∆Time, phlogiston, and genius.

The problem of time, phlogiston, and genius.

image from http://star.gise.ntnu.edu.tw:8080/sta/www/rgt/phlogiston.htm

The author is not a highly educated or professional mathematician or physicist, and has only the broadest outline of an understanding of modern sophisticated theories on complicated SpaceTime geometries and so on. And given this many people seem to assume that someone not fully understand all of the most intricate details of a theory can therefore make no sensible comment about them, let alone claim to disprove key aspects of them*. Logical as this may seem, and while this is undoubtedly very often the case, it may not always be the case. As an example of this we consider here the break down of the theory of ‘Phlogiston’.

(*note here, I am not suggesting at all that a vast swath of modern physics is incorrect, only that a significant area of its results need to be interpreted in a significantly different way. Probably not leading to the loss of any knowledge but hopefully a more meaningful understanding of achieved results)

(Someone misunderstanding a point is one thing, but misunderstanding a point and assuming ‘it’ is wrong is an added complexity, something I typically encounter where explaining the possibility of timelessness).

There are many problems with the theory of time, and these are being addressed by numerous highly educated theoretical , and experimental professional physicists throughout the word.

Phlogiston theory, as Professor Jim Loy explains very neatly here http://www.jimloy.com/physics/phlogstn.htm is a set of reasoning that attempts to explain how and why things can burn, by suggesting that a material ‘phlogiston’ is given off by a material as it burns.

Phlogiston theory has basically been shown to be fundamentally incorrect, but it was widely accepted by the scientific community for around 200 years, effectively holding up progress in the area of understanding combustion throughout that period, because we were on the wrong track but refused to back track and recheck basic observations an assumptions.

As Professor Loy explains “The Phlogistians were not a bunch of cranks. They were serious scientists who helped resolve some of the basic questions of chemistry, by being the devil's advocate against the Antiphlogistians, and by discovering important experiments. And, for almost the entire 18th century, the phlogiston theory was more satisfying than the alternative”

Throughout the development of the theory a great deal of intricate and complicated thinking and mathematics was almost certainly formulated. Material that many nonexperts probably might not eunderstand.

Ultimately Professor Loy explains, the theory was shown to be wrong because ” The Antiphlogistians measured the weight of every substance involved in the experiment, even the gasses. ... [and found] When charcoal burns, the resultant carbon dioxide (fixed air) weighs more than the original charcoal. So, in every case, phlogiston would have to have a negative weight”

(This disturbing attribute convinced most of the last Phlogistians to abandon their theory.”)

i.e. It was in fact the simple and easily understood results of some high school level experiments that showed the theory of Phlogiston to be ‘wrong’ unless carefully reinterpreted such that the thing itself ‘phlogiston’ was factored out and seen to be wrongly assumed to exist).

So, even though a theory can be highly developed, possibly to the extent that only highly educated, very intelligent people can even understand the advanced workings of it, a theory , no matter how complex, might also be undermined at its root by simple testable easily understood assumptions.

And, if a theory is built on an assumption, that even a non expert can understand, and see to be wrong, then they may not also need to fully understand and disassemble all of the complicated ( and thus also actually flawed) workings built following the incorrect assumption.

Thus, with ‘time’ while the many, varied, and highly sophisticated theories following the assumption that there may be a past, and time, and a flow of time, and a future, and four-dimensional SpaceTime,  and thus possible theoretical time travel , may be difficult or impossible for many to understand, it may also not be necessary to understand and disprove all of them to show that they may be built on a flawed conclusion that can be understood by most people with very simple reasoning.

In the case of timelessness, it is first considered that matter  seems to exist, move change and interact. Then it is considered that if matter just exists moves and interacts, this would include the matter that makes up a simple photograph, or the matter that makes up formations in our brains.

Then we consider that just as a photograph, and the process of one being made, only requires matter to exist move change, interact, and be able to hold formations, so to do the patterns in our minds (that we might call ‘memories of the past’) also only actually require that matter can exist and interact etc.

Thus we see that assuming a place or thing called time may exist, because we call certain formations in our minds ‘memories’ of ‘the past’ is in fact not a valid reason to even suspect that extra to the matter in those formations another thing called ‘the past’ needs to, or is proven to exist.

One key assumption that ‘time’ exists rests on the idea that time explains the growing but unchangeable ‘past’.

But if we see we may be wrong to assume a thing called the past exists, and thus does not grow, and is not changeable, in any form, then we may be wrong to assume time exists in any form. And thus any theory no matter how sophisticated,  built on the idea ‘time’ may exist because it explains ‘the past’ may be seen to be highly unlikely, even by someone not understanding the extremely complicated mathematics and reasoning built on a seemingly unfounded assumption.