Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Time is an illusion? Einsteinian Ideas reflected.

  1. May 30, 2014 #1
    Einstein is quoted as saying "Time is an illusion" others have made utterances throughout the scientific and added that past, present and future all exist in the same form/frame. However, what scientific evidence is there of this? is it mere speculation?

    Source:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. May 30, 2014 #2

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I don't think he ever said that; the person who posted that video appears to be interpreting something that isn't in it. The video is using that as a way to explain relativity of simultaneity.

    In either case, Relativity is exquisitely well proven by experiments.
     
  4. May 30, 2014 #3

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I'm moving this thread to special and general relativity, and perhaps it doesn't even belong there. (General physics might be a better home.)

    I only got through the first five minutes of the video. Too much physics woo! I'm not a fan of those popularizations of science that wallow in the woo.

    I don't have time to write a decent response. To those that do proffer a response, please keep in mind the nature of the question. This question was not asked by someone with a degree in physics. Try to keep it fairly simple.
     
  5. May 30, 2014 #4

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    Don't you want to also figure out what is defined as an "illusion"? After all, you want to know if time is such a thing. Shouldn't you care first of all, when you come across something like this, on what is meant by an "illusion"?

    A mirage is an illusion to most people. Do you think the concept of time has the SAME flimsy existence as a mirage? Would physics use such an illusion to not only having a well-defined quantity, but also as a foundation for all of its theories? Think about it!

    Zz.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  6. May 30, 2014 #5

    ghwellsjr

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Can you provide a reference, hopefully online, where Einstein made the statement "Time is an illusion"?

    I can give you a reference where Einstein made statements about time that would be at variance with your claim:

    http://www.fourmilab.ch/etexts/einstein/specrel/www/

    Look at the first article entitled "Definition of Simultaneity". There you will see Einstein defining "Time" and he never suggests that it is an illusion. He does say that it is possible to have a description of time that has no physical meaning but then he points out that it is necessary to have a clear definition of time which he then proceeds to do.

    "Meanings" come from "definitions" and Einstein's fundamental definition of time is that it is what a watch (or clock) measures. I think that is a very simple concept that even young children can understand, don't you think?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  7. May 30, 2014 #6

    Dale

    Staff: Mentor

    It is a misquote. The quote is: "the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion". This simply refers to the relativity of simultaneity, not the non-existence of time as a whole.
     
  8. May 30, 2014 #7

    UltrafastPED

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I remember this episode of NOVA; I didn't like it.

    Time is the same for everyone - if you mean the time which they experience, and measure with their own "wristwatch"; this is called "proper time" in the lingo of special relativity.

    According to Newton, this is the only time there is - the same everywhere, flowing equally in all places and all times.

    But by Einstein's day it was known that something was wrong with this description - it was incompatible with Maxwell's equations for electromagnetism, and some disturbing experimental results were indicating that some changes were required. Poincare was the first to elaborate, correctly, on the "relativity of time" - and gave it this name. You can find some of the quotes and references here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relativity_priority_dispute

    The answer was that while "proper time" works the same for everybody, if you watch the "proper clock" of something which is moving fast relative to your position - then you will "see" their clock running slow. Furthermore, if multiple observers are in motion relative to each other, they will disagree on which events are simultaneous.

    However, Special Relativity tells us how to work with this, and make sense of it all. A good place to start is Taylor & Wheeler's "Spacetime Physics". A few new tools are required, but nothing beyond algebra, and some patience.

    When you are done you will see that while time is not an illusion; instead it must be treated as one of four dimensions of spacetime, but following rules that differ from Newton and Galileo ... rules that are compatible with Maxwell's electrodynamics.

    BTW, there is an immense amount of experimental support for Special Relativity; it is one of the best tested theories available. Plus if it were wrong, then there would be inconsistencies within Maxwell's equations - and they are in use everywhere for electrical and electronic devices, from motors to cell phones, from mirrors to lasers.
     
  9. May 30, 2014 #8

    ghwellsjr

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    That's good. Where did he say that?
     
  10. May 30, 2014 #9

    Nugatory

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I don't either; I've been unable to find any credible source. Most of the sites that claim he did are drifting in the limbo between woo and crackpottery, and misinterpreting something that he did say: "The distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."
     
  11. May 30, 2014 #10

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I'm not sure if it is a quote or paraphrase, but it is discussed about 5 min into the video and it is pretty clearly talking about simultenaity.
     
  12. May 30, 2014 #11

    stevendaryl

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Douglas Adams put it this way:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  13. May 30, 2014 #12

    jbriggs444

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Present) cites a source as:

    "13. Letter from Einstein to the family of his lifelong friend Michele Besso, after learning of his death, (March 1955) as quoted in Science and the Search for God: Disturbing the Universe (1979) by Freeman Dyson, Ch. 17, "A Distant Mirror", ; also quoted at-Einstein's God (NPR)
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Time is an illusion? Einsteinian Ideas reflected.
  1. The time machine idea (Replies: 10)

Loading...