What is Time?

Time's Paradigm is an in-depth philosophy of science paper exploring the passage of time, from the physics of time's flow and Cosmological Cycles to temporal perception and the illusion of infinite progression.

pt1. Destiny - pt2. Time - pt3. Infinity - pt4. Dimensions - pt5. Velocity - pt6. Travel - pt7. Wrapper

Website updated: April 2017. Read here on line or download in pdf.

"Oh, hear me then, injurious shifting time,

be guilty of my death, since of my crime."

... Shakespeare


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Time must flow from one moment to the next - but how? What is time? We perceive its passage, yet question its existence. Time's Paradigm: an in depth study of how time works.

Time's Paradigm

and how we perceive existence

this paper is written for general consumption

(64 pages in 7 parts - 30,000 words)

click abstract for a list of arguments, or see Table of Contents below

What is time?  For if there were none, such a question could not be asked.  Where is it taking us, or are we leading the way?  How does it work? - or, does it?  Why are we aware of something that does not appear to exist?  And yet, in the same breath we ask: does it go on forever?

Fundamentally, time is about change.

There is a difference between the past and the future.  From one minute to the next, things are altering their position, their form and their state, be they great celestial bodies or tiny atomic particles.  If no change occurs, there is no need for time.  In other words, if the past and the future are identical, existence does not occur, because there is no point or reason for it being, and no place for it to be.

Time implies existence.  This leads us to ask whether it had a beginning or whether it will ever end.  To get something started requires purpose, potential and impetus. However, in a state of non-existence, before time, it is unlikely these three players could operate.  Change is energetic, and to suggest that energy magically starts or suddenly stops is far fetched; unless we are lead to believe that energy emerged from an alternate existence, before time.  In which case, did it really start?

Existence is determined by progress; we must move in order to be.  Thus time flows, always positively, and is relentless in its quest, neither starting nor stopping, anywhere.

The present is our awareness, our sense of change.  If living beings such as ourselves were absent from this universe, time would still exist but the present would not; which opens the door to the prospect that the present can be at all moments anywhere in time.  We do not, it seems, hold domain of the present moment loosely termed 'now'.

To consider time from our human perspective is bound to be flawed.  One can only truly conceptualise the passage of time from outside existence.

To put this into perspective, imagine observing two planets, one in orbit around the other, in an otherwise empty universe where there are no relative celestial bodies, or stars, as backdrop.  The inhabitants of both planets argue that the other is orbiting them and that they are stationary.  If we from our frame of reference, fixate on one of these planets, and consider it stationary with respect to us, then we see the other planet orbiting it.  But, equally, if we fixate on the other, the opposite is true.  Furthermore, if neither planet had spin with respect to the other, as they orbited, and always showed the same face to the other, then this mobile, binary system would, in essence, be stationary.

In this above scenario, we impose a belief in our relative attributes on the events before us, when actually we should not be influencing a manifestation that does not include us.

Likewise, if we observe time from outside existence, from a place where time does not actually progress, we are presented with a new reality.  Floating far from the universe and peering in at all of time from the past to the future, no such moment - or so called 'Present' - exists, because we do not fixate on any particular period or event.  The vast landscape of time confronting us would be as if a string of pearls, with each moment being a single bead.  As one moment pushes up against another, the entire string moves simultaneously.  Everywhere would be the present.  Consciousness would be throughout, time able only to flow in one direction.  So, we are left to ponder whether time does exist in its entirety.

The question, of whether time cycles as in a giant revolving phenomenon where the end meets the beginning and everything exists all at once or whether, adversely, it is an infinite, flat, one dimensional journey that began nowhere, exists only in the present moment and disappears into forever, is at the heart of this paper's research.

Physics leads the way in trying to unravel the mysteries of our existence.  But a reliance on mathematical formulas alone for a sense of reality and truth is misguided.  Equations do not express reality, they express functions.  They do not paint a picture of how life is.  Instead, we ask them to fulfill an objective, while interpreting the world around us and then giving them the parts with which to play.

Time stops at the speed of light, some proclaim.  No, clocks stop, is the more likely scenario.

Time is not just about mathematical formulas and blackboard artifacts, it is about cognitive awareness and our perception, be it real or illusory, that somehow we make progress.  We have created a landscape for time, with past and future camps and a path between them upon which we allegedly travel.  Clocks glare at us from toasters, televisions, towers and mobile phones, reminding us constantly that we are aware - of what, exactly, no one is quite sure!

Here follows another illustrative analogy:

If we can only see life in two dimensions, like looking at a painting or a photograph, with no understanding of depth, then two trees side by side appear to be just meters apart from one observer's point of view, whereas another observer, some distance to one side and forward of the first observer, might see that these two trees are actually tens of meters apart.  A discrepancy arises between the observers over distance and the space between things.

Likewise, if we can only see life in three dimensions, as we believe we do, with no understanding of the implications of a fourth, then while a stationary observer might see his garage being 10 meters long, physics asserts that a passing observer travelling at near light speed might see the garage to be merely 5 meters in length.  And a similar discrepancy arises.  We laugh at the first discrepancy, but this new one is no laughing matter - why not?  Shouldn't this second discrepancy have just as simple a solution?

It can be explained to the first two observers that there is actually a third dimension, a new direction that can be travelled, that is unwavering and equal to the other two dimensions, and with some mathematics called geometry all is revealed.  But the second two observers are not given a fourth dimension that can be explored, they are limited to three.  They are only told that 'time' is part of space, that it is flexible, that distances are, too, and simultaneous events do not occur.  Now they must tackle equations that defy logic due to the presumed invariance of light speed.

The architect of this extraordinary set of circumstances was, of course, Albert Einstein.  Clearly, Special Relativity is not in question; it is brilliant and it works, but is it necessarily engaging with reality?

What if we gave those two, confused observers a solid and comprehensive fourth dimension to play with?  Rather than bending our known three dimensions to conform with perceived reality, what if we could begin again, and provide them with a framework that answers all their questions without driving them, and everyone else, mad?  Is there such a dimension?  This paper, Time's Paradigm, suggests there is: a real, physical dimension born of the other three, through which we pass and perceive the flow of time.

Science, like Evolution, is the process by which successes continually accumulate one on top of the other, frequently leading to new discoveries and greater understanding.  As such, it is vibrant and progressive.  However, occasionally, it can lead to dead ends, or a narrowing of objectives.  The present 'Paradigm of Time', dating back over a century, is clogged with misconceptions and misdirection.  It is this paper's aim to push questions for answers and hopefully, in so doing and with the help of the community, re-evaluate our perception of time, today.

The core scientific principle of this paper can be reviewed here and is called "Universal Contraction".  Time is, however, a complex matter, whose individual parts this paper discusses in full detail below.


In a NUTSHELL crams everything below into just a few pages, and does not cover arguments in any great detail. Read here...

Part 1. Destiny is a light, philosophical debate between the theories of 'Presentism' and 'The Block Model', questioning our ability to decide our own fate if the past and the future already exist.

Part 2. Time lays the foundation for the argument that time is a cyclical, contained progression, rather than a meandering voyage into infinity, and questions if the present moment actually exists.

Part 3. Infinity argues that defined points in time and space prohibit progress. If we don't know exactly where we are, we can move and Zeno's Paradox is resolved. Our awareness of the present moment is the result of this uncertainty.

Part 4. Dimensions takes the bold step of asking us to consider a tangible dimension of time, representing a progression intimately connected to our three, known spatial dimensions.

Part 5. Velocity considers the simple physics of bodies contracting in a fourth dimension of time, and how that relates to standard scientific models such as Relativity.

Part 6. Travel involves us in the more complex aspect of relativistic velocities, the conundrum of Zero Velocity and, ultimately, the prospect of superluminal travel.

please click to view or download TIME'S PARADIGM the full 1.3mb article in Adobe pdf

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pt1. Destiny - pt2. Time - pt3. Infinity - pt4. Dimensions - pt5. Velocity - pt6. Travel - pt7. Wrapper

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What is time? How does time work? These are just some of the questions answered by the Theory of Cyclical Time Progression.

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A new theory of time. Work in progress. Copyright: A. Graham, 1988 - 2016

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