Conventional physics tells us that the universe comprises three spacial dimensions and one time dimension. That’s three SPACIAL dimensions and one TIME dimension. No hang on a bit,
THREE spacial dimensions and ONE time dimension?
How can that be right?
The universe is made of four things, three of which are close to identical and a fourth one which is TOTALY different? Isn’t that kind of weird? Was time some kind of a hiccup? I can imagine Papa Cosmos coming out of his hobby shed and calling,
"Hey kids, look at these things I just made!”
“Wow! What are they?”
“I think I’ll call them the 3 Spacial dimensions! Do you like them?"
"Yeah! They’re real cool, so what’s that over there?"
"Oh, well I didn’t have enough stuff left over for a FOURTH Spacial dimension so I messed around a bit and made something else instead. "
"It looks really freaky!"
"Mmm, I’m not sure about it myself either. I think I’ll call it the Temporal dimension until I can think of something else to use the bits for....."
This just doesn’t seem right to me. Why, if you’re on a role and have just made three perfectly good dimensions, suddenly change direction and make something as goofy as time?
O.k. So maybe JUST spacial dimensions would be quite boring and so you want to have a bit of variety. So why only have one dimension that is different? Why not make them ALL different?
Of course it could be argued that this arrangement of dimensions simply works. So why put it into question when it provides a perfectly serviceable model of our universe?
Well, it is true that this model has given us some fascinating insights into what is going on around us. Nevertheless, it has also raised some pretty big question mark over contemporary physics as well. Indeed, following careful observation it appears that several characteristics of our universe are quite peculiar. They appear so inexplicable that they have been called the great conundrums:
1. The DENSITY conundrum.
The universe is currently expanding so that it is getting bigger in a volumetric sense. Nevertheless, it also appears that the density of the universe is remaining about the same. If this is true then the mass must be increasing at the same rate as volume in order to compensate.
Where is this extra mass coming from?
It has been suggested that it is simply being created spontaneously in the gaps. However, this does sound quite a bit like hocus pocus to me. It’s a bit like,
“Hey why do you always have the same amount of money even though you are buying new clothes all the time?”
“Simple, every time I buy a new piece of clothing cash spontaneously appears in the pockets!”
2. The ACCELERATION conundrum
Not only is the universe expanding continuously but also ever more rapidly. Previously, it was believed that everything started with a stupendous explosion (or ‘Big Bang’) that threw out lots of hot debris at high speed to form the fledgling universe. Following this, the universe began to spread out and cool.
The effect of gravity should be to try and resist this and pull the universe back together. Eventually, the kinetic energy of the universe should get converted into gravitational potential energy. At this point the universe should stop expanding and, after a brief moment of stasis, start contracting. Eventually the gravitational pull should cause the whole universe to rush together to cause a ‘Big Crunch’, as it has been dubbed, at which point the kinetic energy would be turned back into heat energy which might cause another explosion and start the cycle all over again.
Central to this is the assumption that, as the universe gets bigger it slows down. However, it appears that quite the opposite is true. As the universe gets bigger it is speeding up so that the expansion is getting more rapid. According to current theory, this can only be true if something inside the universe is pushing outwards. This mysterious force must be something quite special. Not only has it so far escaped detection but it can operate over vast distances for extended periods of time. Furthermore, if the universe is getting heavier all the time (so as to maintain density as it expands), this force must be continuously increasing in order to accelerate the additional mass. So far, nobody has been able to take even a wild stab at how this can be true, let alone explain clearly.
3. The SIZE conundrum
It has generally been accepted that nothing can travel quicker than the speed of light, or time as we discussed in a previous chapter (see the chapter ‘Dot and a relatively interesting adventure’). Furthermore, massive things would require enormous amounts of energy to accelerate up to light speed and so tend to travel much more slowly.
Now, current thinking puts the age of the universe at just under 14 Billion years. That’s pretty old. However, the ’observable’ universe is a sphere of about 46Billion light years radius centered at the planet earth. This means that for light to reach us from these farthest reaches would take about 46 Billion years. This is about 3 times longer than the age of the universe itself. Additionally, it seems reasonable to expect that the universe actually goes on beyond the distance we can see.
So, if everything started off from a single central bang, how did all that stuff get so far away in such a short time so that there was still enough time left over for the light to travel back to us from there?
One theory suggests that shortly after its creation the universe experienced a period of rapid ’super expansion’ which then eased off.
What was so different at that time that matter could travel so much faster than now?
What caused it to slow down if it is currently speeding up again (see point 2.)?
In what way does this explain how the light has got back to us so quickly?
This is all more than just a little bit peculiar. It leaves a nasty aftertaste of ‘Deus ex Machina’ at the back of my throat.
4. The WEIGHT conundrum
Current thinking suggests that space is not straight but in fact curved. This curvature is caused by the application of mass. The action of mass on "Space/Time" is to cause it to bend and stretch. One manifestation of this is gravity which is associated with individual massive objects. However, there also seems to be a general curvature to the whole of space and time caused by the cumulative effect of all the mass in the universe added together. The only problem is that to cause this curvature the universe would have to be very heavy. In fact, estimates range between 10 and 20 times heavier than everything we can account for through observation.
It is assumed that the additional mass is indeed there but simply un-observable. This additional mass is often referred to as ’Dark Matter’ because we cannot ’see’ it.
Why is there dark matter?
Why can’t we see it?
These and many other questions remain unresolved.
So, it seems that the much discussed, celebrated and preferred "Space / Time" model has some inadequacies when trying to explain the real world around us. It is most certainly a very good model that can be viewed as the culmination of a long chain of thought that started with ancient Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Archimedes, ran through Newton and Einstein and has been continued by the likes of Hawkins and Greene in recent times. It has extended our understanding of the universe enormously.
Nonetheless, as with everything else in science and technology it begs for improvement and this is exactly the point at which my thoughts pick up the ball. Here, I present a possible alternative method for modeling the universe. This is not only an interesting academic exercise but it also provides the basis for the ‘Orb’ novels that I am writing. Many creative writers undertake ‘World building’ exercises in order to lend colour and depth to their stories. I decided that this would be insufficient for my work. I was going to have to perform a whole ‘Cosmos building’ exercise.
It is important to appreciate that this is not a completely fanciful re-write of physics. Far more, everything discussed here is already an agreed part of science. All we are going to do is re-shuffle the pack in order to uncover new insights. At this stage, I have left out the arithmetic so that we can concentrate on the fundamental logic in a way that is accessible to the greatest number of people. This also has a long tradition in science. Einstein began his ground breaking work on relativity using simple logical ’mind experiments’ before moving onto equations much later. Hawkins demonstrated the power of pictures as tools of investigation, calculation and communication. Let’s start by undertaking the first re-shuffle of the universe. I am going to start by saying,
‘The Universe has 1 Temporal and 3 Spacial dimensions.’
This is only a very subtle change. Instead of a ‘Space / Time’ model we now have a ‘Time / Space’ model. Trivial? Well, the implications are enormous. Suddenly, time isn’t some odd add-on after thought. Now, time is the starting point. The birth of the universe was not marked by the sudden inflation of space. It started with the beginning of time.
’In the beginning there was nothing and then…. can anyone else here that ticking?’
But, of course, the clock didn’t just start ticking because there was no clock. You can’t make a clock out of time itself. A clock isn’t time, it just measures the effects of time on matter. How does it do this? Well, when we talk about time we are actually talking about the general time vector of the universe (at least the bits of the universe we can measure). This time vector points in the direction of increasing entropy. The universe is flowing from order towards chaos, or in other words entropy is steadily increasing. The older the universe gets the more entropy there is and the more disordered and chaotic things become.
It is worth noting that there are certainly special localised effects which appear to reverse this process and cause entropy to reduce over time, ie. order to increase. However, directly outside of these localised discrepancies the increase in entropy is actually accelerated so that, on average, an increase in average entropy is maintained across the universe as a whole. Life is one example of this phenomenon. A living organism in itself is a highly ordered system that has grown out of chaos. Nevertheless, all around that organism the environment is being suffering massive increases in entropy. It has been suggested that Life could be defined as
‘A localized reversal in the entropy vector associated with accelerated entropy elsewhere.’
This isn’t quite as romantic as ‘The Birds and the Bees’ but then science rarely is.
So what causes entropy to increase in the first place?
The increase in universal entropy is driven by events. Every time something happens entropy increases. The only way to prevent an increase in entropy would be to stop anything from happening. If everything just suddenly stopped then entropy would also suspend its forward march. In consequence time would also stop and so a clock is simply a convenient method of keeping count of events. As long as the clock has been built appropriately then the events that it counts are a good representation of the steady increase in entropy.
However, entropy is not an abstract concept. It is physical in that it can only be gauged by its action on matter. Matter has mass and so entropy can be understood as the interaction between time and mass. Or rather entropy is the process by which time ages mass.
So, for there to be a universe at all, two things are required Time and Mass. With these two we can have entropy which is the foundation of action, so that things can happen. In this way we could build a two dimensional TM (Time / Mass) universe without any spacial dimensions at all!
In this TM universe there would be (just as in ours) a constant flow of entropy from the highlands of order to the basin of chaos. This would form the river of time. There are two ways we could sense the current of this river:
l. We could throw a twig into the river and consider how quickly it distances itself from us;
2. We could place a resistance in the stream and measure how hard the current pushes against it.
In the first case the twig might be a pulse of light. Light has no mass and so travels at the speed of time (see the chapter ‘Dot and a relatively interesting adventure’). Indeed the very close correlation between the speeds of light and time makes it quite difficult to tell them apart in certain situations. For instance, to a great extent the premise that light and time are synonymous forms the basis of the theory of Relativity.
However, the majority of the universe is ’massive’ and cannot travel at anything near the speed of light/ time. Nevertheless, you and I, as examples of massive objects, can sense the passage of time. We do this by experiencing the flow of the current around us. Being massive we resist the current to some extent. However, as we are not very big the press of the current against us pushes us progressively down the river causing us to age. If we consider a truly enormously massive object such as a black hole then we find that inside the event horizon time stands still. The object is so heavy that it can completely resist the current and so does not age.
If we were to hold out our hand in this flow we might notice that presenting the flat of our hand to the flow creates a big resistance and so it is pressed more strongly. Conversely, if we hold our hand on edge it becomes more difficult to feel the flow as the current can slip past easily. Furthermore, we can hold our ’edge on’ hand in any number of orientations and the effect remains the same. There is very little resistance. It is only when our hand is in the singular ’flat on’ orientation that we can properly sense the flow.
This demonstrates that the flow of our river is uni-directional. Consider a very thin object such as a piece of card. The ‘flat on’ orientation is very effective at resisting the flow but ‘edge on’ it offers no resistance at all. Obviously, if we were to rotate the card back and forth between edge-on and flat-on its resistance to the flow would change steadily between low and high and then back again. Consequently, it would tend to get carried along by the current more or less depending on the orientation.
Consider now, what would happen if we overlaid two flows at 9O° to each other?
Assuming that the two flows do not simply coalesce, they would have quite different effects on the piece of card. One would be presented with the flat-on aspect of the card whereas the other would experience the edge-on case. The card would then get pushed along by one flow and stay more or less stationary with respect to the other. In principle we could add a third non-coalescing stream at 90° to the other two (in total three Cartesian axes) and the same principle would apply. It is just a bit more difficult to visualise.
Now, remembering that the resistance to the flow is a representation of mass we can appreciate that for our mass to experience time it must be appropriately aligned with the time stream. Any flow of entropy that is ‘edge on’ to our mass will have no effect on us and we would neither age in that direction nor experience any events (increases in entropy) that mass aligned ‘flat on’ to it might experience.
Conversely, if for whatever reason, some mass changed its orientation it would become more or less visible to a particular time (entropy) stream. If some mass in our observable universe were suddenly to change to a new orientation at 90° to ourselves it would seem to wink out of existence. Correspondingly, any mass that became aligned with us would suddenly appear as if out of nowhere.
This aspect of the TM universe model can explain where all the ’extra’ mass is coming from that:
A. Is needed to bend the Universe (WEIGHT conundrum);
B. Keeps turning up to keep the density constant (DENSITY conundrum).
The dark matter needed to bend the universe isn’t hiding inside our universe. Rather, it is continuously passing through it on a perpendicular time stream. It is so difficult to detect because it just doesn’t hang around for any time. No sooner is each quantity of mass there than it is already gone again on its perpendicular travels. The gravitational effect is the only thing we can detect because the mass keeps getting replaced by the next lot of perpendicular mass, which itself then disappears.
This does suggest that there is a lot more mass in the perpendicular streams than in our own. Even allowing for the fact that there are two perpendicular streams, our own stream seems a bit of a light weight. There is no reason why this shouldn’t be the case. For all we know this inequality is essential to enable life (’as we know it’) to form.
However, one thing we can say about inequality in our universe is that it tends to sort itself out eventually. Entropy is the great leveler of inequality: Mountains are eroded down and fill up the seas; hot and cold merge together to become tepid; differences gradually become similarities. Extremes and inequalities get flattened and balanced.
This leads us onto the DENSITY conundrum. The extra mass needed to maintain density as the universe expands isn’t being ’created’ so much as being ‘left behind’ as the perpendicular mass streams zoom through our existence. Just like everything else that happens in the universe the process of transient mass is not perfectly efficient or clean. Entropy demands that no process is perfectly reversible. Something in the basic arrangement of the universe has to alter in a way that the process did not ’intend’ whenever anything happens.
If you pour water from one container to another a bit of water gets left behind. It may only be the tiniest droplet or thinnest film of moisture but fundamentally the process is imperfect. It might take a longtime, with a great long row of jugs, but eventually, if you were to keep pouring the water from each container into the next new one you would eventually run out of water to pour. Every time you poured the water into a brand new jug a bit would get left behind in the old one. Instead of one full jug you would end up with a long line of slightly damp ones.
This is the same as the flow of mass. Some of the mass adheres to our stream as it passes through and so the net effect is that ’we’ are getting slightly heavier all the time. This is the extra mass needed to maintain density.
So far the entropy based ‘Time / Mass’ model seems to be holding up well. We now appear to have an explanation for two major fault lines in the current ’Space/ Time’ model: Density and Weight. However, I hope that those reading this are critical to the ideas being expressed. Science is more about disagreement than anything else. Therefore, I hope that at least some of you have spotted a gaping chasm in my discussion of density.
The junior version of this problem is the question of coincidence. Anything that requires coincidence as part of its explanation is generally viewed by reputable scientists with extreme suspicion if not outright rejection. I may not be a reputable scientist but I do share this attitude towards coincidence. It is great to bump into an old friend by coincidence but this is not science. Science is the pursuit of certainty and determination. Coincidence just doesn’t fit into this. I mention this because it does appear to be a bit of a coincidence that the amount of mass ’scraped off’ and left behind by the other streams just happens to be exactly the right amount to maintain density in our expanding universe.
This however is trivial in comparison to the real whopper. In the TM model there is no such thing as density in the first place!
Density is a measure of how much mass is squeezed into, or spread around if you prefer, an amount of space. Density is a ’Space / Mass’ characteristic. To have density you must have mass and space. Mass we have accounted for. Space, however, remains completely unaccounted for. The ’Time / Mass’ model has no space. No size. Nothing for things to be in!
In fact it is not much of an oops at all. Let us return to the metaphoric banks of the River Entropy and study what is going on more closely. Time flows and mass resists. The more mass the more resistance. This seems fair enough but it does raise a question.
How does this resistance manifest itself?
For sure, as far as mass is concerned it manifests itself in terms of whether matter ages or not and how fast, but what about time? Surely there must also be some kind of re-action on time to keep things balanced?
Indeed, when we place our hand into a stream of running water not only does the water push against our hand but our hand also pushes against the water. Action and reaction. This reaction manifests itself by changing the surface of the water from smooth and homogeneous to turbulent and lumpy. In particular the water piles up against our hand where it first meets it on the upstream side and on the down stream side it sinks down and leaves a depression. The flow of the water has become distorted. If a relatively small resistance is placed in the flow the small action and reaction forces mean that the deformation of the water is also small. A larger resistance would cause a proportionately larger deformation.
Now, remembering that resistance represents Mass and that flow represents Time we see that just as Time pushes Mass along, Mass disturbs Time. Furthermore, these phenomena cause the Mass to ’fall into’ the downstream depression in the flow. Mass induces a cavity in time and then tries to fill it by aging.
This phenomenon is Space.
Space exists where Mass displaces Time. A small mass creates only a small space, a big mass a larger one. Furthermore, this is cumulative. Place two masses together in the stream and jointly they create a bigger hole. The biggest hole of all comes from the cumulative mass of the whole universe. This is the 3 dimensional space we are so familiar with.
Importantly, in this model, Space is not a primal feature but the proportional outcome of an interaction between two other features. If the mass of the universe were to change suddenly there would be a commensurate jump in the size of the universe.
Intriguingly, this also suggests that a change in the nature of time would also change the size of the universe. If the rate at which time flows or the viscosity of time were to change then the dent made by the mass would also change. However, we shall have to return to the implications of this later.
Instead we shall, at this point, return to thoughts of density. Typically, density is described as the amount of mass squeezed into a particular volume, i.e. Kilograms per Meter cubed in the metric system. It would be equally valid if we considered it the other way around as the amount of space stretched around a mass, i.e. Meters cubed per Kilogram. This is a more sensible approach in the TM model. Mass comes before Space and so should be the defining quantity. Now, if Space is a consequence of Mass and density is the result of them both, then it is now clear why the density of the universe remains constant. As more mass leaks into our time stream the size of the universe expands proportionately and this keeps the density more or less constant. The density conundrum can be explained in this way.
The mass of the universe is not magically increasing in order to keep the density constant with increasing space. Instead space is being stretched in a constant manner in order to encompass the increasing mass. Size increases in a fixed relationship to mass and so density remains constant.
So there we have it, weight and density accounted for.
What about size and acceleration?
These shall be discussed in the next chapter ‘Why the Cosmic Baker has dry feet’.