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  • A Minimum Size

    Table of Contents
    .......The Elegant Universe
    THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE, Brian Greene, 1999, 2003
    ```(annotated and with added bold highlights by Epsilon=One)
    Chapter 10 - Tearing the Fabric of Space
    A Minimum Size
    (Epsilon=One: A minimum size is the Conceptual Unit (CU) as symbolically represented by the Elliptical Constant (EC))
    or
    It's been a bit of a trek, but we are now set for the key point. If one does stick to measuring distances "the easy way"—that is, using the lightest of the string modes instead of the heavy ones—the results obtained will always be larger than the Planck length. To see this, let's think through the hypothetical big crunch for the three extended dimensions, assuming them to be circular. For argument's sake, let's say that at the beginning of our thought experiment, unwound string modes are the light ones and by using them it is determined that the universe has an enormously large radius and that it is shrinking in time. As it shrinks, these unwound modes get heavier and the winding modes get lighter. When the radius shrinks all the way to the Planck length—that is, when R takes on the value 1—the winding and vibration modes have comparable mass. The two approaches to measuring distance become equally difficult to carry out and, moreover, each would yield the same result since 1 is its own reciprocal.

    As the radius continues to shrink, the winding modes become lighter than the unwound modes and hence, since we are always opting for the "easier approach," they should now be used to measure distances. According to this method of measurement, which yields the reciprocal of that measured by the unwound modes, the radius is larger than one times the Planck length and increasing. This simply reflects that as R—the quantity measured by unwound strings—shrinks to 1 and continues to get smaller, 1/R—the quantity measured by wound strings—grows to 1 and gets larger. Therefore, if one takes care to always use the light string modes—the "easy" approach to measuring distance—the minimal value encountered is the Planck length.

    In particular, a big crunch to zero size is avoided, as the radius of the universe as measured using light string-mode probes is always larger than the Planck length. Rather than heading through the Planck length on to ever smaller size, the radius, as measured by the lightest string modes, decreases to the Planck length and then immediately starts to increase. The crunch is replaced by a bounce. (Epsilon=One: The "crunch"-"bounce" Universe is ludicrous. The Universe is singular and perpetual with a locus that is congruent with the duality of Infinity.)

    Using light string modes to measure distances aligns with our conventional notion of length—the one that was around long before the discovery of string theory. It is according to this notion of distance, as seen in Chapter 5, that we encountered insurmountable problems with violent quantum undulations if sub-Planck-scale distances play a physical role. We once again see, from this complementary perspective, that the ultra-short distances are avoided by string theory. In the physical framework of general relativity and in the corresponding mathematical framework of Riemannian geometry there is a single concept of distance, and it can acquire arbitrarily small values. In the physical framework of string theory, and, correspondingly, in the realm of the emerging discipline of quantum geometry, there are two notions of distance. By judiciously making use of both we find a concept of distance that meshes with both our intuition and with general relativity when distance scales are large, but that differs from them dramatically when distance scales get small. Specifically, sub-Planck-scale distances are inaccessible.

    As this discussion is quite subtle, let's re-emphasize one central point. If we were to spurn the distinction between "easy" and "hard" approaches to measuring length and, say, continue to use the unwound modes as R shrinks through the Planck length, it might seem that we would indeed be able to encounter a sub-Planck-length distance. But the paragraphs above inform us that the word "distance" in the last sentence must be carefully interpreted, since it can have two different meanings, only one of which conforms to our traditional notion. And in this case, when R shrinks to sub-Planck-length but we continue to use the unwound strings (even though they have now become heavier than the wound strings), we are employing the "hard" approach to measuring distance, and hence the meaning of "distance" does not conform to our standard usage. However, the discussion is far more than one of semantics or even of convenience or practicality of measurement. Even if we choose to use the nonstandard notion of distance and thereby describe the radius as being shorter than the Planck length, the physics we encounter—as discussed in previous sections—will be identical to that of a universe in which the radius, in the conventional sense of distance, is larger than the Planck length (as attested to, for example, by the exact correspondence between Tables 10.1 and 10.2). And it is physics, not language, that really matters. (Epsilon=One: Such an attitude concerning language (specifically, non-Aristotlean General Semantics) will never allow the axiomatic discipline of physics to reach a First Postulate of Reality. (FPR))

    Brandenberger, Vafa, and other physicists have made use of these ideas to suggest a rewriting of the laws of cosmology in which both the big bang and the possible big crunch do not involve a zero-size universe, but rather one that is Planck-length in all dimensions. (Epsilon=One: YES; "a rewriting of the laws of cosmology" is definitely required as "both the big bang and the possible big crunch" are metaphysical; and, certainly not a requirement of a singular, perpetual Universe.) This is certainly a very appealing proposal for avoiding the mathematical, physical, and logical conundrums of a universe that emanates from or collapses to an infinitely dense point. Although it is conceptually difficult to imagine the whole of the universe compressed together into a tiny Planck-sized nugget, it is truly beyond the pale to imagine it crushed to a point of no size at all. String cosmology, as we shall discuss in Chapter 14, is a field very much in its infancy but one that holds great promise, and may very well provide us with (an) this easier-to-swallow alternative to the standard big bang model. (Epsilon=One: ABSOLUTELY CORRECT! Albert and Sir Fred would be delighted by the final demise of Monseigneur Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître's (and many eminences that followed) non-secular nonsense.)
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    Table of Contents
    .......The Elegant Universe
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