Thursday, October 15, 2009

Set in Stone



TERRACOTTA WARRIORS: GUARDIANS OF CHINA'S FIRST EMPEROR the exhibit at Houston's Museum of Natural Science closes this weekend! The famous warriors were built at the orders of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who feared for his safety in the afterlife. In the course of becoming China's first emperor he buried scholars and burned books, a power that today's physics censors can only envy. To keep his army organised, Qin even built terracotta bureacrats. Over 8,000 terracotta warriors guard the emperor's tomb.

As you can see, I've recently met one of those commenters who insist that the speed of light is constant. He seemed to be an educated sort, and asked long lists of detailed questions. When those objections were answered, he brought up some more. New physics was beyond him, so it must be wrong! Finally it became obvious that no amount of reason or data would move this man:

"So, you say that you can better 'conceptualise' this than all the thousands of physicists in the last about 90 years who have studied General Relativity, and better than the even more thousands of mathematicians who have studied Riemannian geometry for even more decades?"

We regret that all such comments can not be answered. Someone who acts onstage wearing a towel gets much nicer comments from men! Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different result, and talking to a brick wall with a PhD hanging from it is still talking to a brick wall. Perhaps nothing will change this man's attitude, but we enjoy his company nonetheless.

(No original terracotta warriors were harmed during filming. This is a knockoff, made in China.)

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5 Comments:

Blogger Kea said...

Louise, I appreciate your continual enthusiasm, especially when things are not going so well for me.

5:04 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

We must be cheerful, even when things are not all sunny. Life is good, as I hope these posts show.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Bjoern said...

I'm the commenter you mention here - and you misrepresent our exchange in several ways.

1) I never insisted that the speed of light is constant. If you want to claim that I insisted on that, please quote me where I said that. In fact, I'm comfortable with the idea of a changing speed of light! I only have some questions about your specific model for that.

2) As I already explained some weeks ago, the comment you quote here was not about your whole model - it was simply about your assertion that you can visualize an expanding S^3 sphere.

3) I didn't bring up "objections" to your model - I merely asked some questions. And I'm still waiting for the answer to my last question, posed about 4 months ago: Why do you set z = 0 in the Friedmann equation (which corresponds to a flat space), although you have repeatedly said that in your model, space is a (S^3) sphere (which would correspond to z = 1)?

4) I'm perfectly willing to "change my attitude". Simply answer my questions, please.

3:20 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Hello Bjoern, and thank you for your patience. As seen in the blog, things have been very busy the past 4 months.

To answer your question about z = 0, a "flat" density does not automatically lead to flat geometry. At a given time t R = ct is equal everywhere. That is a sphere whether in 3 dimensions or 4.

I've just been reading from Carl Sagan's COSMOS. In the 1970's cosmologists were happy with a "closed unbounded" spherical space. Only after the onset of inflation did scientists suggest that the universe was geometrically flat, like the Earth.

I still consider your statement to be an enormous compliment, so thanks again for sticking around.

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Bjoern said...

Sorry, I don't understand what exactly you mean with "flat density".

And you still haven't answered my question *why* you use z = 0. A S^3 sphere is described by z = 1, not by z = 0, as Einstein explains in the book you mentioned.

Your comment about Sagan's book and the change in the mind of the cosmologists is right, but misses the point of my question. I didn't want to imply that space is geometrically flat. I simply ask you why you use the Friedmann equation in the form which applies only to a geometrically flat space, not to a S^3 sphere.

4:45 AM  

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