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There Is No Single Instant In Time 672

Posted by timothy
from the all-is-flux dept.
tekkieRich writes "Some interesting news from the world of physics. Supposedly, in this paper, the author answers some of the major paradoxes (achilles vs. the turtle and Zeno) concerning our understanding of time. 'Impressed with the work is Princeton physics great, and collaborator of both Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman, John Wheeler, who said he admired Lynds' "boldness," while noting that it had often been individuals Lynds' age that "had pushed the frontiers of physics forward in the past."'"
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There Is No Single Instant In Time

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  • Article Text (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2003 @03:51AM (#6598791)
    Public release date: 31-Jul-2003

    Contact: Brooke Jones
    Brooke.Jones@australia.edu
    Independent Communications Consultant

    Ground-breaking work in understanding of time
    Mechanics, Zeno and Hawking undergo revision

    Full size image available through contact

    A bold paper which has highly impressed some of the world's top physicists and been published in the August issue of Foundations of Physics Letters, seems set to change the way we think about the nature of time and its relationship to motion and classical and quantum mechanics. Much to the science world's astonishment, the work also appears to provide solutions to Zeno of Elea's famous motion paradoxes, almost 2500 years after they were originally conceived by the ancient Greek philosopher. In doing so, its unlikely author, who originally attended university for just 6 months, is drawing comparisons to Albert Einstein and beginning to field enquiries from some of the world's leading science media. This is contrast to being sniggered at by local physicists when he originally approached them with the work, and once aware it had been accepted for publication, one informing the journal of the author's lack of formal qualification in an attempt to have them reject it.

    In the paper, "Time and Classical and Quantum Mechanics: Indeterminacy vs. Discontinuity", Peter Lynds, a 27 year old broadcasting school tutor from Wellington, New Zealand, establishes that there is a necessary trade off of all precisely determined physical values at a time, for their continuity through time, and in doing so, appears to throw age old assumptions about determined instantaneous physical magnitude and time on their heads. A number of other outstanding issues to do with time in physics are also addressed, including cosmology and an argument against the theory of Imaginary time by British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

    "Author's work resembles Einstein's 1905 special theory of relativity", said a referee of the paper, while Andrei Khrennikov, Prof. of Applied Mathematics at Vaxjo University in Sweden and Director of ICMM, said, "I find this paper very interesting and important to clarify some fundamental aspects of classical and quantum physical formalisms. I think that the author of the paper did a very important investigation of the role of continuity of time in the standard physical models of dynamical processes." He then invited Lynds to take part in an international conference on the foundations of quantum theory in Sweden.

    Another impressed with the work is Princeton physics great, and collaborator of both Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman, John Wheeler, who said he admired Lynds' "boldness", while noting that it had often been individuals Lynds' age that "had pushed the frontiers of physics forward in the past."

    In contrast, an earlier referee had a different opinion of the controversial paper. "I have only read the first two sections as it is clear that the author's arguments are based on profound ignorance or misunderstanding of basic analysis and calculus. I'm afraid I am unwilling to waste any time reading further, and recommend terminal rejection."

    Lynds' solution to the Achilles and the tortoise paradox, submitted to Philosophy of Science, helped explain the work. A tortoise challenges Achilles, the swift Greek warrior, to a race, gets a 10m head start, and says Achilles can never pass him. When Achilles has run 10m, the tortoise has moved a further metre. When Achilles has covered that metre, the tortoise has moved 10cm...and so on. It is impossible for Achilles to pass him. The paradox is that in reality, Achilles would easily do so. A similar paradox, called the Dichotomy, stipulates that you can never reach your goal, as in order to get there, you must firstly travel half of the distance. But once you've done that, you must still traverse half the remaining distance, and half again, and so on. What's more, you can't even get started, as to travel a certain distance, you must firstly travel half
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2003 @03:51AM (#6598793)
    There Is No Single Instant In Time

    Posted by timothy on Sunday August 03, @03:46AM
    from the all-is-flux dept.
    • by Ayanami Rei (621112) * <rayanami AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday August 03, 2003 @04:03AM (#6598823) Journal
      when slashcode decided to examine it.

      The posting act begins when the submit button is pressed, and ends when the database updates it's article index.

      All "events" have a beginning and an end. Some of them have a known duration so the delta is not noted, but it still exists.

      I don't know what's so revolutionary about that stance, especially from a practical standpoint, other than maybe the "directionless" nature of time. I think that, however, is an oversimplification that fits into the author's little mental framework he wants to construct. I prefer to think of complex intervals as very small closed sets around the approximate instant. There's nothing wrong or counterintuitive about that.

      • by whereiswaldo (459052) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @04:25AM (#6598886) Journal

        I'm not a scientist, but something tells me what is time can't be measured by us because we are inside whatever makes everything tick. Only those outside our system could measure the time inside our system. I would liken it to a computer program: it can't tell when it's being timesliced by the operating system, and it seems like it is running seamlessly, but it is not.
        • by roard (661272) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @04:45AM (#6598939) Homepage
          In fact, be outside the system wouldn't be a definite answer : a known effect in physic is that the observator modify what he observes ...

          ... and that's true in others branches (behavior sciences, electronic, etc.)
        • by cubal (601223) <matt@pr o b l e mattic.net> on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:44AM (#6599043) Homepage
          Sounds like "Thief of Time" by Terry Pratchett to me... in that book a guy tries to build a clock that will run on the 'tick' of the universe -- absolute time if you will. However, in building it he manages to stop time short, effectively, as Pratchett puts it, 'sticking an iron bar between the cogs of time'
        • Only those outside our system could measure the time inside our system.

          No they couldn't, not unless they had their own, higher-order time dimension. (and that idea just leads to infinite regression, why stop at two levels?) If you have no time dimension, you can't do anything.

          Now I suppose you might argue that they would exist with some parallel time dimension, but this still requires *something* to exist outside of our time. This means either that freewill (and the uncertainty principle) is an illusi
          • by whereiswaldo (459052) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @11:37AM (#6600017) Journal
            If we are just being "timesliced," then an outside observer could exist in the same time dimension, but that's a very strange and specific case, and it doesn't really address how time works anyway. (because you haven't examined the underlying time dimension at all.)

            There is no time dimension: time is our perception of change. Our most accurate clocks are based on the rate of decay of an atom, or the rate of spin of an electron. A wind-up clock simply runs at a speed that we have determined will keep a reasonable account of time relative to other clocks. Time does not really exist - but it is useful for us to think of "time".

            What does exist is change caused by the operation of our universe. Those outside our system could measure the number of cycles our universe has run for. It's a simple quantity.
          • When it's discovered that the FOOBAR-300295 chip accidentally measures all speeds as 3E11, major advances will finally be made.

            Space ships will be able to go faster than light by *gasp* continuing to accelerate. We'll be able to speak with family members on Mars through a loop of particles moving faster than light, by dropping a packet on one end to be picked up on the other.

            You pitiful Earthlinks will also discover, by process of elimination, that the electron tastes like Grape-Aid.
      • It is revolutionary. Because now you cannot pinpoint an exact instant. And what's so significant about that? For one, it meant we had been so utterly clueless about what time is for so long. More importantly, our assumptions about time such as time warp, time measurements and so on.

        BTW if you are still thinking about "very small closed sets around the approximate instant" then you will need to define where the enclosure starts and ends....but how can you when it's a continuity without intervals?
      • The revolutionary part is in getting the academia to believe it. It only took 2,500 years for them to start thinking about changing their minds on something.

        The point is, time is always about perception; we measure time with instruments, sure, but they're still going to be interpreted by the human mind and therefore filtered to fit into what we believe.

        What I find amusing about this is it just goes to show what can happen when somebody isn't "educated properly." Sometimes, that's exactly what the world
    • by Sevn (12012) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @06:44PM (#6602007) Homepage Journal
      HERE [doc.cern.ch]
  • by MrLint (519792) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @03:51AM (#6598794) Journal
    I've been counting down the seconds until i die and this guy tells me were are no seconds?! geez i dont want to freaking live forever
  • Singularity next? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @03:52AM (#6598796)
    So, the next paradigm to disappear is the singularity of Black Holes; I never believed in them anyhow...

    But, Lynds' is brilliant, if true/not disproofed/widely accepted.
    • Re:Singularity next? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Vellmont (569020)
      I think most physicists don't believe in the singularity. The singularity is an embarrasing reminder that we don't have a theory of quantum gravity.

      String theory for instance solves the "singularity problem" nicely by just saying that a black hole is just a very energetic string. Then again string theory isn't currently the most usefull theory as it's far from complete.
      • Re:Singularity next? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        String theory for instance solves the "singularity problem" nicely by just saying that a black hole is just a very energetic string. Then again string theory isn't currently the most usefull theory as it's far from complete.

        Not only that, but it still has the intrinsic assumption of a continuous time (IIRC I should eve n say _times_ as or in fact in string theory there are several time dimensions).

        Also, empirically proving string theory will be, well, very hard; and due to the complexity of the equation

      • Re:Singularity next? (Score:5, Informative)

        by cyranoVR (518628) <cyranoVRNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday August 03, 2003 @09:38AM (#6599450) Homepage Journal
        I think most physicists don't believe in the singularity. The singularity is an embarrasing reminder that we don't have a theory of quantum gravity.

        In my college astronomy class, the professor told us that Russian astrophysicists call black holes "collapsars." The reason being that (according to prevailing theory, I guess) once inside the black hole event horizon, you would look down and see the surface of the former star collapsing - but it never quite makes it to the "singularity" stage.

        It's just perpetually collapsing.

        (Also, I just realized that you could see something because light is able to travel away from the star surface - just not past the event horizon. In fact, if I remember my Hawking correctly - aside from the "tidal" forces that would tear you apart - you wouldn't notice any difference in the universe upon crossing the event horizon).
        • by metamatic (202216)
          Well, the real reason is that the literal translation of "black hole" means something obscene in Russian. Perhaps someone knowledgeable in Russian slang can tell us what...
          • by tftp (111690)
            Not so. The translation is literal and means exactly the same thing, and is not any more obscene, than in English. The real reason is probably that 'collapsar' is shorter and does not break the flow of sentence. But I am not an astrophysicist anyway; and both variants are commonly used in SciFi literature.
          • What, you can't infer the meaning of in Soviet Russia, Black Hole eats you! ?
          • by dvk (118711)
            Well, the real reason is that the literal translation of "black hole" means something obscene in Russian. Perhaps someone knowledgeable in Russian slang can tell us what...

            That's a negative:

            * "Black hole" in Russian is a literal translation of the English term. (Chyornaya dira, for the curious).

            * It is absolutely not an obscene expression. Matter of fact, until the parent post, i didn't begin to realize it had obscene connotations. (which it does to some extent, to a perverted mind like mine - but so

        • Re:Singularity next? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by shrikel (535309) <hlagfarj&gmail,com> on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:32PM (#6601720)
          ... light is able to travel away from the star surface - just not past the event horizon.

          Actually, there's no reason why light couldn't pass the "event horizon." It's just that light emitted from within the event horizon doesn't have enough energy to completely escape the black hole.

          Think about it -- the event horizon is the surface of the sphere inside which the escape speed is greater than the speed of light. So nothing from inside can completely escape the black hole's gravity unless it's going faster than that.

          As an analogy from here on Earth, there's a sphere (say 10 feet above sea level) inside of which the escape velocity is greater than (about) 7 miles/second. That doesn't mean you have to throw something faster than that just to get it past the surface of the sphere! It just means that you have to throw it faster than that for it to escape the earth's gravity well ENTIRELY. There's no reason that light couldn't be emitted from deep within a large black hole but still make it very far past the "horizon." It would just be extremely red-shifted.

          Of course, if you accept the model that space itself ENDS at the event horizon, then nothing could be emitted from inside it anyway, because there's nothing there. (Not even nothing. :) )

          That model, however, is flawed. Or at least, is incomplete. It cannot explain what happens when an object FIRST achieves high enough density to become a black hole.

    • Re:Singularity next? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ralphclark (11346)
      No paradigm is disappearing here. The paper referred to is not online but I just read his shorter paper Zeno's Paradoxes - A Timely Solution [pitt.edu] which deals with the same subject matter specifically as it relates the those famous paradoxes. Unfortunately, it's incoherent bullshit. Lynd's theory looks like nothing more than philosophical rambling, and it doesn't appear to solve anything that hasn't already been solved by more rigorous means. The whole thing falls apart as soon as you admit other solutions for Z
  • Mirror (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    n case the site (or routes to the site) get slashdotted. Here [martin-studio.com] is a mirror.
  • Gah (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by autopr0n (534291)
    Not even the people on FARK.com bought into this crap (where it was posted a week ago). The paper is a bunch of crap and doesn't tell us anything either we don't already know, or is in any way usefull.
    • by deathcow (455995) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:12AM (#6598985)
      This article was posted on fark sometime between 0.99999... and 1.0 weeks ago.
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @03:58AM (#6598808)
    A similar paradox, called the Dichotomy, stipulates that you can never reach your goal, as in order to get there, you must firstly travel half of the distance. But once you've done that, you must still traverse half the remaining distance, and half again, and so on. What's more, you can't even get started, as to travel a certain distance, you must firstly travel half of that distance, and so on.

    I always thought the reason you could never get started on the way to your goal was the 'trying to get a woman to go some place when you have been ready and waiting for ages' paradox
    • by Mike Schiraldi (18296) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @11:37AM (#6600015) Homepage Journal
      Reminds me of a joke. Philosopher and engineer are in a bar when in walks a gorgeous woman. Engineer says, "I'm going to go talk to her. I resolve that i'm gonna [ you know what ] with her tonight." Philosopher says, "Actually, that's impossible. In order to touch her, you'll have to first cross to the point midway between the two of you. And then you'll have to get to the point midway from there. And so on. You can never actually reach her."

      And the engineer says, "I'll get close enough."
  • Zeno's "paradox" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by henben (578800) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @04:01AM (#6598815)
    What does this have to do with Zeno's paradox and Achilles and the turtle? Aren't they to do with points in space, not time?

    I thought the solution to Zeno's paradox is that although you occupy an infinite series of points when you move, they can still sum to a finite distance. The Greeks may not have understood this, but this was all worked out centuries ago. By Cantor or someone.

    So the author of this paper is claiming to solve a non-problem - doesn't sound very promising to me. Also, in these days of online preprint archives, why didn't the submitter link to the actual paper?

  • This seems to me kind of like how you can't just find pi by measuring the circumference or a circle and dividing it by the diameter. I had always thought of this being because there is no such thing as an exact point in space, but maybe I was just misunderstanding or something. It reasons to assume that if there is no exact point in space then there is also no exact point in time.

    As to the referee who stated "he author's arguments are based on profound ignorance or misunderstanding of basic analysis and
    • Re:Kind of Like (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BobTheLawyer (692026)
      "This seems to me kind of like how you can't just find pi by measuring the circumference or a circle and dividing it by the diameter. I had always thought of this being because there is no such thing as an exact point in space, but maybe I was just misunderstanding or something."

      The only reason you can't determine pi to high level of accuracy by measurement is that in practice there will be inaccuracies in your measurements and in the shape of the circle. measurement issue. In principle, given perfect circ
  • Is this a hoax? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BobTheLawyer (692026) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @04:05AM (#6598829)
    The article is either incredibly bad journalism and way over-simplifying the paper, or else it stinks of a hoax.

    "Lynds also points out that in all cases a time value represents an interval on time, rather than an instant. "For example, if two separate events are measured to take place at either 1 hour or 10.00 seconds, these two values indicate the events occurred during the time intervals of 1 and 1.99999...hours and 10.00 and 10.0099999...seconds respectively." "

    This is stunningly obvious. I learnt the resolution of this, and the tortoise paradox, at age 17 in high school maths classes.

    Also, why is the contact for further information an "Independent Communications Consultant"?
  • by tkittel (619119) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @04:07AM (#6598834)
    OK, I RTFA but i didn't RTFP (paper).

    The tortoise vs. Achilles paradox has not really plagued modern physics in that it is not a paradox (anymore - it might have been to the Greeks). The supposed paradox lies in the misconception that an sum with infinite terms will always yield an infinite number. This is obviously not true - As Achilles needs to traverse ever smaller distances he also does that in ever smaller amounts of time.
    And the times add nicely up to a finite time - the time when he overtakes the tortoise.

    The article claims that this is still a paradox. I think based on the idea in this quote:

    > With some thought it should become clear that no matter how small the time
    > interval, or how slowly an object moves during that interval, it is still
    > in motion and it's position is constantly changing, so it can't have
    > a determined relative position at any time, whether during a interval,
    > however small, or at an instant. Indeed, if it did, it couldn't be in motion."

    Say WHAT?!?

    Please tell me why you can't have a well determined position as a function of time and be in motion as well?

    He goes on to claim that uncertainties in the values of times is somehow a profound proof that no instant in time exists. Hey, you could say the same thing about the distance the poor fella has to transverse - thus spoiling the whole 'ever smaller distances' thing.

    Please enlighten me.
    • by Keeper (56691) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @04:27AM (#6598891)
      Please tell me why you can't have a well determined position as a function of time and be in motion as well?

      If you assume that there is no atomic unit of time, then any representation of an "instant" in time actually represents a delta of time. In any delta of time, an object in motion is changing position -- which means that while you may get a pretty acurate measure of an items position, it is impossible to measure it's exact position.

      What he's also stipulating is that if it was possible to have an atomic unit of time, and it was possible to take an exact measure of the position of an item, then it wouldn't be possible for that item to be in motion. An item is in motion if it is changing position -- but if you can measure it's exact position, then it isn't changing position. At least I think that's what he's trying to get across.
      • The problem with this, however, isn't that he's wrong, but that he's plagiarising Kant's Prolegomena. In the Prolegomena, Kant states that the only a priori concepts we can ever have are time and space because they are imposed by our psyche. IOW, space and time concepts are -necessary- for conscious thought.

        This, at least, is my impression after reading the article. YMMV, HTH, HAND.
  • The lack of a fundamental unit of meaning of any sort was established in the humanities long before it came into vogue in the hard sciences.
    And a look at the title of the web site certaily brought to my mind Thomas Kunh's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that I happen to have sitting right next to me here.
    EurekaAlert? That's a joke, right?
    • That's quite a comparison you make there. For one thing, there is a difference between a unit of meaning as it is used in the humanities and a unit of time. A big difference. In the arts, they're talking about an objective reference point for values and ideas within the human mind and reflected in our view of the universe. This paper refers to a unit, or more specifically a moment, as a specific point of existence in the (in his view non-existent) flow of time of the universe irrespective of humans, though
  • by HermesT (694672) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @04:11AM (#6598844) Journal
    I read about this in the newspaper and thought "wow this sounds exciting". Then I saw the actual paper. It turns out that his ideas are not fleshed out with any mathematics, so its just a philosphical position that he is taking.

    I do think that time is a bit of a mystery, and its possible that that his ideas may be roughly right. It might imply that moments or "moment intervals" were some sort of fractal sets, such that a moment can never be finitely splittable (only infinitely splittable). A mathematical model that accomplished this (within the framework of currently accepted/known physics) would be remarkable.
  • by bradleyjg (68937) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @04:12AM (#6598847)
    John McTaggart proposed a similar theory in the "Nature of Existence" - written in 1921. Perhaps if physicists payed more attention to philosophy ...
    • by Edward Scissorhands (665444) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @04:41AM (#6598929)
      Heh, yeah, right, like we want our scientists to pay attention to philosophy. You know what would happen then, right? Scientists would realise that they actually know far less about the world than they realise and they'd all move to a cabin in the woods and write strange and impenetrable poetry instead of staying in the lab and coming up with useful theories which engineers can then use to create an even better dishwasher.

      Listen, bub, we need people to design our machines and technology can't improve without a better understanding of our physical world. I want my flying cars, damnit, and no stinkin' philosopher is going to expose the hard questions to vulnerable scientists and engineers to distract them from making my dishwasher!
  • If someone has been aware of it, my seeming lack of qualification has sometimes been a hurdle too. I think quite a few physicists and philosophers have difficulty getting their heads around the topic of time properly as well. I'm not a big fan of quite a few aspects of academia, but I'd like to think that whats happened with the work is a good example of perseverance and a few other things eventually winning through.

    Sorry for the long quote but it highlights something I've been gnashing my teeth over fo
    • by gilroy (155262) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @06:36AM (#6599125) Homepage Journal
      Blockquoth the poster:


      Hence it doesn't surprise me that the research for this important and highly academic topic was done by a non-academic, and he got little or no help from the academic community.

      Ah, the "academia is really about suppressing the new" conspiracy theory -- the X-Files of the academic world. While there is sometimes an excess of conservatism in "academia", people usually forget how justified caution usually is. For every Einstein-like breakthrough, there are hundreds of crackpot theories. A system is needed to sort through and separate the wheat from the chaff. Oh, wait, we have such a system: peer review and open publication.


      This breathless article in EurekAlert has all the hallmarks of a duped science reporter: deep-sounding (but, it seems, semantically null) phrases tossed about with abandon; derision and scorn at the stuffy old guys who just don't get it; and of course the simultaneous disdain for and desparate quoting of authorities. (That is, "most physicists don't agree because they just quote the same old authorities, but look, this Big Name likes my work, which validates it".)


      I suppose we'll see how this plays out when the paper is actually published and people get a chance to take a hatchet to it. I'm guessing this will sink like a stone... if it isn't already a hoax.

    • by Alsee (515537) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @08:10AM (#6599231) Homepage
      my entire CS Masters was about a program design paradigm with highly esoteric underpinnings and very little mathematical substance - on the other hand it was well funded!

      I am on the college committee that controls your funding. I regret to inform you that based on your post I have decided to vote against renewing your project.

      Thank you for the information. Have a nice day.

      -
  • by 56ker (566853) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @04:19AM (#6598865) Homepage Journal
    Oh well - if there's no such thing as time I can spend as long on /. as I like. :)
  • Correct me if I'm wrong here (IANAM), but didn't calculus solve this problem like, a few hundred years ago?
  • Interesting idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by roard (661272)
    After reading the story, I found this theorically really interesting... And in fact I'm starting to believe he's right ;-)

    Ok, let do a computer analogy (hey we're on /.)

    ... if time is continuous and that there isn't a thing like single points in time (which effectively explain some things), why do you, human, believe that we could measure single points ? Could it be that computers functions even more identically to our brain that we suspected ?

    I mean, one of the big difference between the brain and
  • by BurningTyger (626316) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @04:25AM (#6598885)
    http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/archive/00001197/0 2/Zeno's_Paradoxes_-_A_Timely_Solution.pdf

    It may not be the same paper that will be published in Foundation of Physics Letter in August. But it is a complete paper on Peter Lynds' discussion on Zeno's Paradox.

    Get it before it's /. ed

  • Strange. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Black Copter Control (464012) <samuel-local @ b c g reen.com> on Sunday August 03, 2003 @04:27AM (#6598890) Homepage Journal
    I would have thought that Quantum uncertainty would have made it obvious that time doesn't have definite intervals. It's pretty much the same argument to say that you don't know exactly where something is at a specific 'moment' in time as it is to say that you can't specifically determint the 'moment' at which it was exactly there.
  • by warm sushi (168223) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @04:27AM (#6598892)
    philsci-archive.pitt.edu/archive/00001197/02/ Zeno's_Paradoxes_-_A_Timely_Solution.pdf

    Just in case anyone actually wants to read it before commenting. :)
  • by James_G (71902)
    He comments, "Naturally the parameter and boundary of their respective position and magnitude are naturally determinable up to the limits of possible measurement as stated by the general quantum hypothesis and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, but this indeterminacy in precise value is not a consequence of quantum uncertainty. What this illustrates is that in relation to indeterminacy in precise physical magnitude, the micro and macroscopic are inextricably linked, both being a part of the same parcel, ra
  • Questionable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Durindana (442090) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:06AM (#6598975)
    The journal's site is here [kluweronline.com], though the August (autumn) issue isn't yet available online.

    Some significant red flags here. First and most obvious is the wunderkind's lack of training and (presumed) familiarity with established concepts of physics and contemporary research. This isn't a deal-breaker, of course, but it's worth remembering. I'd love to see untrained theorists challenging - successfully - old-guard physicists with some astounding new insights, but I don't think that's happening here.

    Wheeler's one-word endorsement - "boldness" - isn't ringing, and the bit about his age (he's 27) is irrelevant.

    From a referee: "I have only read the first two sections as it is clear that the author's arguments are based on profound ignorance or misunderstanding of basic analysis and calculus. I'm afraid I am unwilling to waste any time reading further, and recommend terminal rejection." Ouch with a capital 'O'. There's no maths even referred to in this article, either, which I'd like to see.

    "Lynds says that the paradoxes arose because people assumed wrongly that objects in motion had determined positions at any instant in time, thus freezing the bodies motion static at that instant and enabling the impossible situation of the paradoxes to be derived." This hasn't really been a problem since quantum indeterminacy.

    From a "prominent Oxford mathematician": "A prominent Oxford mathematician commented, "It's as astonishing, as it is unexpected, but he's right." Unnamed source. HUGE red flag.

    Within a quote: "Naturally the parameter and boundary of their respective position and magnitude are naturally determinable up to the limits of possible measurement as stated by the general quantum hypothesis and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, but this indeterminacy in precise value is not a consequence of quantum uncertainty." He gives no alternative explanation for the origins of this 'indeterminacy.' Up to this point the article's summary has proceeded along basic Planck/Heisenberg lines. There's really nothing new here, except the (in this article) unsupported assertion of a new form of indeterminacy that's not related to quantum effects on measurement.

    "Lynds continues that the cosmological proposal of imaginary time also isn't compatible with a consistent physical description, both as a consequence of this, and secondly, "because it's the relative order of events that's relevant, not the direction of time itself, as time doesn't go in any direction." Consequently it's meaningless for the order of a sequence of events to be imaginary, or at right angles, relative to another sequence of events. When approached about Lynds' arguments against his theory, Hawking failed to respond." Ignores Feynman's 'arrow of time' characterization of antimatter as equivalent to matter moving in time-opposite fashion. Also ignores simple observation that time does, in fact, appear to move in one direction. In a layman's article it would be good to mention Lynds' explanation for this, if he has one. If he doesn't, well... And Hawking 'refused to respond' to whom? To Lynds? To the author? On what questions? In what timeframe? A phone call during dinner from Australia? Red flag.

    "Although Lynds remembers being frustrated with Grigson, and once standing at a blackboard explaining how simple it was and telling him to "hurry up and get it", Lynds says that, unlike some others, Prof. Grigson was still encouraging and would always make time to talk to him, even taking him into the staff cafeteria so they could continue talking physics." Seriously big red flag. 'Hurry up and get it'? Sounds like high school bong-water theorizing.

    "Although still controversial, judging by the response it has already received from some of science's leading lights, Lynds' work seems likely to establish him as a groundbreaking figure in respect to increasing our understanding of time in physics. It a
    • Re:Questionable (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ortholattice (175065) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @08:43AM (#6599290)
      It wouldn't surprise me if this does get published in Foundations of Physics Letters - we'll wait and see - but here is why.

      The Foundations of Physics (and the Letters companion) is a journal that seems to be a catch-all for articles on the fringe of physics. (By "fringe" I don't necessarily mean "new-age" garbage - that would be rejected outright - but I mean stuff that sometimes really pushes the envelope.) While the articles are peer-reviewed, the articles are sometimes speculative and many of them would have been (and were) rejected elsewhere. For example, there was a paper in the 1980s IIRC reporting on evidence for psi phenomena (and a theory connecting it to quantum mechanics) whose results have never been duplicated. The articles tend to be on the hairy borderline of real and pseudo-scientific, and whatever you read there (although often quite interesting, and for the most part scientifically correct, but not always) you have to take with a grain of salt and use informed judgment to evaluate the papers.

      I found it puzzling that MIT's Science Library, which has about every physics journal imaginable, ended its subscription to FoP and Letters in the early 90s, although I never pursued why - perhaps some faculty member complained that its quality wasn't up to snuff. So while I use to enjoy reading it, it's way too expensive for me to subscribe to - perhaps another local U. carries it, don't know.

      I myself have published a paper in FoP on an obscure topic (in my case not wrong or controversial, just too obscure for the mainstream physics journals to find a referee who thought it interesting or significant), that had been rejected elsewhere.

      • Re:Questionable (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tedrlord (95173)
        For example, there was a paper in the 1980s IIRC reporting on evidence for psi phenomena (and a theory connecting it to quantum mechanics) whose results have never been duplicated.

        It's really funny how often people take new age or paranormal phenomena and try to give it scientific justification through quantum physics. It reminds me of how every superhero origin story in old comics would be due to radiation. You can use complicated science that isn't very understood at the time to explain practically anyt
    • More Giveaways (Score:4, Informative)

      by muffel (42979) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @09:22AM (#6599377)
      I tried to read the paper [pitt.edu] , but it's really too painfully dumb to actually read it all.
      Just quickly scanning it, two things seemed suspicious (apart, obviously, from the content):
      • It's written in MS Word.
      • /.esque spelling ("Zeno would of known...")
    • Re:Questionable (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fermion (181285) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:51AM (#6599721) Homepage Journal
      In real life we have to separate the reporting of science and the working of science. In this case, we have a story about a young, apparently untrained, coming up with a seemingly obvious solution to a problem that has plagued the greatest mind for years. This is a hook that usually sells papers, books, movies, whatever. It tells the populous what they want to hear. The the egghead PhDs who spent 25 years of their life at school are not really that smart and would have been better off with a high school diploma and maybe technical degree. It allows the populous to believe that intelligence and learning is just a matter of luck and they would have been able to earn an advance degree if they would had only been given the brains and the breaks. The fact that they slept and drugged their way though high school has nothing to do with anything. The funny thing is that this is also the kind of things that eggheads like to hear as well, because they know that sometimes a person is just initiatively intelligent, and these people sometimes bring new and interesting ideas to the table. These are the reasons for the positive bias in the article

      From the point of view of science, the bias in the article is quite ludicrous. It is the first paper by a person of unknown capabilities. While the paper is published in a peer review journal, all this means is that it has no blatant errors and has interesting assertions. It's validity, and the reputation of the author, will be determined in the coming years as researchers dissect and ponder the logic. Even if the assertions themselves prove invalid, it may generate a new line of thought in the community, which in itself is worthwhile.

      Your criticism tend to fall in the journalistic realm. In most published papers some reviewers agree with the paper and some think it is hogwash. Criticizing a sound-byte is unwise as it puts meaning into a meaningless statement. As you mention, the Hiesenberg uncertainty principle (dx dp > hbar) applies to location and only indirectly to time. However, the fact that he is now asserting that time is smeared, and gives not explanation why, is not a big issue. The famous Planck postcard did not give a justification for quantization, it merely indicated that the black body paradox was solved if one assumed energy was quantized.

      In all, the assertion that time may be 'quantized' and inherently fuzzy is compelling, and I can understand why a journal would believe that such research would be interesting to it's readers, even if some would dismiss it as hogwash. After all, Feynman's spent a long time trying to prove that one interpretation of quantum mechanics was correct, only to prove they were equivalent. And although his assertion of 'one electron' is not likely correct, it is interesting to think about.

  • by geoswan (316494) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:14AM (#6598990) Journal
    The original article quotes John Wheeler, a collaborator of the brilliant Richard Feynman, as a fan of this paper.

    In my reading of his autobiographical, "Surely you are joking Mr Feynman?" I read some implied criticisms of Wheeler. I remember a chapter from this book where Wheeler and Feynman were going to address a small seminar of big brains at the Institute for Advanced Studies, at Princeton, where Einstein was a fellow. This was while Feynman was still a grad student, and Wheeler was his thesis supervisor. IIRC Feynman was nervous about addressing one theoretical aspect of the problem. Wheeler told him to address all the other aspects of the problem, and he would handle the part that made the tricky bit.

    When it came time to give the presentation Feynman gives his portion of the presentation, but Wheeler begs off, saying he isn't quite ready, but he expects to complete a paper about it Real Soon Now.

    I guess this is the Institute for Advanced Studies equivalent of "the dog ate my homework".

    After the seminar Wolfgang Pauli took Feynman aside, and asked him if he could tell him anything about Wheeler's paper. Feynman said he couldn't, that Wheeler hadn't told him anything. IIRC, Pauli said something like, "He hasn't even told his own grad student about his ideas? That paper will never be written."

    And it never was.

    At least that is how I remember that chapter.

  • God help the Mods (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nemus (639101) <astarchman@hotmail.com> on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:21AM (#6599006) Journal
    I'm getting ready to re-read the paper, not the article, which sucks, and even though I love physics with a passion, I feel a re-reading is in order.

    The reason I'm making this post is that I want to point out one thing. Alot of times, when mods, myself included (I metamod about three times a day), come across an article that ranges beyond or above our understanding of a topic, its hard to make a decision as to whether or not something is "informative", like in this article, where I see one post supporting the theory modded informative, and one post criticsing the theory also modded informative. This is physics, people, not YRO. You're either right or wrong in this case. Please do some basic research, please, before modding a post up, just because it sounds intelligent and is well written.

    Btw, for all the detractors, this paper was originally published in a European Physics Journal, and most papers submitted to said journals undergo stringent review before being published as fact. This kid is getting supporters in all the right places, and you'll notice that many of his detractors tend to be the type of people who were still arguing the Earth was flat back in the 1800's. Some people just don't want to change, and many of these people are also detractors of Superstring Theory, and are apparently comfortable in dealing with the conflict between quantum mechanics and the theories of general and special relativity.

    Another thing I'd like to point out are some of the problems this guy has had getting this paper to light, and receiving the help he deserved from memebers of academia, because of his lack of academic credentials. This is, to a degree, still going on right now. People need to realize that this guy is taking a lot of flak from various experts simply because he doesn't meet their academic pedigree.

    Some "experts" need to be reminded that once upon a time someone wrote a very special paper, also widely denounced, also widely refuted for a while. And that person wasn't a department head at a prestigous university, nor was he being funded by wealthy patrons to run his own lab. He worked at a patent office.

    • Re:God help the Mods (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tedrlord (95173) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @06:19AM (#6599096)
      Well, as you say this goes over many peoples' heads, therefore what is considered "informative" can't be immediately determined as true or false. If the scientific community has such different views of the matter, how do you think that Slashdot will be able to come to a stable conclusion? People are modding up whatever sounds good, which is the right thing to do, as it brings the more sound arguments for and against a controversial theory to the forefront, which is the best we can do in this situation.

      As for the value of the paper itself, most of your arguments in its favour are inconsequential to its veracity. Many papers are published in scientific journals that prove not to be true. The whole reason these journals publish papers is that they can be peer-reviewed, a very similar process to what is occurring here on Slashdot.

      Also, his support is by no means overwhelming. He may have some prominent supporters, but he also has prominent detractors. It even mentions that this goes directly against one of Hawking's theories, and without any other evidence I'd be more inclined to trust Hawking to someone I haven't previously heard of.

      The comments on the difficulties he had getting this printed, his lack of credentials, and the reaction of the academia say nothing about the value of his work. He does seem to be an underdog, but an appeal to our emotional response to such a situation is not a point for his side. There are many, many people who can't get published, have no credentials, and are disregarded by educated physicists. This is often because they don't know what they're talking about.

      And comparing him to Einstein is not helpful either. Einstein was a particularly special case, and his work rose to the top due to its own merit. If Lynds' work is truly of the same calibre, it will do so as well. The suggestion that physicists pay attention to every amateur with a theory because he may be the next Einstein doesn't make sense. The reason they generally don't pay attention to amateurs is precisely because they are amateurs. Your average physicist is busy enough working on his own theories and examining other professional physicists' theories. Why should he devote even more time working on the theories of someone outside the field? Physics hobbyists are generally far less knowledgeable in the area, and are far more prone to erroneous conclusions compared to one that is educated in the field.

      Basically, this paper may have merit and it may not. It might be a great breakthrough or completely worthless. Apparently both opinions exist in varying quantities. It's a theory coming to unusual (or in some cases obvious) conclusions coming from someone that is not actually a physicist with no mathematical proofs. That really lowers the chances of its being accepted because it lowers its chances of being true. There isn't some big physics conspiracy going on here. That's just how science works.
    • Re:God help the Mods (Score:5, Informative)

      by pmj (527674) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @09:26AM (#6599397) Homepage
      Some "experts" need to be reminded that once upon a time someone wrote a very special paper, also widely denounced, also widely refuted for a while. And that person wasn't a department head at a prestigous university, nor was he being funded by wealthy patrons to run his own lab. He worked at a patent office.

      He also had a PhD, did theory and therefore didn't really need a lab, and was most certainly not someone you can reference in this context. His papers were important because they HAD mathematical foundations worked out, and were't just philosophical ramblings.

      I hate to break it to you, but until you understand the math and physics behind our current theories, it doesn't make sense to make up new ones. He may be getting some press, but that doesn't mean much.

      pmj
      • The problem with claiming Einstein as a misunderstood genius from outside the scientific establishment is that his ideas were widely and rapidly accepted by the scientific mainstream. Examine the famous 1905 volumes 17-18 of Annalen der Physik [uni-augsburg.de]: many people feel that any of the four unrelated papers Einstein published in these volumes would have been sufficient to net him a Nobel Prize.

        Clearly, special relativity was the most controversial of the four ideas, but it was taken seriously enough that immediate

  • Other physics news (Score:5, Informative)

    by spiro_killglance (121572) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @06:08AM (#6599080) Homepage
    Thought this would a good thread to post some
    other recent physics news...

    1. The've just found a pentaquark state.

    The rule in quark theory and QCD (the theory of
    the 'color' force that binds quarks), is that
    quarks always come in triplets or quark anti-quark pairs. Haven't never seen a free quark, theres always been a little nagging doubt that
    quark are real. So that fact that they have found
    a suprisingly (for QCD resonances) long lived state that can only be make of 5 quarks, the Z+ at 1540Mev, which made of two up quarks, two down quarks and an anti-strange
    quark. It was previously predicted by QCD, and is a classic example of the exception proving the rule.

    http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/hep-ex/0307088
    http://x xx.lanl.gov/abs/hep-ph/0307345

    Dark Matter, after 10 years of searching theres
    finally for faint experiment signals that dark
    matter exists. This was been found because two experiments looking for collisions between WIMPs
    and cold crystals have found significantly more
    signal when at time of the year then the earth
    is moving against the motion of the galaxies
    spiral arm, than when its moving towards it.

    http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/astro-ph/0307403

  • by 7-Vodka (195504) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @06:20AM (#6599098) Journal
    If you're unfamiliar with the zeno paradox here's the traditional solution [shu.edu].

    It seems pretty clear to me that the zeno paradox is not a paradox at all but just our inability to intuitively solve maths with infinite terms. It reminds me of those visual illusion drawings that cause our brains to make sense of things in a missleading way. Check it out. [uml.edu]

    At the same time, this does not disprove his paper since the article, is not well writen enough to be useful in determining the validity of this work.

  • by epine (68316) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @06:22AM (#6599101)

    At one point in time Einstein was an unqualified patent clerk. Many years later, he is finally awarded a Nobel prize, because one of his three main discoveries was finally within the certain appraisal of his peers.

    Interestingly, at no point in time were Einstein's qualifications equal to his peers'. He managed to pass the Achilles' Academy at a non-instant of time.

    I don't understand this concept of indeterminate relationship. It strikes me that his claim boils down to saying that time and motion are not possible unless you regard the set of physical relationships as constituting an uncountable infinity.

    But what is the big deal with that? R is uncountable on an open interval, but it still retains a fully ordered relationship.

    Zeno's paradox functions because it forces you to analyze time as if it could be mapped onto a countable set (halving interval N).

    That said, I don't regard time as a well defined physical quantity. Einstein proved long ago that time does not function as a simple ordering relationship. Yet the only reason I can see that we use the abstraction of time is to suggest that physical ordering relationships exist.

    I tend to view physics as having a trinary logic: true, false, and ungrantable. A foundation for physics which was formally non-predictive (lacking a human interpretation of time) would certainly belong to the last bucket, for as long as time remains a proxy of human purpose.
  • Chronopunk (Score:3, Informative)

    by Comrade Pikachu (467844) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @07:48AM (#6599206) Homepage
    Terry Bisson has already explored this area with a funny bit of short fiction [sff.net].
  • Summary of Paper (Score:4, Informative)

    by aebrain (184502) <aebrain@webone.com.au> on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:02AM (#6599524) Homepage Journal

    Time is not Quantised.

    There, that's a nice, neat summary.

    Which if true has all sorts of interesting implications. The argument appears to be that if time was quantised - as all other things, like space, energy etc appear to be - then the Universe could be described by a single n-dimensional vector containing all information. (ie a longgggg list of numbers describing where everything is, but not where it's going as rate-of-change derivatives aren't possible if time is quantised.). It would be "stuck" in this position, if you like. Alternately, if derivatives were allowable, everything would be predictable, with no uncertainty. Heisenberg Uncertainty means continuous unquantised time.

    He may be right, he may be wrong, but this is interesting enough either way to be worth study.

  • by grimani (215677) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:56AM (#6599740)
    I think paradox is a misnomer in these cases.

    It's actually quite easy to realize why Achilles 'never' catches up to the tortoise: the paradox draws our attention away from the passing of time.

    In any given instant, Achilles makes up a certain amount of distance, and the tortoise moves further off by a little bit.

    But the trick in the paradox is that at each 'iteration' of the paradox, a shorter amount of time is passing.

    Why a shorter amount of time? Because both Achilles and the tortoise are traveling at a constant (but different) speed, and each 'iteration' has Achilles less ground than the iteration before.

    If you do the math, the increments of time between each iteration sums up to equal exactly the time when you would expect Achilles to pass the tortoise.

    In other words, the paradox is just a trick - break up the time leading up to the fast Achilles passing a slow tortoise into infinite slivers of time, each sliver slightly shorter than the previous one.

    The paradox occurs when we assume each sliver of time is the same amount, and that an infinite amount of them results in an infinite amount of time.

    Just a trick, nothing more.
  • I like this idea, because it's one more step to deconstructing the idea of time. Personally, I don't think that there is such thing as time - it's some sort of model that we humans have come up with to explain change in our environment. I don't think we have the mental capacity to really comprehend what is really happening, and the notion of time has been easy enough for us to understand that we've accepted it as the correct model. But in reality, time doesn't exist. What happened in the past is no longer reality - it only exists in our memories (and film, and tapes, and hard drives, etc.). It was reality, but only for an instant. Time is not a dimension, because as a dimension it is full of "exceptions" to the rules we have for other dimensions. You can't go back in time. You can't go forward in time. You can't stay at the same time. You can't have a negative amount of time. And how fast are we moving through time?

    When you consider all of that, it makes sense that there are no discreet instances in time. Why, for there to be discreet instances, there would have to be some real way to measure time - and to do that, you'd need to measure it once, go back, and measure it again. How would you even measure it the first time? Stand there with a stop watch, click, it, then click it again? "How long was that one, Bob?" "Three seconds, Phill!"

    I firmly belive that time is a construct designed by humans as a "close enough" explanation, but there is something out there that is way beyond our comprehension. I'd tell you what that was, but I have no idea, and you wouldn't understand, anyway.

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