Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Existential Angst

Recently I have been reading Steerpike’s blog (http://beyondswelterskitchen.blogspot.com/) and we have entered into some offline discussions that have prompted me to want to “blog”. So please any complaints, leave on his page.

The human condition is a confounding one, just when I have managed to (re-)bury my head in the sand with regard to the perpetually perplexing question of “where do we come from?” something shakes me back to awe of existence. I watched a TV programme the other night on BT Vision (whole other blog about this) that presented the current belief about black holes. It was partly about general relativity’s failure to accommodate them as real, which I’m fairly sure wasn’t new to me. Also, the fact that super-brains have been exploring quantum mechanics as a method to explain the bewildering fact that they shouldn’t exist, even though there is significant physical evidence, was vaguely in my consciousness. Quantum mechanics is the physics of the very small and the belief was that the core of a black hole is indeed very small, albeit on a stellar scale initially. This field called quantum gravity has failed completely – if I understand the programme correctly. So I’m left feeling frustrated that humanity still doesn’t know the answer – although surely we’ll establish that it was 42 after all – but excited by the fact that the quest is still on.

There was a moment where anyone in close proximity to me would have heard the penny clunk on the floor of my scull. It’s safe to say, if you were interested in this subject previously, you have already seen images of a 2-dimensional representation of space-time warping under immense mass.
This image has never really helped me understand this concept. Yes, I can imagine the ball-bearing rolling across the sheet and circling around a heavier ball-bearing, but still what does this say. The moment of understanding was when this programme declared that this “warping” was gravity. Gravity is the warping of spacetime. To labour the analogy to breaking point – if a heavier ball was laid on a cloth, it would create a steeper fall, indicating a stronger force of gravity. I thought I’d share this epiphany as it has now opened a whole new bag of worms (worm-holes surely) for me. So gravity is us sliding down a 3-D slope! Taking this concept and trying to perceive it in 3 dimensions is fascinating. Let’s say you are sitting in a train carriage at the far end and the opposite end is heading into the black hole. The very fabric of space will be warping, from the outside we would perceive the carriage stretching to a thin point as it sucked into the black hole. But what would you see if you were on the carriage? Would you see space and time stretch out in front of you? Eek this is too much to hold in my brain, I’m off to watch Dr. Who....


  1. where's the Tardis in this picture?

  2. Tardis, Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space, its all over the picture :-)

  3. I've always had a problem with these 2D spacetime fabric pictures as a way to explain gravity. They show a large ball deforming the fabric, causing a smaller ball to follow the deformation and orbit the larger. But the force that would cause such a ball to follow the deformation is... gravity! So in order to explain gravity, we liken it to an effect caused by gravity. Infinite regress, here we come!

  4. I'm guessing, like me, you are not a quantum physicist or an astro-physicist. I say it's all a conspiracy to keep us from finding out the truth, the world is flat and that's a chiffon curtain with little glow worms on it.


There was an error in this gadget