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Thematic Essay | Einstein and the Harmony of Life

Another Time, Another Space

By Daniel Cameron
November 29, 2008
Beyond the dual reality of human perception, there is a dimension of space and time that is uncertain and beyond the grasp of human thought. 
Balancing Act
Balancing Act -Pauli Gallië

The nature of physical reality has a sense of timelessness. Einstein said that the future is continuously becoming the now, and the now continuously becoming the past, and “the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion” that no longer represents physical reality.

In Relativity: The Special and General Theory, published in 1920, Einstein explained Euclid’s geometric algebra as a beautiful “rigid body” of logical and unnatural symmetry resulting from balanced proportions within a closed space. Einstein believe it is “more natural to think of physical reality as a four dimensional experience”.

Euclid was a Greek mathematician who studied philosophy, optics, music, and established a meticulous geometrical algebraic model of three dimensional space, in a mathematical and geometric treatise called Elements (c. 300 BC). Beginning with Definition One –A point is that which has no part –and with axioms such as Common Notion One –Things which equal the same thing also equal one another –he described physical reality as a three dimensional box that was constructed around point, line, and surface.

For example, he said that if you draw a straight line extending to perpetuity, and draw a point next to it, there could be only one line going through it parallel to the first line, which would also stay parallel to perpetuity.

The Greek root of geometry is “measure of land”, or land surveying and mapping. Euclid assumed that the geometric properties of the Universe are essentially flat, a non-curved space in every direction and all dimensions, and based this three dimensional model on the measurement of point to point lines and the angles between them.

Elements dominated mathematics for centuries and was a major influence on Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton. Among others, Einstein wondered what a three dimensional Universe of parallel lines without curves would look like. He imagined a space that transcends this rigid structure and allows time to reveal its geometric curvature –a space-time –which allows an endlessly intertwining of space and time, where parallel lines converge and diverge, and spatial directions curve.

Einstein said a three dimensional space without time was counter-intuitive, and a four dimensional space-time that could not be defined the measurement of point to point space, and in its essence had no beginning and no end.

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) in 1905

In his book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687), Isaac Newton described the Universe as a three-dimensional clockwork governed by the laws of gravitation and motion, the parts of which fitted together with such proportion and continuity that nothing could be added, subtracted, or altered, but for the worse.

In the Newtonian model, time was a primary element of its structure, a complex, mechanical dimension in which events occur in logical sequence as the movement of time from point to point in space, in much the same way that we think of time as an expression of external events, a pattern based on the effect of gravity, the motions of planets and the periodicity of nature and its regular intervals, the cycles of light and dark, seasons, months, and days. Newton wrote “The description of right lines and circles, upon which geometry is founded, belongs to mechanics.”

For Einstein, however, the geometrical point of reference of time was as a coordinate in a four dimensional space-time, because time is not the expression of the movement of celestial objects or the measurement of divisions between past and future or the working of a perfect machine, but another dimension of space. And since you cannot have space without time, he integrated them in a single, four dimensional, mathematical continuum, in which the time coordinate of one coordinate system depended on both the space and time coordinates of another relatively moving system.

In this fourth dimension, spatial directions intertwine with space and time, endlessly curving on the surface of a continuously alternating fabric that does not extend straight forever, and becomes the limits of its own curvature, within the restrictions of relativity, by imitating the continuity and the curvature of space-time. He wrote: “Since there exists in this four dimensional structure (space-time) no longer any sections which represent ‘now’ objectively...It appears therefore more natural to think of physical reality as a four dimensional existence...” (Relativity, 1920)

The usefulness of separating time into past, present, and future, had its origins in the lives of our ancestors and the everyday earth experience of time moving from one point to another. Patterns of time based on the periodicity of nature, regular intervals, and the biological cycles of life, are woven into the visual and intellectual perceptions of reality that evolved over thousands of years, and are shaped and sustained by the language we use to describe them, which makes it difficult to imagine time without thinking of past, present, and future.

We take the measurement of time for granted, because it is interconnected with human survival, the ability to perceive image, color vector, motion, and the mechanics of instinct. It is difficult to imagine a world without being able to see it as it is happening. And yet, what we are seeing is an illusion of sorts.

When we see the sunrise, it is in seamless motion, color, and three dimensional detail, and it appears to be happening now. In fact, because of the distance of the sunrise from our eyes, and the finite speed of light, what we perceived to be in the present is in the past, and what we saw actually happened a short while ago. The small interval of time between when the sunrise happens and when the eyes perceive it, balances the distance from the sunrise to the eyes, so that the separation between sunrise and the eyes seems to be zero. This illusion is a fundamental underlying essence of human consciousness, which became a vital part of the mental structure of our ancestors, the patterns, shapes, colors, weaves, and textures, of symbol and art, that reflected the impenetrability of the beginnings of time and the dimensions of space that were beyond the grasp of language.

The illusive complexity of time is concealed within the multiple veils of symbolic behavior, giving us the ability to behave as if life has a beginning and an end, while at the same time giving us a perspective of time that is individual and necessarily shallow. Einstein’s remarkable balancing and entwining of the multiple and intricate layers of space and time is beautiful in its simplicity and poetic grace.

There is another time, another space, an ancient, spiritual dimension, that is beyond the description of language. In 500 BC, Lao Tzu said about the Tao (the path): Come to it and there is no beginning; follow it and there is no end. In spite of our inability to imagine it without thinking of past, present, and future, to perceive it in the now, or to speak of it coherently, space-time maintains its original clarity.

For our ancestors, it involved a shamanic experience that was beyond the restrictions of space and time. Time, Einstein said, is relative; it speeds up or slows down depending on how fast one thing is moving relative to something else.

As he built his model of the Universe, Einstein went on to combine three dimensional space to a fourth dimension of time to realize a four dimensional framework, where the gravitational pull of large objects in space such as the Earth or the Sun make a dent in space-time, and that black holes may create a loop in space-time, making time travel possible.

Einstein's colleague Kurt Gödel showed in 1949 that, according to the General Theory of Relativity, time travel could be possible if the framework of space-time was curved enough to create a loop. In another time, another place, the ancients described space-time as the dreamlike basis of reality, a vision that integrates a physical and spiritual consciousness that is sacred to the Universe.

In astrophysics, the use of gravitational lensing, which uses a massive foreground object that can bend and magnify the light of objects much further away, a phenomenon first predicted by Einstein, allows the probe of regions estimated to be thirteen billion light-years away and to look back in time to when the first stars were shining.

In stellar evolution it takes billions of years for a star to complete its life cycle. The Hubble telescope has found an object so distant its light set out when the universe was just seven hundred million years old.

The continuum of space and time does not rely on our inability to understand it, but whatever we do on a day-to-day basis relies on the interweave of human time with eternity, its ancient shamanic and poetic vision, and the awareness of a pattern of time that was in and of another world. An essential element of Einstein’s relativity theory was the idea of an infinite time warp, a subtle and mysterious revelation that is beyond the reality of human perception.

Astrophysicists are studying a thousand grains of comet fluff or stardust captured from the tail of the Wild-2 comet, after it has moved and floated through space for 4.57 billion years. The first of a series of detailed analyses of the volatile dusts, cometary ice residues, primitive mineral, chemical, and biogenic substances, shows signs of oxygen rich anorthite and diopside materials, organic minerals and chemical substances that formed under high heat in the coldest, deepest reaches of the planetary system, which suggests that the Sun’s solar system and the creation of matter and energy came from a single source.

According to Einstein, space-time curves back on itself, and it is possible to look back in time to when the first stars were shining. The nature of physical reality has a sense of timelessness, and the desire to codify and symbologize it involves poetry, mathematics, geometry, natural patterns, ornament, art, music, dance, and the fundamental nature of existence.

The organic mineral and chemical substances found in Wild-2 comet dust that dates from the formation of the solar system, suggests that the solar system and the creation of matter and energy all came from a single source.

Beyond the dual reality of human perception, there is a dimension of space and time that is uncertain and beyond the grasp of human thought. Beyond the separation between human consciousness and the mythical unconscious psyche or metaphysical mind of the Universe, is a translucent image of time where the future is an improvisation of the future after it has past, an interweaving fabric of all basic physical interactions with each other, a continuous series of things that blend into each other so gradually and seamlessly that it is impossible to say where one becomes the next. The principles of space and time live deep in the structure of the Universe, and cannot be changed, but through the understanding of their eternal spirit, a person could learn to live in harmony with nature.

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