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I Status of the past

  1. Jul 10, 2016 #1
    Does the past exist with the same "existence status" as the present i.e. somewhere (somewhen) people are leaving on the maiden voyage of the Titanic and somewhere (somewhen) else dinosaurs are wandering a younger Earth and it is just a case of "you can't get there from here" or is all that exists a set of information from these events influencing the present? Can these two conjectures (or maybe a better one I did not mention) be tested experimentally.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 10, 2016 #2


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    Science Advisor

    Nobody knows. A common way to visualise relativistic problems is something called a Minkowski diagram, which is basically a displacement-time graph. If you take that as a literal model of spacetime (extended to 3 space and 1 time dimensions, instead of 1 and 1) rather than just a visualisation then what you've got is usually called the block universe. That's more or less what I think you're referring to. It's certainly a popular interpretation of the maths, but whether it reflects reality (and whether there's a meaning to "reality" in that sense) is in the realms of speculation. It's not something we can test, nor (at this point) is it something we can propose a realistic way to test in the future.

    By the way - speculation and philosophy isn't allowed in these forums. The question you asked is (I suspect) fine, being about the boundary between physics and philosophy-stroke-speculation, but be aware that drifting further into philosophical waters is likely to lead to posts getting deleted.
  4. Jul 11, 2016 #3


    Staff: Mentor

    I don't know of any experiment that can even identify the present let alone detect its "existential status".
  5. Jul 11, 2016 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    No. That makes this question philosophy, not physics. Thread closed.
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