Book Review: Time Reborn by Lee Smolin

Fill the blank in this sentence:-

“The best studied approach to quantum gravity is ___________________ and it appears to allow for a wide range of choices of elementary particles and forces.”

time_rebornDid you answer “String Theory”? I did, but Lee Smolin thinks the answer is his own alternative theory “Loop Quantum Gravity” (page 98) This is one of many things he says in his new book that I completely disagree with. That’s fine because while theoretical physicists agree rather well on matters of established physics such as general relativity and quantum mechanics you will be hard pushed to find two with the same philosophical ideas about how to proceed next. Comparing arguments is an important part of looking for a way forward.

Here is another non-technical point I disagree with. In the preface he says that he will “gently introduce the material the lay reader needs” (page xxii) Trust me when I say that although this book is written without equations it is not for the “lay reader” (an awkward term that originally meant non-clergyman). If you are not already familiar with the basic ideas of general relativity, quantum mechanics etc and all the jargon that goes with them, then you will probably not get far into this book. Books like this are really written for physicists who are either working on similar areas or who at least have a basic understanding of the issues involved. Of course if the book were introduced as such it would not be published by Allen Lane. Instead it would be a monograph in one of those obscure vanity series by Wiley or Springer where they run off a few hundred copies and sell them at $150/£150/€150 (same number in any other currency) OK perhaps I took too many cynicism pills this morning.

The message Smolin wants to get across in that time is “real”  and not an “illusion”. Already I am having problems with the language. When people start to talk about whether time is real I hear in my brain the echo of Samuel Johnson’s well quoted retort “I refute it thus!” OK, you can’t kick time but you can kick a clock and time is real. The real question is “Is time fundamental or emergent?” and Smolin does get round to this more appropriate terminology in the end.

In the preface he tells us what he means when he says that time is real. This includes “The past was real but is no longer real” “The future does not yet exist and is therefore open” (page xiv) In other words he is taking our common language based intuitive notions of how we understand time and saying that this is fundamentally correct. The problem with this is that when Einstein invented relativity he taught me that my intuitive notions of time are just feature of my wetware program that evolved to help me get around at a few miles per hour, remembering things from the past so that I could learn to anticipate the future etc. It would be foolish to expect these things to be fundamental in realms where we move close to the speed of light, let alone at the centre of a black-hole where density and temperature reach unimaginable extremes. Of course Smolin is not denying the validity of relative time, but he wants me to accept that common notions of the continuous flow of time and causality are fundamental, even though the distinction between past and future is an emergent feature of thermodynamics that is purely statistical and already absent from known fundamental laws.

His case is even harder to buy given that he does accept the popular idea that space is emergent. Smolin has always billed himself as the relativitist (unlike those string theorists) who understands that the principles of general relativity must be applied to quantum gravity  How then can he say that space and time need to be treated so differently?

This seems to be an idea that came to him in the last few years. There is no hint of it in a technical article he wrote in 2005 where he makes the case for background independence and argues that both space and time should be equally emergent. This new point of view seems to be a genuine change of mind and I bought the book because I was curious to know how this came about. The preface might have been a good place for him to tell me when and how he changed his mind but there is nothing about it (in fact the preface and introduction are similar and could have been stuck together into one section without any sign of discontinuity between them)

Smolin does however explain why he thinks time is not fundamental. The main argument is that he believes the laws of physics have evolved to become fine-tuned with changes accumulating each time a baby universe is born. This is his old idea that he wrote about at length in another book “Life of the Cosmos” If this theory is to be true he now thinks that time must be fundamentally similar to our intuitive notions of continuously flowing time. I would tend to argue the converse, that time is emergent so we should not take the cosmological evolution theory too seriously.

I don’t think many physicists follow his evolution theory but the alternatives such as eternal inflation and anthropic landscapes are equally contentious and involve piling about twenty layers of speculation on top of each other without much to support them.  I think this is a great exercise to indulge in but we should not seriously think we have much idea of what can be concluded from it just yet.

Smolin does have some other technical arguments to support his view of time, basically along the lines that the theories that work best so far for quantum gravity use continuous time even when they demonstrate emergent space. I don’t buy this argument either. We still have not solved quantum gravity after all. He also cites lots of long gone philosophers especially Leibniz.

Apart from our views on string theory, time and who such books are aimed at I want to mention one other issue where I disagree with Smolin. He says that all symmetries and conservation laws are approximate (e.g. Pages 117-118). Here he seems to agree with Sean Carrol and even Motl (!) (but see comments). I have explained many times why energy, momentum and other gauge charges are conserved in general relativity in a non-trivial and experimentally confirmed way. Smolin says that “we see from the example of string theory that the more symmetry a theory has, the less its explanatory power” (page 280). He even discusses the preferred reference frame given by the cosmic background radiation and suggests that this is fundamental (page 167). I disagree and in fact I take the opposite (old fashioned) view that all the symmetries we have seen are part of a unified universal symmetry that is huge but hidden and that it is fundamental, exact, non-trivial and really important. Here I seem to be swimming against the direction the tide is now flowing but I will keep on going.

Ok so I disagree with Smolin but I have never met him and there is nothing personal about it. If he ever deigned to talk to an outsider like me I am sure we could have a lively and interesting discussion about it. The book itself covers many points and will be of interest to anyone working on quantum gravity who should be aware of all the different points of view and why people hold them, so I recommend to them, but probably not to the average lay person living next door.

see also Not Even Wrong for another review, and The Reference Frame for yet another. There is also a review with a long interview in The Independent.

103 Responses to Book Review: Time Reborn by Lee Smolin

  1. It is good to see people are putting mind to consider the value, participation and contribution of time. In my thinking to perceive the functionality of time the first thing one has to do is remove from mind everything centered around relativity and Einstein. Why? because brilliant as his mathematical models and theories are, are only models. If the idea of STR and GTR remain in mind as a central coat hook then one is stuck in a serious cognitive black hole and the mind influenced and corrupted by these models.

    To take a refreshing look and perception of time a poorly written book ‘Absolute Relativity – theory of everything’ via amazon book posits the concept that time should in fact be called the Primary dimension and temporal time be downgraded from its current Minkowski title as the 4th Dimension this being a very serious Red Herring. The author of the above book states that Time is the primary dimension of SPACE and is constant, isometric & 1D and indeed is constantly Emerging. Not only time but more importantly SPACE itself. He posits we cannot have 3D in absence of matter, and temporal time only exists so long as matter does along with the arbitrary yardstick of 3D distances.

    The Primary dimension of space where Time exists as a 1D envelope which is constantly emerging invisibly in which matter is totally dependent for a place to occupy. The easiest way to imagine this is sweep up and remove all the matter in the universe every single atom. Then put mind to work: what remains? Where is the validity of STR and GTR then? I agree with the author’s vision all that remains is an emerging void where time & Space are isometric and they are both the same entities.

    The arrow of temporal time causes a big confusion and our intuitions cannot escape its influence but we should really forget about it. It is only a local phenomena and blinds us from understanding the bigger picture. He also states that the relationship of 1D space and constant time are indeed the likely candidates for the very creation of mass in the first place – that is if you can imagine the universe without matter ( as it was pre BB ). The kinetics involved causing the emergence of the 1D void just so happened to be converted into our local precursor mass. Similarly, if this was the initiating mechanism for mass then it would follow that the entire universe ( its mass ) can likewise be simply switched off and return to its background state of energy, where every single atom in the universe will simply vanish simultaneously….exposing its original background 1D void. To perhaps create a new package of matter later to restart the whole evolutionary process.

    In our experience the local limits of the universe are determined by our ability to resolve matter at distance. ( Hubble Zone ). But obviously this is not the end of the story we just happen to occupy a visible matter envelope determined by observable celestial objects which delineate the size of that envelope – no more than a floating leaf in a huge lake of emerging 1D space and constant Time.

  2. Futhermore the author of Absolute Relativity Theory of Everything presents another tasty notion that time being constant then the past present and future all occur at the same time. To imagine this one has to envisage a background of constant time ‘0’. Into which matter and 3D minkoswki time undergo activities and behavior in which temporal time is attribute. However, if the background is constant then all those activities all occur at the same time referenced to it. There is no past present and future the entire stage performance is present if viewing the actors from the audiotorium of 1D.

  3. Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong says:

    Lee Smolin wrote, ” … After working with the Standard Model for several decades, we are now simultaneously more confident that it’s correct within the limited domain in which it has been tested and less confident of its extendability outside that domain. ( )”

    Lee Smolin wrote, ” … After working with the Standard Model for several decades, we are now simultaneously more confident that it’s correct within the limited domain in which it has been tested and less confident of its extendibility outside that domain.” This is a very fair statement on the Standard Model as it has passed all gadget (Tevatron, LHC, etc. ) tests thus far. But, it (SM) is obviously not a valid theory globally, as it has failed on the five issues below.

    1. Both Cabibbo angle (θc about 13 degrees) and the Weinberg angle (θW from 28 to 30 degrees) are the two key parameters in the Standard Model (SM). These two should be the first criterion for a correct particle theory, that is, they both must be “derived” by a correct particle theory. Of course, the Standard Model fails on this task (criterion), as they are only the “Free” parameters in SM.

    2. The Alpha (α, electron fine structure constant) should be the second criterion. Alpha is the “lock” for the universe, as it locks three measuring rulers (ħ, the spin charge; e, electric charge; c, light speed) of the universe into a constant relationship. When these three rulers are locked, the universe is allowed to roam free with its evolution. Thus, this Alpha, as “the” most important lock/key for the universe, must be “derived (directly calculated)” in a correct particle theory. Of course, Standard Model again fails on this task (criterion).
    Note: C (light speed) is also a lock which locks the (space/time) into a fixed relation. So, space and time can be set free. Yet, the Alpha is the final lock.

    3. That the expansion of the universe is accelerating is now a “Fact”. This fact should be the direct consequence of a correct particle theory. Again, SM fails on this criterion.

    4. The Planck data showed three key features of this universe.
    a. The dark/visible ratio (69/26/5). Again, the “Standard Model proper” cannot make any linkage to this issue. Its baby (SUSY) is making some wild guess without the ability to match with this ratio. Yet, this ratio can be numerologically matched with an iceberg model. Thus, the correct particle theory must encompass a substructure which is iceberg-like.

    b. Neff is 3. What the number for Neff should be? This must be directly “derived (calculated)” in the correct theory. The Standard Model fails on this again as the Neff = 3 is the gadget data (fact) for SM but is not calculated (theoretical) result.

    c. Dr. Guth’s inflationary scenario is consistent with the data. Again, the inflation is not the direct “consequence” of the Standard Model, and it must be an add-on. The physics meaning for inflation is topological, the universe is a topological plane instead of a topological sphere. The Standard Model cannot even address this topological issue.

    5. Neutrino oscillation is again a physics “Fact” now. The Standard Model has no slightest clue to explain this. Yet, all physicists happily brush this cruel fact away, delinked it in order to preserve the greatness of the SM. With “energy” rule, the particle “decays” to a lower energy state. On the contrary, the neutrino can “decay upward” to become a heavier neutrino. Obviously, “decay upward” is not truly a decay in linguistic sense. So, it is called “oscillation”. Thus, neutrino demands a new physics, in addition to the “energy” rule. This oscillation can only be done with the “music-chair” rule, such as,
    1 = (2, 3) = (2, (1, 2)) = (2, 1, 2)
    That is, 1 is the “complement” of (2, 3), and it can play music-chair. A correct particle theory must encompass a substructure of this music-chair.

    I must say that I agree with Smolin on his main argument “… [a valid theory] cannot be done by scaling up the theories we have; to make a successful cosmological theory requires new principles.”

    The five facts above are physics facts, not metaphysics or philosophic issues. But, the Standard Model fails on each and every one of them. Should these five be the criteria for the correct particle theory? This is a great question if no theory can meet these criteria. But, this is not the case. At least one theory is known and is able to account for all the criteria above.

  4. He Jin says:

    Why do not these powerful people who collect billions of public tax face the reality of galaxies and solve galaxy mystery??

    • Philip Gibbs says:

      There are plenty of people working on galaxies. Smolin is working at Perimeter Institute which is privately funded.

  5. Robert L. Oldershaw says:

    RE: “… in fact I take the opposite (old fashioned) view that all the symmetries we have seen are part of a unified universal symmetry that is huge but hidden and that it is fundamental, exact, non-trivial and really important.”

    Count me in with you. My candidate for the “hidden”, but in plain sight, unified universal symmetry is global discrete conformal symmetry, which yields a discrete self-similar cosmos.

  6. Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong says:

    While I agree with Smolin’s comment on the Standard Model, I do disagree with him on some other points.

    Smolin wrote, “… To the extent that this is a fruitful idea, physics can no longer be understood as the search for a precisely identical mathematical double of the universe. That dream must be seen now as a metaphysical fantasy that may have inspired generations of theorists but is now blocking the path to further progress. Mathematics will continue to be a handmaiden to science, but she can no longer be the Queen.” I do not agree with him on this one but will not discuss it now.

    My major concern is about “time”. Gibbs wrote, “… Smolin does however explain why he thinks time is not fundamental. The main argument is that he believes the laws of physics have evolved to become fine-tuned with changes accumulating each time a baby universe is born.”

    When B is emerging from A, A is fundamental for B while B is emergent. Is time fundamental or emergent? This issue must be answered conditionally, in tiers. In the tier of nothingness, everything (including time) must be emergent. But, in the tier of this physical universe, there are some important basic physics entities [(b-entities), such as, time, space, spin, electric charge, mass, etc.]. Among these b-entities, one is fundamental if it not an emergent of others. Thus, there are two types of fundamental.
    1. The weak fundamental — it is not an emergent of other b-entities.
    2. The strong fundamental — all other b-entities are the emergent of it.

    Thus, nature has two ways of constructing this universe. I will let someone else to work on the weak fundamental pathway. I will show the framework of this strong fundamental pathway.

    Let’s choose T is the fundamental for all b-entities. Then, the framework consists of three parts.
    a. Emerging mechanism — a mechanism of pulling out some b-entities from T.
    b. A set of b-entities.
    c. An evolved system of b-entities (the theorems and sentences of a formal system of the b-entities).

    This evolved system must be making contacts with the known universe, such as the five criteria which I have mentioned in the previous comment.

    The above should be the criterion for the correct particle theory. Then, the Standard Model is not meeting this criterion, as it has no theoretical parts at all, being lacking of any emerging mechanism (except the not yet wholly proved Higgs mechanism). Even if the Higgs were proved to be true, SM is still unable to pull out spin and electric charge.

    With these definitions of fundamental and emergence, Smolin’s argument about time is not fundamental is meaningless unless he can show the time emerging mechanism (how was time pulled out?) in this tier (physical universe).

    If T is chosen as time (or the whatnot), then the correct theory must show the pulling out mechanism which pulls out all other b-entities (spin, electric charge, mass, etc.) from time (or the whatnot). Now, we have a ruler to cut out all not-correct particle theories.

    • Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong says:

      In the “Litmus test” for the correct particle theory, it must consist of four parts.
      a. A set of basic physics entities, the b-entities.
      b. A set of emerging mechanisms (pulling out the b-entities from a fundamental) to set the fundamental/emergent system.
      c. A set of derived theorems from this fundamental/emergent system, such as the Alpha, the Neff, etc. .
      d. This set of derived theorems must make contact with the known universe, at least, meeting the five criteria listed in my previous comment.

      I should show one example of how this Litmus test works.
      i. Arbitrary select a set of b-entities, such as [time, space, spin (ħ), electric charge (e), mass charge (m)].
      ii. Define a set of emerging mechanisms (the fundamental/emergent system) with some functions (f);
      1. e (electric charge) = f (ħc), c is the light speed. Thus, e is the emergent of ħ, c.
      2. m (mass charge) = f (ħ/c), m is also the emergent of ħ, c.
      3. c (light speed) = f (space/time), c is the emergent of space, time.
      4. ħ = f (angle/time), ħ is the emergent of angle, time.

      The above functions clearly defined a set of emerging mechanisms and a system of fundamental/emergent. The only two fundamental remaining in the above system is [space, angle, and time]. As the angle is only a subset of the space, the fundamentals can be further reduced to as [time and space]. Since space has an internal structure while the time is thus far an indivisible entity, I would select the “time” as the true and the only fundamental, and let the space as,
      S (space) = f (time/c)

      With this choice, a set of theorems can be derived, such as the calculation of Alpha.

      Beta = 1/alpha = 64 ( 1 + first order mixing + sum of the higher order mixing)
      = 64 (1 + 1/Cos A(2) + .00065737 + …)
      = 137.0359 …

      A(2) is the Weinberg angle, A(2) = 28.743 degrees

      The sum of the higher order mixing = 2(1/48)[(1/64) + (1/2)(1/64)^2 + …+(1/n)(1/64)^n +…]
      = .00065737 + …

      This equation for Alpha is not a numerological construct, as the Weinberg angle is an important physics parameter for the particle theory. Furthermore, the same “theorems” used in this equation can provide the calculations for Cabibbo / Weinberg angles, for Neff, etc. .

  7. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    Given that Smolin argues that different electrons are distinguishable and further gives support for what appear to be hidden variable theories I put this within my skeptical files. I am not particularly opposed to loop variables, and I speculate they may be the IR limit of some renormalization group flow in string theory. However, it is clear that LQG is less robust in its ability to make predictions. In particular there is no renormalizable 1-loop calculation yet made, the last I heard. My speculation is motivated by some possibility to do that, but as yet LQG on its own seems terribly weak.


    • Philip Gibbs says:

      There are still people working on LQG such as Rovelli and there may still be something useful to squeeze out of it. It is disappointing that an idea that seemed to go well at the start ended up so disappointing (so far).

      Hope you are planning to join us in the FQXi essay. The topic is a bit better this year than the last one.

      • Lawrence B. Crowell says:

        I was thinking of sitting this one out. However, I read David Foster Wallace’s analysis on time and fatalism last year. This involves modal logic and such stuff, if that is your cup of tea. I found myself thinking about that again and reread his paper. A rather fantastic idea came to me that only required a couple of pages of symbolic logic to solve. So I have been writing an essay the last few days. It from bit is not decidable by Godel’s theorem.

        DF Wallace taught for a while at my undergraduate alma mater, some time after I graduated. He is best known for his novels such as “Infinite Jest.” He was brilliant in both philosophy and literature. The past tense is used because he committed suicide in 2008.


  8. Marni says:

    This is all so tiresome. I was reading Whitrow’s “Natural Philosophy of Time” this week, and it really is so much better than all this piffle – which admittedly I have not read. Whitrow discusses the long and convoluted history that led to the modern idea of a time continuum. For most of human history, it was understood that our concept of time is subjective, and that the idealization of the ‘instant’ is but a mathematical convenience.

    St Augustine was the first to explain clearly, more or less in modern terms, that the present has more ‘reality’ than the past or future. But this can only be OUR present. It’s all very well to respect relativity, but if you really want to respect relativity, you have to take observer dependence seriously. Enough of this ‘the’ Big Bang, as if all observers are human observers.

    Spacetime as a block continuum is a conventional, convenient way of robbing time of independent existence, a natural tendency for all time reversal invariant physics. The trendy thing today is to regard time quite differently to space, in the context of coarse graining a la the renormalisation flow and the entropic arrow. The majority of theorists probably agree now on the essential time irreversibility of quantum gravity (the physical gravity, not the theory). It is a pity then, that they throw out the relations between space and time in an attempt to understand emergence.

    Whitrow has a very nice way of looking at new kinds of time – reevaluating the axioms underlying relativity. For example, one can replace the time average for advanced and retarded clocks by a geometric mean. What axiom does one give up? Only the idea that there is no natural zero on one’s clock. But for a cosmological clock, there IS a natural zero. So we can use a geometric mean, and this is a truly wonderful thing – and we’re still sticking to continuum concpets here! Imagine what else is possible! LQG pht, bah.

  9. Robert L. Oldershaw says:

    Regarding definitive predictions in science, check this out.

    Discrete Scale Relativity predicts that the total masses of gravitationally bound stellar systems will have discrete values that are integer multiples of 0.145 solar mass.

    The Pulsar-White Dwarf system just reported in Science (04/26/13) has a total mass of 2.182 +/- 0.04 solar mass. [available at .]

    This value agrees with one of DSR’s definitively predicted values at the 99.997% level (15 times 0.145 solar mass = 2.175 solar mass).

    For 14 other definitive predictions, see: .

    For more observational evidence of discrete stellar masses, see prediction #10 at the link above.

    Robert L. Oldershaw
    Discrete Scale Relativity/Fractal Cosmology

  10. It is surprising to find how many articles and books about time are written without introducing anything new. By comparing the properties of what we call subjective/experience time and the time of physicists (geometric time – the fourth space-time coordinate), one finds that they are very different notions although they of course have also much in common.

    Why not to accept that these two times represent different notions and try to understand what subjective time is and how to understand the differences between it and geometric time? This would force a wider perspective: physicist would be forced to learn neuroscience and try to get grasp on the notion of consciousness. This is of course just what is desperately needed in the recent crisis of theoretical physics, which is very much due to the lack of interaction with other branches of science.

    It is depressing to read all this nonsense about emergence of space-time, that space-time emerges and time does not, that the fantastically successful theories of relativity should be thrown to paper basket, and one should return to Newtonian time, that time is illusion, etc….

    Clear and abstract thinking seems to be very rare in big science, or at least in science noticed by blogs and by publishing media. Maybe clearly thinking individuals do not find any niche in the academic environment dominated by specialists and socially skilled career builders.

  11. He Jin says:

    The sum of billions of subjective times is less than the objective time: Machian Time:

  12. Dilaton says:

    Ha ha lol, is the first question a test one has to pass before reading this highly enjoyable review 😀 ?

    I greatly sucked, but I have read it anyway 😛


  13. Robert L. Oldershaw says:

    At the Not Even Wrong blog Smolin said that his theory predicted that neutron stars had an upper limit mass of 2 solar masses.

    Further he said that the new pulsar system reported in Science this week supports his prediction.

    The problem is that the pulsar has an estimated mass of 2.01 solar mass, which is not “below 2 solar masses”.

    So much for predictions in the pseudo-science era.

    Of course, PW censored my comment.

  14. Orwin O'Dowd says:

    Pseudo-science starts with confusing vectors and pseudo-vectors, and forgetting that entropy and the irreversible in nature are due to those zillions of bosons that skulk around like vagrants carrying no ID. Supersymmetry is then a horribly naive idea in attempting to identify zillions of anon bosons with perfectly respectable card-carrying fermions which are the stable upholders of atomic matter, natural kinds, and all that is decent and predictable in the universe.

    Plato called it the problem of the One and the Many. But what passes as science is a morality-play to an Aristotelian script, encoded in the Byzantine procedural logic that derives form cannon law.

    When Perice came upon second-order arithmetic in the 1880s he backed off, feeling it was too much for the human intellect. And now that the logic he did develop has been worked through, coin can discern that possibility and necessity as they play out over possible worlds are not associative: “possibly not” is not the same as “not possibly”.

    We’d better stop relying on computational or algorithmic complexity as a guide, and turn to representational complexity. I’ll remember viXra as the place where this idea came to light.

    • Stephen Crowley says:


      As was shown shortly after their first applications
      to hydrodynamics, lattice-gas models for single-phase ideal fluids can be constructed with
      an H theorem [5] that rigorously precludes any kind of numerical instability. More glibly stated,
      lattice gases avoid numerical instabilities in precisely the same way that Nature herself does so.

  15. Dudley G says:

    I’d just like to say thank you all for your politeness. Came here from Motl’s blog pretty disgusted with how rude he is. Very refreshing to hear the disagreements in a civilized manner. Thanks for posting!

    • Lawrence B. Crowell says:

      Motl is usually right with respect to physics. What he writes on physics I generally concur with. His website is good for catching new papers, but I skip his political nonsense. I also think Smolin is often muddled, with some exceptions. There are a couple of papers he wrote that I thought were great, but others I thought were pretty confused.

      Smolin and Woit (the ultimate physics curmudgeon) are most despised by Lubos. As I see it to reference Jethro Tull on “Passion Play,” all have a right to be wrong. Lubos is not tolerant of ideas and opinion (politics is 90% opinion) that differ from his and he can display considerable vitriol against people. Hatred and intolerance are commonly seen on a certain side of the political spectrum.

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Ahh, if only being right were the highest ideal. I agree, Phil has a hyperfinite more amount of class and character than Lubus, with his arrogant ramblings and talks as if he controls the military or something with his mind. The polite and respectful tone set forth on viXra is priceless.

  16. Robert L. Oldershaw says:

    Is Dr. Smolin really claiming that ONE pulsar mass of 2.01 solar mass is evidence in favor of the prediction that ALL neutron stars have an upper limit mass of 2.000 solar mass?

    That’s what he appears to claim in the latest discussion at Not Even Wrong – saying the the reported pulsar mass “confirms” his prediction for all neutron stars.

    Say it ain’t so!

    • Philip Gibbs says:

      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and predicting one thing that many other theories can already explain does not even begin to come close. However, I am sure we will one day come to the point where we can tell if the theory is wrong or right. For now all we can say is that it is crazy.

  17. Lubos Motl says:

    Sorry, Phil, your comment that I agree with Smolin on symmetries is bullshit.

    There are lots of exact symmetries, including the Poincare symmetry – on backgrounds that are asymptotically Minkowski (or similar simple backgrounds with isometries); and the “global part of any gauge symmetries”. For example, the conservation of the electric charge is exact, too. The evidence for these things is overwhelming.

    I’ve argued against the Smolin-suggested possibility that the Lorentz symmetry could be accidental and approximate – and against his and others’ ideas that the evidence for this remarkably powerful principle, special relativity, could be ignored – for years.

    There are exact symmetries and they’re extremely important in the scheme of the laws of physics and our understanding of Nature.

    • Philip Gibbs says:

      Sorry the text is not very clear but what I meant to say was that you would agree about the lack of conservation laws, not symmetries. At least you have said this for energy and momentum. Smolin’s views on symmetry are pretty strange and I would be surprised if many physicists agree with them. Probably even your reasons for being a conservation law denier are different from Smolins. ( Please don’t miss the element of humour in the phrase “conservation law denier” 🙂 ) Anyway I just wrote that to check if you read the review 🙂

      • Lawrence B. Crowell says:

        The idea that Lorentz symmetry emerges from a broken symmetry is questionable. In Regge calculus one can employ digital filters to perform error correction due to the “slicing and dicing” of spacetime one performs to do a finite element calculation. LQG effectively has Lorentz symmetry broken near the Planck scale. We know that dispersion predicted from this is falsified from timing measurements of different EM wavelengths from cosmic sources. Hence if LQG were correct one needs to propose there is some digital filter at work, which operates to a high floating point precision. This tacitly admits a huge number of degrees of freedom into the universe, where these are extremely fine tuned. I think this is the opposite direction we wish to go in physics.

        As for energy conservation in general relativity it can only be the case if there is a Killing vector field that acts on four momentum properly to give a Noether theorem result. A lot of spacetimes do not have this. The w =-1 equation of state for dS spacetimes does give a sort of conservation law, where negative pressure compensates for the increased energy in an expanding volume. Yet really there is no way one can write in any simple way a conservation law. A Gauss’ law result over an entire manifold is not possible; there is no boundary or bounding surface from which to integrate.

      • Philip Gibbs says:

        “As for energy conservation in general relativity it can only be the case if there is a Killing vector field that acts on four momentum properly to give a Noether theorem result.”

        This refers to a system where the gravitational field is treated as a background structure unaffected by matter. That is obviously unphysical. You have to treat the gravitational field as dynamic with its own energy to get the full conservation law and apply Noether’s theorem to that. All other criticisms of energy conservation in GR are equally silly.

        The sad thing is not only that energy conservation in GR works perfectly and is non-trivial, but it is also a very important part of understanding how to do quantum gravity.

      • Lawrence B. Crowell says:

        The ADM approach to GR results in NH = 0. The quantum form of this is similar to the Schrodinger equation without the time derivative of the wave functional. This really means that on a general manifold there is no boundary where one can integrate over the mass-energy of the spacetime, both particle in spacetime and the energy of spacetime, in order to compute it.

        Asymptotically flat spacetimes provide a convenient structure from which energy conservation can be computed. That is however a rather exceptional case.

      • Philip Gibbs says:

        Lawrence, there are several problems with what you are saying.
        (1) In ADM canonical formalism you get a hamiltonian constraint that sets the Hamiltonian to zero, but for an asymptotically flat space time the total energy is well understood and is not zero. This tells you that you should be wary of how you interpret the Hamiltonian constraint.
        (2) You bring in the quantum version of the problem but as quantum gravity is not fully understood you cannot use this as any kind of argument.
        (3) You can make the case that the energy is zero is some cases such as a closed universe, but it is not trivially zero and this is still a good conservation law. The same is true for electric charge for example.
        (4) The only thing special about the asymptotically flat case is that you get an limiting boundary where it makes sense to talk about an energy-momentum 4-vector. In all other cases you still get conservation laws corresponding to energy and momenta but they do not form a 4-vector. 4-vectors are representations of the Lorentz group but GR is about the more general diffeomorphism invariance so 4-vectors are not relevant except in local reference frames.
        (5) In a general manifold you can take any boundary and show that the energy flow across the boundary is equal to the rate of change of energy inside the bounded region. That is how conservation laws work in general

        There are loads more objections people can make about energy conservation in GR but they are all equally invalid as these. I have heard them all and answered them all many times but they still keep coming back.

      • Philip Gibbs says:

        I have now written up a collection of all arguments against energy conservation in GR that I have heard, along with my refutation. If anyone can say anything sensible that is not covered there please let me know so that I can refine it.

        In future I will just quote the numbers 🙂

      • Jin He says:

        Dear Philip,
        There are many different definitions of energy. Most of them are weird because GR is very weird. Accordingly, people can always fix the weird GR with the weird definition of energy. Therefore, you need tell people what is your definition in the first sentence of your paper about GR.
        Sorry, I did not read your paper and I boldly write these words right now. I believe in Mach Principle and I believe it is the only way which goes to the correct definition of energy.
        I am tired with GR. It is a modern trash. Unfortunately many scientists (liars) have to make a living with GR. Jin He

      • Jin He says:

        Dear Philip,
        I browsed a little of your paper mainly on your math equations. I studied differential geometry almost 30 years ago and almost got Master degree in math. It appears that all your equations are the math on curved spacetime. Therefore, your energy is independent of the curved background!!! OK, every mainstream liar defines GR energy this way. My question for you is the following:
        What on earth is the energy itself of the curved spacetime background????????????
        Jin He

      • Philip Gibbs says:

        Jin, The formula for energy I use is precisely what is given by Noether’s theorem from the standard Hilbert-Einstein action. It depends on the metric so I don’t know why you say it is independent of the curved background. It is independent of choice of co-ordinates.

        The energy in the background field itself is everything in the equation except the dark energy term and and energy-momentum stress tensor for matter.

        I don’t know why you say I am mainstream. The mainstream idea now seems to be that energy is not conserved as claimed by Sean Carrol, John Baez, Lubos Motl, Lee Smolin and many others. None of my other physics papers have been welcomed by mainstream physicists either. Calling me mainstream is an even bigger insult than calling me a liar 🙂

        In any case you should note that the title says this is a paper about how energy conservation works in general relativity. Even if you do not believe in GR despite the mountain of empirical evidence for it, that is of no relevance to what this paper says.

      • Jin He says:

        Dear Philip,
        I never said you were mainstream. That is all.
        1. What is General Relativity? GR means that there exists a Curved Spacetime Manifold. For mathematitians, it is an abstract concept which may be or may not be embedded in a higher dimensional flat manifold. For physicists, it must be real existence (real matter)!!! Although Einstein did not know differential geometry, he did consider the curved spacetime manifold to be real body (real matter). Therefore, physicists want to know what is the energy of the curved background spacetime manifold!! Ordinary definition of energy is based on the flat background spacetime. The flat spacetime is Newton’s inertial frame!! Now, without a global flat reference frame in GR, how could you define the energy of the global curved reference frame (i.e., the global curved spacetime manifold).
        2. What is a tensor field on the curved background spacetime? A tensor field on a flat spacetime is the secondary matter. The primary matter is the flat spacetime itself. The energy of the secondary matter is independent of the enerygy of the primary matter (i.e., the flat spacetime). That is the meaning of ‘independent’ which I said. These words are true for curved spacetime. For your better understanding, I repeat it:
        A tensor field on a curved spacetime is the secondary matter. The primary matter is the curved spacetime itself. The energy of the secondary matter is independent of the enerygy of the primary matter (the curved spacetime). That is the meaning of ‘independent’ which I said.
        3. Therefore, you have a definition of a covariant field on a curved spacetime means nothing when you talk about the energy of curved spacetime. I believe that all people who discuss the energy of General Relativity refer to the energy of the curved spacetime. Why? because the curved spacetime is real existence (real matter)!! What people want is the energy of the real matter!!

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Jin He, can you please comment on whether you think this paper of Hawking has any relevance to your discussion? It’s about Zeta function regularization of path integrals in curved spacetime, and as a mathematician I am quite familiar with the zeta function so this helps me relate physical concepts to mathematical concepts I’m familiar with (the zeta function).

        Interesting discussion, peace, and also, to call Phil mainstream is quite the major slap indeed, why so mean? 🙂 We should all be nice here, there is enough mean-ness in the world already.

      • Philip Gibbs says:

        Indeed 🙂

      • Lawrence B. Crowell says:

        General relativity by itself seems not to provide a general conservation law for energy. Solutions that are pure vacuum with Weyl curvature admit eigenvalued equations such as

        C_{abcd} = λε_{ab}K_cK_d

        where there maybe some Lie algebra [K_c, K_d} = C_{cde}K_e that selects a single Killing vector that gives a Noether theorem result for energy conservation. One can of course impose pseudotensors, but this really abuses relativity by imposing a preferred frame. There is admittedly no proof that GR does not in generally conserve energy. Yet as things stand it appears problematic to say that GR in general gives energy conservation.

        There is a related issue, which impacts quantum gravity. Probabilities and amplitudes have to be specified on spatial surfaces, such as with the Wightman formalism, and there does not appear to be any general covariant manner in which quantum amplitudes can be formulated. Hence the Born theorem is called into question with quantum gravity. One might speculate then there is some manner by which these two “work together.” The inability to derive a general energy conservation in GR and the problem with assigning covariant amplitudes for quantum gravity might in some setting conspire to mean physically realistic spacetimes have energy conservation. The dS spacetime has a sort of energy conservation with w = -1 or p = -ρ means the negative pressure “removes work” created by the appearance of energy in an expanding volume.

      • Jin He says:

        Dear Stephen Crowley,
        I read Hawking’s stuff you refered to. It is the standard bullshit. I am busy with writing another vixra paper. Sorry for my late reply. If you are a mathematician, I would be very happy to be your friend. I am very slow in math. I do need mathematicians’ help!!

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Jim, I do profess to be a mathematician. Some of my papers can be found at and . . I don’t profess to have a theory of everything. But I do theorize about a bit here and there. You can reach me at Peace, Stephen. I apologize in advance for the annoyance if anyone who regarded this as an advertisement of some sort.

      • Philip Gibbs says:

        Lawrence, In my article at your point about killing vectors is dealt with in point (3). Pseudotensors are point (4). For quantum gravity see point (11).

    • Philip Gibbs says:

      However, my views on symmetries and conservation laws are at the opposite extreme end of the scale to Smolin’s and there are even less people who would agree with me. The difference is that I am right 🙂

    • Lubos, what is the situation on the (natural gas?) explosion in Prague, where was it? Take care.

    • Orwin O'Dowd says:

      My point now is that Lie algebras are not associative: it matters which order you compound symmetries in, with an ambiguity in the outcome known as geometric phase. That’s off-view form the standard Category Theory procedure of “catch’em in a sweep round both sides of the block,” so what gives?

      In the logical overview, loss of associativity is pretty far out, which one good reason for heeding Edgar’s conceptual poetry.

      • Philip Gibbs says:

        There are lots of ways that can be answered, Lie algebras are not associative but groups are. The universal enveloping algebra of a Lie algebra is also associative and that is what I normally work with because it has more structure and can be deformed. Also weak categories are not associative either. In any case categories would normally be used to model mappings between algebras and the like, so they are fine for talking about non-associative structures.

        However, the best answer is not to get too carried away with categories. You can always generalize them. The interesting part is the higher dimensional possibility for algebras.

      • Phil… the Lie algebra comment you just made got me thinking there was something I may not be capable of seeing in the general debate… so I gave it some thought and continued with my informal yet mysterious poetic posting… but it is a different language describing what to me appears the same sort of concerns including your important statement the interesting part is the higher dimensional possibility for algebras… we seem to be exploring these worlds, continuous algebras as the main view or not- we have even more to deal with in the infinite than the finite, Klein etc… that will take a little while longer they say.
        Well, Lubos has a most interesting pdf link and Ulla shared a link to some even more mysterious levels of the genome (that is if we take these issues on such scales that may apply or in a sense be independent. the link is: clearly this level of things relates to your comment on associativity and so on—- let us discuss this, anyone? I am not sure reduction into ten rather than the 26 excludes any design preferences in brane theories (as Lubos posts in his interpretation). Again, how do we show these connections in the general picture, and how do we express it in what is not a splitting of our shared views in simple language? I do wonder about such web publication as to what can be taken seriously and original. But thank you for the reality check as I do not want to forget or get fixed into my own limitations, rather the inspiration… still when I consider such abstract things in an unsplit higher view some of what is discussed still reads to me as no different from what grounds the thinking in rather non scientific or quasi-occult ideas like the jinn, I mean if as on one of the late night shows, coast to coast each of us has a jinn somewhere between the angles and us- is that not like assuming a particle has a superparticle but from a reductionist view? Is this not a scandal in our methods and visions? Do you think it written in the laws of physics that for every finite group there is necessarily and not independently a finite one? Is category theory not likewise on the level we are now- as orwin asks what gives?

      • Orwin O'Dowd says:

        That’s a stunning link, but I’m not really surprised: strong emergence at level 5 is a very traditional conception, whether you speak of celestial fire or the soul or quintessence. What interests me here is how many orders of infinity you can drape over the defiles, and what they all mean in existence. The wildcard in physics is now the Bessell function, which diverges on every pulse, as it must, tracing a shock-wave. That was Ernst Mach’s break-through, the sonic boom. which also gave us dimensionless constants. Now also from the spherical harmonics of the goundstate of any old atom. Who need exotic dark matter with sonic atoms? In any case, dark matter research is all about longitudinal waves, which are shock-waves. Again, it’s an old story: the logos, the word, opening into higher realities, like language, history and spirit.

      • Orwin, you put into context also some things I missed – the dark like matter ideas are to be seen as matters of style, a rotating universe my not need it at all, for example. And the description of what happens in the Casmir force can just as well be described as point sources and so on. I have touched on the Bessel function (and Eulers constant) but this more from a continuous view so am only beginning to sense the method… shock waves and Mach most interesting… but I do not think such shock waves are sufficient to explain how very high elements are formed even if recently shown supernovas could not do it- something more is going on here so there are things in the running still more than sonic atoms and mere spherical harmonics…may as well call it dark stuff, like the kernel idea for the alternate periodic table (I forget who did that) so that the origin of dimensionless constants- and what class of waved did Dirac say was not found in nature in his first book? Things would see symmetric in a sonic atom, or mirrored anyway so did he find the fine structure constant? Surely the view of rare neutrinos if confirmed from a distance expands something- as for the five fold stuff, a point of view among many and very historical as you say… just like the fractal pattern found in 24 in arithmetic the patterns of five move uniformly to ever higher levels. I also do not think that much of the article of Witten as it is way too conservative in exploring those abstract regions of which the genus topology is too much a narrow concept of reduction. On the other hand where there is a vortex (pardon me Descartes) we can much more efficiently enhance and store information. Clearly absolute divergences meets somewhere sometimes absolute convergence and time like or dimensionless stuff is the flow in between.

      • Orwin, I mentioned you on my pesla blog post having gone back to the books on this issue… I forgot to say that we need to consider the information on the wave front (which of course does move faster than light I imagine) I hope you find it entertaining. It is so much better to learn thing in historical context and not just a listing in a formula, physics better as a living drama.

      • Orwin O'Dowd says:

        What you are saying about the mid-range and the extremes is right in with the new results from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer recently released by the crew from the International Space Station. Cosmic rays get a whole lot more energetic than expected, with the energy peaking again around 300 GeV. Peter Woit had a fit about their claims for new insight into dark matter…

        Ground-states and Bessell waves are very low-energy, but do highlight the extent of cold hydrogen and small-atom dust in the universe, until illuminated by supernovas. That heavy atoms are very different is well known in chemistry, where they notice the relativistic effects. And the AMS now shows how much is going on up there.

        I’m struck again by the sense that there’s a factor of stability in atomic matter, which shows up in the No-Interaction Theorem for four particles:

        But they don’t see the analogy with alpha-particles, or the deviant nature of hydrogen and helium, the lithium anomaly in nucleosynthesis. Or recall the old fact that where the Schroedinger wave is symmetric in the particle number, you have a set of fermions. There has to be a royal key to supersymmetry here, but too simple for the sophisticates. And too much like the Pythagorean talk about odds and evens….

      • Orwin, oddly enough I think forgetting that idea of gender of the ancient Greeks a the dawn of number theory is a key element we need in interpreting or expanding the range of our basic formulas. Evenness should not be a difficulty that puts a bottleneck in our equations- but this is hard to see unless we do things like rotate the branes, that simplification like Feynman diagram distinctions beginning in four space. Symmetries involved also go beyond the diagonals to put such effects across the plane… now a simple question, in what sense may we say that zero is even? and a hard one: with the mistake of zero division we can show that 2=0, but is this in effect not the case if we so divide the even and odd dimensions? The matrix, where our distinction of what is pseudo or concrete is meaningless or dimension free from a possible overview shows some surprising asymmetries thus directions, and begins to address the issues of what are the beginnings or ends of some sequence. Yes, we always seem to emerge again into the old paradoxes but on a higher level.

      • Orwin, after all we can describe things just as well in Newtonian terms… it is a matter of if we want to allow c to vary or be constant… in the dimension free world we observe gravity as linear and some things non-inertial in nature. Measurement is the issue as to what is real in the idea of a relationship between energy ( the mass effect of say a photon interacting with the gravitation as a fixed orbit or field… and the nature of rotations and so on… what is after all a finite time of effects… these things are known a long time ago… no wonder some people on this higher level want to question conservation laws- but in the symmetry of it all in the end there is a unity. as in my link article I mentioned why Leo Vuyk idea applies on this Hellium issue and after all, 5 or 8 neucleons or quarks is the issue that required higher element forming, Gammow and the big bang? And heat itself may be independent of the measure or shock effects. I find all this rather wonderful to think about. Let us recall that the higher elements did not find islands of stability.

      • Orwin O'Dowd says:

        Correction, the symmetrical wave-function gives bosons.
        so alpha-particles form a hot, noisy stream of cathode rays… This is where the notorious quantum paradoxes took root, and I’m new seeing how infernally knotted it was: in one molecule the wave-function may encompass symmetrical, asymmetrical and mixed portions, all of which are inaccessible to each other: a generation before possible-worlds semantics, the molecule dissolved into a medley of possible worlds, contesting reality.

        I guess that’s just why the US then took the lead: they weren’t well prepared in math, but their raucous politics gave them the process, the vehicle necessary to carry it. Von Neumann didn’t get that – he was an elitist, a nominal communist if you like – and turned away form the messy reality of Type III algebras towards what I see as the cool detachment we associate with mind, and so defined the agenda for a Robotic Paradigm which still rules, productively, in Amazon’s automated warehouses.

        Yes, we now have to look to zero or infinity for where the paradox resolves, and remember that interactions terms also take on a reality of their own, as with the so-called Majorana fermions. R.A. Fischer in biology noticed that interactions have a group structure, but that’s not enough for an algebra: you need a schema of dimensions or angles (conformal invariance) to make the components commensurable. So the paradox fuzz spreads out over the form/content problem, and there logic hasn’t quite caught up yet.

  18. There really is not much to gain in the questions of conservation laws and the application of symmetry until there is a wider understanding of what we call dark matter- energy and so on. Until then there is only a bias of speculation which is a small step along the way to a less narrow theory. Are symmetries exact, become more so over change and time? How can we imagine such things without a deeper foundation than some cherished views let alone compare our visions? Until then the idea that the laws of nature are uniform is a simplistic idea adequate in its own century old era. Information and complexity theory is a better step toward this resolution of singularities and potential wider theories in such absolutes as emptiness. On some simple level of flatland such as string theory in a narrow or eternal sense some symmetries seem absolute and significant so they cannot be wrong as we defend them to ever more complex descent into mathematical analogies. The sad thing is that those in the denials in dispute between the relatively rational or irrational as nature decides despite what we think cannot see the instability and contradictions of their own stances…I agree with a lot said here such as the need for pragmatism and Orwin on logic. At least from a philosophic stance we can find all commentary humorous and much too cautious as well much to rash if anything in nature is intelligibly conserved. That includes our theory dreams an visions and metaphors of poetry in the world as well. Is a theory as Planck said, evolved only when the old generation dies off? or is uncertainty absolutely conserved? Even in the fractal world we do not quite match the forms with nature. One man’s Aristotle becomes and meets another’s Plato at some existential moment, surface of a mirror, in supersymmetry.

    • Robert L. Oldershaw says:

      I do not believe the situation is so opaque or ambiguous.

      In science, when you understand something then you can make multiple definitive predictions and they are subsequently verified. For example, General Relativity just passed yet another important test this week regarding the remarkable pulsar-white dwarf system.

      When you are having trouble even making truly definitive predictions (prior, feasibly tested, quantitative, non-adjustable and unique to the specific theory), let alone passing stringent predictions, then you know there is something deeply wrong with your assumptions and/or models.

      If we really want progress, we have to look more carefully at which ideas lead to successful predictions and which ideas do not.

      We have been failing at that important part of science for 30 years (seen any WIMPs lately?), and rather have relied on untested assumptions and faith in the wisdom of influential physicists.

      For example, scrap General Relativity for some “emergent” pipe dream? Sigh. Beyond words.

      • I predict we will not find any wimps or gravity waves either and that does not scrap general relativity or quantum theory… let us hope after decades of stagnation and fitful punctuated starts what emerges is a solid ability to influence and forecast our understanding of the mechanisms and notations we need. We could start by these naturally partly unconnected systems, such as the branes as part of a better intermittent (in both experiments and in thought) science that considers distinctions when these are viewed two or three dimensional in representations and that a basis for navigation that is not a vague opaque faith in quantum theory as a measure of our ignorance. Logic and history has its place, but whose history and over what hidden paths of higher integration?

      • Robert L. Oldershaw says:

        In my opinion, any idea, assumption, model or theory that cannot generate definitive predictions (as defined above) is untestable speculative pseudo-science, and should garner little or no attention until it bears predictive fruit.

        Starting with untestable abstract entities and model-building is likely guide you to a region of unnatural phase space with a very high index of unreality.

        Witness the present situation in theoretical physics.

      • Its a little hard to predict how you will reply to me… certainly a phase space of some kind of plot… but that is hardly the most general of spaces (what do you think the most general model of space is in our day? configuration? something else) what is wrong with phase space as simple as that is from my view? I mean what can be more powerful than predicting the universe? Short of say a God, would such a prediction have a prior and can it be unique if as the books say time is an illusion due to the apparent high order of entropy at some beginning?
        OK then let us take something a little more conventional and that has undergone intense research and study… predict the structure of the atom, How many elements are there in our current space? 120 by the laws of symmetry in four dimensions, and by electric field and the fine structure constant one could argue 136. This would be, as Lubos says, a fixed sort of symmetry even if each electron as a phase entity did mirror somehow (holographically taking time or ideally as a recursive fractal) that is it is an element so deep into phase space? We need a science that is not as abstract as you say but seems so for if you are saying there is something physical there I do not see it productive for theory if that which is physics is based on such vague abstractions or hidden ideas of seeing into the future, that is teleology which is not considered in science even as a trend in a certain emergence. But in the natural idea of dimensions it is not clear to me, that is I cannot predict what string theoy as euclidean geometry might- that inside the quasars or black hole like objects we could have say more elements, a sort of 9 dimensional matter with there own complexity of some sort of nucleus not such an extension of the core 256 electron general structure. In this sense the differentiation of speculative theory is alive and well and will emerge less primitive and more concrete, just as the sects do in the end promote the universal faith from some beginning.

      • Orwin O'Dowd says:

        Since I do expect gravity waves to be detected (Newton sensed the tidal effect of the Moon in physiology) let me say that space-time is not the all-encompassing framing of events that many now take it to be, so literalizing Kant’s critical idealism in a very unhelpful way. Here are two killer new math results from the frontier:

        It seems the Casimir force in the vacuum is absolutely delocalized – locality simply does not apply there. This, and not gravity or space-time, is the absolute background.

        On the point of not being rude, choose your focus by all means and ignore hat is not relevant, but it diminishes one to dismiss persons. Here’s Julian Barbour doing something truly creative, taking Mach’s Principle back through Poincare into a dynamics of pure shape, a Platonic dream that will outlast all the nationalist hooting of the next big discovery moment…

        P.S. Reality was downsized and outsourced to TV…

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Orwin, that second link is the same as the first, did you intend that? All I know is that all this is giving me a headache. You say reality has been downsized and outsources to TV, I can certainly echo that sentiment… my major longstanding problem is the people who are generating this trash that shows up on most of the TVs.

      • Orwin O'Dowd says:

        Oops, that’s Barbour at:

        I’m excited to see Poincare back in the game like this: he was an idealist to the last, and taken up by Piaget, so here’s a formalism of subjectivity emerging, which can change the metaphysical landscape. As for the TV, The Hunger Games felt like an historic protest, the worm turning, in synch with 2012. Now there’s the frozen moment, the stand-off, and then its time to execute, just go the way you’ve always wanted to…
        ,,,,which doesn’t prevent the shared reality of the Internet being a royal pain sometimes. I’ve resorted to blocking jstor’s cookies: they can keep their private academic conversations to themselves.

      • Wes Hansen says:

        Ahem, hack, cough, spit . . .

        You know I haven’t personally seen any WIMPs lately, at least not the type to which you refer; however, the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search collaboration (which includes a butt load of researchers) would seem to have had better luck ( It would appear that WIMPs are even more wimpier than theory predicted . . .

      • Robert L. Oldershaw says:

        Don’t choke Wes. Especially since the hyped hints of a “WIMP sighting” you mention are most likely the latest addition to a long string of false positives.

        Want to bet on that? Any sum you like.

        Diccrete Scale Relativity

      • Robert L. Oldershaw says:

        From my head. Abstract pipe dreams are dandy, but definitive predictions are science.

      • Hey Robert L. Oldershaw!

        How about the prediction I gave you at viXra forum? 🙂

      • Orwin O'Dowd says:

        Stephen, here’s an important lead on the economic problem:
        Yasuhito Tanaka Applied Mathematics e-notes 9(2009) 1-9.
        Under persistent inflation or excess demand, the price equilibrium may become undecidable. Merchants also find it easier to raise prices, so you have here the ancient burden of mercantilism: the politics of over-consumption, the eternal hype of conquest and empire, now hyping out into space….

        Isn’t superstring just the relativistic analogue?

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Orwin, very cool, I shall poke around. In the mean-time, remember the Lambert-W footpath? looks like a brilliant fellow found an answer, as I knew would happen, if I just posed the question 🙂 anyway turns out the Lambert-W function corresponds to maxima of the Fermi-Dirac distribution of which condensates of might constitute galaxies 🙂 and it also corresponds to exact solutions of the double-well Dirac delta function model for equal charges. Also, get this, I flipped on the TV last night to watch a little Alien Mysteries on Discovering America… and lol.. what do I see in the preview while flipping channels? . Anyway, if you get a chance, check out and see the episode Brownsburg, IN March 30, 2009… and uhhh, that’s all I gotta say, is, just watch it. Now I’m wondering.. THAT’s is the impetus to get all this sorted out.. Hawking might be right.. these fuckers might be out to actually eat our lunch! *shudder*. I guess it’s a huge universe… some monks won’t walk on grass for fear of killing microbes and some maybe don’t care at all … so perhaps these visitors might similarly operate according to a variety of principles….

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        I also see does this fall under the purvey of science?

      • Wes Hansen says:

        This comes from Bo Fowler’s “More Notes from the Autopsy of God” blog (; perhaps it will help to assuage your anxiety:

        “The girl was swimming in the lake one morning when the firefighting plane scooped up water. The girl was dropped on the forest fire raging a few kilometres from the lake. She didn’t help.”

        I mean, perhaps the aliens are just taking steps to douse what they consider to be a potentially runaway fire. I mean, humans seem to have no qualms about contributing to the extinction of massive numbers of species. A recently re-elected Texas congressman, Mac Thornberry, told the Houston Chronicle that his goal this term was to gut the Endangered Species Act ( He said it’s time we put emphasis on the human species for a change. Oh really . . .

        Personally, I’m like the monks; I just worry about my own karma and keep my focus on the eternal or infinite duration. You know, I’ve engaged in just about every mind-altering activity there is, from LSD-25 to flesh suspension, at least twice, and the most rewarding experience I’ve ever been fortunate enough to experience multiple times was the result of a consistent dedication to Pranayama (; now that I know will assuage your anxiety!

        Finally, here’s a little something from the mysterious Hopi peoples to keep in mind:

        “Tse Che Nako, Thought Woman the Spider, is sitting in her room thinking up a good story. I’m telling you the story she is thinking.”

        In other words, free will is an illusion so just sit back and enjoy the tale! I’ve found that, personally, it often helps to view life as a wonderful game of Exquisite Corpse, bling, bling . . .

        When Salvador Dali first met Gala he was immediately smitten. In an attempt to impress her he shaved all the hair off his body, including eyebrows, and rubbed himself down with the pungent dung of a local ram. Obviously he was successful. Maybe something similar will work with aliens . . .

      • Orwin O'Dowd says:

        Stephen, Lambert was there in the background of Peirce’s early work on photometry. But I just learned, pouring over these dreadful Google photocopies of old issues of The Monist, that photoimages are darkened by the acid rain as much as shadow, but your eye compensates for that, because physiology is pH buffered. Peirce didn’t know that and thought the habit of adaptation involved was native to the universe….
        …..but all those Victorian intellectuals were Illuminists of one kind or another, in the shadow of St Augustine and the colonial culture, which then went under dreadfully after the Civil War and worse, the Spanish-American War. So the Aliens are just Maya dispossessed, the spirit of the land alienated from itself. Isabel Allende has a dry joke about that, “Innes of my soul/sole”, the downtrodden blues of the street-walker/hawker….

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Wes, I’m nearly a certified yoga instructor.. finished 9 out of 10 classes.. got stage fright when it came time for the last one. So, yeah, I guess all the tools are there already, just do it, as it does. Also the fact that sexual interest between yogis was discouraged… what..the.. f**k.. anyway, very interesting stuff otherwise. I sometimes really enjoy getting into chats with these folks who answer the phones, more often than not they are entirely unaware seemingly of many things, can it hurt to raise a protest once in a while?

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Orwin, very interesting, for some reason I spent some time on Clifford algebras when I was working at a ridiculously boring job in the past. Turns out to have some application to recent developments in spintronics. I guess. For what its worth.

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Free Energy, Value, and Attractors

        This paper comprises five sections. The first considers adaptive behaviour in terms of equilibria and random attractors, which we attempt to link later to concepts in behavioural economics and optimal decision or game theory [8, 9]. This section considers autopoietic (self-creating) attractors to result from minimising the conditional entropy (average surprise) of an agent’s states through action. However, agents can only infer hidden states of the environment given their sensory states, which means agents must minimise the surprise associated with sensations. The second section shows how agents can do this using an upper (free energy) bound on sensory surprise. This leads to a free energy formulation of well-known inference and learning schemes based on generative models of the world [10–13]. In brief, the imperatives established in the first section are satisfied when action and inference minimise free energy. However, the principle of minimising free energy also applies to the form of the generative model entailed by an agent (its formal priors). These encode prior beliefs about the transitions or motion of hidden states and ensuing attractors, which action tries to fulfil. These priors or policies are considered from a dynamical perspective in the remaining sections. Section three considers some universal policies, starting with the Helmholtz decomposition and introducing the notion of value, detailed balance, and divergence-free flow. The final two sections look at fixed-point and itinerant polices, respectively.

      • Orwin O'Dowd says:

        Stephen – that Value-Attractors article is interesting, but its just where value theory got stuck about 1920. One has to factor in both potential and free energy, and both reward-seeking and risk-aversion. I’ve found some useful leads on this whole problem, which runs way back in classical science. Mainly: Peirce Information (intention x extension) in astronomy is equal to *twice the area of a Kepler orbit: which then suggests that the fabulous Beckenstein-Hawking information is missing half the picture!! Is the missing information in the spin, perhaps? But that aligns the spin with potential energy and fields,which is, I think, the point that Thomson and Tait missed on the trail that Kimmo has re-opened.

        Anycase, bodies aren’t just made of atoms: they incorporate fields from those sources. And a Ptolemaic epicycle with negative spin predicts a … Kepler orbit!!! That’s right: the two theories are formally completely equivalent!!!! Only the spin factor in Ptolemy has this two-sidedness to it, a complex potential, if you like. And that opens the door on many still higher subtleties and complexities…

    • Stephen Crowley says:

      I meant phones of these political people or whatever

      • Stephen, an interesting article on “free energy…behaviorism… neuroscience…and so on… a wordy and odd view of sociology and statistics in a way that is indeed laughable and obscure as almost a wide and clear view but very much is it even beautiful to ask if it is art? Anyway, after reading it I thought you might like my blog just posted between the poetry stuff— Diorama and Panorama… and Energy as Poetry… I wonder if you can see this view or even show where it is in error if you want. It is about general organization or theory in the universe.

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Edgar, it is laughable and absurd.. but enjoyable to read.. so, I consider it art.. a creation on its own independent of any patent or technical implementation or anything like that. Interesting stuff on your blog, I’ll read and respond later after I’ve had time to absorb the meanings 🙂 (or attempt to, if such a thing is possible)

  19. Dirk Pons says:

    Thanks Phil, great review! Very nicely written. I enjoyed reading it.

    Wish-list: The only thing to add to your review would be a list of all the various time theories on vixra, as a contrary perspective. And to show that there are many other ideas about *time* that do not enjoy the prominence that a famous scientist like Lee brings to anything he puts to paper. You have a theory, and so do I and many others, and we can celebrate the diversity of ideas that vixra permits.

    My professional background is engineering design, and one of the important lessons from that area is that if you want to achieve a breakthrough, then you need lots of different ideas. It’s the diversity of concepts that is important, not the mana/reputation of the originating person. And its the same with team composition: heterogeneous teams outperform homogeneous ones.

    This is not to dismiss Lee’s work in any way, but merely to point out that the diverisity of concepts on vixra is a strength, and in the way innovation typically works we just as likely, perhaps even moreso, to find a breakthrough concept on the vixra site as anywhere else.

    thank you

  20. Robert L. Oldershaw says:

    I saw nothing that I would call a scientific prediction.

    But NO, I do not want to discuss the matter further.

  21. Robert L. Oldershaw says:

    Last line from Alan Lightman’s review of Smolin’s new book in the NY Times Book Review section of the Sunday paper.

    “For if we must appeal to the existence of other universes – unknown and unknowable – to explain out universe, then science has progressed into a cul-de-sac with no scientific escape.”

    Science 1 ; pseudo-science 0

  22. Phil, I would think all this comes together… the nature of conservation laws, symmetry, and information-complexity theory… I have some extensive and more general ideas for this of which it may be wise for our wider views when we submit specific papers…Noether is trivial even when the K group is the most and the least interesting one if our present view is trivial… Some of may want to let me know what you may see or think- including those who have a lesser view of consciousness issues. Some of the names and theorems cited in these post mean little to me… Oh and Robert Shaw… the opposite is true also if not the only one- that the issue of multiverse or manyverse is the way to resolve things and escape the paradoxes… why do we truncatred the truth that is obvious in our imaginations?

    But forgive me, I have that feeling, that in the past does not last that I have to wait until the universe of discourse catches up to me again… it is time for me to put the physical designs into being while I myself race to catch up with this arbitrary cloud technology. The trick is to grow with out outgrowing our selves or each other… only in that sense over time is something said also conserved. See Newton’s Dream in my pesla,blogspot. com

    • Stephen Crowley says:

      Don’t be fooled by the cloud hype. It’s just a bunch of standard computers patched together with ethernet and fiber optics. I do like the sentiment about growing and not out-growing… the search for invariants?

  23. Orwin O'Dowd says:

    Minkowski was warning in 1908 that Special Relativity was off-track, and Einstein never figured. He was the rigorous phenomenologist, but now gets pasted with the gripe about space-time in the image of Einstein’s theocratic Realism, ghosting Tielhard de Chardan, the last Victorian illuminist.

    As I suspected, it all has to do with the inner product in Whitehead’s Universal Algebra (on a trail opened by Grassmann). There are Progressive and Regressive forms of the inner product, and the Positivists opted hard for the former, on their road from Hume’s skepticism through Kant to Objectivity. But the regressive inner product does matrix contraction which is just where General Relativity got stuck on the Bianchi Identity.

    David Hestenes had opened the whole issue up, taking Clifford algebra as the standard for Universal Algebra, and finds himself in the trap of Bohmian determinism….

    But others following are more creative (or less Illuminist):


    To me, this is the pay-dirt, and Phill’s infinite ladder must be a view of the Kaluza-Klein hierarchy. See:

  24. […] can’t really review the book because at £60 it is a bit too expensive. Compare this with the recent book by Lee Smolin which I did review after paying £12.80 for it. These two books would have exactly the same set of […]

  25. Jonathan Kerr says:

    Because we’re very stuck on the questions about time, there’s a need to look at what we know for sure. That way it’s possible to narrow things down. People make statements about time without referring closely enough to the clues.

    Some people are moving the puzzle around between similar versions of it, making one thing emergent, another fundamental, and looking at the mathematics for answers. This kind of approach may not work. It’s a conceptual puzzle, initially at least. We must brush up on our conceptual thinking, which we rather put to one side a few decades ago.

    What do we know for sure? The Rietdijk-Putnam argument is a rigourous proof that Minkowski spacetime leads to block time. If the R-P argument is right you get major contradictions, such as the future already existing in SR, but not yet existing in QM due to the fundamental unpredictability (unless in a hidden variables approach).

    If the Rietdijk-Putnam argument is wrong, then it becomes very interesting. Being a rigourous proof, one of the assumptions it depends on must be wrong, and there are only a few. Simultaneity across large distances (beyond the light cone) is a good possibility. We know time is very local in other ways, and that ‘now’ moments can’t be related at all between frames. But the single idea that the R-P argument depends on arises from long distance simultaneity. It’s the idea that an event can be in the past for one observer, but in the future for another. Block time depends on that one untestable idea.

    What led to block time was a set of assumptions about time – ie. a set of assumptions about something we don’t yet understand. Unlike SR, which has been extremely well confirmed by experiment, spacetime hasn’t been confirmed. The most worrying of Minkowski’s implied assumptions was the last one, which goes “…and this is the entire list of differences between time and the other three dimensions, there are no others”. As time is different from the other dimensions, it’s very hard to know if there are also other differences.

    I’ve listed the clues about time in a 2012 FQXi essay (stayed in the top 25 for a few weeks), and have a book coming out soon, also a paper.
    The book tries to explore the four or five main avenues that lead off from where we’re standing. All look blocked, but it shows that some avenues are more unavoidably blocked than others. Dirk Pons said that when we’re stuck on an issue, we should look at as wide a diversity of ideas as possible, and says that viXra helps this approach – I agree. Keep up the good exchange of ideas, and don’t forget the conceptual side – we need the wood not the trees.

  26. Jonathan Kerr says:

    Btw, I know what Phil means when he says:

    “The message Smolin wants to get across in that time is “real” and not an “illusion”. Already I am having problems with the language. When people start to talk about whether time is real I hear in my brain the echo of Samuel Johnson’s well quoted retort “I refute it thus!” OK, you can’t kick time but you can kick a clock and time is real. The real question is “Is time fundamental or emergent?” and Smolin does get round to this more appropriate terminology in the end.”

    But where something we all seem to observe (motion through time) is widely being taken as a psychological illusion, then its reality genuinely is an issue. Particularly as we have what has been taken for 50 years as a rigorous ‘proof’ that it doesn’t exist at all, except in our perception. And particularly given that it seems to vary in speed locally, and the speed differences leave age differences between objects behind them. And particularly given that the laws of physics depend on this unexplained motion, I’d say – well, its reality is an issue. But there’s also the question of whether it’s fundamental or emergent.

    George F R Ellis has argued very convincingly that there must be a ‘real flow of time’ somehow, and has shown other approaches not to work.
    He and Smolin are among a growing number of us who are questioning standard spacetime and block time, and the widely held view that this apparent motion literally doesn’t exist.

  27. J. the illusion if any of such abstract motion or abstract time in some absolute sense applies as well to what we think of as at rest on some analogous level such as particles that do not recognize velocity that seems zero. Such motion or time may correspond to some idea of emergence or a concrete flow just as real so is in a sense beyond the issue, In terms of binary notation count of coordinates a change of all of them, zeros into ones and conversely results in a given dimension as a diagonal motion across the orthogon as a real irreducible phenomenon. A change in one coordinate results in a motion in that space dimension. No change in a coordinate is the dimension or the system at rest but such a structure may move with respect to adjacent dimensions. This call quasic abstract motion which considered objects greater than galaxies (in 1963 or so) as if ideally a crystalline set of points on such dimensional orthogons- which with nothing in the literature I gave up theory for awhile until the discovery of quasars. Now, why is the universe varying from such an ideal description- that the issue in a less rigid view of patterns we try to understand as physics, This idea proved very useful in describing the nature of gene code reading in 73 or so where such coordinates seem more complex than our more simplified ideas of time and motion, space, as physics,,, but in the end these views stand together as part of a wider theory of our eternally stable yet evolving universe as far as we can see at the moment.

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