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what are the implications of relativity? does it imply for example that there is no center to spacetime?

ie despite that the universe started from one point, there is no real center, every frame of reference can be considered as the center point vis a vis the laws of physics such as the speed of light.

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    The fact that spacetime has no center (for any reasonable definition of "center") is an implication of relativity, but it's also an implication of Newtonian physics and pretty much any other scientific cosmology. So to say that this is an implication of relativity is both as true and as misleading as to say that the existence of something rather than nothing is an implication of the periodic table.
    – WillO
    Dec 6 '15 at 19:53
  • One feature of relativity often said to have some kind of philosophical implications is the relativity of simultaneity, see the article on philosophy of time starting here with the last section discussing relativity. I don't think relativity can rule out the idea of objective present in a metaphysical sense, but it'd imply there'd be no way to determine experimentally which definition of simultaneity matches it, which might encourage discarding the idea.
    – Hypnosifl
    Feb 9 at 5:09
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Relativity has consequences for our understanding of space, time and motion: classic questions of a philosophy of nature from the time of the Ionian philosophers.

They haven't been central to modern philosophy however, though there has been some work.

In Rovellis view, the main insight is that causal influence, as it is understood physically, is local; this he traces from Relativity back to Maxwell through the concept of the field, and then to Faraday. It's also visible in Aristotle, in a particularly general form: 'change is by contact'.

Another possible consequence, at least to Rovelli, is that spacetime is emergent; and actual spacetime points disappear (Einsteins 'hole argument') - for he situates all movement in fields and their interaction: 'there are only fields on fields'.

(It's likely he takes this perspective as it is consistent with the character of the specific mode of QG he works on - LQG - in which spacetime is emergent, discrete and relational).

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  • "In Rovellis view, the main insight is that causal influence, as it is understood physically, is local; " Doesn't the experimental violation of Bell's inequalities disprove that? Dec 7 '15 at 17:08
  • @alexander king: well, thats in QM; whereas here, we're talking about Relativity; what I'm saying is that Maxwell wrote EM as a field theory - and then Einstein following him, wrote gravity in the same manner. Dec 7 '15 at 17:36
  • Bell inequalities are problematic, even if one way of thinking about them is that 'correlation is not causality'. Dec 7 '15 at 17:37
  • In Relativity the causal structure of actions and events is immutable. It is only the values or extents of masses, momenta, distances, elapsed time and so on which vary according to the local reference frame. But yes, a given causal sequence will always appear consistent when seen locally, and that is what is usually meant by "locality" Feb 7 at 12:17
  • @AlexanderSKing Bell-type inequalities are a part of Quantum theory, which is not being asked about. But yes, they bring into question three of the fundamental tenets of Relativity; causality, locality and realism. Feb 7 at 12:20
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Yes, according to cosmology at a large scale the universe is homogeneous and isotropic, i.e. it looks alike in all space directions. As a consequence, no distinguished point in space exists, i.e. no cosmic center.

The statement that the universe started from one point, does not mean that a certain point in space was distinguished as the birth place of our universe. The start of our universe was also the birth of spacetime. One cannot locate this event in a space which existed before.

The above mentioned result about the homogenity and isotropy of our universe does not derive from the Theory of Relativity. Instead, it is a result of observation, mainly of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB).

But the most simple solutions of Eintein's field equations from the General Theory of Relativity are homogeneous and isotropic. Hence the observation is in accordance with theory.

Secondly, a deep implication of the Special Theory of Relativity is the relativity of space and time. Both concepts do not have an absolute meaning, only the combined notion spacetime has an absolute meaning. Absolute means that spacetime is independent from the observer and his coordinate frame. While the decomposition of spacetime into space and time depends on the selected coordinate frame - up to a certain degree. As a consequence simultaneouness depends on the observer. Two observers moving with a certain velocity relatively to each other observe different events as simultaneous.

According to my opinion, the latter set of philosophical implications has not yet been fully received by philosophers. See also a previous discussion in this blog Time and space – a subject of metaphysics?

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  • didnt space time expand though? if so then it did have some kind of initial center right?
    – user813801
    Dec 5 '15 at 20:53
  • Yes, space expands in time. It means that the average distance of galaxies increases with time. On the other hand, if you assume the existence of the big bang, you cannot attach a certain location, i.e. a point in space, to the universe at time of creation. It is not like a firework which explodes somewhere in sky.
    – Jo Wehler
    Dec 5 '15 at 21:01
  • If space itself has been created by the big bang then we could say that it has has happend at every point; so at every point we have a time scale (i.e. = so much after the big bang) that is absolute. What's wrong with this view?
    – sand1
    Dec 5 '15 at 22:03
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    @user813801: By way of analogy, imagine inflating a balloon. The balloon expands. Which point on the surface of the balloon was the starting point?
    – Alexis
    Dec 6 '15 at 4:20
  • "the universe...looks alike in all space directions" - I'd like to know how one arrives at that bold conclusion.
    – user18800
    Jan 4 '16 at 19:32
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For me its implication is re-affirm the importance of the "relative" nature of universal concepts, especially when it comes to whether abstract notion exists or not.

Historically there're too many unnecessary conflict and arguments even within philosophy itself, such as the debate of the "Problem of the Universals" between realism and nominalism. As long as we treat the definition of "exists" itself not absolute but relative to a certain layer of human perception and mind, all these conflicts disappear. More abstract concepts exist in more abstract layers, vice versa. Not that complicated and deep at all...

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  • Relativity has many frame-invariant concepts though, for example the proper time between two points on a given worldline is the same in all frames, and physicists consider these quantities more properly "physical". In fact there is some evidence that Einstein later said he wished it had been called "invariance theory" rather than "relativity".
    – Hypnosifl
    Feb 9 at 4:45
  • Of course, for all the notions in our mind being "relative", does not mean there're no relations, invariants, and orders among them. Actually it's the key to be motivated to find truth, which is nothing but all the relations among them, knowing some existence is not equal to knowing the truth... Simply by philosophically understanding there's actually no paradox or issue in Epistemology is not the end, just the start to provide u a basis with real confidence, without drowning in agnosticism... Feb 9 at 5:00
  • Most people are confidently confused, they usually place their own judgements and opinions as absolutely rightful. A saint no matter how wise he or she is, can attain confusedly confident at best, since the ultimate ontology may be unknowable to human beings. But a Saint fully understands his or her own opinion is not absolute, it sounds not cool at all, but actually gives u a foundational sense of confidence, which is open mindedness and true wisdom with this kind of dogma, not a certain concrete absolute foundation dreamed by most foundationalists... Feb 9 at 5:21

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