Is Our Understanding of Time Outdated in Modern Physics?

In summary: So, instead of just saying "past", we say "past in relation to a specific point in spacetime". It's still referring to the same concept of events that have already occurred.As for your other question, yes, in relativity, spacetime is considered to be a fixed structure and does not evolve over time like matter does. The "future" and "past" are just different locations in this fixed structure. But it's important to note that this is just one way of looking at things and there are other theories that may suggest otherwise. That's why it's important to focus on the underlying physics and not just get caught up in the terminology.
  • #1
Battlemage!
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I am neither adept at philosophy nor physics, but in the "what is spacetime" thread I got the distinct impression that some people were letting language conventions, which are human-reason based, take precedence over physics, which is experience based.

Link- https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/spacetime-what-is-it.862012/page-5

My questions can be summed up thusly: the words "past", "present", and "future" were given their meaning based on incomplete information regarding the universe. When those ideas were created, fleshed out, whatever, the notion of a four dimensional spacetime was not yet conceived. No one had yet to preform a Michaelson-Morley experiment. "Mixed coordinates" the likes of which we see in the Lorentz transformation equations had yet to be shown to be accurate. Simultaneouneity had yet to be shown to be dependent upon reference frame.

With all these completely new discoveries about the nature of space and time that were absolutely NOT part of the original formulations of the notions of past, present and future being added to our understanding because of observations we made of the universe, why do some of us insist on the primacy of the old notions of past, present and future?

Those notions were completely defined BEFORE we gained greater insight into what space and time are. Isn't it more logical to assume that the flaw in description arrives from the assumption that language that was formed in ignorance of the universe should have preeminence over observed reality? As I said above, when the notions of past, present and future were originally fleshed out, they were done so in ignorance of the world around us.

As far as I believe, if the language and the universe are in conflict, the flaw is in the language and it's time to adjust the meaning of words (or create new ones if that is too radical a thing for you).

Anyone have any thoughts on this matter?
 
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  • #2
It's hard enough to teach everyone the difference between your and you're; do you really think it's possible to get people to start using new words to describe the past, present, and future, especially given since the average person has no clue what relativity is?
 
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  • #3
Battlemage! said:
I am neither adept at philosophy nor physics, but in the "what is spacetime" thread I got the distinct impression that some people were letting language conventions, which are human-reason based, take precedence over physics, which is experience based.

Link- https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/spacetime-what-is-it.862012/page-5

My questions can be summed up thusly: the words "past", "present", and "future" were given their meaning based on incomplete information regarding the universe. When those ideas were created, fleshed out, whatever, the notion of a four dimensional spacetime was not yet conceived. No one had yet to preform a Michaelson-Morley experiment. "Mixed coordinates" the likes of which we see in the Lorentz transformation equations had yet to be shown to be accurate. Simultaneouneity had yet to be shown to be dependent upon reference frame.

With all these completely new discoveries about the nature of space and time that were absolutely NOT part of the original formulations of the notions of past, present and future being added to our understanding because of observations we made of the universe, why do some of us insist on the primacy of the old notions of past, present and future?

Those notions were completely defined BEFORE we gained greater insight into what space and time are. Isn't it more logical to assume that the flaw in description arrives from the assumption that language that was formed in ignorance of the universe should have preeminence over observed reality? As I said above, when the notions of past, present and future were originally fleshed out, they were done so in ignorance of the world around us.

As far as I believe, if the language and the universe are in conflict, the flaw is in the language and it's time to adjust the meaning of words (or create new ones if that is too radical a thing for you).

Anyone have any thoughts on this matter?

Then you need to make an even louder complaint to the computer folks, because they have hijacked the words "bugs", "cookies", "nibbles", "Java", etc.

In other words, what you described is not unique to physics. It is the common rule of the game when you want to go into any area in which the same words have different meanings.

The problem here is that people pay way too much attention to the labels given to things, rather than understanding the underlying physics and unambiguous mathematical description.

Zz.
 
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  • #4
ZapperZ said:
Then you need to make an even louder complaint to the computer folks, because they have hijacked the words "bugs", "cookies", "nibbles", "Java", etc.

In other words, what you described is not unique to physics. It is the common rule of the game when you want to go into any area in which the same words have different meanings.

The problem here is that people pay way too much attention to the labels given to things, rather than understanding the underlying physics and unambiguous mathematical description.

Zz.
Maybe, but those are entirely novel uses of those words. Past still means the past in relativity. It just has a different context when it comes to spacetime.

The reason I made the thread is because a poster was saying it was ludicrous to think of past and future as something that just "is," when the context was spacetime, which according to the experts in the thread does not evolve over time (since it's spacetime, not space). A given moment in the future or past is just a location in spacetime, correct?

It's not really a novel usage of the words, just putting them into a larger framework.
 

Related to Is Our Understanding of Time Outdated in Modern Physics?

1. What is the relationship between language and physics?

The relationship between language and physics is complex and multifaceted. On one hand, language is a human construct used to communicate ideas and theories about the physical world. On the other hand, physics is the study of the fundamental laws and principles that govern the behavior of the physical world. Language is used to describe and explain the concepts and phenomena studied in physics, but it is also influenced by the discoveries and advancements in physics.

2. How does language impact our understanding of physics?

Language plays a crucial role in shaping our understanding of physics. The words and concepts used in a language can influence the way we think about and interpret physical phenomena. For example, some languages may have different words for concepts like time or space, which can lead to different perspectives on these fundamental concepts in physics.

3. Can language be a barrier in understanding physics?

Yes, language can be a barrier in understanding physics. As mentioned earlier, different languages can have different words and concepts for the same physical phenomena. This can make it difficult for individuals from different linguistic backgrounds to communicate and share their understanding of physics. Additionally, some concepts in physics can be complex and abstract, making it challenging to accurately describe them in any language.

4. How do physicists use language in their research?

Physicists use language extensively in their research. They use precise and specific terminology to describe the concepts and theories they are studying. They also use mathematical equations and symbols as a universal language to communicate complex ideas and theories. Language plays a crucial role in the dissemination of scientific information and allows for collaboration and advancement in the field of physics.

5. What is the importance of clear and accurate language in physics?

Clear and accurate language is essential in physics to ensure that concepts and theories are effectively communicated and understood. Inaccurate or unclear language can lead to misunderstandings and errors in scientific research. Additionally, precise language allows for the development of precise and accurate mathematical models and equations, which are essential for making accurate predictions and advancements in physics.

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