One of the earliest devices to measure time was the sundials; which used the suns motion as a standard of measurement for time. The use of units
like seconds and minutes which are radial angle measurements in geometry may be pointing toward the original connection of time measurements to
radial motion of astronomical objects across the sky. Once we started using precise time keeping devices like digital clocks and time based on atomic
oscillations the time’s celestial connection was lost. Now the whole world’s time can be synchronized by atomic clocks and time has developed a life of
When we measure the speed of a car, we seem to be measuring speed with something abstract called time; we are actually just comparing a known
motion (of the sun) with an unknown motion of the car. Time is a way to compare or describe different kinds of motions like speed of light, how fast
heart beats or how frequently earth spins around its axis. But these processes can be compared directly with motion of sun across the sky or another
standard motion without making any reference to time. Time may have no independent existence, it may just be a common unit of motion making the
world that is constantly changing easier to describe.
TIME CHANGE MOTION AND FORCES
Time is a real phenomenon a continuous change through which we live. Time becomes evident through motion; sunrise sunsets, night and day, the
changing seasons, the movement of the celestial bodies all is indicative of continuous change. The aging process is a reminder that molecular motion
and interactions are also at work and are a part of time. Other important aspect of time is presence of motion of particles like photon, the motion at the
atomic and subatomic level. An often overlooked but very important aspect of time is that forces also act in time.
|More powerful than all the armies of the
world, is an idea whose time has come.
Present is special, it is the gift of living and feeling the reality of existence. Our interaction with the world in the present creates our memories which
then immediately become part of the past. We live in the changing present in which the future continuously unfolds. The present is a fleeting moment;
whatever is happening now (present) is confined to an infinitesimally narrow point on the time line which is being encroached upon by the past and the
Present resembles the sharp point of a recording laser or needle; it may be the mental awareness of recording of memory as it is being perceived and
inscribed into our neurons. Unlike the present we see past and future as measurable durations of time. Past historical events, a meeting, or a wedding
reception are all measurable durations or extensions in time, just like a recorded material on tape. This similarity suggests that past is more like a
recorded memory, while future can be compared to an unrecorded tape. Another interesting observation pointed out by philosopher Mc Taggart was
that historical events also have the same time characteristic as stories that are creations of the human imagination. Both stories and historical events
contain the time concepts of earlier, the later, the past the present and the future suggesting that past is nothing more than memory of events.
Future appears to be a projection created by our past experiences stored in our memory. The fact that the present which gives us the most real feel of
time cannot be measured while the inaccessible past and future can be measured as durations suggests that our perception of time as a place where
we could possibly go i.e. the dimensional view of time is an illusion.
IS THE BLOCK UNIVERSE DESCRIPTION OF TIME CORRECT?
"People like us who believe in physics know that the distinction between
the past, the present and the future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion"
Every past or possible future event also has a place like feeling to it. Time-scape feels like it is a place where it may be possible to go. This dimension
like view of time has spawned numerous science fiction stories and movies on time travel. This view of time suggests that dinosaurs are still alive and
roaming the earth in some other time dimensions; it also suggest that there are multiple copies of us and the whole universe smeared across multiple
dimensions of time.
In Special Relativity (SR) the block universe view of time arises from an interpretation of the Lorentz transformation equation known as the Rietdijk–
Putnam argument (or the Andromeda paradox.) By this innovation of SR just walking on the earth toward or away from the Andromeda galaxy which is
2.5 million light years away we can shift our line of simultaneity so that our time can be in sync with either past or future of beings living in Andromeda.
This interpretation of SR suggests that past and future exists as a part of the block universe. Lorentz transformation is interesting but has not been
proven experimentally and this interpretation of SR cannot be verified. All of other SR’s predictions of slowing of time, length contraction and gain in
mass with motion can be derived without Lorentz transformation and are experimentally verifiable.
In the block universe time is laid out as a time-scape similar to landscape and it is obvious that there cannot be a free will. This has led to some
innovations or variations in the theme of the block universe in which the future is changeable. If time-scape is already laid out then what causes our
conscious experience to move through this time-scape and why we cannot willfully move our consciousness anywhere anytime?
The time of the block universe leads to some interesting conclusions. The universe in its time dimensions should have numerous future civilizations
millions or billions of years more technologically advanced then us. At least some of these civilizations should be capable of travelling through the
block universe and we should have seen some evidence for that, unless there is some law of the universe which prohibits time travel. Block universe
also leads to the possibility of time travel paradoxes like the grandfather paradox in which a person travels to the past and kills his grandfather thereby
changing the future so that the time traveler would not exist and thus not travel to the past to kill his grandfather.
THE INSTANTANEOUS BIG BANG ORIGIN OF THE BLOCK UNIVERSE
“If the universe with its past present and future exists as a part of time-scape in the block universe
Then all of the time-scape from the big bang to the infinite future should have begun at the instant of the Big Bang.”
Imagine two objects one moving in orbit around the other in space. Now suppose from our distant observation point of a fixed time we observe time to
get slower in the area where these two objects are moving. We expect to see slower motion? We also should observe proportionally weaker
gravitational force; otherwise the objects will get pulled together. If we observed faster time, we expect to see faster motion and stronger gravity to
keep the objects from flying apart. While with zero time motion will freeze and gravity will become zero. As this thought experiment also can be
extended to particles held together by electromagnetic forces we can say that time involves both motion and forces.
PERCEPTION OF TIME: THE PAST THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE
Next time you look at a tall building or a mountain try to visualize that time is running more slowly even slightly so near the bottom of these structures
then at the top. The stability of these structures depends on the fact that space-time is continuous; being slow in time does not lead to lagging behind
and disappearing into the past. Imagine if the bottom of a mountain or a building vanished into the past.
Theory of relativity predicts slowing of time with motion and gravity. These predictions have been confirmed in particle accelerators as well as gravity
experiments. If there is a block universe why particles and masses with slower time do not disappear into the past? In gravitational fields space is
clearly continuous between areas of slower and faster time, going against the concept of a persistent past dimension.
Black holes with their intense gravity that bring time to a screeching halt do not disappear from our present into the past. We need to have clarity in
our minds as to what the slowing of time means in a block universe. Does passage of time mean our consciousness is moving across time
dimensions? Slowing of time without sliding into the past or the future suggests that time is a process and not a dimension. This may be a
significant point against the block universe view of time when taken together with other aspects of time described above.
MOTION FORCES AND THE ARROW OF TIME
The universe is thought to have originated in an event called the Big Bang about 13 billion years ago. We live in an expanding universe and the
galaxies are receding from each other as a part of the universal expansion. Microwave back ground radiation which is a relic from the Big Bang has
been studied by many NASA and European satellites. There is no doubt in the minds of physicists and astronomers that Big Bang occurred.
Similarly the concept of time being a block universe is considered a natural outcome of the Lorentz transformation. However we seem to have
overlooked that the concept of a block universe in which past, present and all of the future is laid out as a time-scape maybe at odds with the origin of
the universe in the Big Bang. In the block universe view of time everything, every event exists simultaneously. If the universe from its beginning to its
distant infinite future exists as a part of time-scape of the block universe then all of the time-scape from big bang to infinite future should have begun in
the Big Bang. This basically means that all of the history leading to the infinite future was created in an instant at the time of the big bang. There is no
escape form this unless we discard the block universe view of time or the origin of the universe in Big Bang. These two concepts appear to be
SLOWING OF TIME IN THE BLOCK UNIVERSE
Arrow requires two points in time that can exist only in the block universe. The time-scape in the block universe is already laid out and our
conscious experience of time is only toward the future. The question therefore remains why arrow of time does not point toward the past? If future and
past already exist why we only remember the past and not the future?
Unrestricted by the block universe view of time we are free to consider time as a process so that every event is occurring in the present where it is
being perceived. If time is the presence of motion as well as forces then forces provide the necessary gradient for the direction of time. There is
also a statistical touch to this argument; smashing a glass with a hammer means application of force at one point while to assemble it back in reverse
would require coordinated application of multiple tiny forces in a reverse and continuous manner which is statistically unlikely. Similarly throwing a
stone into a pond creates ripples which then travel to the edge of the pond. To reverse this process it would require simultaneous application of
multiple tiny forces at the edge of the pond to produce multiple synchronized waves moving backward to the area of splash where the stone pushed
up by the ground at the bottom of the pond will be waiting to be thrown out into the hand of the thrower…. a statistical impossibility.
Direction of time in a block universe is difficult to explain as times-scape is already laid out and our conscious experience could have run in any
direction. Without the burden of the block universe arrow of time is no enigma as it is just a process and it is a natural outcome of cause, effect and
1. We measure time by comparing one standard motion like the suns movement across the sky against another motion like that of a car. Clocks are
used as intermediaries for convenience. Time may not have any independent existence, the motion could have been compared directly suggesting
that time is a process that is linked to motion.
2. Motion alone is not enough to explain time. Forces also appear to be part of time. Arrow of time is difficult to explain in the block universe where
every event is already laid out. Arrow of time is however easily explained if we consider time as a process which includes motion as well as forces.
3. Perception of time as past present and future gives us the feeling of passage of time, as well as the block universe view of time. Time can be
compared to recording devices, the present is just where the events and their perception is being recorded into our memory. The perception of time as
a record is also apparent in the similarity of time characteristic of past present and future that exists in historical events as well as stories. The fact that
the present which gives us the most real feeling of time cannot be measured while the inaccessible past and future can be measured as durations
suggests that the way we perceive time is an illusion.
4. Slowing of time in motion and gravity does not lead to disappearance into the past as should happen in a block universe. Absence of time travelers
from futuristic advanced civilizations is also against the concept of the block universe.
5. The concept of origin of the universe in the Big Bang is at odds with the block universe view of time. If the block universe which is supposed to be
laid out as a time-scape (from the past to the present to the infinite future) exists and began in big bang then it would mean that all of the time up to the
infinite future would come into existence in the instant of the big bang. To truly comprehend this, big bang should be renamed "Instantaneous big
bang origin of the whole block." This idea is truly preposterous.
6. Slowing of time in gravity and in motion as well as the ultimate speed limit c provides the necessary clues to understanding the cause of time
however we need to first convince ourselves that time is a process that is linked to motion and forces and the block universe view of time is not correct.
GET THE COMPLETE ARTICLE
WHAT IS TIME AND WHAT CAUSES TIME?
For thousands of years philosophers and scientists have struggled to understand the phenomenon of time. We have known for the last one hundred
years about time dilation or slowing of time with motion and in gravity yet true understanding of time has evaded us. I am presenting here a clear
solution to the enigma of time which brings to light the reason behind many predictions of Special and General Relativity such as why time slows with
motion and in gravity? What is the cause of gravity and why it is only attractive? Why space is curved by gravitational fields? Why objects gain mass
when accelerated by a force but do not gain mass when falling in gravity? What is the cause of inertia and length contraction and why there cannot be
a twin paradox?
THE MANY FACETS OF TIME
Time presents to us in many different ways. We measure time, keep time, meet and greet in time and our daily lives are completely wrapped around
the onward rush of time. We perceive time as past present and future. Events in time are always accompanied with a mental picture of a place
suggesting that time is a dimension. This has sprung a whole culture around the concept of time travel leading to numerous science fiction stories, and
movies. In physics time plays a major role in the measurement of motion and forces. The many facets of time should suggest that time is an emergent
phenomenon that is arising from some underlying process that we need to identify.
The greatest breakthrough in understanding of time occurred about a hundred years ago with Einstein’s theories of Special and General relativity in
which he introduced the concept of slowing of time with motion and in gravity. Einstein also showed that large masses curve space and there is
increase in mass with acceleration by application of a force. These discoveries of Einstein provide the necessary clues to solving the riddle of time.
MEASURING TIME: WHAT ARE WE MEASURING?