Illusion of Time

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OK. This is more of a science/ philosophy question than an actual serious discussion, but I have thought many times about time (heh) and today I decided to get others’ opinions on it. Just a few thoughts about what we do know, what we don’t know, and what we can’t possibly know.

What we do know:

1. Time is how we place events

2. “Progression” through time is relative (Einstein)

3. The way we see time is in the direction of thermodynamic time (i.e. entropy, or disorder, increases over time)

What we don’t know:

1. Whether or not time has a beginning or end

2. Whether or not an infinite amount of time is possible, since (infinity)-1 second still equals infinity

3. Whether or not time is a dimension that acts exactly as spatial dimensions

What we can’t possibly know:

1. Whether or not we are progressing through time, or are stuck at this exact time for eternity with the thoughts and memories of the past on our minds

2. Whether or not time started 5 minutes ago

3. Whether or not time is forced to progress (again, we could just be living in one “snapshot”)

4. Whether or not the forced progression of time goes in the opposite direction of thermodynamic time (i.e. entropy decreases over time, and order is restored; this would make us “think backwards” and devolve over time)

Of course, as always, I only went on this useless listing because I was bored and wanted to know if anyone could add to this, disagree, or comment.

 
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1. Whether or not time has a beginning or end

Time as we know it began with the Big Bang. Time as we don’t know might have existed before then, but time as it is currently would have had to start with the beginning of the universe.

2. Whether or not an infinite amount of time is possible, since (infinity)-1 second still equals infinity

It’s possible to form sentences in a language that, although they are syntactically correct, carry no semantic meaning. This is one of them. “Infinity” is a concept. It’s not something that can happen.

Besides, if you define “time” as the direction of greatest entropy, time will will eventually run out; at some point in the far, far future, the entropy of the universe will be uniform. Time as we know it will no longer pass, as entropy won’t change any more.

3. Whether or not time is a dimension that acts exactly as spatial dimensions

Some people say we live in 3.5 dimensions specifically because of this. As far as we know, we only have half of a time dimension; you can only move in one direction in it.

1. Whether or not we are progressing through time, or are stuck at this exact time for eternity with the thoughts and memories of the past on our minds

2. Whether or not time started 5 minutes ago

Possible, but useless like most solipsism. As far as I know, there’s no useful results from these positions. Yeah, it might be true, but if it is we’ll never know.

3. Whether or not time is forced to progress (again, we could just be living in one “snapshot”)

That’s not really possible. You couldn’t “live” in a snapshot; if there were no time, you wouldn’t be able to do anything. The mere fact that you can take actions kind of implies that we’re not living in a snapshot.

4. Whether or not the forced progression of time goes in the opposite direction of thermodynamic time (i.e. entropy decreases over time, and order is restored; this would make us “think backwards” and devolve over time)

I’m not really sure what you’re saying here. It sort of sounds like “maybe everything happens in reverse, and we just experience it backwards”, but that’s just a guess.

 
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Einar, I would recommend thinking a little more deeply about mxmm’s post. You overestimate what you know, and you also overestimate what human beings are capable of knowing.

So many people wish they could live forever, but we could already be living forever without even knowing it. Kinda hard to use that to console yourself on your death bed, though!

 
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Ahhh Time. Time, time, time? time. Time. That is stuck in my head from watching Sci-Fi shows like Farscape. They mess with time a lot.

Like all the theorys of, if you go back in time to change something, does that mean before you went back in time, it happened? or are you on an alternative timeline/reality,

what if even things like UFO’s are just time travelers from our future.

If you go back in time and kill yourself what happens?

this is assuming you can go back in time hah. I’m such a sci fi addict.

 
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So many people wish they could live forever, but we could already be living forever without even knowing it.

Everyone is effectively immortal, if the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is true.

You overestimate what you know, and you also overestimate what human beings are capable of knowing.

I don’t think there’s anything in what I said that is unsupported. Time as we know it effectively began with the Big Bang, an infinite amount of any finite thing is impossible simply by definition, solipsism is possible but pretty useless, and you can’t say that people “live” in a snapshot of time because there’s no time in which they can live. Even for something as simple as remembering, time must pass.

 
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Like all the theorys of, if you go back in time to change something, does that mean before you went back in time, it happened? or are you on an alternative timeline/reality

Time travel is stickey stuff. It all depends on the following assumptions:
1) Time travel has 4 possible outcomes:
a) Impossible
b) Possible, but events are unchangable (details, yes, events no—i.e. if you attempted to stop the assassination of Lincon, he’d just get run over in the street upon exiting the theater). The Time Machine version.
c) Possible, and events alter the future dramatically (killing a butterfly 65 million years ago means that Gore wins the election 8 years ago—or alternatively such an act already caused Bush to win). Some short story I can’t remember the name of that had dino-hunting in it version.
d) Possible, but events are set in stone—i.e. you can’t change anything: what you do you already did before you went back. This is the most confusing version of time travel as before the traveler has traveled in time, he’s already effected the course of history and you can’t stop him! Pern, or Harry Potter version, also shows up numberous other places.
2) Assuming not A above, any act that is preformed doesn’t cause the travel attempt to be un-needed. I.E. you can’t kill your grandfather. No matter how hard you try he just won’t die. Nor can you create a time machine to prevent an event that was the event that caused you to build the machine in the first place. See The Time Machine movie.
3) Assuming you did manage to break 2 above, the universe will either:
a) unravel due to the paradox created (it likely takes numberous paradoxes—assumed to be 13—to cause the end of the universe). See Chrononaughts card game.
b) perform as 1b above, with history re-writing itself (watch the Butterfly Effect). Only the time traveler will know both (or all) histories. Too much editing will drive the traveler insane.

Physics suggests that only 1a is possible, and 1d is pushing probably.

[long winded and nearly pointless explanation of an interesting visualization of time below]

However, I do like the Amara version of “time travel.” (Stone & [Sky|Sea|Sun] books by Edward Graham). Amara is a physical construct of…memory. Not Time persay, but it might as well have been. The Basilisks with their stolen immortality wanted to create a way to store all history in stone forever, so they created Amara, and burried within it’s impenetrable stone surface lay rods of memory: one for every living creature. Despite their efforts they couldn’t get Amara to be flat and infinite or near-infinite in two directions (one for forwards/backwards in time, the other to contain room for all the rods), instead it curved in upon itself and formed a cone, one that in our “location” might as well be an infinite expanse of wall tilted 10 degrees from vertical (based on my interpretation, the diameter of the cone at this point was well in excess of 100,000 km—for reference, Earth is 12,000km at the equator). Story eventually takes us to the peak of the cone, but my point lies elsewhere: the core of Amara.

Time travel in Amara is simply walking clockwise or counterclockwise on its surface (looking down from the tip, counterclockwise is forwards in time). Traveling up and down can be done, but the boundary where one era ends and meets the screw of the next era is remarkably impassible (please resist the strain of jumping 400,000,000 years). Traveling into Amara (which can be done at certain breaches, most of which get repaired soon after creation—Krakatoa caused a chunk of about 15 feet to break appart, which is how our characters got to Amara, it was repaired in less than a day of conceptual time) is how you can get access to the memory rods. Our main character was one of a very few souls who could touch the rods without being blasted to bits at the very contact with another’s memories. He was also one of a very few of those souls would could not only view the memories, he could alter them (our antagonist being the other).

The process by which history can be altered doesn’t fall into any of the paradigms above.

When our character went back to his own childhood to the death of his brother and father he returned to Amara with a book he’d lost earlier (Darwin’s Origins of Species). He didn’t remove it from his past, he merely copied it. Later it turned to stone and crumbled.

Then when a companion of his died and her husband forced the protagonist to bring her back he does: by traveling along his own memories, which despite his being on Amara, it records the events that take place on it as well: after all the people who live there have memories burried in Amara as well (especially if they weren’t born there). He brought her back, but died in the process: he fractured reality. He came to back on Amara with the girl, because he was only traveling a rod, even though he altered his own life. Because he died he ended up back in the time line where he was still alive. Because he’d altered time on Amara, Amara itself split in half, becoming two instead of one. The other was innaccessible because of that parallel timeline thing, except in one place: where time comes to a point.

What’s after the apex of time? Well, the memory rods curve in on themselves and twist together, grow smaller, combine, grow finer and finer until they’re no less than a wire thinner than a human hair. It travels up out of the peak of Amara and into Amara’s sun. On the other side is where it expands again and becomes a sea. Every being on the other side knows of time travel and can freely do so, no matter what they do they can’t change anything but the landscape of memory: it’s just like water afterall, and their mucking about is like tossing pebbles into the ocean.

The one taboo is to travel back before that transition point, because as much as they’d like to rid themselves of the immeasurable weight of Amara, they don’t because it’s nessessary for them to exist.

Side effect of cloning Amara: our main character could now travel through his memories and alter them without fear, as everything duplicated eventually turns to stone and becomes immutable. By traveling in the stone Amara’s memory rods he could visit anywhere and any when and do anything and when he left, nothing would have changed in his past.

Worth a read, as I skipped over a hell of a lot. Read Dragoncharm and Dragonstorm first. Dragonflame can be skipped if the reader wishes a happy-er ending (the series reduces a world population of hundreds of thousands to a mere 200-400 by the end of the second book, Dragonflame reduces this to a mere 25 individuals, 10 of them named, with an additional 2 escaping to Amara). The descendants of the two are encountered by the main character in the Stone series.

 
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1. Whether or not time has a beginning or end

Ok, agreed. I don’t think we can measure a beginning of time by the point of explosion of the Big Bang. Who knows how long that beginning particle was there? Perhaps we’re in a never-ending cycle. And is the Big Bang actually scientific consensus at this point? I thought it was still somewhat controversial (outside of Creationists even).

2. Whether or not an infinite amount of time is possible, since (infinity)-1 second still equals infinity

I disagree with Einar’s critique here. Ignoring the last phrase (I’m not sure what you were going for), talking about an infinite amount of time is perfectly reasonable and sound. If you were traveling along a wire, it’d be fine to ask whether or not there’s an end to the wire. This is the same question.

3. Whether or not time is a dimension that acts exactly as spatial dimensions

I’m inclined to think it doesn’t. I know you gave an explanation of what you meant to me in chat at one point, but I’m inclined to believe that traveling backwards in time would cause self-referential paradoxes that would implode the universe or something, which suggests to me a difference between spatial dimension and time.

1. Whether or not we are progressing through time, or are stuck at this exact time for eternity with the thoughts and memories of the past on our minds

2. Whether or not time started 5 minutes ago

I do agree with Einar on these two. This is purely wild speculation and is largely irrelevant and useless. It’s The Matrix theory applied to time. There’s always the possibility of some great deception or mis-perception, but in practical applications it serves no purpose.

 
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First of all I think it’s more of a semantics discussion, about what time means, than what it actually is.

I’d focus on why was time introduced (named?) by humanity?
It was introduced by observing change (for example day/night cycle, seasons passing etc.).

[OT] Interestingly enough I watched a programme about a Polish anthropologist (I’m Polish myself) visiting a tribe in the Amazon that cared little for time (they didn’t have a calendar and didn’t count years because there was no season change). [/OT]

So continuing, time (as I would put it) is a tool that describes/measures moments. (Whereas a moment could be defined as something that enables action/change). Also a moment is non existent after it passes (actions can not be performed during it anymore), therefore I am very sceptical about time travel.

How do we experience time then? We experience time by observing it (noticing it’s effects, to be specific, and remembering them). Because there is no way to measure time while asleep or unconscious. Therefore as the OP put it Time is relative to our consciousness (or subjective) and IMO we should treat it in that way.

So is it infinite?
-subjectively? we don’t know as we don’t know what happens after death),
-objectively? as long as any given entity can observe it then IMO yes it’s infinite.

This also points out why we thought of the Big Bang as beginning of time. Because it’s the first moment of our universe that we could notice, retrospectively of course.

I will leave it at that for the time being as this topic is very thought ‘flourishing’ and every other second another idea pops to my head. Please bare with me as English is my second language and my post is more philosophical and scientific.

 
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Since our brains can change our perspective of time (when we are in danger, it’s proven that our brains make our perspective of time slower, so we have more time to react) I think that ‘time is in the eye of the beholder’.

 
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greg: Einar, I would recommend thinking a little more deeply about mxmm’s post. You overestimate what you know, and you also overestimate what human beings are capable of knowing.

Wow, I think I can love you on that line alone, greg. I guess your role in this community gave you the chance to state something that I had wanted to say for a long time.

Now on topic. Imagine if there were a world within our computers. Our computers function at speeds of millionth of a second. If there was a world of sentient beings that lived inside our computers, they would function at similar speeds. Now to them, a second would be quite a long period of time, while a decade in our world would be near infinity to them. Their incapacity to understand this infinity does not mean that this infinity does not exist. Now Einar, to assume that infinity is something that cannot happen, is again similar to this hypothetical world that cannot understand what a decade is.

Einar: That’s not really possible. You couldn’t “live” in a snapshot; if there were no time, you wouldn’t be able to do anything. The mere fact that you can take actions kind of implies that we’re not living in a snapshot.

Have you ever thought about why he used quotation marks on “snapshot”? Have you ever thought about the possibility of the world being returned to completely indifferent to your existence at all after you die, as in your exact identity being used by another identity, making different choices than the ones you did? I think in the serious discussion section, you have to stop simply looking for arguments, and start to really think on your own.

Einar: Possible, but useless like most solipsism. As far as I know, there’s no useful results from these positions. Yeah, it might be true, but if it is we’ll never know.

“What we can’t possibly know:” “Of course, as always, I only went on this useless listing”
I guess reposting the original poster’s words would give you a good “no-sh*t sherlock”.

mxmm, I kind of want some explanation on “3. Whether or not time is a dimension that acts exactly as spatial dimensions” since I am not really clear on which properties you are referring to. There’s something interesting though, like the reversed entropy due to antimatter. However, the inability for us to effectively detect, much less harness such antimatter make this a dream indeed.

 
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I guess your role in this community gave you the chance to state something that I had wanted to say for a long time.

You could have said it yourself. I try to not make unsupported comments, and I don’t think I said anything that, based on my interpretation of what mxmm posted, was unsupported.

Now to them, a second would be quite a long period of time, while a decade in our world would be near infinity to them. Their incapacity to understand this infinity does not mean that this infinity does not exist. Now Einar, to assume that infinity is something that cannot happen, is again similar to this hypothetical world that cannot understand what a decade is.

I don’t understand your argument. Between the first and second lines (where I bolded), you quietly change a very large number into actual infinity, which, although a reasonable rhetorical trick, is invalid logic. Very large numbers are not infinite.

This is also completely orthogonal to the point. The topic is “is infinite amount of time possible”. Whether or not we or some hypothetical civilization are capable of comprehending an infinite amount of time is beside the point.

I said that an infinite amount of time is impossible, because as far as I can see, it is. An infinite amount of time is impossible simply because infinite amounts are impossible; you cannot have an infinite amount of atoms, for instance. If he meant “is it possible for an infinite amount of time to pass”, that’s something different – however, I prefer to not put words in people’s mouths.

Have you ever thought about why he used quotation marks on “snapshot”? Have you ever thought about the possibility of the world being returned to completely indifferent to your existence at all after you die, as in your exact identity being used by another identity, making different choices than the ones you did?

The original statement was unclear. You are interpreting it differently than I did. I interpreted “snapshot” as being, “time does not actually pass; rather, we all live in one single moment, which provides us with the illusion of time passing.” You appear to have interpreted it in a way that, I think, is isomorphic to his first two points in the “what we cannot possibly know” section – that is, instead of the universe starting five minutes ago, it started when you were born.

I guess reposting the original poster’s words would give you a good “no-sh*t sherlock”.

The original poster said:

I only went on this useless listing because I was bored and wanted to know if anyone could add to this, disagree, or comment.

Saying that it is “possible but useless like most solipsism” would, I think, fall under “comment”.

There’s something interesting though, like the reversed entropy due to antimatter. However, the inability for us to effectively detect, much less harness such antimatter make this a dream indeed.

Actually, you may be surprised to know that we can both detect and have actually harnessed antimatter. We know that there’s a cloud of it in the Milky Way, and we’ve created di-positronium molecules (positronium is basically, an electron and an anti-electron orbiting each other, di-positronium is two of them) which will be useful in making really powerful lasers. We’ve also got PET scans, which, as the name implies, use positron emissions to map the body.

 
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Ive always thought of time as a measurement. that is, a measurement of change.

 
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Sounds to me like we need to heed the wisdom of the tralfamadors.

 
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goddamnit now im going to be thinking about this all day. time is so week what if time has stoped and we are just in the one frame

 
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As far as i can see, this seems to make a lot od sence.

Time starts when something begins. Eg. Human is born. Time starts for them. They die. Time ends for them.

Another Eg. Time started for the earth at big bang. Time will end when the earth… dies? explodes? well you get what i mean. ( I hope )

Final Another example… Nothing is left in the universe. Time has ended.

Anybody understand/agree with my train of thought?

 
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So you’re saying time is relative to the object experiencing it?

 
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Yes.

When i die, Time end, for me.

(My time has come?)

 
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billyfred my post is up there, I think it’s a more elaborate (described in detail version) of what you said, though I don’t agree that time ends after death… well read my previous post and give me your more detailed opinion.

 
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Time ends after death FOR THAT PERSON is what i’m saying.

The same way in which when there is nothing, nothing, there will not be time.

 
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yes, exactly, but a person has conscience, a planet or univer IMO doesn’t. That’s why I think time can only stop for a conscious entity.

 
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billyfred, alike.

 
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Its billyfred you scum.

 
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A moment in time is a 3D snapshot of the entire universe. The movement of time is moving forwards through these snapshots.

 
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I think billyfred put it in a nice and simple way.

Man has a point.

Like we say: “The [insert happening here] was before my/your/his time”

 
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Basically, the basis of all my asking about an “illusion of time” was that our minds may not be capable of seeing time as it really is. For instance, time may flow in the direction of which entropy decreases (broken glass reassembles itself, heat turns into the chemicals in a match, etc.) There is no proof saying that time always flows in the direction of increasing entropy. We say that we know this because our minds naturally flow in the direction of less entropy→ more entropy; they will always “think” in this direction because the basic mechanisms (chemicals being metabolized for heat in neurons stimulating thought) depend on increasing entropy.

My second main theme was the rate of advancement of time. Anyone would say intuitively that time flows at a steady rate relative to yourself (i.e. if your body is intact and alive, the thoughts and bodily processes will run at roughly the same speed). However, how would you define this rate? All rates (at least in speed, and this is what we’re defining: the speed of time) depend on a distance over a time. The closest thing to a distance considering the rate of time is the length of time between two moments, and no known unit can be found to replace time in the equation, because having time inversely proportional to time (in the denominator) would be a large contradiction. I hope you get what I’m saying here, but this has many consequences, one including the possible absence of any rate of time at all (or a backwards rate).

Those were just to clarify a few of my points (and I hope I didn’t ramble too much). I didn’t merely mean debating the perspective of time (in living creatures) but rather the reality of time, but I guess it isn’t all that debatable.