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Why does time seem to pass?

  1. Feb 4, 2007 #1
    Does anyone have any good online references to physicists' theories on why we experience ourselves as moving into the future?

    In one sense it seems silly. If time passes at a constant rate, then what is that rate, what even are the units of that rate? One second per second??

    I had assumed that entropy could explain why we can remember the past but only make hazy guesses at the future.
    For example: Suppose the universe starts as a single cube of ice, 1m wide (call this state A). Notice that it is very low entropy and also very easy to describe. It melts and cracks to become a much more complicated configuration (state B). State B could potentially include a memory of state A for example a smaller ice cube. Since State A is simpler than state B, it cannot contain a version (or memory) of it.

    Could this act of including memories from the past into the present give us the sensation that we have just come from the past?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 4, 2007 #2


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    You observe change and the rate that time passes is governed by the rate that you can do elementary actions. Given the dimensions of your mouth for instance, you can only speak at a certain maximum speed, and given the size of our bodies, we can only do things at certain speeds, and since consciousness seems to operate pretty much at a speed governed by language which is governed by the speech apparatus, that is the speed we perceive at.

    Although I suppose if we became accustomed to more rapid change we would operate at a greater speed, but nevertheless our physiology limits the speed at which we can operate. Bruce Lee got about as quick as one can get.

    Sorry, I can't reference to theories, this is just my unadulterated opinion.
  4. Feb 4, 2007 #3
    I guess you are saying something like the units of the rate at which we experience time passing are something like seconds-per-thought.

    ie if you could replace your brain with a computer emulation of your brain, then if you cranked up or down the computer speed, external time would seem to pass slower or faster.

    Fair enough.
  5. Feb 4, 2007 #4


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    At what rate does distance pass? 1 m/m?
  6. Feb 4, 2007 #5

    Ivan Seeking

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  7. Feb 7, 2007 #6
    Hi Russ, when I asked if time passed at 1 s/s, I meant to imply this was some sort of truism and therefore not useful.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2007
  8. Feb 7, 2007 #7
    Hi Ivan, I did skim that thread before starting this one. I hope to keep the focus of this thread much less speculative.

    Ideally what I would find is a link to a physicists explanation of the experience of moving through time in terms of established concepts of entropy, computability etc for the general reader.
  9. Feb 7, 2007 #8


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    Yes, that is the idea.
  10. Feb 7, 2007 #9
    Hi Demystifier. I have the disturbing suspicion you are including memories of a future discussion we have not had yet. ;)

    If you are continuing a discussion from another thread, could you provide a link? (but that discussion should probably be continued in that thread)
  11. Feb 8, 2007 #10


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  12. Feb 8, 2007 #11
    fair enough.. but I actually thought my icecube analogy was more ":cool:"
    I wish I could find a paper or something on this.

    (hmmm.. actually have found a few interesting links now, googling "time entropy past future", and avoiding anything with overlarge font and bright green background..)
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2007
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