Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Physics and the Origins of the Universe (II)

Current popular understanding of how the universe came into physical existence depends on some improbable ideas, such as the existence of physics where physics cannot be present, and that there was a physical explosion of something into a place which did not yet exist. This doesn't seem to trouble the popular understanding. More importantly, it does not seem to trouble most physicists. 

I've written elsewhere about how we got into this difficulty. In short, the west ditched certain ideas about reality between the time of Newton and the Enlightenment, and consequently also ditched the intellectual tools necessary to understand how and why we have physics and a physical existence.

What follows is a description of creation as it might have been framed, if the west had not offloaded the concepts and tools which enable an understanding of the origins of the universe not requiring us to believe several impossible things before breakfast.  

Essentially this argument proposes that physical existence is the consequence of an underlying plenum, whose nature transcends our understanding of what is real. The nature of this plenum is what gives rise to physics and the physical world, through the necessity of retaining its own nature. As a result, the physical world has a logical origin, rather than an origin requiring a strange pre-existence of physical laws.  

The second part of this discussion (Physics and the Origins of the Universe III) concerns the Kaluza-Klein hypothesis, whose implications suggest that the idea of a plenum, in the form of a fifth dimension, is critically important in connecting Einstein's field equations, and Maxwell's equations for electrodynamics. 

The Plenum and its Properties (I)

The Plenum is, as it is, undefined in any way. We can say that it is what it is, and that its properties are those which can be said to characterise the plenum: it has no shape or form, or size. It does not move (there is as yet no space), and it has no age (there is as yet no time, which is a vector of change).

What are the properties of the plenum? It is one undivided thing, which has no physical existence, no location, and is something which remains unaltered and unalterable. It is literally eternal. It is utterly transcendent of the categories of our understanding, and is not subject to the laws of physics. Though it is one undivided thing, it is beyond characterisation as one undivided thing. It is just that which is, before dimensions and time, and categories of understanding.

It is neither one thing nor another.  It can be understood as a fullness, since it is not an absence. But in itself, it is not a presence either. It has potential. This does not mean that its nature will change, but that there is potential within its nature for the appearance and perception of change, size, form and shape.

So we are building up a picture of the plenum, or the initial state of the cosmos. It is one not two, (there is no ‘two’). It is beyond definition. It is unmoving and is not subject to change. It contains the potential for all of these things, including time and space, since it is undefined. It can contain these things as entities which appear, in the context of other things which can perceive entities which appear. At the earliest stages, perception can mean as little as detection of, and response to, things which appear. Not consciousness of any sort that we would understand.

All physical reality that may ever have existence is, in a sense, already present within the plenum. That is, physical reality is already present in potential.

All possibility is present in the plenum. Nothing is fixed or determined, at least initially (we are looking back at the initial conditions, so ‘initially’ references our own point of view, not that of the plenum. It is not in development. It does not change).

So the plenum is, conceived from the outside, is a formless, churning and foaming potency.

What other things can we say of the Plenum? It is infinite, in that it not finite, since it is undefined. It is also infinitesimal, for the same reason.

The parameters in which the apparent realities of the physical world can have their existence include binary opposites.  We can oppose the ideas of the infinite and the infinitesimal, but we can also oppose the ideas of the infinite and the finite. These are different oppositions involving the same concept. We can do the same with other oppositions, such as the unlimited and the limited, and the limitless and the limited. These may appear to be the same, but the unlimited is something which has not been subject to limit. The limitless is simply that which is without limit.  Likewise with the ideas of great and small. But the great can be contrasted with the not-great, which is not limited to the idea of small.

These may appear to be footling distinctions between abstractions, but the abstractions are the earliest things which can be present in the plenum, before the plenum can give rise to the appearance of a physical reality (abstractions are by definition beyond particular physical instances). So the churn in the plenum is in a sense a logical one, rather than anything resembling a physical reality. It is a chaos of logical possibilities, and also of logical contradictions. The Plenum does not have a consciousness, at this level of the creation.

The plenum has been defined as one, and itself. What may the one be contrasted with? The many? Or the absence of the oneness of anything? The idea of the many can be contained within the plenum as an abstract idea, without compromising the oneness of the plenum. Likewise, the absence of oneness. Each of these opposing abstractions within the plenum represents a potential subdivision of its nature, by which a physical creation increasingly becomes a possibility. All of this is present in the plenum from the beginning. This chaos of conflicting abstractions is eternal.  For a physical and ordered world to exist the conflicting abstractions need to marshalled.

The formless abstractions are ideas, which are subject to the power of other ideas. This stage can be understood as a second creation, in which logical decisions are made. At this point we could speak of the presence of a consciousness, though all that is meant is that an ordering process begins to take place, replacing a senseless churn of abstractions and oppositions.

The oppositions represent the sameness of the plenum with its difference. In the case of the infinite and the finite, the infinite is the sameness, and the finite is the difference. In both cases, the same and the different are the same plenum, understood differently, and looked at with different categories of understanding.  In a sense the plenum begins to understand itself after the second creation. The idea of finitude is crucial to the creation of physical reality, and is created as a qualifier of the idea of infinity.

Another property of the plenum is the completeness of what it is. But completeness can imply boundedness, rather than the boundless. Is the plenum bounded and therefore limited and finite because it is complete? Again, it is a matter of the categories of understanding which are brought to bear.

With finitude, and the idea of the many, physical reality becomes possible. The abstractions can be understood in terms of number, while still being abstract.  With the presence of number, all kinds of processes and constructs become possible.  But we are still (from our point of view) before space and time in any sense we would understand. 

The unmoving abstract concept of the plenum gives rise to the idea of a possible opposite, which is a cosmos of movement. So space and time become abstractions by which numbers and their interactions may be represented. Once you have space and time, the representation of numbers can move beyond points to geometrical shapes, and eventually three dimensional form.

Space and time are generated by the same process of opposing the same and the different. Ultimately they are both representations of understandings of the plenum.

So what populates the cosmos? The earliest occupant of the newly generated physical cosmos will be hydrogen, since it is the simplest element, made up of two different electrical charges. These charges will have been created as a consequence of the same principle of opposing the same and the different. A myriad of representations of one or more of the original polarities contained (as a possibility) in the plenum. 

It is possible to see opposing electrical charges as a representation of the same and the different in the context of finitude.  Whereas the raw state of the plenum is foaming and churning (from our point of view), hydrogen represents a stable opposition of electrical charges in a dynamical relation. The foaming and churning has, in this representation, been reduced to a resonance. Order has emerged from chaos.


There was a well-known toy for drawing complex patterns when I was a child (Spirograph). It had its limitations as a toy, but it taught me that a simple ratio could imply something very complex, depending on how that ratio was expressed. Similarly so with the development of patterns in animal fur, which Alan Turing investigated at the end of his life – the underlying mathematics were often simple, but the process could produce startlingly complex patterns.  The complexity we see in physical reality can have its roots in something very simple, such as the generation of numbers (real or imaginary).

I learned to use log tables and a slide rule while at school. That taught me that a process such as multiplication could be represented as addition, depending on the adopted point of view.  In the case of logarithms, through the use of reciprocal numbers.  Again, the same, represented in both form and process, by the different.  And patterns emerge from the encounters of the same with the different. So interaction between the plenum itself with its difference, and the representations of its relationship with its difference, can be understood in terms of ratio. The old sense of what is rational descends from this idea – what accords, what is consonant, etc. 

Two logical modalities underpin the descent of aspects of the plenum into physical reality. One can be understood in terms of entities possessing identity with itself, of not being something else while it is itself, and not partaking of itself and something else while it is itself. The other logical modality is startlingly different, but it is a completely rational modality. Since the encounter of the same with the different is happening within the underlying plenum, and is in a sense powered by the properties of the plenum, it is the case that all things can pass into one another. That is, what is the same as itself, can pass into what is different from itself.

It is not possible however for the same to always pass directly into something which is different from it. It must pass from itself to what is different through a rational process. It is possible for the same to do this, since it necessarily shares aspects of its nature with the plenum within which it has its reality. This is how this logical modality is rational, and not chaotic.

When I learned music, I found that the possible scales were patterns within the octave which reflected mathematical ratios based on the octave itself. That is, each of the notes possessed a relationship with the root note of the octave which expressed a ratio which existed outside the octave. Music works because we are hearing the intervals, and the progressions of the intervals, all of which are in a sense beyond the actual notes played. So we are appreciating the rationality of the relationship of one to the other.  The expression of those relationships can be understood as a rational and logical interplay between what is the same, and what is its difference; multiplied, and in different sequences, both horizontally and vertically.

One particular ratio, is defined by ‘the smaller is to the larger, as the larger is to the whole’. This is of course the golden ratio, where each of the parts bears a relationship to the whole, and, is not dependent at all on any scalar values. So it has a reality which exists apart from any particular instance in which this ratio may be expressed. It refers to itself, without necessary reference to anything which has physical reality. It is an abstraction which refers only to sameness, and to difference. It is therefore a conception of great importance, and we should expect to find it often represented in the continuum of reality. And we do.  It is the plenum, the thing which is itself, reminding us of how the world of physical reality came into existence.


The two logical modalities both draw their natures from the properties and characteristics of the plenum. They appear to be contradictory, but then the nature of the plenum contains a number of apparent contradictions. Nevertheless, it must be itself, whatever itself is. But it must also share its identity with every aspect of itself, since, in reality, there is nothing other than the plenum. Accordingly, the world of appearances is just that – the world of abstractions and concrete instances, of ideas, number and physical form, is just an array of different perspectives on the plenum. The plenum is the one true thing, and all that there is.


The plenum is complete, and whole. Every other thing which has reality has it because it participates in the plenum through its completeness. Anything which is whole participates in wholeness, and wholeness is an abstraction which provides connection with the ultimate abstraction of wholeness, which is the plenum. All parts of things also participate in the plenum through the wholeness they share as the parts of things which are whole. If they are whole or completed parts, they again participate in the wholeness of the plenum. So in sense, the part and the whole are not entirely separable concepts. They can be understood as the same and the different. They may also pass into and out of one another.

Because nothing can have reality or existence, or come to be and pass away, change, or move, without the underlying ground of reality, it can be argued that the plenum must be real for the illusion of these finite things to function.


This is an account of a creation from abstractions, which have no firm location in time or space, even where there is time and space present. So it is possible to conceive of them having reality before time and space came to be.  The need to explain the presence of the physical world in terms of a physical creation is removed, which is plainly a species of category mistake: the presence of the physical world does not need to be explained in terms of a physical creation, which approach has saddled our understanding with the need to find a prime mover.

There is also no need for the idea of a creation ex nihilo. The presence of a plenum (which is neither presence nor absence) allows for a rational creation from the interplay of abstractions. The plenum contains all things which may be thought, and which may come into existence. Hence we can understand reality by studying its properties, as well as come to understand why the physical world is the way it is. This approach is not the opposite of a scientific understanding of reality, it is the root of a scientific understanding of reality, and of its subset, the physical world.

Thomas Yaeger, 21-2 February 2016.

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