Thursday, May 13, 2004

More on "FTL" to come.

Friday, August 09, 2002

News Request from Peikoff's Lecture on Induction in Physics!

Unfortunately, there is no way I could attend the Palo Alto conference where Dr. Leonoard Peikoff will be giving his lectures, starting sometime in the next few days.

If anyone can report back on how it went, I'd love to hear!


"The Instantaneous Change" vs."the Simultaneous Change" of an Object
(Draft date December 2001, Edited August 7, 2002

The following is offered in response to the discussion on “instantaneous change” and “rigid bodies" on the ObjSci list on Yahoo.

Context and audience: This is written by someone who has a prior academic background in physics and who has continued to study the subject since university, particularly as part of ongoing work involving optics and polarization technology development. However, I’m not an academic physicist.

I would have to brush up quite a bit to speak knowledgeably about a number of details of various theories, but I found this “thinking out loud” valuable for myself, none-the-less. Perhaps it will be useful for others.

I] Preamble:
It has been pointed out that a fundamental challenge in the field of physics consists in understanding the meaning of the results of experiments on microscopic bodies. That is, experiments involving the microscopic, constituent parts of the “macroscopic” objects we perceive directly in the world around us.

As such, it is a challenge in integration, between the “indirect evidence” provided by the experiments (measurements and patterns observed in them) and the concepts we have of the world, obtained by a process of abstraction from direct, perceptual evidence.

(Of course, not all physics involves experiments on microscopic bodies. But there is a tendency to assume that such experiments are more important than experiments on larger bodies. “Composed-of, therefore more fundamental” (or “smaller, therefore more because-of”) is an illicit assumption and a fallacy - and an aspect of the insidious prevalence of the “world was created from prior constituent parts” cosmology. We can not a priori state that the microscopic is more fundamental than the macroscopic, even in regard to the magnitude of forces and energies involved. For example, consider the phenomenon of stellar fusion and gravity as forces creating and impacting the largest stellar and interstellar formations).

To continue: we rely on experimental apparatus designed in such a way that there is a chain of cause-and-effect between a microscopic body or bodies and another microscopic body or bodies that are themselves parts of a complex larger entity, the experimental apparatus itself. (E.g, “Particles” and “detector”).

We build these experimental apparatuses using concepts formed from our direct perceptual awareness of existence. Those concepts are implicit in every aspect of the design, conduct, and interpretation of the experiments.

There is an ubiquitous utilization of the concepts of the physical world that we began to form from childhood, throughout any discussion of physics as an advanced science. The validity of those “prior” concepts are grounded in the perceptual observation of a lifetime, and are what we begin with and use throughout our systematic study of physics.

All of this may seem obvious. But it also represents a necessary “preamble” chewing for me to maintain the whole of the topic in view.

“Realists” in physics are those who constantly make an effort to integrate the prior conceptual framework derived from direct perception with the newer, indirect evidence provided by experiment, and to never permit a breach or contradiction between the two. Objectivist physicists, aware of a valid metaphysics and epistemology, do not expect new knowledge qua knowledge to contradict old knowledge.

Further, valid concepts of philosophy must be involved in the integration process as part of “testing” any interpretation of an experimental result.

Knowing this mandate of integration, it is paramount that we continually “chew” the many basic concepts of the “physical” and “material” that we validly form from direct observation, going back to childhood.

“Body,” “change,” “solid,” “rigid,” “material,” “space,” “motion,” etc. are all concepts initially formed from the stuff of everyday perceptual observation, observation of the “macroscopic” world around us. But in the specialized advancement of physics, we need to re-examine them very precisely. Chew, chew, chew.

(Here’s some chewing I have done, for example. We can perceptually isolate “objects” in our environment on earth, and form concepts from percepts, because of the different phases of matter in our environment – we are entities [composed of solids that contain liquids and gasses] while the gaseous environment we move through is not an “entity” in the same sense but a non-solid atmosphere. Without solids surrounded by gasses or liquids, we would not detect boundaries and thus be unable to distinguish objects from their environments).

To conclude the preamble, my focus is on integrating our “everyday” physical concepts with experiment, and that is why this discourse was prompted once the example of the teeter-totter was raised.

II] Proposition: If it is impossible for some whole body, at some physical scale of reality, to change from end-to-end “instantaneously,” then we are left with understanding all objects (and all reality) in terms of an “infinite” regression of “parts.” Every “part” must be composed of ever smaller “parts,” an epistemological process which ultimately destroys the very concepts of “unitary” or “parts”.

Why? Consider the following implications of insisting that any change spanning a distance must take time, even if that distance is in fact the diameter of some unitary, “infinitesimal” body.

A) Let us restate the previous point through the following steps:

No whole object can change state “at once,” because such would be “instantaneous” from edge-to-edge.

A change across any distance must have a duration, therefore a change “moves” from one increment to another (or point-by-point?) through the body; change must propagate through the body’s “parts,” so that each “part” takes on the change in succession.

True in the case of the teeter-totter, as experiment has discovered. The list was reminded that one end of the teeter-totter moves first when forced down, and that force propagates in various forms, including as a wave through the body of the teeter-totter at a finite speed, so that the other end does not move up at the same instant as the end that is forced down.

But what of the parts? Must they be composed of parts?

(We must take care not to generalize hastily or repeat an assumption out of unthinking habit. For example, this generalization: we’ve discovered that teeter-totters, and all other macroscopic objects in our view that we’ve identified thus far, have parts, therefore at every level of scale, every body and object must have parts – partitions, spaces between parts, differing density regions, etc).

To continue: We have discovered that the phenomenon long observed as “fluid” and “elastic” are consequences of the existence of constituent parts that comprise the “macroscopic objects” of the world around us, parts which are bonded together with varying degrees of energy and thus resulting in varying degrees of rigidity.

But prior to this discovery, we formed the concept of a “rigid” object moving “as one,” without one end starting and the other catching up. “Rigid object” was a concept with the implicit characteristic of “unitary,” or “being united.”

Must a change, to have identity, “move” across space to satisfy the condition that it have some duration? Can’t a thing in itself change in toto, “in place,” happening all at once, but happening with some duration to the entire body as a piece?

(Does a human being die in one “quantum” change to the whole body, at once? Or is it dead only when each cell dies in succession, as part of a complex propagation sequence or wave? What about a cell? Does it die “as a whole,” or does it die as each molecule somehow “dies” in succession?)

Not in the case of the teeter-totter, as we have discovered. But is the concept of “rigid” forever invalidated by the discovering that, in the case of the teeter-totter and other like “macroscopic” cases, the object has parts of its own that change “in sequence”?

As illustrations of change to a hypothetical microscopic body, consider these two cases in which the idea that “a body can not change at once, and therefore must be composed of parts” is applied:

1) A body is at rest relative to its environment. A second body possessing motion relative to it contacts the first body. (Further questions: at the smallest possible scale, what is it to “contact”?)

Since the two ends of an object can’t both move “at once” at the moment of contact, then the effect must propagate through parts or portions of the first body. The closest dl to impact is affected before the furthest dl. The body is “elastic.”

But what about the parts or portions themselves? What about the “incident” end of the part or portion, and the “trailing” end? Since both “edges” of the constituent part of the original body can’t “change” instantaneously, then this part must be composed of even smaller parts, according to this proposition.

2) The field generated by the pole of a magnet moves into proximity of a charged body of opposite polarity. The field intensity is greater at one end of the charged body than another, so the closer end accelerates faster than the furthest, because the whole body can not be affected “at once.”

The body then is elastic and composed of parts or portions or matter that is everywhere “disconnected,” matter that at every point takes on the new characteristic of acceleration separately and in sequence.

But to return to our “original” concepts, what about all the instances observed directly in the world around us in from which we originally formed the concept “it changed,” implying a uniform change to an entity in toto, or “all at once,” end-to-end, simultaneously? That is, a change with duration, but simultaneous across a body, regardless of the vector of an actuating outside force. Did that “original” version of the concept violate the law of identity?

Under the “all things are composed of smaller parts” presumption, we can hypothesize a case in which the entire volume of an entity is affected by a perfectly uniform field in which the entity is immersed, with the effect that all parts are affected simultaneously. But this must be an unusual case indeed.

Should we then conclude that all changes imparted by an external agent closer to one portion of an entity than another are of the nature of a propagation wave or sequence through the entity? And that all changes previously conceived of happening to an entire entity simultaneously over its volume were in effect changes propagating through that entity at a speed that previously could not be detected without special instruments, and that this must be true at every physical scale in existence, for every and any body?

HOWEVER, Is it not valid to state that change, to have identity, must be of an entity and exist in three dimensions, but not necessarily move across three dimensions? (All change has a rate, but that is not identical to the concept of velocity, which implies translation through three dimensions).

Further Chewing of Problems with the idea of “No Instantaneous Change for Entities from Discrete Force Vectors”:

Consider a small segment, possessing some curve facing a force vector. Either we say the “entire segment is affected at once,” or we say a “point” that is mathematically closest, but with no material extent, is affected “first,” because no entire segment not “perfectly equidistant” can be affected “instantaneously.” Unless there happens to be a perfectly straight segment that happens to be perfectly equidistant with respect to a perfectly uniform field that is of significantly greater facing dimension, (to ensure equal intensity at the edges), then the “change can not be instantaneous through a body” hypothesis must resort to the proposition that the closest point, of no dimension, takes on the change first, which propagates from there.

But a point is a mathematical concept of method, not an existent. Entities change, not no-dimensioned points of an entity.

So, again, the “no change in toto” hypothesis runs counter to the law of identity, because the required reduction ad infinitum into successively smaller parts reaches its limit at the positing of a mathematical “nearest point” that is first changed. Because otherwise, stopping short of that point with no dimension, there will be a segment or surface area or volume that is not equidistant to a force vector but which changes in toto and all at once, “instantaneously.”

Thus we retain the perfectly valid concept of a thing changing “all at once,” in toto, formed originally from perceptual-level observation.

III] Now, the Contrary of the Proposition that “all bodies must be composed of parts”:

It is proposed that experimental discoveries such as those involved in the case of the teeter-totter lead us to this, the proper conclusion:

That, if a body possesses parts, then an external force imparted to a portion of it, or in greater degree to one portion of it, will propagate through the parts, and exist as a change through three-dimensional space (a sequence of changes of parts, via waves, and other mechanisms).

However, we may not conclude that all bodies must have parts, simply because we have discovered that some bodies do have parts and behave in a such-and-such a way. We have not established that change can not happen “in place” to an entire volume “simultaneously.” For one, because of the infinite regression problem, requiring infinite subdivision into parts without ever arriving at an actual unitary part, (as we understand the concept from direct observation).

(“Part” becomes a stolen concept in this regression, and its original context, our “macro” environment consisting of adjacent phases of matter - specifically solid entities with boundaries in a gas or liquid medium - is “blanked-out.” See below).

Make the Implicit Explicit:

Consider these notes on concepts used implicitly in the discussions of particle, space, “action at a distance,” etc.:

 Entities have boundaries
 Parts Require Partition
 Partition implies separation
 Separation implies a qualitative difference, A juxtaposed with Non-A.
 Our Concept of Space Derives from Observation of Solids Immersed in Gasses and Liquids, i.e., juxtaposition of Different Phases of Matter.
 “Connected” means “of a piece,” implying that what happens to an “it” happens to its entire extent.

These notes are part of a conceptual framework that constantly asserts itself in our conceptualization of indirectly-observed physical phenomena, especially particle physics.

Further, consider the proposition of some smallest possible body that therefore must be “fundamentally connected to itself” (in an analogy to a circle being a continuously connected line or a sphere a continuous surface):

IV] Expanding on the Contrary Proposition stated above:
A change happening to a body that is fundamentally “connected to itself” (with no partitions) is a change with duration but “in place,” that is simultaneous for the whole body, and only apparently instantaneous from edge-to-edge, regardless of whether the change is imparted by a uniform surrounding field or a localized force vector that is closer to some part of the body. Simultaneous but not instantaneous, because the imparting of force, is, in effect, coextensive with the entire infinitesimal body.

Continua and Quanta:
Existence is fundamentally “active.” Entities can not only change, but persist in properties and characteristics through time. As existence is said to be the most basic of motions, and change is a kind of motion, so persistence is a kind of motion. But we observe many instances of entities persisting (moving) in toto, in place, “as one,” with “instantaneous persistence” across through the whole (connected) body.

This brings us to the many observations that underlay the formation of the concept "quanta" in its most general usage, which undoubtedly is constituted in the technical definition of "quantum mechanics."

Note that if an electron changes from one orbit around a nucleus to another, the fact that there is no continuous gradient of space to occupy between orbits is another instance of the “chunkiness” of reality, such chunkiness also implying the existence of "infinitesimal" bodies of some kind - that is, bodies that, like the classical concept of the atom, can not be divided further.
That classical concept of the atom is fundamentally related to the concepts of "continua" and "quanta."

The concept of "quanta" relates to the concept "unit." Perceptually, we distinguish "entities," which might be said to be "quantized" instances of matter, and the stuff or material of which a quantum is composed, which is "continuous" through the body of the entity. Thus, entities are "discontinuous" between each other, but from edge-to-edge, each entity is continuous, and the extent, from edge-to-edge of the entity, is a "continua."

At different scales of observation, we find that (as in gases), what appeared to be a continua actually had "granularity," that the continua decomposed into smaller entities.

But that, like Zeno's paradox, does not mean that we won't ultimately arrive, at the smallest scale, at some "atom" that possesses no parts, which is made of some "stuff" continuous from edge-top-edge.

From a conceptual point of view, the perception of entities at all scales of observation, direct and indirect, allows us to form concepts through measurement-omission. From a mathematical point of view, the perception of entities at all scales of observation, direct and indirect, allows us to calculate quanta.

If indeed we accept that there can be some "atom," then we must accept that the "atom," when it changes, changes from edge-to-edge simultaneously, that it changes in toto, at once, and that, from edge-to-edge, it in fact changes "instantaneously" with respect to its entire body changing at once, and that that is not a violation of the law of identity.

Finally, if we can accept that an "atom" (in the classical sense) can change "all at once," then is it not just a "prejudice of scale" to assume that there might not be larger entities, not composed of parts, that might change across their extent "all at once" - with an extent perceivable in the "macro scale" or our everyday existence?

And if not, why not?

Let us expand on this further.

V] Detailed Consideration of the Innsbruck Experiment and the “Space” Between Detectors:

If it is conceded that at least an infinitesimal curve segment or surface increment changes “at once,” rather than a zero-dimension point, than the question becomes, can this “at once” phenomenon apply to the seemingly non-interactive (differently phased) space between two detectors?

Can we simply assume that since the scale of the distance between the particles is so much greater than the apparent dimension of the particles themselves, that action “at once” for that volume of space is impossible?

But consider other scale differences, including the relative difference between the size of an electron or proton in a hydrogen atom and the distance between the particles. We have grown accustomed to the effect across the space between the two particles, despite the extent of the space relative to the size of the particles themselves.

Note that reality is, as Aristotle identified, a “plenum.” That implies that there is no "gap" between A and non-A. And that means that there is an “instantaneous” “jump” between A and non-A at the "boundary" between the two.

But if the concept of “at once” did not contradict the law of identity when it was originally formed from the “gross” observation of entities in our “macroscopic” field of view, and we must at least admit that some infinitesimal curved surface element can change “at once,” is it not simply a “prejudice of scale” to assume that the “stuff” of the space between the detectors can not be “actuated” from one end and changed “at once”?

This suggests that we perhaps should be more literal in exploring the parallel of “phases of matter” in the subatomic world, in particular so that space is understood to be a phase of “something,” rather than a “no-thing” that somehow none-the-less “conducts” all kinds of waves. It has been implicit in so much discussion, making it explicit and exploring the consequences may yield useful clues.

Perhaps the structure of the phase of space between the detectors is analogous to a “solid plenum” of something with other bodies of matter-as-we –know-it that “penetrate” the “solid plenum”, of such greater density and/or energy that the matter moves through with no resistance (analogous to cosmic rays or superconductivity) that we can measure. Or, as others have put it in recent posts, this “ether” in between has the characteristic of rigidity.

The benefit of being very explicitly aware of our concepts, originally formed from the “macro” world, when applied to the “micro” level, is that we can question default assumptions and boilerplate analogies. Thus we may consider that space may be more akin to our “original” concept of a “solid” than a gas or a liquid.

VI] FTL Considered - In Support of the Possibiltiy of Faster Wave Phenomenon as Well as Simultaneous Change of "Macro" Space as Rigid Body

Leaving this exploration of useful analogies aside, the assumption that FTL changes are impossible reflects an additional confusion that exists in the dialogue.

On the one hand, the search is on to understand what is really happening “beneath the surface” of the gross regularity captured by QM formulae, and the effort is being made to integrate knowledge at all levels, with the working assumption prevalent that the “fine-grain” structure of reality is more complex than we yet understand.

On the other hand, if there is a “finer-grain” structure to space, and we have not yet defined something like a “GUT” for the most important forces studied in physics, why assume no other “propagating changes” through space, operating at that finer level of granularity, than e-m wave propagation? And why assume that they can’t be faster than light, just as it was discovered light was faster than sound, and by a factor that would make such changes seem “instantaneous” in a space that is composed of parts? In fact, the correlation has been historically that the finer the granularity of the waving “medium,” the greater the speed…

Still chewing. Any errors detected, please notify!

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