ha llegado a aceptar. Si bien reconoce que nuestra percepción puede ser imperfecta, la física supone que podemos conseguir más y más a la realidad externa a través de la experimentación cada vez más fino, y, más importante, mediante una mejor teorización. Las teorías especial y general de la relatividad son ejemplos de brillantes aplicaciones de esta visión de la realidad donde los principios físicos simples son implacablemente perseguidos usando formidable máquina de la razón pura a sus conclusiones lógicamente inevitables.

Pero hay otra, visión alternativa del conocimiento y de la realidad que ha existido durante mucho tiempo. Esta es la opinión de que se refiere a la realidad percibida como una representación cognitiva interna de nuestras entradas sensoriales, como se ilustra a continuación.

AbsolutelToBrain

En este punto de vista, conocimiento y la realidad percibida son dos constructos cognitivos internos, aunque hemos llegado a pensar en ellos como algo separado. Lo que es externo no es la realidad tal como la percibimos, sino una entidad incognoscible dando origen a las causas físicas detrás de los estímulos sensoriales. En la ilustración, la primera flecha representa el proceso de detección, y la segunda flecha representa los pasos de razonamiento cognitivo y lógicas. Para la aplicación de esta visión de la realidad y el conocimiento, tenemos que adivinar la naturaleza de la realidad absoluta, incognoscible, ya que es. Un posible candidato para la realidad absoluta es la mecánica newtoniana, que da una predicción razonable para nuestra realidad percibida.

En resumen, cuando tratamos de manejar las distorsiones debidas a la percepción, tenemos dos opciones, o dos posibles posturas filosóficas. Una es aceptar las distorsiones como parte de nuestro espacio y el tiempo, como lo hace la Relatividad Especial. La otra opción es asumir que hay una "mayor’ realidad distinta de nuestra realidad detectada, cuyas propiedades sólo podemos conjeturar. En otras palabras, una opción es vivir con la distorsión, mientras que la otra es la de proponer conjeturas de la realidad superior. Ninguna de estas opciones es particularmente atractivo. Pero el camino adivinar es similar a la vista aceptado en phenomenalism. También conduce naturalmente a la forma de ver la realidad de la neurociencia cognitiva, que estudia los mecanismos biológicos detrás de la cognición.

El giro a esta historia de la luz y la realidad es que parece que hemos sabido todo esto por un largo tiempo. El papel de la luz en la creación de nuestra realidad o universo está en el centro del pensamiento religioso occidental. Un universo desprovisto de luz no es simplemente un mundo donde usted ha apagado las luces. De hecho, es un universo carente de sí mismo, un universo que no existe. Es en este contexto que tenemos que entender la sabiduría detrás de la afirmación de que "la tierra estaba desordenada, y sin efecto’ hasta que Dios hizo la luz para ser, diciendo "Hágase la luz.’

El Corán también dice, 'Alá es la luz de los cielos y la tierra,’ que se refleja en una de las antiguas escrituras hindúes: "Llévame de la oscuridad a la luz, me llevan de lo irreal a lo real.’ El papel de la luz en la que nos lleva desde el vacío irreal (la nada) a una realidad de hecho se entiende por un largo, mucho tiempo. ¿Es posible que los antiguos santos y profetas sabían cosas que sólo ahora estamos empezando a descubrir con todos nuestros supuestos avances en el conocimiento?

Hay paralelismos entre la distinción-nouménico fenomenal de Kant y los fenomenistas posteriores, y la distinción Brahman-Maya en Advaita. La sabiduría de la naturaleza de la realidad desde el repertorio de la espiritualidad se reinventa en la neurociencia moderna, que trata la realidad como una representación cognitiva creada por el cerebro. El cerebro utiliza los estímulos sensoriales, memoria, conciencia, e incluso el lenguaje como ingredientes en inventar nuestro sentido de la realidad. Esta visión de la realidad, sin embargo, es la física algo todavía es incapaz de llegar a un acuerdo con. Pero en la medida en que su ámbito (espacio y el tiempo) es una parte de la realidad, la física no es inmune a la filosofía.

De hecho, como empujamos los límites de nuestro conocimiento cada vez más, estamos descubriendo interconexiones insospechadas ya menudo sorprendentes entre las diferentes ramas de los esfuerzos humanos. Sin embargo,, ¿cómo pueden los diversos ámbitos de nuestro conocimiento sean independientes entre sí, si todo conocimiento es subjetivo? Si el conocimiento no es más que la representación cognitiva de nuestras experiencias? Pero a continuación,, es la falacia moderna a pensar que el conocimiento es la representación interna de una realidad externa, y por lo tanto distinta de ella. En lugar, reconociendo y haciendo uso de las interconexiones entre los diferentes dominios de la actividad humana puede ser el requisito previo esencial para la siguiente etapa en el desarrollo de nuestra sabiduría colectiva.

Caja: Tren de EinsteinUno de los experimentos mentales famosas de Einstein ilustra la necesidad de repensar qué entendemos por eventos simultáneos. En él se describe un tren de alta velocidad corriendo por una pista recta más allá de una pequeña estación como un hombre que se encuentra en la plataforma de la estación de verla acelerar por. Para su asombro, mientras el tren le pasa, dos pernos de fulguración la pista junto a cada extremo del tren! (Convenientemente, para los investigadores posteriores, dejan marcas de quemaduras tanto en el tren y en el suelo.)

Para el hombre, parece que los dos pernos del aligeramiento golpean exactamente en el mismo momento. Más tarde, las marcas en el suelo por la vía del tren revelan que los lugares donde el aligeramiento golpeó eran exactamente la misma distancia de él. Desde entonces los pernos del aligeramiento viajaron a la misma distancia hacia él, y desde que aparecieron al hombre a pasar exactamente en el mismo momento, él no tiene ninguna razón para no concluir que los pernos del aligeramiento golpeó exactamente en el mismo momento. Ellos fueron simultáneos.

Sin embargo, supongamos que un poco más tarde, el hombre conoce a una pasajera que se encontraba sentado en el coche de buffet, exactamente en el centro del tren, y mirando por la ventana en el momento los pernos del aligeramiento golpeó. Este pasajero le dice que ella vio el primer perno del aligeramiento golpeó el suelo cerca del motor en la parte delantera del tren poco antes de que el segundo cayó al suelo al lado del coche de equipaje en la parte trasera del tren.

El efecto no tiene nada que ver con la distancia que la luz tenía que viajar, ya que tanto la mujer y el hombre eran equidistante entre los dos puntos que el golpe relámpago. Sin embargo, se observaron la secuencia de eventos de manera muy diferente.

Este desacuerdo de la cronología de los acontecimientos es inevitable, Einstein dice, como la mujer es, en efecto, se mueve hacia el punto donde el relámpago golpeó cerca del motor -y de distancia desde el punto donde el relámpago golpear al lado del coche de equipaje. En la pequeña cantidad de tiempo que toma para que los rayos de luz que llegan a la dama, porque el tren se mueve, la distancia que el primer flash debe viajar a sus psiquiatras, y la distancia del segundo flash debe viajar crece.

Este hecho no puede ser observado en el caso de los trenes y aviones, pero cuando se trata de distancias cosmológicas, simultaneidad realmente no tiene ningún sentido. Por ejemplo, la explosión de dos supernovas distantes, visto como simultáneos desde nuestro punto de vista sobre la tierra, aparecerá a ocurrir en diferentes combinaciones de tiempo desde otras perspectivas.

En la Relatividad: La teoría especial y general (1920), Einstein lo dijo de esta manera:

'Cada cuerpo de referencia (SISTEMA COORDINADO) tiene su propio momento determinado; a menos que se nos dice el cuerpo de referencia a la que el estado de tiempo se refiere, no hay sentido en un comunicado de la hora de un evento.’

The Story So Far …

In the early sixties, Santa Kumari Amma decided to move to the High Ranges. She had recently started working with KSEB which was building a hydro-electric project there.The place was generically called the High Ranges, even though the ranges weren’t all that high. People told her that the rough and tough High Ranges were no place for a country girl like her, but she wanted to go anyways, prompted mainly by the fact that there was some project allowance involved and she could use any little bit that came her way. Her family was quite poor. She came from a small village called Murani (near a larger village called Mallappalli.)

Around the same time B. Thulasidas (better known as Appu) also came to the High Ranges. His familty wasn’t all that poor and he didn’t really need the extra money. But he thought, hey rowdy place anyway, what the heck? Well, to make a long story short, they fell in love and decided to get married. This was some time in September 1962. A year later Sandya was born in Nov 63. And a little over another year and I came to be! (This whole stroy, by the way, is taking place in the state of Kerala in India. Well, that sentence was added just to put the links there, just in case you are interested.) There is a gorgeous hill resort called Munnar (meaning three rivers) where my parents were employed at that time and that’s where I was born.

 [casual picture] Just before 1970, they (and me, which makes it we I guess) moved to Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala. I lived in Trivandrum till I was 17. Lots of things happened in those years, but since this post is still (and always will be) work in progress, I can’t tell you all about it now.

In 1983, I moved to Madras, to do my BTech in Electronics and Communication at IIT, Madras. (They call the IITs the MIT of India, only much harder to get in. In my batch, there were about 75,000 students competing for about 2000 places. I was ranked 63 among them. I’m quite smart academically, you see.) And as you can imagine, lots of things happened in those four years as well. But despite all that, I graduated in August 1987 and got my BTech degree.

In 1987, after finishing my BTech, I did what most IITians are supposed to do. I moved to the states. Upstate New York was my destination. I joined the Physics Department of Syracuse University to do my PhD in High Energy Physics. And boy, did a lot of things happen during those 6 years! Half of those 6 years were spent at Cornell University in Ithaca.

That was in Aug. 1987. Then in 1993 Sept, the prestigious French national research organization ( CNRS – “Centre national de la recherche scientifique”) hired me. I moved to France to continue my research work at ALEPH, CERN. My destination in France was the provencal city of Marseilles. My home institute was “Centre de Physique des Particules de Marseille” or CPPM. Of course, I didn’t speak a word of French, but that didn’t bother me much. (Before going to the US in 1987, I didn’t speak much English/Americanese either.)

End of 1995, on the 29th of Dec, I got married to Kavita. In early 1996, Kavita also moved to France. Kavita wasn’t too happy in France because she felt she could do much more in Singapore. She was right. Kavita is now an accomplished entrepreneur with two boutiques in Singapore and more business ideas than is good for her. She has won many awards and is a minor celebrity with the Singapore media. [Wedding picture]

In 1998, I got a good offer from what is now the Institute for Infocomm Research and we decided to move to Singapore. Among the various personal reasons for the move, I should mention that the smell of racisim in the Marseilles air was one. Although every individual I personally met in France was great, I always had a nagging feeling that every one I did not meet wanted me out of there. This feeling was further confirmed by the immigration clerks at the Marignane airport constantly asking me to “Mettez-vous a cote, monsieur” and occassionally murmuring “les francais d’abord.”  [Anita Smiles]

A week after I moved to Singapore, on the 24rth of July 1998, Anita was born. Incredibly cute and happy, Anita rearranged our priorities and put things in perspective. Five years later, on the 2nd of May 2003, Neil was born. He proved to be even more full of smiles.  [Neil Smiles more!]

In Singapore, I worked on a lot of various body-based measurements generating several patents and papers. Towards the end of my career with A-Star, I worked on brain signals, worrying about how to make sense of them and make them talk directly to a computer. This research direction influenced my thinking tremendously, though not in a way my employer would’ve liked. I started thinking about the role of perception in our world view and, consequently, in the theories of physics. I also realized how these ideas were not isolated musings, but were atriculated in various schools of philosophy. This line of thinking eventually ended up in my book, The Unreal Universe.

Towards the second half of 2005, I decided to chuck research and get into quantitative finance, which is an ideal domain for a cash-strapped physicist. It turned out that I had some skills and aptitudes that were mutually lucrative to my employers and myself. My first job was as the head of the quantitative analyst team at OCBC, a regional bank in Singapore. This middle office job, involving risk management and curtailing ebullient traders, gave me a thorough overview of pricing models and, perhaps more importantly, perfect understanding of the conflict-driven implementation of the risk appetite of the bank.

 [Dad] Later on, in 2007, I moved to Standard Chartered Bank, as a senior quantitative professional taking care of their in-house trading platform, which further enhanced my "big picture" outlook and inspired me to write Principles of Quantitative Development. I am rather well recognized in my field, and as a regular columnist for the Wilmott Magazine, I have published several articles on a variety of topics related to quants and quantitative finance, which is probably why John Wiley & Sons Ltd. asked me to write this book.

Despite these professional successes, on the personal front, 2008 has been a year of sadness. I lost my father on the 22nd of October. The death of a parent is a rude wake-up call. It brings about feelings of loss and pain that are hard to understand, and impossible to communicate. And for those of us with little gift of easy self-expression, they linger for longer than they perhaps should.

Unreal Time

Farsight wrote:Time is a velocity-dependent subjective measure of event succession rather than something fundamental – the events mark the time, the time doesn’t mark the events. This means the stuff out there is space rather than space-time, and is an “aether” veiled by subjective time.

I like your definition of time. It is close to my own view that time is “unreal.” It is possible to treat space as real and space-time as something different, as you do. This calls for some careful thought. I will outline my thinking in this post and illustrate it with an example, if my friends don’t pull me out for lunch before I can finish. :)

The first question we need to ask ourselves is why space and time seem coupled? The answer is actually too simple to spot, and it is in your definition of time. Space and time mix through our concept of velocity and our brain’s ability to sense motion. There is an even deeper connection, which is that space is a cognitive representation of the photons inputs to our eyes, but we will get to it later.

Let’s assume for a second that we had a sixth sense that operated at an infinite speed. That is, if star explodes at a million light years from us, we can sense it immediately. We will see it only after a million years, but we sense it instantly. I know, it is a violation of SR, cannot happen and all that, but stay with me for a second. Now, a little bit of thinking will convince you that the space that we sense using this hypothetical sixth sense is Newtonian. Here, space and time can be completely decoupled, absolute time can be defined etc. Starting from this space, we can actually work out how we will see it using light and our eyes, knowing that the speed of light is what it is. It will turn out, clearly, that we seen events with a delay. That is a first order (or static) effect. The second order effect is the way we perceive objects in motion. It turns out that we will see a time dilation and a length contraction (for objects receding from us.)

Let me illustrate it a little further using echolocation. Assume that you are a blind bat. You sense your space using sonar pings. Can you sense a supersonic object? If it is coming towards you, by the time the reflected ping reaches you, it has gone past you. If it is going away from you, your pings can never catch up. In other words, faster than sound travel is “forbidden.” If you make one more assumption – the speed of the pings is the same for all bats regardless of their state of motion – you derive a special relativity for bats where the speed of sound is the fundamental property of space and time!

We have to dig a little deeper and appreciate that space is no more real than time. Space is a cognitive construct created out of our sensory inputs. If the sense modality (light for us, sound for bats) has a finite speed, that speed will become a fundamental property of the resultant space. And space and time will be coupled through the speed of the sense modality.

This, of course, is only my own humble interpretation of SR. I wanted to post this on a new thread, but I get the feeling that people are a little too attached to their own views in this forum to be able to listen.

Leo wrote:Minkowski spacetime is one interpretation of the Lorentz transforms, but other interpretations, the original Lorentz-Poincaré Relativity or modernized versions of it with a wave model of matter (LaFreniere or Close or many others), work in a perfectly euclidean 3D space.

So we end up with process slowdown and matter contraction, but NO time dilation or space contraction. The transforms are the same though. So why does one interpretation lead to tensor metric while the others don’t? Or do they all? I lack the theoretical background to answer the question.

Hi Leo,

If you define LT as a velocity dependent deformation of an object in motion, then you can make the transformation a function of time. There won’t be any warping and complications of metric tensors and stuff. Actually what I did in my book is something along those lines (though not quite), as you know.

The trouble arises when the transformation matrix is a function of the vector is transforming. So, if you define LT as a matrix operation in a 4-D space-time, you can no longer make it a function of time through acceleration any more than you can make it a function of position (as in a velocity field, for instance.) The space-time warping is a mathematical necessity. Because of it, you lose coordinates, and the tools that we learn in our undergraduate years are no longer powerful enough to handle the problem.

The Unreal Universe — Discussion with Gibran

Hi again,You raise a lot of interesting questions. Let me try to answer them one by one.

You’re saying that our observations of an object moving away from us would look identical in either an SR or Galilean context, and therefore this is not a good test for SR.

What I’m saying is slightly different. The coordinate transformation in SR is derived considering only receding objects and sensing it using radar-like round trip light travel time. It is then assumed that the transformation laws thus derived apply to all objects. Because the round trip light travel is used, the transformation works for approaching objects as well, but not for things moving in other directions. But SR assumes that the transformation is a property of space and time and asserts that it applies to all moving (inertial) frames of reference regardless of direction.

We have to go a little deeper and ask ourselves what that statement means, what it means to talk about the properties of space. We cannot think of a space independent of our perception. Physicists are typically not happy with this starting point of mine. They think of space as something that exists independent of our sensing it. And they insist that SR applies to this independently existing space. I beg to differ. I consider space as a cognitive construct based on our perceptual inputs. There is an underlying reality that is the cause of our perception of space. It may be nothing like space, but let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the underlying reality is like Galilean space-time. How would be perceive it, given that we perceive it using light (one-way travel of light, not two-way as SR assumes)? It turns out that our perceptual space would have time dilation and length contraction and all other effect predicted by SR. So my thesis is that the underlying reality obeys Galilean space-time and our perceptual space obeys something like SR. (It is possible that if I assume that our perception uses two-way light travel, I may get SR-like transformation. I haven’t done it because it seems obvious to me that we perceive a star, for instance, by sensing the light from it rather than flashing a light at it.)

This thesis doesn’t sit well with physicists, and indeed with most people. They mistake “perceptual effects” to be something like optical illusions. My point is more like space itself is an illusion. If you look at the night sky, you know that the stars you see are not “real” in the sense that they are not there when you are looking at them. This is simply because the information carrier, namely light, has a finite speed. If the star under observation is in motion, our perception of its motion is distorted for the same reason. SR is an attempt to formalize our perception of motion. Since motion and speed are concepts that mix space and time, SR has to operate on “space-time continuum.” Since SR is based on perceptual effects, it requires an observer and describes motion as he perceives it.

But are you actually saying that not a single experiment has been done with objects moving in any other direction than farther away? And what about experiments on time dilation where astronauts go into space and return with clocks showing less elapsed time than ones that stayed on the ground? Doesn’t this support the ideas inherent in SR?

Experiments are always interpreted in the light of a theory. It is always a model based interpretation. I know that this is not a convincing argument for you, so let me give you an example. Scientists have observed superluminal motion in certain celestial objects. They measure the angular speed of the celestial object, and they have some estimate of its distance from us, so they can estimate the speed. If we didn’t have SR, there would be nothing remarkable about this observation of superluminality. Since we do have SR, one has to find an “explanation” for this. The explanation is this: when an object approaches us at a shallow angle, it can appear to come in quite a bit faster than its real speed. Thus the “real” speed is subluminal while the “apparent” speed may be superluminal. This interpretation of the observation, in my view, breaks the philosophical grounding of SR that it is a description of the motion as it appears to the observer.

Now, there are other observations of where almost symmetric ejecta are seen on opposing jets in symmetric celestial objects. The angular speeds may indicate superluminality in both the jets if the distance of the object is sufficiently large. Since the jets are assumed to be back-to-back, if one jet is approaching us (thereby giving us the illusion of superluminality), the other jet has bet receding and can never appear superluminal, unless, of course, the underlying motion is superluminal. The interpretation of this observation is that the distance of the object is limited by the “fact” that real motion cannot be superluminal. This is what I mean by experiments being open to theory or model based interpretations.

In the case of moving clocks being slower, it is never a pure SR experiment because you cannot find space without gravity. Besides, one clock has to be accelerated or decelerated and GR applies. Otherwise, the age-old twin paradox would apply.

I know there have been some experiments done to support Einstein’s theories, like the bending of light due to gravity, but are you saying that all of them can be consistently re-interpreted according to your theory? If this is so, it’s dam surprising! I mean, no offense to you – you’re obviously a very bright individual, and you know much more about this stuff than I do, but I’d have to question how something like this slipped right through physicists’ fingers for 100 years.

These are gravity related questions and fall under GR. My “theory” doesn’t try to reinterpret GR or gravity at all. I put theory in inverted quotes because, to me, it is a rather obvious observation that there is a distinction between what we see and the underlying causes of our perception. The algebra involved is fairly simple by physics standards.

Supposing you’re right in that space and time are actually Galilean, and that the effects of SR are artifacts of our perception. How then are the results of the Michelson-Morley experiments explained? I’m sorry if you did explain it in your book, but it must have flown right over my head. Or are we leaving this as a mystery, an anomaly for future theorists to figure out?

I haven’t completely explained MMX, more or less leaving it as a mystery. I think the explanation hinges on how light is reflected off a moving mirror, which I pointed out in the book. Suppose the mirror is moving away from the light source at a speed of v in our frame of reference. Light strikes it at a speed of c-v. What is the speed of the reflected light? If the laws of reflection should hold (it’s not immediately obvious that they should), then the reflected light has to have a speed of c-v as well. This may explain why MMX gives null result. I haven’t worked out the whole thing though. I will, once I quit my day job and dedicate my life to full-time thinking. :-)

My idea is not a replacement theory for all of Einstein’s theories. It’s merely a reinterpretation of one part of SR. Since the rest of Einstein’s edifice is built on this coordinate transformation part, I’m sure there will be some reinterpretation of the rest of SR and GR also based on my idea. Again, this is a project for later. My reinterpretation is not an attempt to prove Einstein’s theories wrong; I merely want to point out that they apply to reality as we perceive it.

Overall, it was worth the $5 I payed. Thanks for the good read. Don’t take my questions as an assault on your proposal – I’m honestly in the dark about these things and I absolutely crave light (he he). If you could kindly answer them in your spare time, I’d love to share more ideas with you. It’s good to find a fellow thinker to bounce cool ideas like this off of. I’ll PM you again once I’m fully done the book. Again, it was a very satisfying read.

Thanks! I’m glad that you like my ideas and my writing. I don’t mind criticism at all. Hope I have answered most of your questions. If not, or if you want to disagree with my answers, feel free to write back. Always a pleasure to chat about these things even if we don’t agree with each other.

– Best regards,
– Manoj

Discussion on the Daily Mail (UK)

On the Daily Mail forum, one participant (called “whats-in-a-name”) started talking about The Unreal Universe on July 15, 2006. It was attacked fairly viciously on the forum. I happened to see it during a Web search and decided to step in and defend it.

15 July, 2006

Posted by: whats-in-a-name on 15/07/06 at 09:28 AM

Ah, Kek, you’ve given me a further reason to be distracted from what I should be doing- and I can tell you that this is more interesting at the moment.I’ve been trying to formulate some ideas and there’s one coming- but I’ll have to give it to you in bits.I don’t want to delve into pseudoscience or take the woo-ish road that says that you can explain everything with quantum theory, but try starting here: http://theunrealuniverse.com/phys.shtml

The “Journal Article” link at the bottom touches on some of the points that we discussed elsewhere. It goes slightly off-topic, but you might also find the “Philosophy” link at the top left interesting.

Posted by: patopreto on 15/07/06 at 06:17 PM

Regarding that web site wian.One does not need to ead past this sentence –

The theories of physics are a description of reality. Reality is created out of the readings from our senses. Knowing that our senses all work using light as an intermediary, is it a surprise that the speed of light is of fundamental importance in our reality?

to realise that tis web site is complete ignorant hokum. I stopped at that point.

16 July, 2006

Posted by: whats-in-a-name on 16/07/06 at 09:04 AM

I’ve just been back to read that bit more carefully. I don’t know why the writer phrased it like that but surely what he meant was:(i) “Our perception of what is real is created out of the readings from our senses.” I think that most physicists wouldn’t argue with that would they? At the quantum level reality as we understand it doesn’t exist; you can only say that particles have more of a tendency to exist in one place or state than another.(ii) The information that we pick up from optical or radio telescopes, gamma-ray detectors and the like, shows the state of distant objects as they were in the past, owing to the transit time of the radiation. Delving deeper into space therefore enables us to look further back into the history of the universe.It’s an unusual way to express the point, I agree, but it doesn’t devalue the other information on there. In particular there are links to other papers that go into rather more detail, but I wanted to start with something that offered a more general view.

I get the impression that your study of physics is rather more advanced than mine- as I’ve said previously I’m only an amateur, though I’ve probably taken my interest a bit further than most. I’m happy to be corrected if any of my reasoning is flawed, though what I’ve said so far s quite basic stuff.

The ideas that I’m trying to express in response to Keka’s challenge are my own and again, I’m quite prepared to have you or anyone else knock them down. I’m still formulating my thoughts and I wanted to start by considering the model that physicists use of the nature of matter, going down to the grainy structure of spacetime at the Plank distance and quantum uncertainty.

I’ll have to come back to this in a day or two, but meanwhile if you or anyone else wants to offer an opposing view, please do.

Posted by: patopreto on 16/07/06 at 10:52 AM

I don’t know why the writer phrased it like that but surely what he meant was:

I think the write is quit clear! WIAN – you have re-written what he says to mean something different.

The writer is quite clear – “Once we accept that space and time are a part of the cognitive model created by the brain, and that special relativity applies to the cognitive model, we can ponder over the physical causes behind the model, the absolute reality itself.”

Blah Blah Blah!

The writer, Manoj Thulasidas, is an employee of OCBC bank in Singapore and self-described “amateur philosopher”. What is he writes appears to be nothing more than a religiously influenced solipsistic philosophy. Solipsism is interesting as a philosophical standpoint but quickly falls apart. If Manoj can start his arguments from such shaky grounds without explanation, then I really have no other course to take than to accept his descriptions of himself as “amateur”.

Maybe back to MEQUACK!

What is Real? Discussions with Ranga.

This post is a long email discussion I had with my friend Ranga. The topic was the unreality of reality of things and how this notion can be applied in physics.

Going through the debate again, I feel that Ranga considers himself better-versed in the matters of philosophy than I am. I do too, I consider him better read than me. But I feel that his assumption (that I didn’t know so much that I should be talking about such things) may have biased his opinion and blinded him to some of the genuinely new things (in my opinion, of course) I had to say. Nonetheless, I think there are quite a few interesting points that came out during the debate that may be of general interest. I have edited and formatted the debate for readability.

It is true that many bright people have pondered over the things I talk about in this blog and in my book. And they have articulated their thoughts in their works, probably better than I have in mine. Although it is always a good idea to go through the existing writings to “clear my head” (as one of my reviewers suggested while recommending David Humes), such wide reading creates an inherent risk. It is not so much the time it will take to read and understand the writings and the associated opportunity cost in thinking; it is also the fact that everything you read gets assimilated in you and your opinions become influenced by these brilliant thinkers. While that may be a good thing, I look at it as though it may actually be detrimental to original thought. Taken to the extreme, such blind assimilation may result in your opinions becoming mere regurgitation of these classical schools of thought.

Besides, as Hermann Hesse implies in Siddhartha, wisdom cannot be taught. It has to be generated from within.

Ranga’s words are colored Green (or Blue when quoted for the second time).

Mine are in White (or Purple when quoted for the second time).

Mon, May 21, 2007 at 8:07 PM.

I’m, to different extents, familiar with the distinction philosophers and scientists make in terms of phenomenal and physical realities – from the works of Upanishads, to the Advaitas/Dvaitas, to the Noumenon/Phenomenon of Schopenhauer, and the block Universe of Special Relativity, and even the recent theories in physics (Kaluza and Klein). The insight that what we perceive is not necessarily what “is”, existed in a variety of ways from a long time. However, such insights were not readily embraced and incorporated in all sciences. There is a enormous literature on this in neuroscience and social sciences. So, it is indeed very good that you have attempted to bring this in to physics – by recollecting our previous discussion on this, by reading through your introduction to the book in the website and understanding the tilt of your paper (could not find it in the journal – has it been accepted?). To suggest that there could be superluminal motion and to explain known phenomena such as GRBs through a quirk (?) in our perception (even in the physical instruments) is bold and needs careful attention by others in the field. One should always ask questions to cross “perceived” boundaries – in this case of course the speed of light.

However, it is quite inaccurate and superficial (in my opinion) to think that there is some “absolute” reality beyond the “reality” we encounter. While it is important to know that there are multiple realities for different individuals in us, and even different organisms, depending on senses and intellect, it is equally important to ask what reality is after all when there is no perception. If it cannot be accessed by any means, what is it anyway? Is there such a thing at all? Is Absolute Reality in the movement of planets, stars and galaxies without organisms in them? Who perceives them as such when there is nobody to perceive? What form do they take? Is there form? In applying philosophy (which I read just as deeper and bolder questions) to science (which I read as a serious attempt to answer those questions), you cannot be half-way in your methods, drawing imaginary boundaries that some questions are too philosophical or too theological for now.

While your book (the summary at least) seems to bring home an important point (at least to those who have not thought in this direction) that the reality we perceive is dependent on the medium/mode (light in some cases) and the instrument (sense organ and brain) we use for perceiving, it seems to leave behind a superficial idea that there is Absolute Reality when you remove these perceptual errors. Are they perceptual errors – aren’t perceptual instruments and perceptions themselves part of reality itself? To suggest that there is some other reality beyond the sum of all our perceptions is philosophically equally erroneous as suggesting that what we perceive is the only reality.

All the same, the question about reality or the lack of it has not been well incorporated into the physical sciences and I wish you the best in this regard.

Cheers
Ranga