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April 23, 2014

CATEGORY: FQXi Essay Contest - Spring, 2012 [back]
TOPIC: On the Foundational Assumptions of Modern Physics by Benjamin F. Dribus [refresh]
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Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Aug. 20, 2012 @ 12:07 GMT
Essay Abstract

General relativity and the standard model of particle physics remain the most fundamental physical theories enjoying robust experimental confirmation. The foundational assumptions of physics changed rapidly during the early development of these theories, but the challenges of their refinement and the exploitation of their explanatory power turned attention away from foundational issues. Deep problems and anomalous observations remain unaddressed. New theories such as string theory attempt to resolve these issues, but are presently untested. In this essay, I evaluate the foundational assumptions of modern physics and propose new physical principles. I reject the manifold structure of spacetime, the existence of an independent time parameter and static background structure, the symmetry interpretation of covariance, the commutativity of spacetime, and a number of related assumptions. The central new principle I propose is called the causal metric hypothesis. The classical version of this hypothesis states that the metric properties of spacetime, up to overall scale, arise from the binary relation generating the causal order. The quantum version states that the phases associated with congruence classes of directed paths in causal configuration space are determined by the causal relations of their constituent universes.

Author Bio

Ben Dribus is a Ph.D. student in mathematics at Louisiana State University, studying algebraic geometry and algebraic K-theory. He has a background in physics and is interested in applying modern algebra, order theory, and graph theory to foundational questions.

Download Essay PDF File

Diane Richards wrote on Aug. 20, 2012 @ 17:19 GMT
Great! Your math is too heavy for me, but you may find my partner's recent submission of today, "TO SEEK UNKNOWN SHORES" interesting to treat more rigorously. 12 pages were insufficient to explain the details of his approach.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Aug. 20, 2012 @ 17:28 GMT

Thanks. I don't see the submission you referenced, but I imagine it will be posted soon. Mine took about a week to go up on the site.

Frank Makinson wrote on Aug. 20, 2012 @ 19:13 GMT

Your paper suggests that many assumptions are patched together in an effort to make them fit a preconceived model, even though many of the assumptions are widely doubted. It is comparable to the elephant problem, each observer description comes from someone that is standing too close to the object under investigation and each observer has a limited range of observation. Then the observers get together and try to put the observations together to fit a preconceived model. A problem arises when the observers do not recognize their preconceived model may be completely in error, and as a result they are filling in the unknown spaces with assumptions that they do not all agree on, but they tolerate the assumptions because they do not want any empty spaces.

Quote from your essay: "The first few assumptions I reject are that spacetime is a manifold, that systems evolves with respect to an independent time parameter, and that the universe has a static background structure."

I can agree with rejecting the first assumption. The IEEE paper I cite in my topic, 1294, titled, "A methodology to define physical constants using mathematical constants" contains a mathematical relationship where time is a dependent function. Basically, TIME, as an event duration, is a function of the existence of energy. Sounds radical, but it is completely logical mathematically, without the presence of the parameters that define energy there is no need for TIME.

I notice you do not reject the contemporary assumption on the theory of gravity. If that assumption is wrong then all the assumptions built around it are suspect. I have a paper that I am subjecting to open peer review at the moment that describes the EM field structure that creates an attractant only force. I didn't feel it has had sufficient outside review for this contest, but it is coming together. I added two references in response to one of my reviewers comments, [6] "Electrifying Gravity", and [7] "Newton's Gravitation Constant G as a Quantum Coupling Constant".

Helical EM Gravity

I was unaware of the existence of the two papers I just cited when I originally prepared my paper, I have been working on it for several years. I found the references during a search for the term "quantum coupling". Those two papers should be required reading for those that are attempting to build a model of the universe.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Aug. 20, 2012 @ 23:25 GMT

Thanks for the feedback! You made several points, so it might be clearest if I itemize my reply.

1. Regarding the continued use of widely doubted assumptions, the reason I mentioned this is because I wanted to make clear that I wasn't offering anything new by rejecting these particular assumptions; of course people have known for years that there are issues with manifold structure, background-dependence, etc., and plenty of people are working on these problems. I don't think that well-educated physicists continue to use these assumptions because they are trying to make them "fit a preconceived model," but rather because they don't yet know what to use in their place. The causal metric hypothesis is new, although Rafael Sorkin and the causal set people have made analogous proposals.

2. I will have to read the IEEE paper you cite. Time and energy are conjugate variables in ordinary quantum theory, so it doesn't seem a priori radical to connect the two, but don't know what paradigm you are using, particularly regarding spacetime structure. I prefer to view time as merely a way of talking about causality, via the causal metric hypothesis, but this is in a much more general paradigm in which spacetime and matter-energy emerge together.

3. I am not sure what you mean by the "contemporary assumption on the theory of gravity." If you mean the general relativistic assumption that gravity is a manifestation of spacetime geometry, then my point of view replaces this assumption entirely, since the geometry itself is emergent.

4. Kaluza and Klein, Einstein, and hundreds of others have attempted to couple gravitation and electromagnetism, and there are various ways to try to do this. I have a lot of sympathy with the early classical attempts to describe electromagnetism in geometric terms, like relativistic gravity, even though these approaches did not work. From looking over some of your papers, it seems that perhaps you take the opposite approach, and try to describe gravity as an interaction, like classical electromagnetism (please correct me if I'm wrong). Obviously it would require more time for me to develop an educated opinion on the details of what you wrote, however.

Frank Makinson replied on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 03:34 GMT

Item 2: In my opinion space has three dimensions. It seems time has no purpose in these three dimensions unless it is associated with energy. I will provide a link to my postprint, as IEEE no longer allows authors to post the published version anywhere.


Item 4: Yes, I consider gravity an electromagnetic (EM) phenomenon. My viXra paper is my attempt to make the EM concept easy to understand using basic classical physics principles. The McPherson and Gilson references provide a mathematical justification why Newton's gravitation constant G should be considered a gravitation quantum coupling constant. The helical EM model, with its separated plus and minus field vectors, with their angular phase position (APP), adds a few complications to what is considered just a "pull" force. My helical gravity model provides a very logical reason for Newtonian gravity's instantaneous influence at a distance. Nothing "spooky" and no new physics involved, classical physics provides the answer.

A helical form for the influence of gravity meshes well with the presence of all the helices, spirals and spin within the universe.

Alan Lowey replied on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 13:49 GMT
Aren't gravitons as an Archimedes screw model of a force carrying particle a viable alternative to helical EM gravity waves? Otherwise I agree with a lot of what you say Frank.

John A. Macken wrote on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 00:19 GMT

Point #4 of your last post notes that hundreds of scientists have attempted (unsuccessfully) to couple gravitation and electromagnetism. My essay is about this subject. I show what I believe to be the first indication that there is a coupling between these two forces. This essay presents a previously unknown relationship between the gravitational force and the electromagnetic force exerted between particles. The key to finding such a connection is to utilize the wave properties of the particles to express distance and express force on the absolute scale where the largest possible force (Planck force) is equated to 1.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 02:05 GMT

Yes, I read your essay with great interest. While it's obvious that any suitable pair of proportional central forces will exhibit any desired power relationship at an appropriate distance, it does seem interesting, at least to me, that the distance at which Newtonian gravity and the classical electrostatic force exhibit a square relationship in Planck units should be the reduced Compton wavelength. I certainly didn't know that, so I'm thankful to you for pointing it out.

You hint at a much more developed theory presented in an online book, which I have not yet had a chance to look at. The conclusions you draw in your essay seem to go quite a bit further than I would feel comfortable with on the basis of the evidence you present, but it may be that you address various possible objections elsewhere. For example, you freely admit that the example you focus on in the essay is a semiclassical approximation, so I wouldn't feel justified in criticizing the details. You can only explain so much in eight pages!

However, there are a lot of obvious questions that could be asked. You might be justified in claiming a quantum-theoretic relationship between electromagnetism and gravity, but how does this imply gravity is a "true force" rather than implying that electromagnetism is not a true force; e.g. geometric in nature like gravity in general relativity? Also, the concept of "messenger particles" is a way of talking about quantum field theory, but how do the relationships you pointed out say anything about quantum field theory one way or the other? How do you deal with special relativity? And so on and so forth.

In any case, congratulations on a very interesting essay.

John A. Macken replied on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 07:07 GMT

You say, "It's obvious that any suitable pair of proportional central forces will exhibit any desired power relationship at an appropriate distance..." This statement only addresses equation 4 and ignores equations 6 and 7. Equations 6 and 7 show the square relationship between gravity and the electromagnetic force at ALL distances.

You also dispute that I have shown that gravity is a "true force" rather than perhaps implying that electromagnetism is not a true force. It is correct that the text in the essay assumes that the reader would consider the electromagnetic force the ultimate example of a "true force". However, the book goes much further. In this short post I cannot explain the steps of how I derived gravity and the electromagnetic force from the properties of spacetime. However, I can say that in both cases the properties of spacetime are distorted in a way that produces a net force on the spacetime-based particle model. The magnitudes of the two forces are very different, but the basic mechanism is the same - they both are true forces. One last point, in my model matter does not cause curved spacetime; instead dynamically curved spacetime causes matter.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 12:01 GMT

Thanks for the clarification. I'll have to take a look at your book. Like I said before, it may be that you address all these issues there, so any remarks I made weren't intended as serious criticism. I would have to understand the basis of your ideas much better before I would be qualified to make any definitive remarks of that nature. I am sure part of my confusion arises from differences in terminology; you will recall from my bio that I have a mostly mathematical background, and it sometimes takes me a few tries before I understand what scientists with different backgrounds are talking about. By "true force," I assumed you meant an "interaction" rather than an effect arising from geometry, which is usually how gravitation is distinguished from the other "forces" in my experience. If you are taking electromagnetism as the prototype of a "true force" and simply arguing that gravity is analogous, I have no quarrel with that. In any case, I had better look over your ideas more carefully before making any other remarks, or risk making a fool of myself.

Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 09:06 GMT
Dear Benjamin F. Dribus,

Your essay is impressive and your overview of principles of physics magnificent! As you point out there are a number of unexplained phenomena in addition to the unresolved conflicts between relativity and quantum theories that motivate attempts to mine new math. Your rejection of a number of assumptions paves the way to apply the new mathematical tools you list on page 7. I do not have sufficient expertise in these areas to provide a useful critique, but you do so yourself to some extent. You note that "local properties are generally more reasonable to impose than non-local properties due to our ignorance of the global structure of the universe", which agrees with my own analysis. You note that a Lorentzian manifold must be recovered from the new tools.

You have transitions replace the notion of time evolution. It may be over simplifying to say this but that seems like shades of automata. Having developed "The Automatic Theory of Physics" I am not averse to automata, but more as a model of physics than as a model of fundamental reality. I find it more likely that the universe arises from a [ONE] continuous field through self-interaction and I suspect discrete or fractal pictures are ultimately inappropriate. I find it feasible to recover the standard particles from one field, while I agree with you that it could be difficult to recover these from causal relations on universes, which, as you note, has not been achieved.

You note that it's impossible to disprove time evolution of manifold structure and impossible to prove your causal metric hypothesis [but potentially disprovable]. Your conclude with a page of interesting discussions.

Thanks for a stimulating essay and good luck in the contest.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

Anonymous replied on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 18:04 GMT

Thanks for the kind remarks. I will reply in an itemized fashion for clarity.

1. Automata, and particularly the homological/homotopical techniques used to study them, are certainly relevant to the approach I outlined. However, there are too many differences (and too much contextual baggage) to describe it in those terms. Automata tend to be discrete, rely on some type of initialization, involve multiple or weighted edges, simplices, or cubes, and so on.

2. I certainly don't rule out continuum models, though I don't think we should take them for granted. Riemann certainly didn't. In order-theoretic terms, the continuum has properties (like the least upper bound property) that seem to have no direct relationship to physics. As far as measurement is concerned, you could never tell the difference between reals, rationals, dyadic rationals, etc. (dense subsets). The symmetry properties of flat real manifolds seem impressive in light the fact that fundamental particles do appear to correspond to representations of the Poincare group, but only until you realize that the same thing can be described much more generally in order-theoretic terms. There are also plenty of direct physical reasons to doubt the continuum such as black hole entropy and the holographic principle. A lot of the "paradoxes" of quantum theory arise from imagining little point-like particles moving around in a manifold over the continuum.

3. I take it you don't favor the sum-over-histories approach in quantum theory? Do you prefer Hilbert spaces? To me, they appear (like the continuum) to be a too-good-to-be-true idealization that likely arises from something more primitive.

4. By the way, where you get the vector "C-field" you use in your essay? I know people have experimented with hypothetical scalar fields called C-fields in general relativity in the past, and have derived tensor fields from these by differentiation, but I'm not sure where this Ampere-type equation fits into the picture.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 18:06 GMT
Evidently I forgot to login there!

Anonymous replied on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 20:33 GMT
Dear Benjamin,

Thanks for the extensive reply to my comment, and thanks for looking at my essay.

Your response concerning automata agrees roughly with what I had in mind.

I'm glad you don't rule out continuum models. I have my own doubts about reasons to doubt the continuum, ie, black hole entropy and holographic principle. And I do agree that many quantum problems derive from imagining point like particles (with emphasis on 'point'). My particle model is an extended particle plus induced wave.

Nor do I favor sum-over-histories (as physical reality -- mathematically they're fine). For bound (discrete energy) states I am happy with Hilbert spaces. I found your description of the continuum as "too-good-to-be-true" fascinating, and also your opinion that it probably arises from "something more primitive".

The C-field is my own term (with historical conflicts) for the gravito-magnetic field (with gravito-electric G-field). It is treated in the weak field approximation in most general relativity texts, although it doesn't seem to make an impression on most physicists. I did not recall learning about it until I "independently" stumbled over it. Good references to the equation and to experimental measurements of the field are given in my essay.

I'm always impressed by competent mathematicians who work in physics and I always find that we think quite differently about both math and physics. Viva la difference!


Edwin Eugene Klingman

Armin Nikkhah Shirazi wrote on Aug. 25, 2012 @ 14:33 GMT
Hi Ben,

I just finished reading your paper. I enjoyed your writing style, you express yourself very well. You mentioned many mathematical frameworks in your essay of which I know little, so it is possible that the answers to the questions I am going to ask may already be obvious to someone who knows about these, but it may be still of benefit to those of us who don't know.

So, to return the favor of asking serious questions:

1. You idea seems to me a lot like a (very mathematically oriented) variant of relationism. I would have appreciated some comments that would have differentiated it. How is it different from relationism (or is it)?

2. How does your theory account for the fact that we seem to be able to assign metric relations to even causally unrelated events?

3. How does your framework address the fact that the order of spacelike separated events is frame-dependent?

4. Is there such a thing as a "correspondence principle" between the quantum and classical version of your principle and what is it? I ask because it almost seems like it is inverted according to your idea, the quantum version is determined by the causal relations of "constituent universes" but the universe is defined by the classical version. While it is true that also in standard QM a quantum state is a superposition of classical states, I would have expected as a feature of a more fundamental theory that quantum states can be defined without recourse to classical states unless it offers a "deeper" explanation for that.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Aug. 26, 2012 @ 06:22 GMT

Thanks for the remarks and questions. Since most of my formal education and my "official" academic work is mathematical, I wrote this essay in an effort to help me begin a dialogue with competent physicists on topics I have thought about a great deal. I knew I would not get the style and focus precisely right at first, but I was hoping that some people could point out obvious flaws...

view entire post

Renate Quehenberger replied on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 01:54 GMT
Hello Ben,

congratulations, your essay is even more a charming tour the force through all concepts of the last 100 years then mine !

I like the Dribus Razor rejecting anything for a universal Schrödinger equation combined with Emmy Noether's conservation law in causal configuration space.

But be careful with rejecting the manifold structures the flaws may enter and you'll get lost without Plato's order of the heavens, means the dimensionality fo space.

Best wishes,


Armin Nikkhah Shirazi wrote on Aug. 25, 2012 @ 14:38 GMT
Evidently I got cut off there, but anyway, I had only one more question:

5. Can your principles help resolve some of the notorious difficulties that arise when one tries to describe causal relationships?

Overall very well written, although it may be too specialized for many readers on this forum. I would have especially liked an expanded discussion of the short paragraph on how causality connects with our established theories.

All the best,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Aug. 26, 2012 @ 06:41 GMT
Oh, I just missed your last question.

5. There are many philosophical issues related to causality, and I am not sure which you are primarily referring to. However, a lot of these issues result from assuming the existence of other types of structure besides the causal structure, for instance, independent metric structure, or independent matter, energy, etc. I believe most such difficulties (at least, most that I can think of) can be explained in terms of the causal metric hypothesis, but the question is whether or not the explanation is satisfying. For example, the causal metric hypothesis includes the assumption that what we call time is just a way of talking about causality, and what we call causality is just a way of talking about binary relations on sets. If it is right, then it simplifies and solves many things, but it may not be right. And if it is wrong, it ignores some very important philosophical questions.

Torsten Asselmeyer-Maluga wrote on Aug. 28, 2012 @ 11:57 GMT
Dear Benjamin,

I read your essay with great interest. It contains a lot of deep thoughts including a deep analysis of the current situation.

We agree in many points except the importance of the concept 'manifold'. I agree with you about the importance of background-independence. General relativity reach us to consider a diffeomorphism-invariant theory. This property is very restrictive in dimension 3 (and lower). If one fixes the topology (or the binary relation between the subsets) then everything is determined (by using the Geometrization conjecture, you will also obtain a canonicaly metric). That is the reason why one considers the special graph (the spine) of a 3-manifold containing all information. But this fails in dimension 4. But one think remains: one needs countable many subsets to obtain the 4-manifold (or the triangulation and the smoothness structure agree). Among this technical thinks, one important fact troubles me more. You wrote about a substitute of a manifold (a poset etc) and about a configuration space (which you use for the sum-over histories). I would expect in a unified theory that there is only one entity not two. So, if you believe (like I do) in the full geometrization then you need only the spacetime, nothing more.

Furthermore, your concept of causality is interesting but I do not fully understand it: there is a unique path in the past (back to the cause) but different paths in the future (the openess of the future). Does your binary relation reflect this fact?

Good luck for the contest


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Aug. 28, 2012 @ 20:34 GMT

Thanks for the insightful comments. I will try to clarify a couple of the points you raise.

1. I’m not sure if you regard matter-energy to be auxiliary to spacetime, or if you regard the two to be part of a single fundamental structure. I far prefer to regard them as part of a single structure, which I describe at the classical level by a binary relation. Hence, I do...

view entire post

Yuri Danoyan replied on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 08:35 GMT
I suggest that 3:1 ( examples #1,#2,#3) is enclosed in a total interaction of Bose and Fermi particles or fields, and it is a bootstrapping relationship between mentioned evidences.

Surprisingly, the container(space-time), content(fermions-bosons), content (energy-matter) obey the same law 3:1.

Cristinel Stoica wrote on Aug. 29, 2012 @ 07:10 GMT
Dear Benjamin,

When reading at the beginning of your essay

"In this essay [...] I reject the manifold structure of spacetime, the existence of an independent time parameter and static background structure, the symmetry interpretation of covariance, the commutativity of spacetime, and a number of related assumptions."

one may wonder "what remains then?". How far can you go with your causal metric hypothesis? From your essay, it seems that you can do a lot starting from this, although it seems also to remain a lot to do.

Congratulations, and good luck with the contest and your research,

Cristi Stoica

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 05:34 GMT

"What remains then" is indeed a legitimate question about my setup, which is quite minimalistic in its most general form. It is also worth asking if the causal metric hypothesis trivializes deep and subtle issues. My view is that one of the principle reasons manifold models have dominated physics is because they are so convenient mathematically; once you know about the continuum and the complex numbers their lure is almost irresistible. Hence, more primitive and messy approaches may have been neglected.

Coming from a math background and working mostly with algebraic schemes and complex manifolds, it is hard for me to believe that the physical world behaves in such a convenient way. Conceptual simplicity and mathematical convenience are very different! This essay and all the unpublished work associated with it represent my attempt to "think physically" rather than just mathematically; my focus here is the basic physical principles, and the associated math is not nearly as convenient as the math encountered in mainstream physics. In any case, I think approaches like this deserve more attention.

You seem to have some of the same philosophical motivations, refusing to reject singularities just because they are "mathematically ugly."

Take care,


Bee wrote on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 10:46 GMT
Hi Ben,

I'm a great fan of Causal Sets, and think this is a very timely essay. I like that the assumptions are so minimalistic. It's a possibility that hasn't really been paid enough attention to. Good luck,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 05:48 GMT

Thanks for the kind remarks! When I started thinking about this a couple of years ago I didn't yet know about causal sets, and I was amazed when I found Rafael Sorkin's papers. I think he does an excellent job of explaining a lot of the motivating ideas. His students and coworkers have gone on to develop various aspects of the theory, but I still tend to prefer his qualitative considerations and careful explanations.

The causal set community is still relatively small from what I understand, and I come completely from the outside. There are certain assumptions most of them make that I can't seem to convince myself of, but I haven't had much chance to discuss these things with any of them in depth. In any case, I have the utmost respect for their work. I am hoping an expert causal set theorist will come along and say "that won't work because..." and help me sharpen these ideas further.

Take care,


Steve Dufourny wrote on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 12:22 GMT
hello Mr.Dribus,

I d like learn more about this K theory, it seems very relevant considering the geometrical conjecture.

The entropical arrow of times and its causality is proportional at all 3D scales in its pure fractalization.

In all case the maxwell's equations are important considering the heat and thermodynamics.if we consioder a pure cooling, it becomes relevant...

view entire post

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 06:09 GMT
Hi Steve,

Algebraic K-theory is something I didn't originally plan to specialize in, but it kept coming up in seemingly "purely geometric" situations; particularly involving groups of algebraic cycles and their equivalence relations, the Hodge conjecture, and so on. It also applies to physics via string theory, cyclic homology, noncommutative geometry, the theory of motives, and number-theoretic topics like the Langlands program.

Entropy is something I've studied a great deal over the last few years and still don't adequately understand. Just in the field of quantum information theory, there are a lot of different notions of entropy, and there seem to be added complications in incorporating this into a primitive causal theory like I describe in my essay.

You use some terminology that I don't quite understand, such as "evolution spherization." Also, I am not sure when you are referring to spheres as physical spaces and when you are referring to them as parameter spaces like the Bloch sphere etc. Do you have all this written down somewhere?

Take care,


Steve Dufourny replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 14:37 GMT
Hello Mr. Dribus,

I am understanding. no I have no publications. I am isolated at home without job, without nothing, just my personal probelms. I have not published.I have understood Mr Tegmark, ok. You can make what you want afterr all.I have made my works me, I have shown my theory to the world.If people copies or wants the prizes, you can have them Mr Tegmark and Mr Aguire.I thought that Fqxi was there to help the real innovators.I see simply a strategy. I am sad simply. You can with your friends, have a good life, and travel in private airplanes and buy opulences.Make what you want, me I sleep quiely and serenity. Of course I have neurological probelms and also I have a kind of depression due to my difficult life.But I have faith in God me, I have faith in this universal kindness and universal love. I have faith in this universal sphere. I am going to continue to read and discuss on fqxi. I forgive you all after all, you are simply persons loving monney and vanity.Perhaps you can evolve in a pure universality.

It is the life, it exists a little of all on this planet, good people, bad people, universal people,envious,vanitious,.....the real importance for me is my faith in God.

ps Mr Dribus, the entropy , it is god ! It is simple you know the truth !


Steve Dufourny replied on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 10:54 GMT
Hello Mr Dribus,

At my humble opinion, It is not the disorder the entropy. It is simply the infinite light and its physical distribution.

A good occham razzor permits to sort the false extrapolations. It permits to see what are really these spheres of light in evolution of mass.

A sphere for me is a planet, a star, an elementary particules, a water drop, the spheroids are so numerous. Fruits, glands, brains,cells,flowers,....the universe also is a sphere with all its intrinsic spheres, quantic and cosmological. The gauge is a pure 3D, 3 vectors !!!!!

The spheres are everywhere, in us, around us , above us......The spherization, my theory of spherization, shows us how these spheres of light build the spheres of mass !!! inside a pure 3D sphere and its central sphere, the most important BH. The uniqueness serie is essential for a real understanding of quantizations and universal 3D proportions.

The informations are inside the main central spheres, quant.and cosmol.The building is a pure spherization of the universal sphere by quantum spheres and cosmological spheres.The codes are inside these singularities. The number is so important for the serie of uniqueness.See that this number is the same for the two 3d gauges,quantum scale and cosmological scale. The 3D is essential.The road, for a real undertanding of this pure light without motion, time and dimension above our physical walls, is rational and dterministic.We have not pseudo convergences.The real interest is to analyze this universal physical sphere in evolution optimization SPHERIZATION.

The noncommutative geometries must be well extrapolated, like the superimposings, or this or that. If not, we have pseudo sciences.The 3D is essential.The strings can converge with a correct axiomatization of deterministic tools. The rest seems vain.

Best Regards

Harlan Swyers wrote on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 16:00 GMT

I want to pull out a couple of things that I think are good points

"For example, Einstein's equations in general relativity predict the

curvature of spacetime, but not the dimension; a theory whose dynamical laws also predicted the dimension would be superior in an obvious way."

"Our present understanding of antimatter comes almost entirely from quantum eld theory,"

I think these are good points, my question then would be how do causal metric hypothesis account for these and also, how does it account for the relativity when two observers can assign different ordering of two observed events?

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 06:49 GMT
Hi Harlan,

Thanks for the feedback! Those are good questions, and I can only partially answer them. Let me itemize.

1. Regarding the prediction of the dimension, the first question is how you even define the dimension of a causal relation. It will be emergent, only making sense at large enough scales, and it won't be an integer in general, although it must be very close to 4 at...

view entire post

Johannes Vianney Koelman wrote on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 10:53 GMT
Ben -- congrats with your essay. It places IMHO a healthy focus on the key question "How to get an emergent metric from a local causal relationship?"

Two more opportunities I would like to stress: Firstly, seeking recovery of a Lorentzian manifold is indeed a key challenge, but an emergent De Sitter manifold might be the true target that would allow you to get 'dark energy' to be emergent. Secondly, you don't mention unitarity as a key assumption. You might get some further mileage from entertaining the inevitable question "Is unitarity really required?"

Good luck at the contest, I would be disappointed if your contribution doesn't score well!

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 4, 2012 @ 18:33 GMT

Thanks for those suggestions... both of them are right on target. Take care,


Jeff Baugher wrote on Sep. 3, 2012 @ 20:24 GMT
Hi Ben,

I want to understand the meaning of "causal metric" hypothesis better. I found on another web page "The causal-metric hypothesis, if correct, greatly simplifies and clarifies theoretical physics. In particular, it is the purest possible version of background independence. A theory is background independent if its entire structure is dynamical, rather than relying on a static embedding space in which the dynamical entities of the theory reside."

I am trying to understand this in contrast to GR now (without Lambda). What is the background that the structure isn't independent from, spacetime?



Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 3, 2012 @ 23:54 GMT

Thanks for the feedback! Yes, that's my website... I don't know how you found it because its not ready for primetime yet and I've done nothing to try to promote it (no time; dissertation year!), but anyway...

GR is usually taken as the prototype for background independence (in contrast to QFT and most versions of string theory) because spacetime interacts dynamically with matter-energy in GR. However, the whole point of background-independence is not taking things for granted, particularly things that by their very nature can't be observed, and GR does retain some traces of this. For instance, spacetime is still viewed as "containing" matter-energy even though the two interact; it's not that there is no background, just a dynamical background. This is better than a static background, but it's still something you can't observe; you can only ascribe properties to it by the behavior of matter-energy inside it. The causal metric hypothesis says that there is no background at all; spacetime and matter energy (at the classical level) are two aspects of a single structure.

The potential for paradoxes in GR (time-travel etc.) comes from clashes between two a priori different structures: a metric structure and a causal structure. The causal metric hypothesis says that there is only one structure. In particular, causal cycles are still possible, but they're not paradoxical. Take care,


Jeff Baugher replied on Sep. 4, 2012 @ 02:10 GMT

I can see now why you would like to do away with the manifold structure. It would seem that our essays run counter to each other, which is great for me to develop an understanding of your intended meaning. To me, the constant multiple of the metric represents a static potential for curvature (a potential for energy) whereas the tensor (i.e. Einstein tensor) represents the dynamic portion which gives rise to what we perceive as matter and energy moving in spacetime.

As an analogy, for me it is the derivatives within the fabric and not the fabric itself that is important, but the fabric does exist, whereas you would like to propose that the fabric itself doesn't exist even if the derivatives do?

BTW, I hope you rate my essay as highly as I have yours.



Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 4, 2012 @ 18:29 GMT

Well, I don't absolutely object to differentiable manifolds, though I find anything so uniform rather hard to believe in at the fundamental scale. However, one had better recover a Lorentzian structure at large scales and low energies, or the idea won't work. That's part of the task for my approach, but there is good reason to believe that it can be done. What worries me more (but also interests me more) is recovering the representation theory that describes the particles in the standard model. This requires some mathematics that appears to be very little developed and should be a lot of fun to get a handle on. In any case, tensor fields would be emergent, just like the geometry they refer to.

I find the whole rating thing a bit embarrassing, because I'd prefer to just learn about other people's ideas rather than presume to judge the quality of their work. However, I feel justified in giving high ratings to essays that lead me to think about things in new ways, and your essay certainly did. Take care,


Yuri Danoyan wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 14:02 GMT
Benjamin, you wrote:

"The fi rst few assumptions I reject are that spacetime is a manifold, that systems evolve with respect to an independent time parameter, and that the universe has a static background structure."

I reject too.

See my essay

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 7, 2012 @ 06:33 GMT

Thanks for the feedback. I just read your essay, which I found interesting in several regards. I note that you mention the idea that space can be described in terms of angles. Julian Barbour suggests something similar with his "shape dynamics," but doesn't suggest quantization.

You point out that the strong, weak, and electromagnetic interactions are of similar strengths and that gravity is much weaker. This is true, of course, but it's also interesting to think about the size scales on which these interactions dominate. The strong and weak interactions have very short range, while electromagnetism dominates up to about the everyday scale, where gravity takes over.

You also point out some interesting numerical relationships. There is much speculation about the dimensionality of space and the number of particle generations, but the 18-degree thing is something I have not heard of before. Take care,


Yuri Danoyan replied on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 13:24 GMT
You wrote: "The strong and weak interactions have very short range, while electromagnetism dominates up to about the everyday scale, where gravity takes over".

I think because c and G speed variation the same. See my essay part.3

h is eternal constant and Planck unite of mass also eternal.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 19:31 GMT

Let me make sure I understand. So you think that the ratio c/G is constant, but neither G nor c are independently constant? Do you mean constant in "space" or constant in "time?" Take care,


M. V. Vasilyeva wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 23:46 GMT
Dear Ben, I liked your idea of casual metric very much. You said in my thread that "you and I have perhaps different ideas on the nature of time" but I don't think so. In my mind, time is the expression of changes in energy state, and what can be more causative than that?

Our major difference lies in you regarding matter and space as a single structure --like a true mathematician!-- and on a certain scale and at certain energies this is right. But there is also an intermediate scale, at low everyday energies, where this approach is not well suited, imo.

Here are the quotes from your essay that especially resonated with me:

Re : "These phenomena suggest the promise of physical models that naturally incorporate scale-dependence,.."

Agree with you: scale is everything.

Re : "The first few assumptions I reject are that spacetime is a manifold, that systems evolve with respect to an independent time parameter, and that the universe has a static background structure."

Agree again: time as an independent parameter is suitable only on macro scales, while on the quantum scale, I believe, the micro-processes themselves (not 'particles'!) define spacetime volumes they trace, which can be mapped into time and distances at different scales. As for the universe having a static structure -- who actually thinks so? I can't even fathom it.

Re : "Dimension becomes an emergent property, and is no longer assumed to be constant, nondynamical, or an integer."

I see it exactly the same way.

Re : "If spacetime has a sufficiently simple structure, "...

Yeah, what is spacetime?

Re : "Finally, the dimension of space as well as its curvature might vary with energy density, "...

Just my thoughts. See, we have more in common than it seemed at first.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 7, 2012 @ 06:11 GMT
Thanks for the thoughtful feedback! I re-read your section on time, and it does seem that we are in closer agreement than I thought at first. In particular, your concept of time seems to arise from local properties of the "fundamental energy units," while the overall order emerges from a tendency toward uniformity, which seems like a description of some sort of potential energy or entropic condition. I tried to suggest something similar in my essay, but only very briefly, since I don't know how to describe this condition precisely yet. You also describe "things in space" as a way of talking about alterations or defects of the structure, which I completely agree with.

Also, when I said "if spacetime has a sufficiently simple structure," I guess I was being lazy... what I meant was "if the underlying structure, from which what is commonly called spacetime emerges, is sufficiently simple..."

Take care,


Yuri Danoyan replied on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 08:40 GMT
See also

Peter Jackson wrote on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 16:23 GMT

Wonderful dose of sense and lack of maths for a mathematician. Sound approach to the issues and nicely presented. I also agree most assumptions are reasonable, but I think you fall short of the path to the holy grail. First some favourite bits;

"...complete unification of relativity and quantum theory was gradually understood to be a particularly intractable problem..." and;

"...a variety of unexplained phenomena have been recognized." also;

"Recovery of a Lorentzian manifold from a physically relevant causal relation is necessary at some level of approximation."

Lastly on Dark matter; "However, this phenomenon does behave like ordinary matter in many respects, as observed in the collision of galaxies and in certain examples of gravitational lensing." I think this last point has started to be forgotten.

Certainly worth a good score. But I'd also like to invite you to study the mechanisms embodied in my own essay, which I think finds the R postulates direct from a long known QM. I hope you are well versed in logic. I referred to PDL but had to omitt Truth propositional Logic, the exact hierarchical structure of which I've found applies to my emergent model on (non manifold) dynamic space-time frames.

Please do study and see if you can assimilate the ontological structure from the components discussed. I throw in a bit of theatre just to help visualisation.

Best of luck in the scoring. I hope mine will help.


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 20:51 GMT

Thanks for the feedback! I'll be sure to have a careful look at your essay when I get back from my trip. I won't be too discouraged if my approach "falls short of the path to the holy grail," as you put it; I believe it's fine to think, speculate, and theorize about the biggest questions, but I'm not quite that ambitious about my ideas; at best they're part of the story.

Your ideas sound interesting as you describe them here, though I haven't yet had a chance to read your submission. Of course I have studied the common aspects of mathematical logic and some of the particular ideas applied to quantum settings, but I'm by no means an expert on this. Hopefully I can at least understand what you propose. Take care,


Member Giacomo Mauro D\'Ariano wrote on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 16:19 GMT
Dear Ben

I enjoyed reading our manuscript very much! You made the point about the current situation very clear and synthetic, and I agree on many of your points. As you will see in my answer to your post on my essay, even though there are some strong common points between our two manuscripts, there are also some relevant differences, about which...

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Anonymous replied on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 22:21 GMT
Hello Mr.D'Ariano,Mr Dribus,

I didn't know this Deutsch turing machine. It is relevant. I say me that it is possible to insert the organic semiconductors with my equations and spheres.The informations can be classed with the sortings and synvhros.of evolution. The fermionic spheres and the bosonic spheres can be seen in a pure 3D sphere and spherization evolution. The synmmetry seems essential. I ask me if the system is fusioned or binar for the serie of uniqueness ?

In the reality, I prefer a fusion fermions/bosons.For the simulations and the convergences in 3D, it is seems interesting to insert the symmetry between the 2 systems for a better understanding of these synchros and sortings of evolution. mcosV=constanst is very relevant when the serie of uniqueness is insereted.

I beleive that for a real understanding of the system of uniqeness. This number ! It is essential to understand the decreasing of volumes from the main central sphere, the number 1. We see that the lattices disappear in the perfect contact between spheres.Just due to this decerasing of spherical volumes. A little if I said that all the cosmological spheres are attracted towards the universal central sphere.The finite serie is so essential for the two systems, quant.and cosm.It is relevant also when we consider the volumes diffrenciating the bosons and fermions.Always with this serie of uniqueness and its precise number. It seems not possible to calculte correctly this number, that said it is possible to appraoch it. In logic, the cosmological number is the same, so ....between 1 ....and x :)

The algorythms .......can converge !


Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Sep. 15, 2012 @ 16:54 GMT
Dear Mauro,

I appreciate the excellent analysis. I will have to break my response into a couple of segments, so I will post them as new posts rather than replies. To the points on which we seem to agree, I have little more to add, though I am interested in the “Planck-scale experiment” you referenced. One point is that the generalization of covariance I have in mind is much more...

view entire post

Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Sep. 15, 2012 @ 16:55 GMT
(continued from previous post)

2. You make the very helpful analogy that “the causal links are the "wires" in the quantum circuit.” If so, I don’t see any disagreement on this point, because the directed graphs representing quantum circuits are not transitive graphs. Also, the classical causal networks in your arXiv paper seem not only intransitive, but almost “maximally so” in this sense.

3. Regarding my reasoning for not absolutely ruling out cycles, I actually think GR is very discouraging to fans of time travel, and I’m certainly not trying to rescue GR here. It’s true that GR gives a sliver of hope to believers in causal cycles, but I don’t take these solutions very seriously. My reasoning is partly caution and partly based on some potentially interesting or suggestive properties of graphs containing cycles. The models I have thought the most about are acyclic, however.

4. Of course you’re correct that a binary relation doesn’t determine a metric in general. Sorkin discusses this at length. His “order plus number equals geometry” motto is based on metric recovery theorems that take as input an appropriate binary relation together with some volume data. His choice of how to provide volume data is the simplest (counting), but there are other ways, defined by taking advantage of local data in the graphs. For a homogeneous graph, simple counting is probably the only option, but I don’t prefer the assumption of homogeneity.

(continued below)

Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Sep. 15, 2012 @ 16:56 GMT
(continued from previous post)

5. I clearly did not explain my use of the sum over histories method adequately enough, and it is no wonder given the length constraints. First, in his 1948 paper Feynman discussed summing over particle trajectories in Euclidean spacetime and thereby recovered “standard” quantum theory, with its Hilbert spaces, operator algebras, Schrodinger equation,...

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Daniel L Burnstein wrote on Sep. 16, 2012 @ 17:34 GMT
Your essay does a excellent job of summarizing the problems with current physics models as well as pointing out some of the assumptions that need to be questioned.

The scope of the essay far exceeds what one would expect to find in so little space. Lots of food for thought requires lots time to digest. In the case of your essay, we're easily talking months.

As I read the essay, a number of questions immediately came to mind.

First, I would like to understand better how you determined which of the fundamental assumptions needed to be questioned and why. What was your starting point(s)?

Also, you mention the necessity for a new theory to recover established physics that has proven to be successful. Wouldn't this condition constrain the development of an entire class of new theories, particularly those from which established physics cannot be recovered and which, in some case, may come in direct opposition to them?

Wouldn't you think that all that should required of a theory, besides internal consistency, is that it be in agreement with observational and experimental data, and not necessarily with any theoretical interpretation of it? For instance, a theory may account perfectly for the bending of light near a massive structure yet be based on a axiom set that excludes general.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 16, 2012 @ 19:19 GMT

I appreciate the feedback. I will itemize my reply:

1. The length requirement did limit my ability to explain my background thoughts. My emphasis on causality is principally motivated by two factors:

First, most of science, and particularly the experimental method, consists of establishing "causal" relationships between things ("whenever we do so-and-so, we observe...

view entire post

Daniel L Burnstein replied on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 18:32 GMT
Thanks for the clarifications, Ben. I understand your essay much better now.


Inger Stjernqvist replied on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 15:07 GMT
Dear Ben and Daniel,

So do I, thanks to your conversation above.

Best regards,


Pentcho Valev wrote on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 07:16 GMT

Will you be able to recover Minkowski spacetime and relativity in general from your new principles without additionally assuming the constancy of the speed of light (Einstein's 1905 light postulate)? Einsteinians sometimes claim that "the constant speed of light is unnecessary for the construction of the theories of relativity" but this is a fraud of course:


view entire post

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 12:45 GMT
Dear Pentcho,

Thanks for the feedback! By "recovering" relativity, I don't mean that I believe relativity in Einstein's original form is absolutely valid (otherwise, why would it need to be replaced or superseded?) What I mean is that in any case in which relativity makes good predictions, any theory that supersedes it must do at at least as well. Hence, a new theory must be able to describe/predict anything that relativity can describe/predict.

Regarding the constancy of the speed of light, my guess would be that a concept like this only makes sense at sufficiently large scales. "Speed" requires a notion of distance, and my view is that spatial distance (separation) is ultimately just a way of talking about the extent to which events are "unrelated." It begins to look like a traditional distance only at large enough scales.

Regarding photon mass, it was thought for a long time that neutrinos had no mass, but it was eventually discovered that they do have mass after all. Hence, I would be inclined to keep an open mind even about something as "sacred" as that. However, mass itself is again an emergent concept in my view, so the questions of what a "photon" really is and what "mass" really is are things that cannot be taken for granted.

You'll have to remember that my background is mostly mathematical, and therefore I'm inclined to consider the possibility of things that most physicists "know" are wrong. This might be useful in some cases; in others it only reflects my own ignorance. Take care,


Pentcho Valev replied on Sep. 21, 2012 @ 05:41 GMT
"Regarding the constancy of the speed of light, my guess would be that a concept like this only makes sense at sufficiently large scales."

No it makes sense locally. See this:

"vO is the velocity of an observer moving towards the source. This velocity is independent of the motion of the source. Hence, the velocity of waves relative to the observer is c + vO. (...) The motion of an observer does not alter the wavelength. The increase in frequency is a result of the observer encountering more wavelengths in a given time."

This author teaches that the speed of light is VARIABLE (varies with the speed of the observer). If he thought it was constant, he would have written:

"vO is the velocity of an observer moving towards the source. This velocity is independent of the motion of the source. The velocity of waves relative to the observer is constant,c, because the motion of the observer alters the wavelength. The increase in frequency is a result of the motion of the observer altering the wavelength."

Pentcho Valev

Pentcho Valev replied on Sep. 24, 2012 @ 04:07 GMT

You wrote: "Regarding the constancy of the speed of light, my guess would be that a concept like this only makes sense at sufficiently large scales. (...) You'll have to remember that my background is mostly mathematical, and therefore I'm inclined to consider the possibility of things that most physicists "know" are wrong. This might be useful in some cases; in others it only reflects my own ignorance."

Insofar as "the constancy of the speed of light" is concerned, I am afraid your last statement is relevant, Ben.

Pentcho Valev

Yuri Danoyan wrote on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 17:17 GMT
Dear Benjamin

You wrote: "Predictions based on quantum field theory and the Planck scale yield a value for the cosmological constant roughly 120 orders of magnitude greater than observation implies."

If you read my posts to my essay attentively you can read next:

Yuri Danoyan wrote on Sep. 4, 2012 @ 00:25 GMT

Appendix 4 Solution of cosmological constant problem

Theory: Cosmological constant is 10^94 g/sm^3

Practice: Cosmological constant is 10^-28 g/sm^3

Planck constant h=10^-28 g x sm^2/sec in 2D space embedding in 3D space

Only right value is experimental value.

Theory based in wrong assumptions noted in my essay.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 18:01 GMT
Dear Yuri,

I did look through the comments on your thread, but I am afraid I don't quite understand. It seems you are suggesting there is a simple dimensional relationship that explains the observed value of the cosmological constant. This would be great, but it's not obvious to me. Do you mind explaining a little more? Take care,


Yuri Danoyan replied on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 18:19 GMT
I argue that the Planck unit of length at short distances is not applicable, and the space has dimension 2, not 3.

Hence density of space coincides with сonтstant h.

Yuri Danoyan wrote on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 18:31 GMT
Planck unit of length not applicable,because no Gn,no Newton gravity law.

See part 3 my essay.No linear link between G and c,as in Planck unit of mass.

Yuri Danoyan wrote on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 19:05 GMT
Dear Benjamin

For better clarification my approach

I sending to you Frank 3 keen articles

All the best


Yuri Danoyan wrote on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 19:10 GMT
I send first all this links to address


but get answer

'' on 9/17/2012 12:54 PM

Invalid recipient

Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 01:27 GMT
Dear Yuri,

I got two out of the three articles, and I'm sure I can find the other one. I'm not sure why the first didn't come through. I don't know why you got that error message... that is the correct address. In any case, thanks for the articles; fortunately, they were easy to read, but included some information I did not know. I think I understand what you are suggesting about the relationship between the cosmological constant and Planck's constant, but don't you think that perhaps the cosmological constant is a little too small? Take care,


Yuri Danoyan replied on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 02:01 GMT

Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 02:38 GMT
Dear Ben,

I enjoyed your comments on Brian's and my essay pages. As promised I have read and will comment on your learned fqxi contribution:

I agree with you that causality (I suppose you mean local causality, but you also refer to universes in the plural so I am left wondering) is the substrate on which to build a rational theory unifying quantum mechanics, relativity and the standard model.

Beyond this understanding, your essay is far too technical for me to follow. You couch your arguments in terms like " acyclicity, morphisms, multicategory theory, transitivity, complex Hilbert spaces" which leave be baffled. Well at least as far as Hilbert spaces are concerned Brian Swingle has thankfully dispensed with those as far as physics is concerned. As a mathematician it is wonderful that you approach physics with this background, as you just might find a new math to explain a whole range of physics - just as quaternions are now found to be useful to explain quantum interactions.

If you will forgive this image - the good wolf mathematicians huff and puff with their theories, circling around the various houses built by the little piggy physicists, and it is an excellent way to test those houses for good solid construction!

I was reminded that we should peer-rate essays as only the top 35 rated essays get read by fqxi's expert panel of judges.

With best wishes for your degree work,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 03:29 GMT
Dear Vladimir,

I appreciate the feedback! And I was quite amused by your metaphor of the three little pigs... although I think the physicists have given mathematicians at least as much of a headache over the years with ideas like path integrals and delta functions!

As a matter of fact, as I wrote on your thread, the math I use here is simply whatever seems necessary to get the job done... the basic physical idea of cause and effect is the motivation. The length limitation for the contest makes it a bit difficult to explain things adequately and still fit in everything you want to say.

I was going to wait to rate the essays until I had read them all, but I will rate yours now just so I don't forget. Take care,


Sreenath B N wrote on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 16:18 GMT
Dear Benjamin,

I am extremely sorry for the delay in replying to your query. I am glad to know that you have your original way of looking at the fundamental problems of physics and surprised to learn that you suspect too many basic assumptions of physics where as I consider as wrong only one basic assumption. On the basis of your 'causal metric hypothesis', you have tried to explain, in a novel way, the origin of the classical concepts of space-time and also the role of space and time in the quantum world. On the basis of 'causal metric hypothesis' you have attempted to unify both GR and QM leading to the theory of QG. I am also interested in knowing how you account for the appearence of continuous manifolds on the basis of 'discrete reference frames'.

Anyway, you have put too much thought in to the problems facing physics and wish you succeed in solving them in one stroke on the basis of 'causal metric hypothesis'. I rate your essay high because of its originality and want to know how you feel about mine.

Good luck and best regards,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 03:21 GMT
Dear Sreenath,

I appreciate the feedback! It's true that I doubt a lot of the modern assumptions, but this arises mostly from my doubt about the ultimate physical relevance of manifolds. In my mathematical work, I have come to appreciate how very idealized and mathematically convenient objects like continuum manifolds and algebraic varieties are, and it seems to me that many of the properties that make them mathematically convenient do not arise in any natural or necessary way in physics. Many people think that convenient properties such as the least upper bound property in the order theory of the continuum can be assumed without worrying about their ultimate physical reality, based on the belief that any sufficiently fine approximation will suffice for measurement purposes. However, these properties determine the symmetry groups whose representation theory governs the properties of particle states, so the difference is an important qualitative one, not simply a small quantitative one that vanishes in the limit. My approach is to begin with the concept I view as most central to scientific process, namely cause and effect, and explain as much as possible in these terms. Ultimately, it may not be enough, but it is an approach with obvious motivations and clear and simple principles, and one that has not been adequately explored.

Regarding your essay, I view it positively even though your approach is much different than mine. I don't know if your equations will turn out to be correct, but the advantage of your approach is that you go into very specific details, and it should be possible to evaluate it one way or the other in a reasonable time frame. Like mine, I think your approach is worth trying, which is really all one can ask for. Take care,


Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 23:30 GMT

As you said my essay was filled with ideas I can reciprocate the comment about yours. The statement you make:

“A number of existing proposals about spacetime microstructure lead naturally

to noncommutative spaces in the sense of Connes [3] via the deformation theory of Hopf algebras, 10 but noncommutative geometry is relevant more generally, and even classical spaces...

view entire post

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 03:38 GMT
Dear Lawrence,

Thanks for the comments. I particularly appreciate your remarks about the FERMI/INTEGRAL experiments; I knew about these but don't feel very confident in interpreting the results. You're right of course that experiment is the final arbiter, but with the caveat that one must be sure what the experiment means.

Torsten's approach is fascinating and is worth understanding at a deeper level. I'll also point out that Jerzy Krol's essay is worth looking at in this regard; the two of them have been collaborating and their submissions are complementary. Jerzy discusses nonstandard models of number systems and their role in defining exotic smoothness structures.

You have the advantage of being well versed in the string/M-theoretic technology, which I am rather a novice at. Superficially, the 4d-to-7d duality of exotic structures you suggest sounds intriguing and perhaps gives another glimpse of why dimension 11 is special, although I'm not qualified to remark further on this. I do note that string/M-theory has been recently assimilating aspects of other approaches (noncommutative geometry, entropic gravity, twistor theory, etc.) in a way that suggests that the serious approaches to QG and unification may prove more amicable than previously thought. The causal theories (causal dynamical triangulations, causal set theory) seem perhaps left out of this picture to a degree, which gives me pause considering that causal theory is my own favorite approach. Take care,


Lawrence B. Crowell replied on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 19:10 GMT
The Fermi X-ray, gamma ray test of relativity can be found in this review This measurement was followed up by the ESA Integral spacecraft.

There is a lot of confusion over Verlinde’s entropic gravity. Gravity as a dynamic force is conservative. The force in the Newtonian limit is given by F = -∇Φ(r), which is conservative. This means the force evaluated around a closed...

view entire post

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 04:19 GMT
Dear Lawrence,

I appreciate the insight. This is the sort of thing that would require me a lot of time and effort to piece together myself. If there is any connection between Verlinde's entropic description of gravity and my speculative application of entropy to determine transition amplitudes, it's a coincidence, since I didn't even know about Verlinde at the time. I suppose that the hypothesis "gravity is entropic" can mean a lot of different things. My idea came from results in graph dynamics, and entropy in this case is determined by the cardinality of a particular automorphism group. If this works at all, it requires some finiteness assumptions. (I assume you transposed "closed" and "exact" above, unless you were referring to something different than the usual definition of de Rham cohomology.) Take care,


James Lee Hoover wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 06:41 GMT

"The central new principle I propose is the causal metric hypothesis, which states that the metric properties of classical spacetime, up to overall scale, arise from a binary relation, which I will call a causal relation, on a set, which I will call a universe, and that the phase associated with a congruence class of directed paths in the con guration space of such universes is determined by the causal relations of its constituent universes"

How can you imagine let alone model causal relationships of a multiverse? Are the attributes of gravity shared between universes? I struggle with your esoteric essay.


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 12:30 GMT
Dear Jim,

Well, I would rather not call it a multiverse because that is often understood these days to refer to the string-theory multiverse, which means something entirely different. My "causal configuration space" is a "way of talking about the superposition principle of quantum theory in a background independent setting." For some context, in 1948 Richard Feynman showed that you could explain quantum theory by thinking of all the possible paths a particle could follow between two points in space and time. Since general relativity says that the structure of spacetime responds to matter and energy moving through it (background independence), different particle paths correspond to different spacetime structures; i.e., different "universes." So you see that in this context, "universe" doesn't mean "all that exists," it just means a particular classical causal structure.

The fact that the causal configuration space itself has a similar structure to the individual "universes" is a nice thing, in my opinion, but the relationships among the "universes" aren't "causal" in the usual sense. The point of the causal metric hypothesis is that you can describe a lot of different things (causality, spacetime "geometry," the superposition principle, etc.) by means of a single type of structure. I

I hope this helps! Take care,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 12:34 GMT

By the way, I agree with Verlinde and others that gravity is likely an entropic phenomenon. But I think it's quite possible that all the "forces" are entropic. Take care,


Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 14:07 GMT
Thanks Ben,

The supreme example of the mathematician-physicist is Newton - and of course you are right about the 3 piggies metaphor being inexact - perhaps at the most basic level physics and mathematics are equally artificial, but in conjunction try to describe Nature the best they can. As an artist and inventor I built my physics model using geometry and physically realistic interactions. I suppose topology, knot and graph theory can all be used to describe such models, but I am satisfied with understanding how it works as a sort of mechanical linkage. (I was inspired by Kenneth Snelson's concept of tensegrity - I urged him to present his ideas about the atom in this contest and am glad he did - at age 85!)

I hope that my model can be tested by computer simulation but I had better update my research and present it more succinctly.

Following your remark about gravity and entropy: In one of the discussions of this contest I suddenly realized (and wrote) that my Beautiful Universe model explains why entropy occurs - it is the same causal local mechanism of diffusion of energy as a wave pattern in the lattice, which simultaneously explains probabilistic behavior and uncertainty! But what about solitons? how would entropy be manifested in their behavior?

Thank you for rating my essay, (as I did yours). Last year I also participated in the fqxi contest, and one participant used to sign his messages: Have fun!


Hoang cao Hai wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 15:05 GMT

Very interesting to see your essay.

Perhaps all of us are convinced that: the choice of yourself is right!That of course is reasonable.

So may be we should work together to let's the consider clearly defined for the basis foundations theoretical as the most challenging with intellectual of all of us.

Why we do not try to start with a real challenge is very close and are the focus of interest of the human science: it is a matter of mass and grain Higg boson of the standard model.

Knowledge and belief reasoning of you will to express an opinion on this matter:

You have think that: the Mass is the expression of the impact force to material - so no impact force, we do not feel the Higg boson - similar to the case of no weight outside the Earth's atmosphere.

Does there need to be a particle with mass for everything have volume? If so, then why the mass of everything change when moving from the Earth to the Moon? Higg boson is lighter by the Moon's gravity is weaker than of Earth?

The LHC particle accelerator used to "Smashed" until "Ejected" Higg boson, but why only when the "Smashed" can see it,and when off then not see it ?

Can be "locked" Higg particles? so when "released" if we do not force to it by any the Force, how to know that it is "out" or not?

You are should be boldly to give a definition of weight that you think is right for us to enjoy, or oppose my opinion.

Because in the process of research, the value of "failure" or "success" is the similar with science. The purpose of a correct theory be must is without any a wrong point ?

Glad to see from you comments soon,because still have too many of the same problems.

Regards !


August 23, 2012 - 11:51 GMT on this essay contest.

Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 15:44 GMT
Dear Benjamin,

Studying the question of connection of entropy and gravitation, I found Lorentz-invariant formula for entropy in the book: Fizika i filosofiia podobiia ot preonov do metagalaktik. Perm, 1999, 544 pages. ISBN 5-8131-0012-1. In short the question is described in the book: The physical theories and infinite nesting of matter. Perm, 2009-2012, 858 pages. ISBN 978-5-9901951-1-0 in such way: Using the stress-energy tensors for the substance and the gravitational and electromagnetic fields allows us to write the equations of thermodynamics explicitly in the Lorentz-invariant form. As a result the entropy, the amount of heat, the chemical potential, the work and thermodynamic potentials can be represented as tensor functions of microscopic quantities, including the electric and gravitational field strengths, the pressure and the compression function. This allows us in § 21 to find out the meaning of the entropy as the function of the system state - it is proportional to the ratio, taken with the negative sign, of the absolute value of the ordered energy in the system to the heat energy, which is chaotic by nature. The ordered energy means the energy of directed motion of the substance, the compression energy from pressure and the potential energy of the substance in the gravitational and electromagnetic fields. When the system achieves equilibrium, part of the orderly energy inevitably is converted into thermal form and the entropy obtains a positive increment. I hope it may be interesting also for Vladimir F. Tamari and others authors in the contest.

Sergey Fedosin

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 17:49 GMT
Dear Sergey,

That's quite a book... 544 pages. Is any of this material posted online? If not, I understand... I have hundreds of pages of unpublished stuff myself. Also, I regret that the only languages I can read are English and a little French and Spanish. Take care,


Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 02:43 GMT
Dear Sergey and Benjamin

A lot of fascinating ideas seem to have emerged and are emerging in Russia - but unfortunately I do not have the language either! I have newly discovered that entropy emerges naturally in the same mechanism - diffusion - explaining uncertainty and probability) in my Beautiful Universe model, where also e/m and gravity are realized in local causal building blocks of a universal lattice.


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 03:00 GMT
Dear Vladimir,

You mentioned this before, and I will have to think about this idea further. The correct definition and use of entropic principles is one of the things I am a bit hung up on in my own approach. Take care,


Viraj Fernando wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 16:49 GMT
Dear Ben,

I am in general agreement with your critique in regard to the foundational problems. My view is that the problems you have highlighted are secondary, tertiary derivatives that have emerged due to the original foundational problems that Newton (and others) introduced when he intentionally developed Mechanics on a makeshift basis as a stepping stone for what he called the “Truer...

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Viraj Fernando replied on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 16:56 GMT

Hi Ben,

The following are some matters I wish to bring to your attention about the contents of my essay:

1. I have listed out a number of assumptions that Newton made that have turned out to be foundational errors.

2. I have not only listed the errors, I have found a new approach to overcome these errors (guided by...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 17:42 GMT
Dear Viraj,

It appears that the first few assumptions you reject ("the primacy of the concepts of space and time," etc.) are the same as mine, although we use different words (I would say "the manifold structure of spacetime," or "an independent time parameter.")

Some of the other assumptions you reject (for instance, those regarding centrifugal force and some of the statements about energy) I would expect to disappear automatically once the usual assumptions about space and time are rejected.

I had better not make any more specific remarks until I have read your essay, however. One thing I will say is that it appears as if you made an honest effort to answer the question posed by the essay contest rather than just writing down your favorite ideas about physics. You will notice that I made a similar effort. Take care,


Viraj Fernando replied on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 23:54 GMT

Thanks for acknowledging that my essay is strictly in context of the topic of the contest. Actually, you may note that I have gone a bit further by, finding alternative solutions, which would confirm my contentions about the identified wrong assumptions.

I am awaiting your comments about my essay. I hope being a young person with an open mind free of dogmatic views on exisitng theories, you would find it easier to understand the point of view I am presenting.

BTW, LSU in which city are you in. I was in Shreveport recently for some time.

Best regards,


Donatello Dolce wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 22:46 GMT
Hi Ben,

I report my reply to your questions about my essay Elementary Time Cycles. I have justpresente the theory in DICE2012, Castiglioncello, Italy where I have received entusistinc feedback. I will read asap your assay and let you know my opinion.


Thank you for your comments on my essay. I present a new idea and it is not immediate to figure it out,...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 04:25 GMT
Dear Donatello,

Thanks, I appreciate it. I'll put subsequent discussion about your program on your thread rather than mine... but I think I'll read your arXiv article first. Take care,


Jerzy Krol wrote on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 06:38 GMT
Dear Ben,

I found your essay very inspiring especially it deals with excellent mathematical arguments. Generally, your presentation is convienced and very good, this more that you touch so many important things on so limited number of pages. Let me comment on some important for me point.

It is certainly something that should be rejected in manifold's model for the space-time valid on every physical scales. But my personal view is that we do not understand or even know at present whole net of mathematical structures related with manifolds. Let it be two things: 4-d smoothness and logico-categorical perspective. Both indicate on discrete and noncommutative structure of smooth 4-manifolds. This discretness does not change or replace the manifolds, it is rather an ever-present leyer of smooth manifolds. Besides, the dimension 4 is crucial here. Fundamental gravity can be, thus, related with the curvature of exotic R4 (standard R4 can be flat exotic can not) where discretness appears naturally. I think that again mathematics shows us the way which is not, however, quite clear yet.

These commentaries expresses rather my personal point of view but I was inspired by your great essay. Congratulations and good luck.


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 16:49 GMT
Dear Jerzy,

I really appreciate the kind remarks! As a matter of fact, you and Torsten have convinced me to reconsider a lot of my tentative beliefs about fundamental physics, as have some of the shape dynamics folks and a few others.

The last time I really thought carefully about low-dimensional manifolds was a few years ago, and that was before I was properly aware of noncommutative geometry. I never took nonstandard models seriously until I read Connes, and as you have seen, I still have only the vaguest ideas about them.

I feel fortunate to have perhaps half a dozen serious new directions to think about once the exchange of ideas slows down a bit. Take care,


Viraj Fernando wrote on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 15:26 GMT
Dear Ben,

Thanks for your impartial comments on my essay, on my thread and rating it.

However I am responding to it on your thread because I think it has come out incomplete. Can you please check and do the needful if neccesary.

You wrote: "My belief is that its standing will improve as more serious authors read it". I do not think even 10% of the authors will give an unbiased rating. Firstly,because they will not understand what my essay is about with their own pet ideas in their minds, and secondly they will be interested to up their position by rating others low. (As for me I still have not rated even my own essay. I am reading through them and will rate all of them on their merit at a later date).

This points to the facct that all those who have got high Community ratings for their essays seems to have achieved them not by the ratings of authors but from the FQXi 'Community'.

But the big question is how do I get the attention of the "Community". The FQXi, highlights "Top Essays" some authors to the Community, but when I posted some highlights about my essay in that blog to draw their attention, it was removed by the administrator saying that Competitor ads are not allowed. So all competitors are not playing on a level playing field.

Best regards,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 17:34 GMT
Dear Viraj,

You're absolutely right... the form evidently won't accept a "less than" sign without putting it in a latex environment, and it deleted everything below, which was 80 percent of my post. I finally got it right, but there was another abortive post in between. I apologize for cluttering your thread, but all the comments are there now at least!

Regarding your remarks about the contest and the rating, there are many more than 35 good essays among the 270 or so in the contest, so no one should be too disappointed if his or her own submission isn't a finalist. For a complete outsider and first-time contributor like myself, the whole point of participating in this contest is to have the opportunity to discuss many interesting ideas with serious and original thinkers, and to make contacts with other scientists of similar interests.

In my opinion, the final community ratings are unlikely to look anything like what they do now; probably most people have not yet voted and it wouldn't be surprising if submissions in the top 10 now finish out of the top 100. The FQXi membership includes many of the most distinguished physicists in the world, and I imagine most of them are very busy. I seriously doubt if they are paying very close attention to this contest on a daily basis or have read or rated most of the essays.

In my view, the ratings are not worth worrying about too much, since doing so only distracts from the science. A high rating would be nice, but I would prefer to try to understand other people's ideas, circulate my own, and let the chips fall where they may. Take care,


Viraj Fernando replied on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 18:40 GMT
Hi Ben,

Thanks for re-posting your message in my thread.

About your other comments:

It is not that I am dead keen to get a good rating. I too am in the 'contest' more to use it as a forum to get to know people and ideas, and to circulate my own. You know the long forgotten motto of the Olympics - "Not to win but to take part".

But an important aspect of taking part amounts getting the attention of independent parties (eminent scientists who are FQXi members) to my essay for whatever it is worth, as much my reading other participants' essays. But the avenue to reach FQXi members is blocked, while 'Top Essays' are freely advertised in the Main blog. It is also a fact that the content of some of these "Top Essays", do not conform to the context of the topic of the contest.

This is a genuine concern I have about the way the "Contest" is run.

However, I am not worried about the 'contest'. If things are left for chance without manipulations, I know the chips would have fallen in a cetain way, but the way things are it appears they won't. It is just the instinct in me not to take things sitting down that bugs me.

Quite apart from the contest and FQXi community, do you know of any scientists who are likely to take an interest on essays like ours concerning fundamental problems of physics. If you feel it appropriate I request you to let me know.

My email:

Best regards,


Sean Gryb wrote on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 18:27 GMT
Hi Ben,

Quite an ambitious essay indeed! If we ever meet, I suspect we will have many interesting discussions.

I applaud your courage for trying to reject so much structure and still try to reproduce the rich structures of GR and the Standard Model. It is certainly not an easy task as is evidenced by the efforts of the Causal Sets people. However, I have always found that these approaches are well motivated. Good luck with your approach and in this competition!


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 19:22 GMT
Dear Sean,

Thanks for your kind remarks. I think you have characterized the obvious advantages and disadvantages of an approach like mine quite correctly: it's well-motivated and would be terrific if it worked but may fall well short of the level of structure necessary to describe the real world.

One remark I will make (I said something similar on Daniel Alves' thread) is that perhaps one way to think about the relationships among approaches such as causal sets, causal dynamical triangulations, shape dynamics, and my approach, is to consider the symmetry, antisymmetry, or asymmetry of the relations involved. Shape dynamics seems to involve symmetric relations, since separation does not specify order. Causal sets involves strictly antisymmetric relations because of the acyclicity hypothesis. Causal dynamical triangulations uses both symmetric and antisymmetric relations, and my approach uses mostly antisymmetric relations, although I admit the possibility of cycles. Of course, shape dynamics assigns weights (separations) to the symmetric relations, which gives more information. Anyway, maybe this is wrong, and I'm certainly a fool to talk about shape dynamics two weeks after first learning it existed, but it seems on the surface that there might be dualities among appropriate versions of some of these theories. Oh well, just a wild thought. Take care,


Sean Gryb replied on Sep. 21, 2012 @ 14:17 GMT
Interesting thought.

I don't know much about the difference between symmetric and anti-symmetric relations so I can't comment much. However, I would just point out that, in shape dynamics, the conformal factor of the metric is pure gauge, up to a constant. Because of this, the causal structure is really the main information that we are keeping aside from the total volume. Thus, I suspect that there is a way to map causal structure onto shape space. Indeed, this could have something to do with the isomorphism between the de Sitter group and the conformal group. Probably there is a way to map the conformal structure of de Sitter to the isometries of the conformal sphere in one less dimension. Then one could use a framework similar to what Flavio and I are discussing the paper we're about to post to understand this better in gravity. The discreteness is another issue but I have some ideas about that as well. There may be a way to make some connections.



Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 21, 2012 @ 15:40 GMT

I believe it's precisely because of the conformal factor that Rafael Sorkin incorporates the (constant discrete) measure in his "order plus number equals geometry;" i.e., because "order" by itself is not enough to recover the metric. That was part of what interested me about shape dynamics, because throwing in the scale seems artificial. You note that I have to keep repeating "up to a scale factor," in my own essay. Take care,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Sep. 21, 2012 @ 15:44 GMT

Also, Lawrence Crowell (who seems capable of instantly making precise remarks about almost any subject) has made some comments on Daniel Alves' thread along the same lines (possible duality/complementarity of symmetric/antisymmetric relations). I'm sure you are following Julian Barbour's thread; there is some relevant discussion there as well. Take care,


Sean Gryb replied on Sep. 21, 2012 @ 16:47 GMT
I'll take a look. I haven't had much time to check the discussions but I will but we just posted our new paper so I will have some time next week. I think there is definitely a connection. It would be nice to make this more rigorous though!



Jin He wrote on Sep. 22, 2012 @ 15:45 GMT
Heaven Breasts and Heaven Calculus

Since the birth of mankind, human beings have been looking for the origin of life. The fact that human history is the history of warfare and cannibalism proves that humans have not identified their origin. Humanity is still in the dark phase of lower animals. Humans can see the phenomenon of life only on Earth, and humans' vision does not exceed the one of lower animals. However, it is a fact that human beings have inherited the most advanced gene of life. Humans should be able to answer the following questions: Is the Universe hierarchical? What is Heaven? Is Heaven the origin of life? Is Heaven a higher order of life? For more than a decade, I have done an in-depth study on barred galaxy structure. Today (September 17, 2012) I suddenly discovered that the characteristic structure of barred spiral galaxies resembles the breasts of human female essentially. If the rational structure conjecture presented in the article is proved then Sun must be a mirror of the universe, and mankind is exactly the image on earth of the Heaven.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 22, 2012 @ 18:20 GMT
Dear Jin,

Thanks for informing me of your paper. Take care,


Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on Sep. 22, 2012 @ 17:08 GMT
Hi Ben --

I'd just like to register my support for your viewpoint on foundational assumptions. For reasons probably unrelated to yours, I think the "causal set" approach has a lot of promise, and I wish you every success in working out your hypothesis. I find it very impressive that a mathematician would approach physics by doubting the validity of continuous manifolds at a fundamental...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 22, 2012 @ 18:19 GMT
Dear Conrad,

I appreciate the kind remarks. You make several distinct and important points, so let me itemize my reply.

1. Regarding the general theory of observation and its importance, my impression is that one reason why it is often neglected even in new theories is simply because the problem is so difficult, and is in some ways unlike the types of problems that physicists and...

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Conrad Dale Johnson replied on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 16:43 GMT
Hi Ben,

I realize you wrote the above before the exchange we had that's posted with my essay, but I'd like to respond to your last comment.

I agree with your first points exactly -- the issue of observation is inherently very difficult, and also quite different from the types of issues physicists normally deal with. I certainly don't blame physicists for ignoring this issue as...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 18:39 GMT
Dear Conrad,

Thanks for the follow-up. In the future, please just go ahead and write a new post on the bottom of my thread. I have no problem remembering our previous conversation, but great difficulty in locating new posts somewhere up in the middle of the thread!

I am interested in your remarks about symmetry in physics. I included my rejection of the symmetry interpretation of covariance in my essay with some reluctance, because even though I believe it is true and important, it has become nearly unquestioned in physics that more and more symmetry must be invoked, and that symmetry is the most basic and important type of unifying principle. Your conjecture sounds very similar to my idea that covariance (and possibly other "symmetries") involves partitioning privileged information from unprivileged information. However, your conjecture sounds more general in two ways: first, "layering" admits the possibility of more than two layers, and second, you seem to be suggesting that perhaps all symmetries should be viewed this way. I don't know if this is true; for instance, the "gauge symmetries" of the standard model may "really" be group symmetries, although perhaps not Lie group symmetries (i.e. continuous symmetries). In any case, I predict that the de-emphasis on group symmetry will be viewed 50 or 100 years from now as one of the most important conceptual advances from this generation of physicists. If you have any further thoughts on the matter, I'd be interested. Take care,


Juan Ramón González Álvarez wrote on Sep. 22, 2012 @ 18:41 GMT
Dear Benjamin F. Dribus

I have liked your essay and I agree with your abandon of the ordinary concepts of symmetry, conservation laws, covariance, and causality in a spacetime context.

Effectively spacetime is emergent, not fundamental and, therefore, the above assumptions have to be abandoned during the development of a fundamental theory. For instance, the conservation of dynamical...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 00:57 GMT
Dear Juan,

I appreciate the details. Actually, I need more details on this subject, because the Liouvillian approach that you describe is something that largely escaped my notice in my program of physics self-education. Let me ask a few more questions:

1. Where can I read about the derivation of spacetimes in the Louivillian approach?

2. I am not sure what you mean between t-causality and tau-causality. Is it related to what I call the "causal order" and refinements of the causal order given by "frames of reference?"

By the way, I downloaded 5 or 6 papers of yours from viXra, but haven't got a chance to read them yet. Perhaps some of the information is there.

Thanks again, and take care,


Juan Ramón González Álvarez replied on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 11:02 GMT
Dear Ben,

I will prepare an article on detailed derivation of spacetimes from generalized formulation in Liouville space.

Here t-causality is associated to the approximated Hamiltonians used in general relativity and quantum field theory, whereas tau-causality is associated to the fundamental Hamiltonian. The distinction between "tau" and "t" is mentioned in my essay. A more detailed discussion of both and of the limits of the use of coordinate time "t" is given in the monograph by Pavsic --reference [3] in my essay--. E.g., Pavsic denotes the fundamental Hamiltonian by H and the approximated Hamiltonian used in quantum field theory by H_0.


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 00:35 GMT
Dear Juan,

Thanks for letting me know. I will be sure to look out for that article.

I feel silly for overlooking the distinction between t and tau causality in your essay. My only excuse is that I have read a lot of physics papers in the last few weeks! Of course you mentioned tau as the "fundamental concept of time" in the Liouville space at the very beginning. Many people do not associate time and causality so closely, so I did not put two-and-two together even though I view the two concepts that way myself. Oh well... if one talks or writes for long enough, one is bound to make a fool of oneself eventually!

Thanks again for keeping me in the loop on this. Take care,


Hou Ying Yau wrote on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 00:09 GMT
Dear Benjamin,

I have an idea that I hope can be of some interest to you. Nothing mathematically fancy, I find that the zero spin quantum field can be reconciled from a system with vibrations in space and time. The model has some unique features that seem to be extendable to gravity and non-locality of quantum theory.

Is there really no reality in quantum theory

Best wishes for you in the contest.

Hou Yau

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 01:06 GMT
Dear Hou,

Thanks for pointing out your essay to me. As it happens, I had already seen from reading the abstract that your essay was interesting and had it highlighted to read more carefully. I will post some remarks about it over on your thread in a day or two when I have looked at it in detail. Take care,


Stefan Weckbach wrote on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 09:08 GMT
Dear Ben,

i now read your essay and it is indeed interesting. You begin with very clear and well-ordered introductions to the whole problem fields of modern physics and you clearly write what are rejected assumptions for you and what you consider as working hypothesis. I enjoyed reading your essay, albeit not understanding every line of reasoning you made during your elaboration.


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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 11:29 GMT
Dear Stefan,

I appreciate your kind remarks! Regarding your impression of my approach as largely involving reinterpretation, I would prefer to think of it in the way you describe than to think of it in terms of simply throwing out all that we've learned over the last 500 years and starting over. There are often many steps separating original physical ideas from the formal theories eventually used to describe them, and I think that a lot of the great scientists of previous eras had many physical ideas more or less perfectly correct without necessarily having the tools necessary to make them precise.

Regarding the mathematical nature of my approach, through my many discussions here I have come to realize that to some extent I have failed to communicate what I view as the proper perspective on the relationship between the physical and mathematical ideas involved. As a mathematician trying to do physics, my goal is to not allow mathematics to be a limiting factor in the expression and description of physical ideas. In other words, I have tried not to be influenced by the mathematical convenience of particular models, but rather by which models I feel express the physical ideas in the purest way and with the least baggage. One possible result of abandoning mathematical convenience is, of course, that the mathematics can become very difficult and can lead into mathematical fields and topics that most people, including myself, have never heard of before. For this reason, the whole approach can create the false impression of focusing too much on the mathematics itself. The intention, however, is just the opposite: to begin with the simplest of physical ideas (such as cause and effect) and then simply bring to bear whatever mathematical machinery is necessary to adequately describe the resulting theory. Take care,


Viraj Fernando wrote on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 13:25 GMT
Dear Ben,

You have gone through my paper extentsively. Thanks. Pls give me some time to go through yours once again and make my comments.

I will have to respond to your comments part by part, since the posts cannot be too long. In this post I will take up your comment about “Lorentz invariance”.

You wrote: “5. I agree that Lorentz invariance as Einstein conceived it is...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 24, 2012 @ 00:10 GMT
Dear Viraj,

Thanks for reposting this here. Since this part of the discussion is about your work, I will post any further remarks about it over on your thread. Take care,


Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 00:51 GMT
Hello Ben,

I thank you for the gracious comments you left on my essay forum page. I'll answer your queries shortly. Your points are well taken and very much appreciated. Unfortunately; I've been sidelined with unexpected responsibilities, but I do hope to get to read your essay soon and respond to your comments sooner. However I am still catching up elsewhere, so it may be a little bit.

All the best,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 15:07 GMT

Thanks. I would be grateful your feedback, both on my questions and on my own work. However, I do see that you have a few messages piled up on your thread, so I won't be impatient! Take care,


Andreas Boe wrote on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 07:21 GMT
Hi Ben and thanks for a very interesting essay.

I realise I share your view of the universe in some key aspects of your hypothesis and must read it once more to give you some useful comments on it. Here is a first:

"...the metric properties of classical spacetime, up to overall scale, arise from a binary relation, which I will call a causal relation, on a set..."

Well formulated !

The problem I have in accepting it is not that it contradicts observations, but the mind-nuking number of "binary relations" involved. Intuition tells me this cannot be right and that there has to be a simpler model, but then again, I do not trust intuition very strongly in these matters.

If you have an hour of lesure time, I think you would enjoy this youtube-video:


My first impression of you, extrapolated from your written posts on several essays, was that you were 60+ years old. But since you present yourself as a Ph.D student, I suspect that is not the case.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 15:05 GMT
Dear Andreas,

Haha... well, actually I'm 32, which I admit is a bit long in the tooth for a graduate student, but I've had a rather interesting and non-traditional journey to this point.

Thanks for the feedback and the video suggestion...I will be sure to take a look!

Regarding the number of relations, one must make a distinction between "binary relation," of which there is...

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Juan Miguel Marín wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 01:19 GMT
Dear Ben

Thanks so much for your comments on my submission discussing Riemann’s concept of density. I believe everything in your submission, up to its last sentence on “energy density,” reflects rigorously much of what I discuss at a different level. And it does so a hundred times better.

I’ve also often wished that Einstein had met Riemann. Einstein and Planck borrowed a...

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Juan Miguel Marín replied on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 01:19 GMT
…From my European Journal of Physics article perhaps you could guess that I would find exciting any research concerning your “universal Schrodinger equation.” Keep it up!

“Mathematical tools necessary to implement these ideas include a synthesis of multicategory theory and categorization in abstract algebra, involving interchangeability of objects, morphisms, elements, and...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 19:48 GMT
Dear Juan,

I appreciate the kind remarks. I'm beginning to feel as if it is difficult to be a competent physicist or mathematician without being a rather avid historian! Your comments are particularly valuable to me because you evidently possess a rare grasp of historical context in regard to foundational issues. The phrase "before his time" is overused, but it undoubtedly applies to...

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Sig wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 01:45 GMT
Great Article. I will reread again -

Regarding the ending, quoted as follows:

"Finally, the dimension of space as well as its curvature might vary

with \energy density," though the effect might be immeasurably small"

This appears consistent with CIG: in that the volume of Space (i.e. dimension of Space) is tied to energy density / / / Full curvature = black hole; no curvature = vacuum energy/Dark Energy; partial curvature = Dark Matter, and each is all %"c" dependent


doug (comments still welcome)

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 20:00 GMT
Dear Doug,

I'll take a look! Thanks for the comment. Take care,


Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 14:26 GMT
Hello Ben,

Thank you again for your comments on my essay, which to me are among the most valued of all the comments I've had.

I saw your recent point about objects ageing, in relation to the point I made about the residual effects of time dilation. The emphasis in my essay is simply to set out the clues we have, and draw broad conclusions from them, rather than going into detailed...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 20:10 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

Thanks for the feedback! I understand that your essay doesn't represent the whole of your thinking about fundamental physics, and I agree that the ideas you consider are sufficient for the point you are making. Conciseness and clarity are particularly important in the present context.

Nevertheless, I am interested to know what your ideas about the fundamental structure of spacetime are. You say that you "suspect that the way forward, when we find it... will instead involve finding some truly new concepts." Do you have any favorite conjectures for what those "new concepts" might be? Take care,


Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 21:37 GMT
Hello Ben,

well thanks for asking - it's more a book that's needed to answer that. I saw you mention somewere the other things that you 'ought to be doing' at the moment, well I have the same... I would be putting the finishing touches to my book if I wasn't on this site, the publisher is expecting it - but am enjoying the discussion here and learning a lot from hearing other people's views. In the book I compare and explore some different avenues, and different kinds of answers to these questions, and try to use rational thinking to estimate what kind of answer is the most likely. It seems to me that I narrow down the possibilities well, but I'll wait to see what others say. I'd very much value your opinion when it's out, will let you know.

Your contribution here has been enormous, I find your posts in many places, helping to pull people's thoughts together, and helping to focus the general attempts to crack these puzzles. Thanks again, and good luck to you.

Best wishes, Jonathan

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 00:22 GMT

Thanks. Be sure to let me know about your book. My email address is on my essay. Take care,


Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 23:29 GMT
Dear Ben,

Your comments all over the place have been a joy to read. I particularly admire your habit of asking 4 to 6 detailed and relevant questions on each essay, and am most impressed with the mental power and will power that drives your output.

In most cases I find myself in agreement with you, and certainly when you state:

" any case, the physical ideas ought to come...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 00:20 GMT
Dear Edwin,

Thanks for the kind remarks. You are, I believe, even more prolific than I am on these threads, and you always maintain a high standard of reason, civility, and circumspection.

I hope I'm not too far down the path of causal binary relations to reconsider things! I'm 32 years old, and have been working on this idea for about 2 1/2 years. As I've mentioned before, most...

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Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 00:39 GMT
Dear Ben,

Thanks for pointing out the other 'pro-manifold' authors. I have not read most of them yet.

And of course I'll be happy to communicate with you after the contest ends and things settle down.

Best wishes,

Edwin Eugene Klingman

Hoang cao Hai wrote on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 05:32 GMT
Dear Benjamin F. Dribus

Your opinions is very specific and specifically impression.

You might consider and make suggestions for "a draft for proposal of T.O.E " of me in this topic (topic/1417- out side of my essay)

Kind Regards !


August 23, 2012 - 11:51 GMT on this essay contest.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 13:04 GMT
Dear Hoang,

I would not presume to propose a "Theory of Everything;" my belief is that all such attempts will look a bit silly a thousand years from now. Even if we succeed in developing a theory that seems to explain all natural phenomena of which we are currently aware, there is nothing to prevent us from making new discoveries in the future. Don't you think a "Theory of Everything" would be a bit depressing? What would be left to do?

However, I will take a look at your essay! Take care,


Hoang cao Hai replied on Oct. 6, 2012 @ 00:45 GMT
Dear Benjamin F. Dribus

It is the work that we must do.It is inevitable.

With all the confidence that has found it, I found that: still a lot of hard work we must do.

It simply means: we no longer have to "groping" more.

Many thank.

Wilhelmus de Wilde wrote on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 16:07 GMT
Dear Benjamin,

Your CMH opens a lot of new perceptions and universes. I liked it very much. You also mention : "The initial family evolves to the terminal family", so in your view every universe was in facto initial and becomes terminal, also the conglomeration of universes that forms our "reality".

In "THE CONSCIOUSNESS CONNECTION" I go back to the initiality and limit our universe by the Planck length and time. So "reality" emerges from our consciousness, that is why I appreciate your "thought experiment".

I also saw that Eric verlinde had your attention, his perception of gravity is also in accordance with my idea that only materialistic reductionism is not the only way to research our questions about existence.

I hope that you will read my attribution in the contest, especially your opinion about my "causality" perception.

best regards


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 16:38 GMT
Dear Wilhelmus,

Thanks for the kind remarks. I have seen some interesting comments of yours on other threads, but so far missed reading your submission, probably because you are near the bottom of the alphabetical list! In any case, I will be sure to take a look. I do think that consciousness is a very difficult topic and one that I would not have attempted myself, though I have thought about it a fair bit. I'll be interested to see what you have to say. Take care,


James Dunn wrote on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 17:21 GMT

Thank you for stopping by. I am very interested in reading your works. I will be writing to you later today.

James Dunn

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 17:18 GMT
Dear James,

Thanks. I got your email, and sent you some questions back. I also posted again on your thread. Take care,


Roger Granet wrote on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 04:11 GMT

Thank you for the nice comments over on my essay. I responded over there. While your essay is way over my head in terms of math, the points you made that I think (?) I understood were very good! A few comments are below, but take them with a grain of salt because, as I said, it was kind of over my head. Anyways, they are:

1. I think your way of thinking as illustrated...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 17:49 GMT
Dear Roger,

Thanks for the kind remarks. I took a look at your website, but unfortunately only the top of the page would load; I don't know if this is a site issue or a browser issue.

In any case, even if some of the mathematical content was a bit unfamiliar, it seems that you understand quite well what I am trying to do conceptually. In particular, I'm trying to give a precise description of something very like what you mentioned in your point 5, with the clarification that I think each "element" generally has multiple "parents." In particular, by "causal relation," I mean almost exactly what you said.

One difference we might have is that I think dimension (like "space" and "time" themselves) is just a "way of talking about what actually happens." For instance, in three-dimensional space you can "go in six different directions," forward, backward, up, down, left, right. If you turn this around and start with a bunch of events that are related to each other in this way (each having "six neighbors" in an obvious sense), then you would get a "three-dimensional network." This is all a very rough and imprecise way of describing things, but hopefully gives the right picture. I think that the dimensionality of the universe is telling us something about how interconnected the structure is at the fundamental scale: how many "direct neighbors" each "fundamental element" has, and how they are arranged. All this ignores the quantum-theoretic version, of course.

Anyway, thanks again for the feedback! Take care,


Roger Granet replied on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 04:20 GMT

Hi. For my website, maybe try:

and then click on the third link which is called " Why do Things Exist and Why is there something rather than nothing?" The section related to my point 5 was the last one before the conclusion; although, it helps to read the whole thing.

On the dimension thing, I would just say that for "events" or "structure is at the fundamental level" or geons or causal sets or anything to physically exist, which I think they have to if the universe is to be made of them, then I personally have trouble imagining how they could physically exist without having 3 dimensions. If one of the three is actually zero, then does this really exist in the non-mind, physical universe?

Anyways, no need to reply on this since it's good to have some differences in opinion (we don't want no groupthink!) and I know it kind of takes some time! Good luck at school and in the contest!


Peter Warwick Morgan wrote on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 12:54 GMT
Hi Ben,

Thank you for your kind comment on my essay. As you say, it's good to see alternatives explored, and a fresh view of causal set-type structure is welcome.

Best wishes and good luck,

Peter Morgan.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 18:16 GMT
Dear Peter,

Thanks. I left another remark on your thread... I imagine you will see that remark before this one. Take care,


Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 16:17 GMT

The best thing about these contests is they give an opportunity to brain storm on a range of possibilities. The questions concerning physical foundations, particularly with respect to cosmology and quantum gravity, require different ways of thinking. I sometimes think that our educations have a disservice. While of course a graduate student needs to know classical and quantum...

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John Merryman replied on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 17:53 GMT

Not to butt in here and while we have discussed this before, I usually avoid getting in the conceptual ring with you, but;

You make the two observations that prior knowledge can blind our thinking and that physics treats time as an interval.

That goes to my repeated observation that by treating time as a measure, physics only re-enforces the effect of sequence, rather than considering the cause of change, that is action. That it is not the present moving from one frame to the next, but action replacing configurations of the same material. Not the earth traveling a fourth dimension from yesterday to tomorrow, but tomorrow becoming yesterday because the earth rotates.

Duration doesn't transcend the present, but is the state of the present between observations, so there is no physical extension, only action.

If time were simply a dimension consisting of those intervals, wouldn't a faster clock rate move into the future more quickly, yet the opposite is true, as it ages/burns quicker, it moves into the past faster. Witness the twin in the faster frame has died, when her twin in the slower frame returns.

I feel like a frog on the road when I make this point, but while it only seems to be ignored, no one bothers to refute it.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 18:55 GMT

Thanks for gathering these ideas here at the bottom of my thread. I have been saving the pieces of this particular conversation for more careful consideration after I have finished reading everyone's ideas.

In regard to the potential disservice of formal education, I have a generally low opinion of many aspects of the educational system myself, so this is probably not a good topic for me to get started on! One thing I can't resist adding, however, is that there is a great deal of pressure to specialize and little or no incentive to learn or care about what anyone else thinks. I cannot count the number of times I have gotten the answer "that's not what we do" in reply to a question about using a certain mathematical theory or technique in a novel way.

Coming from outside physics proper, I'm not sure if I'm more crippled by ignorance of certain "standard material" that most physics graduate students probably know, or advantaged by being largely oblivious to any sense of commitment to any established school of thought I knew about before I started thinking about these things myself.

Maybe the information age is a partial antidote to the problems you cite, since information about technical subjects is available without the necessity of dependence on an individual or institution, along with the pressure to conform that such dependence often entails, despite the best of intentions. Of course, this information is generally a few years delayed, but major foundational problems often take much longer than this to solve anyway. In any case, I'm sure more than a few people have wasted their talents because they were "too nice" to reject the avenues suggested to them by others. Hopefully the wide availability of information will increasingly permit intellectual independence without the necessity to be antisocial! Take care,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 19:09 GMT

I will have to read your essay to better understand what you are proposing. You seem to reject the existence of an independent time dimension, which is also one of the assumptions I reject in my essay. In particular, you seem to reject the idea of block time. Jonathan Kerr has written an interesting essay on this that you may enjoy reading.

The general idea of time being a way of describing actual change sounds like Mach's view; I don't know if you encountered this idea by reading about Mach, or if you thought of it independently. I would like to think of time as a way of talking about cause and effect, which is similar but not identical. In any case, I will have more to say after I have read your essay. Take care,


Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 01:27 GMT
Ben & John,

When it comes to time, I have no particular objective concerning its ontology. I find the idea that one want to can remove time and then say that objects in motion move through space with a velocity which we interpret as time as just another way of defining time. I find there is a sort of epistemological “dog chasing its tail” issue going on here. Space and time may...

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John Merryman replied on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 03:17 GMT

I'm thinking of your observations about tmi(too much information), as I'm reading this. Part might be distraction and part might be that the information is so dense as to be impenetrable by anyone not intensely versed in it to begin with.

While I certainly agree we are drowning in oceans of information, I see there are lessons to be learned there as well. Think in terms...

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Janko Kokosar wrote on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 10:00 GMT
Dear Benjamin,

Thank you for reading my essay and giving good opinion. It is beneficial to me that one Ph. D. student gives good opinion about my essay. It is also a favor that someone reads it precisely and comments, this is what our amateur theories lack. So it is well to obtain any opinion, still better if it is professional or skilled one. It gives new ideas.

I hope that we will further exchange some physical opinions, also after this contests.

Because I cannot read all essays until Friday, can you recommend the best ones by your opinion.

I will read your essay tomorrow. I will give comment below of your essay.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 19:16 GMT
Dear Janko,

Thanks. I will look forward to seeing your comments. I emailed you again as well. Take care,


Janko Kokosar replied on Oct. 1, 2012 @ 20:08 GMT
Dear Benjamin,

I am going through your essay, but I have not yet finished. (It is interesting that there is no one formula in the body of essay, but it is very demanding mathematically. :) )

It is interesting that you "reject the symmetry interpretation of covariance", You reject "space time is a manifold", and you have similar ideas. Can you, please, attach your ideas with my...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 05:45 GMT
Dear Janko,

Thanks for the comments. Regarding your interpretation of special relativity, I agree with your conclusion that "spacetime" does not exist in the absence of "matter-energy," and my approach says the same thing, but in my approach this is a direct consequence of a hypothesis about what "spacetime" and "matter-energy" really are at the fundamental scale (the causal-metric...

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John Merryman wrote on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 13:37 GMT

I thought I would repost this response to your observations :

I wouldn't describe time and sequence as purely mathematical, but as features of action. If I may use an example, it would be that time is frequency and temperature is amplitude. While one wave/cycle/step doesn't cause the next in the series, it does lead to it from the perspective of the dynamic manifesting the...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 18:49 GMT

Thanks for the followup. I posted a few more remarks about this over on your thread. Take care,


Jose P. Koshy wrote on Oct. 1, 2012 @ 06:32 GMT
Dear Ben,

I read your essay. Your field being mathematics, as I expected, your remedy is also mathematical.In your comment about my essay, you mentioned about mathematical convenience. I agree. But convenience is more related to practical work than theory. Mathematical convenience may lead to (has already led to many) technology. The foundational question is more of theoretical nature, the question what matter actually is.

Let us suppose a lump of matter (whatever it may be) devoid of any motion. It will remain the same even after billions of years. So it is motion that causes changes. Motion is a space- time relation that can be mathematically stated, and any change can be mathematically interpreted. That is the role of mathematics.The cause- effect explanations based on mathematics need not necceesarily help us understand what that lump we call matter is. For that we require some physical assumptions about matter.

I have some assumptions about matter, and I think that it agrees with all observations, though it disagrres with the existing cause- effect explanations. However, there may be loop holes in that. So what I suggest is that the main stream scientists propose some physical assumptions about matter and verify whether these agrees with all the recorded observations.

Your suggestions regarding new mathematical approach and new experiments may sometimes lead to new technologies. The experiments can provide proof to the theory. But before that, you have to decide what physical assumption regarding matter is to be proved.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 1, 2012 @ 13:07 GMT
Dear Jose,

Thanks for the remarks. I agree that reducing physics to mathematical concepts is not necessarily very satisfying; the question of what makes the real world "real," rather than another of the myriad mathematical possibilities, has plagued scientists and philosophers for as long as there have been scientists and philosophers.

However, I don't think that causality is a mathematical concept. Nothing causes two plus two to equal four, it just does. While you can describe a network of cause-and-effect relationships mathematically, there is nothing intrinsic to the resulting mathematical structure that identifies it as cause and effect; this is a physical interpretation.

The point I was trying to make about "mathematical convenience" is that it can lead you to get the wrong answer. Choosing to describe physics in terms of mathematical objects whose theory is well-developed and easy to work with shifts the focus from what the physical universe really is like to what we wish it were like for the purpose of calculating things.

I agree that ideas leading to technology don't necessarily lead to illumination. However, one could hope for both! Take care,


Pentcho Valev wrote on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 06:27 GMT

Like Julian Barbour, you create theories in which the "old" concepts cannot be found at all. This is a winning strategy in contests like this one but detrimental for science.

Earlier you wrote: "Regarding the constancy of the speed of light, my guess would be that a concept like this only makes sense at sufficiently large scales. (...) You'll have to remember that my background is mostly mathematical, and therefore I'm inclined to consider the possibility of things that most physicists "know" are wrong. This might be useful in some cases; in others it only reflects my own ignorance."

Pentcho Valev

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 07:30 GMT
Dear Pentcho,

Thanks for the feedback. Causality is a rather "old" concept, at least according to Aristotle. In any case, to paraphrase an "old" proverb, "mathematics is a good servant but a bad master." Regarding the "bad master" part of this phrase, you might have noticed that I've repeatedly expressed the opinion that physical theories should not substitute convenient or "elegant" mathematical constructs (such as manifolds over the continuum) for clear, motivating physical principles. Hence, my own ideas are based on the simplest physical principles you can imagine: order, cause, and effect. However, regarding the "good servant" part, one cannot afford to do without the mathematical tools necessary to implement these simple principles. The physics comes first; the mathematics must be whatever is required to get the job done. Nature demands no less. Take care,


Pentcho Valev replied on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 13:40 GMT
Any theory dealing with (or rejecting) spacetime should be able to provide an EXPLICIT DERIVATION of the constancy/inconstancy of the speed of light, or at least advance either the constancy or the inconstancy as an assumption and then derive conclusions from it. I am afraid your confession:

"Regarding the constancy of the speed of light, my guess would be that a concept like this only makes sense at sufficiently large scales. (...) You'll have to remember that my background is mostly mathematical, and therefore I'm inclined to consider the possibility of things that most physicists "know" are wrong. This might be useful in some cases; in others it only reflects my own ignorance."

...shows that your approach is incommensurable with the speed of light problem. So is Julian Barbour's Shape Dynamics.

Pentcho Valev

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 14:51 GMT
Dear Pentcho,

Well, you will have to give me time (no pun intended). I have never represented the ideas I discuss in my essay as a complete "theory." The causal-metric hypothesis is just that, a hypothesis, and the ideas so far I term an "approach." A physical theory must eventually make predictions and connect with known physics, or it is not worth the paper it is written on. However, this takes time. I have been thinking about this for three years. Your criticism might be perfectly valid if 1000 people had been thinking about it for 30.

You seem delighted with my admission of possible ignorance, so I have given you an even better quote above: "A physical theory must eventually make predictions and connect with known physics, or it is not worth the paper it is written on." Feel free to repost it as many times as you wish. No one knows very much about physics compared to what there is to know.

The problem we were asked to address was "which of our basic physical assumptions are wrong?" It was not, "analyze the implications of the Michelson-Morley experiment." I will opt to interpret your interest in the foundations of relativity in a positive light, as a reflection of your zeal for the integrity of natural philosophy. But please bear in mind that it is counterproductive for everyone to be forced to work on the same problem. Cause and effect is more fundamental than the speed of light, or any speed for that matter, yet I don't insist that you make any definitive statement about causality. Feel free to work on any problem you wish, and please suffer me to do the same. Take care,


Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 12:45 GMT
After studying about 250 essays in this contest, I realize now, how can I assess the level of each submitted work. Accordingly, I rated some essays, including yours.

Cood luck.

Sergey Fedosin

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 15:06 GMT
Dear Sergey,

250 is quite impressive; I have not managed to understand that many so far. At this rate, you will have read every entry in the contest within another week or so. I appreciate the rating. Take care,


Michael A.Popov wrote on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 14:01 GMT

If "The central new principle I propose is the causal metric hypothesis, which states that the metric properties of classical spacetime, up to overall scale, arise from a binary relation, which I will call a causal relation, on a set, which I will call a universe... Mathematical tools necessary to implement these ideas include a synthesis of multicategory theory and categorification in abstract algebra, involving interchangeability of objects, morphisms, elements, and relations; a version of graph 11 dynamics more sophisticated than versions involving uniform probabilities;and the theory of noncommutative algebras over sets with partially defined operations"

Then your attempt to introduce Some sort of Set-theoretical /Category-theoretical Evolution of Minkowsky spacetime Without Complex Numbers can faced with unavoidable necessary of destruction of some advanced areas of established mathematics and quantum physics... I know you understand it, but pure mathematical doubts on Minkowsky-Einstein complex( number) theory of time can suggest more elegant way to prove some your intuitions...?

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 15:25 GMT
Dear Michael,

Thanks for the feedback! The complex numbers are undoubtedly the workhorse of much of modern physics, and avoiding them, if it's even possible to do so, will certainly require a great deal of work to achieve the same explanatory power, let alone surpass it. You might ask, "why, then, abstain from the complex numbers at all, if they are so useful?" The important word here is "useful." Many of the properties that characterize the real number continuum, and by extension the complex numbers, are mathematically "useful" without having any clear physical meaning. Even if there were not physical reasons to doubt that spacetime is infinitely divisible (of which there are many), properties like the least upper bound property of the real numbers would never be directly relevant to physics. Even worse, paradoxes like the Banach-Tarski paradox (you can pull apart a solid sphere into nonmeasurable sets and reassemble them into two spheres identical to the original sphere) show that the real and complex numbers have properties that are not only physically irrelevant, but also physically absurd.

But I am not sure if this answers your question? (I suspect it doesn't!) In any case, I see that you have an essay here about an interesting subject, so I will read what you wrote before making any further remarks. Take care,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 19:17 GMT
Dear Michael,

I realize after reading your essay that my answer to you above was mostly irrelevant. Hence, I have left some additional remarks on your thread. Take care,


Pentcho Valev wrote on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 17:46 GMT

Since you want Minkowski spacetime to emerge from your "causal relations", you will have to assume, additionally, constancy of the speed of light:

John Norton: "That the speed of light is a constant is one of the most important facts about space and time in special relativity. That fact gets expressed geometrically in spacetime geometry through the existence of light cones, or, as it is sometimes said, the "light cone structure" of spacetime. (...) So if we mean a spacetime that also behaves the way special relativity demands, then we have a Minkowski spacetime."

Then it may turn out that your "causal relations" are superfluous - Minkowski spacetime emerges from the assumption that the speed of light is constant and that's it.

Pentcho Valev

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 18:46 GMT
Dear Pentcho,

I have heard of a certain company that offers to name distant celestial objects after its clients in exchange for a fee. Calling the causal relations of the universe "mine" would be an even more absurd presumption of ownership.

I'm afraid that suggesting that causal relations are superfluous because spacetime is a large-scale manifestation of them is like suggesting that the pixels on your screen are superfluous because they form a picture. Try doing without them!

Regarding the constancy of the speed of light, "speed" means "change in distance per unit time." Distance and time are both metric concepts. When one begins with something other than a metric, "speed" must be viewed as a secondary, rather than a primary, concept. No assumption must be made about it whatsoever. Take care,


Pentcho Valev replied on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 08:52 GMT

I thought your theory was deductive. That is, "causal relations" can be formulated as an assumption (analogous to Einstein's 1905 assumptions) from which (and possibly from other assumptions) you are going to deduce conclusions, Minkowski spacetime in particular. Now I see I was wrong: there is no deductive theory.

The following wisdom of yours is breathtaking:

"Regarding the constancy of the speed of light, "speed" means "change in distance per unit time." Distance and time are both metric concepts. When one begins with something other than a metric, "speed" must be viewed as a secondary, rather than a primary, concept. No assumption must be made about it whatsoever."

Pentcho Valev

Anonymous replied on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 12:54 GMT
Dear Pentcho,

You were right the first time. I do assume the causal relations to be fundamental. Minkowski space is not "deduced," but recognized as a large-scale approximation. No assumption is made (or needed) about the speed of light because it is not a fundamental concept. Take care,


Stephen M Sycamore wrote on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 20:00 GMT
Dear Benjamin,

I found your essay to be one of the most all-encompassing in the contest. The paper paints a fairly complete picture of the current state of things and yet it is not lacking in details. It surely merits the high rating it has received.

One comment I can pick out that especially triggered a response is:

"Causality is often formalized at the classical level as...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 05:26 GMT
Dear Steve,

Thanks for the kind remarks. I will have to find a copy of the book you mentioned. Regarding my two-sentence statement that you quote above (regarding kinematic schemes), this is based on some hundreds of pages of unpublished papers, and hence is an amusingly short abbreviation. Conceptually, it boils down to a precise statement of the point Robert Spekkens makes in his essay, that kinematics and dynamics in causal theory cannot be separated.

At any rate, you can see now why your discussion of Lorentz invariance interested me! Take care,


Inger Stjernqvist wrote on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 23:19 GMT
Dear Ben,

Earlier today I made a short comment (hard for you to to find) related to your conversation with Daniel Burnstein. Forget about it. What I wanted to say was that I'm hopefully beginning to begin to grasp your very interesting ideas. As you already know, I'm neither a physicist nor a mathematician. But re-reading your essay today, and following the above conversation, has been most instructive. It also gave me an idea, which I will come back to later, after more reading and thinking. I very much look forward to follow this conversation further. I have so much to learn!

Best regards,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 05:17 GMT
Dear Inger,

Thanks for the kind remarks. I found your essay interesting too, and have read it more than once. Don't forget to pass that idea along when it is ready! My email address is on my essay. Take care,


Inger Stjernqvist replied on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 21:16 GMT
Dear Ben,

I have been so busy not understanding your causal metric hypothesis that I have forgot to tell you about my growing understanding of your essay. The first four sections are very well structured and have all the more emerged as chrystal clear. I just needed some re-reading. My troubles arrive when entering section 5. But today I started to once again follow the above conversation, to see what I can get out of it. At present I understand too little to be able to ask you any meaningful questions. Hopefully that will come, because it is part of my idea. I will tell you about it by e-mail.

Best regards!


Steven Dinowitz wrote on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 23:58 GMT
Hi Benjamin,

I think I made an interesting discovery. Check out my post of 9/19/12. Let me know what you think!



Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 05:12 GMT
Dear Steve,

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I had checked your thread a couple of times after I posted there originally, but there are so many to look at that I missed seeing this. I don't know if you saw the discussion about antimatter antigravitation in my thread above or my brief mention of the possibility in my essay, but this is something I find very interesting. Take care,


Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 05:33 GMT
Hello Ben,

I finally responded to your comments on my forum page. I have also started reading your essay, which looks very interesting so far. I shall try to finish up quickly and have a few proper comments once I am done. I noted Lawrence's comments about the Fermi and Integral experiments above, and I think that addressing that data is going to be a crucial step for showing the viability of your theory.

Causal structures can be problematic, in terms of Lorentz invariance. CDT may have been ruled out by Fermi and Integral and I had thought it was quite promising. Most of what you see for that subject in Wikipedia was written by me, largely unchanged though now in need of an update. I had interesting discussions about this topic with Gerard 't Hooft at FFP10 and with some Loop Quantum Gravity people at FFP11.

I commented on my essay page that - concerning the summing over paths approach - you may want to learn about Hamiltonian Phase Space Path Integrals. The conventional Lagrangian PIs treat particles as things, in effect, or deal with them kinematically. Re-casting the problem in the Hamiltonian form focuses instead on the dynamics and allows for the uncertainty to be factored in up front, but reduces calculations to a simpler functional integral later on.

See the attached paper.



attachments: 0912.0006v2.pdf

Anonymous replied on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 12:56 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

Thanks for the feedback! You raise some excellent points that give me an excuse to talk about certain technical issues that might otherwise have been considered overkill. I must hurry to go teach my class, but will get back to you later today. Thanks also for the paper. Take care,


Georgina Parry wrote on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 08:20 GMT
Dear Benjamin,

I tried to read your essay but despite my interest in what you had to say by the time I got to new principles, the really interesting part, it was no longer at all comprehensible to me. I recognise it as English but not much more than that. That is not meant in an unkind way but an honest reflection of my personal experience. You seem to be doing very well in the ratings so perhaps it is only a reflection of my own intellectual shortcoming. You also appear to have had a lot of feedback on your essay, so you are obviously doing something right. Kind regards Georgina : )

Anonymous replied on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 13:04 GMT
Dear Georgina,

Thanks for the message. The last two sections were a little compressed because of the length requirement, and I could only state short versions of my ideas in a rather formal way without much explanation. That part represents several hundred pages of my own work. You certainly should not feel any personal shortcoming from not understanding the details, because by itself that part raises more questions than it answers. Since the topic of the essay contest was which existing assumptions are wrong, I didn't feel justified in spending more than a few pages at the end introducing new theory. Anyway, thanks for persevering through it! Take care,


Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 17:27 GMT
Hello again Ben,

I have a lot of thoughts to share about causal structure, though I have not finished my first read-through of your essay yet. So I figured I should cross post a comment I left on Robert Spekkens' forum, regarding how we look at kinematics and dynamics. To wit..

The notion that kinematic states and dynamic evolution are separable seems to carry over from the subject-object distinction in English and other European languages.

It is a peculiar left-brain dominated preoccupation, which necessitates measures like Korzybski's "the word is not the thing." In Chinese, by contrast; one cannot describe a thing apart from its process, and even the individual strokes in a character tell the story of how that pictogram evolved.

So this gives you one more thing to reflect on. I'm just returning the favor, since you gave me a lot to think about - in terms of thoughtful questions about my essay content. I have been very busy, this past week or so, but I shall be interested and available to engage on this subject matter as long as there is something worth talking about.

All the Best,


Eugeniu Alexandrescu wrote on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 18:44 GMT
Dear Ben,

You've got my highest note!

I hope you keep the first place and win the contest, 'cause you deserve it!

Good luck.

Gene Alexandrescu

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 06:37 GMT
Dear Eugeniu,

Thanks! I don't expect to win... particularly after the ratings chaos yesterday morning, but I appreciate the vote of confidence. Take care,


Eugeniu Alexandrescu replied on Oct. 6, 2012 @ 04:39 GMT
Dear Ben,

See? I told you and I'm glad you did it!



Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 6, 2012 @ 05:32 GMT
Dear Gene,

Thanks, I'm quite amazed and humbled by the current results. I don't think any official announcement has been made, so I won't take it for granted that these are the final standings for this round, but in any case the degree of hospitality and positive feedback has been very heartening. Thanks again, and take care,


Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 19:29 GMT
Hello yet again, Ben and everyone;

I'm following my muse, by sharing a few more thoughts before reading further, as they respond to comments you left on my essay forum and Ian's. First, yes; Twistors are way cool, because they address the objection of Grothendieck, that geometric points omit too much essential information. In twistor theory, rays are more fundamental than points, which I...

view entire post

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 21:16 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

I'm grateful that you have chosen to post this on my thread! Feel free to post thoughts here at any time.

Your observations raise many important points. As soon as I can, I will get back to you about Fermi/Integral, CDT, causal sets, the missing conformal factor, constant discrete measures, configuration space versus phase space, the Lagrangian as an infinitesimal path functional, path summation over general directed structures, relation and morphism functions as abstract Lagrangians, the generality of (twisted) multiplicativity for phase maps (owing to a cohomological vanishing theorem for noncommutative algebras over sets with partially defined operations), special algebras in quantum information theory, nonassociativity in general relativity...

But my students are killing me at the moment! Hope to continue this discussion/synthesis soon...

Take care,


Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 06:59 GMT
If you do not understand why your rating dropped down. As I found ratings in the contest are calculated in the next way. Suppose your rating is
was the quantity of people which gave you ratings. Then you have
of points. After it anyone give you
of points so you have
of points and
is the common quantity of the people which gave you ratings. At the same time you will have
of points. From here, if you want to be R2 > R1 there must be:
In other words if you want to increase rating of anyone you must give him more points
then the participant`s rating
was at the moment you rated him. From here it is seen that in the contest are special rules for ratings. And from here there are misunderstanding of some participants what is happened with their ratings. Moreover since community ratings are hided some participants do not sure how increase ratings of others and gives them maximum 10 points. But in the case the scale from 1 to 10 of points do not work, and some essays are overestimated and some essays are drop down. In my opinion it is a bad problem with this Contest rating process. I hope the FQXI community will change the rating process.

Sergey Fedosin

Frank Ullmann wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 19:03 GMT
Dear Benjamin,

I have read your essay with great interest (even if I am not sure if I fully understand your causal metric hypothesis idea). I think you might like to read something that was once intended to be my diploma thesis (in a quiet longer and more complicated version). : About the length of world lines … (my essay)

My abstract could be like this:

There is a way to test if the metric (based on the notion of distance, given by the Minkowski norm) tying space and time to space-time really exists.

By using an assumption that is (WLOG) weaker then the assumption that has been used to derive Minkowski norm, we can see that reversed triangle inequality (one of the three conditions that have to be met for space and time to be a four-dimensional metric space) is violated. Thus space and time can not be seen as a four-dimensional metric space.

I would be happy to hear what you think about it.

Kind regards,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 19:38 GMT
Dear Frank,

This looks very interesting. Thanks for pointing it out. I'll try to look it over in detail today or tomorrow and post some remarks on your thread. Take care,


James T. Dwyer wrote on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 10:08 GMT
Dear Ben,

I'm glad to have finally read your essay. Frankly, I'm most impressed that your clear and insightful discussion of established theories in the context of their "explanatory and predictive power." There are a few of observations I'd like to discuss more fully. Unfortunately I've never been a student of physics or mathematics - although I have isolated and corrected critical...

view entire post

James T. Dwyer replied on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 10:12 GMT
Dear Ben,

Quantum Gravity?

Their of course does seem to be a distinct differentiation in the dynamics of interactions at quantum scales. As you discuss in your essay, foundational theories are evaluated by their explanatory and predictive success. While many think that general relativity's primary advantages over classical gravitation is its predictive accuracy and it's ability to...

view entire post

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 16:55 GMT
Dear Jim,

Thanks for the kind remarks and the extra references. There's much more to discuss here... but I'm currently in the lab on a lousy connection. I forget if you have an email address on your paper... if not, do you mind sending me an email at so I have your address for future contact? Thanks, and take care,


Dean L Waters wrote on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 16:14 GMT

Although I didn't manage to come up with any insightful questions about your essay, I have to say your participation in this contest has been invaluable.

You have an incredibly keen mathematical sensibility, combined with the rare ability to frame and ask concise, direct questions. I would often read your questions and the author's replies in other essays posted here *before* reading the actual essays. Since the essays here ranged across so many fields of expertise, your questions often helped to provide a middle ground for understanding.

Between your essay and Wharton's, whose Lagrangian perspective really threw me for a loop, I have considerable subject matter to catch up on.

I look forward to watching as your career unfolds.


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 17:06 GMT
Dear Dean,

I appreciate the kind remarks. I have learned a great deal over the last couple of months and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I hope that thinking over everything I've read will give me some useful new perspectives. It's wonderful to be able to access such a broad cross section of scientific thought! Take care,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 17:14 GMT
Dear all,

Everyone has noticed the ratings volatility over the last few days. Obviously one would rather focus purely on the science, but I know everyone is on edge about this. There has been some discussion on the forum (topic 1263) about this today. I repost here two general posts I made over there this morning. Take care,


Dear all,

Something I've noticed, in...

view entire post

S Halayka wrote on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 17:26 GMT
Hi Ben,

D-Wave Systems just got a huge cash injection from the CIA (In-Q-Tel) and Jeff Bezos. That and the previous Lockheed-Martin injection makes the industry all but giant. So, just for fun maybe you could apply to these funding sources (or to D-Wave itself) to see if you can get help with your work on quantum computing. You never know. They might like it.

- Shawn

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 17:39 GMT
Dear Shawn,

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. The only difficulty is that would probably prove to have seven thumbs in regard to experimental work; my lab time/expertise is quite limited, which probably doesn't surprise you, seeing my bio! I would need to have some competent experimentalists on board. Take care,


S Halayka replied on Oct. 18, 2012 @ 15:17 GMT
Hi Ben,

Looks like I spoke just a bit too soon: The FQXI grant program was announced, as I'm sure you've heard. Surprise! :)

- Shawn

Jin He wrote on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 19:12 GMT

An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents; it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 01:06 GMT
Dear Jin,

Unfortunately, this seems to be true more generally, not only in science. The fact that each new generation tends to repeat the whole process over again shows that to know history is not the same as to learn from it! Take care,


Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Oct. 6, 2012 @ 04:25 GMT

Congratulations !!!!!

Edwin Eugene Klingman

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 6, 2012 @ 05:37 GMT
Dear Edwin,

Thanks for the message, and more generally for your cordial and constructive approach to the whole contest! The numbers have moved around a bit since they were first posted, so I won't take it for granted that these are the final standings for this round, but I'm nonetheless quite humbled by the hospitality and positive feedback I've found here. Take care,


Concerned Public wrote on Oct. 6, 2012 @ 09:38 GMT
Dear Sir:

Sergey G Fedosin is bombing entrants' boards with the same "why your rating has dropped" message. They are all dated Oct. 4... same message.

WTH? I've seen one fine essay drop 89 (eighty-nine) positions, in "Community Rating" in the past 24 hours, and “Sergey’s note” came BEFORE it plummeted. Hmm.

The vote/scaling of this contest is quite nebulous.

"Hackers Rule!", I suppose!

Well??? What else is one to think? The General Public is... Watching…

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 00:42 GMT
Dear Concerned,

I noticed at least three different major shake-ups in the ratings, the first one around 11 AM EDT Wednesday, when most of the essays at the top (including mine, which was #1 at the time) fell around 15 places and were replaced at the top by entries from as far down the list as 30 or lower.

Sergey Fedosin's message came after this, and I can't see any reason why someone intent on manipulating the vote would choose to draw attention to himself. When I first saw the message, before even seeing who had sent it, I interpreted "why your rating dropped" as some childish person gloating over down-voting my essay, but after reading it I realized that he was just trying to explain his displeasure with the voting procedure, and that the way in which the message was expressed was merely a reflection of the fact that English is not his first language.

As you pointed out, more grotesque changes in the rankings continued after this. I noticed yesterday that essays I knew I had already rated displayed the "do you want to rate this essay?" message at the top. A number of submissions went unrated by me at the end because I did not want to risk double-voting. I am sure others felt the same way, and this itself affected the process.

It would be too great a demand on human nature to expect those near the cutoff who were left out in the end not to feel cheated, particularly if they appeared above the cutoff when the clock ran out. In my opinion, there were many more than 35 deserving essays, including two or three in particular that did not make the final round, yet will likely prove to contain some of the most important ideas of any in the contest. Take care,


James Putnam replied on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 01:13 GMT

I have read several complaints and analyses about the voting system since this morning. I think that the others could have been anticipated both from the rules and the wide range of expertise allowed. Perhaps not all of it for first timers. This is the fourth year and those kinds of effects on the ratings are known and need to be learned. I accept them because if things were tightened up I might not be permitted to participate. My lowly finish this year was consistent with my finishes in each of the previous three years. Personally I don't think that it reflects the value of my work. But it does reflect how these contests rate my work. So be it. However, This one that you mention concerns me:

" I noticed yesterday that essays I knew I had already rated displayed the "do you want to rate this essay?" message at the top. A number of submissions went unrated by me at the end because I did not want to risk double-voting. I am sure others felt the same way, and this itself affected the process."

It shows that the system did not work as could have been expected. I care very much that the results be correct however they turn out. Your words tell me that it didn't happen that way this time, and, I think that nothing can be done to make it right. I think it has to be accepted knowing that the administrators will have it in mind for future contests. I am confident that high quality essays will be selected by the juding system as has been the case in the past contests.


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 02:58 GMT
Dear James,

Thanks for the thoughts. I certainly don't wish to level blame at anyone, I just feel a bit sick for those who saw their submissions drop out of the top 35 after the clock ran out. I believe that the administrators tried to do the best they could under the circumstances, and I agree that doing anything further now would probably just open another can of worms. Something I do wonder about is how many additional authors actually saw their entries fall below the cutoff sometime after midnight. If it were only three or four, I would wish that these could be added to the list. But I know that in this case, anyone currently ranked above one of these would feel cheated. Anyway, this is my first year of participation, and I'm sure no one needs or wants my advice on the subject! Take care,


Jonathan Kerr wrote on Oct. 6, 2012 @ 15:31 GMT
Well done Ben, you deserve it. Not just for the essay, but also for pulling the discussions together and focussing people's thinking.

As 'Concerned public' says above, some essays have shot down - mine dropped from 31 on thursday, after 2 weeks in the top 35, to somewhere I can't count to! I don't know why, but whatever. It was a very good forum, and I think most of us have learned a lot from the exchange of ideas.

Good luck in the finals....

Best wishes, Jonathan

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 01:01 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

It's a little hard to understand. Whenever I wanted to look at your thread over the last few weeks, I clicked on the "community rating" link because you were up near the top. I lost track of this when the chaos started on Wednesday (my essay fell from #1 to #13 in a few minutes, having been in the top five for much of the last two weeks). It's true, as Brendan pointed out, that one would expect heavy voting in the last few days, but it still would have taken multiple very low ratings to push you down so far.

Anyway, I appreciate your kind words. We have had some good (and I trust mutually enlightening!) discussion, and I hope we can stay in touch. I don't see an email address on your paper, but mine is Take care,


Jonathan Kerr replied on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 09:01 GMT
Thanks Ben,

Well it may be that the positions up to the last 24 hours are more indicative, but that's all in the margin in some ways anyway. My email address is on my thread but I forgot to put it on my essay, it's . Have a well earned rest!

Best wishes, Jonathan

Juan Ramón González Álvarez wrote on Oct. 6, 2012 @ 19:49 GMT

thank you very much for the explicit support in topic/1263 and congratulations by your first position

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 00:48 GMT
Dear Juan,

Thanks for the message. I am glad to see you in the finals! Take care,


Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 02:59 GMT
Congratulations Ben!

It is good to see you with a top ranking. You had kind things to say about my essay, and I am pleased to report also being among the lucky few (assuming there are no more oscillations). Now you can impress your students with the fact that you ended the qualifying round scoring above a scientist who co-authored a book with Stephen Hawking. But I digress.

Yours was a very interesting essay, which demonstrated a deep understanding, and it will be intriguing to see what other ideas you have to share - and compare notes.

More later,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 03:13 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

Thanks for the kind remarks. I actually wrote the message just below this one before I refreshed the page and saw yours... "comparing notes" was exactly what I had in mind! As I said there, however, I expect no one will be reading this for the next day or two anyway, so I'll hold off until early next week. It's good to see you in the final round as well... thoroughly deserved! Take care,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 03:03 GMT
Dear All,

I appreciate the opportunity I've had over the last two months to read your essays, which represent a broad cross section of current scientific thought. I have attempted to assimilate the principal ideas by disciplining myself to try to understand your papers well enough to engage in at least rudimentary discussions about the main points. With very few exceptions, you've been unfailingly hospitable, and have in many cases given me significant extra clarification and references. You've also been very open-minded concerning my own ideas about fundamental physics, which I admit take some getting used to, and which will require significant further development to determine their scope of applicability to the real world.

What I'd like to do in the coming weeks is respond more adequately to some of the important points that have been raised by some of you on my thread and in conversations we've had on your threads. First I would like to address some of the points raised in this thread by Jonathan Dickau on October 3. However, I imagine that no one will be paying much attention over the weekend, so I’ll hold off on this for a day or two. Take care,


Inger Stjernqvist replied on Oct. 9, 2012 @ 20:35 GMT
Dear Ben,

My warmest congratultions to your first - and most well deserved - rating in this contest.I have spent a few days in rural southern Sweden, hardly within reach of the Internet. But today I have re-read the above conversation, and learnt more from it. Now, when everything is settled about the final essays, I look forward to the possibility of a more peaceful converstation, in which I have a slight chance to catch up.

Best regards!


Anonymous wrote on Oct. 9, 2012 @ 13:27 GMT
Dear Ben,

Thank you a lot of for your attentions and comments. Please accept my apology for delay.

As you correctly mentioned, we reviewed all non-local hidden variable models which simulated quantum singlet state by non-local hidden variables. We derived inequalities which are based on these models and showed that they violated by quantum correlation function.

Unfortunately, my essay has typos at first paragraph of page 5 (is equal to one…), however, equation 6 and fig. 3 are correct.

As you mentioned at your essay, there are some physical models which are based on the Extra Dimensions and compactification of extra dimensions. However, please pay attention that these models take place at high energy physics (about 10^{18} Gev). I can accept your opinion if you find rationalization for it. In other words, how space-time microstructure is changed at low energy physics (about 1 kev)?

I am ready to see your work at more detail.

Thank you in advance

Sincerely yours.


Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Oct. 9, 2012 @ 23:10 GMT
Hello again Ben and Friends,

I'm taking up your invitation to post at any time, with due respect to John Baez, who is not my cousin in real life.

A story:

They say my uncle is crazy, and cousin John tells me some family members wanted to lock old Uncle Octonius up in the attic, but I think he is only eccentric because he's seen the universe, and knows its secrets. For years...

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Steve Dufourny replied on Oct. 19, 2012 @ 12:58 GMT
ahahah learn french and read my poems ahahah uncle spherical gives you a lesson.and you know it.Don't try with the faith and the spherization. You are not really relevant in fact.a simple sockpuppet player is your name,in fact you are only good for the computing, the rest oh my god but what is your foundamentals. ahahah in fact you are only good for these kind of play.not for the gnerality.You...

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Steve Dufourny replied on Oct. 19, 2012 @ 13:56 GMT
sockpuppets-play....conclusion, anybody of the familiy has right.

Results....easy to see the truth.

You do not understand what is the universal love. So why you insist ?

Jens Koeplinger wrote on Oct. 10, 2012 @ 04:14 GMT
Dear Ben - first of all I want to thank you again for your supportive remarks on John and my submission! Thankfully, after checking my records, I found your essay in the list of ones I loved as well. I am happy to see that enough people also loved your essay. Honestly, the rating and voting was overwhelming to me, and I admire your thoroughness in this essay contest. Hopefully you win a prize,...

view entire post

Rick Lockyer replied on Oct. 10, 2012 @ 04:55 GMT

While I am interested in Ben's answers to your questions, I would like to assert that the belief an "electromagnetic observer space" is "(Minkowskian)" is one of the fundamental assumptions needing review, the subject matter of this essay contest. As you know, my essay promotes a contrary opinion.


Anonymous wrote on Oct. 10, 2012 @ 05:50 GMT
Dear All,

I am suffering a bit of a backlog of deep and important points raised by a number of different people here over the last two weeks. Each of these points requires a careful and somewhat involved response, to whatever extent I am intellectually capable of providing one!

This is midterm week at my university, and I have a throng of needy calculus students tugging at my coattails at present. It may well be the weekend before I am able to catch up on some of these communications. Some of the main priorities are the following:

1. The implications of experimental results constraining certain types of nonmanifold structure/covariance breaking.

2. The proper application of path summation in general contexts.

3. Discussing what "particles" might look like in view of the causal metric hypothesis.

4. Discussing some special algebraic structures of particular importance...

In the meantime, please feel free to continue posting such remarks here; you're contributing to my education! Since this thread is at the top of the list, it's a reasonably convenient place for discussion. Many of you know more about some of these issues than I do, so feel free to post remarks in response to others' comments. While I will do my best to answer things myself, I am a bit greedy in the sense that my greater interest at present is absorbing, black hole-like, what everyone else is saying. I will endeavor to give off a little Hawking radiation, however!

Finally, I am trying to compile a coherent email list; my email is, and I'd appreciate hearing from any of you. I have already contacted a number of you who included email addresses on your essays. Take care,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 12, 2012 @ 04:02 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

The following three posts are in response to a point you raised in your post on October 3 05:33 GMT on my thread on the subject of “Lorentz invariance violation.” From reading your essay and from our other correspondence, I know that this is ground you have been well over, but I include some general details here for general interest.

My essay advocates an “order-theoretic interpretation of covariance,” which is an example of what is usually called “Lorentz invariance violation,” (LIV) or “covariance breaking.” I prefer to regard this as a “reinterpretation” of the covariance principle, to extend it to a domain where continuous group symmetries are of doubtful applicability. But that is merely a choice of terminology.

As you point out, there exist experimental means to test certain types of LIV, and some of these methods have placed tight constraints on these types of LIV in the last few years. In particular, you mention experimental results from the Fermi Gamma Ray Telescope and the INTEGRAL gamma ray observatory. For anyone who is interested, I link to a few references about this:




Popular INTEGRAL article[\link]

The first two articles are arXiv versions of recent papers describing the methods and results of INTEGRAL and Fermi in constraining LIV. The third is a somewhat general review of such methods, unfortunately dating from before the most recent results. The fourth is a popular article on the same subject.

(continued below)

Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 12, 2012 @ 04:08 GMT
(continued from previous post)

I botched up the above links with backslashes. They look absurd, but they all work except for the Stecker link, which is here:


(continued below)

Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 12, 2012 @ 04:10 GMT
(continued from previous post)

The “popular simplification” of these results has been that “if Lorentz invariance violation exists, it must occur on scales much smaller than the Planck scale.” Of course, such conclusions are model-dependent; see for instance the discussion in section III of the first article to see how much conventional physics is being assumed.

As you point out, these results may be very problematic for the theory of causal dynamical triangulations (CDT), which is a much more constrained and structured approach to “quantum causal theory” than Sorkin’s causal sets or my causal metric hypothesis. CDT has nontrivial fundamental elements, namely Lorentzian 4-simplices, and this allows for the use of a lot of familiar machinery in the theory. I do not know exactly to what extent Fermi/INTEGRAL doom CDT, but my impression is that at least some of these methods apply more or less directly and have negative implications.

I don’t think this is true for causal sets, but I would like to ask Rafael Sorkin about this. There is a fair bit of literature on photon dispersion in causal sets, but I doubt if the machinery cited in the Fermi/INTEGRAL papers has a definitive causal set analogue at this point.

(continued below)

Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 12, 2012 @ 04:13 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

This is the last part continuing from above about Lorentz invariance violation...

Let me say a few words about why the Fermi/INTEGRAL experimental results don’t worry me from the perspective of my own work, though they certainly should be kept in mind as constraints on the details of nonmanifold models of fundamental spacetime structure.

1. Just to be clear, although I think locally finite causal graphs are the most physically interesting “causal-metric” models at present, I don’t think that “volume” arises from a constant discrete metric (a la Sorkin).

2. In particular, “nonmanifold” does not imply “discrete;” the two concepts are merely different extremes. Furthermore, “discrete” can mean several different things. There are several different topologies that are relevant for such models, and the discrete topology is perhaps the least interesting of these. There is also a measure-theoretic meaning of discreteness (e.g. Sorkin’s “order plus number equals geometry.”)

3. I doubt the arguments for the fundamental significance of the Planck scale.

What I am arguing is that experimental results like Fermi/INTEGRAL should serve as guides in pursuing nonmanifold models of spacetime structure, not discouragements. The most obvious objections to what I’ve said here is that my models are too vague and general at present to be either confirmed or falsified by feasible experiments. This is true… I need to do much more work. However, my feeling is that these results rule out only a tiny sliver of the universe of interesting quantum causal models.

Any additional thoughts you might have on this important point would be appreciated! In particular, I suspect you know more about exactly where Fermi/INTEGRAL leave CDT and other similar models. Take care,


Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Oct. 12, 2012 @ 19:53 GMT
The breakdown of the Lorentz symmetry is something which was advanced by loopvariable quantum gravity theorists. As Ben points out the observations of distant burstars has put considerable doubt upon these theories. Spacetime appears to be absolutely smooth down to scale of 10^{-45}cm or so. The graininess of spacetime that would result from violations of Lorentz symmetry should result in...

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Lawrence B Crowell replied on Oct. 12, 2012 @ 19:58 GMT


where p^b_0 = e^b_0. For e^{aμ} the transformation involves {\cal G}^{-1}[p_0]. Similarly the differential operator


transforms locally under the nonlinear Lorentz group. This then gives


which for the local nonlinear transformation written according to indices gives the connection...

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Jayakar Johnson Joseph wrote on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 06:27 GMT
Dear Benjamin Dribus,

Causal metric hypothesis is much applicable with the Tetrahedral-brane scenario of Coherently-cyclic cluster-matter paradigm of universe, in that time emerges with the eigen-rotational strings and a causality-effect continuum is expressional for an eternal universe and thus Causal cycles is descriptive with this paradigm. Causality of three-dimensional structures is the effect of tetrahedral-brane expressions by eigen-rotational strings, in that spacetime emerges from eigen-rotations of one-dimensional string-matter segments. Thus in this paradigm, the metric properties of spacetime is descriptive by the configuration space with string-length and time, in that the nature of spacetime is expressed differently.

With best wishes


Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 06:50 GMT
Thank You Ben and good Sir Lawrence!

Good summary and references Ben, and explication of the territory Lawrence. Lorentz invariance vilolation (LIV) is likely a problem for for some causally structured theories like CDT, but as LC pointed out, it first came out as a prediction by some LQG folks, as a possible means of validating the loops approach. Greatly summarized, the Fermi and...

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Lawrence B Crowell replied on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 12:59 GMT
Loop variable quantum gravity, causal sets or nets, causal triangulation theories and related ideas are themselves I think constraint systems. For instance, loop variable theory is a spinor, or spinor field, form of the 3 space plus 1 time form of relativity which has the Hamiltonian constraint NH = 0 and the momentum constraint N^iH_i = 0. The Wheeler DeWitt equation HΨ[g] = 0 is a...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 13:31 GMT
Dear All,

I want to thank Lawrence for the detailed info on deformed special relativity (DSR), Lorentz invariance violation, and the connection to the cosmological constant problem. His link to the original paper of Smolin and Magueijo does not appear to work; hopefully the following link fixes this:

Smolin and Magueijo DSR

I mentioned DSR briefly in my essay (it's one of the approaches involving noncommutative geometry). My understanding is that DSR has suffered a number of theoretical and experimental setbacks since it was introduced, but I think the issues it attempts to address are things which must be considered.

I'll also remark that a number of other authors who submitted excellent essays to this year's FQXi competition were instrumental in the development of DSR and related approaches involving a minimal fundamental scale. These include Sabine Hossenfelder and of course Giovanni Amelino-Camelia.

Paul Reed replied on Oct. 20, 2012 @ 06:58 GMT

At the risk of causing a riot, a problem with that Smolin/Magueijo paper is that it presumes SR includes gravitation in the first place. Which it does not. So in that sense, there is no issue to resolve. Einstein defined SR several times, and it is not 1905.

In 1905, the two postulates are “apparently irreconcilable”. Which is a bizarre statement when juxtaposed against...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 13:57 GMT
Dear All,

Another point Lawrence re-raised is the possibility of duality between theories such as causal set theory, which involve anti-symmetric binary relations, and theories such as shape dynamics, which involve symmetric binary relations. This is one of the ideas arising from the discussion here (provided no one thought of it already!) that I hope will receive further attention and exploration.

The evolution of this idea here is worth reading, but it is unfortunately scattered around the threads and there is too much to repost in one place. I think the discussion began with my comments on Daniel Alves' thread about symmetric, anti-symmetric, and asymmetric binary relations in shape dynamics and causal theory. From there the discussion branches out in several places.

Lawrence has offered some important clues on making this idea precise. See his remarks on the axiomatization of space, Penrose tensor space theory, supersymmetry, fermionic and bosonic fields, etc. on Daniel Alves' thread, Sean Gryb's thread, and my thread. In particular, see his post of September 28 on my thread.

Lawrence B Crowell replied on Oct. 14, 2012 @ 02:04 GMT
I will write more on the Penrose tensor space, or what I think is also called a modular space. Shape dynamics is really a form of Regge calculus. One could think about this according to light rays. In this way there is no matter of time involved with the “motion” of a shape, for null rays have no proper time. I illustrate this with two diagrams I attach to this post. The first is a flat...

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Lawrence B Crowell replied on Oct. 14, 2012 @ 02:08 GMT
I forgot to attach my diagrams in the post above


attachments: 1_light_rays_and_triangles.JPG, 1_null_rays_and_triangles_in_curved_spacetime.JPG

Paul Reed wrote on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 07:47 GMT

I noiced your essay is top of the list, so I read it.

The first step is to understand how we detect existence, and hence what our reality is and how it must occur. We can only know our reality, as we cannot transcend our own existence.

“The first few assumptions I reject are… that systems evolve with respect to an independent time parameter”

Not so. The two fundamental knowns in respect of our reality (ie not some metaphysical conceptualisation) are that a) it exists independently of the sensory systems that detect it, b) it alters. This means our reality is existential sequence. Which entails:

1 It is comprised of elementary substances, these having physical existence which is not further divisible (there may be more than one type thereof).

2 These elementary substances have at least one innate property each which has a propensity to alter, of itself &/or under external influence, in its existent condition.

3 In any given sequence of physical existence, only one physically existent state (ie a reality) can occur at a time, and this has a definitive physical presence.

4 No phenomenon can have physical influence and not have physical presence.

5 There must be a particular relationship between a previously existent state(s) and a currently existent state for it(they) to be the cause, in terms of sequence occurrence and spatial position, as physical influence cannot ‘jump’ physical circumstance.

Now, what these simple rules mean ‘in practice’, is another matter. But one fundamental characteristic of our reality is that it is sequence (or system), timing being an extrinsic measuring system which calibrates the relative speed of changes. It is also easy, on the basis of the above, to discern, generically, what dimension can be, and indeed what any of the other concepts mentioned can be, if anything.


Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 09:21 GMT
Dear Paul,

Thanks for reading my essay and for your remarks. I think I can agree with part of what you say; the rest I am not quite sure about. Let me be more precise.

1. You say "we can only know our own reality." True enough; every observation is mediated by our interpretation, and every argument is mediated by our reason. But all of science is based on the assumption that...

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Paul Reed replied on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 14:01 GMT

Thanks for you prompt response, and the constructive nature thereof.

Re 1: But this is not what I am saying. We can only investigate a specific form of existence. In short!:

Any form of existence invokes the possibility of an alternative, (ie if A, there is always the logical possibility of not-A). But, any form of existence other than our reality is inherently...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 15:03 GMT
Dear Paul,

Thanks for the clarification. I believe I understand much better now where you are coming from. Also, your view does not seem to be quite as much at variance with mine as I had thought from your original comments. In particular, I think we completely agree that time is a way of talking about sequence (i.e. order). However, each event (or observer) has its own local sequence, so the order is a partial order, not a single linear order.

You seem to be suggesting that it is the reality we perceive, not your principles, which is complicated, and this seems to be a valid contention. What I should have said is that it's complicated to translate your principles into meaningful statements about physics, but the same could be said of mine.

You write, "physics has failed to understand the fundamental nature of what it is investigating," and you're quite likely correct. My causal metric hypothesis is a guess about that fundamental nature. Likely it's too simple, but I hope it can explain some current conundrums when properly developed.

I chose not to write about observational and measurement-related issues not because I regard them as unimportant, but because there was simply not enough space. Also, these issues verge on the interface between consciousness and the physical world, which is something I regard as far beyond our abilities at present. I certainly don't feel confident writing about it! A few other brave contestants (Janko Kokosar, David and Julie Rousseau, Sara Walker, etc.) touched on some of these issues. Take care,


Paul Reed replied on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 05:27 GMT

I am not sure we do agree on the nature of time. Because you say, “However, each event (or observer) has its own local sequence, so the order is a partial order, not a single linear order”. And you reject the principle “that systems evolve with respect to an independent time parameter”.

But, the entirety of our reality is an existential sequence, one can, to maintain...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 07:28 GMT
Dear Paul,

Let me ask a few questions, since we seem to be at terminological cross-purposes...

1. Would you say, roughly speaking, that "time is a way of talking about change?"

2. How are the two statements "our reality is an existential sequence" and "there is no time in a reality" not contradictory? If time is unreal, why talk about it? In particular, why insist on its existence as an external parameter?

3. You say "Timing is an extrinsic measurement system, time being the unit of measurement. For this to function properly there can only be one time/one system, which is applicable to the entirety of reality." Why? Why make this assumption? What does "function properly" mean? In particular, how does this not contradict the relativity of simultaneity and everything we know about physics at large scales?

4. Regarding the reason for "two versions" of the causal metric hypothesis, the answer would be the superposition principle; i.e., because a single quantum-theoretic reality is built out of configurations we call classical alternatives. But what I can't understand is why you need both "sequence" and "time" in a purely classical picture. The sequence is what actually happens; your notion of "time" seems merely an artificial redundancy. Why not throw it out?

You have me more than a little confused! Take care,


Paul Reed replied on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 13:43 GMT

Re 1: Yes, but that answer would need an awful lot of caveats.

Re 2: Because the common assumption is that time is a characteristic of reality (specifically, a dimension), so one can end up using the same incorrect phraseology in refuting that!

The underlying point here being that, in terms of existence, there are only physically existent states (or realities) of...

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 06:18 GMT
Hello Again Ben and friends,

On the subject of Lorentz invariance; a couple of brief conversations with Gerard 't Hooft about the Fermi results at FFP10 in 2009 gave me a lot of food for thought. Initially I simply asked how his newest CA-based QG theory fared, in light of the recent results, and his response was "it's too early to tell" and that considerable work still needed to be done...

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Peter Jackson wrote on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 11:10 GMT

Congratulations. Well earned. You said of mine; "Your ideas sound interesting" and "I'll be sure to have a careful look at your essay when I get back from my trip." (Sept 11th) . But seem not to have yet managed to do so. I do hope you can.

One thing I suggest is a limit to the domain of vector space for evolving kinetic systems, arising from the invalidity of motion as a concept in geometry. A simple and self apparent solution emerges, though from the viewpoint of current assumptions it seems not at first apparently simple at all!

You have to 'self built' an ontological construction from a kit of new elements, just like a dynamic Chinese puzzle, but with instructions and precisely following the structures of logic (from the basic 'nested' hierarchical structure of compound propositions in TPL upwards).

I think it represents the 'simple idea' Wheeler anticipated. But it needs help. I greatly look forward to your comments.

Very best wishes for the final judging.


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 13:02 GMT
Dear Peter,

You're absolutely right... I did neglect to post my remarks on your thread. Things got a bit chaotic there for a while, and my own thread became rather busy, though not quite a busy as yours! In any case, I see you are near the top for the second year in a row, so I congratulate you.

I read your essay a couple of times before, but I should read it again before attempting to address you seriously. I do recall having a couple of questions about the scenarios involving multiple media in your scene 2, and the exact implications of the optical axis rotation on page 7. Also, I'm not quite sure in what context you refer to the "invalidity of motion in geometry," both in your essay and in your remark here. For instance, timelike curves in Minkowski space certainly "represent" motion in an obvious sense. I happen to agree that motion is derivative, but then of course I view geometry itself as derivative!

Anyway, thanks for the gentle reminder... I will certainly take another look at your work. Take care,


Peter Jackson replied on Oct. 18, 2012 @ 21:49 GMT

Very wise to read again, and slowly. There are a whole related set of quite new assumptions to assimilate. The scene 2 (Act 1) media do have more different scenario's than we've assumed. I really needed a dozen more pages! Perhaps read my recent posts to Eckard & Pentcho.

But the concept is simple and physical. Six buses and six clouds of electrons flying round in space all...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 18, 2012 @ 17:56 GMT
Dear all,

Some time ago, Jonathan Dickau raised the question of what the correct formulation of path summation is in various contexts. He attached a well-written paper by Steven Kauffman advocating a Hamiltonian phase space path integral approach and deprecating the Lagrangian approach. I would like to make a few remarks about this.

1. In causal theory, the natural version of path...

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Lawrence B. Crowell replied on Oct. 21, 2012 @ 03:40 GMT
The relationship between position configuration variables and momentum can first be seen by looking at the diagram I attach. This illustrates a scattering process with 5 input momenta and 5 output momenta. The “blob” is the region with virtual or off shell processes, which can be realized by on shell processes by BCFW recursion. I will ignore that matter for the moment. The momenta labeled...

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attachments: scattering_polygon.GIF

Paul Reed replied on Oct. 21, 2012 @ 09:30 GMT

Bear with me while I put up what may appear like a simplistic comment, but sometimes a person without all the background sees the ‘wood for the trees’. I have no idea how this could be represented as a model, let alone analysed in practice, but the logic of our reality must be:

In establishing what constitutes dimension, distance and space in our reality, it must...

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Lawrence B. Crowell replied on Oct. 22, 2012 @ 00:45 GMT
Largely what Dribus connects with is causal net, where physica can be established within a minimal set of postulates and is based on the causal succession of events. There is the shape dynamics which involves polyhedra in space and their dynamics. One involves time (causal nets) and the other involves space (shape dynamics), where I think there is some possible duality here between these pictures. I have suggested this might have some categorical relationship to supersymmetry.

Cheers LC

Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 22, 2012 @ 04:11 GMT
Dear All,

Another idea I'd like to inject regarding the possibility of shape/causal duality occurred to me while trying to understand the "top-down causation" philosophy presented by George Ellis and others. I struggled with this a bit after first reading about it; in particular I seemed to run into trouble thinking about how one might make it precise. I recall Lawrence expressed some agnosticism about this on his thread too.

Anyway, it occurred to me that, very generically, it might be problematic to expect duality between a theory involving classical holism (e.g. shape dynamics) and a theory with complete reductionism at the classical level (e.g. causal sets). Ellis' top-down causation, suitably represented in a pure causal theory, might incorporate a degree of classical holism into causal theory and make the idea of duality more feasible.

(continued below)

Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 22, 2012 @ 04:16 GMT
(continued from previous post)

Whether this idea would work or not, one might still wonder how top-down structure could be incorporated into pure causal theory in a sensible way, and what the actual quantitative differences would be. The answer, I think, is that top-down causation elevates the binary relation generating the causal order to a "power-space relation." The causal metric hypothesis still applies here, but the vertices of causal graphs no longer represent spacetime events. Below, I copy the relevant material from the post I made about this on George Ellis' thread.

(continued below)

Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 22, 2012 @ 04:20 GMT
(continued from previous post)

After initially struggling with the idea, I’ve been thinking a bit about

how your [George’s] top-down causation idea might look from the

perspective of nonmanifold models of fundamental spacetime structure that

emphasize the role of causality. It seems that top-down causation might

provide an interesting new perspective on...

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Lawrence B. Crowell replied on Oct. 22, 2012 @ 20:44 GMT
In later thinking about this, the top-down approach might make sense from the perspective of computation theory. It might be there simply is no way that one can compute complex structures at the top from the bottom. This may extend to matters of manifold compactification and the number of possible cosmologies in the so called multiverse. The possible number of windings in 6 dimensions is a...

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Paul Reed replied on Oct. 23, 2012 @ 08:04 GMT

I would stop worrying about top down, oscillation, feedback, reaction, or any other concept that involves an hypothesised relationship which cannot occur.

What is physically existent is so at any given time. At the next point in time, at the existential level, ‘it’ will be significantly different. Which points to the ontologically incorrect way in which we conceptualise...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 23, 2012 @ 08:30 GMT
Dear Paul,

The difficulty is that you and I have different assumptions about what is fundamental. I regard "what happens" as fundamental and view "spatial sections" or "antichains" or "Cauchy surfaces" as ways of talking about collections of events that don't interact. You regard "what is" as fundamental and regard "what happens" as a way of talking about "changes" in "what is." ...

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Oct. 22, 2012 @ 23:16 GMT
Hello to both of you.

The computation begins to intrest me, :) perhaps it is due to you and Professor Ellis also. I am understanding better the 2d convergences. Thanks for that.

If we want to compute correctly the system of unqueness, so it becomes very relevant for the algorythms of superimposings and sortings.

The determinsim like an essential for all extrapolations. The...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 23, 2012 @ 08:41 GMT
Dear Steve,

Just to be clear, I'm not proposing a multiverse in the sense of the string theory landscape, but only in the sense of the superposition principle. In ordinary quantum theory, the sum of any two states (e.g. particle states) gives you another state, but in a truly background-independent ("single substance") theory, the different particle states result in different "spacetimes." That's all I mean by the "classical universes." They interfere to give a single quantum universe. A relevant motto for this (and in some ways, quantum theory in general) is "E pluribus unum," i.e., "out of many, one." Take care,


Steve Dufourny replied on Oct. 23, 2012 @ 13:21 GMT
Hello Mr Dribus,

Thanking you.

The principle of superimposings also must be deterministic. I am understanding the difference that you make between the subjectivity and the objectivity. I beleive that the most important is to extrapolate with rationalism.

The spacetimes can be classed with the correct parameters of evolution and increasing of entropy. The states of particules...

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Oct. 23, 2012 @ 10:48 GMT
Hello Mr Dribus,

Thanking you.

The principle of superimposings also must be deterministic. I am understanding the difference that you make between the subjectivity and the objectivity. I beleive that the most important is to extrapolate with rationalism.

The spacetimes can be classed with the correct parameters of evolution and increasing of entropy. The states of particules...

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Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Oct. 23, 2012 @ 12:18 GMT
Dear Ben,

I've been procrastinating on making substantial comments, because your causal metric hypothesis is so close in principle to ideas I explored in a 2006 conference paper and in a 2008 preprint .

I hope that with your background in order theory and graph theory, you can make sense of these papers, if you choose and find time to read. I especially agree with the note in your essay: "Here an order is simply the transitive closure of a binary relation, which is said to generate the order. The transitive closure is the minimal transitive binary relation containing the original binary relation."

As you can see at the end of the discussion section of the 2006 paper, I arrived at the conclusion: "transitivity implies identity." This is the spark that lights the fire of the 2008 paper, a blaze which I am still trying to bring under control. :-)

All best,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 23, 2012 @ 12:24 GMT
Dear Tom,

This looks very interesting. However, the link to the 2008 paper does not work. Could you repost it, please, or send it to me at Thanks, and take care,


Thomas Howard Ray replied on Oct. 23, 2012 @ 12:41 GMT
Sorry, I just cannot seem to ever get the link right on the first try!

Eric Brunhouse wrote on Oct. 27, 2012 @ 13:47 GMT
Thank you for the comment on my essay. I enjoyed reading yours and completely appreciate the amateur quality of my own. You know the ropes! Your paper, perhaps unrecognized by you, parlances with the establishment and flirts with boldness. I don’t mean to offend. We are supposed to be scientist here. Certainly many scientists have said spacetime tries to describe the interactions in the universe but scientist refrain from saying spacetime is an interaction. Some scientists refer to it as you do, dynamical, but do not purge it clean from fundamental phages: a still widespread, often subtle but resilient concept older then Kant. With even more ambiguity “spacetime is a way to talk about interaction” is certain to avoid contention. That said your essay describes the sociomorphic status of modern physics rather then a cornerstone to set in motion a new exodus in experimental science. As you hint at, discovery in science is likely to take a new direction after the Higgs and Standard Model are further confirmed but I think it highly unlikely new experimentation will elucidate a binary interpretation of the cosmos. No disrespect binary causal transitions are illuminating ideas. I believe new experimental results will establish a next stage of scientific inquiry leading to new levels of categorization not yet a catch all mathematical rationalization for everything. That does not seem to be relevant until the experiments are done and we have a better database for nongeometric interactions. After all Newton did not come before Kepler and Brahe.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 20:52 GMT
Dear Eric,

Thanks for the remarks. I would not worry about the "amateur" issue; the ideas are what matters. Anyone who neglects "amateur" contributions is only cutting off a source of potentially useful information. In any case, I wouldn't characterize your paper this way; it evinces plenty of familiarity with modern physics and knowledge of what the important questions are, in my opinion. Then again, I'm only a mathematician.

That said, I must say that I have absolutely no interest in political aspects of modern science. Your remarks such as "parlances the establishment," "certain to avoid contention," and "sociomorphic status" tend in this direction. In particular, I don't care a bit if my ideas are "bold," I care if they're right! If I were interested in establishment favor, I'd be doing string theory, not hanging out here.

Getting back to physics, what do you think is the best way to proceed experimentally post-LHC? Also, what do you think of Ellis' top-down causation idea? Take care,


Paul Reed wrote on Oct. 28, 2012 @ 16:11 GMT

In your post (Oct 23 08.30, 3rd para) you quite rightly pointed out that my view contradicts the ‘norm’. In a later you responded: “I don't think fighting the essential meaning of relativity will achieve anything in the long run, but science won't suffer any from independent thought, right or wrong”.

Indeed. So here is my reply. Apologies for the delay, apart from my...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 20:08 GMT
Dear Paul,

Thanks for compiling all this. As I mentioned below, I'm in over my head at the moment with other responsibilities, and can't do justice to the detail of your points at the moment. However, I will highlight one point you make repeatedly that might help explain where I'm coming from. You say (item 13, for instance), "the timing devices must be synchronised, otherwise the timings are meaningless." Fair enough, but how are devices synchronised? Well, by means of interaction. If two systems interact, it makes sense to compare stages of their evolution (e.g., "Bob held the door WHILE Janet walked through.") But if two systems do not interact, it is meaningless to compare their internal sequences to each other. They must exchange signals in order to establish a meaningful notion of common timing. This is the order interpretation of covariance. Take care,


Paul Reed replied on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 06:54 GMT

"Fair enough, but how are devices synchronised? Well, by means of interaction. If two systems interact, it makes sense to compare stages of their evolution"

It does not matter how these devices are synchronised, neither is this about interaction, it is just that timing devices must be, otherwise they are useless in their function. They just 'tell' the time, in other words...

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Stephen M Sycamore wrote on Oct. 29, 2012 @ 15:56 GMT
Hello Ben, Paul and all others

The dialog between you two is especially interesting and detailed (amazingly detailed). I'd like to submit some observations particularly pertaining to the following comments:

"The relativity of simultaneity invoked by Einstein seems to be a feature of the real world, and this seems to preclude a "naive" notion of an external time parameter. You can...

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Paul Reed replied on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 06:58 GMT

The key flaw in that quote from Ben that you repeat, and I must stress that most people think-it is not a ‘Ben has got it wrong point’, lies in: “You can choose a time parameter, but it will be different for different observers, while the causal structure is invariant “

Observation of physical existence is just that, observation. Physical existence occurs in one...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 20:20 GMT
Dear Steve,

Thanks for chiming in. As I mentioned in other recent posts, I'm swamped at the moment and can't say much in response. What I will say is that I absolutely agree that "alternate conceptions and mathematical models involving the Universe as a whole may well give us another picture of the "real world"."

It's a difference between "may," and "must." All I am contending is that the idea that we "must" use an interaction-independent notion of time is wrong. I certainly am not arguing that all models involving preferred frames should be rejected out of hand. I like your paper because it is mathematically precise and doesn't take Lie group symmetry for granted. Take care,


Paul Reed replied on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 07:42 GMT
Ben et al

It is the notion of frames which is causing a problem

A frame is a reference. Any judgement must have a reference. It is always comparison to reveal difference. And in order to ensure comparability of results, that reference must be consistent (or adjustments made on each necessary occasion to make it as if it was so). There is no such thing as a preferred frame (reference). There is a chosen one. And any one will suffice (it is just that some will present more practical difficulties than others).

Now, obviously, if there is some confusion as to the very nature of what is being analysed, then references could get confused. That is why it is best to establish first that physical existence has one physically existent state at a time, which alters, which results in a different physically existent state, and so on. Only one such state exists at a time, the predecessor must cease in order that the successor can exist. And, obviously, the next state in the sequence does not exist.

The two major references, not the devices used to operationalise them, are:

-tick rate (ie a concept of an omnipresent speed)

-spatial grid (ie a concept of a spatial mesh)

Spatial grid enables comparison of what is a fixed state of spatial relationships, ie what occurs in any given physically existent state, which only occurs at that time, and does not involve change. Therefore there is no tick rate.

Tick rate compares difference between physically existent states, ie rate of change.

The question is, given physical reality, rather than a metaphysical belief, can there be a relationship between these two? That is, is there a properly validated reference which enables comparison of spatial relationships over time. And if so, what it the unit of space to unit of change relationship?


Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 07:17 GMT
Sorry folks... I'll get back to this as soon as possible; at the moment I'm swamped with academic stuff. I've also got a few other papers that I promised to look at again and comment on. Feel free to keep up the discussion in the meantime. Take care,


Anonymous wrote on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 13:58 GMT
Dear Benjamin Dribus,

There is an error in your essay: You propose the idea that the metric properties of spacetime arise from a causal relation. It is an error, the metric properties of spacetime depends only on energy-momentum tensor (gravitating matter), but not on causal relations.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 19:43 GMT
Dear Anonymous,

What you say is a paraphrase of one of the assumptions of classical general relativity. The purpose of this contest is to identify foundational assumptions that may be wrong, and I believe that this is one of them. Take care,


Sridattadev wrote on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 14:41 GMT
Dear Ben,

Please see the absolute mathematical truth of zero = i = infinity that describes the universal singularity.



Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 20:25 GMT
Dear Sridattadev,

Thanks for your comment. You might want to reconsider using the symbol "i" in this sense, however, because everyone will assume you mean "square root of minus one." Take care,


Sridattadev replied on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 18:22 GMT
Dear Ben,

Even that imaginary number which is square root of -1 is also included in the zero = i = infinity, as zero and infinity are also constructs of human imagination. So be it, for some conscience or "i" or the self is an imaginary construct and for others it is the only reality.



Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 20:36 GMT
Dear all,

Something I would like to get to before the contest is over is a discussion of transitivity. Specifically, I make the following statement on page 6 of my essay:

"Second, I reject the assumption that the binary relation generating the causal order is transitive. Indeed, information about direct and indirect causation is a priori relevant, and this information is lost by closing the relation under transitivity."

This is the statement that I expected to cause me the most trouble in the sense that I expected most people (including serious scientists) to immediately conclude that the statement is wrong. I anticipated expending considerable effort in explaining what I meant, and did not mean, by this.

However, there have been only two remarks about this. One was the type I expected, saying that it's obviously wrong. The other said it makes perfect sense. I don't know if the absence of controversy over this is because everyone is being polite, or because most people view the point as unimportant, or what.

In any case, remarks about this, critical or otherwise, would be appreciated. Now I must get back to what I am "supposed to be doing!" Take care,


Paul Reed replied on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 08:44 GMT
Ben (et al)

As said previously, a direct physical influence (indirect ones are irrelevant, because everything else is indirect) can only be effected from amongst physically existent states which are physically adjacent, and exist at the same given time. It could be any combination of them, including any given existent state just changing by virtue of its own innate properties, as whatever comprises physical existence is not inert substance. Which reveals the other aspect, that it could be any combination of the innate attributes of the existent states potentially involved.

Now the problem (as if properly identifying the above was not a problem!) is then establishing the relationship between effect and cause. Because effect, by definition, is of a subsequent (different) physically existent state from cause (those potential states involved having ceased to exist). So effect must be of the immediate predecessor state to cause. But now, see above, the issue (as if establishing sequence order at the existential level is not another problem!) is how is spatial relationship related over time, ie how can it be confirmed that effect is in the ‘right’ spatial position, ie ‘adjacent’ to cause, when they existed at different times (albeit consecutive).

This is ‘easy’ at a higher level of conceptualisation of physical existence, because that just eliminates a certain degree of differentiation, which enables us, to get spatial relationship, sequence order, etc ‘right’ at that level. But precisely what is happening ‘underneath’ that level, ie what is actually physically occurring, is then not known.

However, given the fundamental nature of physical existence, it is probably correct to reject this assumption, because it appears to be contradictory to how physical existence occurs. I seem to remember the concept of superposition arising when I questioned it before.


Eckard Blumschein replied on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 10:27 GMT
Ben Dribus,

I wonder why you are claiming that causality is generated by a binary relation. I see causality always transitive and not anchored in the laws of physics but in the unrestricted plurality of possible influences.

I contempt your perhaps welcome to the community diplomacy towards Parmenides, Lagrange, Hilbert, Einstein, Feynman, Schulman, Wharton, etc. who are denying the distinction between past and future. Please try to justify your decision. I could not find it explained in your essay.


Paul Reed replied on Nov. 1, 2012 @ 08:58 GMT

Yes. What I said above and elsewhere ad nauseum.

The effect (ie next physically existent state in the sequence) could occur purely because of one, or the interaction of more than one, property (for want of a better word, but we know that at least some the elementary substance of physical reality is not inert, otherwise nothing would happen) of an elementary substance. That...

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Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Nov. 8, 2012 @ 02:34 GMT
Dear All,

Thanks for the feedback on the transitivity of the binary relation generating the causal order. I apologize for the long time responding. Academic pressures are overwhelming at the moment, and I will have to be parenthetical. Below I make a few short responses, since putting them all together would be harder to read. Take care,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Nov. 8, 2012 @ 02:53 GMT
Paul: what we disagree about are foundational assumptions. More specifically, you retain many classical assumptions such as the fundamental nature of physical metric space, the existence of universal "simultaneous" states regardless of observation or interaction, and so on. I'll never be able to prove these pre-relativistic views wrong; at best I could show them to be unnecessary, if I were very smart and very lucky.

Paul Reed replied on Nov. 10, 2012 @ 06:26 GMT

But you cannot disagree, unless you can find a fault with the following statement of fact:

Physical existence exists independently of the mechanisms that detect it and involves alteration.

It has nothing to do with classical, etc, etc. It is a failure to understand the nature of the physical existence we are investigating.

As pointed out in what was the first draft of a new paper when I responded above, this leads to some fundamental mistakes. Indeed, the reason I have stalled in finishing it, is because there are so many:

-in Cox & Forshaw why does E=mc2 , the vertical is assumed as 1, this is mathematically incorrect

-then they fail to understand that to observe you need light, not the timing device beam

-Einstein’s attempt at the same gedanken train crash is just as bad, with an independent ray of light being equated with a man walking on the train

The problem, as I have pointed out many times, is in the failure to understand how physical existence is detected and how that can occur.


Paul Reed replied on Nov. 11, 2012 @ 06:44 GMT

Another way of responding. Quote: "the existence of universal "simultaneous" states regardless of observation or interaction". Well obviously, something exists independently of any sensing of it, which is effected with the receipt of physically existent phenonena in a particulsr existent state which represent the reality, as they resulted from an interaction with it. And whatever physically existent state reality was in at that given time cannot be interacting, because being existent involves being in one physically existent state. You are looking for the still in a movie.


Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Nov. 8, 2012 @ 02:56 GMT
Eckard: I agree that causality is transitive; it is the binary relation generating causality that is not transitive. I mean binary relation in the mathematical sense: it is the precise way of saying that cause precedes effect, by taking causes and effects to be ordered pairs.

By "generating" I mean in a mathematical sense, similar to the way the unit "1" generates the integers.

I absolutely reject the notion that the past is indistinct from the future. The “Lagrangian” sum-over-histories method implies nothing of the sort.

Eckard again: In your second remark, you say that “causality is not a simple binary relationship.” You may be right at the level of events themselves. I suggested a precise formulation of this idea on George Ellis’s thread.

Thomas Howard Ray replied on Nov. 8, 2012 @ 18:57 GMT
Hi Ben,

"Thomas: What I mean by losing information is that if you begin with a directed graph, then draw directed edges between every pair of vertices connected by a directed path in the original graph, you lose information about which vertices were directly connected by directed edges in the original graph."

Okay. That's what I mean also, by defining physical time as "n-dimension infinitely orientable metric on self-avoiding random walk." (ICCS 2006) The information is "lost" in the sense of being pathwise unrecoverable; it is still conserved, however, in the sum of histories (Feynman) even if non-linearly. Point is, ideal randomization leaves only the transitive binary relation, as you have identified and which my own essay deals with.

"Going the other way, there are generally many ways of knocking directed edges out of a transitive directed graph while still preserving directed paths between any pair of vertices directly connected in the original graph."

And that is what I mean by perfect, or ideal, randomization. This is tractable to a mathematically complete treatment, however, only in a simply connected space (such as Joy Christian's model).



Eckard Blumschein replied on Nov. 8, 2012 @ 19:31 GMT

In a mathematical sense the irrational numbers are incommensurable with the unit. I see the reduction of causality to an ordered pair of just one cause and one belonging effect also fundamentally incomplete. I refer to what makes reality different from even the best model.

When I was a freshman who learned the laws of electromagnetism, I got aware of the two possibilities to either consider an electric current caused by a changing voltage or the other way round a voltage caused by a changing current. Then I asked myself whether this holds with logical ramification or with non-linearity too.

Meanwhile I tend to ascribe causality primarily to the embedding entity of real influences. Models may or may not obey causality. I hope you understand that my objection is not at odds with your reasoning but rather a possibly unwelcome restriction.

Can you please give me a hint where I will find the precise formulation you mentioned? George Ellis's thread includes about 580 posts.


Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Nov. 8, 2012 @ 02:59 GMT
Thomas: What I mean by losing information is that if you begin with a directed graph, then draw directed edges between every pair of vertices connected by a directed path in the original graph, you lose information about which vertices were directly connected by directed edges in the original graph. Going the other way, there are generally many ways of knocking directed edges out of a transitive directed graph while still preserving directed paths between any pair of vertices directly connected in the original graph.

Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Nov. 8, 2012 @ 03:00 GMT
Jens: It is interesting to view the “positive structure of null cones” (i.e., causality) as an electromagnetic phenomenon only. It seems difficult to me on a naïve level because of couplings among the “forces,” but this is a very deep issue. Have you read Torsten Assellmeyer-Maluga’s and Jerzy Kroll’s essays in this contest? They have an interesting take on quantum spacetime that may be relevant to what you said.

P.S. I have not forgotten your other interesting remarks on my thread, though I still haven’t found time to respond to them!

Jens Koeplinger replied on Nov. 8, 2012 @ 03:11 GMT
Thanks for responding! And no hurry in any of this, your academic studies come first since they enable your future. Thanks for pointing out the essays, I will read them soon. Best wishes, Jens

Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Nov. 8, 2012 @ 03:04 GMT
Georgina: As I said to Jens, this sort of co-existent causal/acausal structure is interesting, but I worry about interactions among the “forces:” I don’t see how it makes sense, at the fundamental level, for a causal structure to couple with an acausal one.

Georgina again: Yes, the “intransitivity” I am talking about is just a precise way of saying that some causes are direct and others are mediated by intervening events.

Georgina Parry replied on Nov. 8, 2012 @ 04:38 GMT
Hi Ben,

I have been discussing the oddity of the structure, as I see it, with Tom on George Ellis' thread. The most recent replies, concerning the comparison to the liar paradox and 'Barber problem' are on my own thread. Which might be interesting to you.

This is how I see the linkage that concerns you. Thinking about it this way makes a lot of sense to me. The causal material...

view entire post

Thomas Howard Ray replied on Nov. 8, 2012 @ 12:33 GMT

"I don't see how it makes sense, at the fundamental level, for a causal structure to couple with an acausal one."

Hmmm. Isn't that what happens when negative feedback (directly causal) is introduced to a positive feedback (acausal) loop?

Example: microphone-amplifier feedback is corrected by moving one or the other farther away. The positive feedback loop is broken by negative feedback from the environment.

In my NECSI ICCS 2007 paper, I proposed gravity as a universal negative feedback system. Like any other negative feedback, it operates in one direction only (toward the center of mass). Which makes Vesselin Petkov's essay particularly poignant -- (I am saddened that it won't be judged in the finals) -- in that it is not inertia that determines the strength of gravity; rather, the lack of resistance (i.e., lack of positive feedback). This leads naturally to Petkov's insight that quantization of gravity may be futile, because continuous changes in the spacetime geometry do not imply change to the gravitational field, as positive feedback would imply.


Eckard Blumschein replied on Nov. 8, 2012 @ 16:02 GMT

"positive feedback (acausal)" ?? In my understanding negative attenuation is still embedded in stability at the large, and it belongs to the chain of causality. Non-causal mathematics has no counterpart in reality. It is just a dirty trick. Positive feedback is eventually always somehow limited.

I agree with Ben: "I don’t see how it makes sense, at the fundamental level, for a causal structure to couple with an acausal one."


Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Nov. 9, 2012 @ 09:43 GMT
Dear Tom, Eckard,

I think we are misunderstanding each other to some extent. First, these everyday examples of feedback loops aren't causal cycles in the sense of the closed time-like curves that appear in "time-travel paradoxes" in general relativity. An explosion isn't an event; it involves a huge number of events over a period of time. An example of a causal cycle would be a single event influencing itself, directly or indirectly, whatever that means. Feedback loops involving "objects" or "processes" have nothing to do with causal cycles, since these entities have duration. Events don't influence themselves here; they influence future analogues of themselves.

Second, we mean different things by "causal" and "acausal." To me, a causal cycle isn't "acausal." I know of no evidence for causal cycles, but there are some interesting theoretical reasons to entertain the possibility of their existence. My framework allows for causal cycles in general, although some of the most promising techniques no longer work in this context.

By "causal structure," I mean simply "directed structure," and by "acausal structure," I mean simply "undirected structure." The most reasonable conditions to impose are local ones, since we are still fairly ignorant of the global structure of the universe. For this reason, I am too cautious to rule out global phenomena like closed time-like curves even if they cause trouble. Local-to-global problems are very often nontrivial in general; you tend to get new behavior that you can't see locally. Take care,


Thomas Howard Ray replied on Nov. 9, 2012 @ 11:05 GMT

It's hard to understand what you're trying to say. A positive feedback loop is acausal; i.e., it is impossible to determine the source of the feedback because the system is self reinforcing.

You don't really mean to use "acausal" in the sense of "lacking cause," do you?


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Nov. 9, 2012 @ 11:33 GMT

By "acausal," I mean a structure in which direction is irrelevant. A directed structure may have cycles, but they are oriented; on a global scale, a path can return to the same point, but locally there is always a direction. By "acausal" I mean no directed structure, even locally.

But I still am not sure if by "feedback," do you mean something like "back in time," or merely ordinary "feedback," which has nothing to do with causal cycles. I assume the former (?)

Thomas Howard Ray replied on Nov. 9, 2012 @ 12:39 GMT

Ah. Okay. "A directed structure may have cycles, but they are oriented; on a global scale, a path can return to the same point, but locally there is always a direction."

In a simply connected topological space, there is always a direction globally as well. Orientability destroys the distinction between local and global.

"By 'acausal' I mean no directed structure, even locally."

Then on the face of it, I have to expect that you really do mean "without cause," since ordered binary relations, independent of scale, imply orientability. If OTOH, by "no directed structure," you mean "infinitely orientable," then I can accept your definition of acausality without a local-global distinction.

"But I still am not sure if by 'feedback,' do you mean something like 'back in time,' or merely ordinary 'feedback,' which has nothing to do with causal cycles. I assume the former (?)"

I do mean the former. A positive feedback loop depends as strongly on future information as present. There is, in fact, no way in principle to fix the source. (The novel conclusion in my essay: the source of all information is a point at infinity.) Random orientations locally correlate to global initial conditions.



Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Nov. 13, 2012 @ 12:03 GMT
Dear Paul,

The difficulty is that making unfalsifiable assumptions is not science! We disagree in our assumptions, which is fine to start with... but there ought to be at least the theoretical possibility of physically testing whose assumptions, if either, are right. In fact, the assumption of a universal frame has been tested, many times, over the last hundred years, and has been found to be a very poor explanation for what we observe. I would not lightly invoke the Almighty, but it seems your dispute is with Him! Take care,


Paul Reed replied on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 06:55 GMT

Absolutely. But my 'assumptions' are:

1 As we cannot transcend our existence, the only basis upon which we can know (as in provable) it is dependent on what is detected, or validated as potentially so on the basis of that.

2 This form of physical existence exists independently of that detection.

3 This form of physical existence involves alteration.

That's it. Hardly assumptions? Everything else, in terms of a generic set of statements, ie not how this specifically manifests, stems from that.

So what are your 'assumptions?

Incidently, I would like a definition of what you are referring to as a 'universal frame'. Because, the only way this physical existence can occur is that whatever comprises it is, as at any given time, in one physically existent state (note the difference between substance and state thereof).


Eckard Blumschein replied on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 09:39 GMT

"... has been tested, many times, over the last hundred years". I see it indeed a scandalous pity that the mistake in the Lorentz interpretation for the null result of Michelson's most famous experiment was not seen for so long by the community of physicists, and it has not even been confirmed as a mistake so far.

That's why I intend to make this mistake as obvious as possible at 1364.

While Paul calls the existence of God a logical possibility (that evades falsification and is therefore irrelevant in science), you are equating God with nature as did Spinoza and Einstein. In this case I second Paul.


Author Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 16:41 GMT
Dear Eckard,

As you inferred, my remark about the Almighty was a reference to something Einstein said on the subject, though perhaps not in a very serious way, and certainly not in a way any serious scientist would agree with. In particular, I was paraphrasing his remark that he would have been "sorry for the Dear Lord" if GR had been experimentally falsified, a presumably facetious remark suggesting that if the universe did not agree with his views, then so much the worse for the universe. Paul's immovable position that physics must conform to his views of existence, come heaven or high water, struck me as similar.

I probably shouldn't have introduced the subject in the first place, but since we are talking about existential issues, I should make clear that I certainly do not equate God with the physical universe. It's my general impression that mathematicians are far less likely to be strict materialists than physicists, probably because we work every day with things that exist, yet are not physical. I would rather not go any further into metaphysical issues here, however, since those topics tend to swallow discussions about physics, which is what this forum is for. Take care,


Paul Reed wrote on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 11:52 GMT

I will tell you, in simple terms, what the mistake is.

How physical existence occurs is misunderstood, which has resulted in the reification of change (and hence time, which rates change). That is, a non existent variable has been introduced. Then in rationalising this, physical existence has been conflated with the photon based representational reality of that existence...

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Nov. 17, 2012 @ 04:51 GMT
Hello Ben and Friends,

I have a bunch more info collected about Lorentz invariance violations or their absence in theory and experiments. I'm taking Ben's advice by posting here as a new item, rather than trying to find a place to insert in a thread, and I'll post a couple more items below this one. Since the prediction of LIVs first came up in the context of Loop Quantum Gravity; I'll mention that Aurelien Barrau is one of the LQG researchers I spoke to at FFP11 who said loops are not dead.

I asked him about the Fermi results, which limit LIVs, and whether this means problems for loops. He told me it was unfortunate that the prediction was made to appear as an inevitable result of LQG, because it is only one way evidence of loop gravity might appear - and not necessarily a true prediction. When I asked if there was better evidence possible, which would confirm LQG, he responded that he and colleagues had some ideas.

Probing Loop Quantum Gravity with Evaporating Black Holes details an idea that evaporating Black Holes are subjected to a kind of comb filter effect on the Hawking radiation, which might be an observable artifact, if LQG holds true. The reason is that the 2-d holographic bound at the event horizon shrinks by discrete areas. I note that one of the authors (Diaz-Polo) lists LSU as an affiliation.



Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Nov. 17, 2012 @ 05:23 GMT
Hello again folks,

While most of the discussion on LIVs above focused on the Fermi and INTEGRAL experiments, I think it's essential to mention (or highlight) the work of the Eöt-Wash group, which is using torsion balances to systematically probe the lower limits of equivalence principle violations. See:

The Eöt-Wash Group

And while investigating that, I came upon a recent paper by Bonder, Sudarsky, and Aguilar that answers many of the questions they left open in their FQXi contest essay, or didn't answer from other participants, and proposes a hydrodynamic formulation of quantum gravity, which they believe will not be Lorentz violating. See:

Experimental search for a Lorentz invariant spacetime granularity: Possibilities and bounds

More later,


Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Nov. 17, 2012 @ 06:10 GMT
Speculating further,

A question was raised above about the octonion projective space and its connection to Physics. I posit that the octonions and their projective plane are the natural embedding space of all object-observer relations, by virtue of the octonions deep connection with the roots and postulates of projective geometry itself - which is the study of perspective.

That is; the octonion projective space offers the most general representational schema for perspective rendering, and is therefore the embedding space for perspective representation - which relates objects to observers - in its most general case. Ergo; the octonions can be seen to enable or allow the definition of scale in this manner - or alternatively the emergence of measurable extent - as a parameter within metric spaces.

If Physics is the study of observable phenomena and their description in formal terms, the conditions of observability and computability are both important. The octonions offer the most play of any of the well-behaved or well-defined number families, and computability is preserved. But if they are also the natural playground or stage for all object-observer relations, then the relevance of the octonion projective space to Physics is undeniable.

All the Best,


Paul Reed replied on Nov. 18, 2012 @ 12:07 GMT

But Physics is not the study of "observable phenomena", it is the study of what existent phenomena caused any given sensory representation of it (which includes light), which is what we receive (detect), or can hypothesise would have been receivable had the sensory processes been perfect. That is a reality in itself and needs to be understood, but only in order that we can then discern what physically existed.


Thomas Howard Ray replied on Nov. 19, 2012 @ 19:27 GMT
" ... the octonion projective space offers the most general representational schema for perspective rendering, and is therefore the embedding space for perspective representation - which relates objects to observers - in its most general case. Ergo; the octonions can be seen to enable or allow the definition of scale in this manner - or alternatively the emergence of measurable extent - as a parameter within metric spaces."

Jonathan, you have a marvelous faciliity for clear exposition. I would add that one should find it remarkable that octonion algebra -- discrete mathematics -- would relate to continuous geometry in such a unifying way. I am thinking of the most basic projective geometry (Poncelet) in which we get a duality of point and line. To find this duality in an 8-dimension space really brings home to me the meaning of Hestenes' deriving the Minkowski space continuum from his discrete spacetime algebra.


Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 00:53 GMT
Thanks greatly Tom,

I think a crucial piece of the puzzle is one you spelled out in your essay, that information accessible to an observer is always and only the part coming toward, rather than moving away. Another way to state this is to say that observation is inherently centric, by possessing or inducing a point of view or specific frame of reference from which observation takes place. And I believe you are correct above, to observe that this connects the continuous and discrete. Thanks for noticing and commenting.

I think there is a geometrical analogy of the idea in decoherence theory - that it is the localized aspect of any observer or measurement apparatus which induces the appearance of discrete nature. It is only possible to define locality based upon the viewpoints of localized observers, which by their uniqueness makes certain discrete representations of nature accessible, and others unavailable or forbidden. To a large degree, though; the Earth is the common observation platform for humans, and it is a major determiner of local geometry.



Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Nov. 17, 2012 @ 07:11 GMT
And waxing analogical,

The Physics books are full of questions that involve crossing a river with a constant flow, but as I commented in my essay, sometimes the actual Physics requires a non-linear equation. The Hudson River, near where I live, is an interesting example - because it constantly carries a lot of water from the North, but is vigorously tidal even somewhat North of Poughkeepsie. This makes for some interesting flow patterns, and makes an intriguing question out of "How far is it, to cross the Hudson?"

The conventional approach to such questions in Physics books employs a linear superposition of flow rates, but I would argue that since the tides are cyclical, and scale dependencies are apparent, it would seem Noncommutative geometry is the proper tool. If your craft is large enough and you attain enough velocity to complete the voyage in a few minutes, a linear summation works just fine. But for a slow enough journey, or a small enough journeyer, the cycles and eddys matter and perhaps NCG is better.

I'm ignoring, of course, questions about navigation - but perhaps that is part of the puzzle after all. It would become an infinitely long journey, if you spent most of it in eddys - or wandering aimlessly across the expanse of the river. But most Physics texts don't deal with that part of the problem. Arguably; if you are small enough, even tiny waves will obscure your view and make it impossible to see the shore - a large part of the time. Sounds like an infinite affair or a never-ending journey. I doubt even Non-associative geometry can model that.

All the Best,


Eckard Blumschein replied on Nov. 17, 2012 @ 12:57 GMT
Is "crossing a river with a constant flow" really well understood? So far, the community did not even take much notice of the experiment by Norbert Feist and his "Plaedoyer fuer den Aether" ( .

I attached a perhaps overlooked approach to a convincing mathematical explanation of the null result. Hints to possible mistakes of mine or to prior utterances of the same objection are welcome.


attachments: 1_MichelsonMorleys_Mistake.doc

Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 01:15 GMT
Thanks Eckard,

Even the most basic constant flow example has some flaws. But no real fluid is so obedient that it will have a perfectly laminar flow at all points along the way past a given point. The thing is; it's silly to assume that there will be a perfectly even flow, on any real body of water. But we can learn from such a problem, only if we know that it was an example with simplifying assumptions. I'm glad you took an interest in this item.

I wish my German reading skills were better, as the Feist article looks very interesting. I took a couple of years study, but I never mastered the language. I have copied the Michelson-Morley article to my computer, to look at later. I see that Feist is trying to explain the null result as well, proceeding by analogy to acoustical experiments. Very cool.

I'll comment further if something comes to mind after reading.

All the Best,


Eckard Blumschein replied on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 01:35 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

You are quite right. The measurements by Feist are accurate only in case of nearly laminar streaming, i.e. for an angle of 90° to be seen in Fig. 7 of Proceedings of the NPA 6(2010)1-4. Notice that 10 km/h must read 100 km/h.

Thank you for your interest.



Paul Reed wrote on Nov. 18, 2012 @ 13:28 GMT

I have e-mailed you a copy of my paper. I must understand links to put it up on my blog. If you do want to wade through water, etc ("Paul's immovable position that physics must conform to his views of existence, come heaven or high water"), then just forget the first three paras. It still works


Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 02:11 GMT
Dear All,

Thanks for all the insightful comments. Academic pressures are putting a serious squeeze on me at the moment, so I will have to keep my responses brief. I will make a few separate short comments below. Take care,


Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 02:32 GMT
Thanks Ben!

Your insightful feedback is always appreciated, but your studies and duties must be attended to. We understand; there is no time for elaboration. But we look forward to seeing what you have to say.



Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 02:49 GMT

I appreciate the prolific amount of interesting data you have shared with us in the last few days. I particularly appreciate the recent papers on Lorentz invariance violation, since many converging threads of thought prompt me to doubt the exactness of group symmetry in a range of different physical arenas.

One of the main underlying themes in this contest has been "number...

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Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 04:03 GMT
Well then,

You have correctly intuited that I don't believe the octonions or any one mathematical reality offers a unique path to all of Physics. But I do admit to being a hyper-Platonist, in ascribing an independent reality to not only n-spheres but also imaginary numbers, the complex, quaternion, and octonion types, the Mandelbrot Set, E8, and several other 'fundamental' archetypes. And further; I believe it's unavoidable that nature will 'bump into' these dynamic entities, which shape the evolution of natural law at crucial junctures.

I don't see any of these objects as a deterministic shaper creating a unique outcome. Instead; I see an interplay of freedoms and defined elements. The picture I have is that possibilities must exist first, and that imaginaries represent mathematically the possibility for variation, or a specific range thereof. For emergent spacetime formulae, I see ranges (space-like dimensions) opening up consecutively (as possibilities) and then a specific choice of extent and direction in an action that is a time-like or causal step, and I note that this property is built into the octonions.

I see E8 as the model of symmetry and the Mandelbrot Set as the template for symmetry breaking. But I suppose I should mention Phil Gibbs' "Theory of Theories" concept here, as he posits that all of the relevant Math hanging out in theoretical space influences reality by a process of weighted averaging, on the basis of which pieces nature finds most useful. I like this concept. It works better for me than "one right answer." Rather than seeing the octonions as the one true grail, I am a grail collector. And I'll leave off with that, for now.

All the best,


Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 03:14 GMT

You raise some good points about Cantor's ordinals and other related notions, and provide some fine historical context. Various notions of "counting numbers" (in general terms, discrete, totally ordered sets) play an important role in the background of the approach I outline in my essay, but I couldn't develop this route here without crowding out everything else.

The notion of "counting number" I found most useful is defined locally: every "number" that is not minimal (like zero is for the natural numbers) has a unique predecessor, and every number that is not maximal has a unique successor. If you keep the list of numbers finite, you get only natural numbers this way, but if you allow infinite number sets, you get all the ordinals and many other numbers as well.

Like "number systems" (see my remark to Jonathan above), I think there are many different legitimate notions of "infinity," useful in different contexts. For example, "infinity" may mean

1. Not finite as a set (i.e., not bijective with any bounded set of natural numbers).

2. A successor of all natural numbers in a linear order.

3. An absorbing element in a semigroup.

4. The complement of an affine space in projective space (e.g., "point at infinity").

5. The "reciprocal of an infinitesimal" (e.g. "delta function.")

6. Shorthand for a limiting process (e.g. "improper integral.")

7. A relative delimiter (e.g. "Grothendieck universe.")

8. Ordinal above the naturals.

9. Cardinal above the naturals.

10. Negative valuation (e.g. "pole.")

Many more....

Of course, one interesting question is, which of these are relevant to physics, and how are they relevant? It is in this regard that an answer to the proper meaning of infinity can be "right" or "wrong." Anyway, I'm getting drawn into this again, and I have to go do other work! Take care,


Paul Reed replied on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 09:38 GMT

Ha ha, it is more than interesting, it is THE question. Any representational device, in this case numbers, must correspond with physical existence as is, ie not be a metaphysical conception thereof. So for example: a) in existential sequence, once 2 exists, 1 has ceased to exist, and 3 does not exist, it being a function of 2, b) infinity is contradictory to physical existence, because that is a closed system, therefore it is finite. But we will only know we have reached it when after n years, nothing new arises. However, I think one can use infinity in the sense of 'tends towards'!


Eckard Blumschein replied on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 18:13 GMT

As an engineer who used oo very often, I would like to remind of the original seemingly primitive meaning of the notion infinite. Such infinity (G. Cantor called it infinitum aeternum increatum sive Absolutum) is an ideal property, not a number. It must not be confused with the relative infinity used by Leibniz. In this sense, the infinitesimals are just arbitrarily small numbers, and...

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Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 21:22 GMT
Well said Eckard!

Symbols in Math are just like other kinds; words can be strung together in misleading ways, so that what appear to be true statements are really lies. We must never forget this. While I honor the Platonic ideal, which posits the existence of archetypes of form, I think Plato was more of a realist than some people imagine - only he felt there was an ideal which nature referenced in fashioning the real world.

But often; it is forgotten that - just as the word is not the thing - equations and other mathematical symbols are not the physical reality they represent. Further; even if all the individual symbols are precise renderings of some tangible reality, they can still be strung together in ways that represent things falsely. I think a big part of the Christian vs Maldoveanu debate hinges on the issue of whether the Maths are more primal than the Physics, and how we define which is properly which.

For the record; I think Math is better as a servant than as the master.



Author Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 03:45 GMT
A couple more short followups:


I still have not gotten a chance to read your papers in detail... or any other physics papers in the last few weeks, including the papers Jonathan has posted here. I still have these marked to look at again when time permits. Math stuff is swallowing everything right now.


Your paper didn't come through! My address is

Paul Reed replied on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 09:27 GMT

I did get a 'been delayed, but don't re-send' notification. So now I will re-send.


Paul Reed replied on Nov. 20, 2012 @ 14:28 GMT

This has failed again, send an e-mail to & I'll return it with attachment.


Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 04:12 GMT
Hi Ben and all,

I wanted to post a link here to a very interesting paper from Jacob Bekenstein regarding an experiment looking for Planck scale variations in spacetime.

Is a tabletop search for Planck scale signals feasible

Any comments would be appreciated.

I also want to mention another experiment by Craig Hogan, using something called a Holometer to search for Planck scale holographic noise. The apparatus is like a double copy of the Michelson-Morley interferometer looking for a signal in the form of common-mode variations down either leg. I've collected quite a few references and actually had some interesting correspondence with Hogan, but the details will have to wait until I have time to post them.

All the Best,


Paul Reed replied on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 06:16 GMT

Any deployment of modern technology which investigates what actually occurs can only be a good thing. But note the presumption of 4D, whereas in fact physical existence is only spatial (3 being the minimum that is ontologically correct at the highest level of conceptualisation). And that alters over time-hence note concepts such as wavelength/frequency, ie not a physically existent state, but a sequence thereof. Also note the concentration on photon, ie that which when affected as the result of an interaction with something else (ie what is normally referred to as physical reality) enables us to see that. Or more precisely, sentient organisms receive a photon based representation of existent reality (aka sight).

So the point is, as with any such effort, this is progress, but people must understand what they are establishing, given the nature of physical existence. In simple terms, and leaving aside the current quantification, Planck relates to the ‘bottom line’ in light reality, ie the ultimate unit of length/duration therein. Now, we need to fully understand how light works, but this must not be confused with physically existent reality. A sensory detection system has evolved on the basis of light which enables awareness in sentient organisms. But as a physically existent entity of itself, ie it has properties (speed, capability to alter, etc) there is no reason to presume it can accurately and/or comprehensively represent all that occurred in the physically existent state (reality) which it interacted with.


Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 06:45 GMT
Thanks Paul,

I'll have to think about your response, and because I only skimmed it - I must read Bekenstein's paper again for details. But I think I can read from your response that you feel a 3-d semi-Euclidean space is the only realistic proposition - given that this is what appears to be real. But reality may not be so simple, despite appearances. One of the participants in a previous contest, who called himself Uncle Al, repeatedly said "somebody should check" and I agree with this notion.

I think that Bekenstein is aiming to suggest a way we might find out, for sure, if the '3-d space is what's real' notion is accurate. You could be right, Paul, but experiments like the one above, or Hogan's below, are the only way to know if there is a more interesting character to the fabric of space. Joy Christian has suggested we live in a 4-d 3-sphere, which by virtue of parallelization is geometrically flat. So it would appear like Euclidean space in almost every way, except when the coupling of rotating systems is considered, and he has proposed an experiment to test for that.

In my essay I ask if we would even know if space is inside out, suggesting we might not. Do you have a decisive way to test for this? Or do you assume, like most everyone else, "of course; it has to be right side out"? Somebody should check.



Paul Reed replied on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 07:29 GMT

What I am saying is not complex, but it does involve the reversal of how humans usually conceive reality, which is incorrect, that is:

1 There is duration in reality, because we conceptualise it as ‘things which change’. But ‘things’ is an abstract concept (except in the case of elementary substance) and anyway what exists are physically existent states, ultimately...

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 06:09 GMT
Hello again Ben and Friends,

I am taking a moment to post about Craig Hogan's experiments searching for Planck scale variations in the form of holographic noise. While the Scientific American article from February 2012 is entitled "Is Space Digital?" which suggests 'atoms of space,' Hogan's theory and experiment are quite a bit more subtle, as it should distinguish purely wave-like variations near the Planck scale just as readily as discrete spacetime. Describing the unified nature of the global wavefunction, H.D. Zeh wrote "There are no quantum jumps, nor are there particles." When I brought this up in private correspondence, Hogan replied "Discreteness is one way to talk about it but I agree that the reality of particles is an interesting issue hardly ever discussed!"

An earlier paper discussing the basis for his experiment is:

Interferometers as Probes of Planckian Quantum Geometry

And a recent paper with special relevance to Ben's work is:

Quantum Geometry and Interferometry



Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 06:03 GMT
Hello again everyone,

Ben and I have been discussing Path Integrals and how they fit into the Quantum Gravity picture. I've been fortunate to have some excellent correspondence with Steven Kenneth Kauffmann, whose paper I posted here a while back, regarding Ben's attempts to use the PI method in formulating discrete or emergent spacetime models. But I have recently gotten a boost, when a colleague Andrew Beckwith forwarded a link to the International LQG seminar series, which contained a recent talk on that subject - PIs in QG - and several other items of interest.

As it turns out; one of the ILQGS organizers is Jorge Pullin, who is a professor at LSU (where Ben is going to school) and an FQXi member. Pullin also wrote an excellent essay with Rodolfo Gambini for this contest, explaining the Montevideo interpretation of QM. I have attached a slide set by Sebastian Steinhaus, for a talk entitled "Path integral measure and triangulation independence in discrete gravity." This Tuesday, there was a presentation be Steinhaus' collaborator, which I will post a link to after looking myself.



attachments: steinhaus042412.pdf

Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 05:51 GMT
Hi Ben,

I assume we'll see you in the winners circle, but I hope they award you a top prize - so that you are offered FQXi membership as well. If they did; I'm sure we would see plenty of you on these forum pages, and that would please a lot of us quite well.

Here's to your future Physics endeavors. May your Math studies culminate well, and may the Physics endeavors you would like to pursue give your imagination wings of perception (and provide job opportunities). Your grasp of many topics is evident, and I am sure there are scientists around the world who would love working with you.



Peter Jackson wrote on Dec. 2, 2012 @ 19:22 GMT

Congratulations on a deserved award, but also commiserations it wasn't as high as I thought it deserved. None the less I considered the standard was exceptionally good this year, and kudos is a fleeting mistress that oft leaves us poorer.

I did respond to your recent question on my blog and am interested in your views. My approach is rather novel but I think you should assimilate it, though I'm very aware may don't.

In discussing with James I noticed one important point got a little squeezed out of my essay in trying to jam too much in. I hope you may comment.

I discuss the two independent cases of delta v for EM wave speed entering and propagating in new medium K' (say Bose-EC) from 'approach' medium K; The first is familiar and due to delta n (refractive index), the second due to any delta of kinetic state of that medium with respect to the observer at rest in propagation frame K' (NOT one watching the lump of BEC going past as light crawls through it at a few mph).

The point is this; When observed from the BEC frame K', the speed change due to the refractive index is pretty high, but would NOT change the observed period between the start and finish of a time signal emitted in frame K. The time is thus invariant.

However. the Kinetic change, due to the relative delta v of medium K', so due to evolution of interaction of the wave train, WOULD result in the K' observer seeing a shorter of longer time period. in that case time would NOT be CO-variant.!!! (dependant on delta v). This is quite important in terms of the problem with Maxwell's (Heaviside) equations on transformation.

Let me know if you can get your head round it!

Thanks. Best wishes


Stephen M Sycamore wrote on Dec. 3, 2012 @ 15:12 GMT
Congratulations Ben!

It's heartening to know that the community has recognized a paper that displays an a strong inquisitiveness, rigor and conscientiousness about staying close to reality.

When I was pondering your essay earlier I came across this paper by Scargle and Simic

that seems to deal with some points you bring up associated with Causal Set Theory. It explores them in an interesti