Chronons, Time Atoms, and Quantized Time: Time Asymmetry Re-Visited

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

A directional time does not feature in Newtonian mechanics, in electromagnetic theory, in quantum mechanics, in the equations which describe the world of elementary particles (with the exception of the kaon decay), and in some border astrophysical conditions, where there is time symmetry. Yet, we perceive the world of the macro as time asymmetric and our cosmology and thermodynamics explicitly incorporate a time arrow, albeit one which is superimposed on the equations and not derived from them. The introduction of stochastic processes has somewhat mitigated this conundrum.

Time is, therefore, an epiphenomenon: it does not characterize the parts – though it emerges as a main property of the whole, as an extensive parameter of macro systems.

History of the Chronon and Quantized Time in Physics

The idea of atomistic, discrete time has a long pedigree in physics (Descartes, Gassendi, Torricelli, among others). More recently, Boltzmann, Mach, and even Poincare all toyed with the concept. There was a brief flowering of various speculative and not very rigorous, almost metaphysical or numerological models immediately after the introduction of quantum mechanics in the 1920s and 1930s (Palacios, Thomson indirectly, Levi who coined the neologism “chronon”, Pokrowski, Gottfried Beck, Schames, Proca with his “granular” time, Ruark, Flint and Richardson, Glaser and Sitte).

Oddly, luminaries such as Pauli, de Broglie, and especially Schroedinger were drawn into the fray, together with lesser lights like Wataghin, Iwanenko, Ambarzumian, Silberstein, Landau, and Peierls. By now, everyone was talking about minimal durations (somehow derived from or correlated to the mass or some other property of each type of elementary particle), not about time “atoms” or a lattice. This subtle conceptual transition between mutually-contradictory notions caused an almighty and enduring confusion. Is time itself somehow discrete/quantized/atomized – or are our measurements discontinuous?

Ever since the early 1960s and especially during the 1990s, there have been several attempts to build on the work of the likes of H. S. Snyder (Physical Review 71, (1) 1947, 38) to suggest a quantized spacetime or a Quantum Field Theory, Tsung Dao Lee’s work being the most notable attempt. More recent work with relativistic stochastic models led inexorably to discrete time

  1. Caldirola postulated the existence of a chronon (1955, 1980): “An elementary interval of time characterizing the variation of the particle’s state under the action of external forces”. He calculated chronons for several types of particles, most notably the electron, both classical and in (nonrelativistic) quantum mechanics.

In 1982-3, Sam Vaknin proposed that chronons may be actual particles – more about Vaknin’s work HERE. A decade later, in 1992, Kenneth J. Hsu suggested the very same thing (though without reference to Vaknin’s work). He postulated sequencing cues delivered to particles by captured chronons. Like Vaknin, he hypothesized the existence of various types of chronons (“large” and small). Chronons, wrote Hsu are also involved in the catalysis of events. Finally, like Vaknin, Hsu also posited a field theory for the flow of chronons. In 1994, C. Wolf again suggested the existence of time atoms (Nuov. Cim. B 109 (3) 1994 213).

In 1993, Arthur Charlesby suggested that particles have an intrinsic discrete time property and that time (interval in the presence of relative motion) has a “quantized nature”. This dispenses with the need for a wave concept as a mere mathematical expedient in the case of individual events (though still useful in contemplating continuous relative motion). This notion of “proprietary” or “individual” system-specific time as distinct from a “systemic”, overall Time was further explored by Alexander R. Karimov in 2008.

In the same year (1993), Sidney Golden published a paper in which he claimed that “quantum time-lapses are … an essential feature of the changes undergone by the energy-eigenfunction-evaluated matrix elements of statistical operators that evolve in accordance with an intrinsic temporal discreteness characteristic of strictly irreversible behavior.”

A year later, in 1994, A. P. Balachandran and L. Chandar studied the quantized of time in discretized gravity models with multiple-valued Hamiltonians. Ruy H. A. Farias and Erasmo Recami (2010) applied a quantum of time to obtain startlingly impressive consequences regarding the treatment of electrons (and, more generally, leptons), the free particle, the harmonic oscillator, and the hydrogen atom in both classical and quantum physics, in effect proffering a discretized and surprisingly powerful and useful quantum mechanics. Strangely, their work had very little resonance.

Quantized time has been used to suggest solutions to a panoply of riddles in physics, including the K-meson decay, the Klein-Gordon equation, and the application of Kerr-Newman black holes to electron theory, q-deformations and stochastic subordination (“quantum subordination”), among others (R. Hakim, Journal of Mathematical Physics 9 1968, 1805; B. G. Sidharth, 2000, Alexander R. Karimov,2008; Claudio Albanese and Stephan Lawi).

Sam Vaknin’s Work

In his doctoral dissertation (Ph.D. Thesis available from the Library of Congress), Vaknin postulates the existence of a particle (chronon). Time is the result of the interaction of chronons, very much as other forces in nature are “transferred” in such interactions.

The Chronon is a time “atom” (actually, an elementary particle, a time “quark”). We can postulate the existence of various time quarks (up, down, colors, etc.) whose properties cancel each other (in pairs, etc.) and thus derive the time arrow (time asymmetry).

Vaknin’s postulated particle (chronon) is not only an ideal clock, but also mediates time itself (same like the relationship between the Higgs boson and mass.) In other words: I propose that what we call “time” is the interaction between chronons in a field. The field is time itself. Chronons exchange a particle and thereby exert a force which we call time. Introducing time as a fifth force gives rise to a quasi-deterministic rendition of quantum theories and links inextricably time to other particle properties, such as mass.

“Events” are perturbations in the Time Field and they are distinct from chronon interactions. Chronon interactions (i.e. particle exchange) in the Time Field generate “time” (small t) and “time asymmetry” as we observe them.

Vaknin’s work is, therefore, a Field Theory of Time.

Future directions of research in Sam Vaknin’s Work

Timespace can be regarded as a wave function with observer-mediated collapse. All the chronons are entangled at the exact “moment” of the Big Bang. This yields a relativistic QFT with chronons as its Field Quanta (excited states.) The integration is achieved via the quantum superpositions.

Another way to look at it is that the metric expansion of time is implied if time is a fourth dimension of space. Time may even be described as a PHONON of the metric itself.

A more productive approach may involve Perturbative QFT. Time from the Big Bang is mediated by chronons and this leads to expansion (including in the number of chronons.) In this case, there are no bound states.

Chronons as excitation states (stochastic perturbations, vibrations) tie in nicely with superstring theories, but without the baggage of extra dimensions and without the metaphysical nonsense of “music of the spheres”. Perturbations also yield General Relativity: cumulative, “emerging” perturbations amount to a distortion (curvature) of time-space. Both superstring theories and GRT are, therefore, private cases of a Chronon Field Theory.

Eytan H. Suchard’s Work

Interacting particles with non-gravitational fields can be seen as clocks whose trajectory is not Minkowsky geodesic.

A field in which a small enough clock is not geodesic can be described by a scalar field of time whose gradient has non-zero curvature. The scalar field is either real which describes acceleration of neutral clocks made of charged matter or imaginary, which describes acceleration of clocks made of Majorana type matter.

This way the scalar field adds information to space-time, which is not anticipated by the metric tensor alone. The scalar field can’t be realized as a coordinate because it can be measured from a reference sub-manifold along different curves.

In a “Big Bang” manifold, the field is simply an upper limit on measurable time by interacting clocks, backwards from each event to the big bang singularity as a limit only.

In De Sitter / Anti De Sitter space-time, reference sub-manifolds from which such time is measured along integral curves are described as all the events in which the scalar field is zero. The solution need not be unique but the representation of the acceleration field by an anti-symmetric matrix is unique up to SU(2) x U(1) degrees of freedom.

Matter in Einstein-Grossmann equation is replaced by the action of the acceleration field, i.e. by a geometric action which is not anticipated by the metric alone. This idea leads to a new formalism of matter that replaces the conventional stress-energy-momentum-tensor. The formalism will be mainly developed for classical but also for quantum physics. The result is that a positive charge manifests small attracting gravity and a stronger but small repelling acceleration field that repels even uncharged particles that measure proper time, i.e. have rest mass.

The negative charge manifests a repelling anti-gravity but also a stronger acceleration field that attracts even uncharged particles that measure proper time, i.e. have rest mass.

The theory leads to causal sets. Spacetime exists only where a chronon wave-function collapses. Work still to be done is to replace particles by strings of collapse events. The theory in its quantum form is of events and not of particles.

The theory has technological repercussions and implications regarding “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy”.

Read “Upper Time Limit, Its Gradient Curvature, and Matterby Eytan H. Suchard (Journal of Modern Physics and Applications 2014, 2014:5)

Read Absolute Maximum Proper Time to an Initial Event, the Curvature of Its Gradient along Conflict Strings and Matter” by Eytan H. Suchard (Journal of Modern Physics Vol.4 No.6 (2013), Article ID:33086)

Read the original paperUpper Time Limit, Its Gradient Curvature, and Matter” by Eytan H. Suchard and a corrected, updated version (or HERE or HERE)

Read “Electro-gravitational Technology via Chronon Fieldby Eytan H. Suchard (Physical Science International Journal, Vol. 4 Issue 8 (2014) – AbstractSupplementary FilesDOI

Read “Electro-gravity via Geometric Chronon Field” by Eytan H. Suchard (Physical Science International Journal, Vol. 7 Issue 3 (2015) pp152-185 – Abstract

Chronons (Wikipedia) and HERE

Chronons (in Science Fiction)

Historical Bibliography of Chronons and Quantized Time

Chapter 2 – Introduction of a Quantum of Time (“chronon”), and its Consequences for the Electron in Quantum and Classical Physics – Ruy H.A. Farias, Erasmo Recami – doi:10.1016/S1076-5670(10)63002-9Advances in Imaging and Electron Physics – Volume 163, 2010, Pages 33–115 – Published by Elsevier

From time atoms to space-time quantization: the idea of discrete time, ca 1925–1936 – Helge Kragh, Bruno Carazza – doi:10.1016/0039-3681(94)90061-2Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A – Volume 25, Issue 3, June 1994, Pages 437–462 – Published by Elsevier

The chaotic universe – B.G. Sidharth – doi:10.1016/S0960-0779(98)00332-4Chaos, Solitons & Fractals – Volume 11, Issue 8, June 2000, Pages 1171–1174 – Published by Elsevier

Quantized space-time and time’s arrow – B.G. Sidharth – doi:10.1016/S0960-0779(98)00331-2Chaos, Solitons & Fractals – Volume 11, Issue 7, 1 June 2000, Pages 1045–1046 – Published by Elsevier

The quantum dimension of space-time – Enrique Alvarez, Juli Cespedes, Enric Verdaguer – doi:10.1016/0960-0779(94)90054-X – – Chaos, Solitons & Fractals – Volume 4, Issue 3, March 1994, Pages 411–414 – Published by Elsevier

Discrete time from quantum physics – A.P. Balachandran, L. Chandar – doi:10.1016/0550-3213(94)90207-0Nuclear Physics B – Volume 428, Issues 1–2, 10 October 1994, Pages 435-448 – Published by Elsevier

Quantization of time: an implication of strictly-irreversible evolution of dynamically isolated quantum systems – Sidney Golden – doi:10.1016/0378-4371(94)90534-7Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications – Volume 208, Issue 1, 1 July 1994, Pages 65-90 – Published by Elsevier

Radiation: Waves or particles? A quantized approach to time – Arthur Charlesby – doi:10.1016/0969-806X(93)90416-RRadiation Physics and Chemistry – Volume 42, Issues 4–6, October–December 1993, Pages 977–984 – Published by Elsevier – https://www.elsevier.com/

Waves and particles—quantisation of the interval between eventss0 – Arthur Charlesby – doi:10.1016/0969-806X(94)00085-9Radiation Physics and Chemistry – Volume 45, Issue 2, February 1995, Pages 175–186 – Published by Elsevier

The Snyder space-time quantization, q-deformations, and ultraviolet divergences – R.M. Mir-Kasimov – doi:10.1016/0370-2693(96)00408-XPhysics Letters B – Volume 378, Issues 1–4, 20 June 1996, Pages 181–186 – Published by Elsevier

Other Bibliography

Lévi, Robert (1927) – Théorie de l’action universelle et discontinue – Journal de Physique et le Radium 8 (4): 182–198

Margenau, Henry – The Nature of Physical Reality – McGraw-Hill, 1950

Yang, C. N. – On quantized space-time – Physical Review 72 (9): 874

Caldirola, P. – The introduction of the chronon in the electron theory and a charged lepton mass formula – Lett. Nuovo Cim. 27 (8): 225–228

Albanese, Claudio; Lawi, Stephan – Time Quantization and q-deformations – Journal of Physics A. 37 (8): 2983–2987

Hsu, Kenneth J. – In search of a Physical Theory of Time – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America – 01 November 1992, Vol.89(21), pp.10222-10226

Hsu, Kenneth J. – Are Chronons the Elementary Particles in space and Time? – Terrestrial, Atmospheric, and Oceanic Sciences

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

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The Trump Revolution

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

Trump’s supporters and fans are frustrated. In 1939, a team of psychologists, led by John Dollard, hypothesized that frustration always leads to aggression. Legitimate grievances against a dysfunctional, corrupt, and compromised polity, a deceptive ethos, an American Dream turned nightmare, a broken system that no longer works for the overwhelming majority and appears to be unfixable lead Trump’s base to feel that they had been betrayed, abandoned, duped, exploited, abused, ignored, disenfranchised, and trampled upon. They are in the throes of dislocation, disorientation, and trauma. Their declining fortunes and obsolete skills render them insignificant and irrelevant, and their lives meaningless. It is hopelessness coupled with impotent helplessness.

Trump’s adulators seek to bypass the system and even to dismantle it altogether – not to reform it. This is the stuff revolutions are made of and the pronouncements of Trump’s cohorts are inadvertently copy-pasted from the texts of the French Revolution, The October Revolution (which led to Bolshevism), and even the Nazi Revolution.

Such conditions often give rise to cults, centered around a narcissistic or psychopathic leader-figurehead. In Trump’s case, the abyss between his life’s circumstances and his followers’s is unbridgeable and yet, they hope that by associating with him, however remotely, some of his glamour and magical, fairytale success will rub off on them. Voting for Trump is like winning the lottery, becoming a part of a juggernaut and of history. It is an intoxicating sensation of empowerment that Trump encourages by telling his voters that they are no longer “average”, they are now, by virtue of following him, “great” and “special”, even if only by proxy.

Trump idealizes his voters and they return the favor. In their eyes, he is the Cleanser of the Beltway’s Augean Stables. He, singlehandedly, “in 10 minutes”, will destroy the ancient regime, the old order (of which he had been a part since age 21), settle scores, “Dirty Harry” style, and, thus, make their day. It is a nihilistic mindset. Some of his followers gleefully contemplate the suspension of the Constitution and its elaborate check and balances. Others compare him to the first Roman Emperors. They wish to unburden themselves by transferring their decision-making and responsibilities onto The Chosen One.

To his acolytes – and contrary to much evidence – Trump is a “doer”, with a long list of (mostly illusory) accomplishments. He is best equipped to get things done and to prioritize. In Washington, where appearances matter far more than substance, no one is better credentialed that The Donald, they smirk. These champions of small government and Conservatism look to Trump-when-President (in other words: to the State!) to generate jobs, to insulate them from the outside world, to protect them from illegal aliens and terrorists (surely one and the same), and, in general, to nanny and cosset them all the way to the bank. The world is a hostile, psychopathic place and who best to deal with it than an even more hostile, narcissistic leader like Trump? We need a bad, big wolf to navigate through the jungle out there. This is a form of collective regression to toddlerhood with Trump in the role of the omnipotent, omniscient Father.

In abnormal psychology this is called “shared psychosis”. The members of the cult deploy a host of primitive (infantile) psychological defense mechanisms as they gradually dwindle into mere extensions and reflections of their skipper. Theirs is a malignant optimism, grounded not in reality, but in idealization: the tendency to interact not with Trump himself, but with an imaginary “Trump” that each fan tailors to suit his or her fears, hopes, wishes, and fervent fantasies.

Then there is denial: a pathological response, the repression of inconvenient truths about Trump and their relegation to the unconscious were they fester into something called “dissonance”. Dissonance breeds rage and violence and these oft accompany nihilistic and destructive political cults. Denial goes well with splitting: the demonization and denigration of opponents and adversaries, critics, and bystanders. “If you are not 100% with us, you are 1000% against us and if you are against us, you are the enemy to be sucker-punched and carried out on a stretcher.”

But by far the strongest psychological defense mechanism is fantasy. When reality becomes unbearable, fantasy, however improbable and implausible, is a welcome refuge. This is Trump’s forte: the promulgation and dissemination of fantasies customized to resonate irresistibly with the weaknesses, fears, disenchantments, and disillusionment of his hapless hoplites.

One such fantasy Trump actively encourages is that he is just acting to the crowds now. His below-the-belt obnoxiousness is just for show. In a feat of rationalization worthy of Houdini, Trump’s legions attribute his crass boorishness to “market research” and reasoned electoral calculus. Once elected, he will miraculously be transformed into a “presidential” and dignified politician who plays by the rules and is by no means buffoonish, vulgar, and offensive, they insist with a knowing wink, as though they have ever truly been in-the-know, pals with the Great Man Himself. Such intimations of arcane knowledge cater to their growing sense of self-importance. Indeed, Trump’s may well be the first post-modern narcissistic mass movement.

Such admirable thespian skills attributed to Trump (and proudly owned by him) require the inbred personality of a consummate and thoroughly psychopathic con-artist. Narcissists effect these transitions effortlessly precisely because they only have a False Self (a confabulated grandiose image that they project) whose sole aim is to garner narcissistic supply: attention and, if possible, unmitigated adulation and admiration. Faking it is second nature to the narcissist: exaggerating, lying, pretending, shapeshifting, Zelig-like. Whatever it takes.

Another fantasy is that the narcissist will never turn against his own people. Trump will mercilessly crush the coterie of corrupt power brokers in Washington – but will never ever direct the full might of his gratuitous sadism against his followers, fans, ardent supporters, and fawning admirers. History, of course, teaches otherwise. Sooner or later, the narcissist cannibalizes his own power base and treats as enemies his most rabid lackeys and toadies.

Peopled shrug and say: “but ain’t all politicians narcissists?” The answer is a resounding: no. Granted, it would be safe to assume that most politicians have narcissistic traits. But, as the great psychologist Theodore Millon observed, there is a world of difference between being possessed of a narcissistic style and being a full-fledged, malignant narcissist. The famous author Scott Peck suggested that “narcissism” may just be a modern fancy byword for “evil”. He may have had a point. But, evil should be contained, not elevated to the position of Leader of the Free World.
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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

Britannica’s Reference Galaxy 2016

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

Overview

The Encyclopedia Britannica has long been much more than a venerable print reference work. Almost two decades ago, it pioneered a freemium website (some content free, other content behind a pay wall). This has now flourished into a comprehensive walled garden of knowledge. Additionally, the Britannica publishes books and DVDs about specific topics and issues (the venerable flagship print encyclopedia had been discontinued in 2012.) These are the best primers and introductions available to a host of fields and areas, from history to science. Add to these the Britannica newly-minted apps and you realize that the Britannica, more than ever, is now everywhere!

Britannica Online

The Britannica’s rich online content adds context and dollops of information to the already unsurpassed DVD (see below). It has been completely re-designed and is now Google-like in its simplicity, clutter-free and user-friendly as never before. Alas, buyers of any of the Britannica’s physical products no longer enjoy 30-180 days of free access to this cornucopian resource.

Admittedly, at 70-120 USD annually the Britannica Online is not cheap and thus more suited to institutions, universities, schools, and libraries than to individuals. It already sports an academic edition as well as editions geared at business, government, schools and libraries, which include special features such as Image Quest (downloadable, annotated videos) and STEM resources, including Pathways: Science. Journalists are granted free access. Still, the Britannica would do well to consider an affordable, more limited consumer version.

The Britannica has new Publishing Partner Program. It is an outreach program for contributors and institutions looking for greater visibility… (I)ndependent writers and members of a college, think tank, museum, academy, academic consortium, or graduate school are encouraged to contribute to Britannica in their areas of expertise, join Britannica’s stellar roster of contributors (which includes more than 110 Nobel Prize recipients and scores of Pulitzer Prize winners), and by doing so reach a large global audience. Likewise, companies and institutions with special assets such as videos, photographs, and primary documents, and which are looking for ways to expand their outreach, are encouraged to contribute as well. All articles and assets shared through this partnership will remain open to and freely accessible by the public.”

The home page – now far less cluttered than last year’s – includes “Britannica Stories”, which change frequently are related to the news; “Spotlight” stories and a “Demystified” item; a selection of videos from the Britannica’s impressive, vetted collection; “Explore Encyclopaedia Britannica”: randomly rotated in-depth articles; quizzes, lists, quotes and trivia; photo galleries; trending articles; and featured blogs. The menu bar is comprised of a search box, stories, quizzes, image galleries, and lists. Scroll to the very bottom to find a link to the newest and updated articles. That’s it: a combination of Google-like simplicity and social media verve immersed in the unparalleled deep learning that the Britannica reifies ever since 1768.

The search results are straightforward and every article page contains relevant images and videos as well a list of related topics, people, places, quotations, websites, bibliography, and contributors pulled from both the corpus itself and the Books of the Year. There’s even a Wikipedia-like “article history”, which reflects its editing process. The Article Tool Bar allows the user to print the article, share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google Plus (and also the old-fashioned way, via e-mail), cite it (using a variety of styles), or contribute to it. Unlike Wikipedia, though in a nod to crowdsourcing, users’ comments, corrections, and suggestions, are vetted and reviewed for relevance and accuracy by the Britannica’s dedicated team of editors. Any word in any of the articles can be double-clicked for its definition in the resident Merriam-Webster Dictionaries. Subscribers to the Academic and Library edition gain access to a plethora of carefully chosen links to reviewed outside content and magazine articles.

But, in an age of mobile, wireless smartphones, tablets, and ultrabooks, the Britannica Online is also a stand-alone product: it provides the entire content of the DVD and much, much more besides. The Britannica offers access to its complete content via a range of apps for iPhones, iPads, and Android smartphones. There’s also a Britannica app for kids. The apps are available via Apple’s iTunes and Google’s Play Store. Alas, gone is the plug-in/app for Microsoft’s Word which offered unfettered and free-to-cheap access to the Concise Britannica, or to its full text and multimedia, depending on the version.

There is a variety of delightful apps for kids (US Presidents; Snakes; Knights and Castles; Aztec Empire; Ancient Rome; Rainforests; Solar System; Ancient Egypt; Volcanoes; and Dinosaurs.). There are also browser widgets which facilitate the surfing of the Britannica Online and fully benefit from its visual content. Although Britannica Online sports a Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube presence there does not seem to be coherent strategies in place either for content management, or for marketing via social networks. Britannica’s presence on YouTube, especially, seems to be an erratic afterthought.

The widgets as well as the main website are available in several languages, including Japanese, Russian, Korean, and Spanish. I tested the site on 8 mobile phones (older versions of SonyEricsson and Nokia, iPhone 3 and 6s, and Siemens, Samsung Note 3, Samsung Galaxy 4 and Samsung Note 4), several tablets (including iPad Air and Windows 8.1 device), and laptops and it worked well as far as text is concerned. Graphics and videos were another matter, but this is a problem common to all websites: from YouTube to the CNN.

Britannica Online is an entire ecosystem. It provides a gamut of educational resources: learning materials (lists, quizzes, image galleries, study guides, interactive lessons, online activities, printable worksheets, and other exercises); A portal dedicated to kids and parents (in English and in Portuguese for the Brazilian market); an “Advocacy for Animals” integrated blog; Arabic-English, Spanish-English, and English-English (Nglish) online dictionaries and learning resources; a “My Workspace” feature that serves as a kind of dedicated cloud storage for Britannica content, including images and videos; Teacher Handbooks; Educational Web sites; Britannica training documents for teachers, students, parents, and administrators; and a monthly newsletter, featuring new and updated content. The Britannica even organizes Professional Development workshop for educators. There is a delightful, colourful, and multimedia-rich Britannica Online for Kids and a hugely helpful SmartMath portal.

In total, the Britannica Online comprises more than 1 million pages. The paid content is augmented by loads of free features. The aforementioned “Spotlights” provide hand-picked multimedia-enhanced tours of broad subjects; newsletters provide a panoply of theme-specific information; RSS feeds allow the user to explore places, people, and topics.

Encyclopedia Britannica 2016 Ultimate Edition

My first pleasant surprise was the lightning speed at which this mammoth software installed on a 7 year old laptop. The user is prompted to choose from 3 encyclopaedias (Britannica, Student, and Elementary). Many articles in the Britannica Ultimate 2016 edition have been revamped to incorporate up to the minute developments. From Europe’s refugee crisis to ISIL (in the Book of the Year 2014), the Britannica is now fully up to date. This has not been the case in previous editions and it is a welcome development if the Britannica is to compete with online reference works such as Wikipedia. The DVD is a loss-leader, but a great promotional vehicle for the lucrative online edition, so hopefully it won’t go the way of the print edition, which was terminated in 2012. It is now produced and sold in India by the Britannica Southeast Asia (www.britannicaindia.com)

Compared to its predecessor, the Encyclopedia Britannica 2016 Ultimate Edition (formerly “Student and Home Edition”) contains 15% more text and 15% fewer images and videos. It incorporates the entire content of the venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica print set (88,000 articles) plus another 60,000 articles in the Student and Elementary editions.

The 2016 DVD builds on the success of its completely revamped previous editions in 2006-10. The rate of innovation in the last eight versions had been impressive and welcome. It continues apace in this rendition with Britannica Biographies (Great Minds, 600+ Heroes and Villains, and Leaders), Classical Music (500 audio files arranged by composer), and a great Workspace for Project Management (a kind of friendly digital den).

The Britannica 2016 comes bundled with an atlas (close to 2500 maps linked to specific articles and 287 World Data Profiles of individual countries and territories, their economies and other national statistics); the Merriam-Webster Collegiate and Student Dictionaries and Thesaurus, augmented by a Spanish-English translation dictionary; classic articles from previous editions; twenty yearbooks (19,000 articles in total); Interactive Timelines with 4000+ indexed timeline entries; a Research Organizer; and a Knowledge Navigator (called The Brain or BrainStormer). All told, it offers a directory of more than 166,000 reviewed and vetted links to online content and pointers to thousands of videos and magazines online.

In its new form the Britannica is user-friendly, with an A to Z Quick Search feature. The Britannica’s newest interface is even more intuitive and uncluttered than previously and is great fun to use. It offers morsels of knowledge, some of it date-specific, appetizingly presented through a ticker-tape of visuals that leisurely scrolls across the bottom of the screen plus highly edifying interactive tours of articles and attendant media.

When you enter even the first few letters of a term in the search box, it offers various options and is persistent: no need to click on the toolbar’s “search” button every time you want to find something in this vast storehouse of knowledge. Moreover, the user can save search results onto handy, printable “Virtual Notecards”. Whole articles – replete with videos and images – can be copied onto the seemingly inexhaustible Workspace.

The new Britannica’s display is tab-based, avoiding the erstwhile confusing proliferation of windows with every move. Most importantly, articles appear in full, not in sections. This major improvement facilitates the finding of relevant keywords in and the printing of entire texts. These are only a few of the numerous alterations and enhancements.

Perhaps the most refreshing change is the Britannica’s Update Center. Dozens of monthly updates and new, timely articles are made available online (no registration required now!). A special button alerts the user when an entry in the base product has been updated.

Regrettably, the updates are not incorporated into the vast encyclopedia and its search interface: they are out there on a website. Moreover, the product does not alert its user to the existence of completely new articles, only to updated ones. It takes a manual scan of the monthly lists to reveal newly added content.

Speaking of updates, one must not forget to dwell on the Britannica’s unequalled yearbooks. Each annual volume contains the year in events, scientific developments, and everything you wanted to know about the latest in any and every conceivable field of human endeavour, or Nature. About 15,000 articles culled from the last 20 editions buttress and update the Encyclopedia’s anyhow impressive offerings. In the 2016 edition, the content of the yearbooks is more neatly and intuitively arranged than before, both chronologically and thematically.

The Britannica provides considerably more text than any other extant traditional encyclopedia, print or digital (close to 70 million words). While it has noticeably enhanced its non-textual content over the years (the 1994-7 editions had nothing or very little but words, words, and more words), it has now reverted to its roots and scaled back on images and videos in favour of augmented text offerings. It still boasts in excess of 19,000 images and illustrations (depending on the version) and 900 video and audio clips. This is not to mention the Britannica Classics: articles from Britannica’s most famous contributors: from Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein to Harry Houdini and from Marie Curie to Orville Wright.

The Britannica fully supports serious research. It is a sober assemblage of first-rate essays, up to date bibliographies, and relevant multimedia. It constitutes a desktop university library: thorough, well-researched, comprehensive, trustworthy.

The Britannica’s 88-148,000 articles (depending on the version) are long and thorough, supported by impressive bibliographies, and written by the best scholars in their respective fields, including 110 Nobel laureates. The company’s Editorial Board of Advisors reads like the who’s who of the global intellectual and scientific community.

The Britannica is an embarrassment of riches. Users often find the wealth and breadth of information daunting and data mining is fast becoming an art form. This is why the Britannica incorporated the “Personal Brain” to cope with this predicament. But an informal poll I conducted online shows that few know how to deploy it effectively.

The Britannica also sports Student and Elementary versions of its venerable flagship product, replete with 60,000 articles, a Homework Helpdesk, “how to” documents, and hundreds of interactive games, activities, and math and science tutorials as well as social science walkthroughs. Still, the Britannica is far better geared to tackle the information needs of adults and, even more so, professionals. It provides unequalled coverage of its topics.

Ironically, this is precisely why the market positioning of the Britannica’s Elementary and Student Encyclopedias is problematic: compared to Wikipedia, the Britannica’s brand is distinctly adult and scholarly. The vacuum left by Encarta’s (lamented) discontinuance, though, should make it easier to market the Student and Elementary versions (which are an integral part of the Ultimate Edition and not sold separately).

Still, the 2016 editions of both the Student and Elementary Encyclopaedias improve on the past in terms of both coverage and facilities: the Homework Helpdesk is a collection of useful homework resources including a video subject browse; online learning games and activities; online subject spotlights; and how-to documents on topics such as writing a book review. There are also Learning Games and Activities: hundreds of fun and interactive games and activities to help students with subjects like Math, Science, and Social Studies. Both versions are updated monthly with new online-only articles. There is a Workspace for managing projects and many timelines and tutorials regarding people, events, and places in history.

The current edition is fully integrated with the Internet. Apart from articles about new topics and personalities in the news, it offers additional and timely content and revisions on a dedicated Web site. The digital product includes a staggering number of links (166,808!) to third party content and articles on the Web. The GeoAnalyzer, which compares national statistical data and generates charts and graphs, is now Web-based and greatly enhanced.

The Britannica would do well to offer a browser add-on search bar and to integrate with desktop search tools from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and others. Currently it offers search results through Google but this requires the user to install add-ons or plug-ins and to go through a convoluted rite of passage. A seamless experience is in the cards. Users must and will be able to ferret content from all over – their desktop, their encyclopedias, and the Web – using a single, intuitive interface.

Some major and minor gripes:

I couldn’t find a way to install all three encyclopaedias at the same time. Households with adults and children may need different versions of the Britannica installed on the same computer.

The Britannica DVD cannot be downloaded as a DRM-protected ISO or EXE file from the Internet. In an age of widespread broadband this is a curious omission of a powerful, all-pervasive distribution channel. The Britannica DVD – now available only in India – could also be distributed through marketing affiliates in the dozens of developing countries where postal services are dysfunctional or non-existent.

The atlas, dictionary, and thesaurus incorporated in the Britannica are still surprisingly outdated. Why not use a more current – and dynamically updated – offerings (perhaps team up with Google)? What about dictionaries for specialty terms (medical or computer glossaries, for instance)?

Despite considerable improvements over the previous editions, the Britannica still consumes (not to say hogs) computer resource far in excess of the official specifications. This makes it less suitable for installation on older PCs and on netbooks. If you own a machine with anything earlier than Pentium 4, less than 1 Gb RAM, and fewer than 10 Gb of really free space, the Britannica would be clunky at best. It is not available for Windows XP and earlier operating systems.

But that’s it. Don’t think twice. Run to the closest retail outlet (or surf to the Britannica’s Web site) and purchase the 2014 edition now. It offers excellent value for money. For less than the price of an antivirus software and for a fraction of the cost of Windows 7, you will significantly enhance your access to the sum total of human knowledge and wisdom.

With the demise of Microsoft’s Encarta (it has been discontinued) and the tribulations of Wikipedia (its rules have been revamped to resemble a traditional encyclopedia, alienating its contributors in the process), the Encyclopedia Britannica 2016 (established in 1768) may have already won the battle of reference.

Britannica Guides and CD-ROMs

Britannica guides come in two forms: books and CD-ROMs. By now, the range of titles and issues tackled is staggering: from climate change to Renaissance artists. I have written extensively and have read widely on many of the topics, but have yet to find more balanced and roundly-informed offerings than The Britannica’s. A typical print guide sports 400+ pages, densely packed with state-of-the-art data and research, the Britannica team having covered every conceivable aspect, bringing to the fore the most current knowledge; the most recent studies; the most erudite interlocutors; and the hardest of facts.

Take, as an example, the Britannica Guide to Climate Change, a typical product: it starts with an edifying vade mecum: an introduction by the eminent scientist, Robert M. May. While clearly on the side of environmentalists, he is no starry-eyed tree hugger but a hard-nosed scientist, worried sick about our abuse of our only planet, Earth. This is followed by concise but comprehensive chapters dedicated to climate, climate change, and weather forecasting; the changing planet (land, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and the decline in biodiversity); and an overview of ideas and arguments about the environment, replete with a synoptic sweep of history and prominent thinkers. Finally, the book charts our (relative) progress and what more needs to be done, including an overview of all available alternative energy technologies. The book is refreshing in its objectivity and candor. It refrains from taking sides or from preaching. This does not mean that it is a soulless inventory of data: on the contrary, it is yet another passionate plea to save our planet and our future. But it addresses our brains rather than our hearts and this makes for a welcome departure from contemporary practices.

The CD-ROMs are actually compilations of topic-specific content – both text and visuals – from the Encyclopedia Britannica. The Encyclopedia is sprawling and, despite its exhaustive internal hyperlinks, the chances of missing out on relevant content are high and the effort required in tracking down all the branches of its tree of knowledge is considerable. Britannica’s CD-ROMs come to the rescue. Consider, for example, the “Discovering Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Life” disc: it aggregates hundreds of articles about dinosaurs, ancient plants, ancient marine life, ancient amphibians, reptiles, and birds, ancient mammals, fossils, paleontology, geologic time, and pertinent biographies. The disc contains hundreds of videos, animations, and images as well as homework tools and research organizers. The CD-ROM constitutes an ideal – and guided – tour of the treasure trove that is the Encyclopedia Britannica. It is easy to install and comes with a 30-day free trial of the Britannica Online.

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

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