Time Explained

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Farsight, Nov 8, 2006.

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  1. Farsight

    Time is very simple, once you get it. But “getting it” is very very difficult. That’s because your current concept of time is so deeply ingrained. You think of time as a length:

    Q: How long will it take to get to London?
    A: What do you mean long?

    We form a mental map of the world using our senses and our brains. But the map is not the territory. We use time to think, but we’ve grown so accustomed to thinking the way we do, that we don't think about time any more. We don't see time for what it is.

    But let’s start with something easier. Let’s start with colour. Follow the link below to conduct an experiment:


    This demonstrates something important about colour perception. What you thought was yellow is in fact grey. It really is. It isn’t a trick. Tear a small hole in a piece of paper to make your own mask to remove context. Hold it up to one image after the other, and you realise that the effect is genuine. It comes as a shock, but genuine it is. Yellow is grey. What does this tell you? It tells you that colour is perception rather than reality. Imagine a super-evolved alien bat with a large number of ears, like a fly’s eye. This bat would “see” using sound, and if it was sufficiently advanced it would see in colour. This should be a reminder that in the subatomic world there is no such thing as colour. A photon has a wavelength, an electromagnetic oscillation, a motion.

    Next let’s take a look at heat. Put your hand on the griddle and sizzle, you know heat is real. But we talk about heat exchangers and heat flow as if there’s some magical mysterious fluid in there. And yet we know there isn’t, because junior-level physics tells us that heat is atomic or molecular motion. It’s a “derived effect”, or a macro effect if you prefer. Sure, heat is a real thing. But you know it's motion.

    Pressure is similar. You can’t measure the pressure of an atom, because pressure isn’t a fundamental property of the sub-atomic world. It’s another ”derived effect”, and the Kinetic Theory of Gases tells us it’s derived from motion.

    How about Kinetic Energy? A cannonball in space travelling at 1000m/s has Kinetic Energy. Oh sorry. I made a mistake. It isn't the cannonball doing 1000m/s. It's me. So where's the kinetic energy now? Nowhere. Because it's just a mathematical expression of stopping distance. There isn't any. All there is is motion.

    We’re all familiar with Sound. It’s like light because it’s waves, and like pressure because they’re pressure waves. And when you look beyond this at the molecules that make up the air around us, you see that sound is motion.

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    Did you know that smell is really shape? Look up Olfaction on wikipedia, but nevermind, because you should be getting the drift by now. We are accustomed to thinking about the world in terms of how we experience it, rather than the scientific, empirical, fundamental, underlying things that are there. And nowhere is this more so than with Time.

    What is Time? Let’s start by looking up the definition of a second:

    "Under the International System of Units, the second is currently defined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom. This definition refers to a caesium atom at rest at a temperature of 0 K…”

    OK, a second is nine billion periods of radiation, of light. Now, what’s a period? We mentioned light, so let’s have a look at frequency:

    Frequency = 1 / T and

    Frequency = v / λ

    Flipping things around, I see that period T is wavelength λ divided by velocity v.

    A wavelength is a distance, a thing like a metre:

    “The metre is the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299 792 458 of a second...”

    And a velocity is a distance divided by a time. So:

    A period T is a distance divided by a distance divided by a time. That’s a another period, another time. OK, so that definition of time is circular. We can’t see the empirical fundamental definition. The axiom warning light is flashing, so let’s look at frequency again:

    "Frequency is the measurement of the number of times that a repeated event occurs per unit of time".

    And the penny drops. We measured nine billion oscillation events and then we defined that as a second. We counted events. We counted motions.

    That’s what time is. It’s counting. One two three four five… nine billion. Mark that down as a second. One two three four five… nine billion. Another second. And you don’t have to count the motion in an atomic clock. You could count the motion of beans in a a bucket. Ping, ping ping, chuck them in, regular as clockwork.

    But now you should notice something: the only direction that is actually there, is the direction of the beans' motion. "More beans" is not a direction. There is no direction for the “Arrow of Beans” to point to. It’s just a mathematical notion, as imaginary as the direction you take when you count along the set of integers.

    So why on earth do we say things like Clocks slow down as if a clock is something that moves like a car? It isn't travelling. There's no slow or fast or up or down to it. We say The day went quickly but it didn’t go anywhere, and it didn’t go quickly at any speed at all. It isn’t travelling and there is no direction. The only directions that are there are the directions of the internal cyclic motion. And they’re being counted, incremented, added up.

    We count this regular motion to use as a ratio against some other motion, be it of light, atoms, buses, or brains. All of these things have motion. Some have more of it than others. And all those motions are real, with real directions in space. But the time direction isn't real. It's as imaginary as that direction you take when you count along that set of integers.

    That's why the past is only in your head and your records. It's the places where things were. All those places are still here, now. It isn’t a place where you can go. The past is the sum of all nows, and now lasts for zero seconds because there is no fundamental time. Only motion. A second is nine billion motions of a caesium atom. Accelerate to half the speed of light and a second is still nine billion motions of a caesium atom. But there's only half the local motion there used to be, because the other half is already doing the motion through space. Look again at the definition of the second and the metre, and you will understand Special Relativity. Time didn’t begin fifteen billion years ago. Because it never started in the first place. It was motion that started in the first place. And it was fifteen billion light-years a go-go.

    Let’s go over it again. Imagine yourself as a metronome. Each tick is a thought in your head, a beat in your heart. If you’re travelling with a forward motion of c you can't tick, because any transverse motion would cause c to be exceeded. If however your forward velocity is zero you can tick with a transverse motion of c. Your time experience changes, but it merely depends on how your motion is cut.

    Motion is a change of place in space. We measure this by comparing it with some other motion, and use the term "time" in our measuring. It's a measure, so by definition it's a dimension in the proper sense. But that only makes it a parameter, not a spatial, linear dimension that we can move along. So why do we say how long when we're thinking about time? We imagine a length of time. We imagine that we travel along this imaginary length at a speed of one second per second. When you "get" time, you realise just how ridiculous this is. We don't travel anywhere in time. Our atoms and everything else are in motion, but there's no travelling through the measure of this motion. To travel backwards in time we'd need negative motion. Motion is motion whichever way it goes. You can’t have negative motion.

    So What do we do with SpaceTime? Ah, Einstein. He knew all right. He found his Hole. Einstein’s Hole. Look it up. Talking of Einstein, let’s look at Simultaneity, and a little thought experiment called the “Cylinder and the Nail”.

    The cylinder is the same length as the body of the nail. At the far end of the cylinder there's a sheet of paper stretched across it like a drumskin. If you were to slide the nail into the cylinder, the pointy end of the nail just touches the paper, but it doesn't penetrate because the head of the nail is too wide to fit into the cylinder.

    You mount collision detector A on the head end of the cylinder, and collision detector B on the paper end of the cylinder. Now with a very special gun, you can fire the nail at the cylinder, or the cylinder at the nail, and monitor your collision detectors.

    From the cylinder's perspective, the nail is a shortened spike. So the first detector to fire is A at the front end of the cylinder. The nail doesn't stop (in reality we're talking gamma-ray plasma jets here) so detector B at the paper end fires later.

    From the nail's perspective, the cylinder is a flattened doughnut. The first detector to fire is B at the paper end. Detector A at the front end of the cylinder fires later.

    From the cylinder's perspective A "happens before" B, whilst from the nail's perspective B "happens before" A. The time experience is therefore subjective to each object and its motion, and is not an objective experience independent of motion. Ergo our experience of time is a subjective experience that is the product of motion, and our treatment of time as a length and a travel direction is incorrect.

    The correct concept of time has to defer to velocity. Velocity is not distance over time. Instead velocity determines your measure of time and space, because spacetime is fundamental, not space, and not time. Velocity is motion, more absolute than distance, more absolute than time. We measure the motion of the molecules of a gas using temperature. There is no time in temperature. And while we talk of a “high temperature”, we cannot travel a “height of temperature”, because there is no height. And we cannot travel a “length of time”, because there is no length. I’ll show you a picture:

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    What can you measure? OK you can measure height. And width. And if it wasn't just a picture you could also measure depth. That's three Dimensions, with a capital D because we can move in those dimensions. What else can I measure? What is the fourth dimension? Well, the picture comes from the Wikipedia Temperature page, so I can also measure the temperature. The motion. The velocity. It's a measure of change of place rather than a measure of place, and it has no absolute units, because you can only measure one change of place against another. It's a fourth dimension, but you can't move in this dimension so it's a dimension with a small d. And because there are no absolute units, the units are relative, which is what Special Relativity is trying to tell us.

    And Special Relativity is also trying to tell us something about the speed of light. Speed is distance over time. But light experiences no time, so talking about speed doesn’t make sense. Light doesn’t travel at any speed. It is a constant, because it is constant. And that constant c has its own units of velocity that we should liken to temperature. Velocity should be defined by degrees, not by metres and seconds, because it defines metres and seconds. And because it defines metres and seconds it but a short step from there to telling the children that the speed of light is the speed of time.

    Strange but true. Because when you get down to the subatomic nitty-gritty, there is no colour. There is no heat. There is no sound. There is no pressure. There is no time, not the way you think. Now try to imagine a particle, without a surface please. And you see why the quantum world, the real world of physics, is oh so very strange.

    If you don't believe me, if you think I'm wrong, show me the maths. But make sure you kick little old t out of all of your equations. And note that there are physicists who think like me. Julian Barbour. Carlo Rovelli. And more. Ever heard of a book called A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Godel and Einstein, by Palle Yourgrau?

    "It is a widely known but insufficiently appreciated fact that Albert Einstein and Kurt Goedel were best friends for the last decade and a half of Einstein's life. They walked home together from Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study every day; they shared ideas about physics, philosophy, politics, and the lost world of German-Austrian science in which they had grown up. What is not widely known is that in 1949 Goedel made a remarkable discovery: there exist possible worlds described by the theory of relativity in which time, as we ordinarily understand it, does not exist. He added a philosophical argument that demonstrates, by Goedel's lights, that as a consequence, time does not exist in our world either. If Goedel is right, Einstein has not just explained time; he has explained it away..."

    Time Travel is bunk. Sleep tight.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2006
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  3. Farsight

    I've posted the above on some other forums and had a mixed response, ranging from "wow" to "crackpot", but nobody can bust it. Nobody can explain why it's wrong. If anybody can, I'll be disappointed, but grateful.
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  5. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

    Are you sure your flaws weren't pointed out and you simply refused to accept it?
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  7. RoyLennigan Registered Senior Member

    As for the whole concept of the idea, i completely agree. i've recently been thinking of time as only a human concept that describes motion. i like the way you worded your concept.
  8. phlogistician Banned Banned

    No please, you go first with the maths, because your allegorical bullshit, is well, allegorical bullshit.
  9. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member

    Q, if you have a counter-theory to what is presented, why don't you put forth that instead of assuming our new poster here is incapable of accepting flaws in his arguments?

    Seriously, do you ever do anything but troll anymore?
  10. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member

    Farsight, four questions:

    1. Do you have mathematical foundations for your theories?

    2. Are you currently pursuing a degree in physics or are currently a Ph.D.? If the latter, what university or research centre or whatever are you associated with? Have you attempted to put forth any of your ideas in a peer reviewed journal?

    3. Are you willing to accept a critique of your system based off the conception that motion necessitates time? Essentially a metaphysical critique of your accounting for this.

    4. You are aware Einstein abandoned his hole?
  11. RoyLennigan Registered Senior Member

    i'd like to see what, specifically, it is you disagree with.
  12. RoyLennigan Registered Senior Member

    i think his concept was that motion is motion and time is merely a measurement we've come up with to explain the constant motion of the universe.

    the way i see it, farsight's explanation agrees with current physics (as far as i can see), but that it explains it in a less circular method. don't compare it to equations--look at it as concepts.
  13. phlogistician Banned Banned

    He's got a lot of prose and allegory, which challenges perception, but completely overlooks the fact that time is a dimension, and that dimension is used to create formulae that can predict events. The latter is a matter of fact, not perception.

    Basically, he uses a lot words to say absolutely nothing of substance.
  14. phlogistician Banned Banned

    If the guy had a solid theory about time, he would not need such allegory. He convolves various perceptions, sticks in a few images, and what has he got?


    Also, it is not for Q to put forward a counter theory, what would that achieve, apart from taking the thread on a tangent?
  15. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member


    Breaking a several month-long streak of Q doing nothing to further any conversation on Sciforums, perhaps?
  16. Farsight

    Yes. OK I can't prove this, but I do take pride in being honest and analytical. Take a look at this example and see what you think:


    RoyLennigan: thanks.

    No, I'm not pursuing a degree in physics, I'm not a PhD, and I haven't attempted to put this in a peer reviewed journal. I'm just a guy who's always been interested in "popular" physics. I'm an IT Manager by trade, with a background in systems analysis and the translation of loose business requirements into precise computer language.

    Yes, any critique is acceptable.

    Yes. I looked it up. However I also read A World Without Time, which is rather historical and philosophical and rather thin on time. But there was a quote where Einstein said he agreed with Godel and should have realised it when he was formulating GR. I can't vouch for this or prove that it directly related to the Hole, but it seemed strikingly relevant.

    You sound like the sort of guy who'll just call me a crackpot without making any attempt to understand what the essay says.
  17. valich Registered Senior Member

    Being a species that can only perceive observations and experiences in four dimensions, I don't think we are capable of seeing and completely understanding time from an all encompassing, unattached objective viewpoint to understand it fully.
  18. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member


    Any serious physics papers needs incredible mathematical foundations. I'd strongly suggest either taking the classes yourself or getting a physics professor to help you work it out.

    If you want this to be more than just a musing in popular physics, you're going to have to pursue a Ph.D. and other such things. Your foundation in computer science should help with that, though.

    I'll give you one after I answer this post of yours, then.

    I find the idea that Godel "disproved time" to be extremely unlikely, specifically considering science has not picked up on this. It is hardly a "conspiracy" when such a thing would be revolutionary to say the least.

    Anyway, Farsight, my critique:

    What is motion? Well motion is going from one point in three dimensions to another, yes? And this cannot be accomplished at the same instance, no? One cannot be at home and at work at the same moment, in other words? Does not this then imply that motion cannot be accounted for purely in space? For if motion was accounted for purely in space, then it would stand to reason that one could occupy two different points at the same time, yes? But this isn't the case: WE are only capable of being in one place or another. This then implies that any motion in time is a motion in another "dimension". That is, that along with one's motion in space to go from one point to another, one is also going through time. That time, in fact, is what facillitates any movement.

    Does time require space and motion to manifest? Certainly. But can motion and space exist without time? Certainly not.
  19. URI IMU Registered Senior Member

    >> But make sure you kick little old t out of all of your equations.

    absolutely so, for basic physics equations.

    But time is a mental concept, born from the nature of "animate" beings, so it is very useful, actually indispensable, for the analysis of the consequence of action.

    Action is important to us, because our living is predicated upon action.

    That said, the ultimate equations in physics are devoid of time.

    Such that GR etc is totally incorrect, since it foolishly incorporated time into its structure.
  20. Farsight

    Prince James:

    I'm not up for a PhD. I've got a wife and two children, and a job and a mortgage. The best I can offer is an interesting essay that maybe provokes some questions and thought from people with the credentials to write a serious paper.

    Godel was clearly a somewhat troubled sort of guy. He basically ended up killing himself with paranoia and hypochondria, which meant people didn't take him too seriously. I think "disproved" and "conspiracy" are a little strong, and I didn't use those words myself. It's more like people didn't pay attention.

    In response to your critique:

    What is motion? Well motion is going from one point in three dimensions to another, yes?

    Yes, no problem.

    And this cannot be accomplished at the same instance, no? One cannot be at home and at work at the same moment, in other words?

    There's an immediate problem here. I'm happy to say "one cannot be at home and at work" but if I also say "at the same instance" I'm starting to use the axiomatic time-is-a-length concept to justify that selfsame axiomatic concept. There's some kind of subtle mental loop to this which is difficult to break out of.

    Does not this then imply that motion cannot be accounted for purely in space? For if motion was accounted for purely in space, then it would stand to reason that one could occupy two different points at the same time, yes?

    I'd say motion is the fundamental thing. Object A moves from location X to location Y. It isn't at location X and Y. It can't occupy two different points, and it can't get from one point to another without moving through the intervening points. When you say "at the same time", I think you're again using the time-is-a-length concept to justify it. All I can do is reiterate that time is how we measure/compare this motion against other motion including the motion of our own atoms, clocks, nerve impulses, etc. Everything is always "at the same time", and that's now.

    But this isn't the case: WE are only capable of being in one place or another. This then implies that any motion in time is a motion in another "dimension". That is, that along with one's motion in space to go from one point to another, one is also going through time. That time, in fact, is what facilitates any movement. Does time require space and motion to manifest? Certainly. But can motion and space exist without time? Certainly not.

    I think we moved apart a couple of points back, so I can't address this point satisfactorily. But when one moves through space one is moving through space. Take two atomic clocks and take one for a fast trip round the world. The readings are different, but they're both here, now. So we have no evidence for any movement through time.

    I'm not quite happy with my responses here, but work calls. I'll be back later. Can we talk some more about "at the same instance"?
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2006
  21. phlogistician Banned Banned

    All you have is allegory, you aren't actually saying anything.
  22. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member


    It's a pity, as obviously you have quite the scientific mind.

    I find this really hard to swallow when one considers the extent both Godel and Einstein are held to be the titans of their respective fields in many ways.

    Granted. Let's then alter my critique to say "one cannot occupy two distant places in space without first moving through the intermediary space".

    Well let us ask this: If motion is fundamental and not time, where resides the "principle of motion" in space? Or rather perhaps "the dimension of motion" in space? For whereas one can indeed look at time as essentially a dimensional quality (although it is wrong to construe it similar in all ways to length or width) it would seem that motion lacks that quality.

    You know, there is another thread that this reminded me of. Check it out here: http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?t=58092

    Assuredly! I'd be most glad to discuss many other things "at the same instance"

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    I do look forward to it!
  23. baumgarten fuck the man Registered Senior Member

    This reminds me of Bergson's concept of time, although it is probably slightly different:
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