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Time Does Not Exist – Not as We Think of It

by Derrick
fading clock as time does not exist

Some days it feels like the days, weeks, and months pass so slowly. Other days it feels like the years are slipping by. Think about it long enough and you’ll begin to wonder – what exactly is time? Well, I’m here to tell you that time does not exist at all. At least, not how we have become accustomed to thinking about it.

Yes, time is so evident from our perception that it takes some out-of-the-box thinking to grasp the concept of how time doesn’t really exist.

Try to imagine explaining how a mobile phone works for making distant calls without an obvious physical connection to someone of the 500BC period. It will take a lot of effort!

Just like being told that from the moment you woke up to the moment you slept, there is no time, just random events and interaction of particles in space. 

As a matter of fact, if the location where you woke this morning is many light years away from where you will sleep tonight, an observer might experience your sleeping before your waking. So, did one happen before the other? Is time really how we see it?

What Albert Einstein Said About Time

According to Einstein’s renowned principle of gravity, spacetime is an elastic substance that bends and extends like a garden trampoline when masses or energy are present. 

However, we only see spacetime indirectly by its influence on particles. So how do we initially know that it has this elastic structure? We are convinced mainly by the illusion in our perception.

“The distinction between the past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

— Albert Einstein

From this point of view, the mysterious but enlightening hypothesis contends that time is merely a human construct to help us distinguish between the present and our perspective of the past. 

Einstein’s original views postulate time passes unevenly for a person at sea level compared to someone standing atop the planet’s tallest peaks. According to some studies, at sea level, you age one billionth of a second less every year than you would if you lived on top of Mt. Everest. This is because of gravitational time dilation, a phenomenon suggested by general relativity.

The overall idea is that the laws of physics are timeless. The perception of time is merely a figment of humans’ memories. Everything that has ever happened and will ever happen is all taking place right now at the moment.

How time (as we think of it) is Only an Illusion

We think of time as a linear path, but that’s not what it is. The linearity of time is an abstract construct by man, which makes sense when you consider that it’s how we make sense of aging and getting older as the world changes around us. It’s not that complicated.

The explanation for gravitational time dilation is relatively straightforward: Large mass objects provide a strong gravitational field. These objects’ gravitational fields produce what is known as gravity, which is noticeable warping of the spacetime fabric. The stream of photons moving at the speed of light would appear to bend when it encounters an object with enough gravity.

Something even further intriguing is that mass may warp the time fabric, causing it to be fast or slow based on the mass and gravitational attraction of the object, and this is where time dilation starts to get weird for humans.

Consider someone very far away from you, in a place with much gravity where time counts slowly compared to your location. Perhaps, after you have lived 30 years, and the person only aged 1 or 2 years. Does that make the time what you think it is?

Time seems to move more slowly to someone in heavy gravity than it does to a watch in mild gravity. While the clock appears to run correctly to a person in soft gravity and slowly to a person in great gravity, the watches perfectly work fine. The way masses relatively warp spacetime causes time itself to slow down and speed up.

Time is not linear. It’s merely an illusion. We only see it as such because of the little distance we observe daily. We begin to observe events differently with a significantly large space between us. 

Time is the Fourth Dimension

door to another dimension

The fourth dimension of space is time, despite efforts by physicists to make it obsolete due to its nature of dilation and other theories that disprove it from being a regular dimension.

In addition to the three dimensions of space, time is the fourth dimension. We know that time is a dimension without which everything in the universe would be stagnant and constant. 

But one might ask if time is a dimension, does that necessarily mean it exists in a symmetric form like other dimensions? Can we move in both the backward and forward directions?

Time is how we keep a record of the ongoing changes taking place in the cosmos. Time is a result of the universe’s dynamic character, or one could say that because of time, dynamics are conceivable.

But unlike other spatial dimensions, time has its characteristics. There is no constraint on your ability to go forward or backward in the space dimension. In contrast, there is just one way to go through time. You can only move forward through time; you cannot go back.

This supports causality or the rule of cause and effect. In other words, a cause should come before effect and not the other way around. The idea of entropy is embedded into time and contributes to its inherent irreversibility.

The law states that entropy, or disorder, can never diminish in the cosmos. Things always tend to be disorderly in a trend to achieve balance. Hence, time in this sense, is a dimension that relates to changes in states.

Time Does Not Exist – There is Only the Now

Since there is no distinction between the present, past, and future according to the laws of physics, they are just points in the spacetime continuum. These shouldn’t bother you at all. Instead of pondering things you cannot control, why not focus on those you can change? 

There is only the now. The present is and will always be what you can experience at a time. The future and past are only constructs in our minds. 

The present is all that matters. Too many thoughts about past experiences might weigh you down. The past you cannot change. The future, on the other hand, relies mainly on the present. Why not the best of the present?

Now is the best time. The second best time is also now. Live in the NOW. Just do it now! Because now is all that matters.

Further Reading

The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli is more centered on the context. The theory of relativity, spacetime, loop quantum gravity, and thermodynamics are covered in three sections of The Order of Time. 

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Rovelli begins the first section, The Crumbling of Time, by describing how time is reasoned as the fourth dimension in spacetime. He noted that the orientation of time is lost after talking about Ludwig Boltzmann’s idea of entropy, which never reduces, its function in thermodynamics, and Bayesian probability theory, which Rovelli called “the only equation of fundamental physics that knows any difference between past and future.” 

In the second section, The World without Time, Rovelli proposes that the world is made up of events rather than fundamental particles and presents the idea of time quanta in the context of loop quantum gravity. The third section, The Sources of Time, argues that the seeming passage of time results from our incapacity to see all of the world’s minute elements.

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