TDDE 131 Week 7: Space, Time, Echo & Dimensionality

[Crit of Proposals and Pairing]
[Space, Time, Echo & Dimensionality]


6:00-6:15pm – Notes on Project Expectations

  • consider work hereon as “weekly assignments” but with large scale/ambition working toward a final piece
  • if students are lost, turn idea into prompt
  • final project will be in pairs chosen based on today’s crit (maintain artist+physicist pairing)

 6:15-7:45pm – Individual Proposal Critiques

 [notes incomplete]

Final project pairings:

  • Aisha & Duy
  • Adrian & Elliot
  • Adriana & Melisa
  • Ryan & Tasha

7:45pm-8:50pm – Space, Time, Echoes & Dimension


Evolution of our perception of space and time mimics evolution of culture & art – feed off one another (see for example this TED talk by Lee Smolin)

  • late 17th century (Newton): space & time are absolute -> authoritarianism, divine order -> baroque & neo-classical
  • early 18th century (Leibniz): space & time are relative -> democracy, moral relativism -> romanticism
  • late 18th century (Kant): space & time emerge from within us -> anthrocentrism, perception vs. reality -> impressionism & post-impressionism
  • early 19th century (Gauss): space may not be flat -> flexibility of geometry & shape -> fauvism, cubism
  • early 20th century (Einstein): space is curved & mixed with time -> arbitrariness of distinction -> surrealism, abstract expressionism

limit of speed of light => looking at distance = looking into past (measured by “redshift”)

  • we can see 13.4 billion years into past – cosmic microwave background
  • locally – stars are of order 10s-1000s of light-years away – human civilization time scales


light cones – information accessible only in a given “light cone”

  • we can only be affected by events in our past light cone
  • we can only influence events in our future light cone
  • all other areas of space and time are off limits to us (for the moment)

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Simultaneity – Einstein’s revelation is that two events may not be simultaneous to the same observer – leads to numerous “paradoxes”

the short of it: things moving at high speeds appear to contract and age more slowly because we don’t agree on simultaneity – we can see the latter in the behavior of high-speed particles (Frisch-Smith experiment)

What is now? our senses are not instantaneous, leading to a “blurred” sense of what is happening at this moment:

  • auditory response lag ≈ 50 milliseconds (closest “beats”)
  • visual response lag ≈ 30 milliseconds (film rate 30 frames/second!)

Combine with speeds of sound, light and we get a “space” of now:

  • sound speed ≈ 340 meters/second ≈ 1 foot/millisecond
    • => auditory “nowspace” ≈ 50 feet
    • you can perceive this in a large auditorium/sports arena
  • light speed ≈ 300,000 meters/second ≈ 1 foot/nanosecond
    • => visual “nowspace” ≈ 30,000,000 feet ≈ 1/4 circumference of the Earth
    • In effect, everyone on Earth is close to being in the same visual nowspace – only lunar astronauts have lived outside of humanity’s “now”

Finite speed of sound means that it can be reflected back at us asynchronously – this is an echo

  • On earth, sound doesn’t have to travel far to be perceived asynchronously – echoes are very common
  • In space, vast distances means that light echoes are also common
  • light bubble emerging from a stellar outburst – reflections off of shells of dust
  • echoes of historical supernovae – reflections off of distant dust clouds
  • Both are examples of “re-experiencing” the past – can also see other sides of event (cf. cubism)


Dimensionality of space and time

  • we perceive 3 dimensions of space, all seemingly identical (large), but some string theories posit many more dimensions that are simply to small to perceive/interact with
  • Example: two ants on a wire may only perceive “large” dimension along wire – could pass right by each other because they are offset in “small” dimension
  • Interaction with a higher-order being or object – would be revealed as something that “appears” and “disappears” in mid-space – a good example is “Flatland” by Edwin Abbott Abbott

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Begin to fuse your individual ideas into a cohesive project; think about scale, medium, duration.  Refine the datasets you will use and explore how the data would drive the piece forward.

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