Tag: Cosmology

Cascades of Flux (Brief Version)

All matter/energy is constantly in flux. What appears to be solid, such as a desk, is actually made of trillions of tiny atoms, each one vibrating in place, and each one made up of waves of electron fields around nuclei that are made of vibrating protons and neutrons which are in turn made of moving quarks. Force fields are in flux because they emanate from matter which is in flux, and force fields aren’t matter or energy anyway—they’re just mathematically defined causal relationships between physical things.

The laws of physics appear to be static, but they all boil down to two aspects: 1. the aspect of it that is necessarily true just because it’s logically consistent with the of physics. This aspect is why we’re able to do derivations in physics; and 2. the aspect of it that comes purely from observations. The first aspect is necessarily static just because logic itself can’t logically be any different, but there’s no justification to assume the other is static just because the observations seem consistent over time.

Since everything else we observe is in flux, chances are that those things are in flux as well—they just change too slowly to be noticed. Add to this the fact that there’s no ultimate way to distinguish between the physics of matter and energy and the physicality of it. The so-called “laws” of physics are not a separate thing “acting on” matter and energy. The closer you look, the more these two things blend together. One way of saying this is that form is function. How can you know the form of something other than through how it interacts with the observer? And how it interacts with the observes is its function. And the functionality of matter and energy is the physics of it.

All of physicality boils down to matter, energy and fields. Matter is in turn a pattern of seething energy, and fields can’t, even in principle, be defined or observed in any way other than as causal relationships between matter, so it’s safe to say that fields are merely an aspect of physics. And what is energy other than behavior patterns, and what determines its behavior if not the internal logic and mechanics of it which is what physics reveals?

Also, as I mentioned in this essay, Emmy Noether proved that the conservation of energy logically follows from the consistency through time of the laws of physics. And what is the concept of energy other than an invariant? What sense would energy make if it weren’t conserved?

So, everything physical is in flux, and there’s no ultimate way of distinguishing between physics and the physical. And physics is derived from only from a combination of observations and pure logic, while we can only observe the physical and most of what we observe seems to change constantly. So, all of this would seem to suggest that the constants in physics, such as the speed of light and the gravitational constant for example, aren’t actually constants but are only assumed to be because they’re so slow to change.

This essay is the third installment of essays of mine conveying basically the same idea, for some strange reason. One can be found at the link above, the other can be found here.

Cascades of Flux

Inasmuch as physics equations are based in pure logic, it is illogical to suppose that they might change over time. There is also an aspect of these equations that is not determined purely by reason, but by observation. Let’s take the example of F=ma. It seems to be somewhere in between the two aspects: physics that’s determined by reason, and physics that’s discovered through observation. Without empiricism/observation there would be nothing to apply the equation to, and it may be conceivable that there could be a universe where the equation is slightly different, although it seems it would be an absurd one that dynamically bends backward in every situation over satisfying the modified equation.

On the other hand, there’s a large degree to which, given the context of the universe as we know it, F=ma is merely a tautology. It’s merely consistent with the rest of the given rational framework. (Einstein said, “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”)

A more interesting consideration might be that, since the implications of a Newtonian universe versus a relativistic universe seem to differ only slightly (consider the fact that, in in the past, we had mistaken the universe for being Newtonian), the universe might evolve from one to the other, say, from a relativistic one to a Newtonian one.  However, this doesn’t work for several reasons.

First, the implications of the equations go deeper than the slight differences observed in our everyday world. For one, space and time would have to evolve from being inseparable to fundamentally distinct. Since space and time in this universe are epiphenomenal, and also fundamental, this is no small step. The universe would have to completely change, the old universe becoming nothing but a memory before the new universe comes about—as opposed to smoothly slipping from one to the other. 

Second, it’s possible that reason alone can arrive at the conclusion that space and time are intrinsically connected, by virtue of their metaphysical co-dependence, and that Newtonian physics was therefore merely shortsighted/illogical to begin with.

Third, a shift from one modus operandi to another would be more of a sudden, dramatic paradigm shift for all matter in the universe travelling at relativistic speeds and for any perspective that more elucidates relativistic effects in the universe, such as one that simply sees across more distance thus highlighting the vast separation of light cones. 

Fourth, large-scale change characteristically happens through analog continua, and a change from Newtonian physics to relativistic or vice versa would be more of a gratuitous, massive binary shift since there are the only two possibilities in this arena of consideration, and they are discrete, because they are paragons of internal logical self-consistency, thus with no wiggle room, and no continuity between one paradigm and the other.

A tentative argument to most of these points would be that, if the speed of light were to increase, the universe would gradually become more and more Newtonian in behavior as c approaches infinity. However, c cannot become actually infinite by gradually increasing. A finite value plus a finite value is always a finite value. Therefore, the relativistic equations would always remain more true and more accurate than the Newtonian equations, subsuming and superseding them.

It is also noteworthy that it is the relatively high value of c that allowed us to think in Newtonian terms to begin with, thus that argument illustrates the essential illusion behind this “interesting consideration”: inasmuch as the universe could transmute to being Newtonian, it was already there, and vice versa, because it is the value of c that sponsors the apparent proximity between the two systems.

Traditionally, the laws of physics are considered to be immutable and the states of affairs that they act upon are considered to be in flux. To me, this seems to be regarding the laws of physics in an almost religious way, although it’s understandable because reality does appear to be this way. 

I would like to point out, first, that the entirety of the “states of affairs” is in flux. Matter is a process. Atoms “bounce off of” each other constantly, electrons travel around the nucleus, the quarks in the nucleus are moving around, etc.  Every time we see stasis we are merely objectifying repeating patterns of motion that are too small to be seen. The atom appears to be a constant object because its internal processes remain within certain parameters. This doesn’t mean that the parameters themselves are “states of affairs” that are not in flux. The parameters are merely limits that derive from the logic of physical law. The earth has a certain abstract delineation in space because it is held together by gravity, but its breadth on the microscopic level is constantly in flux, as its matter is in motion. 

To focus on the “energy” side of things, light, or an EM field, is of course a propagating wave, thus in motion. The staticity of a force field like gravity or electrostatic charge is not really a state of affairs because the force field only exists insofar as it produces an effect. It is not a thing-in-itself. It is an aspect of the way material interacts with other material across distance, which is a manifestation of the laws of physics themselves. It would be superfluous to posit the existence of a force field in-itself when (a) its state is completely supervenient (in the philosophical sense) upon the state of the matter that engenders it, and (b) it can only be known/detected or influenced through its effect on matter. Secondly, since the mass that manifests a gravitational or electrostatic force field is constantly in motion, and is itself a process, the gravitational or electrostatic force field actually consists of uncountable tiny waves of force propagating outward at the speed of light and averaging out to a practically static field. 

Universal flux is given rise to by the causal interconnectedness of everything. Unpredictability is given rise to by two things: 1. Causal, chaotic systems, and 2. quantum indeterminacy/”absolute randomness”. You can predict some things better than others, but certainty and precision can never be 100%, and thus stasis can never be 100%.

Another point I want to make is that physical laws do not “control” or “act upon” matter and energy to “make” them do what they do. If a law acted upon matter, there would have to be an active agent and that active agent would have to have further laws that to control its own animation. Or, for law X that says matter must behave in a certain way, there would have to be a law Y that says that matter must behave in accordance to law X, and a law Z that says matter must behave in accordance to law Y, etc. At the bottom of this pile of turtles there would have to be a set of rules that maintain themselves just because, and it’s equally (actually, more) likely that matter maintains its behavior just because.

Furthermore, if time is sponsored by laws “controlling” matter and energy, there must be a meta-time that makes it possible for these laws to commit the process of exercising this control. 

Also, control and action as we know them require an expenditure of energy. “Control” is a very humanistic concept that essentially requires intended result and active manipulation to narrow down the possibilities in the flow of energy/matter from many to a selected few. This requires energy expenditure in nearly the same way that Maxwell’s demon does, so if physical laws “controlled” matter then it would grossly violate conservation of energy.

So, how does physical “law” “work”, or limit what we think is possible, or act as the selector of possibilities, such that the selected is not forced and thus doesn’t require energy expenditure to actualize, or actively select, the selection?  The answer is that the process of behaving in accordance to physical law is the process of being logically self-consistent. For the universe to violate a law of physics would be illogical, and one would recognize the specific absurdity if one were able to apprehend the entire situation on all levels. In other words, anything one imagines to be a possibility that physics won’t allow is no more logical than a square circle. (Notice that physical laws are described in the form of mathematical equations, and math itself is nothing but a big tautology of pure logic.)

Therefore, the only immutable aspect of the laws of physics is what is derived from pure logic. Everything else is subject to the states of affairs/the flow of time/change. Of course, some things change more slowly than others. (See the ‘the entirety of the “states of affairs” is in flux’ argument above.)

If you were to do something that a naive philosopher might call “violating a law of physics,” such as by figuring out a way to travel faster than the speed of light, or by inventing an anti-gravity machine, what you are really doing is utilizing a higher order of physics that supersedes the “law” in question.  If you thought that Newtonian mechanics was the true law of the universe, you could violate it by flying two atomic clocks around the earth in opposite directions in fast airplanes.

In regard to higher orders of physics, how high does it go? Perhaps it goes all the way up to pure logic. (Or maybe, metaphysically, there simply layers and layers of what I’ll call “world texture.” Or some combination of the two.) If you can use a higher order of physics to violate or affect a lower one, then in between the higher order and the lower order is the input of state of affairs—meaning that the lower order of physics is an implication of the higher order given a specific current or typical state of affairs, which is what you are controlling if you are “violating a law of physics.”

So, again, the only immutable aspect of physics is pure logic.   

The issue that I’ve been driving at here all along is the decision to include “constants” such as the speed of light and the gravitational constant in with the supposed immutability of the laws of physics. You use a constant by plugging it into an equation. The constant comes from observation of the states of affairs, ultimately. It is arbitrary to consider the constant a part of the actual “law” and all other inputs to the equation merely parts of the states of affairs that the law acts upon. (This is also quasi-religious thinking: “We don’t know why c is the value it is, but we know that it will never change and has never changed. It is God-given.”)

It would be easy to say that it could go either way, maybe it’s changeable, maybe it’s not, if it weren’t for all of my above arguments. Everything is in flux but the laws of physics, and those are only constant inasmuch as they are manifestations of logic. (Re the “metaphysical world textures” comment made above, there’s no reason to assume such a texture would be constant.)

It follows from everything I’ve said that including “constants” in with the supposed immutability of the laws themselves is simply incorrect, unless the values of c, G, Planck’s constant, or whatever can be derived from pure logic. The best I can imagine is that it would be derived from pure logic given another “constant” to base it on, thus making it supervenient upon that other “constant” (with the possibility of that constant being derived from another constant, etc.), in part because these constants are necessarily in arbitrary units of measurement.

Perhaps c can be derived from G, or vice versa, or both, or they can both be derived from some other constant(s) (but I think this would imply you could derive one from the other as well), thus if they changed they would have to change together. Perhaps not. If they can’t, we can only assume that they are independent, and if they are independent there is nothing to keep them in constancy with relationship to each other, except “inertia” (e.g., of the “metaphysical world texture”). (If they are not derived via logic, they are somehow handed down from the states of affairs, and if they are not logically dependent on each other, they are handed down from independently variable states of affairs.)

c and G change so little that we don’t consider them variables, and they may change so little that no significant change in them has happened in the life of the universe. But for them to be exactly the same would require an immutable reason that they are what they are, and the only reason that fits that bill is logical necessity, and we (probably) can’t derive c or G from logic alone. It’s unlikely that they can be derived from logic alone because they are such seemingly arbitrary and large/fine numbers.

I suppose it only makes sense to say that they are intrinsically large (or fine?) numbers with respect to some kind of quantization to afford an objective unit of measurement, and this quantization would have to be incorporated into the axioms of the logic at hand. This would, of course, make it much easier to derive their values through logic. However, without some kind of intrinsic quantization, perhaps they’re still baseless with respect to any logical axioms.  

Now I will attempt to go more in-depth in regard to the speed of light being a state of affairs. 

Imagine the universe as a completely dynamic cascade of change, some aspects changing faster and some changing slower. We have no choice, personally and evolutionarily, but to wrap our minds around the more slower changing aspects as a reference point for the faster changing aspects, lest we be lost in confusion. We thus perceive the more slowly changing aspects as the structure of the universe.

The more consistent patterns of behavior in the universe, i.e., the ones that repeat themselves, are slower-changing aspects to the degree that they’re exactly the same behavior repeated, which is a limited degree because every situation/event has its specific properties.

Well, they say that all electrons are identical, so maybe this “folding consistency into deeper structure” applies not only across time but across space too, when entities are considered to be identical to each other. In other words, maybe there is only one electron, and it is part of the deep/slowly changing structure of the universe.

So, what we have is basically a cascade of change, with the fastest/most chaotic changes at the figurative top, and the slowest/most uniform changes at the figurative bottom. The speed of light can probably only be at the bottom.

I wrote a more brief version of the same basic concept expressed here, and another one here.

Why the Physical Universe Can’t Be Infinite

I just realized I’ve said more on the subject already here, but in this short essay I’ll take a different (and more trivial) approach.

Astrophysicists seem to say that it’s unknown whether the universe is finite or infinite, such as in this answer: https://www.quora.com/Infinity/Is-the-universe-finite-or-infinite-1/answer/Frank-Heile. But if infinity is not a number and not the same type of value as any finite amount, and no amount of counting or addition can get from a finite amount to infinity, then isn’t it impossible for the universe to be infinite? If the universe is infinite, then infinity is the quantity of mass-energy or information in the universe, yet we are able to measure and observe finite parts of the physical universe, and these two types of quantities are incompatible—they can’t exist on the same scalarity.

In order for the universe to be infinite, it needs to be at least theoretically possible to observe an infinite amount of it, because by the very epistemic nature of existence it makes no sense to say that something exists if we can’t even in principle be affected by it (I explain why this is the case in my essay linked to above). But, since infinity and the finite cannot exist on the same scalarity, it’s impossible to start at a viewpoint of some finite part of the world and keep expanding its breadth until finally you reach a viewpoint where you can observe an infinite slice of the universe.

Also—and I think this is actually closely related to the above points—the axiom of choice has to be metaphysically assumed in order to be able to find yourself observing any particular limited part of the universe if the universe is infinite, and the axiom of choice is problematic in constructivist mathematics, and I’ve shown that mathematical Platonism, which is basically everything that’s not constructivism, is silly here.

However, if there is a multiverse, the universes contained therein don’t necessarily have a spatial (or temporal?) relationship to each other, so its infinitude wouldn’t have to exist on the same scale as our finitude, so it’s entirely possible that the multiverse is infinite. (Except that I contradict myself because if we can’t ever observe an infinite multiverse infinitely then it can’t exist by my definition of “exists.” Oh well.)

Similarly, if there is a spiritual reality beyond the physical universe, it could be infinite because measurement on such a plane is subjective and malleable by mind anyway, so the concept of consistency across all scales of measurement breaks down.

Or something. Idk. Nevermind.

Is the Universe Infinite?

As with a lot of simple yet deep philosophical questions and statements, the question is basically nonsensical but appears to make sense because of our tendency to be duped by language. To a certain extent, we tend to think that grammatically correct sentences must make sense. And that’s to say nothing of the semantic problems raised by the verb “to be” (see Alfred Korzybski and E-Prime).

The universe is neither finite nor infinite.

What does the term “infinite” mean exactly? Basically, it’s a mathematical term that means that a value is so large that any finite value is smaller than it. Of course, the problem with this definition is that to have an actual value it must be finite—otherwise you have a formula for creating values.

For example, any actual whole number must be finite, but the number of whole numbers that “exist” is said to be infinite. Of course, you can’t possibly ever represent, count or observe every possible real number. Not even if you had all the time in the universe. Not even if you had an “infinite” amount of time, whatever that might mean. Because no matter how many numbers you’ve counted, you can always count more, by definition.

So, the set of all whole numbers is “infinitely” large simply because you can execute an algorithm (however you want—by hand, on a computer, in your mind, whatever) to generate more successive (or non-successive, if you prefer) whole numbers for as long as you want. The algorithm itself does not contain all the whole numbers and is not infinite in content, so how can you execute it for as long as you want? The answer is that the algorithm essentially runs in a loop.

In the case of generating successive whole numbers, the algorithm could look something like this:

  1. Start with some number. If you think about it, this number is actually nothing other than a sequence of digits
  2. Copy the contents of the current number to the next number
  3. Start working on the last digit of this number
  4. If the current digit we’re working on is 0, change it to 1. If it’s 1, change it to 2, etc.
  5. If it’s 9, change it to 0, change the working digit to the one before the current one, and go to step 4. If you can’t do this because we’re on the first digit, then prepend a 1 to the entire sequence and change every subsequent element to 0
  6. Go to step 2

..Or something like that. Whatever. The point is that all infinite sets or infinite values (such as the size of an infinite set) actually boil down to algorithms for generating those things that run in loops. If you’re wondering about infinite sets other than the number line, in general any infinite set is ultimately a prescription for finding new elements that belong in the set indefinitely, or at least until you stop.

So, when we ask, “Is the universe infinite?”, we’re basically asking if the universe can be generated by a mathematical algorithm in a loop. And even if it could be—which it obviously can’t, because that would create a universe so regular and ordered that it would be uninteresting, not this one—that would only make the universe as big as the time God or whoever spent executing that algorithm. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that mathematical algorithms deal with numbers only, and numbers are purely quantitative and abstract and can’t possibly generate quality or substance. (That’s why the universe can’t fundamentally be made up of math, but I digress.)

I said earlier that the universe is neither finite nor infinite. So why is it not finite? Because it’s unlimited. Just like the infinite contents of an infinite set don’t actually exist anywhere, because you can’t define infinite existence except as a looping algorithm or some kind of paradox, the universe doesn’t exist in an “infinite” sense. But neither does it have any boundaries to its existence. The more you look, the more you find, forever.

How can this be true and the universe not be infinite? The answer is that existence itself is relative. If you think about it, in order for something to be said to “exist,” it must be able to affect you in some way. If it can’t affect you, then you have no way of knowing it’s “there” and therefore you can’t rightly posit that it exists.

The concept of “existence” is a tricky one. Emmanuel Kant said, in response to the ontological proof of God’s existence, said that “existence is not a predicate.” While his reasoning surrounding this statement was valid, the statement alone isn’t exactly true. Existence is a predicate, it’s just not a normal one. If existence weren’t a predicate, why would we say that a unicorn—or anything else—is either “existent” or “non-existent”? That’s exactly how predicates work.

You could say that the unicorn that’s non-existent can’t have any predicates because it doesn’t even exist, but if you think about it, all objects we can possibly think or talk about are mental objects; they exist primarily in the mind. They may or may not “point” to objects outside of us.

How do we know if a mental object points to something outside of us? Presumably, we can’t directly know of anything that exists outside of our minds. We only infer as a result of sensation. So how do we know the chair exists even while we’re not sensing it? If we expect that, when we will our muscles to contract in certain ways we call “walking into the dining room,” we will see a chair with specific properties there, then we say that that chair “exists” and that our concept of the chair therefore points to something outside of us. But insofar as we can think of or talk about the chair, it exists in our minds.

We don’t even know if reality outside of our minds (if there is such a thing) is made of objects, or if it’s just some continuous field that wouldn’t even look like objects if we could have a “view from nowhere” (or, to be more epistemologically coherent, at least a “more objective” viewpoint). Indeed, “the chair” is just an arbitrary collection of atoms that we separate as “a chair.”

Let’s say the chair is made of wood and, due to attrition, some wood particles on the bottom of the chair’s legs get scraped onto the floor. Exactly which particles belong to the chair, and which belong to the floor? Where does the chair end and the floor begin? What if a child marked the chair 3 years ago with a magic marker? Are those ink particles now part of the chair, or not? If you break apart the chair with a hammer piece by piece, or burn it to the ground, at what point during the process does it cease to be a chair? Etc.

Since any two things we can possibly compare and contrast to each other (presumably using thought) must necessarily be ideas, the schism between the ideational (that in our minds) non-ideational (that outside of us) must necessarily be the biggest possible schism we can imagine—or, arguably, bigger than any schism we can possibly imagine.

So, back to the existence of the chair. To say that it exists is necessarily merely to say that we expect to perceive particular sensations in response to willing (what we think are) our muscles to do certain things. (We don’t know for certain that we have muscles, but we know for certain what we’re willing since that’s a part of our mind and therefore is directly known.)

If you posit something extant that can’t possibly affect us, any possible description of that thing is equally valid, since none of it is provable/demonstrable or falsifiable.

So, to validly posit that something “exists” must imply positing that it can potentially affect us in some way. If we will X, we expect to sense Y, hence Z exists. E.g., if we will walking to the dining room, we expect to have the visual sensation of a brown geometric form whose shape is determined by our perspective, hence the wooden chair exists. Of course, there are a million other ways we could less directly test its existence, and we can guess they’d all work because reality seems to be self-consistent, but that’s beside the point.

The reason existence is relative is that not every object that exists in the multiverse, according to some kind of fully objective view from nowhere, is potentially available to us at any given time. Most of it isn’t most of the time. Most of it will never be. But anything is experientially available to some entity at any given time (probably some entity you don’t have access to on a certain level), and on the most ultimate level, all entities are one, so the fact that it’s available to them and not to you is a relative fact.

From the perspective of this view from nowhere, every possible experience exists. I said/implied earlier that there’s no such coherent thing as a view from nowhere, which is exactly why we can’t say, based on this view that every possible experience exists “somewhere,” that the universe is infinite. The best we can say is that it’s unlimited or unbounded because your viewpoint constantly changes and therefore the breadth of objects that become extant to you constantly changes. (TBH, in actuality I contradict myself by saying we can’t have a view from nowhere and then saying that in view from nowhere every possible experience exists. But oh well—”I am large, I contain multitudes.” :P)

I don’t know whether the separation between what’s existent to us and what’s not is discretized/bounded according to finite universes within an unlimited multiverse, in which everything in our particular universe is existent to us at once but in the big picture we have access to more than just this universe, or if it’s more of a continuum. Maybe what’s existent to us is everything in our past light cone.

By the way, in case it seems odd that I would appeal to epistemology or the subjective in defining the meaning of “exists,” I will justify it here. First, trying to define “exists” purely ontologically/objectively is problematic and fraught with paradox. Explaining it epistemologically is much more cogent and tidy. Second, our epistemology comes before our knowledge of external reality both in chronology and in logical primacy, so it’s the natural place to ground such a deep concept as “existence.”

Third, to state that something exists is necessarily to talk about a concept, because what we’re talking about isn’t a thing in reality in order for us to be talking about reality when we talk about it. And it can’t be that things that don’t exist are fundamentally concepts while things that do exist aren’t fundamentally concepts, because then you could never decide whether a thing exists or not. Its existence status couldn’t be subject to change. Therefore, it has to be that both things we talk about that exist and things we talk about that don’t exist are fundamentally concepts. So, it makes sense that “existence” is a conceptual quality/category we ascribe to those concepts.


Oh, I wrote a little bit on infinity in my teens here and here.  I also apparently wrote another essay on whether the universe can be infinite here: https://myriachromat.wordpress.com/2020/06/18/why-the-physical-universe-cant-be-infinite/