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What is absolute in this universe?

  1. Jun 29, 2012 #1
    Hello guys,
    I've been mulling over this thing for as long as I can remember. Since both time and space are relative in nature. Then what is absolute in this universe? Something must be. Because everything can't be relative, else what will they be relative to. Is it consciousness? If it is, then how is the big bang theory justified. Because if conciousness is absolute, then it is above spacetime. Then it must have existed before big bang as well. This thought is very unsettling. Please help me here.
     
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  3. Jun 29, 2012 #2
    Ok. Leave it all. Can someone tell me what is considered to be absolute in the universe?
     
  4. Jun 29, 2012 #3

    HallsofIvy

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    Why should anything be "absolute"?
     
  5. Jun 29, 2012 #4
    Are you relative to your parents...they to you?? Who is 'absolute'??

    yes, time and space ARE relative....they morph into one another depending on relative motion, for example. Nothing is necessarily 'absolute'...and that would depend on your definition. But a few things are 'fixed'...everybody seeing the local speed of light as 'c' and the rest mass of the electron for example.

    But most things depend on the observer frame of of reference. Take temperature, for example: If you are and I are in motion relative to each other we will observe different temperatures, even for a vacuum local to each of us. In a similar way, if we are in relative motion, we will not count the same number of particles. This is called the Unruh effect. And we will also have different particle horizons, and will see each other's time passing differently...the latter is called 'time dilation' of which you seem to be aware.

    stuff is more bizzare than most people think. Maybe the only 'absolute' is change.
     
  6. Jun 30, 2012 #5
    Physical constants are absolute in all reference frames, i.e. the speed of light.
     
  7. Jun 30, 2012 #6

    mfb

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    Many particle properties are absolute - mass, charge, a lot of quantum numbers. They are the same in all reference frames and some of them are the same for all particles in the universe.

    Dimensionless fundamental constants are (to our current knowledge) the same in all reference frames and they are independent of the physical units. The fine-structure constant is problably the most famous one. It is approximately 0.00729735257 (and known with this precision) and if you would send just this number to any other sufficiently intelligent species in the past, present, or future anywhere in the universe, it would be able to recognize it.
     
  8. Jun 30, 2012 #7

    Chalnoth

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    This isn't quite accurate. The speed of light is itself a ratio, and is therefore relative to our concepts of distance and time.

    Dimensionless constants, such as alpha, however, are absolute in the sense that they are independent of reference frame or the ways we describe things like charge or distance or time. But we don't yet know if all such constants can be different in other regions beyond our horizon (we're very sure that they vary very little within the observable universe, but that doesn't mean they can't be wildly different beyond the part of the universe we can observe).
     
  9. Jul 3, 2012 #8
    I left school 30yrs ago aged 16 with no formal qualifications, hence I have little or no idea about maths & physics. But as is the human condition, I wonder the countryside with my dog pondering the bigger picture, and have tried to read the books of Richard Dawkins. Without his intelligence, understanding, and similar education however, I find it impossible to grasp any of the detail that he describes. I am intruiged however by the notion of re-runs of evolution and the likelihood of the repaeted appearance of humans (or any other life for that matter) which leads me to ask this question: Is maths a human construct, and if so, can it define reality? This thread is about absolutes. Einstein didn't invent E=MC2, he discovered, or recognised it. Like similar equations it's a Universal Constant which means it pertains to reality across the entire universe and unlike the universe and everything in it, it is not evolving nor has it ever done. E=MC2 was a constant at (and before?) the Big Bang. The current estimate of habitable planets in the universe is 10,000 billion billion; if we assume based on probabliity alone (for there is no other evidence) that a small percentage of these, say 1 billion, have intelligent civilisations, they must have devised a system of mathematics the same as ours and have also discovered E=MC2. Without it they could not know the universe. To know the universe, evolution must be recurrent, or follow a pattern of events throughout the universe. Before 1903, life on planet earth had not yet discovered this 'absolute' and knowledge of the universe was limited. Perhaps civilisations on other planets have not had their 1903 yet, but if they are to know the universe as we know it, evolution will lead them to discover E=MC2 too. Maths then is an absolute and is not subject to evolution.
     
  10. Jul 3, 2012 #9

    phinds

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    Why ? I can't follow this logic at all.
     
  11. Jul 3, 2012 #10
    Well, the first sentence of my original post must prefix everything; I have no education, and am merely thinking aloud as a layman, but it seems to me that if Universal Constants are truly universal, the evolution of intelligence on other planets must have already included the revelation, or be headed toward the revelation of these Constants, if those intelligences are to know the universe. Therefore we can say that evolution as we experience it here on earth will be recurrent throughtout the universe. No?
     
  12. Jul 3, 2012 #11

    phinds

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    Your statement was that "evolution must be recurrent" and that is the statement I don't understand. The statement directly above has no bearing on that. The statement directly above simply says, quite reasonably, that IF there are other intelligent life forms in the universe then they will get the same measurements for physical constants that we do. That has NO bearing on WHETHER or not there is other intelligent life. You seem to be mixing apples and oranges.
     
  13. Jul 3, 2012 #12
    I was afraid from the outset that I might not be able to express myself adequately and it seems I was rightly concerned! I didn't know where to go with my thoughts so I turned to this thread because it is about absolutes. I am suggesting that 'Constants' are absolutes.

    After that, my thinking gets a little muddled so please bear with me, but then I got thinking:
    Einstein recognised E=MC2
    E=MC2 is a Universal Constant
    As mfb says in his post above, if we contact other intellingences in the universe and present them with our Universal Constants, they will know them.
    I'm not arguing whether or not there is intelligent life elsewhere. What I'm saying is, it is commonly accepted by the scientific community that probablility suggests many billions of planets on which there is life. I hear this on my TV and radio all the time. Let's then assume that there is intelligent life elsewhere.

    If the Universal Constants are absolute, and intelligent life elsewhere knows them, then they must have evolved the same system of maths as we have.

    They must have evolved to reach the same conclusions as we did. They must have been subject to the same evolutionary processess and direction as we were. Evolution on their planet acheived the same thing it did here.
    Evolution does not occur through enormous unprecedented leaps; macroevolution accurs only through microevolution, in numerous small increments. Evolution on their planet can only have brought them recognition of the Universal Constants by the same numerous small increments over many billions of years as it did here. Evolution has acheived the same ends (knowledge of the Universal Constants by intelligent civilisations) on 2 or more planets (Earth and at least A.N.Other) even though seperated by thousands of lightyears.

    On the other hand, If the Universal Constants are absolute, and intelligent life elsewhere doesn't yet know them, then we can say catagorically that UFO sighting on Earth are not alien visitation - they won't be visiting us until they know E=MC2 at least!
    Evolution is either taking them toward recognising the Universal Constants or it isn't. If it is, then evolution is working on their planet the same where it did here, which is why I used the term recurrent. But there's probably a better expression I could have used, I don't know. Professor Dawkins believes that evolution has no direction or end-game; it has no 'plan' or agenda. What I'm (trying to) say is that if intelligent life exists elsewhere (as an astronomer on the radio the other day said it does) evolution is indeed working to an agenda by giving it's progeny the ability to recognise the Universal Constants.
    So perhaps, Universal Constants are absolutes, perhaps 'maths' is an absolute, and perhaps evolution is an absolute.

    I am hoping that my remarks promote interesting debate between more intelligent and educated people than me so that I can learn some stuff. I hope my posts aren't dismissed as naive and of no substance. I appreciate I'm not expressing myself well. Sorry.
     
  14. Jul 3, 2012 #13

    phinds

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    Like you I joined this forum to learn and to have interesting conversations but I can only say that your thoughts seem sort of amorphous, too broad and vague. EXACTLY what is it that you want to get at?

    Is it the existence/non-existence of aliens? There are numerous threads here about that.

    The "universality" of evolution is a pretty squishy topic.

    The absoluteness of some physical constants seems undeniable.

    I guess part of my problem is that I'm interpreting your post as just a mixed rambling about several different things without enough focus for me to know what to respond to.
     
  15. Jul 3, 2012 #14
    the big bang singularity is absolute since it was at the beginning of time i.e it is relative to another thing in another universe but since u asked in this universe .
     
  16. Jul 3, 2012 #15

    Chalnoth

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    The big bang singularity didn't exist. Though it is in the theory, it is mathematical nonsense and therefore cannot describe reality. The general expectation is that the classical big bang theory is correct until the earliest of times, when it must be superceded by a more accurate description of the very early universe.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2012
  17. Jul 3, 2012 #16

    mfb

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    E=mc^2 is no universal constant, it is a conversion between mass (at rest) and energy.

    @inonothing: Our physical knowledge is not a result of evolution, but the result of science. A systematic and sometimes directed way to gain general knowledge about the universe. Yes, aliens would discover the same laws. They might give them different names and express the formulas differently, they might even use different models, but the basic concepts should be similar enough to recognize them - you will find always something you could call "gravity", for example.


    I doubt that it is commonly accepted. Might be an interesting poll...
     
  18. Jul 3, 2012 #17

    Chalnoth

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    I think this way of wording it can be slightly misleading.

    This equation is a way of stating that mass is energy. That is to say, mass is the energy in the internal degrees of freedom of an object. For example, protons and neutrons have masses that are mostly made up of the binding energy of the gluons that hold their quarks together.
     
  19. Jul 4, 2012 #18
    u cant just say it is mathematical nonsense .... because many things are still unsolved and for that you need to change your theories and since bibbang started as being a single dense ball of matter ask yourself ... why did it explode? because of quantum fluctuations and this ball of matter maybe in a mega ocean of a nursery of universes because we still dont know what is outside our universe nd we can never probably observe it ..
     
  20. Jul 4, 2012 #19

    Drakkith

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    Nothing in your posts makes any sense. We have no idea how the universe formed, but we do know that in it's very early stages it was very hot and very dense and expanded from there. There was no explosion nor was there a "ball of matter". Any talk of other universes or what may be "outside" of our universe is pure speculation and does not belong on the forum per PF rules.

    The singularity is purely the result of our math leading to infinities. At that point the model that uses that math can no longer make predictions and cannot be relied upon. That is what is meant by singularity, not that the universe was compressed into an infinitely small infinitely massive point. (Though it is always possible that this is true.) With a proper theory that unites gravity and quantum mechanics it is expected that such breakdowns will not occur or will occur at much greater energy scales than they currently do.
     
  21. Jul 4, 2012 #20

    phinds

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    I agree w/ Drakith ... you should learn some physics before you post nonsense on a physics forum.
     
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