‘What else is possible if space and time can change’ By Sean Carroll

(Article on 100 anniversary of General Theory of Relativity)

Nicolaus Copernicus is famous for having suggested that the Earth moves around the sun, rather than the other way around. That’s a big deal, as it displaces the Earth from its presumed position at the center of the universe. But it’s easy for us to forget something equally amazing: the idea that the Earth can actually move at all. If anything seems like a solid foundation, it’s the Earth itself. But in our post-Copernican world, we know better.

Albert Einstein, with his general theory of relativity, took this conceptual revolution one step forward. Not only is the Earth not a fixed fulcrum around which the rest of the universe revolves, space and time themselves are not fixed and unchanging. In Einstein’s universe, space and time are absorbed into a single, four-dimensional “spacetime,” and spacetime is not solid. It twists and turns and bends in response to the motion of matter and energy. We perceive that stretching and distortion of the fabric of spacetime as the force of gravity.


“In Einstein’s universe, space and time are absorbed into a single, four-dimensional “spacetime,” and spacetime is not solid. It twists and turns and bends in response to the motion of matter and energy.”

The idea that space and time themselves are not immutable, but are dynamical quantities that can evolve through the history of the universe, is one of Einstein’s most dramatic legacies. It was so profound that Einstein himself had trouble accepting all the implications of the idea. When he investigated the universe as a whole in general relativity, he found that it should be expanding or contracting, not staying at a fixed size. That went contrary to his intuition, as well as to what astronomers of the time actually thought the universe was doing. When Edwin Hubble discovered the expansion of the universe in the 1920’s, Einstein realized that he had missed the opportunity to make one of the great predictions in the history of science.

Once space and time themselves are flexible rather than fixed, what else is left that we can say is truly constant? There is one obvious candidate, again from Einstein himself: the speed of light. According to relativity, the speed of light is an immutable feature of the universe, an unbreakable speed limit that places strict constraints on what matter and information can do.

Scientists have thought about “variable speed of light” theories, because theoretical physicists love nothing more than thinking about crazy new ideas. But letting the speed of light vary over time or space turns out, upon closer inspection, not to be very well defined. If you accept that space and time are unified into a single, four-dimensional spacetime, there needs to be a way to translate between “distances in space” and “intervals in time.” That’s inevitable, and in our world that role is filled by the speed of light. The fact that light actually travels at that speed is not the important point; what matters is that there is some way of converting length into time, and vice-versa.


‘If space and time can change, little else is sacred. Modern cosmologists like to contemplate an extreme version of this idea: a multiverse in which the very laws of physics themselves can change from place to place and time to time.’

But other so-called “constants” of nature are fair game. If Einstein’s lesson is that purportedly foundational aspects of reality like space and time are actually dynamical and evolving, it’s natural to wonder whether the numerical parameters that specify the laws of physics are similarly flexible. Could Newton’s constant, which sets the strength of gravity, or quantities like the mass of the electron, actually change with time?


posted by f.sheikh

‘Growing Stupid Together’ By Pankraj Mishra

Reality-concealing rhetoric and our response to terrorism”

THE TERRORIST ATTACKS on September 11 provoked, immediately afterward, an assertion of civilizational identity and solidarity. A small group of criminals and fanatics did not pose a mortal threat to the most powerful and wealthy societies in history. Still, the collective affirmations of certain Western freedoms and privileges—“we must agree on what matters: kissing in public places, bacon sandwiches, disagreement, cutting-edge fashion,” Rushdie wrote—seemed a natural emotional reflex at the time. Susan Sontag seemed tactless to many in speaking of the “sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric” of “confidence-building and grief management” that resembled the “unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress.” She was attacked for insisting, “Let’s by all means grieve together, but let’s not be stupid together.”

Fourteen years after September 11, the reality-concealing rhetoric of Westernism participates in a race to extremes with its ideological twin, in an escalated dialectic of bombing from the air and slaughter on the ground. It grows more aggressive in proportion to the spread of the non-West’s chaos to the West, and also blends faster into a white supremacist hatred of immigrants, refugees, and Muslims (and, often, those who just “look” Muslim). Even more menacingly, it postpones the moment of self-reckoning and course-correction among Euro-American elites who seem to have led us, a century after the First World War, into another uncontrollable and extensive conflagration.

Among the more polished examples of their intellectual rearguardism last week was a piece in the Financial Times by the paper’s foreign-affairs columnist, Philip Stephens, titled “Paris attacks must shake Europe’s complacency. The idea that the west should shoulder blame rests on a corrosive moral relativism.”

It should be said that the Financial Times, the preferred newspaper of the Anglo-American intelligentsia as well as Davos Man and his epigones, keeps a fastidious distance, editorially, from the foam-at-the-mouth bellicosity of its direct competitor, the Wall Street Journal (whose op-ed pages often seem to be elaborating on its owner’s demented tweets). Stephens may not have the intellectual authority of Serge Halimi or Ian Buruma—columnists of wide learning and curiosity who push successfully against the constraints of routine punditry. His stock-in-trade is the technocratic wisdom dispensed at think tanks, foundations, and wonkfests. Back last month from attending a security shindig in Delhi—while Hindu mobs roused by Narendra Modi’s government went on a homicidal rampage—Stephens informed his readers that “Mr. Modi’s India is shaping up as a nation set on remaking Asia’s balance of power.” Experts in international relations, one of the fungible intellectual industries credentialed during the cold war, inhabit by professional necessity a cloud-cuckoo land of fantasy and speculation. Indeed, Stephens seems to float through the same exalted echo chambers in Washington, London, Brussels, Beijing, and Delhi as Thomas Friedman. But Stephens’s somberly elegant prose is wholly untouched by the buffoonery of his New York Timescounterpart, or the loutishness of Britain’s pushy mid-Atlanticists, Andrew Roberts and Niall Ferguson. His response to the Paris killings disturbs because its self-exculpating Westernism increasingly passes, after a decade and more of universal carnage, for serious introspection among the best and the brightest.


posted by f. sheikh



Why Muslims are tired of being told to condemn ISIS ! By Jennifer Williams

Within hours of the attacks in Paris, the familiar ritual began: the calls for Muslims to denounce ISIS rolled in, as they inevitably do after a terrorist attack by a group claiming to act in the name of Islam.

This is a common occurrence, and Muslims — myself included — are tired of it. We’re tired of being held responsible for the atrocities committed by individuals whose actions and beliefs are abhorrent to us and completely at odds with our values and our understanding of our religion. We’re also tired of people acting as if we haven’t already condemned ISIS, al-Qaeda, and terrorism over and over and over, loudly, publicly,“unreservedly,” and in great detail.

It just starts to get old after a while.

Which is why when people on social media began echoing politicians in the UK who demanded that Muslims denounce ISIS, one British Muslim teenager decided he’d had just about enough of that nonsense, and posted this on his Facebook page:


His post went viral. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King even retweeted his post once itmade its way to Twitter. So did a member of the European parliament:

I got in touch with Kash over Facebook to ask what motived him to write that post. Kash — who consistently addressed me as “Miss Williams” — told me:

It wasnt the views or opinions of politicians that made me respond but the views of the general public

when fridays terror attacks happened which were extremely unfortunate there were only 2 opinions on my twitter time line

the first was of people demanding an apology for what happened which was met by either muslims apologising for the acts that occured or the other view, which was my view of muslims asking why we should apologise as ISIS has nothing to do with Islam?

This isn’t the first time Muslims have used social media to express irritation at being told to “do more” to counter extremist ideology and to apologize for the actions of strangers who have perverted our beliefs and who actually kill way more Muslims than they do any other group. The Twitter hashtag #MuslimApologies went viral a while back (with some unanticipated consequences for yours truly), with Muslims using the hashtag to point out the absurdity of being asked to apologize for things well beyond our control. Some were serious, emphasizing the various contributions Islam has made to the world:

Click link below for full article;



posted by f. sheikh

Ghazal By Iqbal Sheikh

وہ اپنا کب مجھےاندر کاحال دیتا ہے

میں پوچھتا  ہوں تو باتوں میں ٹال دیتا ہے

خیال میرا خیالوں میں اپنے شامل کر

یہ رشتہ حُسن انہیں لازوال دیتا ہے

 بہت ہی  مختصر ،گہرائی میں لا متناہی

یہ اُن کی باتوں کو اوجِ کمال دیتا ہے

مرے سوالوں پہ خاموشیاں   کیوں ہیں تیری

یہ مخمصہ مجھے چکّر میں ڈال دیتا ہے

محبتوں پہ جو قربان ہوگئےاقباؔل

 زمانہ آج بھی اُن  کی مثال دیتا ہے