Halfbaked Theories on Spacetime
I read this incredible article recently in the nautilus magazine that has got me reevaluating the way I’ve been thinking about the shape of the world around us. The big problem we face in physics is that the ground on which it’s built, the ideas behind what space is and what time is and how they interact, is unclear from the smallest levels to the largest. It’s like understanding the construction of the Buckingham Palace, the frescoes and the carvings and the statues and the plan and the colonnade, but with no understanding of how the bricks are actually put together. The one-way flow of time, the ordering and locality of space, the existence of mass, they all are emergent properties creating chaos in our theories. This confusion, combined with the understanding that physics has primarily advanced by a shifting of perspective about the world, means that perhaps a different way to looking at these things might provide a new idea about how these things are put together.
My contention, which might be profoundly misguided, to simplify emergence of spacetime is that space itself might be local, in the sense that we perceive geometry and distance, in its lowest energy state, just as ice is more ordered than water. When you add an extremely large amount of mass, or energy, this ‘kinks’ the low energy space by making the space there less orderly, and connected to other parts. The expansion of space, or extension, is also the key determinant of what emerges as time, which is a variable indicating discontinuities in the evolution of space itself. The rate of change of space is what’s felt as time, which is why it speeds up and slows down in particular circumstances according to rearrangements of space due to matter and energy.