Archive for August 2013

Scientists suggest spacetime has no time dimension

The concept of time as a way to measure the duration of events is not only deeply intuitive, it also plays an important role in our mathematical descriptions of physical systems. For instance, we define an object’s speed as its displacement per a given time. But some researchers theorize that this Newtonian idea of time as an absolute quantity that flows on its own, along with the idea that time is the fourth dimension of spacetime, are incorrect. They propose to replace these concepts of time with a view that corresponds more accurately to the physical world: time as a measure of the numerical order of change.

In two recent papers (one published and one to be published) in Physics Essays, Amrit Sorli, Davide Fiscaletti, and Dusan Klinar from the Scientific Research Centre Bistra in Ptuj, Slovenia, have described in more detail what this means.

No time dimension

They begin by explaining how we usually assume that time is an absolute physical quantity that plays the role of the independent variable (time, t, is often the x-axis on graphs that show the evolution of a physical system). But, as they note, we never really measure t. What we do measure is an object’s frequency, speed, etc. In other words, what experimentally exists are the motion of an object and the tick of a clock, and we compare the object’s motion to the tick of a clock to measure the object’s frequency, speed, etc. By itself, t has only a mathematical value, and no primary physical existence.

This view doesn’t mean that time does not exist, but that time has more to do with space than with the idea of an absolute time. So while 4D spacetime is usually considered to consist of three dimensions of space and one dimension of time, the researchers’ view suggests that it’s more correct to imagine spacetime as four dimensions of space. In other words, as they say, the universe is “timeless.”

“Minkowski space is not 3D + T, it is 4D,” the scientists write in their most recent paper. “The point of view which considers time to be a physical entity in which material changes occur is here replaced with a more convenient view of time being merely the numerical order of material change. This view corresponds better to the physical world and has more explanatory power in describing immediate physical phenomena: gravity, electrostatic interaction, information transfer by EPR experiment are physical phenomena carried directly by the space in which physical phenomena occur.”

As the scientists added, the roots of this idea come from Einstein himself.

“Einstein said, ‘Time has no independent existence apart from the order of events by which we measure it,’” Sorli told PhysOrg.com. “Time is exactly the order of events: this is my conclusion.”

via Scientists suggest spacetime has no time dimension.

Albert Einstein and the Fabric of Time

Ed Snowden’s Email Provider, Lavabit, Shuts Down To Fight US Gov’t Intrusion

Early on in the Snowden leaks, it was revealed that Snowden himself was using email services from an operation called Lavabit, which offered extremely secure email. However, today Lavabit’s owner, Ladar Levison, shut down the service, claiming it was necessary to do so to avoid becoming “complicit in crimes against the American people.” Not much more information is given, other than announced plans to fight against the government in court. Reading between the lines, it seems rather obvious that Lavabit has been ordered to either disclose private information or grant access to its secure email accounts, and the company is taking a stand and shutting down the service while continuing the legal fight. It’s also clear that the court has a gag order on Levison, limiting what can be said.

via Ed Snowden’s Email Provider, Lavabit, Shuts Down To Fight US Gov’t Intrusion | Techdirt.

Now, if that weren’t enough, the Feds Threaten To Arrest Lavabit Founder For Shutting Down His Service, rather than agree to some mysterious court order.

World’s oldest temple built to worship the dog star

Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey, may have been built to worship the dog star, Sirius.

The 11,000-year-old site consists of a series of at least 20 circular enclosures, although only a few have been uncovered since excavations began in the mid-1990s. Each one is surrounded by a ring of huge, T-shaped stone pillars, some of which are decorated with carvings of fierce animals. Two more megaliths stand parallel to each other at the centre of each ring (see illustration).

Göbekli Tepe put a dent in the idea of the Neolithic revolution, which said that the invention of agriculture spurred humans to build settlements and develop civilisation, art and religion. There is no evidence of agriculture near the temple, hinting that religion came first in this instance.

“We have a lot of contemporaneous sites which are settlements of hunter-gatherers. Göbekli Tepe was a sanctuary site for people living in these settlements,” says Klaus Schmidt, chief archaeologist for the project at the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in Berlin.

But it is still anybody’s guess what type of religion the temple served. Giulio Magli, an archaeoastronomer at the Polytechnic University of Milan in Italy, looked to the night sky for an answer. After all, the arrangement of the pillars at Stonehenge in the UK suggests it could have been built as an astronomical observatory, maybe even to worship the moon.

Magli simulated what the sky would have looked like from Turkey when Göbekli Tepe was built. Over millennia, the positions of the stars change due to Earth wobbling as it spins on its axis. Stars that are near the horizon will rise and set at different points, and they can even disappear completely, only to reappear thousands of years later.

Today, Sirius can be seen almost worldwide as the brightest star in the sky – excluding the sun – and the fourth brightest night-sky object after the moon, Venus and Jupiter. Sirius is so noticeable that its rising and setting was used as the basis for the ancient Egyptian calendar, says Magli. At the latitude of Göbekli Tepe, Sirius would have been below the horizon until around 9300 BC, when it would have suddenly popped into view.

“I propose that the temple was built to follow the ‘birth’ of this star,” says Magli. “You can imagine that the appearance of a new object in the sky could even have triggered a new religion.”

via World’s oldest temple built to worship the dog star – space – 16 August 2013 – New Scientist.

‘Extraordinary’ Mayan frieze found in Guatemala

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have found an “extraordinary” Mayan frieze richly decorated with images of deities and rulers and a long dedicatory inscription.

The frieze was discovered by Guatemalan archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli, a professor at Tulane University’s Anthropology Department, and his team in the northern Province of Peten, the government said in a joint statement with Estrada-Belli.

“This is an extraordinary finding that occurs only once in the life of an archaeologist,” Mr Estrada-Belli said.

The archaeologists were exploring a Mayan pyramid that dates to 600 A.D. in an area that is home to other classic ruin sites when they came upon the frieze.

“It’s a great work of art that also gives us a lot of information on the role and significance of the building, which was the focus of our research,” Mr Estrada-Belli said.

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The high-relief stucco sculpture, which measures 8 metres by 2 metres, includes three main characters wearing rich ornaments of quetzal feathers and jade sitting on the heads of monsters.

via ‘Extraordinary’ Mayan frieze found in Guatemala | Space, Military and Medicine | News.com.au.