let’s talk about time, baby :) pt1 :s

21 09 2010

Just watched Caroll’s video on his arrow of time. A lot of thoughts popped up, and plenty of them are rather… abrasive. Sorry. Put it down to polemics and my defensive condition as I recuperate here in Madeira.

Before launching into them, one self-observation. Talking about time is like just about anyone talking about education — and boy, did I get miffed listening to every man and his dog expound their theories about education without checking out valuing my experience. after all, going into school as an adult is different. Anyway, I am sure caroll’ gets all manner of kooks coming up theories, and he’d be right in saying we are mostly crackpots… the one thing he has that we don’t is the hard reality of the equations. Because he has made a job of it, his interpretations are based on them. We don’t have to worry about correspondence with the math. The interesting balance point, of course, just like in education, is that the institution isn’t working as well as it should. that is, the equations only work so far… Hence, Caroll is guessing… and only once some one of these physics egg-heads guesses right, or some computer ai chap more likely IMHO, and gets a remarkable, undeniable result, that the world will change. It’s not going to come out of a blog, neither in the writing or reading, however excited we monkeys get with our objects of thought. Given this apology, this monkey can’t help but chase the rabbit a bit.

He contends that physical reality has boundary, eg table – not table. This is actually a boundary we impose with mind. There is continuity from table to air, you know, how atoms substitute into embedded molecules at the boundary of their materials…? In exchange, the idea of boundaries in time… perhaps more like limits, maybe like the outer boundary bubble distending in so ace of our first radio signals on this planet… I think they are somewhere past the solar system, but who knows how far… the next solar system? Anyhow, boundaries in time… interesting kernel of thought to be explored sometime.

Clock, the bit in a cycle which is marked, eg the “klok” sound when a bell is struck.

“Biorhythms are not very good clocks.” What a clueless comment, as if an objective timer is the way to measure time! A human scaled timer at that! We are inside the biological clock — this will influence the perception of it, clearly. Parallel this to Einstein talking about being in a rocket and his relativity theories. We must start with the obvious, that we are in a clock as we are inside our bodies. After all, we are in actuality, rather than this rather absurd academic position of being “objective”.

“Time has a direction.” After poo-pooing biology, he then sets up past and future (delightfully omitting present), which clearly involves us, as the cutting point in time.

His arrows point in a rather strange way. He presents young Elvis on the left, an arrow pointing to the right, and an old Elvis. So, Elvis was moving left to right, as he got older? When, intuitively for us westerners, we tend to think of old people as being from the past, somehow. Hmmm… something interesting going on here in terms of diagrammatic representation… and you would have thought this would be covered in the talk — I know Brian would be interested in this (as a passing comment, no doubt). It’s to do with whether we think we are moving or time is passing us; definitely something about relativity again.

Here’s the big one: entropy. I have several problems with this concept. First, an insight: life appears to go in the opposite direction if entropy… is that wrong thinking on my part? It complexities, it traps energy into forms, the whole planet is creating molecules and structures and altering matter due to the off-shed heat from the sun. Perhaps it doesn’t go opposite, it just reduces the rate of entropy… is that more correct? You see, I don’t like the concept.

He applies it to life and death! And memory! And cause and effect — this one I will grant him, but only for simple billiard ball like situations. Hasn’t chaos theory penetrated physics yet?

(How does entropy as second law of thermodynamics compare to laws of subjective reality, like the dreaded law of attraction? I equated attraction to gravity initially, but it may be better opposed to entropy since gravity is also dissipative. I know that involves a few twists, but I can’t be bothered entangling myself in the pop-culture…)

Wrt the planet, we absorb one photon and emit 20, which means there is a dissipative effect. (This makes no sense to me as I review my notes.) We are far from equilibrium. That’s what a boundary sets up, a differential. He states that equilibrium means no change. Browniam motion? He is not talking about zero Kelvin, so, given a stable energy mix, there’s no… movement?

My main problem is that entropy sounds a bit too much like flogiston. I know that entropy is better embedded in maths and concepts, but… I remain skeptical, and here’s why. Maybe it is just a word thing. A glass of mixed coffee and milk is high entropy, whereas the separated materials glass is low entropy… which seems to go against something in my head about high boundary, or potential for change, like electricity. Ie, far from equilibrium indicates a high value. Whereas, entropy seems to be describing a state as it approaches zero.

But finally, an explanation. Blotzmann’s definition, about the potential for translation/transivity/movement at a lower level of scale. Scale?! (I think we are getting our first glimmer of emergent levels here…) It is also dependent on a zero-sum game: in a closed system, like a glass, the milk and coffee will mix. (Hmmm… to complicate things, isn’t a cell an attempt to create a kind of closed system? And of course, it is not.)

So, Carrol posits that entropy was lower yesterday, and so on. (Reads so strangely for me: low entropy, when it means it was more bounded/separated/had more potential.) He goes all the way to the big bang. (Typical linear thinking again. Finite and closed system.)

But this bit is good: time’s arrow is the aftermath of an influential event. That is almost clear! It was when I heard it first, but when I write about it now, I can’t think but it is another typically western revamping of old ideas, to justify a book sale, to justify a life in academia. I mean, they have to come up with something to justify their jobs… (Cynical I know, but always in the back of my head is that remark that medieval academics used to argue about how many angels could fit on the head of a pin. I think we are living during such times, and especially in the field of physics with its ancient and venerated history.)

Here’s my most interesting interpretation of his material which still holds for his statement, the aftermath of an event. He is talking about birth. And not just in the life-time blood and pain sense, but in the Buddhist sense of origination-dissolution occurring presently. Forget about all these words here, they are more for me to make notes, to externalise and in so doing I remember — check out his explanation and try mapping it to your understanding of consciousness. It does seem to hold some water, and this isn’t even a third of the way through — it gets better!

10^-8 ergs per cubic cm. 73% of the universe. In “empty space”. (Sooooo linear… and I don’t mean in terms of maths, I mean in terms of thinking. I am always skeptical of such claims about the universe. Science always consists of people being certain, only to find they were wrong, or at least completely inaccurate. Happens big time in physics with newton-Einstein, and innumerable times in biology, eg evolution. Surely we should be sophisticated enough to stop making ludicrous claims about the universe when we can’t even determine scientifically that we are pissing our own backyard and f**king the environment?)

He also mentions that black holes evaporate. Yup.

Notice his pointing out where we are in terms of big bang to dissipated high entropy end of universe model. Looks rather like the Mind-drop solution, with the higher and lower boundaries of ego. I thought this was funny. What do others make of this, if they are trying to map their understanding of consciousness to this talk? 41-43 mins happens to be a fine explanation of consciousness emerging and disappearing (my notes are vague: does this refer to present conditioning consciousness or the bubbling of adult self-reflection through adolescence?).

Man… this goes on… I will deal with the rest in a second part if I can be bothered. I am not sure how useful this post is. It has some pointers, but is mostly a commentary on a lecture, and I don’t go into enough detail to explain. As I mentioned before, it is more for me. Apologies to readers.

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