DOES TIME REALLY EXIST?
Like every human being on Earth, I tend to run my life by the clock. Even if that clock is only a rising or a setting sun.
But what is Time? In mathematics, time is usually defined as an ongoing and continuous sequence of events that occur in succession. This means linearly going from past through the present and into the future. Time is used to measure or compare the duration of events or the intervals between them, and even sequence events.
Scientists, philosophers and others have always pondered the nature of time. And although we’ve learned a lot about time, such as the reality of time dilation, we haven’t been able to come up with a complete description of what time is.
Does the past disappear completely, or is it held together in a matrix of recorded events that cannot interfere with the present or future, but exists in its own right? How can it disappear if it actually happened?
In short, space-time could very well contain the entire history of reality. Each past, present or future event would occupy a clearly determined place—from the very beginning and forever. The past would therefore still exist, just as the future already exists, but in a place other than where we are now present.
And can we tap into it somehow, either intentionally or by freak of nature?
Does time really exist?
In a letter of condolence to the family of his friend Michele Besso, who had recently died, Einstein wrote “the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” This quote by the physicist has often been the subject of discussion. Some interpret it as a mere attempt to bring comfort, others see a true scientific pronouncement on time as an illusion.
In 2018, theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli explained the timeless physics born of the Loop Quantum Gravity theory [one of several ongoing attempts to combine quantum mechanics with general relativity]. According to Rovelli, time emerges in the thermodynamic context, but it is an illusion born of our incomplete knowledge. It is not something that exists objectively. “Time is a derived concept, it is not something fundamental,” Rovelli summarizes.
However, some physicists imply that denying the existence of time, or defining it only as an illusion, is in line with pseudo-scientific or mystical thinking. In other words, it is a misrepresentation of Einstein’s words.
In essence, we are all time travellers, even if we don’t have any control over it. We all travel forward in time at the same rate [although sometimes it may not seem that way]. Only our minds can travel back in time. To coin a relativity adage:
If a twin sets off in a rocket ship and spends a few years traveling near the speed of light, when that person returns to Earth they will have aged less than their twin who remained on Earth. Although only a few years may have passed on the spaceship, decades or even centuries could have passed on Earth, depending on how quickly the rocket travelled.
This is a simple explanation used by many a science fiction writer. But it has been proven to be correct, even if only in unimaginable small time increments.
Some philosophers and physicists have argued that what we experience as time is just an illusion, a product of our consciousness. In this view, the passage of time isn’t real; the past and future already exist in their complete extent, the same way the entirety of space already exists. According to physicist, Sean Carroll, what we sense as the flow of time is a by-product of the way our brains work as we process sensory information from our environment.
Scientists may not have all the answers, but over the past century they have made significant progress in understanding how time works. From ancient time-telling sundials to modern atomic clocks, we can now track the passing of a second more closely than ever before. Time remains a complex topic, but thanks to scientific visionaries we are getting closer to unlocking the secrets of this not-so-constant universal constant.
References and further viewing/reading – but only if you have the time!
THE KAIKOURA LIGHTS MYSTERY
Introduction On a New Years Day in 1979 strange lights were spotted by six people on a plane off the coast of New Zealand’s South Island. These have been catalogued as the Kaikoura Lights Mystery. Skeptics said it was Venus, it was squid boats, it was radar returns from a field of cabbages. Or just…Continue Reading