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Is time just an illusion?

  1. Jul 29, 2006 #1
    I can no longer see time. All I recognize is the morphing and changing of energies/masses/matters. This concept of time we have is slowly deteriorating from my mind. There is no time, all things are just constantly changing? Nothing ever really leaves us... and nothing is ever really born new in terms of energy. So all that we have is all that we have and it never goes anywhere except for changing into differenent physical, dimensional, and material states? So everything is not really passing... only changing. Time will never leave us, we must learn to leave time.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 29, 2006 #2
    To change is to be in different states at different times.
  4. Jul 29, 2006 #3
    Philosophers have debated for thousands of years as to whether time really exist or not and the topic comes up often in this forum. I just saw a show on PBS called "The Examined Life' in which the subject was the validity of time. I couldn't agree with you more. I think time is an illusion and since time has such an intimate relationship with space, I believe space is an illusion as well. Time, as we measure it is just a measurement of movement so I believe motion is an illusion as well. I believe the universe is dimensionless and it is a closed universe. Like Hawkins once said the universe is "finite but unbounded". The fact that black holes cruch time and space down to nothing gives me evidience of my theories of a dimensionless universe. This along with quantum interconnectedness/ The concept of universal wholeness points to a universe where geometry and dimensions are abstract concepts. The map of the territory but not the territory itself.
  5. Jul 29, 2006 #4
    Time is a subjective thing.

    We have of course created "our time", the one the brain creates automatically because it stores memories.

    As for objective time, that's an answer I will leave over to the scientists.
  6. Jul 29, 2006 #5
    That doesn't mean dimensionless.


    If I crunch a chip down to nothing, does that
    mean chips don't exist ?

    (crunches chip).
  7. Jul 29, 2006 #6


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    I've never understood the appeal of this question to people. Is length an illusion? What does that really ask? Length is a property of physical objects in that each and every one of them has spatial extent. Each and every one of them also has temporal extent, which means they can be measured not only with how long they are in space, but how long they exist in time.

    The Hundred Years War, for instance, occured in England and France over a 116 year period. Spatially, it had an amorphous extent that cannot strictly be referred to in terms of length and breadth, but if you want to speak of maxima only, then it had a spatial length and breadth, as well as a height. It also had a temporal extent, of 116 years. When we ask whether time is an illusion, what are we asking? Is this extent real? What the heck does that mean? Between the beginning and the end of the war, the earth orbited the sun 116 times; that's all the statement means.

    That's what time is. It is not illusory to say that the earth revolved around the sun 116 times between the beginning and end of the war; it's a factually correct statement. What is the difference between reifying time and reifying "change" but not calling it time? A physical object need not change to have temporal extent, so it seems to me that the only difference is that they do not really refer to the same thing. Nonetheless, they are both properties of objects, not objects themselves, so if we reify one, why not the other? If we simply want to say that time is not fundamental to the universe in that the universe could exist without any passage of time, fine, but human intelligence is not fundamental to the universe either, and neither are human personalities or human bodies. Does that mean there is a meaningful sense in which we do not exist?
  8. Jul 29, 2006 #7
    Excellent post lyn.
    But, if nothing in the universe moved at all, would it have a temporal extent?
    Or is the temporal extent of a static object relative to the fact that other objects around it change, thus we conclude that the static object also has time?

    It seems to me that the lower we go in scale, the more time matters.
    For instance, a ball can sit in the backyard all winter, never moving, but a lot of particles in the ball move, thus it is not a static object, it just appears to be from our scale.

    So, it appears that the true temporal extent of an object is determined by its complete absence of movement, on any scale.

    Thus we can say that any change equals time, it is only on different scales we can say that time does not equal change.

    But then again we have the problem of WHY things change in the first place.
    Why does anything move, regardless of scale?
    And what is the pace of this movement?
    To me this seems to point to something else.
  9. Jul 30, 2006 #8
    I don't understand the appeal either, lyn. I truly believe that we should examine questions to see if they're interesting before we even think about the value of the answer, much less what that answer might be. This question is so uninteresting to me that it seems like one that only someone retreating from reality would find interesting.

    Confront reality and ask the bold questions instead, unafraid of what the answers might be. What is time? Then move on to other bold ones.

    Is our perception of time misleading? I think this one is interesting, because it yields more interesting questions depending the answer. If yes, how? How much? In what way? Why? If not, why not? What if it was?

    Answers to the illusion question on the other hand are just a solitary dead end. If it's an illusion, we are all fooled by some mystical jumbo maya. If it's not an illusion then our laws of physics seem to contradict our everyday experience, effectively alienating ourselves from understanding them.

    Work on developing questions deserves just as much attention as work on finding answers.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2006
  10. Jul 30, 2006 #9
    It is a myth that physics in general suggests there is no time. Different
    theories say different things.
  11. Jul 30, 2006 #10
    I didn't mean to suggest that. QM and GR each paint a picture of time that is not exactly recognizable in our everyday experience, though. To say that our everyday experience of time is therefore an "illusion" wrongfully cheapens the experience and alienates ourselves from understanding either QM or GR phenomena.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2006
  12. Jul 31, 2006 #11
    This is precisely where I have established myself. WHY is change even occuring? What initiated it? And is it truly ensuing? To be universally and existentially extrospective... doesn't the universe appear to be static? As no energy is leaving and no new energy can be created. In a broader perspective; nothing is the only thing actually changing. I desire a deeper understanding than that of which I already know. Thank you for all of the replies, they were beautifully written and I appreciate the energy exerted. I do recognize that what I am trying to define is not coming off with 100% clarity. I am not 100% certain how to explicate it at the current instant.

    We will never know what came before, because before never existed. Can we pinpoint the very start? With that said; Is there a before, and will there be an after? Being that time is absent or co-dependent of existence. Sometimes I feel as if we are already in heaven/hell(it's up to us to create), and eternity grabs at me. Excuse my religious terminology... I hope my opinion is not objected.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2006
  13. Jul 31, 2006 #12
    Dimensionaless universe

    I got to admit that calling these ideas "theories" was bit extreme. At best, these ideas are philosophical speculations. Most of my ideas of a dimensionless universe comes from the book "The End of Time:The Next Revolution in Physics" by physicist Julian Barbour. The book is endorsed on the back cover by the well known physicist John A. Wheeler.
    I am also big on David Bohm's holographic model of the universe that states each part contains the whole. I know these ideas seem counterintuitive to everyday expereince but the eastern mystics often describe having a timeless, spaceless experience of consciousness during deep meditation.
    Collective human knowledge is so ignorant of what the truth really is so anyones philosophy is just as valid as anyone elses.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2006
  14. Aug 5, 2006 #13
    I found some time beneath a rock...

    I personally lost time in Northern Ontario, standing amidst the granite boulders. Now I can't find it anywhere. I've even gone so far as to make a bold declaration that a second of time is no more than the passing of roughly 0.464 equatorial kilometers. I even find the notion of the atomic clock ludicrous, what with its circularity: a second is equal to the duration of 9,912,631,770 periods...blah blah blah...of the cesium 133 atom, which, of course, goes through roughly 9,912,631,770 cycles per second in a sufficient magnetic field.

    Which means that this can be rewritten to say that the cesium atom goes through roughly 9,912,631,770 of these periods in the relative passing of 0.464 equatorial kilometers. Where is time?
  15. Aug 5, 2006 #14
    Barbour's Platonia isn't Dimensionless, it is the set of all 3D configurations of matter. That is different to the set of 2D configurations or
    4d configurations.
  16. Aug 5, 2006 #15
    I am completely all right with you.
    Precisely it is well my problem and what I want to understand. I think it has neither creation of space there, nor creation of time,they are only an illusions.
    What was really created with the big-bang it is well the matter and energy.
    For more precision I give an example:
    Supposing that there is creation of two elementary particles only at the beginning (big-bang) with uniform translatory movement in the two opposite directions according to one alone dimension. In this case the parameter of space is the distance between the two particles and time is inversely propotional to their speed of distancing one compared to the other . In this situation it is not necessary to create seperately the time and the space.
    Time is like the integer number. They are in our minds only
    I summarize:Space, time and the numbers can never exist independently of the matter.
  17. Aug 5, 2006 #16
    I don't see why some have a problem with the concept of "time"

    Can "time" be completely defined? Not yet, but neither is gravity. So do we dismiss both due to a lack of complete understanding?

    Look, time is an attribute of "change", and EVERYTHING changes; either with respect to itself or with respect to an outside frame-of-referance. This is an immutable aspect of reality.

    The arbitrary parameters we use to perceive, recognize or otherwise quantify that aspect of "change" is what we call "time"
    Without change, "time" is irrelevant.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2006
  18. Aug 6, 2006 #17
    Our problem with time resides in its use in relativity. It is difficult to imagine a relative time. As it is difficult to imagine the fact that two clocks moving one compared to the other do not measure same time.This concern obliges us to redefine the concept of time.
  19. Aug 6, 2006 #18
    Not completely. Time is the same thing it always was.
  20. Aug 6, 2006 #19
    Yes, I have noted that. My opinion is, if things can change state (i.e., there are things which are considered to be the same things but are not absolutely identical), then time exists as time is nothing more or less then a reference to specific different states.
    Or rather, because your mental concept of reality considers specifically different things to be the same thing at a different time: i.e., things can change state and still be the same thing.
    You seem to set great stock in what Hawkins says. I wouldn't call that an honest scientific approach.
    Can you prove that assertion or is it really the fact that your mental concept of "a physical object" that includes "spatial and temporal extent"? Isn't change in position and time just another way of considering specifically different things to be the same thing in a different state? Aren't we really talking about a data compression mechanism here?
    If we don't allow any change in any of the "the components" of our knowledge, we lose a very powerful mechanism of data compression. WHY do things change? Because the idea is quite convenient to making sense of what we know. A lot more convenient then considering every instant you are aware of to be described as a totally different case having utterly no resemblance to any other.

    In fact, I have suggested many times that "AI" people should consider a data compression program which makes every discription of what is known (the information the system has to work with) expressed in terms of elements of other discriptions which are repeated often enough to warrant reference rather than repetition. With the volumes of information which can be processed today, such a system might display some subtle emergent phenomena.
    Yes, I have noted that. My opinion is, if things can change state (i.e., there are things which are considered to be the same things but are not absolutely identical), then time exists as time is nothing more or less then a reference to specific different states.
    Or rather, because your mental concept of reality considers specifically different things to be the same thing at a different time: i.e., things can change state and still be the same thing.
    You seem to imply that Hawkins could not be wrong. I don't know that you should believe that.
    Can you prove that assertion or is it really the fact that your mental concept of "a physical object" that includes "spatial and temporal extent"? Isn't change in position and time just another way of considering specifically different things to be the same thing in a different state?

    Aren't we really talking about a data compression mechanism here?
    If we don't allow any change in any of the "the components" of our knowledge, we lose a very powerful mechanism of data compression. WHY do things change? Because the idea is quite convenient to making sense of what we know.
    Well, I have answered that question on a number of occasions without receiving any logical refutation (emotional refutation, yes; logical refutation,no). Time is a parameter we apply to our knowledge: the past is what we know, the future is what we do not know and the present is the boundary. What we know changes and "t" is a parameter we use to specify a specific change in "the past" (what we knew) and presumed specific changes in "the future" (what we will come to know).
    Einstein's theory presumes there is no time (no change) as his representation assumes time is a coordinate. By the way, it is exactly this lack of representation of change which leads to the well known conflict between quantum mechanics and general relativity. The only solution to the difficulty they have managed to come up with is the idea of multiple universes which, by the way, the existence of which is undetectable. That's a rather extreme solution for a scientist isn't it? Quite analogous to God, another solution which is undetectable. Who says modern science is not a religion?
    There is a great difference between QM and GR "phenomena" (specific mathematical ways in which things change) and classical QM and GR "theory" (reasons why those specific mathematical procedures work). The first is very accurately known; the second is complete hypothesis.
    We can only know what we know and nothing more. Everything else is hypothesis: i.e., an explanation of what we know in terms of things we presume must be true. In order to understand what that means, you have to understand what an explanation is. My claim is that "an explanation" is a data compression mechanism which allows us to generate expectations in accordance with what we know: i.e., explain the past. Of course, I am a certified crack pot!
    Now I would have to seriously differ with you there. If the explanation is to be useful, it must have two very important qualities: first, it cannot give different answers to the same question (a common fault in most religious explanations which often yield different answers depending on your specific approach to the question) or it simply does not yield reasonable expectations for the future (what we do not know) and, secondly, any explanation may be ranked in terms of the details with which it explains things. Essentially the statement that they are all "just as valid" shows lack of examination of the question.
    It's in your head man!
    And, exactly how does "matter" elude this argument. Exactly how do you define "matter": i.e., what is it?
    Well the scientists say it is "what clocks measure" and I have given my definition above. I hold that my definition is complete at least with regard to explaining physics. Of course, once again, I am a certified crack pot!
    With this I would agree. But it seems few other people would agree.
    Yeah, but we could use a good definition, otherwise we really don't know what we are talking about!

    Just my two sense! (I couldn't resist.) :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

    Have fun -- Dick
  21. Aug 6, 2006 #20
    The matter is composed of elementary particles. This elementary particule is managed by one of the four forces at least. It can be converted into energy of radiation.
    Time cannot be converted into another thing. It One cannot convert integer numbers into matter or energy.
    The matter does not resemble time nor the space. The time cannot be quantified in elementary something. It is continuous.
  22. Aug 7, 2006 #21
    You have made a great many assertions here with no defense at all and I have no option except to conclude that you have not thought anything out. You apparently merely believe that what you believe is correct. That is a religious response and not at all scientific.

    Have fun -- Dick
  23. Aug 7, 2006 #22
    When you does'nt have answers It is not worth while to discredit the answers of the others.

    Give us the definition of the matter if you have it. What is the energy? What is the time ?
    thus give us the good answer?

    Matter from :http://www.answers.com/topic/matter
    Material substance that constitutes the observable universe and, together with energy, forms the basis of all objective phenomena. Atoms are the basic building blocks of matter. Every physical entity can be described, physically and mathematically, in terms of interrelated quantities of mass, inertia, and gravitation. Matter in bulk occurs in several states; the most familiar are the gaseous (see gas), liquid, and solid states (plasmas, glasses, and various others are less clearly defined), each with characteristic properties. According to Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity, matter and energy are equivalent and interconvertible (see conservation law). END

    the matter really exists since one can define it clearly. Time is like space and number, They are characteristics of the matter invented by the human brain.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2006
  24. Aug 7, 2006 #23
    I don't see why relative time should be more difficult to imagie than
    relative space.
  25. Aug 7, 2006 #24
    What do you mean by relative space? If you want to say the distance between two points, this is independent of the selected reference frame. The distance is an invariant in classical mechanics.
  26. Aug 8, 2006 #25
    "If time depends on an entity,
    Then without an entity how can time exist?
    There is no existent entity.
    So how can time exist?"

    This comes from Nagarjuna's 'Mulamadhyamakakarika' (Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way). In this view time would depend on the existence of entities, as has been suggested here by a couple of people. As no such entities exists, nor does time.

    This has implications for motion and change. On motion he argues that if motion exists there must be sometime at which it exists. Motion requires a change of position and a change of position must occur over time. But the present has no duration. So if motion were to exist it would have to exist either in the past or the future. You can see where he's going here - he concludes, after dealing with the possible objections, by saying:

    "Neither an entity nor a non-entity
    Moves in any of the three ways.
    So motion, mover
    and route are non-existent."

    For Nagarjuna there is no time and no motion and no entities, nothing really exist and nothing really happens. Of course, he doesn't mean that nothing exists and nothing happens, but rather that none of these things exist inherently, they are empty of essence, epiphenomena of a conceptual kind. They would be epiphenomenal on what is changeless. (Zeno argued for this changeless substrate from the absurdity of our concept of motion, using arguments similar to Nagarjuna's).

    Just one point of view.

    Last edited: Aug 8, 2006
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