Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

How is Gravity Related to Time?

There are some strange, strange ideas floating around right now on the edges of quantum physics.  What's brewing is a peculiar and unfortunate marriage of science and religion, all of it hinging on the relationship between gravity and time. 

Those of you who keep an eye on Deepak Chopra's Twitter feed may have noticed recently that he has been trying to connect quantum consciousness of various levels and conditions of existence - a set of spiritual, meditative, philosophical and religious questions - to quantum physics.  I blogged about his latest concepts here.  Like many people, Chopra is also fixated on the Theory of Everything, or rather, the lack thereof, which would if successful explain how Newton's Classical Law of Gravity (corrected and reworked by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity and his concept of spacetime) - that is, the Physics of the very large, such as planets and galaxies - could relate to the Quantum Physics of the very small.  Unfortunately, since the laws of gravity do not work at the sub-atomic level, there are various attempts to unite General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics by theorizing about gravity - here for example.  Mark Van Raamsdonk of UBC summarizes the problem neatly here:
"The approach that allowed physicists to develop a quantum mechanical theory for the strong, weak, and electromagnetic forces turns out not to work when applied to the remaining force, the force of gravity. In fact, it fails miserably. As a result, finding the correct quantum mechanical theory of gravity has been a prominent open question for decades; indeed it is one of the greatest challenges in theoretical physics. While Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity is almost entirely adequate for the purposes of describing the observed gravitational dynamics of planets, stars, galaxies, and even the expansion of the universe as a whole, it cannot be the whole story, since it does not incorporate the quantum mechanics principles that are believed to underlie all physics in our universe. Usually, a quantum mechanical description of nature is only necessary at very short distance scales; at macroscopic distance scales, the pre-20th century ``classical’’ physics provides an excellent approximation. But there are certain situations, such as in the interior of a black hole, in the early universe just after the big bang, or in a hypothetical scattering of particles with energies many orders of magnitude larger than we can currently produce in an accelerator, where gravitational effects would be important at distance scales small enough that a quantum mechanical description of the physics is essential. Finding the right theory of quantum gravity is essential if we want to fully understand the workings of nature."
Enter Chopra, now adding the mythological figure of Icarus to a mix of black holes, gravity and time travel from a play he's just seen.  He appears to be preparing to relate Arrow of Time problems to the gravity problem in the quest for a Theory of Everything. Chopra's Twitter feed has been buzzing recently with criticisms he's fielded from Quantum Physicist Leonard Mlodinow of Caltech.  The two are now on friendly terms, but not before Mlodinow spoke out at debate at Caltech on the future of God.

Mlodinow to Chopra.

Chopra on Mlodinow.

Chopra has begun talking about consciousness in relation to gravity and physics, and yes, Stephen Hawking is in there somewhere too.  It's a sign of the times that physicists and spiritual gurus are chatting. When unverifiable realms of physics encounter hazy 'cognitive theories of the universe,' which edge toward a cosmology of one big infinite mind, there is a real danger of the cosmos being re-anthropomorphized.  How long did it take us to break from the geocentric model of the solar system? - Now we're getting a geo-centric, simian-laden, quasi-spiritual view of the laws that govern the universe.  Maybe Icarus is a fitting mythological metaphor here, after all.


  1. Fascinating. Terrific potential for understanding lies somewhere within this realm of multi-disciplinary thoughts. We need to bring the subject of cosmology to 'the person in the street', via dialogue that we can relate to.

    Thanks for keeping us in the loop with your posts.

  2. You're welcome! On this blog I'm starting by presenting the different areas of inquiry as historical phenomena. In other words, everything these people are discussing is another facet of the mood of our times. I'm pretty sure that at least some of their research questions are shaped by that mood, as much as giving shape to it. How close they are to finding actual answers is another question. But you're right - what answers there are are likely lie somewhere in the no man's land where many different areas of human curiosity and study converge.

  3. Time and relative dimensions in space....*ducks thrown objects*

    Seriously though, scientists are as human as anybody else. The scientific method was created by humans. A human bias is inevitable.

    On a purely sociological level, at least, scientists and religious people talking to eachother might be seen as a good thing. Peaceful discourse as opposed to shouting and violence.

  4. Sure, as long as scientists don't evolve into a priestly class to take up a predictive role arguably now occupied by economists. That is, anthropologically, every human society has its oracles and shamans who foretell the health and wealth of the society. Not sure it'd be so great to see Adam Smith replaced by some high church of physio-genomics. The assumption that there is a pitched political and perspectival battle between science and religion misses the possiblity that the two might radically reconcile. Consider what would happen if the fabled singularity in the tech revolution is achieved and scientists start resolving problems normally assigned to the province of religion, such as consciousness, immortality, flight, invisibility. If you read the really hardcore futurists, that's what they are talking about.

    If on top of that people lose faith in economists, they may replace them with other authorities such as these, and follow those successors with equal fervour. Obviously this is all speculative - it's just food for thought to see these trends.

  5. Er, that assumes people have faith in economist now. Last I checked, we don't. They're about as reliable as weathermen.

  6. Sure, but our financial system and the principles upon which it runs have not changed. Everyone knows that depressions are a periodic function in this type of economic system, although they are fighting fiercely over what causes those depressions and how to alleviate them. There are politically-driven ebbs and flows in policy, for example the resurgence in Keynes's popularity in some quarters, but no one has yet tossed out the baby (economists) with the bathwater. Although some people would argue that the economists have enjoyed their vaunted status in society since the nineteenth century - and 'money' as a concept has lasted much, much longer than that, pretty much for the past 2,400 years. Some anticipate another professional class taking the place of economists, with a new knowledge standard and associated symbol of social exchange for us all to follow. Either way, we are all in for a bumpy ride.