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  • crude oil prices Archives - Unreal Blog
    believe those in the know One thing I do know from personal experience is that the dynamics of a demand crash is different in emerging economies for a variety of reasons First of all identical movements in fuel prices have different impact in the overall spending pattern depending on the proportion they represent in the purchasing power of an average consumer A 30 increase in the pump price for instance might mean a 5 reduction in the purchasing power to a US consumer while it might mean 20 reduction for an Indian customer Besides retail fuel prices in India are regulated and supported by government subsidies Subsidies act as levies delaying the impact crude oil price movements But when the crude oil prices rise beyond a certain point the subsidies become untenable and the retail fuel prices surge upward ushering in instant demand crash I came across another view of the skyrocketing oil prices in terms of the Middle Eastern and American politics The view was that the Saudi oil capacity is going to increase by about 10 soon and the prices will drop dramatically in the first quarter of 2009 It was argued that the drop will come as boost to the new American president and the whole show is timed and stage managed with a clear political motivation Speculation All these different opinions make my head spin In my untrained view I always suspected that the speculation in commodities market might be the primary factor driving the prices up I felt vindicated in my suspicions when I read a recent US senate testimony where a well known hedge fund manager Michael Masters 3 shed light on the financial labyrinth of futures transactions and regulatory loopholes through which enormous profits were generated in commodity speculation Since speculation is my preferred explanation for the energy and indeed other commodity price movements I will go over some of the arguments in some detail I hasten to state that the ideas express in this article are my own personal views and perhaps those of Michael Masters 3 as well They do not represent the market views of my employer their affiliates the Wilmott Magazine or anybody else Besides some of these views are fairly half baked and quite likely to be wrong in which case I reserve the right to disown them and bequeath them to a friend of a friend Also see the box on Biased Opinions Masters points out that there is no real supply crunch Unlike the Arab Oil Embargo time in 1973 there are no long lines at the gas pump Food supplies are also healthy So some new mechanism must be at work that drives up the commodity demand despite the price level Masters blames the institutional investors pension funds sovereign wealth funds university endowments etc for the unreasonable demand on commodity futures Since futures prices are the benchmark for actual physical commodities this hoarding of the futures contracts immediately reflects in the physical spot prices and in the real economy And as the prices climb the investors smell blood and invest more heavily stoking a deadly vicious cycle Masters points out that the speculative position in petroleum is roughly the same as the increase in demand from China debunking the popular notion that it is the demand spike from the emerging giants of Asia that is driving the oil price Similarly bio fuel is not the driver in food prices the speculators have stockpiled enough corn futures to power the entire US ethanol industry for a year Although quants are not terribly interested in the transient economic drivers of market dynamics or trading psychology here is an interesting thought from Mike Master s testimony A typical commodity trader initiating a new trade is pretty much insensitive to the price of the underlying He has say a billion dollars to put to work and doesn t care if the position he ends up holding has five million or ten million barrels of oil He never intends to take delivery This price insensitivity amplifies his impact on the market and the investor appetite for commodities increases as the prices go up Most trading positions are directional views not merely on the spot price but on volatility In a world of long and short Vega positions we cannot expect to get a full picture of trading pressures exerted on oil prices by studying the single dimension of spot Is there a correlation between the oil prices and its price volatility Figure 1 Scatter plot of WTI Spot prices in Dollar and its volatility Although the plot shows random clusters at low spot levels at price 75 highlighted in the purple box there appears to be a structure with significant correlation Figure 1 shows a scatter plot of the WTI spot price vs the annualized volatility from publicly available WTI spot prices data 4 Note than my definition of volatility may be different from yours 5 At first glance there appears to be little correlation between the spot price and volatility Indeed the computed correlation over all the data is about 0 3 However the highlighted part of the figure tells a different story As the spot price climbed over 75 per barrel the volatility started showing a remarkable correlation of 0 7 with it Was the trading activity responsible for the concerted move on both prices and volatility That is my theory and Michael Masters may agree Hidden Currency Theory Here is a dangerous thought could it be that traders are pricing oil in a currency other than the once mighty dollar This thought is dangerous because international armed conflicts may have arisen out of precisely such ideas But an intrepid columnist is expected to have a high level of controversy affinity so here goes We keep hearing that the oil price is down on the back of a strong dollar There is little doubt that the oil prices are highly correlated to the strength of the dollar in

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/tag/crude-oil-prices/ (2016-02-16)
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  • food prices Archives - Unreal Blog
    of the demand situation Once you invest a huge amount banking on a sustained high oil price and then find that the oil market has softened below your viability level you have to write off the investment forcing losses and consequent price hikes With the high level of oil prices investments are moving into infrastructure enhancements that will eventually ease the supply side crunch But these fixes are slow in coming and are not going to ease the current dearth for about a decade In other words the high prices are here to stay At least so say the economists subscribing this supply side explanation of things Demand Spike Although I personally find it hard to believe people assure me that the exponential demand explosion in the emerging economies was completely unforeseen My friend from a leading investment bank who used to head their hybrids desk told me that there was no way they could have anticipated this level of demand I should probably shelve my scepticism and believe those in the know One thing I do know from personal experience is that the dynamics of a demand crash is different in emerging economies for a variety of reasons First of all identical movements in fuel prices have different impact in the overall spending pattern depending on the proportion they represent in the purchasing power of an average consumer A 30 increase in the pump price for instance might mean a 5 reduction in the purchasing power to a US consumer while it might mean 20 reduction for an Indian customer Besides retail fuel prices in India are regulated and supported by government subsidies Subsidies act as levies delaying the impact crude oil price movements But when the crude oil prices rise beyond a certain point the subsidies become untenable and the retail fuel prices surge upward ushering in instant demand crash I came across another view of the skyrocketing oil prices in terms of the Middle Eastern and American politics The view was that the Saudi oil capacity is going to increase by about 10 soon and the prices will drop dramatically in the first quarter of 2009 It was argued that the drop will come as boost to the new American president and the whole show is timed and stage managed with a clear political motivation Speculation All these different opinions make my head spin In my untrained view I always suspected that the speculation in commodities market might be the primary factor driving the prices up I felt vindicated in my suspicions when I read a recent US senate testimony where a well known hedge fund manager Michael Masters 3 shed light on the financial labyrinth of futures transactions and regulatory loopholes through which enormous profits were generated in commodity speculation Since speculation is my preferred explanation for the energy and indeed other commodity price movements I will go over some of the arguments in some detail I hasten to state that the ideas express in this article are my own personal views and perhaps those of Michael Masters 3 as well They do not represent the market views of my employer their affiliates the Wilmott Magazine or anybody else Besides some of these views are fairly half baked and quite likely to be wrong in which case I reserve the right to disown them and bequeath them to a friend of a friend Also see the box on Biased Opinions Masters points out that there is no real supply crunch Unlike the Arab Oil Embargo time in 1973 there are no long lines at the gas pump Food supplies are also healthy So some new mechanism must be at work that drives up the commodity demand despite the price level Masters blames the institutional investors pension funds sovereign wealth funds university endowments etc for the unreasonable demand on commodity futures Since futures prices are the benchmark for actual physical commodities this hoarding of the futures contracts immediately reflects in the physical spot prices and in the real economy And as the prices climb the investors smell blood and invest more heavily stoking a deadly vicious cycle Masters points out that the speculative position in petroleum is roughly the same as the increase in demand from China debunking the popular notion that it is the demand spike from the emerging giants of Asia that is driving the oil price Similarly bio fuel is not the driver in food prices the speculators have stockpiled enough corn futures to power the entire US ethanol industry for a year Although quants are not terribly interested in the transient economic drivers of market dynamics or trading psychology here is an interesting thought from Mike Master s testimony A typical commodity trader initiating a new trade is pretty much insensitive to the price of the underlying He has say a billion dollars to put to work and doesn t care if the position he ends up holding has five million or ten million barrels of oil He never intends to take delivery This price insensitivity amplifies his impact on the market and the investor appetite for commodities increases as the prices go up Most trading positions are directional views not merely on the spot price but on volatility In a world of long and short Vega positions we cannot expect to get a full picture of trading pressures exerted on oil prices by studying the single dimension of spot Is there a correlation between the oil prices and its price volatility Figure 1 Scatter plot of WTI Spot prices in Dollar and its volatility Although the plot shows random clusters at low spot levels at price 75 highlighted in the purple box there appears to be a structure with significant correlation Figure 1 shows a scatter plot of the WTI spot price vs the annualized volatility from publicly available WTI spot prices data 4 Note than my definition of volatility may be different from yours 5 At first glance there appears to

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/tag/food-prices/ (2016-02-16)
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  • price surge Archives - Unreal Blog
    believe those in the know One thing I do know from personal experience is that the dynamics of a demand crash is different in emerging economies for a variety of reasons First of all identical movements in fuel prices have different impact in the overall spending pattern depending on the proportion they represent in the purchasing power of an average consumer A 30 increase in the pump price for instance might mean a 5 reduction in the purchasing power to a US consumer while it might mean 20 reduction for an Indian customer Besides retail fuel prices in India are regulated and supported by government subsidies Subsidies act as levies delaying the impact crude oil price movements But when the crude oil prices rise beyond a certain point the subsidies become untenable and the retail fuel prices surge upward ushering in instant demand crash I came across another view of the skyrocketing oil prices in terms of the Middle Eastern and American politics The view was that the Saudi oil capacity is going to increase by about 10 soon and the prices will drop dramatically in the first quarter of 2009 It was argued that the drop will come as boost to the new American president and the whole show is timed and stage managed with a clear political motivation Speculation All these different opinions make my head spin In my untrained view I always suspected that the speculation in commodities market might be the primary factor driving the prices up I felt vindicated in my suspicions when I read a recent US senate testimony where a well known hedge fund manager Michael Masters 3 shed light on the financial labyrinth of futures transactions and regulatory loopholes through which enormous profits were generated in commodity speculation Since speculation is my preferred explanation for the energy and indeed other commodity price movements I will go over some of the arguments in some detail I hasten to state that the ideas express in this article are my own personal views and perhaps those of Michael Masters 3 as well They do not represent the market views of my employer their affiliates the Wilmott Magazine or anybody else Besides some of these views are fairly half baked and quite likely to be wrong in which case I reserve the right to disown them and bequeath them to a friend of a friend Also see the box on Biased Opinions Masters points out that there is no real supply crunch Unlike the Arab Oil Embargo time in 1973 there are no long lines at the gas pump Food supplies are also healthy So some new mechanism must be at work that drives up the commodity demand despite the price level Masters blames the institutional investors pension funds sovereign wealth funds university endowments etc for the unreasonable demand on commodity futures Since futures prices are the benchmark for actual physical commodities this hoarding of the futures contracts immediately reflects in the physical spot prices and in the real economy And as the prices climb the investors smell blood and invest more heavily stoking a deadly vicious cycle Masters points out that the speculative position in petroleum is roughly the same as the increase in demand from China debunking the popular notion that it is the demand spike from the emerging giants of Asia that is driving the oil price Similarly bio fuel is not the driver in food prices the speculators have stockpiled enough corn futures to power the entire US ethanol industry for a year Although quants are not terribly interested in the transient economic drivers of market dynamics or trading psychology here is an interesting thought from Mike Master s testimony A typical commodity trader initiating a new trade is pretty much insensitive to the price of the underlying He has say a billion dollars to put to work and doesn t care if the position he ends up holding has five million or ten million barrels of oil He never intends to take delivery This price insensitivity amplifies his impact on the market and the investor appetite for commodities increases as the prices go up Most trading positions are directional views not merely on the spot price but on volatility In a world of long and short Vega positions we cannot expect to get a full picture of trading pressures exerted on oil prices by studying the single dimension of spot Is there a correlation between the oil prices and its price volatility Figure 1 Scatter plot of WTI Spot prices in Dollar and its volatility Although the plot shows random clusters at low spot levels at price 75 highlighted in the purple box there appears to be a structure with significant correlation Figure 1 shows a scatter plot of the WTI spot price vs the annualized volatility from publicly available WTI spot prices data 4 Note than my definition of volatility may be different from yours 5 At first glance there appears to be little correlation between the spot price and volatility Indeed the computed correlation over all the data is about 0 3 However the highlighted part of the figure tells a different story As the spot price climbed over 75 per barrel the volatility started showing a remarkable correlation of 0 7 with it Was the trading activity responsible for the concerted move on both prices and volatility That is my theory and Michael Masters may agree Hidden Currency Theory Here is a dangerous thought could it be that traders are pricing oil in a currency other than the once mighty dollar This thought is dangerous because international armed conflicts may have arisen out of precisely such ideas But an intrepid columnist is expected to have a high level of controversy affinity so here goes We keep hearing that the oil price is down on the back of a strong dollar There is little doubt that the oil prices are highly correlated to the strength of the dollar in

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/tag/price-surge/ (2016-02-16)
    Open archived version from archive

  • Light Travel Time Effects and Cosmological Features - Unreal Blog
    as a formalization of LTT effects and study a few observed cosmological phenomena in the light of this interpretation Similarities between Light Travel Time Effects and SR Special relativity seeks a linear coordinate transformation between coordinate systems in motion with respect to each other We can trace the origin of linearity to a hidden assumption on the nature of space and time built into SR as stated by Einstein In the first place it is clear that the equations must be linear on account of the properties of homogeneity which we attribute to space and time Because of this assumption of linearity the original derivation of the transformation equations ignores the asymmetry between approaching and receding objects Both approaching and receding objects can be described by two coordinate systems that are always receding from each other For instance if a system is moving with respect to another system along the positive X axis of then an object at rest in at a positive is receding while another object at a negative is approaching an observer at the origin of The coordinate transformation in Einstein s original paper is derived in part a manifestation of the light travel time LTT effects and the consequence of imposing the constancy of light speed in all inertial frames This is most obvious in the first thought experiment where observers moving with a rod find their clocks not synchronized due to the difference in light travel times along the length of the rod However in the current interpretation of SR the coordinate transformation is considered a basic property of space and time One difficulty that arises from this interpretation of SR is that the definition of the relative velocity between the two inertial frames becomes ambiguous If it is the velocity of the moving frame as measured by the observer then the observed superluminal motion in radio jets starting from the core region becomes a violation of SR If it is a velocity that we have to deduce by considering LT effects then we have to employ the extra ad hoc assumption that superluminality is forbidden These difficulties suggest that it may be better to disentangle the light travel time effects from the rest of SR In this section we will consider space and time as a part of the cognitive model created by the brain and argue that special relativity applies to the cognitive model The absolute reality of which the SR like space time is our perception does not have to obey the restrictions of SR In particular objects are not restricted to subluminal speeds but they may appear to us as though they are restricted to subluminal speeds in our perception of space and time If we disentangle LTT effects from the rest of SR we can understand a wide array of phenomena as we shall see in this article Unlike SR considerations based on LTT effects result in intrinsically different set of transformation laws for objects approaching an observer and those

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/light-travel-time-effects-and-cosmological-features/ (2016-02-16)
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  • causality Archives - Unreal Blog
    space and time Because of this assumption of linearity the original derivation of the transformation equations ignores the asymmetry between approaching and receding objects Both approaching and receding objects can be described by two coordinate systems that are always receding from each other For instance if a system is moving with respect to another system along the positive X axis of then an object at rest in at a positive is receding while another object at a negative is approaching an observer at the origin of The coordinate transformation in Einstein s original paper is derived in part a manifestation of the light travel time LTT effects and the consequence of imposing the constancy of light speed in all inertial frames This is most obvious in the first thought experiment where observers moving with a rod find their clocks not synchronized due to the difference in light travel times along the length of the rod However in the current interpretation of SR the coordinate transformation is considered a basic property of space and time One difficulty that arises from this interpretation of SR is that the definition of the relative velocity between the two inertial frames becomes ambiguous If it is the velocity of the moving frame as measured by the observer then the observed superluminal motion in radio jets starting from the core region becomes a violation of SR If it is a velocity that we have to deduce by considering LT effects then we have to employ the extra ad hoc assumption that superluminality is forbidden These difficulties suggest that it may be better to disentangle the light travel time effects from the rest of SR In this section we will consider space and time as a part of the cognitive model created by the brain and argue that special relativity applies to the cognitive model The absolute reality of which the SR like space time is our perception does not have to obey the restrictions of SR In particular objects are not restricted to subluminal speeds but they may appear to us as though they are restricted to subluminal speeds in our perception of space and time If we disentangle LTT effects from the rest of SR we can understand a wide array of phenomena as we shall see in this article Unlike SR considerations based on LTT effects result in intrinsically different set of transformation laws for objects approaching an observer and those receding from him More generally the transformation depends on the angle between the velocity of the object and the observer s line of sight Since the transformation equations based on LTT effects treat approaching and receding objects asymmetrically they provide a natural solution to the twin paradox for instance Conclusions Because space and time are a part of a reality created out of light inputs to our eyes some of their properties are manifestations of LTT effects especially on our perception of motion The absolute physical reality presumably generating the light inputs does

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/tag/causality/ (2016-02-16)
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  • cosmic microwave background Archives - Unreal Blog
    extended beyond GRBs to symmetric radio sources which can also be regarded as perceptual effects of hypothetical luminal booms In this article we look at other implications of the model We start with the similarities between the light travel time LTT effects and the coordinate transformation in Special Relativity SR These similarities are hardly surprising because SR is derived partly based on LTT effects We then propose an interpretation of SR as a formalization of LTT effects and study a few observed cosmological phenomena in the light of this interpretation Similarities between Light Travel Time Effects and SR Special relativity seeks a linear coordinate transformation between coordinate systems in motion with respect to each other We can trace the origin of linearity to a hidden assumption on the nature of space and time built into SR as stated by Einstein In the first place it is clear that the equations must be linear on account of the properties of homogeneity which we attribute to space and time Because of this assumption of linearity the original derivation of the transformation equations ignores the asymmetry between approaching and receding objects Both approaching and receding objects can be described by two coordinate systems that are always receding from each other For instance if a system is moving with respect to another system along the positive X axis of then an object at rest in at a positive is receding while another object at a negative is approaching an observer at the origin of The coordinate transformation in Einstein s original paper is derived in part a manifestation of the light travel time LTT effects and the consequence of imposing the constancy of light speed in all inertial frames This is most obvious in the first thought experiment where observers moving with a rod find their clocks not synchronized due to the difference in light travel times along the length of the rod However in the current interpretation of SR the coordinate transformation is considered a basic property of space and time One difficulty that arises from this interpretation of SR is that the definition of the relative velocity between the two inertial frames becomes ambiguous If it is the velocity of the moving frame as measured by the observer then the observed superluminal motion in radio jets starting from the core region becomes a violation of SR If it is a velocity that we have to deduce by considering LT effects then we have to employ the extra ad hoc assumption that superluminality is forbidden These difficulties suggest that it may be better to disentangle the light travel time effects from the rest of SR In this section we will consider space and time as a part of the cognitive model created by the brain and argue that special relativity applies to the cognitive model The absolute reality of which the SR like space time is our perception does not have to obey the restrictions of SR In particular objects are not restricted

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/tag/cosmic-microwave-background/ (2016-02-16)
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  • expanding universe Archives - Unreal Blog
    extended beyond GRBs to symmetric radio sources which can also be regarded as perceptual effects of hypothetical luminal booms In this article we look at other implications of the model We start with the similarities between the light travel time LTT effects and the coordinate transformation in Special Relativity SR These similarities are hardly surprising because SR is derived partly based on LTT effects We then propose an interpretation of SR as a formalization of LTT effects and study a few observed cosmological phenomena in the light of this interpretation Similarities between Light Travel Time Effects and SR Special relativity seeks a linear coordinate transformation between coordinate systems in motion with respect to each other We can trace the origin of linearity to a hidden assumption on the nature of space and time built into SR as stated by Einstein In the first place it is clear that the equations must be linear on account of the properties of homogeneity which we attribute to space and time Because of this assumption of linearity the original derivation of the transformation equations ignores the asymmetry between approaching and receding objects Both approaching and receding objects can be described by two coordinate systems that are always receding from each other For instance if a system is moving with respect to another system along the positive X axis of then an object at rest in at a positive is receding while another object at a negative is approaching an observer at the origin of The coordinate transformation in Einstein s original paper is derived in part a manifestation of the light travel time LTT effects and the consequence of imposing the constancy of light speed in all inertial frames This is most obvious in the first thought experiment where observers moving with a rod find their clocks not synchronized due to the difference in light travel times along the length of the rod However in the current interpretation of SR the coordinate transformation is considered a basic property of space and time One difficulty that arises from this interpretation of SR is that the definition of the relative velocity between the two inertial frames becomes ambiguous If it is the velocity of the moving frame as measured by the observer then the observed superluminal motion in radio jets starting from the core region becomes a violation of SR If it is a velocity that we have to deduce by considering LT effects then we have to employ the extra ad hoc assumption that superluminality is forbidden These difficulties suggest that it may be better to disentangle the light travel time effects from the rest of SR In this section we will consider space and time as a part of the cognitive model created by the brain and argue that special relativity applies to the cognitive model The absolute reality of which the SR like space time is our perception does not have to obey the restrictions of SR In particular objects are not restricted

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/tag/expanding-universe/ (2016-02-16)
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  • gamma ray bursts Archives - Unreal Blog
    linear on account of the properties of homogeneity which we attribute to space and time Because of this assumption of linearity the original derivation of the transformation equations ignores the asymmetry between approaching and receding objects Both approaching and receding objects can be described by two coordinate systems that are always receding from each other For instance if a system is moving with respect to another system along the positive X axis of then an object at rest in at a positive is receding while another object at a negative is approaching an observer at the origin of The coordinate transformation in Einstein s original paper is derived in part a manifestation of the light travel time LTT effects and the consequence of imposing the constancy of light speed in all inertial frames This is most obvious in the first thought experiment where observers moving with a rod find their clocks not synchronized due to the difference in light travel times along the length of the rod However in the current interpretation of SR the coordinate transformation is considered a basic property of space and time One difficulty that arises from this interpretation of SR is that the definition of the relative velocity between the two inertial frames becomes ambiguous If it is the velocity of the moving frame as measured by the observer then the observed superluminal motion in radio jets starting from the core region becomes a violation of SR If it is a velocity that we have to deduce by considering LT effects then we have to employ the extra ad hoc assumption that superluminality is forbidden These difficulties suggest that it may be better to disentangle the light travel time effects from the rest of SR In this section we will consider space and time as a part of the cognitive model created by the brain and argue that special relativity applies to the cognitive model The absolute reality of which the SR like space time is our perception does not have to obey the restrictions of SR In particular objects are not restricted to subluminal speeds but they may appear to us as though they are restricted to subluminal speeds in our perception of space and time If we disentangle LTT effects from the rest of SR we can understand a wide array of phenomena as we shall see in this article Unlike SR considerations based on LTT effects result in intrinsically different set of transformation laws for objects approaching an observer and those receding from him More generally the transformation depends on the angle between the velocity of the object and the observer s line of sight Since the transformation equations based on LTT effects treat approaching and receding objects asymmetrically they provide a natural solution to the twin paradox for instance Conclusions Because space and time are a part of a reality created out of light inputs to our eyes some of their properties are manifestations of LTT effects especially on our perception of motion The absolute physical reality presumably generating the light inputs does not have to obey the properties we ascribe to our perceived space and time We showed that LTT effects are qualitatively identical to those of SR noting that SR only considers frames of reference receding from each other This similarity is not surprising because the coordinate transformation in SR is derived based partly on LTT effects and partly on the assumption that light travels at the same speed with respect to all inertial frames In treating it as a manifestation of LTT we did not address the primary motivation of SR which is a covariant formulation of Maxwell s equations It may be possible to disentangle the covariance of electrodynamics from the coordinate transformation although it is not attempted in this article Unlike SR LTT effects are asymmetric This asymmetry provides a resolution to the twin paradox and an interpretation of the assumed causality violations associated with superluminality Furthermore the perception of superluminality is modulated by LTT effects and explains ray bursts and symmetric jets As we showed in the article perception of superluminal motion also holds an explanation for cosmological phenomena like the expansion of the universe and cosmic microwave background radiation LTT effects should be considered as a fundamental constraint in our perception and consequently in physics rather than as a convenient explanation for isolated phenomena Given that our perception is filtered through LTT effects we have to deconvolute them from our perceived reality in order to understand the nature of the absolute physical reality This deconvolution however results in multiple solutions Thus the absolute physical reality is beyond our grasp and any assumed properties of the absolute reality can only be validated through how well the resultant perceived reality agrees with our observations In this article we assumed that the underlying reality obeys our intuitively obvious classical mechanics and asked the question how such a reality would be perceived when filtered through light travel time effects We demonstrated that this particular treatment could explain certain astrophysical and cosmological phenomena that we observe The coordinate transformation in SR can be viewed as a redefinition of space and time or more generally reality in order to accommodate the distortions in our perception of motion due to light travel time effects One may be tempted to argue that SR applies to the real space and time not our perception This line of argument begs the question what is real Reality is only a cognitive model created in our brain starting from our sensory inputs visual inputs being the most significant Space itself is a part of this cognitive model The properties of space are a mapping of the constraints of our perception The choice of accepting our perception as a true image of reality and redefining space and time as described in special relativity indeed amounts to a philosophical choice The alternative presented in the article is inspired by the view in modern neuroscience that reality is a cognitive model in the brain based on our sensory inputs Adopting this alternative reduces us to guessing the nature of the absolute reality and comparing its predicted projection to our real perception It may simplify and elucidate some theories in physics and explain some puzzling phenomena in our universe However this option is yet another philosophical stance against the unknowable absolute reality causality cosmic microwave background expanding universe gamma ray bursts grb light travel time microwave background radiation neuroscience perception perceptual constraints phenomenalism Physics radio sources relativity space and time speed of light universe Articles and Essays Creative Philosophy Physics Constraints of Perception and Cognition in Relativistic Physics September 13 2008 manoj Cognitive neuroscience treats space and time as our brain s representation of our sensory inputs In this view our perceptual reality is only a distant and convenient mapping of the physical processes causing the sensory inputs Sound is a mapping of auditory inputs and space is a representation of visual inputs Any limitation in the chain of sensing has a specific manifestation on the cognitive representation that is our reality One physical limitation of our visual sensing is the finite speed of light which manifests itself as a basic property of our space time In this article we look at the consequences of the limited speed of our perception namely the speed of light and show that they are remarkably similar to the coordinate transformation in special relativity From this observation and inspired by the notion that space is merely a cognitive model created out of light signal inputs we examine the implications of treating special relativity theory as a formalism for describing the perceptual effects due to the finite speed of light Using this framework we show that we can unify and explain a wide array of seemingly unrelated astrophysical and cosmological phenomena Once we identify the manifestations of the limitations in our perception and cognitive representation we can understand the consequent constraints on our space and time leading to a new understanding of astrophysics and cosmology Key words cognitive neuroscience reality special relativity light travel time effect gamma rays bursts cosmic microwave background radiation 1 Introduction Our reality is a mental picture that our brain creates starting from our sensory inputs 1 Although this cognitive map is often assumed to be a faithful image of the physical causes behind the sensing process the causes themselves are entirely different from the perceptual experience of sensing The difference between the cognitive representation and their physical causes is not immediately obvious when we consider our primary sense of sight But we can appreciate the difference by looking at the olfactory and auditory senses because we can use our cognitive model based on sight in order to understand the workings of the lesser senses Odors which may appear to be a property of the air we breathe are in fact our brain s representation of the chemical signatures that our noses sense Similarly sound is not an intrinsic property of a vibrating body but our brain s mechanism to represent the pressure waves in the air that our ears sense Table I shows the chain from the physical causes of the sensory input to the final reality as the brain creates it Although the physical causes can be identified for the olfactory and auditory chains they are not easily discerned for visual process Since sight is the most powerful sense we possess we are obliged to accept our brain s representation of visual inputs as the fundamental reality While our visual reality provides an excellent framework for physical sciences it is important to realize that the reality itself is a model with potential physical or physiological limitations and distortions The tight integration between the physiology of perception and its representation in the brain was proven recently in a clever experiment using the tactile funneling illusion 2 This illusion results in a single tactile sensation at the focal point at the center of a stimulus pattern even though no stimulation is applied at that site In the experiment the brain activation region corresponded to the focal point where the sensation was perceived rather than the points where the stimuli were applied proving that the brain registered perceptions not the physical causes of the perceived reality In other words for the brain there is no difference between applying the pattern of the stimuli and applying only one stimulus at the center of the pattern The brain maps the sensory inputs to regions that correspond to their perception rather than the regions that physiologically correspond to the sensory stimuli Sense modality Physical cause Sensed signal Brain s model Olfactory Chemicals Chemical reactions Smells Auditory Vibrations Pressure waves Sounds Visual Unknown Light Space time reality Table I The brain s representation of different sensory inputs Odors are a representation of chemical compositions and concentration our nose senses Sounds are a mapping of the air pressure waves produced by a vibrating object In sight we do not know the physical reality our representation is space and possibly time The neurological localization of different aspects of reality has been established in neuroscience by lesion studies The perception of motion and the consequent basis of our sense of time for instance is so localized that a tiny lesion can erase it completely Cases of patients with such specific loss of a part of reality 1 illustrate the fact that our experience of reality every aspect of it is indeed a creation of the brain Space and time are aspects of the cognitive representation in our brain Space is a perceptual experience much like sound Comparisons between the auditory and visual modes of sensing can be useful in understanding the limitations of their representations in the brain One limitation is the input ranges of the sensory organs Ears are sensitive in the frequency range 20Hz 20kHz and eyes are limited to the visible spectrum Another limitation which may exist in specific individuals is an inadequate representation of the inputs Such a limitation can lead to tone deafness and color blindness for instance The speed of the sense modality also introduces an effect such as the time lag between seeing an event and hearing the corresponding sound For visual perception a consequence of the finite speed of light is called a Light Travel Time LTT effect LLT offers one possible interpretation for the observed superluminal motion in certain celestial objects 3 4 when an object approaches the observer at a shallow angle it may appear to move much faster than reality 5 due to LTT Other consequences of the LTT effects in our perception are remarkably similar to the coordinate transformation of the special relativity theory SRT These consequences include an apparent contraction of a receding object along its direction of motion and a time dilation effect Furthermore a receding object can never appear to be going faster than the speed of light even if its real speed is superluminal While SRT does not explicitly forbid it superluminality is understood to lead to time travel and the consequent violations of causality An apparent violation of causality is one of the consequences of LTT when the superluminal object is approaching the observer All these LTT effects are remarkably similar to effects predicted by SRT and are currently taken as confirmation that space time obeys SRT But instead space time may have a deeper structure that when filtered through LTT effects results in our perception that space time obeys SRT Once we accept the neuroscience view of reality as a representation of our sensory inputs we can understand why the speed of light figures so prominently in our physical theories The theories of physics are a description of reality Reality is created out of the readings from our senses especially our eyes They work at the speed of light Thus the sanctity accorded to the speed of light is a feature only of our reality not the absolute ultimate reality that our senses are striving to perceive When it comes to physics that describes phenomena well beyond our sensory ranges we really have to take into account the role that our perception and cognition play in seeing them The Universe as we see it is only a cognitive model created out of the photons falling on our retina or on the photo sensors of the Hubble telescope Because of the finite speed of the information carrier namely photons our perception is distorted in such a way as to give us the impression that space and time obey SRT They do but space and time are not the absolute reality Space and time are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live as Einstein himself put it Treating our perceived reality as our brain s representation of our visual inputs filtered through the LTT effect we will see that all the strange effects of the coordinate transformation in SRT can be understood as the manifestations of the finite speed of our senses in our space and time Furthermore we will show that this line of thinking leads to natural explanations for two classes of astrophysical phenomena Gamma Ray Bursts which are very brief but intense flashes of rays currently believed to emanate from cataclysmic stellar collapses and Radio Sources which are typically symmetric and seem associated with galactic cores currently considered manifestations of space time singularities or neutron stars These two astrophysical phenomena appear distinct and unrelated but they can be unified and explained using LTT effects This article presents such a unified quantitative model It will also show that the cognitive limitations to reality due to LTT effects can provide qualitative explanations for such cosmological features as the apparent expansion of the Universe and the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation CMBR Both these phenomena can be understood as related to our perception of superluminal objects It is the unification of these seemingly distinct phenomena at vastly different length and time scales along with its conceptual simplicity that we hold as the indicators of validity of this framework 2 Similarities between LTT Effects SRT The coordinate transformation derived in Einstein s original paper 6 is in part a manifestation of the LTT effects and the consequence of imposing the constancy of light speed in all inertial frames This is most obvious in the first thought experiment where observers moving with a rod find their clocks not synchronized due to the difference in LTT s along the length of the rod However in the current interpretation of SRT the coordinate transformation is considered a basic property of space and time One difficulty that arises from this formulation is that the definition of the relative velocity between the two inertial frames becomes ambiguous If it is the velocity of the moving frame as measured by the observer then the observed superluminal motion in radio jets starting from the core region becomes a violation of SRT If it is a velocity that we have to deduce by considering LTT effects then we have to employ the extra ad hoc assumption that superluminality is forbidden These difficulties suggest that it may be better to disentangle the LTT effects from the rest of SRT Although not attempted in this paper the primary motivation for SRT namely the covariance of Maxwell s equations may be accomplished even without attributing LTT effects to the properties of space and time In this Section we will consider space and time as a part of the cognitive model created by the brain and illustrate that SRT applies to the cognitive model The absolute reality of which the SRT like space time is our perception does not have to obey the restrictions of SRT In particular objects are not restricted to subluminal speeds even though they may appear to us as if they are restricted to subluminal speeds in our perception of space and time If we disentangle LTT effects from the rest of SRT we can understand a wide

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/tag/gamma-ray-bursts/ (2016-02-16)
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