Author Alan R Graham discusses his views on how time works and debates the notion that time is just an illusion, in this lighthearted introduction to his book, Time's Paradigm.
TIME'S PARADIGM - Prologue
Time flows, they say, and we are at the mercy of its relentless passage. To quote Shakespeare: "Injurious shifting time, be guilty of my death, since of my crime." A reference to our insignificance in the face of destiny and inability to do much about it.
But, as Einstein pointed out, our clocks don't all tick along at the same speed, so that kind of says "poof" to the whole notion of us all flowing along together under the command of time. Indeed, it begs the question: Does Time Exist, at all?
Well, firstly, what is time? We need to define its purpose before we can proclaim its existence.
Remarkably, the definition of time is far from conclusive, which is why its existence is still very much up for debate. Time has been explained as a vast ocean stretching out from the shores of a distant past, through our present situation and on into the future -- as if a giant, living tapestry. Other academics will say that time has nothing to do with the past and the future, which do not exist, time is merely this moment of existential awareness we call "Now." (See Chapter 2. Destiny)
Time's Arrow, is a thorough measure of how energy progresses thermodynamically but it is not a definition of time. Quantum Mechanics has some wonderfully colourful analogies on time's many possible passages however they are just that, analogies.
Then there are the rather amusing, tongue-tying dictionary definitions of time such as: "Nonspatial continuums; and succeeding conditions of existence," which we will step over, graciously, on our way up the mountain of knowledge.
So, is time a great big, vibrant canvass or a tiny speck of light in an otherwise black void? If we are to consider the existence of time we need to nail down its definition. When we speak about epochs we often use the word "time" to encapsulate a whole; whereas, if we wish to talk about a sequence of events we use the word "time" to envisage the flow that bridges the distance between them. Which is it? Not to worry, it seems the English language is merely suffering from a lack of imagination.
It's one of the problems with intangible, wishy-washy things like time, they are elusive. And yet, we don't ask, "Does Space Exist?" a manifest equally abstract. Why not..? We are fine with space, we can see it -- sort of -- and we can move through it from one place to the next. But isn't that exactly what we do through time? Only that we can't see both the past and the future at the same time, so the void in between those moments is not real in our minds.
The paradox proposed is that if the space through which we pass does not exist then we cannot be moving... i.e. Time does not flow. Alternatively, if all of time exists, from the past into the future, then it all happened all at once and, again, time cannot be considered to flow. Are both wrong?
One gets the impression that in reality time does not exist..!
It might seem more likely that it is we that move and are flowing from one moment to the next, not time. "Time is motion," we hear people say. Well, Space/Time pretty much confirms that theory and motion is defined as space divided by time. So? It gets more complicated and tempers flare.
"Time is a merely a measuring device, it does not exist, we made it up," many argue. They have a point. Time is a necessary tool for aiding in navigation, farming, trading and the drying of paint... that is all. In which case there is every reason to suggest that time is just an imaginary concept of no substance.
Ah, but if this metaphysics conundrum were only that simple. The problem is, we cannot dismiss time for being insubstantial because it is, in fact, spatial. Time is flexible, it is ambiguous, whereas made up things usually aren't. Just ask your four year old daughter if her teddy bear can talk. It's only because we are all parked together on this planet that it seems like time flows with unwavering consistency... Well, it doesn't, so, yes, time may actually be a physical phenomenon with a definable nature and purpose all of its own.
Here's Why Time Does Exist
The definition of time is as follows: 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. Without change 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 purpose nor reason for it being, and no place for it to be.
Space, it seems, is a prerequisite for time, because motion needs a playground in which to roam. These three phenomena are the cornerstones of existence; like our three dimensions, one cannot exist without the other two. But that does not mean they should not be deserving of their own identities.
Defining a subject often includes laying out its boundaries. An ominous task when it comes to time.
The Author Chats
The Beginning And End Of Time.
Can we be sure time does actually have perameters, boundaries, as such?
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 have operated. Change is energetic, and to suggest that energy magically starts or suddenly stops is a tad far fetched; it goes against the very fundamentals of our Laws of Physics.
So instead, we ended up many centuries ago with a conclusion that the universe must have been around for an infinitely long time and will go on indefinitely. This view was refuted by Emmanuel Kant and other philosophers of the era in favour of Finitism. 20th century physicists, for their part, have added that if the universe has existed forever it would logically have ended an infinite time ago.
So the debate goes on: Yes, time does exist even though for some reason it doubtfully came into existence at some point, and we're just going to have to live with that theory for the time being.
The "Big Bang" has since been adopted and the majority of scientists now agree that both Time and Space began in that explosive instance; existence was thus born. But there is another scenario that only rarely surfaces for debate: Time defined as a Cyclical Process; a giant, revolving process that has no beginning and no end. It satisfies both parties in this debate, demanding that time flow in only one direction while upholding thermodynamic principles. Scientist Sir Roger Penrose is a leading proponent of such theories which, in reality, argue that time has existed forever.
Einstein, himself, also contemplated for a while the concept of a cosmological cycle for time, citing that a contracting universe would be unequivocally the same as his theories of Relativity.
Unfortunately, Relativity is based on linear models for time and space, which impede progress by creating infinities. Ever wondered why clocks and compasses are round? Find out all about it in Chapter 3. Infinity.
Cycles: Nature's little engines... whether powered by fluid dynamics, gravity or chemistry; contained and independent entities with purpose, potential and perpetual drive.
Is The Present Moment Just An Illusion?
Well, yes. That's what our brains do. They interpret the world around us by means of senses -- eyes, ears, nose, etc -- and make up a scene for us in which to act. We perceive "Now" by means of biological stimulus and associative intuition. Colour pigments are mixed by proximity to make varying shades that don't really exist; molecules are all stuck together to form clumps of recognizable shape depending on how close or far away we are. Red and white become pink, trees become mountains, and the moon is a dime in our mind's eye. It's all a confabulation -- Isn't everything?
We have evolved to function within the constraints imposed, not the other way around.
Here we are in "The Present", which we define as our moment of awareness, our sense of change. If conscious, living beings such as ourselves were absent from this universe, time would still exist, would it not? But would the present? What makes "Now" exist at only one point in time coincidentally experienced by all of us simultaneously? Could the present not be at any moment anywhere in time -- why are we all stuck together?
Yikes! But only if time exists all along its path in continuity from the past to the future like a block of cheese. What if, as some philosophers will argue (the A-Theorists), there is no past behind us and no future ahead of us, we in this present moment are merely a raft adrift on an ocean of nothingness... apparently with no oars!
Well, to be honest, those who disagree with this above hypothesis, have themselves put forward arguments that are equally outlandish. Renown psychologist Carl Jung proclaimed that the future was awash with meaningful coincidences; Einstein pronounced that time and space were the same thing. And now my two cents worth: "If our destiny is already predetermined, why do choices in life exist?"
One of the first problems encountered when trying to define time is objectivity! We are too involved in the illusion to come to an informed decision. The second nuance is mental mayhem. Motion is a product of time and they are very hard to tell apart. They are conjoined, as it were. Progress "in space" must also be "in time" -- simultaneously -- or so it seems.
Motion and time are relative, their absolute truth dependent on things our minds may not be aware of. Like sitting on a train in a station and assuming, on spying movement through the window, that your train is finally departing so you reach to steady your cup... when actually you are not going anywhere, it is just that the train next to yours is quietly shuttling forwards. Sudden, shocking realisation that your trusted world view of reality has turned out to be a monstrous lie, creates a peculiar feeling of trepidation and awe. Some folks' stomachs may do a weird vertigo flip in response to being fooled by reality. It can be quite scary -- a "Matrix" moment.
Time is forever playing tricks on us. We think we are passing through time from one day to the next because there are markers we are aware of like sunsets and a rising tide. However, relatively speaking, everyone appears to be flowing down the river with you, and one day looks pretty much like the next, so are we actually going anywhere?
Am I making this whole thing up?
A magician waves his hand about and the audience sees four fingers when really there were only three visible; the Mickey Mouse illusion. It is a common fact that humans will create reality if things don't add up or a key element is missing -- we apparently need to make sense of madness... it's a comfort thing. Klaus Conrad conceived the term Apophenia to describe the necessary human trait of seeing meaning in things that really aren't valid, er... like, Mother Teresa's face on a muffin. Yes, as many psychologists will point out, to some extent we actually invent the world around us.
So not surprising then that we can happily amble our way through life thinking we are flowing downstream aboard a life raft called "the present" (that doesn't really exist)... on a mighty river called Time (that is actually frozen solid)... no worries!
Let's be thankful for Cycles. They are everywhere -- from cosmic to atomic -- including the cycle of life-giving water on our planet to which rivers are an integral part. Moisture is drawn up from the oceans and forms clouds that pass high over land and deposit their load in the form of rain in the mountains. So why not time?
The question of whether time cycles as in a giant, revolving story whose constitution is thus an intimate ensemble; whether time is a solid block that exists all at once in its entirety and all this movement malarkey is just an illusion; or whether, adversely, time is an infinite, one dimensional journey that began nowhere, exists only in the present moment and disappears into forever, is at the heart of this book's debacle.
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 smart phones, reminding us constantly that we are aware -- of what, exactly, no one is quite sure!
Time's Paradigm and the Cycles Of Time
What's the prognosis for Time Travel? Well, if Achilles can catch up with that blasted tortoise then we, too, will surely one day surpass the speed of light.
"Universal Contraction" is the core proposal of this publication. It says that the speed of light and zero velocity do not need to be invariant ends on a linear scale because they are in fact attributes of the same event. In other words, the space-time model is cyclical.
Existence is thus wrapped neatly up like a parcel, a perpetual embodiment. For if time progresed along an infinite, linenar path it would doubtless have never started or, at the very least, have already ended. Time is, however, a vast and complex beast, whose individual parts this publication discusses in much greater detail over several, sequential chapters, explaining just how and why time must exist. (See below)
Please Note. Revised edition, March 2020.
TIME'S PARADIGM, the book
TABLE OF CONTENTS - TIME'S PARADIGM
Part 1. Destiny is a light, philosophical debate between the theories of 'Presentism' and 'The Block Model', where the romanticism of Free Will is questioned, as is our ability to decide our own fate if the future already exists. Schrödinger's Cat also makes a brief appearance.
Part 2. Time lays the foundation for the argument that time is a cyclical, contained progression, rather than a meandering voyage into infinity. It tackles existential perception, acausality, and asks whether the present moment is a cosmological standard for all conscious beings.
Part 3. Infinity argues that defined points in time and space prohibit progress in linear models. Thus Zeno's Paradox is resolved and the speed of light held to account. Temporal awareness, it concludes, is the result of uncertain horizons -- our perception of 'now' thus given freedom.
Part 4. Dimensions takes the bold step of asking us to consider a tangible dimension of time, represented by a fractal collapse through our three, known spatial dimensions. Chaos theory and the Nth Dimension draw us to conclude that time can only flow as one ensemble.
Part 5. Velocity asks whether our universe is expanding or contracting. It considers the simple physics of bodies contracting in a fourth dimension of time, and how that marries with standard scientific models such as Relativity.
Part 6. Travel involves us in the more complex aspects of relativistic velocities, the conundrum of Zero Velocity, a universal clock caused by time dilation and, ultimately, astronauts in the future with the prospect of superluminal, time dislocation.
Part 7. Nutshell to wrap up, succinctly crams everything above into just a few pages, and does not cover arguments in any great detail. A heavy read served up at blistering pace.
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website last updated: May, 2020
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