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Background Ideas


Background to theory
All scientific theories are set against some background of general ideas. A.N.Whitehead emphasised this point and stressed the supporting role that the background scheme of ideas has in the development of theories. He also underlined the fact that such ideas are often unacknowledged. Even those who rely on them often do not realise that they exist, or the powerful influence they exert. With this in mind, it is not impossible to gain some picture of the types of background ideas which guided the imagination of thinkers from Galileo to Einstein.

This is especially the case with respect to space. Space concepts almost never extend beyond the infinite extent of fixed, motionless and flat space. Einstein was the first to venture into new territory, beyond the Newtonian model, with curved spacetime and its Gaussian trajectories for moving bodies in a gravitational field. Others have proposed different spaces, including string theories, but they have to explain away invisible dimensions and other concepts which clash with common sense and brute facts. These have usually required complex mathematical treatments, often at the Planck scale of space and time, which obscure any relationship to the real world.


Background concepts to the Discrete Theory of Elementary Particles
Some of the newly embraced ideas are found in the work of A.N.Whitehead and others following the Einstein revolution.  Those ideas are not readily summarised in a few words. The key features of the doctrine of organic realism, as Whitehead named it, do not immediately find easy acceptance by those new to its concepts. His metaphysical scheme was couched in an extremely general form, in order to find application in all and every aspect of human experience. Both its generality of presentation and the scope of its intended extension have been the cause of its narrow acceptance among scientists and philosophers alike. Scientists want science to be science—not philosophy or theology.

The adopted elements of organic realism can be listed as follows:

• Physical reality, with which we are familiar, can be analysed in terms of events
• Events are the fundamental or founding elements of microscopic reality
• Enduring objects, such as electrons, are each series of such events—matter is event-like
• Each event is a complete and isolated occurrence—it happens then vanishes
• Notwithstanding their completeness and isolation, events inherit their characters from other events—they are dependent upon other events
• Space and time are relational—they are not substantial—they are derivative of the objects they relate. Objects come first—space and time follow

An analogy with the analysis of microscopic reality as events, is the action on a cinema screen. It can be analysed as a series of separate, still pictures which appear one after the other on the screen. Nothing moves in the movies in the fundamental sense. Cinematic action is derivative of motionlessness.

In the present scheme, the distinction between action and its representation is crucial. Twentieth-century physics focuses almost entirely on representation, to the extent that what lies beneath all but falls out of sight. The laws of physics are expressions of the regularities of Nature. And the regularities are expressed as mathematical relations among phenomena. Modern physics is almost completely reduced to the mathematical representation of phenomena, from which derive its laws. Post-modern physics, begun in 1900, increased the level of complexity of the mathematics by its introduction of symmetries. The action which lies behind the symmetry is another matter. Feynman put it in a nut shell when he wrote:
 
"One might still like to ask: 'How does it work? What is the machinery behind the law?' No one has found any machinery behind the law. . . We have no ideas about a more basic mechanism from which these results can be deduced."        —R. P. Feynman
                    
The discrete theory is entirely concerned with what Richard Feynman refers to as: "machinery behind the law" and not its representation(s). In addition to the motionlessness of the action behind phenomena, its energy is treated without reference to its quantification. Thus, the need for a Hamiltonian approach vanishes and with it a reliance upon energy-centred mathematics. By treating space and time as properties of systems they become distance, direction and duration and not objects in their own right. Instead of equating the treatment of their representations, constraints applied to a particle's internal duration are the same as those applied to its internal distance (diameter). For fully discrete particles time is a physical variable. Individual particles have various durations.

Energy differences among the particles of the standard model are not of primary importance in the discrete scheme. The Pauli principle is obeyed naturally by interacting particles which differ in their energies but are distinguished by its conjugate relative—time, expressed as duration internal to the event. By contrast, a difference which is of great importance is that between the application of the terms 'positive' and 'negative' to the physical quantities, energy and electric charge. Pauli and Dirac each believed that 'positive energy' and 'negative energy' could not both be physically real. They naturally opted for the reality of the former and the non-reality of the latter. The problem finds a solution in the discrete scheme by way of an alternative to the usual mathematical means of interpreting 'positive' and 'negative' as opposites of one another.

© Peter Fimmel 2002-2007

Last page update 14/05/07

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