Saturday, December 31, 2005

Disconnected Time

Disconnected time

Published in 1908 a book that was translated from German continues to be a relevant and updated discourse on the ethical questions of today. Friedrich Paulsen’s “A System of Ethics” (Scribner’s Sons Pub.) was written for the general public in a plain and direct language that enlightens and analyzes topics that were of paramount importance then and still are now. As I am reading these ideas that were thought and expressed more than one hundred years ago I become aware of the transcendence of these basic virtues and values.
Today as one start a new year (for posterity: one is talking about 2006) the same old questions are asked. But for the old question there is a new perspective. One that is not really new, but for a personal renovation can be stated as a new point of view. As when one thinks about a new year in the sense of renovation, knowing that the cycle is part of a continuum, that psychologically there is a renewal as after the hibernation of winter comes the awakening of spring.
So as we wish to all a “Prosperous and Happy New Year”, the wishes are for this next year as for all the next years. Disconnected time is being connected.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Space Time

Einstein’s Cosmos: How Albert Einstein’s Vision Transformed Our Understanding of Space and Time. Michio Kaku. 251 pp. Atlas Books. ISBN 0-393-05165-X O.F. Linn Library QC 173.59 S65 K356 2004.

Prof. Michio Kaku from City University of New York has written a wonderful account of Albert Einstein’s struggle to find the unified theory of the universe. This account goes far beyond the traditional biographies that of this great scientist have been written. For almost two hundred and fifty pages Prof. Kaku gives us an idea of the times, friends and colleagues of Albert Einstein and the way in which his thought were developed and shaped by his personal relationships. All of this is done within a profound understanding of the physics involved so this is not only a historical description of the life of a great mind, but it also enlightens one with the intricacies of the theoretical concepts in modern physics and the relationship of these concepts with natural philosophy and ultimately to our final sense of reality.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Is it to late?

Thinking about how long has it been since ...? I remembered that discussion that I had with many people at the turn of the millennium. Many used to argue that the year 2000 was not the beginning of the "new" millennium as they argued that the year 2001 should be the first. It was so difficult to explain why the year 2000 was the beginning as the counter argument was that there is no year zero at the beginning of counting. We know that zero is a number but how can we explain that this number counts as a place in the sequence of event if zero is understood as a non-event.
I don't know if it is too late to argue about our counting (measuring) of time but one thing I know: it is the semantic knowledge through our language (or the lack of it) that leads us to the understanding(or to problems) of dating. Here is an easy way out: If I have been teaching (i.e. I am still doing it) since a particular date, I can count how many years have passed (X) and I can say that I am in my Yth year. Where Y = X + 1. In this sense the year 2000 is in fact the 2001st year as 2000 years have passed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A long time

Not the time that it has taken for me to write, as it has been a long time. But nothing compared with "cosmic" time which is what this is all about.
It is difficult to appreciate the full scope of time when one is limited to a short time experience. As our definition of time and the units that we use for its measurement are so anthropocentric it is almost impossible to make any lucubration about universal time. As Einstein proposed his basic assumptions about the universe he made one powerful move: there is unity of the universe. By stating two fundamental principles, one philosophic and one physical, the theory of relativity is able to conform the cosmos to a “continuum” where a vacuum filled with “fields” manifest itself as matter or energy depending on the configuration of the geometry of that space. It may be that because of this Einstein expressed his opinion that geometry was a “physical” science. The philosophical principle is that the laws of physics are the same for any observer. So if two observers were moving relative to each other and they observed the same phenomenon they should get to the same law as the explanation of said phenomenon. On the one hand the constancy of the speed of light in vacuum as electromagnetic radiation being the physical principle allows the connection between those observers that are moving relative to each other. Can we use the same bridge –the constancy of the speed of light – to connect our time to “cosmic” time? With string theory the effort is to connect our time to the atto –femto scale by means of quantum field theory. As far as I know this has been attempted through gravitational field theory (quantum and relativistic) but the assumption has been that if the time involved in the phenomenon is grater than that of Planck’s time (1.38 E-43 sec.) time will be considered continuous that is as an analog function where its flow is directed by the second law of thermodynamics