I want to begin by asserting that the progress of science cannot be separated from capitalism, and that it obtains its numerous truths through the medium of the mood (or stimmung) of a cultural moment. I have dealt with the first assertion in the post, "How Capitalism Can Explain Why an Encounter with Aliens Is Highly Unlikely." The present post concerns the shaping role of cultural stimmung in science.
To make my point clear on the second score one only has to think of Albert Einstein's final major contribution to physics, the 1915 theory of general relativity. It is well known that the breakthrough for this theory, which concerns the nature of gravity, was connecting acceleration with gravity.
In cultural terms, this connection was made possible by the technological mood of the time, which defined Einstein's work in the patent office in Bern, Switzerland. The consciousness of this icon of genius was shaped by the massification of several technologies, one of which was the elevator. (When you accelerate upward you momentarily feel you are heavier, and when you accelerate downward you momentarily feel lighter.) How could someone make this revolutionary connection between gravity and acceleration in Issac Newton's 17th century world? For that period, the experiential mood, shaped by a search for order in politically chaotic Europe, could only make possible the connection between a falling apple and a falling moon.
Now, this is the point where we turn to our current mood, which has been battered over four years by a cruelty whose stupidity/incompetence/nothingness could and did break many normal functioning minds. On Trump's last full day, I propose that his time as American president will improve our understanding of black holes.
The big story about black holes that appeared in the final days of Trump is "the most ancient black hole ever discovered" is way too big ("a mass of 1.6 billion suns") for its place in time in the universe, according to Science News. The hole lies at the heart of a galaxy more than 13 billion light-years from Earth," and the universe is not much older than 13 billion years. The understanding of current physics is that the universe needs to be a young adult to form super-massive black holes. But this one ("J0313-1806") was formed while the universe was still a baby—"just 670 million years old."
More from Maria Temming of Science News:
Finding such a huge supermassive black hole so early in the universe’s history challenges astronomers’ understanding of how these cosmic beasts first formed, researchers reported January 12 at a virtual meeting of the American Astronomical Society and in a paper posted at arXiv.org on January 8.
A mind depressed by four years of nonstop insanity will easily make the leap from this new challenge to astronomy and cosmology to the content of a black hole itself. What exactly is it? The objects are often described as something so horrible that the universe's one and only constant (so far), the speed of light, can't escape its power. But that is how black holes appear if we view the universe from the joint perspective of general relativity and special relativity, the theory that relativized time in 1905. But there is another theory, shape dynamics, that relativizes size instead of time. This view of the universe was introduced not too long ago by British theoretical physicist Justin Barbour.
In the mathematics of shape dynamics, time is constant but size is relative. What this means is a shoe that is near my foot can certainly be seen to fit that foot. But what if the shoe is in the Andromeda Galaxy? Can the information about a shoe near me be the same as the information about a shoe so far away? Einstein's theory says yes. Size 11 never changes no matter where you go in the galaxy and beyond.
But the theory of shape dynamics begs to differ. To speak of a shoe that is my size in Andromeda Galaxy is the same as saying that my now is the same as the now in Andromeda Galaxy. But as the time between my now and the now in the other galaxy is neither in the past nor in the future, so there is no set size between the shoe in Andromeda and my feet. But what does this have to do with black holes?
This switch between time relativity of general relativity and the size relativity in shape dynamics is compatible. You mostly see the same universe from both views, but one of the few differences between the two is super-massive.
[T]he astronaut approaching the black hole sees nothing that’s different from the Einsteinian description; outside of the event horizon, general relativity and shape dynamics give the same picture. But beyond the horizon, the story changes dramatically.
Not only is there no singularity in a shape dynamics universe, there’s no head-long rush toward the place where you’d expect it to be. In fact, an astronaut who sails past the event horizon finds herself not in a shrinking world but an expanding one.
In the general relativity universe, a black hole is the end of the show. But in shape dynamics, it's just another place to chill. Which brings up an idea that was first presented to me nearly two years ago in Detroit by the talented artist Lisa Soto: We are in a black hole. Meaning, the universe is a black hole, and each black hole forms a universe. She too was caught in the Trump vacuum.
You can go into a black hole but you can't come out of it. This means that our view of the singularity might be all backwards. The singularity is not the beginning of the universe but the end; and the expanding universe, driven by dark energy, is actually its beginning, a beginning becoming bigger and bigger. And the big question at this point, in the Trumpian mood of a black hole "all," is the second law of thermodynamics.
In other words, is time's arrow real? Or, as Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli claims, is time's arrow a product of our ignorance—or, as I would as say, our confusion. The 20th century black African theologian and philosopher John Mbiti argued that the dominant orientation of African time is that of facing the past. The past is what is seen. The past is not rushing away from you but toward you. It's futuristic. This orientation better squares with a singularity that is the end.