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About Time

  1. Apr 29, 2009 #1
    Hi everybody :smile:

    What is Time?
    I gave a thought to this question and came to the conclusion that the accepted definition for Time is incorrect.

    The definition of time which we use is:
    Non spatial continuum in which the events occur.”

    My definition is:
    Relation between two events in the continuum of events
    Time is relevant and limited to the events.

    In philosophical discussions (science uses philosophy) I always introduce the idea about the hierarchy in the mind concepts.
    Every mind concept appears in certain hierarchical order and by changing the hierarchy we end up with fallacy.

    In this particular argument the time is placed before the events.
    The definition of time IMPLIES that the events appear IN time, but it is actually the other way round - time is created as concept from the relation between two or more events.

    My arguments:

    1) If there are no events in the Universe there will not be time.

    Some people will argue that there will be time but we will not be able to measure it.
    That would be fallacy.
    We measure time with time which is actually event with event (circle around the sun with spins around the Earth axis)
    The logical conclusion is that we cannot apply time to a motionless universe.

    How do we measure time? - with reoccurring event.
    What is to MEASURE time? - it is to relate one event to another event.

    I think that this is quite clear.

    2) We need two or more events in order to have time as existing concept.
    One event is insufficient for time creation.

    To have “motion” we need universe with minimum two objects.
    To have “time” we need universe with minimum two events.

    If there is universe with one only object, that object can not exhibit motion and cannot exist in time.
    It can only exist as motionless in space.
    The definition of time does not apply to such Universe.

    If the Universe is created from two objects, which are moving away from each other, according to the definition of time we should have time, but how can we explain and how can we measure time in such universe?
    In this case we can only claim that an event occurs in space, but not in time.

    3) When you argue the above, do not refer to the already built mind concept of time.
    - Have in mind, that you already have the time concept from at least two events in your life.
    Note that your thinking is an event too.
    - Do not use “speed” for proving “time”.
    Speed is related to motion.
    If we have only two moving away from each other objects, speed has no use for time.
    - Relation between to events is for example “the number of Earth spins in one circle around the sun”.
    - Every time-measuring tool is “event”
    - All events appear in space except the thought (the thinking).

    Well, this is my idea about “time”.
    Most probably I missed something, but that is why I put it on discussion :-)

    I am interested whether the above interpretation can affect the physics and if yes, to what extent.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 29, 2009 #2


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    I was going to attempt to say something, but now I don't think I can. I honestly don't know what time is, to truely know I would have to live from before the very instance of it's creation to beyond the very end of it's destruction. Something (hypothetically) not even time it's self could do. The best I could say, is that time is the measurement we use to determine the rate of irreversable change within our experience of the universe.
  4. Apr 30, 2009 #3
    I wouldn't say I know what time is. There does seem to be some problems with your interpretation that don't fit in with the findings of SR and GR though. I think the main problem is that with your interpretation(or at least how I interpreted it :)), time distinguishes between 2 events absolutely. Relativity has shown that there is no such thing as an absolute time for the entire universe, instead showing us something much more interesting (but still not good for saying what time is in the definite sense :))
  5. Apr 30, 2009 #4
    We cannot use the "finding" word if we don't know what is in the core of the finding.
    In that regard the "finding" is "interpretation".

    SR uses time as measurable essence and that gives absolute value to time.
    Since that value is impossible without having two events, SR with its interpretation falls in my interpretation and should concur with it.
  6. Apr 30, 2009 #5
    Interesting post, thanks. There is another way of thinking:
    The concept of a 3D space with two objects in it is an absurdity (IMO) - its illogical - it could not physically exist - but it could easily exist in mathematics and be implemented in information. A 3D computer reality does just that. So, maybe the universe is doing something similar - i.e. everything is in information including 3D space itself.
    There would then be a present moment in information, and a needed SR spacetime correction (Lorentz etc) to keep causality correct. SR is, in this sense, an annoying necessity for anyone trying to model a field type of universe as we have. It is necessary because an infinite speed of light would not work wrt causality, and we are forced to design in a maximum speed of information travel (light/gravitons speed) and then do Lorentz type corrections to keep the system logically correct.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2009
  7. Apr 30, 2009 #6
    Why is it impossible to have 3D space with two only objects?!
    How is it impossible?
    If you refer to my example, the only impossibility in such space is Time, but that is the point of my interpretation.

    I don't see logic to refute my interpretation because it does not fit SR.
    It is logical to conclude that SR works with wrong understanding about Time and some of the interpretations must be revised.

    Saying "present moment" you are relying to the mind as observer who treats the point of observation as point of time. You are actually including one event which we call THINKING.
    Is your Time related to your thinking?
    If YES, then Time is not universal value, but mind value.

    If you don't agree with the above, you must define "present moment" as something not related to your mind.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2009
  8. Apr 30, 2009 #7
    In connection with my comment from the above, I'd like to clear something very important about the way we perceive Time.

    PRESENT MOMENT is created by overlapping two events in the continuum of events.
    Our observation is an event in that continuum.
    When the observation as event matches (overlaps) another event, we talk about "present moment".

    STARTING MOMENT is the event from which we start the relations between one ore more events with the event of our thinking.
  9. Apr 30, 2009 #8
    Perhaps 'observations and predictions' would be better phrasing, but that doesn't alter the problem. SR doesn't give an absolute value of time, it removes such an absolute value. Time becomes just another coordinate with no preferred origin or coordinate system and each event/object/particle has it's own time coordinate that is separate from others. There is no concept of 'two events happening at the same time' in any globally meaningful sense, and there's even an issue with saying 'this event happened then that event happened' in a globally meaningful sense. Relative time is a strange beast that doesn't fit in with our 'common sense' observations, yet appears to be more accurate with our current experimental evidence.

    So what is time? Who knows... perhaps it doesn't truly exist in any fashion and the only thing that gives it an illusion of existence is our limited reference frame and our inability to observe a true 4 (or more) dimensional reality in all it's glory. How does time function? In a strange, common sense defying yet remarkably beautiful fashion :)
  10. Apr 30, 2009 #9
    Lets create in nothingness a 3D empty cubic space of lengths 100 metres(1000000 cu metres) and place two objects in it.... We can do that mathematically by drawing the cube of the required length and drawing two objects in the space all on paper. Fine, no problem. Then move the objects around using a parameter called time, if we want. We can also do it in a computer - but that is an implementation of mathematics in information and is an illusion - its not real physical space.

    But its not possible to create a physical 3D space that comes into existence in nothingness (I mean no x,y,z to start with, and we try to create x,y,z). What holds it up? What defines its boundaries? Its not made of anything. Has it got walls? There are so many illogicalities in such a system. It simply cannot physically exist. It is mathematical in nature.
  11. Apr 30, 2009 #10
    Hello Truden.

    Events in spacetime do not overlap. they have no temporal or spatial extension.

  12. Apr 30, 2009 #11
    SR applies absolute value to Time as a coordinate system where objects and events are PLACED.
    My interpretation removes that value and presents Time as continuum of events in space.
    Time is not a dimension anymore, but mind interpretation (mind perception) of the relations between the events.

    There is such concept as "two overlapping events" (two events at the same time) and it is related to the event of our thinking.
    We may not be able to think of two events at the same time, but that doesn't mean that they cannot overlap in the line of events.
    The simplest representation of the events lime is:
    - - - = - = = - - - = = = - - =
    where two (or more) events can overlap in the line of events.

    We will not be able to even imagine another dimension if we don't have right understanding about the meaning of "dimension".
    Our wrong interpretation about time, assigns wrong value to Universe, thus making us deal with interpreted (not real) value.

    And we come back to the question: Does Time has real value or it has interpreted value, derived from the relation between two or more events?

    The only logical answer is that since we cannot measure time without having two events, Time has interpreted value.
    Therefore Time is interpretation of our mind.
  13. Apr 30, 2009 #12

    Hello Matheinste,

    You can use "space-time" as term only if you refute my interpretation.

    Overlapping events exist in space.
    When you think about the events as line of events, you should not exclude the event of your thinking, which is included in the line of events.
    Every mind reference to relation between events is new event, which extends the line thus forming illusion about past.
    If we don't have memory about the past, time will be absent, because the events in the line will be absent.
  14. Apr 30, 2009 #13
    you might enjoy reading Brian Greene's THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE Chapter 2 (Space, Time and the eye of the beholder) which is introductory in nature and also in his book THE FABRIC OF THE COSMOS, PARTS ii and iii where he dovotes several hundred pages to time and related concepts...

    we do have reasonable methods for measuring and predicting time, but fundamentlly no one knows what time IS...somehow it seems to have popped out at the origin of this universe along with space and energy....
  15. Apr 30, 2009 #14
    He-he :biggrin:
    I like your thinking and I encourage you to apply it to the "impossibility" of our Universe :wink:
    For now just assume that you don't have to create the two objects, and that they were created the way our universe was.
  16. Apr 30, 2009 #15

    Thanks, Naty, but my search gives me only audio and video downloads for "THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE". I cannot find it as a book.

    It is obvious from my interpretation that I disagree with the understanding that time "popped out at the origin of this universe along with space and energy"

    We talk about time (and only about the type of time) which we have as a concept.
    Some people say that even if we don't have the concept, the time would still exist.
    Well, if the time is a concept and we couldn't create it, it wouldn't exist.
    The question is whether the concept can pass the test.
    Obviously it cannot pass it when we have one only event.
    Then we should conclude that it is wrong concept - interpretation of our mind.
  17. Apr 30, 2009 #16


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    if you define time as some kind of relation between two events, then obviously if there is only one event there is no relation and no time.

    So what ? Why are you so excited by this mundane thought ?

    However, in order to define your one event you had to use some sort of definition of time so there's a contradiction in any case.
  18. Apr 30, 2009 #17
    Right on, you see it for what it is. We match an arbitrary event with a clock event.
    A person in a coma is not aware of time. Relativity is about subjective time. Don't let them dissuade you with science fiction.
  19. Apr 30, 2009 #18

    Doc Al

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    Staff: Mentor

    Relativity has nothing to do with subjective, psychological time. Where did you get that notion?
  20. Apr 30, 2009 #19
    A-a-a... you are not following, my friend.
    According to the present definition of time if there is event there should be time.
    Obviously the definition is wrong, because as you noticed one event is not enough.

    Then my definition comes to say that we need relation between two events in order to have time.

    Oh, I'm not exited by the idea. I even feel somehow guilty for Einstein.

    Ha-ha... :biggrin:
    What time?
    It seems that you don't get the point.
  21. Apr 30, 2009 #20
    To define time it is necessary assume periodicity, we actually define time counting the number of cycles in of a phenomena SUPPOSED to be periodic.

    1) The inverse of the periodicity fixes the energy. There is not a master periodicity: systems with different energy have different periodicity. The combination of these periodicity allows to order event in time as in a calendar or a clock.

    2) With interaction a periodic system change energy. This means it passes from a periodic regime to another: we can establish a before the interaction and an after the interaction. (The laboratory clock can be supposed with a periodicity bigger than the characteristic periodicity of the system or infinite).

    3) The assumption of periodicity yields to an effective (covariant) quantization which remarkably match the usual quantization. In a relativistic contest (Minkowski metric) such a dynamical periodicity gives the possibility of a coherent view of SR e QM.

    ref arxiv:0903.3680
  22. Apr 30, 2009 #21
    It actually seems like your point keeps on changing each time someone brings up an objection to your viewpoint.

    I'm stepping out of this discussion now as it appears you will not take on board any argument that contradicts your view :P
  23. Apr 30, 2009 #22
    Phyti, I personally don't mind the way Time is defined and explained, but at some points science is really going in to fiction, like GRAVITY CHANGES TIME :rofl:
  24. Apr 30, 2009 #23
    I haven't said much in this topic to have the chance to change the point.
    I did even repeated myself few times.
    Pleas, show where I changed my point.
  25. Apr 30, 2009 #24
    We don't define time with periodicity.
    We measure it that way.
  26. Apr 30, 2009 #25
    The official SI definition of the second is as follows:
    The second is the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom.
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