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Cause and Effect Without Frame of Reference

  1. Oct 14, 2012 #1
    Before I say anything, I dont really have any experience in physics. But this question just popped into my mind concerning cause and effect and I cant seem to find the answer to it on the web.

    Here it is...Are cause and effect the same thing if a frame of reference is not present?

    For example if you imagine a white, even canvas stretching out infintely in both the x and y direction, and a ball is able to somehow levitate above it without producing a shadow. Would moving the ball in the -x direction be the same as moving it in the +x direction. In other words, could this process be reversed and look like the same thing in either direction?

    Thanks in advance
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 14, 2012 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    A frame of reference is a mathematical construct. Its "existence" is similar to the "existence" of the number 2.
    Everything will look the same - and the definition of the x-direction is arbitrary anyway (there is no "physical x-direction" in space).
  4. Oct 14, 2012 #3
    Maybe I need to rephrase my question.

    Is moving the ball away from its origin the same thing as moving it back to it if you have nothing to compare it to?

    This is probably a ridiculous or possibly obvious question, but I just cant seem to wrap my head around it.
  5. Oct 14, 2012 #4
    You can define coordinates however you want as long as the problem is easier to solve that way. That's a central principle of science and engineering and one that must be accepted as a total absolute fact that can never be changed if you want to get anywhere.

    For example it makes ZERO SENSE AT ALL to calculate orbital mechanics from the Sun's rest reference frame. But that's "more accurate" than from the Earth's rest reference frame... but who cares? It doesn't make a difference in the end and it just makes things harder.

    If you want to be really "accurate" you'd calculate say Formula 1 races from the galactic rest frame... you see how ludicrous this is if we *COULD NOT* arbitrarily set reference frames?
  6. Oct 14, 2012 #5
    I think the fallacy is duality trap reasoning by omitting the original integral 1/x. Without the latter one forgets that shadow15s question hides that the movement is always in respective of the person so surmising. Comparison to self is unavoidable and a valid mathematical statement which leaves out a marker for the person writing the equation, doesn't exist. Einstein's elaborate configuration of space and time doesn't mean that the universe actually looks that way, but by positing such a grand conception, people want to believe it, and then they make it true.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2012
  7. Oct 14, 2012 #6


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    "Origin" of your coordinate system is not a physical object. It is a mathematical tool, and you can place it whereever you want. While you might describe the ball as "moving away from the origin", I can describe it as "moves towards the origin" at the same time - and we will both get the correct physics.
  8. Oct 15, 2012 #7
    Shadow15's original question was if cause and effect operated. I appreciate that basic math symbolism can investigate if it does. Is this also about the shape of our surroundings? Does the observer actually establish something absolute?

    MFB's statement: " "Origin" of your coordinate system is not a physical object. It is a mathematical tool,"
    That is true. Its also true that the observer did something and thus topologically marked where he did it. The observer Imbues the "moving ball was measured" event with a geographical reality.

    Chill_Factor says it depends on what the problem is, if "the problem is easier to solve." That implies that the ball being measured is caused by a number of factors producing an effect.
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