Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Non-Existence of Time

Over the years I've been thinking about the nature of time a lot. I've basically come to the conclusion that it doesn't exist, at least not in a scientific sense anyway. I now believe that time is an illusion caused by our perception and measurement of change.

What led me to this conclusion was my consideration of what a clock is. When you break it down a clock is just something that has (seemingly) regular motion. The Earth moving around the Sun, the ticking hands of a watch, the human pulse or heartbeat - anything really that provides regular, repetitive motion.

Anyway, when we use clocks to measure the changing world we're not actually measuring time per se, we are actually just measuring movement - the general movement of everything that's happening against the regular movement of the clock, be it the regular ticking of hands on a clock face or simply the Earth spinning on its axis. There is no actual need for time, time is simply the currency of change. In fact you could say that time is simply another word for change, or more accurately change that has been measured against a regular change - again, the general change of everything that's happening against the regular change of ticking hands or planetary motion.

For example, when we say that something happened many years ago we could just as easily say that it happened many changes ago, for time simply is just change. It's only the way we divide change up by measuring some changes against others that creates the illusion of real passing time.

I think time exists as a concept, but that it doesn't exist scientifically speaking. At least that's my opinion at the moment anyhow.

Anyway the reason I'm posting this now is because I recently read an article in Scientific American that seems to be suggesting a similar thing (I think!). Needless to say I'm quite pleased about this as I thought I was out on a limb with all this stuff. The article is titled 'Is Time An Illusion?' and appeared in a special edition of the magazine dedicated to the topic of time (Vol. 21, No. 1). I'll quote from it below;
“Some physicists argue that there is no such thing as time. Others think time ought to be promoted rather than demoted. In between these two positions is the fascinating idea that time exists but is not fundamental. A static world somehow gives rise to the time we perceive.”
The ‘time’ issue in relation to general relativity and quantum mechanics was particularly interesting;
“Physicists who think quantum mechanics provides the firmer foundation, like superstring theorists, start with a full-blooded time. Those who believe that general relativity provides the better starting point begin with a theory in which time is already demoted and hence are more open to the idea of a timeless reality.”
The following paragraph also sounded interesting;
“Canonical quantum gravity emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, when physicists rewrote Einstein’s equations for gravity in the same form as the equations for electromagnetism, the idea being that the same techniques used to develop a quantum theory of electromagnetism could then be applied to gravity as well. When the late physicists John Archibald Wheeler and Bryce DeWitt attempted this procedure in the late 1960s, they arrived at a very strange result. The equation (dubbed the Wheeler-DeWitt equation) utterly lacked a time variable. The symbol t denoting time had simply vanished.”
My general feeling is that a lot of the wacky stuff in relativity and quantum mechanics (the stuff that goes against basic common sense) will eventually disappear once we figure out where we stand philosophically regarding time.

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