Gravity and Impermanence?

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
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nrose619
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Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby nrose619 » Wed Jan 23, 2013 8:42 pm

I have a philosophy club at my school and in today's meeting I said that almost everything is impermanent. One person disagreed saying that the law of gravity is permanent it was always here and always will be. I said gravity is dependent on mass therefore it is not a permanent self sustaining force/thing. Also, what about in dead space where there is an absence of gravity? He continued to restate that it's a law and has been scientifically proven therefore it is permanent. We both kinda ended up in a dead end. Any thoughts on this?

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby daverupa » Wed Jan 23, 2013 9:19 pm

nrose619 wrote:I said that almost everything is impermanent.


sabbe sankhara anicca, not "almost everything is impermanent". The problem is likely a misunderstanding of what the Dhamma teaches. Here is a previous discussion.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby nrose619 » Wed Jan 23, 2013 9:43 pm

That didn't answer my question but perhaps I should have rephrased my statement of impermanence. Also could you explain what my "misunderstanding" is instead of sending me a link to a forum to dig through?

thanks,
-Nick
"A silver bird
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When it has passed,
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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby santa100 » Wed Jan 23, 2013 10:53 pm

Physical laws are only valid within their given scope. Until now, there's still on-going efforts to reconcile general relativity with the laws of quantum physics. To go beyond their own scope and apply them to the realm of super-massive objects like black holes and they'll break down. The math of Eternal Inflation shows that there's nothing wrong with a scenario of multiple universes, each is subjected to its own set of physical laws! Cern scientists are researching the activity of graviton to try to explain why gravity is so feeble compared to the other forces like electromagnetic or strong nuclear force. There're competing theories on the possibility of gravity leaking gravitons in and out of our universe from higher dimensional realms. In short, according to modern physics, there's nothing permanent about gravity..

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby daverupa » Wed Jan 23, 2013 11:21 pm

nrose619 wrote:That didn't answer my question but perhaps I should have rephrased my statement of impermanence. Also could you explain what my "misunderstanding" is instead of sending me a link to a forum to dig through?


Sorry; the link is to this forum, where a very similar question was asked already.

Phrasing is important when discussing the Dhamma; it is worth the time to practice.

Now: I'm not sure you have any misunderstanding. But I feel certain that trying to discuss anicca in terms of objective science laws is altogether missing the point. Anicca is not saying that objects or concepts don't last; it's saying that anything which depends upon conditions is not self-sustaining, and for this reason cannot last.

So, gravity isn't a self-existent thing; it requires a universe and something like the Higgs boson in that universe, and so forth. It is at all times in relation to a context that is not permanent, and therefore cannot itself be permanent.

Does this make sense?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby SarathW » Wed Jan 23, 2013 11:47 pm

Hi Nrose
I am not a cosmologist but the way I will answer your question is using Big Bang Theory . Accordingly there was no gravity before the Big Bang and world will contract and end due to entropy. At that point no gravity left. Cosmologist agree that our world is impermanent and constantly change. Most of the science theories include hypothetical or arbitary numbers to compesate for the uncertain nature and new theories are introduced to replace old ones.

By the way practice Satipatthana and you will find the answer yourself! :meditate:

PS: I do not believe in the Big Bang Theory.

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jan 24, 2013 12:47 am

Greetings,

I agree with what Dave has said above, and would go one step further and suggest that if dhammas are experiences, and sankhata dhammas are formed/conditioned experiences... then gravity falls outside the scope of both of these as it is neither of them. Gravity is not an experience... experiences are experienced via the six-sense-bases. Even if you could argue that gravity is experienced, then it is the experience of gravity that is impermanent in the Buddha's teaching.

What experiences can be formed are answered by suttas such as...

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

The Buddha was not averse to saying that certain principles (including the Dhamma itself) were steadfast and operated regardless of whether or not they were observed.

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Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby nrose619 » Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:15 am

daverupa wrote:
nrose619 wrote:That didn't answer my question but perhaps I should have rephrased my statement of impermanence. Also could you explain what my "misunderstanding" is instead of sending me a link to a forum to dig through?


Sorry; the link is to this forum, where a very similar question was asked already.

Phrasing is important when discussing the Dhamma; it is worth the time to practice.

Now: I'm not sure you have any misunderstanding. But I feel certain that trying to discuss anicca in terms of objective science laws is altogether missing the point. Anicca is not saying that objects or concepts don't last; it's saying that anything which depends upon conditions is not self-sustaining, and for this reason cannot last.

So, gravity isn't a self-existent thing; it requires a universe and something like the Higgs boson in that universe, and so forth. It is at all times in relation to a context that is not permanent, and therefore cannot itself be permanent.

Does this make sense?



Yes! I totally agree and I said exactly what you did about how if something depends on conditions to exist it is most likely impermanent. So was I correct in that aspect? or was I incorrect all along for engaging in such philosophical discussion? In some books I read, it's discouraged to engage in such talks but I find myself slipping teachings from the Dhamma into philosophy club no matter how much I try to remind myself not to :shrug:
"A silver bird
flies over the autumn lake.
When it has passed,
the lake's surface does not try
to hold on to the image of the bird."

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby daverupa » Thu Jan 24, 2013 2:12 am

nrose619 wrote:So was I correct in that aspect?


It seems accurate, as far as it goes. This is more germane:

nrose619 wrote:was I incorrect all along for engaging in such philosophical discussion?


For me, the antidote has been to strive to remember about the purpose: dukkha and dukkha-nirodha. This talk of gravity and impermanence is very alluring, but the Buddha did not set out to analyze reality; He diagnosed dukkha, and taught the cure. This isn't a tool for anything else.

You can, in fact, frame the Dhamma this way by using the following Sutta as a canned response for occasions where (meta-)physical concepts are being held alongside the Dhamma:

MN 18 wrote:As he was standing there, he said to the Blessed One, "What is the contemplative's doctrine? What does he proclaim?"

"The sort of doctrine, friend, where one does not keep quarreling with anyone in the cosmos with its devas, Maras, & Brahmas, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk; the sort [of doctrine] where perceptions no longer obsess the brahman who remains dissociated from sensuality, free from perplexity, his uncertainty cut away, devoid of craving for becoming & non-. Such is my doctrine, such is what I proclaim."


You'll want to update the social references, of course.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Thu Jan 24, 2013 4:46 am

daverupa wrote:So, gravity isn't a self-existent thing; it requires a universe and something like the Higgs boson in that universe
The Higgs boson explains inertial mass, not gravitational mass.

Edit: I'm not a particle physicist but I am a physicist. From what I've read the Higgs field describes inertia very well, but I've yet to see a convincing argument that inertial mass and gravitational mass are equivalent. We axiomatically take them to be equivalent and, so far, the numbers agree, but I would love someone more educated in particle physics than me to explain how the Higgs field explains the force of gravity.

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby m0rl0ck » Thu Jan 24, 2013 5:27 am

E=MC2

And since gravity depends on mass i would call that the ultimate statement of impermanence. :) You might have to wait a while tho, but who says impermanence has to be limited to a human timescale.
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Thu Jan 24, 2013 6:11 am

m0rl0ck wrote:E=MC2
Doesn't really help with the equivalence principal though

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Thu Jan 24, 2013 6:55 am

Just been thinking about non-inertial frames of reference... I'm struggling to remember this level of physics because I've not encountered it for many years (I only teach to children aged between 11 and 18). To children we teach that gravity is a fundamental force. Am I correct when I vaguely remember that gravity can be considered the result of a non-inertial (accelerating) frame of reference and, so, isn't really a force at all? It's such a hazy memory I'm quite embarrassed about it. There are other physicists who use DW and still operate at that deeper level, could they help me? (Mikenz66 springs to mind, if I remember the username correctly).

One thing is certain, memory really is impermanent!

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby James the Giant » Thu Jan 24, 2013 11:40 am

Mawkish1983 wrote:... but I would love someone more educated in particle physics than me to explain how the Higgs field explains the force of gravity.

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby m0rl0ck » Thu Jan 24, 2013 4:28 pm

Gravity is a side effect of the existence of matter. The matter deforms space as a side effect of its existence. You might as well consider gravity a property of matter rather than as some all encompassing feild waiting to spring into action. Anything conditional is impermanent and gravity depends on matter.
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Thu Jan 24, 2013 5:16 pm

That doesn't resolve the problem of the equivalence principle.

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby rahul3bds » Wed May 29, 2013 6:33 am

nrose619 wrote:I have a philosophy club at my school and in today's meeting I said that almost everything is impermanent. One person disagreed saying that the law of gravity is permanent it was always here and always will be. I said gravity is dependent on mass therefore it is not a permanent self sustaining force/thing. Also, what about in dead space where there is an absence of gravity? He continued to restate that it's a law and has been scientifically proven therefore it is permanent. We both kinda ended up in a dead end. Any thoughts on this?

-Nick


From wiki:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitational_constant

According to the law of universal gravitation, the attractive force (F) between two bodies is proportional to the product of their masses (m1 and m2), and inversely proportional to the square of the distance, r, (inverse-square law) between them:

F=Gm1m2/r2

The constant of proportionality, G, is the gravitational constant.

The gravitational constant is a physical constant that is difficult to measure with high accuracy.In SI units, the 2010 CODATA-recommended value of the gravitational constant (with standard uncertainty in parentheses) is:

G=6.67384(80)×10−11

with relative standard uncertainty 1.2×10−4.


when your classmate said "that the law of gravity is permanent it was always here and always will be", he was merely referring to the universal constancy of the gravitational constant "G".
Blue part is what proving him wrong. Constant G is measured with high accuracy with "uncertainty", which means that the exact value of G, can never be determined.

Just ask him the exact or absolute value of gravity (i.e. "G"), devoid of uncertainty.

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed May 29, 2013 1:00 pm

retrofuturist wrote:I agree with what Dave has said above, and would go one step further and suggest that if dhammas are experiences, and sankhata dhammas are formed/conditioned experiences... then gravity falls outside the scope of both of these as it is neither of them. Gravity is not an experience... experiences are experienced via the six-sense-bases. Even if you could argue that gravity is experienced, then it is the experience of gravity that is impermanent in the Buddha's teaching.


And yet we experience gravity directly as weight, ie pressure on the parts of our body currently in contact with a solid surface.

I think there is a basis in the suttas for saying that anicca applies objectively as well as subjectively. As you know form ( rupa ) is classified in terms of the 4 great elements, ie earth, wind, water and fire. But in some suttas the elements are sub-divided into internal and external, so for example internally the water element would be bodily fluids while externally it would be water in the seas, lakes etc ( see for example MN28, MN62 and MN140 ).

The suttas also make it clear that all types of form are subject to impermanence ( anicca ), and logically this includes external form - the external world.
"I ride tandem with the random, Things don't run the way I planned them, In the humdrum."
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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby chownah » Wed May 29, 2013 2:51 pm

nrose619 wrote:I have a philosophy club at my school and in today's meeting I said that almost everything is impermanent. One person disagreed saying that the law of gravity is permanent it was always here and always will be. I said gravity is dependent on mass therefore it is not a permanent self sustaining force/thing. Also, what about in dead space where there is an absence of gravity? He continued to restate that it's a law and has been scientifically proven therefore it is permanent. We both kinda ended up in a dead end. Any thoughts on this?

-Nick

For me the biggest problem here is the notion that scientific laws are permanent. Scientific laws are just theories which have withstood the tests of time. They are theories which so accurately predict things or explain things that virtually all scientists accept theme as their MODEL of reality. Note that it is only a model of reality and does not define reality but only DESCRIBES reality in a way that helps in predicting or understanding. The law of gravity is just an idea that is very successful in predicting a lot of things. If you have time go read up on Sir Isaac Newton and the controversy which arose when he suggested that there was something called gravity which caused things to fall the way they did and that caused celestial bodies to move the way they did. Scientists were very hesitant to accept this new fangled idea pf gravity because there was no explanation of where it came from or how it worked.....it was only because Newton's theory was so incredibly accurate at predicting things that eventually it was accepted among the bulk of scientists who just gave up on getting some kind of information about gravity itself......and do you know that Newtons "law" turns out to be very accurate to a certain degree of precision but with the invention of good clocks it has been determined that his law is not quite right. I believe that Einstein predicted an error in Newton's law by timing how long it took for the planet Mercury to transit the sun.....or something like that....I think... If I remember correctly.

Bottom line is that scientific laws are just popular ideas...they are rising and falling all the time.
chownah

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Re: Gravity and Impermanence?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed May 29, 2013 10:20 pm

This is from the Mahāsutasoma Jātaka quoted in my story about Porisada, who would later become Angulimāla.

‘To associate with the wise, even only on one occasion is of great advantage;
to associate with the foolish even on many occasions is of no benefit.’

‘One should associate with the wise and listen to their teaching;
one who does will become noble-minded,
no harm comes from learning the teaching of the wise.’

‘The splendid royal chariots, once so beautiful, grow old and decay,
but the teaching of the wise is ageless and never changes,
this is what the wise talk about among themselves.’

‘The sky is very far from the earth, and the earth is very far from the heavens,
but farther apart than these are the teaching of the wise and the teaching of the foolish.’
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