Summaries of Spacetime, Relativity, and Quantum Theories for beginning and advanced visitors, with Links to the Best Websites on Space,Time, Einstein's Relativity, Quantum Gravity, Quantum Physics, Dark Matter and Energy, plus a discussion of the possibility that we live in an essentially atemporal universe.

We present the general concept of Space and Time, usually called Spacetime or the Spacetime Continuum, and provide links to the main internet sources for exploring Space-Time, Relativity, and Quantum Physics. The Links are the most valuable feature of this website, including a link to the NOVA series Fabric of the Cosmos. Most of the linked sites are maintained by physics departments and professors at major universities, and will help you understand popular current theories. We then discuss some of the problems with these theories, which will eventually lead us to alternate interpretations.

Perhaps readers who are not familiar with the current impossibility of reconciling relativity and quantum theory, may be visiting this site expecting to find an answer to the question “what is Space-Time?”. Alas, there is no answer, at least not for now, and maybe never. At the University of Michigan’s Strings 2000 seminar the participants proposed a list of the ten most important unsolved problems in fundamental physics. Number 5 was – “Why does the universe appear to have one time and three space dimensions?” In other words, what are space and time, and what is the strange combination of space and time that is called the Spacetime Continuum? Spacetime continues to be one of the great scientific mysteries of the universe.

 

There is another underlying question we have never answered, it is best illustrated by asking – if we travel to the end of the universe and find a brick wall, what is behind the wall? Is our universe inside a walled “container” that might allow us to measure distances from points on the fixed surface of the container? Or is our universe the container itself with nothing beyond the boundaries? If so there is no fixed background we can use to measure time and space. General relativity favors a background free universe where distance and time are measured by relative positions of objects in our universe, so that in a real sense what time it is depends on which object we are standing on when we look at our watch. Quantum Theory favors (but does not necessarily require) the existence of a complex, yet still fundamental, time.

 

Another one of the ten questions was, “Are all the (measurable) dimensionless parameters that characterize the physical universe calculable in principle or are some merely determined by historical or quantum mechanical accident and incalculable?” What they were really asking is what is the fundamental nature and origin of all the numbers that describe our universe, like the value of pi in the radius of a circle, including space-time? It is clear that human beings cannot go beyond what science calls boundary conditions, yet it may also be impossible for us to answer questions about the most fundamental physical nature of our observable universe.

 

 

NOVA – The Fabric of the Cosmos PBS © 2011 WGBH

 

Before we present our Summary of Space and Time you really do need to watch the PBS Nova series, The Fabric of the Cosmos. It is the best source for learning about current concepts of Space and Time. You can download podcasts (Apple iTunes store has 4 HD podcasts, $1.99 each) or watch the series in DVD and other formats by clicking this link –

 

The Fabric of the Cosmos. Even though we think that the future will show that Spacetime is far more complex and elegant than even this series suggests, if you want to understand how scientists view Space and Time at the start of the third millennium, you must watch the show.

 

The Nova link is followed by a list of some of the best Website Links [HR – means Highly Recommended]. If you are just beginning to explore the world of modern physics and cosmology, or if you want to do some advanced research on space-time, special and general relativity, quantum physics, quantum gravity, loop quantum gravity, Albert Einstein, space-time warps, time travel wormholes, or similar topics, you will want to visit the websites. If you want the simplest explanation you may want to read our Brief Summary first. An excellent place for students to start is the University New South Wales award winning website Einstein Light (beginner – intermediate) – click on the Einstein Light box to enjoy “the finer points of relativity in less time than it takes to eat a sandwich” (Scientific American 2005):

 

 

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Donovan Crow
Donovan Crow
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