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An issue with time and how we fit in

  1. Aug 27, 2009 #1
    Hi, i'm a new member who has just embarked on my journey into Quantum Mechanics and String Theory. I was a grade A student in contemporary high school physics, however i am aware that i have a lot to catch up on (i assure you the text books are on order), so please don't attack me if the answer to my question is simple.

    The current thought to the best of my knowledge is that we are 3ed dimensional beings, moving along in the 4th dimension of time. Our movement is linear from our creation to our death, however at any moment we exist only as a point on this line. My understanding is that a point takes up no space on the line and that 2 points on a line have infinite points between them. therefore it is imposible to traverse every point on our timeline. From here i thought that perhaps we merely jump from point to point on our timeline, existing within a finite number of points. A finite number of points which in themselves take up no length of time, results in our entirety of existance to, well simply not exist.

    Has string theory or any other theory redescribed time to solve this dillema?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 27, 2009 #2


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    This is the flaw in your logic. Read up on Zeno's Paradox.
  4. Aug 27, 2009 #3


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    Dearly Missed

    Welcome Victor, and congratulations on your success in the physics course!
    Different branches of physics treat time in different ways---there is no one single consensus as to the nature of time, or what it fundamentally is.

    If you have ordered textbooks, then you will soon be reading them and hopefully working the exercises and problems at the end of each chapter. It will be wise to put aside philosophical puzzles for the time being and to cooperate with the authors of the textbooks. Just see how they deal with time and go along with their notation.

    Textbooks are expensive these days, and it is hard to know which ones are right for you if you have no university or college bookstore, or library, where you can browse and sample, before you buy. I hope the books you have ordered turn out to be right for you!

    If you want to get a taste of all the different ways people have of thinking about time (I do not advise this but if your philosophical instinct is strong and compels you to investigate) then you might have a look at the essays submitted to the Foundational Questions Institute essay contest on "What is the nature of time?"

    The institute is run by distinguished physicists (incuding a Nobel laureate on the board of advisors)
    and they make it their business to deal with difficult issues like this. They assembled a panel of other distinguished physicists to judge the essays and award a half-dozen or so prizes. You can read the prizewinning essays, and the others as well if you want, on line.
    There were at least fifty essays submitted, each one addressing the question "what is time?" or "what is the nature of time?" Alas :redface: we humans do not yet have a consensus about that, even within physics itself (forgetting about other branches of science.)

    Here is the current FQXi contest webpage, it has a link to last year's as well:
    This page lists the winners of the 2008 Time essay contest, and gives links to the text so you can read whichever ones you like:
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2009
  5. Aug 28, 2009 #4
    thanks for the links Markus, they will make a good weekend read.
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