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Physicists are not above fudging


Timothy O. Goyette

There are many areas where physicists don't really know what is going on and so they estimate, fudge, or make up place holders for something to come in the future.

Take dark energy for instance.  Because the universe is accelerating outward there has to be something pushing it.  It was unknown so dark energy was theorized as a place holder until the source could be found.  Then dark matter was theorized to account for the excess gravity in the galaxies.

This isn't a bad thing and makes it easier to talk about concepts related to physics that we don't understand yet.

The weirdest of these is the Arrow of Time.  In physics, or the mathematics of physics, there should be no resistance to moving forward or backward in time.  But, by observation, we cannot move back in time.  So the concept of the arrow of time was generated as a place holder until we can understand it better. 

The problem with the arrow of time is the definition that has evolved in the scientific community.  Which is, everything is moving from a more ordered state to a less ordered state or entropy?  If a glass falls and breaks, we can't roll back the clock and see it jump back up and put itself back together like running a film backward. 

This concept works well for cosmologists thinking about the life of the universe; however, there are so many cases of items moving from a less ordered state to a more ordered state as to make this definition questionable in our daily lives.

For instance rain drops collect into puddles.  Sand turns into stone with enough time and pressure.  Crystals form through a variety of processes that can all be described as moving from less ordered to more ordered states.    

We all know that if we drop the glass and it shatters, we can't undo it.  That is part of the laws of reality as we perceive them.  The fact that the laws of physics don't rule out this reforming glass, means that the laws of physics are missing something. 

And that is why it is called the arrow of time, it is a place holder.

2013-09-06 07:33:53
micheledutcher - I've been told that Einstein understood time as a series of rooms, that the room we are standing in now was just one of the rooms, so the other rooms should be accessible, future and past. Obviously the existence of life shows a very simple combination of chemicals forming spontaneously in a more complex system...a system that mankind hasn't yet been able to replicate in the laboratory. There is no recipe like; take chemicals x/y/z/ and stir in a beaker and wahLah! - life. Life has to be the most important anti arrow-of-time evidence available.

2013-09-05 00:09:46
Ironspider - I once read an interesting article (not sure if it was in a science journal or a sci-fi magazine) regarding time being no more than an artificial construct to account for our perception of things going on around us. It went from 'natural time', such as day/night or the seasons, to 'artificial time' such as hours, seconds or micro-seconds (and so on). I don't remember the specific conclusions of the article, except that it suggested our concept of 'time' is bound to how we perceive the world around us and the changes that 'time' causes (your example of the shattered glass). Therefore 'time' relates to how our brains function, not to the laws of the physical universe. I'm not sure I agree with that, as it would seem to imply that if we could regulate our mental function we could move back and forward in time. I suspect that once scientists gain a better understanding of physics at the quantum level, we may see further experiments (such as the photon 'teleportation') that resolve the 'time's arrow' concept. Sorry for the waffle!

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