Geo, I do recognize that you are reviewing the big picture differently from 'standard' physicists, and I am definitively interested in your perspectives and information.
Because I start from a mechanical/structural reality, I see where our words do not always match up, and that is still the confusing part for me. You are using words I do not work with. One choice is therefore to communicate until we recognize the words the other person is using, and adjust our writing to accommodate the other.
First off, everything depends on the model first. If we start out from energy, then we end up with a different model than when we start up with matter.
Starting with energy, we end up with two forms of matter that neither are self-based, the quarks and the electrons. The quarks forming the neutrons and protons end up providing us a self-based, linear, secondary reality, much like Zeus conquering the realm of his father, capturing yet not killing Cronus. The electrons on the other hand are distinct; they never become anything other but (non-linear) energy, with as exception that they are pulled into the linear environment. From the perspective of Energy, the damaged energy took over the leading role, while it is with Energy that we need to form the big-picture level (and accept that part of it is in the non-visible realm).
Starting with matter instead, we end up with scientific concepts that are real but not the essence, and yet taken as the foundation. We can see smalltime Mathematical 1s in planets and stars, even in solar systems and galaxies. Yet there is no Mathematical 1 for all matter in the universe.
I hope you see how starting with energy or starting with matter changes the perspective about the whole. We can end up never seeing the actual big-picture level because we focus on the visible parts and then declare that they inform us fully about the big picture.
I do understand better now why you like time dilation. You have a function for it. You need that function because particles need to be limited in their speeds. I find that interesting because I don't need time dilation; I just need drag of some kind and then we are done.
So, I am glad you liked the silver slivers. But you are trying to still link it with time dilation. I believe you are trying to explain two systems that are happening at the same time as if they are one system. What would happen if you just threw away the idea of time dilation? I am convinced the entire image remains intact. In short (but correct me if I am wrong), it appears that you are doing too much and that the story is therefore simpler.
For me the discussion about c is not that interesting. Who cares if there is something faster than the speed of light? I see no importance in knowing that; it does not inform the big picture.
Did Einstein consider it a special condition where he should not have done that? That appears to be the case. But my assessment is that he tried to explain Spacetime to others and then ran himself into the ground because he could not explain how the others should construct the correct big picture in their minds. I think he gave up and let it hang. In other words, Spacetime was a tool for him and he could not explain this to others without getting himself sucked into the quicksand of other people's minds.
Let me mention Gödel here, because there was something weird going on. He gave us his two Incompleteness Theorems, which I declare here as showing there is no Mathematical 1, and yet he subsequently delivered an idea about the universe as if the universe were a Mathematical 1 for real.
He suggested that the universe as a whole could spin.
This is a total undermining of his two Incompleteness Theorems (in light of their denying the existence of a Mathematical 1). He presented an idea that turned the universe into a unit of some kind. It does not matter that the idea was a brain fart; he envisioned it in his mind, which tells me that his mind was not made up according to the two incompleteness theorems he gave us.
My conclusion is that he stumbled into his two Incompleteness Theorems for other reasons (like curiosity about systems) and did not draw the ultimate conclusion about the universe from it.
Back to Einstein, I can see how the both of them formed a rather accurate big picture, except for the big picture itself. They did not place the big picture on its own level. They continued to unify everything they had in their minds, and did not recognize that their minds themselves had to be aligned in that same manner then as well.
Do you see it? You probably do, but allow me to dwell on this a bit.
The brain is a tool. And if we do not recognize the Santa spot inside our brain, then we will conjure a reality in which Santa lives among us all year round.
The point I am trying to make (and claim) is that Gödel and Einstein did not see where their Santa occurred inside their brains.
Gödel figured out the two Incompleteness Theorems, but his Santa prevented him from applying it to the universe as a whole. Gödel did not have his own brain in order, not-using the two Incompleteness Theorems as guidelines.
Einstein figured out Spacetime, but his Santa prevented him from seeing how this did not mean that light as the fastest speed is the god-moment we all were waiting for. Einstein did not have his own brain in order, not-using his Spacetime as guideline.
They did not apply their own findings to their own brains.
Yes, it is always a strange area to discuss one's brain (especially someone else's brain) and we may think we all think alike (i.e. we don't discuss it).
Geo, I hope you understand that I am still working on the big-picture model here with you in this reply. Of interest is first how we made up our own minds. It informs us so much about what we view.
Based on this, some more remarks.
When you write that "a valid idea must be true in all cases and all scales," then we have a fundamental problem. The truth is the truth only in its declared context. Blue is something specific in the paint store, and blue is something else -specific as well- on the couch with the shrink. Never ever can we say that we captured a truth, truthful in all cases and all scales, because we have to align the contents with the context.
The Mathematical 1 is not available, so we can't claim that a valid idea must be true in all cases and all scales because that demands the existence of a Mathematical 1.
There is no overall truth. As above, so below is a falsehood, a brain fart. We are trained in life to go for the unifying outcome as our only overarching truth (be it currency, language, religion), but these do not exists at the actual overall level.
We will not agree on the big picture unless we agree that there are specific realms that collectively cannot be made the same as a Mathematical 1. Then, we can discuss the specific realms and their contents.
Let me introduce the pyramid model here, and place the four specific forces as the four corner stones: weak nuclear force, strong nuclear force, electric force, and the magnetic force. Since they were unified in the GUT, there should not be an issue to see the four expressed parts each by themselves in the larger setting.
The one force missing is the gravitational force. But it is right there, existing in the Mathematical 2 level.
Exchange the specific forces with red, blue, yellow and green as the four corner stones of the pyramid, and next follow them into the pyramid where these colors blend. We end up with a gray mixture inside the pyramid. If we review the gray area all by itself, we do not have a pyramid, but rather we have a cone.
The secret object inside the pyramid is the cone.
And the cone is the tool for gravity. Cut slices in a cone, and you can see the motions of celestial bodies: circle, ellipse, parabola, hyperbola.
What this tells us is that gravity is the secondary outcome, the synergistic effect of the other forces. Built from but nevertheless truly distinct from the other forces.
Gray is a distinct color (some would not call it a color) that came about after the specific colors got mixed.
Once we have gray, then we have to recognize two systems: One is the color system that also contains gray; the other is the Black&White system that also contains gray. Neither system is the only system there is. They are both distinct systems. But they do have gray in common.
If we swap gray for gravity, then we have two systems in which to consider gravity; one in which gravity is the synergistic outcome of the specific forces, and the other in which gravity is the generic middle ground between motion and standstill.
Quick jump: Because matter took the leading role, we have an inverse in the big picture called Energy.
When we look at the materialization process, then the ensuing speed of all matter moving outwardly is the fastest speed (using the standard model in this case). It is at this level of speed that we find additional speeds of a different character.
The issue with these additional speeds is that they do not add to the general fastest speed nor do they subtract. Matter is found in two systems; they are simply in their own reality of circling just as well.
If we view the solar system 4.6 billion years ago, then matter would not have come together due to gravity, but due to the circling motions that the proto-solar system was involved in. The largest dead zone found in the center helped form the sun because this is where most matter ended up collecting itself; the various smaller circles experiencing a material build-up in their own dead zones helped form the planets. Pretty sure (in my mind that is) that all the debris in between is from fully formed proto- and mini-planets that ended up smashing into each other along the way (plus whatever foreign matter ended up entering the solar system).
The larger point being that the single direction, the fastest speed we are involved in, is still the paramount 'force' controlling the entire setting. Yet, once we move toward the specific celestial bodies, they are the main focus, their own formation based not on the fastest speed but on the internal speed differentiations.
Do you see the two levels I am talking about? The fastest speed is not related to the specific speeds of sun&planets. They happen at the same time, not distinctly related.
The cylinder with water and the silver slivers:
The cylinder is the same as the single direction of the fastest speed. It is not a something; it is an action, and this action informs the somethings we call matter found inside the setting.
The water is the energized setting itself floating outwardly at that fastest speed, but also circling itself. It has (at minimum) two actions.
The silver slivers are Matter and this is where the water and the silver slivers have a communal reality because there is some water inside the silver slivers as well.
The reply is too long. I wish we could meet up in person and talk, but this is second best.
Thank you for your replies.