Saturday, March 24, 2007

Time Is An Illusion?

For some odd reason, there seems to be a lot of such discussion on the internet, be it in some crackpot website, or on various online forums. And the strange thing about it is that, more often than not, such a discussion is based on, of all things, philosophical arguments and not on physical grounds at all! Most argued that time is a construct of the human mind (as if the rest of what we observe isn't), and that it isn't as "fundamental" as space, etc. In almost all cases, these arguments seem to have overlooked (or maybe they are ignorant of them) a large body of knowledge in physics, and inevitably, never try to address the dynamics of the universe without "time".

Now this is not to say that there isn't a legitimate question on this. One of the things that we try to decipher about the universe is the question on how many fundamental constants are there. Constants such as the fine structure constant can be dimensionless, and thus, such a constant is not dependent on our measuring scale. What ever is the most minimum set of constants that we need to completely describe the universe that we are aware of, then the dimension of such constants will require the minimum corresponding scale. For example, if the speed of light is a fundamental constant, then the concept of both space AND time is the most minimum set of dimensions that we require to allow for "c", since it is a measurement of how much space light has moved in a particular period of time. You cannot simply have just space or just time to be able to define "c" as a quantity.

So what would be the impetus for someone to claim that time is an illusion or isn't fundamental? The most common and most feeble argument that I have seen is the application of Special Relativity's consequence that time "can change" with respect to an observer in different inertial frames. This includes the time dilation effect, and the inability to agree on what is "simultaneous". The other most common argument is the notion that time is nothing more than a measure of displacement, and so, space is more fundamental.

Here, I am not going to try and argue that time isn't fundamental, or time isn't an illusion. We still haven't figured out yet what is meant by an "illusion", since such a word seemed perfectly obvious to the people involved in the philosophical discussion (no one asked the definition of the word, at least not that I have seen). It certainly isn't a physics concept. What I will try to do is point out holes and inconsistencies in such an idea, and that most of these people are actually missing huge chunks of physics that they are ignoring in putting forth their argument. So essentially, this could easily be another "Imagination Without Knowledge is Ignorance Waiting to Happen" entry.

1. Time changes in Special Relativity.
Sure it does! But so does space! Time dilation AND length contraction are two of the consequences of the postulates of Special Relativity. So why pick on time alone?

2. Time is simply a measure of displacement.
How would you actually MEASURE spatial distances? How does one determine Point A is at some distance away from Point B? Use a ruler? How did we arrive at that ruler? What if the distance is huge? Inevitably, this will lead to using light (as Einstein did) in DEFINING what we mean by space and time. That the idea of space is based on the distance that light traveled in a particular period of time, and the idea of time also follows in the same manner. So here, space and time are certainly interlocked, and one isn't more fundamental than the other.

3. In Special and General Relativity, time and space occupy the same degree of importance. They share the same platform, and they are interconnected as the Minkowsky spacetime manifold. So someone who claims time is an illusion or isn't fundamental seems to have ignored or dismissed SR and GR, and did so without any explanation.

4. In elementary particle physics, the concept of space and time are contained in the P and T symmetry (for parity and time). The generally accepted idea out of the Standard Model is that CPT (C=charge conjugation) symmetry is conserved, while we have seen CP and T being violated separately. Regardless of whether we eventually see CPT violation, the fact that the time symmetry operation shares the same degree of importance as parity and charge as one of the fundamental symmetries of the universe seems to have been lost in this argument. Why is such an issue never brought up and explained away?

5. In many well-known phenomena, the appearance of violation of time-reversal symmetry indicates the existence of a profound transition. The transition from the normal state into a superconducting state in unconventional superconductors is one such example. The broken time-reversal symmetry is an important clue on the transition point of such a phenomenon. If this is an "illusion", someone has a lot of explaining to do.

6. Radioactive decay doesn't care if we have a "mind" or not. It will take the same amount of time no matter if we designate time as fundamental or an illusion. Considering that at a single nuclear level, this is a random process and yet as a conglomerate of nuclei, they all somehow "know" the decay rate that they have to "obey", I'd say that these nuclei know about "time" and respect it.

These arguments are just the beginning. For some reason, most of those who are involved in such arguments never seem to address any of these issues, but rather seem to think that one can arrive at a conclusion simply based on "logic" and word games. Somehow, evidence and observation of our physical world aren't an important factor in deciding such a thing. Or maybe they know that they can't address these points and decide to ignore them.

Zz.

63 comments:

Anonymous said...

interesting post

Jenna said...

What would you say about time below the Planck scale; since that is the most fundamental measurement of reality?

ZapperZ said...

I have the same thing to say with space below the Planck scale - we'll deal with it when we get there!

Again, the main point that I was trying to get across is that every "issues" that one has with time, I can bring out the same with space. Yet, I don't see anyone claiming that length or space as being an illusion.

Zz.

Michael said...

Phisics does not need time and space, only phisicists do.
1. The question to answer is not "is time real or not". It is: Time, Space and Mathematics are pure constructs of the human mind, invented in order of better survival chances or more efficient discovery of one's environments, or they existed somehow soon before our evolution-produced minds. Results of cognitive science tend to show the former relating mathemetics.
2. Radioactive decay: atoms do not have means to "decide" (??) when to decay. Average decay time is a human construct also.
3. If our minds are products of evolution, the question what exists independently of our minds can be put and has to be answered.

ZapperZ said...

That makes no sense!

By your "definition", physics is also a "human" construct. So then, what's the problem? If that is the case, then EVERYTHING, even your opinion, is nothing more than a "human" construct, which makes this whole argument moot and we can just all go home.

The fact that SOMEONE needs to do SOMETHING to be able to have a QUANTITATIVE description of our world so that YOU can enjoy the modern conveniences today, means that we need all of these so-called "human construct" to understand our world.

Zz.

Michael said...

Thank you very much for your fast reflexion. I used the word, „phisics” as the existing universe without humanity. The universe existed without mankind, and will exist in case we succeed in blowing to pieces our mother-earth. What with maths, time, space, language etc? In what form existed it before we came in the picture and will exist after us? I have no opinion, I am simply interested. Roots of my interest: I work in the AI field. I try to find out why supercomputers get in trouble with owerflow, and our brain (just another finite automaton?) does not. One possible, but not very promising point may be the time element. I read everything about time I could find, and got nowhere. Hi and thanks once more
Michael
P.S. I am a hungarian, excuse for my english.

ZapperZ said...

Still, your comment did not make any sense. Whether we are present or not, the inverse square law for gravity will still be true. An alien elsewhere may have a different "mathematics" or different description of the universe, but if we both measure the same quantity, we may give it different numbers and different units, but we both should agree, no matter what, on how it behaves, and PREDICT where it would be at a later "time" or number of oscillations of Cs atom.

Such things are NOT dependent on "human construct", because these were obtained not by inventing, but by OBSERVING what the universe tells us. The celestial orbits and radioactive decay are not human constructs, and will occur either human, alien, or nothing else for that matter is observing it.

So yes, I thoroughly disagree with you. And I am not in AI, but rather in physics itself, and that is how I based my opinion on.

BTW, it is "physics", not Phisics, at least, not in English.

Zz.

roger said...

I have read your article and have 2 questions

1) all we observe as human beings is a certain causality within the universe; in order to describe this we need a formalism (dimensions); and here we have invented the time (and space) concept. Can you agree with this approach ?

2)we are not able to define the fundamental dimensions; otherwise they would not be fundamental; it means that these dimensions can only be defined in a relative way; maybe this explains why we need relativity to describe what happens in our universe. What is your viewpoint on this ?

ZapperZ said...

1. I don't think we "invent" space and time. I do think we discover that our universe has this "frame". Whether that is required for "causality", that I have no idea.

2. Your second question is rather confusing. Why does something "fundamental" implies we can't define it? If we can't define it, how do we know it's fundamental? We know that something such as the fine structure constant is quite fundamental. Yet, we can define what it is, and even give it a quantity.

People have misused relativity often by arguing that everything is "relative". This is incorrect. There are such a thing as INVARIANT quantities in relativity (and other areas that have gauge invariance). It is why we have invariant length and invariant mass in physics. When we deal with such concept, we really don't have to care how such a thing is observed.

Zz.

Greg said...

All very interesting. I searched for, and found this, because there's an article about time being illusory in the upcoming NewScientist magazine (Jan 19 2008 edition). I haven't read it yet as it's due on newstands tomorrow here in Sydney.

On your point about radioactive decay. Each atom decays randomly (timewise) as you mentioned, but surely they have no collective "knowledge" or awareness of time? The observed decay rate of a lump of the material must surely therefore be an averaging effect that we are seeing.

If they are being described as having a collective knowledge or awareness of time, then someone has a lot of explaining to do!

ZapperZ said...

But still, collectively, they know how long it will take for half of them to decay. This isn't an "illusion" because it isn't something we imagine. It is highly reproducible.

Zz.

Jac said...

Very interesting read. I think most people get it wrong from a conceptual standpoint and due to issues with the vocabulary.

I'm no physicist but I do read as much as I can on the topic. This may help some of the crystal-rock worshipers in understanding.

It's not that time itself is an illusion. It's the concepts of 'present' and 'simultaneity' that Einstein threw out the window in the potty bowl.

Within relativity, it was shown that two different observers can disagree on the order of events. Such as in the famous 'train paradox.' Only people moving with the same inertial frame of reference will agree. Others will not!

This disagreement on the order of events and failure of simultaneity can be taken a step further when you consider the various constructs that seem to allow for time travel. Such as a wormhole. The ability exists to travel into the past and the future via these, linking also vast stretches of space. How can I travel into a future that doesn't yet exist?

What does it suggest about past, present and future?

They most certainly exist. We're flowing from the past into the future at this very moment. But it seems as though everything that will happen in the universe already -has- but we just don't know it yet!

So time is far from an illusion, but 'simultaneity' and 'present' certainly are.

Anonymous said...

if einstin was correct then according to his theory, there is no flow of time for the photons coz they travel at c. Also according to quantum mechanics there is a finite possibility ( what so ever small it is ) of finding a particle in any part of the universe. It means that there is only a single photon in the world which is present every where.

ZapperZ said...

This is a problem when you only learn ONE part of a theory and ignore the rest. I'm going to use the basic, naive application of Special Relativity here and ignoring all the issues surrounding the validity of the interpretation of "length contraction" and "time dilation".

The "time dilation" being applied here is this: if a photon happens to carry a clock, then someone in another inertial reference frame would see that clock as not moving. It appears, FROM THE VIEW OF THIS PERSON (NOT THE PHOTON), that the photon's clock is not moving.

Now, one can also apply the "length contraction" scenario, because here, from the point of view of the photon, the universe has a length of ZERO. This means that you do not have the ability to say "... a single photon in the world which is present every where...", because "world" and "everywhere" makes no sense when there is no dimensions to talk about! This is what I meant when I said that you only looked at this from one view but forgot to look at other issues when you apply your limited knowledge.

Physics cannot be learned and applied in bits and pieces. It doesn't work that way. As you tweak something, other things also occur.

Zz.

Mr Wang Says So said...

It didn't seem to me that you proved that time is not an illusion. In fact, many of your arguments seem to prove that space AND time are both illusions.

Well at least that seems consistent with the principle of nonlocality etc.

In your last paragraph, you wrote:

"For some reason, most of those who are involved in such arguments never seem to address any of these issues, but rather seem to think that one can arrive at a conclusion simply based on "logic" and word games. Somehow, evidence and observation of our physical world aren't an important factor in deciding such a thing."

Hmmm. I think you might be mistaken. For example, in the framework of those people you're referring to, observation is usually quite a key element. Observation is linked to consciousness, and consciousness etc goes back to the point about time being a construct of the mind.

As for "illusion", well, for a working definition you might go with something like this:

"an apparent state of reality the perception of which is generated by our senses operating in what would conventionally be regarded as normal".

That definition may take you down some interesting roads to explore.

ZapperZ said...

Then you have just argued that our whole universe is an illusion, including what you have just said here (try and argue why non of our fundamental constant is an illusion based on what you've just said). This is why I have no patience with such "philosophical musing". While philosophers continue to run around in circles arguing if such-and-such is real or an "illusion", the rest of physics have moved on to other things that actually work.

Zz.

vanwash said...

Is space just something that happens in time? Can one exist without the other?

James Orman said...

I would define time as the change in state of an object, with each state remembered. Memory is only a state of an object caused from the changes of other objects.

A measurement of time is a comparison of two changing objects. Such as measuring the time it takes to run from one place to the other with a watch. Both the runner, and watch must be in a state of change.

panahpena said...

Without time, there are no existent... time allow us to exist within timeframe of our life. Time allow space to exist for us to explore. WE can explore space if we have... time. So, forget about fundamental or philosophers, if time exist everything exist. Lifetime stop once you die, but others continue thiers until they die, when everything dead... GOD has taken back HIS time given to all mortal in this world. That it!

Anonymous said...

Could time be the "Dark Energy"? Maybe it's a step ahead (in time) of all we can sense and it is energizing and pulling the rest of the universe along with it as expansion goes on. Seems like this would explain a lot problems.

sam said...

Interesting posts... to be honest, I saw the mention of time as an issusion on today's dilbert (4/17/09), googled it and this was probably the first hit. I can understand and apperciate both sides of the arguments, but some of the posters have gone too deep into it and have not been able to clearly communicate what they were thinking.

Anyways, I believe everyhting is an illution depeneding on the perspective from which you look at it; at least that is the spiritual perspective. Form a personal perspective, that is probably the only way to jump to the next (higher) quantum level of of your 'evolution' i.e. if you believe in that perspective (taht time and everything is an illusion). Remember, as Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem (in this case of 'self improvement') at te level at which it was created.

sam said...

Interesting posts... to be honest, I saw the mention of time as an issusion on today's dilbert (4/17/09), googled it and this was probably the first hit. I can understand and apperciate both sides of the arguments, but some of the posters have gone too deep into it and have not been able to clearly communicate what they were thinking.

Anyways, I believe everyhting is an illution depeneding on the perspective from which you look at it; at least that is the spiritual perspective. Form a personal perspective, that is probably the only way to jump to the next (higher) quantum level of of your 'evolution' i.e. if you believe in that perspective (taht time and everything is an illusion). Remember, as Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem (in this case of 'self improvement') at te level at which it was created.

shamzingi said...

ZapperZ...would you agree that time and space...that both are an illusion?...and yes...i guess that would literally mean that everything we experience is therefore illusion...about constants...you have a good point...but my question is this...we scientists and philosophers don't really know what existed before the big bang...and apparently...after the big bang...we infer that time and space begun...so time and space may be an illusion after all...i mean what if the universe began to contract to point 0 and space 0?...i know we cannot scientifically or philosophically solve this issue because we simply have no way of knowing what was before the big bang...all i'm saying is that perhaps you should leave room for the possibility that time and space together might be an illusion...

another way i have tried to think of this is that...if time and space are an illusion...then there is no true way of distinguishing anything from anything...what i mean is...right "now" everything is the same thing...since no point A can be distinguished from a point B...so if time and space were illusion...then i am writing to myself and the screen you are reading this on os you...and so is everything indistinguishable from anything?...i understand your strictly physics stand point but im thinking you might leave some consideration for the notion of space-time illusion since even physics or any science can go before the big bang...

ZapperZ said...

Take something that you KNOW to be an illusion. Now tell me, are you willing to put your life and the lives of your loved ones on it? Honestly?

A mirage is an illusion. Would you bet your life on it?

An illusion is not reproducible. Our knowledge of time and space ARE reproducible. Just check your GPS system and how airplanes depend on it.

If space and time, which we know so well, are illusions, then why not your idea, which has less quantitative validation? Your assertion that space and time are illusions could itself be an illusion.

Zz.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this informative blog !
You are obviously well qualified to argue that our current knowledge is correct. Understandably, you also hold your views very firmly. Five hundred years ago, the accepted theory was that the Earth was flat and the Sun went around it. Clearly, our view has changed and I suggest that it will continue to evolve. What to ? I don't know !
niGe

ZapperZ said...

Er... back up a bit.

I may have implied that our current knowledge is valid within the range that we have understood it, but it would be wrong to say that our current knowledge is "correct". There's nothing to say that there won't be an even more general description beyond what we know of today.

Still, based on ALL of what we know now, it would be hard-pressed for someone to argue using established knowledge that "time is an illusion". Anyone arguing for it will have to use non-established physics and speculation. Such things are seldom valid challenges to established and valid physics.

In fact, Lee Smolin's later argument against multiple universes basically argued that time HAS to be real!

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/indepth/39306

Zz.

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for the fascinating Smolin article. I liked the comments on it too.

Capable humans can think outside the box, but they cannot think outside the mind. The mind is programmed by evolution, genetics, language and education and is limited by the same.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing with you. I don't know the truth. I simply have a curious mind which I try to keep as open as possible.

niGe

Anonymous said...

I think when philosophers say time is an illusion, they don't mean it doesn't exist, but that the idea of time "flowing" is a human construct. Physics tells us that there are 4 dimensions. In our ordinary lives, we see these as the three spatial dimensions, and one time dimension. But physically, does it make any sense to separate out the dimensions? Surely it makes sense only to speak of invariant quantities, like the space-time interval. So you can see, something like the flow of time, is illusory, since time is inextricably linked with space.

ZapperZ said...

If time is an "illusion" because we can't separate out time from space, then how come no one is arguing that space is also an illusion? After all, space can't be separated from time either!

Remember, one of my points was that if time is an illusion, so is space!

Zz.

Anonymous said...

ZZ,

Lot's of good thinking here. Thanks. It's certainly possible that the "time is an illusion" crowd are on to something but, unfortunately as you point out, a little bit of physics is a dangerous thing. By picking and choosing bits of physics that fit their theories they deprive themselves of genuine, and potentially fruitful investigation. I would suggest that a more useful line of inquiry is that time and space are a proxy for something else rather than an illusion.

Cheers, Kip

Anonymous said...

if time is simply a measurement of motion in space (motion of everything from atoms to planets), is it therefore secondary or not elementary to understanding our universe? time dilation only occurs under the assumption that time is real. one could just as easily say that the faster one travels, the slower the atoms, etc move and decay in one's body, therefore slowing the aging process.

ZapperZ said...

Who says that it is simply a motion in space? Try looking at the definition of space, and "time" would play a part in it as well. Besides, if you have a problem with time dilation, what about length contraction? So it is not just time that "suffers" from the same fate. So why pick on time only?

Zz.

Mr G said...

Hey guys keep it up. it is likely that you all could actually produce a greater understanding of space/time. I wish I could contribute to the discussion but meanwhile at least one ignorant physics lover is enjoying the blog

Anonymous said...

length and space are part of time so i guess it would be much more useful to say time is an illusion

ZapperZ said...

That makes no sense. If length and space are PART of Time, then if time is "an illusion", then so are length and space. By your logic, they are both a subset of "time"!

So that's why I asked in my article, why pick on time ONLY?

Zz.

Anonymous said...

How over the top is this belief.

Philosophy is the fountain head of all knowledge and the creator of all language. That can cause a problem that I would explain this way. How a term of language is defined places a limitation on the use of the Term. It is not that Space & Time cannot be unified in concept, it is that the established terms used in accomplishing this require an amended definition and concept. I refer to terms such as Measure, Interval, Event, Duration, Separation, Change, Motion, Infinity, among others.

ZapperZ said...

I think your claim that Philosophy is the "fountain head" of all knowledge" is also over the top.

Philosophy does not have a monopoly on how something is defined. It may have some say on the everyday usage of the word, but not on the scientific usage of the word. Every concept and definition in physics has an underlying mathematical definition and formalism. None of these appeal to or receive guidance from any form of "philosophy". In fact, formal philosophy carries no weight in how physics is done today.

It was Feynman who famously said "Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds".

Zz.

Baron von Marcus said...

ZapperZ, I too find myself extremely frustrated by the relation between "formal philosophy" and physics as it is done today... As a physics major, I find myself in philosophy elective courses thinking "Why are we still discussing whether or not an infinite quantity of infinitely small yet finite intervals converge? Didn't we prove this with calculus? What more is there to say?"

That being said, I do see both sides of the issue and I feel that you are immature in your dismissal of the space-time illusion problem. I will grant you that if one is illusory so is the other. I have come to the same conclusion myself, and it is fairly straightforward. Concerning time itself however:

What of JME McTaggart's argument for the unreality of time? That is, we can agree without a doubt that events occur and exist--that is, particles are in certain arrangements of hold certain charges and energies and so on. If we arrange these events in a series (let us denote it the B-series), then this series itself exhibits no change.

That is, it does not matter specifically what each EVENT actually is or describes. All that matters is that the B-series, like the series of natural numbers, is simply a series of events which are ordered: E1, E2, E3.... These could represent anything, but the order of the events never changes. Therefore, the B-series can NOT be time, since we observe that the most distinguishing characteristic of time is that of indexing change.

Therefore, we introduce an A-series, which we may describe as the relationship of past, present, and future. It is moving with respect to the B-series, through a pre-described series of events. However, since the RELATION of these two series describes time (and not just B-series itself), the B-series can be said to be eternal; and therefore, any properties of the events, and objects involved etc. may be said to be eternal as well.

Now the "flow" of time is described by the movement of the A-series, which essentially brings the properties of being in the past, present or future to the events of the B-series. That is, eventually, every event must have all of these properties. The problem is when we consider that these events and their properties are eternal: every event is always, has always, and always will be past, present AND future. Now either the A- or B-series must be untrue; and since we have already staunchly held that the B-series is real and testable, it must be the A-series. That is, the FLOW of time is unreal, while the contradiction that defines the CHANGE that occurs with it is real.

I would like to hear your own criticism before I endeavor to describe how I have reconciled this with A. Prior's argument for a REAL time based on objective observation and the dimensionality of space-time.

-M.S.

ZapperZ said...

1. If time is an illusion, then so is space. If everyone AGREES with that, then I have zero problem. It is when they pick on time, but ignores space (which has the SAME issue as time if one looks at it carefully) that I find to be inconsistent.

2. I don't quite understand your example. The fact that there is an ORDERED event appears more to support my argument that this isn't an illusion. The very fact that, in many arguments, the arrow of time is an essential part of various descriptions (example: entropy) makes for an interesting consideration. If time is an illusion, so are many of these principles. Again, if one wants to argue that, yes, these principles are also an illusion, then we can all go home and sleep in peace.

My most fundamental argument is to look at the various fundamental constants. Not look at proposed theories that still can't or haven't been verified yet, but what we have NOW, TODAY. Considering that the speed of light is defined to be EXACT (see CODATA and NIST standards for how this is defined), then the fact that it requires the knowledge of space (a distance traveled) within a period of time (the time it has traveled), then I want to hear an argument on why one can somehow get away with arguing that something within the most fundamental constant that we have is actually nothing more than a mirage that we see on a hot pavement!

When was the last time you depended your life on an illusion?

Zz.

Squiptryx said...

You write that the "time is an illusion" rubbish is based "philosophical" arguments. This is misleading (and insulting) since there is no accepted body of work in philosophy that supports this absurd idea. It is true that some people in philosophy do advance absurd ideas, but, although the idiot ratio may indeed be higher in philosophy than it is in science, there are idiots in science also. What appears to be happening here is is a logical discussion, and logic belongs to science and philosophy equally.

Squiptryx said...

To put it more succinctly, philosophers do not say that time is an illusion. People who lack the ability to reason carefully say that. With some notable exceptions, philosophers tend to be people selected for their ability to reason carefully and to understand the meaning of that they are saying.

Mr G said...

perhaps we should be focusing on space-time as there is no such thing as just time. this may help in understanding the illusion aspect of time, which is a valid consideration and should not be treated lightly.

ZapperZ said...

Or perhaps people should DEFINE what an ILLUSION is and see if "time" fits into it. Time is not an illusion in the same sense as a mirage. It would be utterly silly to make them the same. You don't use a mirage as a physical basis of many phenomena. Yet, you do with time, especially when a phenomenon exhibit broken time reversal symmetry.

People throw out all of these statements without bothering to make physical definition of such a thing, much less, physical justification for such statements.

Zz.

Squiptryx said...

For a _philosophical_ perspective, I wrote this as a follow-up essay prompt for one of my students who included the phrase "time is an illusion" in his paper about determinism. http://www.madwizard.com/timeillusion.htm

Although I don't clearly separate "time as a dimension" from "time as flow of events across the time dimension", I think the prompt basically questions the bases of both versions of the "time is an illusion" myth.

lostbear87 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ZapperZ said...

That makes no sense. Change that to space and I can make the IDENTICAL ARGUMENT. So now, based on your logic, space doesn't exist either, because what does a "ruler" measure.

You are confusing measurement apparatus with the quantity itself.

Zz.

Andrei said...

The greatest and most basic principle of relativity is that space-time is relative.

Since space-time is relative and what we percieve as reality is actualy space-time in some form or another. Then we can say everything is relative(including our own thoughts opinions and ideas).

So the good thing that comes out of all this discussion ( which has lasted for almost 4 years now)is that : Time itself is not an illusion but our traditional view of it IS.

The fact that we think we know what past present and future is, is an illusion such as the theory of relativity proved with the fact that space-time depends on the inertial frame of the observer.

Of course this can be aplied to space as well and everything in existence for that matter.

This puts the socratic quote : "I know that I know nothing" in a whole new light.

Squiptryx said...

Andrei, The traditional view of time is not an illusion. It's not exactly correct, but the difference between different observers' time-experiences is so small as to be negligible under all circumstances. It's true that if you drive your Maserati to the next town and back at 90mph you will experience less time than I will while I wait for you with a cappuccino and a good book, but the difference will be undetectable without a pair of atomic clocks. Neither of us will be experiencing an illusion. Relativity does not imply that our ability to sort events into past, present and future is an illusion. Events we experience as past really are past. Present ones are present while they happen, and the future is composed of events that will happen but haven't happened yet. Where's the illusion there? What event we experience as being in the past is really in the future? For Relativity to imply that something is an illusion it has to imply that something that appears to be X is really Y. What is your X and Y here?

Groove Talking... said...

It seems to me that anything you would not agree with would be Crackpottery. How can science make advancement if you never consider (out of the box) ideas?

ZapperZ said...

No. How about reading MORE of this blog before you say that?

For example, read my series of posts on "Imagination without knowledge is ignorance waiting to happen"? Your complaint has been addressed in there! There is a difference between making wild speculation BASED ON IGNORANCE, versus intelligent speculation that is done in science. Once you can tell the difference, then come back and tell me you still hold what you just asked me.

Zz.

paul burton said...

How can the mind understand something it cant see, hear, taste or smell.All it can do is measure the effects.the rest is imagination wether it be physics or philosophy.when we fully understand the cause of time we will find the answer.all anyone is doing here is arguing different opinions of something that isnt understood.HOW CLEVER IS THAT !!!!

ZapperZ said...

What is "not understood"?

Note that you DEPEND your life on us knowing how to quantify time. How do you think your GPS work? How do you think we get correct timing on your electronics?

It is silly to say that we don't understand time. We DO! Time not being a solid object has nothing to do with us being able to understand it nor not. F=ma is not an object either! It is a theoretical concept. Yet, we build bridges and buildings with it.

Your reasoning for us not to discuss it is faulty. If you claim we don't understand it, then you should be USING it. But yet you do!

Zz.

paul burton said...

time has no phsical attributes therfore in physics it doesnt exist;)

ZapperZ said...

Sorry, but that is utterly dumb.

F=ma has no physical attribute. It is only a concept, an idea. Yet, you USE it!

Besides, what physical laws or rule that says that something with no physical attribute cannot exist? You've made up your OWN rest of rules and then applying it to your liking. The world doesn't revolve around you, nor does it abide by YOUR rules.

Zz.

Pablo Juan Thomasset said...


Is nice to find lots of people that think the same as one, even more ifsome are physics PhD like Julian Barbour.
I see time clocks similar to cars kilometer counters, an event counter of a moving object.
They are not an ilussion, because they exist, but they are man made inventions.
Both (time cloks and km counters) can not go back wards, and can not jump forward to any value we want,
as we can do with spacial position coordinates (X,Y,Z) of any object.
I never heard of someone saying that the km counting of a car being considered a 4th dimention,
or say that the past and future kilometers of the cars exist someway in paralel universes, etc.

John Burger said...

There is no casual explanation for anything in the universe if Time is not real. You cant draw a block of Time and disregard everything that has transpired in that block. You cant say there is no time and then tell me what the speed of light is or describe how the universe transpired 13byo. This is just confused.

If people want to disregard what they fundamentally know to be true because of the reductionism of putting reality to paper that is up to them. but it is ultimately self deluding.

This subject is closely related to denying freewill--which must be used in forming any coherent thought. Not a single word--its inflection, pitch, tone, percussion, and speed can be uttered without the choice to carry each of those out--let alone forming logical opinions.

When we allow reductionism to overrule what we know as fact there has to be a biased reason. That reason is almost always atheism.

If you think it doesnt dictate how supposed rational people can believe essentially in magic(the popping into existence of a lego building world against all probability) then not only look at Einsteins fudging at Relativity to force the UV static to avoid a beginning--but his comments to the wife of his friend that because Time wasn't real his friend wasn't really dead--thats not illusion--its delusion.

Wally said...

John, you seem to be indicating that you believe we live in a created universe and that we have free will. I think we have free will. But for this free will to be completely independant of a creator, it must be underpinned by true randomness i.e where even an "all-knowing" creator/architect cannot predict an outcome (BTW, this would make him not all-knowing). The existence of true randomness would confirm Heisenbergs uncertainty principle, which underpins the Hartle-Hawking theory that it is possible for the big-bang to have been triggered by a random fluctuation at the quantum level. This then removes the need for the universe to be an artifact of such a creator (as Hawking has pointed out). Too much reductionism for you? Or just one thing leading to another? On the other hand, if the universe is algorithmic (like a watch) and randomness is only apparent (i.e based on our lack of knowledge of the underlying conditions), then it is more likely the universe is a created artifact, but along with that, our will must therefore be predictable to an all-knowing architect.
But you seem to want it both ways. Can you explain how these positions are not at odds.

Squiptryx said...

True randomness cannot underpin free will. If your ctions occur at random, then they are not ac tions that you willed.

Wally said...

Squiptryx, what you said made me laugh, because how could I miss something so obvious. But I didn't say our actions occurred at random. I said randomness must underpin a truly free will. Meaning it would have to be a component of it. The will comes before the actions, and many other mental processes are occurring between the will and the actions. If the will doesn't have a random component then the will must be predictable and therefore is not free will. We could all be zombies in a giant video game built for a creators pleasure.
Now I'm supposed to prove I'm not a robot by entering the captcha again...

Wally said...

But back to the topic - in our known universe, time exists because of distance, as shown by t=d/v (or v=d/t). Try getting somewhere in no time at all! Oh but then there's those darn electron spin experiments where the spin information appears to do just that. Hmmm.

Squiptryx said...

I'm not sure how "underpinning" can be different from "affecting," but the fact is that randomness anywhere in our will-forming and enacting machinery breaks the causal links between our characters, desires, decisions and actions. If "underpinning" means that the random stuff happens in the causal chain before our bodies, brains and characters are formed, that's just another factor involved in the formation of persons. From the perspective of free-will, it doesn't matter how a person came to be the person they are. All that matters is that the person forms volitions, and that at least some of those volitions result in actions that are willed by the person rather than coerced by outside forces.

Adam Brickley said...

Is space different to matter? If lenght or space were to no longer exist at this moment, then would all of matter exist in one location?, If time were to no longer exist in this moment would all that occurs at this moment, occur at this moment?

Im sure theres a good reason why this aint true...Zz?

ZapperZ said...

If we go by what you said and space doesn't exist, then asking if all mass is at "one location" is meaningless. This is because, for it to be at one location, there must be a "LOCATION" in the first place, i.e. you know that point in space where this is located. That makes it self-contradictory!

Zz.