The Universe

The End of Time: The Next Revolution in Physics

Julian Barbour has written a clear and groundbreaking manifesto in The End of Time that states what may be the most profound insight since Aristotle. Time, according to Barbour, the reference by which all of Newtonian physics is measured is merely an illusion!

Newton proposed a universe of physics which contained a fixed reference coordinate system upon which physical existence plays out. The cartesian or polar playing field contains three fixed dimensions of space and one of time. In Newtonian physics, the world simply operates according to the rules of motion which he so clearly identified.

While most experiments conformed to Newton’s picture of physical reality, there were some experiments, like black body radiation, that did not work out according to plan. Just as Newton corrected and extended Aristotle’s views, Einstein, Bohr and the others corrected and extended Newton’s mechanics with quantum mechanics.

Just as Newton’s view ran into experimental problems, quantum theory runs into problems when trying to incorporate gravity into a grand theory. Barbour painstakingly develops his theory, and a method of visualizing the basic concepts that permit his theory to be understood. (more…)

Since the discovery in the 1920s that all types of radiation can cause gene mutations, scientists have wondered what role high energy cosmic rays might play in human evolution. Yet it was an idea destined never to find favour among geneticists, who could determine no hard evidence that the background flux of cosmic rays might have had any noticeable effect on human cell mutation.

All this is about to change, as an examination of ice cores extracted from sites in Antarctica and Greenland provides new information on the level of cosmic rays reaching Earth in past ages.

When so-called “primary” cosmic rays hit the upper atmosphere they generally break up to produce a plethora of “secondary” particles that form isotopes, which fall to Earth and are preserved each year in layers of ice. One such isotope is beryllium 10, found within the ice cores, which provides clear evidence that on three occasions over the past 100,000 years � around (more…)

The size of a person’s world is only as big as the area that is known. Hunter-gatherers knew the area of the range of their game and where the good food was. Strangers would occasionally come by and tell tales of far away places. Generally, however, early man’s world extended only 20 to 40 km.

When agriculture became prevalent, that tied man to an even smaller area. One would not generally venture more than the distance that you could walk in one day and still return before night. This was because the domestic animals had to be tended, and it was dangerous to be out at night. There was little support for travelers – no hotels, no restaurants. Humankind was focused on the tribe or village. Those folks served as an extended family for support. The range of bronze age agricultural man was even less, perhaps only 10 or 20 km. Travel outside that range was usually to make war on a neighboring tribe.