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PeterDonis is offline
Oct23-11, 05:01 PM
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Quote Quote by Q-reeus View Post
Was trying to convey the analogy re local unobservability of 1st order metric effects. Basically that 'elastic being' deforms with it's surroundings, and must use a kind of 'K' factor to 'navigate' but with a limited perspective.
I think you're twisting the analogy around here. A "local" being does *not* deform with the surroundings, in the sense you are using the term "deformation". That's the point. The K factor is *not* observable locally; it's only observable by taking measurements over an extended region. Locally, space looks Euclidean; there is no "deformation". Just as locally on Earth, its surface looks flat; we only see the non-Euclideanness of the surface by making measurements over an extended region. Furthermore, the non-Euclideanness never shows up as any kind of "strain" on individual objects. It's just a fact about the space, that it doesn't satisfy the theorems of Euclidean geometry. That's all.

I really think it's a mistake to look for a "real" physical meaning to the non-Euclideanness of space, over and above the basic facts that I described using the K factor--i.e., that there is "more distance" between two spheres of area A and A + dA, or between two circles of circumference C and C + dC, than Euclidean geometry would lead us to expect. If I start from my house at the North Pole and walk in a particular direction, I encounter circles of gradually increasing circumference. Between two such circles, of circumference C and C + dC, I walk a distance K * (dC / 2 pi), where K is the "non-Euclideanness" factor and is a function of (C / 2 pi). If space were Euclidean, I would find K = 1; but I find K > 1. So what? If I insist on ascribing the fact that K > 1 to some actual physical "strain" in the space, or anything of that sort, what is my reason for insisting on this? The only possible reason would be that I ascribe some special status to K = 1, so that when I see K > 1, I think something must have "changed" from the "natural" state of things. But why should Euclidean geometry, K = 1, be considered the "natural" state of things? What makes it special? The answer is, as far as physics is concerned, nothing does. Euclidean geometry is not special, physically. It's only special in our minds; *we* ascribe a special status to K = 1 because that's the geometry our minds evolved to comprehend. But that's a fact about our minds, not about physics.