Archive for the ‘Space and Time’ Category

Fourfold Physicalism

February 17, 2018

It is not enough for a wise man to study nature and truth, he should dare state truth for the benefit of the few who are willing and able to think. As for the rest, who are voluntarily slaves of prejudice, they can no more attain truth, than frogs can fly.

— From Man a Machine, by Julien Offray de La Mettrie

Further Reading:


Structures are built from parts.
Parts are reductions of structures.
Functions are assembled from actions.
Actions are the constituents of functions.

[*8.132, *9.104, *10.10]



Atom and Archetype

January 23, 2018

A few weeks ago I ran across this nice review of the book Atom and Archetype: the Pauli-Jung letters 1932-1958. This is a collection of letters exchanged between psychiatrist Carl Jung and physicist Wolfgang Pauli over a course of years. Evidently, Pauli was quite the metaphysician and Jung was intrigued by Einstein’s physics of relative space and time. Together in dialectic they argued and struggled to join together the disparate notions of mind and matter.

What mainly caught my eye was a diagram that I’ve slightly altered and shown above. I’ve mainly just replaced energy with matter-energy for two reasons: first because matter and energy are inter-convertible and second because matter conditions space. This results in similarity to the fourfold diagram for Lucretius that I’ve shown before, consisting of Particles, the Void, Falling, and Swerving.

Further Reading:

Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli / Atom and Archetype: the Pauli-Jung letters 1932-1958, Princeton University Press; Updated edition (July 21, 2014)



A Digital Universe, V2

August 9, 2017

A digital universe – whether 5 kilobytes or the entire Internet – consists of two species of bits: differences in space, and differences in time. Digital computers translate between these two forms of information – structure and sequence – according to definite rules. Bits that are embodied as structure (varying in space, invariant across time) we perceive as memory, and bits that are embodied as sequence (varying in time, invariant across space) we perceive as code. Gates are the intersections where bits span both worlds at the moments of transition from one instant to the next.

— George Dyson, from Turing’s Cathedral

Further Reading:

George Dyson / Turing’s Cathedral: the origins of the digital universe


Embodied as Structure, Perceived as Memory

Invariant across Time: ¬ΔT
Varying in Space: ΔS

Embodied as Sequence, Perceived as Code

Varying in Time: ΔT
Invariant across Space: ¬ΔS

[*7.82, *7.83, *7.153, *10.14]


The Paradoxes of Zeno

April 21, 2016

sq_zeno_paradoxes5“Suppose,” said Zeno, “that Achilles and a tortoise are planning to race”.

Such is the beginning of a famous thought experiment by an ancient philosopher. Since athletic Achilles was much faster than the slow tortoise, he let the tortoise start first. But alas, he could never catch up to it, since every time Achilles made it to where the tortoise had been, the tortoise had moved just a little further ahead. Of course Achilles was faster so he had to pass the tortoise quickly unless it had started near the finish line. So, paradox!

Most of the paradoxes of Zeno were about fractions and entireties of time and space. Can an infinite series of fractions of space add up to a finite entirety of space in a finite entirety of time? Some might say that integral calculus solves these basically mathematical problems, yet others think they point to metaphysical issues as regards to the discreteness and the continuity of time and space.

This fourfold reminds me of my previous fourfold Spacetime which dealt with succession (as parts of time), location (as parts of space), extension (as wholes of space), and duration (as wholes of time). It must have been in the back of my mind.




Relative Time

November 14, 2014

sq_relative_time For what more terrifying revelation can there be than that it is the present moment? That we survive the shock at all is only possible because the past shelters us on one side and the future on another.

— From Orlando, by Virgina Woolf

As we can see on the previous four-folds of space and time, all have a degree of conditioning to the location and orientation of an observer. In other words, there are no absolute frameworks of space or time. That does not mean that they are not useful conventional and conceptual tools.

What would a four-fold of Relative Time be like? Because time seems to be linear instead of two dimensional, relative time would be very different than relative directions. What if we contrast our understanding of what happened in time with what actually occurred? What if we compare our thoughts of an imagined future with what becomes realized?

One could contrast an individual’s notions of past and future with a group or society’s notions of past and future. Or one could contrast an individual’s or society’s recalled past and imagined future with the actual past and the realized future. Some might argue that there is no actual past, but only the past we think or recall that it is. Similarly, those or others might argue that there is no realized future, because once the future becomes the present it has already slipped into the past that we can now only recall.

As the future becomes realized, the imagined future is discarded or blended into it to become our recalled past. As we understand more about the real past, our recalled past may be discarded or blended into it to become our new recalled past. Or one can refuse that knowledge and believe whatever suits them.

[*8.99, *9.60]


Four Dimensional Space-time

September 1, 2014


Here’s a simple fourfold I’ve been ignoring just because it’s so trivial, but that triviality can be deceiving. Space-time as formulated in special relativity has four dimensions: three of space and one of time. Our everyday experience shows us the three dimensions of space: length, width (or breadth), and depth (or height), but time is a different kind of thing because we cannot see or move forward and backward through time with our eyes or body, like we can along the axes of space.

Personally, only our memory and imagination can let us range through time. Of course, after the invention of language and more recent technologies, the spoken word, writings, photographs, audio recordings, and videos can also be used. But it’s not the same as shifting one’s gaze along the length of something or moving one’s body across a width.

So, we can move semi-freely through the three spatial dimensions but our movement in time seems to be fixed into a relentless forward motion that we have no control over. And because gravity pulls us down onto the surface of the world, one of the spatial dimensions (depth or height) is more limiting than the other two.

sq_ll2Thus another interesting comparison to this fourfold is to that of linear logic. One observation is that length and width can be considered reversible but depth and time can be considered somewhat irreversible. That’s not true of course, but because of gravity it is easier to descend than to ascend, and it’s far easier to move into the future than into the past. But we can see into the distant past, just not our own, as we turn our telescopes to the heavens.

Space without time could have four or even higher dimensions, but we have no empirical evidence that it is so. Mathematically, however, we can easily construct multidimensional spaces. One representation of four dimensional space is by using quaternions, which have four dimensions to the complex numbers’ two. Tuples of real numbers or even vector spaces can also be used. However, the geometry of space-time is not Euclidean; it is described by the Minkowski metric.

Novels about characters living in different numbers of spatial dimensions are an interesting way to learn and think about them. The very first was Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott, about a being limited to two dimensions that learns about a third outside his experience when a three dimensional being comes to visit. Just recently I’ve finished reading Spaceland by Rudy Rucker, about an ordinary human person limited to the three dimensions of space that learns about the fourth dimension by similar reasons.




Matter, Energy, Space, and Time

February 17, 2014

sq_MESTHere’s a nice little fourfold that I’ve overlooked until now, kind of like a four-leaf clover. If you search for images of matter, energy, space, and time, several websites show a diagram quite similar to this, and some have interesting things to say.

One shows free energy instead of energy in general. Free energy is energy that is able to do work, and that is an important distinction, especially if you are thinking about the Four Causes. Then the four can be considered fundamental resources.

There are some other things to consider from these references. One is that there is the familiar equivalence between matter and energy. Another is the equivalence principle between gravity and acceleration.

Also, there are obvious analogies between this fourfold and the Four Elements and the Four States of Matter. sq_Noether's TheoremI have also used the pairs space-time and matter-energy as two parts of the fourfold Noether’s Theorem, the other two parts being symmetry and conservation. There is also the fourfold Spacetime that has some similarities to this one. And let’s not forget the atomism of On the Nature of Things by Lucretius.

Be sure and watch the upcoming television series Cosmos: a Spacetime Odyssey, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’m sure there will be much talk of Matter, Energy, Space, and Time.


There is even a term coined for Matter-Energy-Space-Time: MEST. Of course, MEST also stands for Math, Engineering, Science, and Technology! No, sorry, that’s STEM!


[*7.90, *8.32]


Human Limitations

July 10, 2013

birth_death_nature_nurture Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity.


What are humans limited by? We are limited by time and by space.

We are limited in time because we are mortal beings, bound to the past by our birth and to the future by our death, delimiting the short interval of our lifetimes.

We are limited in space because we are finite beings. At each point of time we are constrained by what we are and what we might become. We are bound both by our actuality and our possibility. Our nature defines our actuality and our nurture sets our possibility.

Certainly, we can transcend our limitations, but this just means they weren’t really the true limits after all. We can’t say for certain what our real limits are, so that’s a good thing.

This fourfold also reminds me of the following modal square of opposition. At birth, much is possible. At death, all becomes impossible. Nurture is contingent and Nature is necessary.




The Duality of Time and Information, V2

May 2, 2013

The states of a computing system bear information and change time, while its events bear time and change information.

from The Duality of Time and Information by Vaughn Pratt

The most promising transformational logic seems to us to be Girard’s linear logic.

— from Rational Mechanics and Natural Mathematics by Vaughn Pratt

Here we have three duals: information – time, state – event, and bear – change.


Vaughan Pratt / The Duality of Time and Information

Vaughan Pratt / Time and Information in Sequential and Concurrent Computation

Vaughan Pratt / Rational Mechanics and Natural Mathematics



The Space-Time Tetrahedron

March 29, 2013

spacetime_tetrahedronIn honor of April Fool’s Day, I present the Space-Time Tetrahedron.

The Internet is full of crackpot and nutty websites, and one of the most famous concerns the so-called Time Cube.

Since the ideas expressed on this website are pretty much ignored, it is hoped that it could at least find some recognition as being slightly crackpot or somewhat nutty.

Let’s examine the similarities between Time Cube theory and my theory.

The number four is very important in each. In fact, the Time Cube is a fourfold, although quite a puzzling one.

The notions of space and time are crucial to Time Cube; many of my fourfolds involve some aspect of space and time or spacetime.

How about the differences? I don’t think one can find any common claims between the two theories. At least I hope not!