Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Myth of Infinity

Infinity. The word itself invokes a mind-numbing a sense of awe. The concept fills even the most ardent scientist’s imagination with images of parallel universes and time travel.

Unfortunately, using a concept that is beyond comprehension such as infinity can quickly blur the lines dividing science and fantasy. I've often observed that the point at which our minds go numb with impossibility of comprehension, we’re simply enjoying the relaxation of our thoughts, thinking the experience to be some sort of enlightenment when in fact, we are giving up on the possibility of further knowledge.

Before we can accept the concept of infinity as a natural occurance, we must first be able to observe and test it . Failing this, we must call into question its existence. Questioning infinity isn't easy since it’s so ingrained into our lives. We all assume that things such as time and space simply go on forever. We should though, take time to ponder whether we’re assuming something that simply doesn't exist. I think that in the case of infinity, our minds are working from false assumptions and that infinity itself is not a feature within the physical world.

There are basic realms where arguments exist which require the existence of a physical infinity. A thorough examination of each show no necessity for it, yet we rarely hear the concept of infinity called into question. With the following examination I propose that infinity does not exist outside of our conceptual toolkit of mathematics.

Scientific discussions of physical Infinity generally occur in the areas of space, time, and mathematics. Although infinity within mathematics is an interesting conversation, we can dismiss it as purely conceptual so as not to cloud the discussion. I’ll spend some time on that subject in another article. For now, lets concentrate on the physical, time and space.

Crab Nebula From Wikipedia by NASA and STScl
Space
Is space infinite? First, we have to define space.

According to our minds, it’s what we look up into at night, the stuff that replaces milk in a carton, and the thing that separates you from others when we need some alone time. But space is not a “thing” at all. Our minds have evolved to process the idea of space in a way that’s efficient for our survival. As a mental shortcut, we use space as a filler for the conceptual potential of a geometrically defined area. Although technically we correctly define space as the absence of matter, in our daily lives we treat it as if it were a “thing” itself.

If I were to dig a hole in the ground, we would all assume that it’s possible to measure the width of the hole, but we can’t. What we can measure is the distance between two edges of earth around the circumference of the hole along a ruler or measuring tape. In other words, without the reference of the earth surrounding the hole, there is no measurable hole.

Likewise, our minds tell us that when we hold a ruler in the air, we are measuring a distance of space when in actuality, we are only measuring points along the ruler itself. The truth is, you cannot assign a value to space. Distance can only be measured between two points of matter. Volume can be measured only between four or more points (objects).

The false assumptions formed by these mental shortcuts lead us to conceptualize space as a vast “thing” which holds all objects, also inferring that i has a measurable mass. In fact though, space is merely a property of the objects and does not exist without them. Not to deny that space exists, just that space doesn't have its own physical properties such as length or volume. Space exists only as a relative property of matter, not as an entity on its own. Therefore, not only is there no space beyond the furthest matter, there is also no physical "beyond" at all.

Once we understand that space itself is not an independent component of the universe, we eliminate the variable causing confusion by it being both measurable and immeasurable, thus removing the logical necessity for infinite space. The distance across our universe can now be equal to the furthest two objects within it. The logic also applies across multiple universes.

The expanse of all forms of matter and energy is surely an incomprehensible distance, but finite none the less.



From Wikipedia
Time
Within the context of our reason, time is a tool for measuring events in relation to a series of seemingly constant repeating events. A season is comparable to 91.31 rotations of the Earth. The length of my meeting this morning was defined by 57,600,000 oscillations of a specifically designed quartz crystal controlling a clock on the wall.

Time is nothing more than a group of physical motions that we define as an event compared to a more predictable series of motions. Knowing this, we can assert that time is simply a mathematical equation of relative motion.

Both time (a measure of movement) and space seem to be properties of matter when compared to other instances of matter. Time though, is not a physical concept, just a mathematical one, and should be replaced with motion when conceptualizing the mechanics of physics.

The question of whether time is infinite then becomes a question of whether movement is infinite. Currently accepted theory states that movement in our universe had a beginning and thus should also have an end.

 I don’t like the idea that motion (time) will end. It makes me uncomfortable. Nature didn't design us to deal with thoughts such as these. Honest reasoning though, tells us that the lives we have and all that we know will eventually end.

Moving on from that cheery thought though, How? How could time, or more accurately, how could motion end? The law of conservation of energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be changed from one form to another. The key lies in statement that energy can be changed from one form to another when applied to the conceptual laws of infinity.

The concept of infinite time requires that any possible configuration of the universe will eventually occur an infinite number of times. But one possible configuration would be the conversion of all kinetic (motion) energy to potential (stored) energy. Without motion, all further possibilities end, and the concept of infinity is broken.

This is the point at which time ends.