OuterSpace >> Space >> New Theory of Time Rattles Halls of Science (pt 1)
New Theory of Time Rattles Halls of Science (pt 1)
Post by Noah on Oct 19th, 2003, 1:26pm
New Theory of Time Rattles Halls of Science
By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer
posted: 06:22 am ET
06 August 2003
A radical new theory of time and motion has some of the world's physicists doubting the claim while others laud the 27-year-old college dropout who came up with it, an unknown big thinker named Peter Lynds.
Lynds says he's no Einstein. In fact, he is not a fully trained theorist. He has no real academic credentials. But he does appear to have a new career, now that one other theorist compared his work to the groundbreaking ideas of Albert Einstein.
In a paper published in the August issue of Foundations of Physics Letters, Lynds claims to see time and motion with unprecedented theoretical clarity.
Lynds refutes an assumption dating back 2,500 years, that time can be thought of in physical, definable quantities. In essence, scientists have long assumed that motion can be considered in frozen moments, or instants, even as time flows on.
In an e-mail interview from New Zealand, Lynds told SPACE.com how he sees the physical world:
"There isn't a precise instant underlying an object's motion," he said. "And as its position is constantly changing over time -- and as such, never determined -- it also doesn't have a determined position at any time."
Peter Lynds contemplates time in ways no one else has. Now he's thinking about his new career.
Nor does time flow, Lynds says. More on that later.
Importantly, Lynds claims his theory solves Zeno's paradoxes, which have frustrated creative brains for millennia.
Goals never reached
The most famous paradox invented by Zeno, the Greek philosopher, is called "Achilles and the tortoise." A tortoise gets a 10-meter head start in a race against Achilles. Zeno says the tortoise can never be passed. His logic: When Achilles has run 10 meters, the tortoise will have moved a meter; Achilles goes another meter, and the tortoise crawls 10 more centimeters. The race continues in this ever-more boring and incremental fashion.
A related paradox, called the dichotomy, argues that you can never reach a goal. First you'll have to travel half the distance, then half that distance, and so on. You might as well stay home.
Reality is different, of course -- goals are reached and tortoises often lose. But philosophers and physicists have not been able to explain the paradoxes away.
Lynds claims the paradoxes result from an incorrect physical assumption from long ago. From ancient times to the present, philosophers and physicists have assumed that objects in motion have determined positions at any instant in time. It's not true, Lynds says.
"I'm surprised this hasn't been realized before," Lynds said, calling many aspects of his theory very simple.
"I think much of the difficulty is the result of us actually consciously thinking in the context of an instant of time, and projecting this onto the world around us," he said. "I also just think that people haven't thought to question it and assumed it was settled and beyond reproach."
Re: Theory of Time Rattles Halls of Science (pt2
Post by Noah on Oct 19th, 2003, 1:27pm
'I'm not the new Einstein'
Lynds' name and his new idea have barely reverberated through the halls of academia -- halls that Lynds has barely wandered. A recent posting on an online physics message board asks, simply, "Has anyone here heard of Peter Lynds from New Zealand? He does work on time and physics."
The ensuing discussion considers his work both brilliant and ludicrous. The discussion is heated, even vicious, and Lynds responded with a post of his own:
"I obviously won't get a Nobel Prize for the work and I'm not the new Einstein," he wrote. "I'm just a young guy from New Zealand who had some ideas and thinks they're worth chasing through."
Other scientists agree with that last part.
The importance of Lynds' work "resembles Einstein's 1905 special theory of relativity," said Andrei Khrennikov, a professor of applied mathematics at Vaxjo University in Sweden and a referee of the journal paper.
Not bad acclaim for a theorist who attended university for just six months. Lynds is currently a tutor at a broadcasting school.
"It has changed my life," Lynds said yesterday. "Actually, after the past few days, I don't think it will ever be the same again. It's a bit scary."
In a press release accompanying Lynds' work, John Wheeler, a Princeton physicist who actually worked with Einstein, is quoted as saying he admires Lynds' "boldness" and pointing out that young new thinkers often "had pushed the frontiers of physics forward in the past."
Another referee of Lynds' paper, also quoted in the press release, took a dim view.
"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," said the referee, who was not named.
The naysaying referee was overruled and the paper was published. The journal, however, is one that some researchers view as a publication for lesser papers that do not merit appearing in the most prestigious scientific journals.
Lynds clearly has a long road to acceptance. He has, in fact, faced negative reactions for years, including from impatient former professors. He originally wrote the paper three years ago and is only now realizing significant attention from its publication.
One of Lynds' former professors, now-retired Victoria University mathematical physicist Chris Grigson, recalls Lynds as determined when the two argued about time.
"I must say I thought the idea was hard to understand," Grigson said. "He is theorizing in an area that most people think is settled. Most people believe there are a succession of moments and that objects in motion have determined positions."
Lynds says now that he's grateful for the encouragement Grigson provided at a time when academia was "extremely frustrating" otherwise.
"I think quite a few physicists and philosophers have difficulty getting their heads around the topic of time properly," Lynds said. "I'm not a big fan of quite a few aspects of academia, but I'd like to think that what's happened with the work is a good example of perseverance and a few other things eventually winning through."
No flow of time
One implication of Lynds' work is a really hard to wrap a mind around. If he's right that there are no instants in time related to physical processes, then there is no such thing as a flow of time, because such a flow inherently requires progression through definite instants -- exactly what Lynds forbids.
So are we all frozen in time and space? Impossible, he says.
"If the universe were frozen static at such an instant, this would be a precise static instant of time -- time would be a physical quantity." Again, you'll recall, Lynds does not allow this.
Perhaps you smell another paradox on the horizon.
However, Lynds reasons that the lack of instants is what allows Nature to have time that we can, in turn, watch go by on our clocks. Confused? You are not alone. It will likely be some time before Lynds' ideas are shaken out by his new, lofty peers and determined to be revolutionary, interesting or just plain wrongheaded.
Meanwhile, the tutor-turned-theorist has more papers written that he would now like to submit for publication.
"This includes a paper on cosmology and time, a paper relating time to consciousness, and also a philosophy paper on the foundations of assertion," he said.
While we await a verdict on the possible genius or hubris of Peter Lynds, perhaps the rest of us can get on with striving for our own goals armed with a new expectation of actually reaching them, even if we don't quite understand why.