Why is time defined as a dimension?

It is easy to recognize someone who isn’t a physicist. They will use the word dimension when referring to a number line. More amusing still, they will begin to bend and warp the alleged ‘dimension’ in a vain attempt to provide a physical interpretation to the workings of the Solar System. And that in a nutshell is the fundamental problem with the word time . The non-physicist has yet to realize that time is not a dimension, but rather a number line.

The word dimension belongs exclusively to Physics

Let’s spell it out. The word dimension belongs exclusively to Physics. The terms time and number line belong exclusively to Math and have nothing to do with Physics. The task of a physicist is to provide physical interpretations to the workings of the Universe. Neither time nor number lines can help elucidate or explain mechanisms.

And this takes us to the second major difference between a mathematician and a physicist. We simply apply Bernoulli’s blind, Lion’s Paw test

: “tanquam ex ungue leonem(essentially: “We recognize the lion by its claw.”) A physicist is someone who can explain a mechanism. A mathematician can only describe it mathematically. And that’s all that time and number lines do. We have figured out all the visible mechanisms. What only physicists have been able to do is discover the invisible mechanisms of the Universe.

Physicists attempt to understand the workings of the real world. In the real world, there are only three dimensions, no fewer and no more. The three dimensions are known as length, width, and height. The only two properties that dimensions have are: direction and orthogonality.

dimension: one of three imaginable, mutually-perpendicular directions in which an object may face or point

When we speak of the world of 2-dimensional planes — or even when we talk about a single dimension such as width — we are implicitly referencing the other dimensions. There is no such notion in Physics as a single dimension all by itself.

Dimensions should never be confused with coordinates or with vectors, a very common error among mathematicians, again, a result of confusing number lines with coordinates and with vectors. Dimensions have to do with structure and orientation, coordinates with location, and vectors with motion. The following chart synthesizes these arguments:

Time is not a dimension

Many non-specialists are led to believe that time is a dimension. They later repeat this misconception without scrutinizing what they are saying. This ‘time = dimension’ misconception arises from the unscientific mathematical definition of the word dimension:

dimension: the minimum number of coordinates needed to specify any point within a mathematical set (collection of objects) (Wikipedia)

dimension: the number of coordinates needed to specify a point on the object (Wolfram Mathematics). (As expected, Wolfram does not define the word coordinate. It defines the word coordinates [plural] as: ‘A set of variables’…)

Science has no use for such sterile definitions. They merely expose the fact that the subscriber cannot tell the difference between a dimension and a coordinate. Is latitude the same thing as width? Is orientation the same as location?

The reason dimensions, coordinates, and vectors are the same to a mathematician reduces to the fact that he’s not talking about any of these. He’s talking about number lines.

It is then that we realize how the non-physicist ended up confusing time for a dimension. Time is a number line. A number line lacks the two properties that all dimensions of Science have: direction and orthogonality. Conversely, time possesses the one property you will never find among dimensions, coordinates, or vectors: magnitude.

4-number-lined ‘spacetime’

It is as a result of confusing the number lines of Mathematics with the dimensions and coordinates of Physics that non-physicists have concocted the amusing concept of spacetime, a breathtaking ‘mathematical object’ that they usher into the real world. These misguided individuals have gotten into the bad habit of reifying and blending concepts and then go through the motions of using them to give physical interpretations to the workings of the Universe. Spacetime is the merger of two concepts nothing and time.

nothing: that which has no shape (synonyms: space, vacuum, void, nothingness)

The word nothing is the antithesis of the word something, which means exactly the opposite: that which has shape.

However, mathematicians have morphed the vacuum into a physical object:

“…space is a very tangible material with tangible properties like stiffness and shape… The most important thing to keep in mind about Einstein’s Universe is that fantastic stiffness of space – of the rubber sheet, if you like… the stiffness of solid steel is about… 10 ^ 11. Space has a magnitude of about 10 ^43… Space is a billion billion billion times stiffer than steel!” David Blair, Ripples on a Cosmic Sea, pp. 6-20

They have also attributed physical properties to the abstract concept time:

“massive objects warp and curve the universe” Australian Academy of Science

The non-physicists incongruously explain that the Earth rolls around the Sun because our star bends both of these reified concepts: the steel beam of space and the rock of time.

When confronted, these individuals instantly accuse you of raising a strawman. “You are not supposed to take the ‘analogy’ literally!”


Analogy of what?

If the warping of space and time is not what prevents our planet from flying out of the Solar System, then what does? What physical object comes in contact with the skin of Earth if it’s not space and time? What kind of analogy or simile or metaphor is it if it cannot simulate the real world even conceptually? The non-physicist simply has not answered the question! He is speaking in tongues.

The answer to all these questions comes down to the same problem. The non-physicists are not talking about space or dimensions. They are talking about mathematical descriptions. They have no explanations. They can offer no mechanisms for the invisible workings of the Universe. And that’s exactly what Physics is about and what physicists do! Confusing number lines with dimensions, time with height, and nothing with something only distances the non-physicist even further from Science.

Author: billg

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