Lee Smolin describes a new model of the universe (w/ Video)

May 27, 2013, Institute of Physics
Lee Smolin describes a new model of the universe

Time is real, the laws of physics can change and our universe could be involved in a cosmic natural selection process in which new universes are born from black holes, renowned physicist and author Lee Smolin said in a talk at the Institute of Physics on 22 May.

His views are contrary to the widely-accepted model of the universe in which time is an illusion and the are fixed, as held by Einstein and many contemporary as well as some ancient philosophers, Prof. Smolin said. Acknowledging that his statements were provocative, he explained how he had come to change his mind about the nature of reality and had moved away from the idea that the assumptions that apply to observations in a laboratory can be extrapolated to the whole universe.

The debate had sometimes taken a metaphysical turn, he said, in which the idea that time is not real had led some to conclude that everything that humans value – such as free will, imagination and agency – is also an illusion. "Is it any wonder that so many people don't buy science? This is what is at stake," he said.

Prof. Smolin's talk drew on his new book, Time Reborn: from the crisis of physics to the future of the universe. He is a founding faculty member at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Toronto.

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5 / 5 (6) May 27, 2013
> The debate had sometimes taken a metaphysical turn, he said, in which the idea that time is not real had led some to conclude that everything that humans value – such as free will, imagination and agency – is also an illusion.

The problem is that this kind of science has to be vulgarized in such a way that it often makes it look ridiculous. Yet behind it there usually are solid maths. Scientists should really avoid saying for instance that time is an illusion because it's too easy to interpret that in an hocus-pocus way.

What's an illusion anyway? Is color an illusion? We sure do experience it, yet it's only the result of the interaction of an electromagnetic wave with an electron. It's not so simple to divide things between those which are "real" and those which are "an illusion".
5 / 5 (1) May 27, 2013
I forgot to add that this debate is not really new. Thousands of years ago Democritus already wrote that everything we feel is an illusion:

" That is, the objects of sense are supposed to be real and it is customary to regard them as such, but in truth they are not. Only the atoms and the void are real "
2.5 / 5 (13) May 27, 2013
Smolin is a brilliant physicist, but this stuff, though it may be fun to ponder, is just a tad unphysical. He seems that he wants to join that camp he so often has railed against, the string theorists, in producing "physics" that are beyond experimental test.
1.2 / 5 (21) May 27, 2013
Pseudo-scientific metaphysical mumbo jumbo, the real illusion is Smolin convincing the thinking challenged he is brilliant.
1 / 5 (19) May 27, 2013
In dense aether model the only tangible/observable physical reality are the density gradients of aether, which we are calling the space-time (and which are formed with many other tiny gradients too). When such a gradient has a flat shape like the water surface, we can distinguish the space and time directions in it, i.e. the dimensions. Is the time and space defined in this way "real"? I don't see any testable prediction resulting from such a claim - for me the time is rather defined arbitrarily. But the geometry itself provides many testable predictions and postdictions: it explains for example, why the time dimensions have an "arrow", whereas the space dimensions not, why we can travel across space easily, but not across time (or just in limited extend).
1 / 5 (18) May 27, 2013
In addition, the mainstream physics distinguishes many time arrows: thermodynamic, cosmological, radiative, causal, weak or quantum time arrows. Is some time arrow more general than others? Can these particular arrows contradict each other? It just means, that the time concept is relative for physicists by itself (at least up to certain extent) - because these arrows aren't necessarily equivalent: if they would, then the physicists wouldn't define them so many...
2.2 / 5 (13) May 27, 2013
Smolin has always inclined towards speculative and questionable ideas, to put it lightly. And media loves this stuff. But is there some scientific substance behind this? I doubt there is much that will survive the test of time.
3.7 / 5 (6) May 27, 2013
I want an entire 'universe' of whatever Lee's Smokin' !
1 / 5 (16) May 27, 2013
But is there some scientific substance behind this?
Actually yes, but it's incomplete and biased from perspective of dense aether model. For example, our Universe really appears like sitting inside of inverted black hole in AWT. The FLRW metric used in Big Bang cosmology appears like the Schwarzchild metric but it's inverted!. In addition, the similar metric we can observe even at the completely flat water surface if we would observe it with its own ripples. It's scattering effect and we aren't sitting inside of some particular place of the universe, inside the black hole the less. If nothing else, such a hole would be "white".
1 / 5 (17) May 27, 2013
Lee Smolin is essentially relativist (he's involved in double relativity and similar phenomenological modifications of special relativity). In general relativity all objects collapse into black hole with no mercy. But I do prefer the perspective balanced with quantum mechanics, which predicts instead, all objects should expand into infinity. Because we are living between the scale of relativity and quantum mechanics, where both theories are compensating mutually, we should consider time symmetric models where possible. For example in dense aether model we are living inside of space-time, which is formed with two mutually intersecting/penetrating gradients of aether density. We can see it all around us: the objects smaller than some threshold (which is very close to the wavelength of CMBR) tend to expand, whereas the larger objects tend to coalesce with their gravity.
1 / 5 (10) May 27, 2013
We model our reality on our latest technology.
In the age of steam it was a mechanical universe.
In the electrical age the brain was a switchboard.
In the age of virtual games, our models posit a virtual reality.
As the carbon age ends we will model our reality on rocks again. (Remember Baal?)
1 / 5 (17) May 27, 2013
Therefore in dense aether model we are living in pair of mutually compensating entropic time arrows and from human perspective the Universe remains steady state, random and its entropy remains constant. This model for example predicts, that in the light shorter than the wavelength of CMBR our universe will appear expanding, but in radiowaves it will appear collapsing instead - and this is testable prediction with compare to claim, that the time is "real". The concept of two time arrows is supported with some mainstream theorists. For example the K-theory (the mutation of string theory) supports pair of time arrows, another theorists supporting multiple time arrows too (2, 3).
1 / 5 (17) May 27, 2013
Another conceptual shift is represented with theories, which are claiming, that the time is slowing down or that the time disappears from our Universe. If something disappears in observable way, then we could quantify its existence and make it measurable - isn't it true? The water surface model of space-time makes this insight more illustrative again. At the distance all surface ripples are scattered, so that the distant "young" universe appears time-like, i.e. composed of particles. If we extrapolate this trend to the future, we could get into conclusion, that the time will disappear from it completely. Which is indeed correct only from quantum perspective, which is not relevant to anthropogenic perceptive.
1 / 5 (3) May 27, 2013
Actually, as I have mentioned on other posts, I believe Time is real but unlike Prof. Smolin I don't think the constants of nature change. The human 'illusion of time' in my theory, is that dimension of Time that we can perceive while the other time dimensions remain 'outside' (analogous to say extra space dimensions). But then I wonder whether or not I could call the result 'Time'. Whatever, it might be, it could actually turn out to be more fundamental such that em, 'waves'/'particles' etc are composed of it.
But I appreciate that what I'm suggesting is merely another continuation question.
3.3 / 5 (21) May 27, 2013
Pseudo-scientific metaphysical mumbo jumbo, the real illusion is Smolin convincing the thinking challenged he is brilliant.

This from one with a history of posting pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo? :rolleyes:
vlaaing peerd
5 / 5 (2) May 28, 2013
it's all nice and speculative and all 'n' stuff, but on what grounds does he base this theory? Is there any derivation from relativity that tells him that time should exist or not?

No offense to Mr Smolin as he is a respected scientist, but even I could make an arguable theory on universes. It's the reason why he thinks it is like that that interests me.

IMO science doesn't seem to be able to cook up a good theory of the universe(s), there are too many different versions and most of themare way out of verifiable range. Something that mr Smolin himself thinks is the major shortcoming of String theory, yet even that is able to describe aspects of the universe quite narrowly within the confinement of it's theory.

In that perspective, it would also be nice to know exactly what made Mr Smolin made these assumptions about the universe according to the theories he follows.
1 / 5 (8) May 28, 2013
The relativity is experimentally proved, with time changing with velocity. For some body moving at the speed of the photons, emitted since the beginning of our universe, 13,6 trillions years ago, the apparent time spend is nearly zero, and our universe looks very young, Thus the time is variable, also as function of gravitation strength. In particular near a black hole, it can becomes infinite, and thus time,even real, is quite variable, and thus with real illusions,
Only experiments can give us informations on the reality of our universe and even prove the reality of other universes, that we cannot access,, like the parallel universes created by decoherence of the quantum mechanic, for exemple, with the realization of a quantum computer, calculating on a very large number of coherent parallel micro-worlds, allowing calculations completely impossible in a classical single world,.
1 / 5 (5) May 28, 2013
Humans stop short of nothing, not even reality. To create illusion.
Cloaking comes to mind.
3 / 5 (1) May 28, 2013
Yes, dedereu if I were a photon (impossible but let's 'thought experiment') travel from A to B would take no time at all, and if I bounced off B and went on to C maintaining v=c, then on to D and so on...according to my 'proper time' I would visit different places without taking any time at all...is that correct?
In that respect a photon's 'clock' always reads 0 and perhaps a photon would find Time an illusion since it doesn't experience it.
But wouldn't the photon lose energy during the journey and it would it not be this loss that would impart a sense of time?
Going to put my bullet proof vest on now...
4.8 / 5 (6) May 28, 2013
What a book sell! As the saying goes, if you can't do the science, you can write books.

Smolin is fringe, which is why he is "renowned". Here is what a non-fringe physicist (Sean Carroll) says:

"[Explains why finetuning is the problem] ... as long as one swallows one giant fine-tuning: the extreme low entropy of the early universe. Given that posit, we know of nothing in physics or cosmology or biology or psychology that doesn't fit into our basic understanding of time.

But the early universe is a real puzzle. Is it puzzling enough, as Smolin suggests, to demand a radical re-thinking of how we conceive of time? He summarizes his view by saying "time is real," but by "time" he really means "the arrow of time" or "an intrinsic directedness of physical evolution," and by "real" he really means "fundamental rather than emergent." [snip]

5 / 5 (3) May 28, 2013

"This is contrary to everything we think we understand about physics, everything we think we have learned about the operation of the universe, and every experiment and observation we have ever performed."

"With the (undeniably important) exceptions of the initial-conditions problem and quantum gravity, our understanding of time is quite good. But he doesn't cast his work as an attempt to (merely) understand the early universe, but as a dramatic response to a crisis in physics. It comes across as a bit of overkill." [Goes on to criticize Smolin for using philosophy instead of science.]

[ http://www.prepos...n-again/ ]
5 / 5 (4) May 28, 2013
@natello, Valeria et cetera sockpuppets:

"Aether" has been rejected over a century ago. This is a science news site, not a site for sockpuppeting and crackpotting.
5 / 5 (1) May 28, 2013
@LarryD: Good questions!

You are essentially correct, the problem is that you mix different mechanics, special relativity for a particle and general relativity for redshift. Carroll, that I cited in another comment, would say that GR doesn't preserve energy globally and in that sense have no time globally. (Energy and time are classical conjugates, without one you don't have the other in thermodynamics.)

But there are papers that shows you can preserve energy globally in cosmology without running into the problems with GR having no global energy concept. Ironically most physicists would admit a global time, as the universe horizons expand with universe expansion.

But the most general way to look at time is with quantum field theory, which combines quantum mechanics with special relativity. [Disclaimer: Have neither studied GR nor QFT.] When you can study how particles, natural ripples in a particle quantum field, interacts with other fields.

5 / 5 (1) May 28, 2013

In a classical field, the near field processes of an antenna (atoms that photons reflect against), happens at lower than c speed. Meaning a reflected particle senses time then, or rather that the quantum EM field participates broadly (not just one photon in the near field) with time.

Of course, the whole universe is filled with the field through the field theory vacuum. So it isn't local, only the ripples are local and have no time progression in SR. Here I think is where QFT and GR combines to predict time.
5 / 5 (3) May 28, 2013
@natello: - All privileged reference frames, all forms of 'aether', was rejected when special relativity was found to be true. This is high school stuff, knowing how to generalize from one experiment to all what is tested. SR is the basis of all modern physics, claiming it isn't as in claiming viable alternatives is crackpot.

Seeing how this is a science news site, we should restrict to peer-reviewed science.

- Vacuum "dense", in what sense?

It isn't very dense as energy density, low cosmological constant.

And today the entropy density of the universe sits in the cosmological event horizon. According to Lineweaver & Egan it is ~ 10^40 times the CMB entropy density.

5 / 5 (2) May 28, 2013
[ctd] And the early universe was _denser_ than a black hole (holographic bound) in that sense:

"During this time interval the radiation within the CEH contained more entropy than the CEH itself. This happens because the holographic bound is not expected to hold on volumes much larger than the Hubble sphere. One can see in Fig. 4 that for very early times, the event horizon is much larger than the Hubble sphere. Any volume larger than the Hubble sphere is more dense than a black hole the same size."

[ http://www.mso.an...isv2.pdf ]

Meaning Smolin is incorrect as for entropic reasons the universe can't sit in a BH.

- GR is based on covariant _divergence_ of energy, energy-momentum then balancing space-time curvature. [ http://en.wikiped...quations ]

It is well known that this leads to a lot of various "energy conditions" that at some time or other can be used, but I think the nice Wiki article on that is gone.

5 / 5 (1) May 28, 2013
[ctd] "Energy is not conserved" [ http://www.prepos...nserved/ ]

- "Circular reasoning".

As I'm sure I've noted here many times already, empiricism is _based_ on "circular reasoning". Hypothesis testing defines the observational constraints and the observation together, same goes for theory vs observations.

It is the process of using that which is non-circular in the philosophic sense, but it is the aim for our best methods.

The problem is that philosophy isn't fit to describe science. For another basic example, they can't describe absolute facts based on their relative (to an axiom system) truth values. There is simply no axiom system that describes empirics, and so no known logic system applies. (Which doesn't mean rational thinking doesn't apply, natch.)

Drop philosophy, and the confusion it brings to science disappears.
1 / 5 (4) May 28, 2013
Drop philosophy, and the confusion it brings to science disappears. - TLOM

When nothing is impossible you bolster the religious as well as realit-y/ies.

Physics team entangles photons that never coexisted in time.

"The idea seems not just counterintuitive, but impossible—that photons could be entangled that never existed at the same time—but that's just what the team in Germany, led by Joachim von Zanthier, suggested. In this new effort, the team in Israel, led by Hagai Eisenberg, has proven it's possible by actually doing it."

Read more at: http://phys.org/n...ted.html#jCp

Inspector Spacetime
1 / 5 (4) May 29, 2013
The black hole idea has been around for decades. While it may be useful to study black holes to learn more about our universe, our universe is non-rotating. Our region neither resembles the interior nor the exterior of a black hole. Smolin's position will have the expected effect of shaking things up, sparking some controversy and discussion. And maybe that is the point.
1 / 5 (9) May 29, 2013
Vacuum "dense", in what sense? It isn't very dense as energy density, low cosmological constant
The water surface appears nearly empty for surface ripples as well. Yet it's formed with dense water full of Brownian noise. The dense aether model therefore provides the explanation of so-called vacuum catastrophe - a deep disproportion between values of vacuum density predicted from perspective of quantum mechanics and relativity theory.
Vacuum "dense", in what sense?
In the sense, it spreads the energy via foamy density fluctuations in transverse waves like the condensing supercritical fluid - not via longitudinal waves like the sparse aether of pre-einsteinian era.
1.4 / 5 (11) May 29, 2013
Our region neither resembles the interior nor the exterior of a black hole.
As I explained, the geometry of universe appears rather like the black hole inside-out, i.e. like the hypothetical white hole. Illustratively speaking, our universe appears like the landscape under the fog - we are always at the center of its visibility area, whereever we move on. The black holes appear like the dense blobs of foam residing in it.
Inspector Spacetime
1 / 5 (5) May 29, 2013
But the inside-out black hole you are speaking of is still somehow the result of a black hole, according to Smolin. Black holes form from stars. Unless conservation laws are suspended or violated, black holes will retain their rotations. They will also have magnetic fields. So if a white hole is somehow created somewhere else as the "other side" of the formation of a black hole, it should also possess these characteristics. The only universe available for study is the one we inhabit. Does it rotate or have a global magnetic field?
1 / 5 (12) May 29, 2013
So, are we in a black hole that's in another black hole which itself is in a black hole, ad infinitum? Actually I believe we are 11 levels down, if not, then 42.
1.3 / 5 (14) May 29, 2013
From Occam razor perspective it would be meaningful to consider infinite number of nested levels and to ask, which number of levels would remain directly observable with respect to geometric constrains. IMO just three levels of nesting (which corresponds the number of particle generations) would make the fourth level nearly indistinguishable from background noise.
2.5 / 5 (13) May 29, 2013
From Occam razor perspective it would be meaningful to consider infinite number of nested levels and to ask, which number of levels would remain directly observable with respect to geometric constrains. IMO just three levels of nesting (which corresponds the number of particle generations) would make the fourth level nearly indistinguishable from background noise.

Well Mr Occam was doing pretty good till ya came along Zeph. I would truly love to witness a discussion between the two of ya.
2.4 / 5 (14) May 30, 2013
I'm so sick of hearing about how dense aether model applies to every article on this site.

Seriously, what is wrong with your life? Who spends their life sitting on a mainstream physics website and blabs about some theory, crackpot or not? What is WRONG with you?

Do you even have any friends? If so, have you ever noticed that they all get that look like "humor the poor mentally challenged guy who I'm hanging out with so he doesn't commit suicide or something" every time you start talking about how the foam on your pint or the way that dart flew through the air confirms dense aether model?

Seek help... Seriously.
2.4 / 5 (14) May 30, 2013
At least I can understand the weird indian guy and the vacuum mechanics guy, they are just trying to get more hits for their site. You appear to be some kind of obsessed sycophant who has to comment on phys.org or the voices come back.
1.3 / 5 (13) May 30, 2013
You appear to be some kind of obsessed sycophant who has to comment on phys.org
This is a nonsense, as the sycophancy is obsequious flattery and I'm avoiding all personal comments here systematically. BTW This is not a social club - if you want to write/post something off-topic, don't post it here - or you will be reported. If you want to write/post something personal, contact the moderators and/or use the PM functionality of this forum. Or you will be reported, again. I'm just following the rules here.
2.5 / 5 (13) May 31, 2013
I don't care dude. Believe it or not, some people can go without posting here.

And every post you make is off topic. You just blab about AWT regardless of the article at hand. But again, I don't care enough to even report you. I might try, but it's obvious that you've been doing this, getting banned, making new accounts, etc for quite some time so there's no point.

I have a new and improved version of that text that I'll be posting every time you make me roll my eyes though. Just so you know. And you're right about sycophant! I already changed that to proselyte. You'll see soon, I'm sure.
2.5 / 5 (13) May 31, 2013
LOL I'll just do what you do, I'll prefix my BS:

In AWT, ValeriaT is a scourge on this comment section and since the moderators obviously don't care to keep up with his changing IP addresses and email addresses we can remove whatever mechanism keeps him posting by pointing out what a tool he is at every opportunity to take away the reinforcement. Imagine the ripples in a pond. They explain this perfectly.

See, on topic!
2.3 / 5 (3) May 31, 2013
Hey come on you guys, lay off the heavy stuff eh? Requiem, if you don't like someones post ignore them.
AT, AWT etc may be a century old but it hasn't completely disappeared yet. I am not an AT person myself but I am reading QAT at the present just so I can see what you guys are arguing about. After this I will begin reading S.Rado's books to get a more general idea about why a rebirth attempt is being made at all.
Requiem, don't forget that Newton and others favoured AT and their efforts form the backbone of our society today. You may reject AT but I bet you still use the maths etc that emerged from it. No shame in that at all, if Einstein did it...and so on.
You may not favour SST either but even its critics don't deny that it is pushing frontiers of theoretical physics a bit further.
Just close your eyes, breath in, count to 10 and...
2.1 / 5 (11) May 31, 2013
LarryD: I believe that you have misperceived both my qualm and intent.

I have no problem with AT/AWT. I honestly don't know enough about the subject matter to draw a conclusion for myself, although I've read some pretty damning critiques from very smart people, and since I don't subscribe to the "mainstream science" conspiracy theory, I figure there's a good reason that it isn't being taken seriously by the community at large.

My problem lies with this strange pest that won't stop blabbering about it in these comments. Furthermore, it seems to enjoy arguing for the simple sake of arguing. It's annoying, and it's just downright strange. Note that this is completely aside from the validity of the theory.
2.1 / 5 (11) May 31, 2013
It would be equally as strange and annoying if somebody came in here and pointed out how newtonian physics applies to every even remotely tangential topic, then argued with anybody willing to dispute them until they stopped replying.

Actually, that would still be equally as strange, but less annoying. At least you can disprove newtonian physics.
1 / 5 (1) May 31, 2013
Very well chaps, if you persist in AT/negAT approach I hope one of you will be able to answer this. If we reduce GR to a geometric theory then when we talk about and draw the famous 'rubber sheet' analogy just what are layman (like me) expected to understand. On many occasion I have to correct my friends on their almost literal interpretation. For a start the rubber sheet is 2D but the gravitional effect is 3D, that is, the warping of S-T happens all around the sphere that is causing the G warping.
So what is it that is acutally being warped? Don't tell me it's S-T because that is not an answer, just an excuse for 'I don't know', like so many questions, scientists tend to say 'it just is'.
I guess the AT camp will say the aether is being warped, SST camp may use Branes, so what does that leave for the current mainsteam accepted view.
'Standard' cosmologists often refer to the 'fabric' of the universe, so what is this 'fabric'?
Oh I get it, it's the Higgs field...
1 / 5 (1) May 31, 2013
...oh wait a minute...it's a 'sea' of virtual particles popping in and out of exist...
To me this hearing this mysterious term 'fabric' is every bit annoying as others find constant quotes about AT/AWT etc. But I have to put up with it because that's how some talk.
Like I said, take deep breath, count to 10 and build up your tolerance levels ha!
1 / 5 (8) Jun 01, 2013
The Universe has a shelf life. It is new and fresh on the creation front at the periphery, and old and dead in the WMAP cold spot. Eventually the sphere of creation which we occupy will suffer the same fate. Measurements show that the hydrogen atom has shrunk over time when measured against hydrogen atoms created nearer the time at the beginning of creation. The point I am making is that there is no static property to the Universe, that all passes in time, and that Lee Smolin is right in saying that the laws of physics can change. I only disagree with his black hole theorizing. There is ever only one creation event and this process perpetuates at the periphery of the Universe, in my view. We must acknowledge our limitations, that we exist in but a frame within the entire reality spectrum, like the limited band of visible frequencies that we can see in the entire optical spectrum. The real question is, with what do we co-exist in reality?
3.1 / 5 (17) Jun 01, 2013
the hydrogen atom has shrunk over time when measured against hydrogen atoms created nearer the time at the beginning of creation.

Citations required.
5 / 5 (1) Jun 02, 2013
deepsand, I agee.....or maybe someone has not been using the 'washing instructions on the label'. Seriously,'...the beginning of creation'? If we could measure that then we ought to be absolutly certain whether the proton decays or not! Heavy stuff, this.
Jun 02, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
1 / 5 (7) Jun 03, 2013
Without "time", applied mathematics falls apart. It is the main thing by which we measure everything else.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 03, 2013
mohammadshafiq_khan_1 so here you are again talking about 'truth'. We are all after the 'truth,' whatever that might be!
Your comment '...materialism which in itself is naked atheism.' smells once again of religious thoughts so back off. YOU are basking in 'materialism' just posting on this site because either you have a computer or have the money the go to an Internet Shop...or are you using a materialistic friend's computer? get real eh? Others who post here, whatever their scientific view,QM,GR,AT etc, would find your comment '...nature were trivialized and made subservient to mathematics...' offensive or idiotic.
Inspector Spacetime
1 / 5 (5) Jun 06, 2013
ValeriaT -

As I am aware that Hawking has argued a black hole is also its own antithesis (a white hole), and am also aware that such objects should possess a charge and angular momentum, I was at first reluctant to indulge in this kind of speculation.

Have, however, just read "Our universe at home within a larger universe?" @ http://phys.org/n...839.html . I respect the boldness of Nikodem Poplawski's thinking. He proposes a wormhole origin for our universe. And he describes our universe as a white hole, where the Big Bang represents the event horizon from which it has emerged. Interesting and innovative thinking. Maybe this IS how it all got started. I don't know. But I am willing to entertain the idea. Thanks for motivating me to think about this a little more deeply.

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