Sorry, Mr. Deutsch. Talking about confusion about time! A confusion, I might
add, I find not only in you, but everywhere within physics!
When you consider the spacetime of special and general relativity as
metaphysically real, or the multiversum as metaphysically real, then it is
INEVITABLE that you come up with the questions Brett Hall is posing here.
Your answer disregards the fact, that spacetime is the invariant that allows
us to transform the experiences of one person into that of another. For
example for one observer event A can precede event B, while for the other
observer it is exactly the other way around. But, through making a Lorentz
transformation both can understand why the other has the orders of the
events exactly opposite.
So special relativity and general relativity provide a common ground which
enables both observers to explain each other's experiences.
The question of Brett Hall, however, is of quite a different nature. What he
asks about is why ONE observer experiences only the present, the now, as
metaphysically real, while, according to relativity theory and quantum
mechanics, the past and the future ought to be as metaphysically real as the
present. So why does EVERYBODY experiences the present as exceptional, while
all of our theories of physics tell us, that the present should not have
this special status?
I want to point out that Einstein himself considered this very question as
the MOST IMPORTANT question he confessed NOT to be able to answer!
I myself have been thinking about this question for the first time when I
was still a student of physics. At that time I found the definitions of time
I found in all textbooks confusing. The 'best' answer I could find was that
in the well known book of Misner, Thorne and Wheeler about Gravitation,
which stated that time is defined in such a way, that the equations of
physics assumed their simplest form. I considered this to be a hugely
In any case, at that time i SOLVED this problem, but was completely unaware
of the fact, that others had not found my solution also, because it was so
simple. It took about 10 years for me to become aware of the fact, that
virtually everybody is confused about time, and that, in fact, time as it
exists now in all books is not even a concept.
The trouble I have with my concept of time (I DO have one) is that it is
so ridiculously simple, that, by its sheer simplicity, I have failed to
convince. This is because if I am right about time, it is so simple that
every physicist that learns about it, thinks about himself to be an utter
fool not to have come up with it himself. Moreover, careers are at stake,
especially from those who think that time requires difficult to understand
connections with entropy, to 'explain its direction'. If I am right, then
all of these theories have nothing to do with time as such, much like the
concept of entropy as such has nothing to do with energy.
I know that I sound as if I am bragging. And, indeed, I am. But I think I
have the right to do so, simply because I am convinced that I have solved
this particular puzzle. Moreover, I have found NO ON who has come up with a
convincing argument demonstrating that I am wrong, and why. In fact, I
have been actively looking for arguments against my own concept of time, and
found none whatsoever.
So, what is my solution? What am I bragging about?
Let me explain my theory of time in as few words as possible.
To begin with, the speciality of the present. That is easy. The reason why
the present is special is simply because the present is the only thing that
is real. The past only exists in the form of memory, and therefore is part
of the present. (As data in information carriers.) And the future only
exists as an imagination of something that MIGHT be, but does not HAVE TO
be. So the future only exists as a potentiality in the now.
But what, then, should we make of the constructions of spacetime, or of the
multiversum? Just a remark: I have NEVER ACCEPTED the Multiverse, simply
because it implies a violation of the law of conservation of energy. Many
futures might exist, but only one will actually exist, because that is where
all the energy will then be. If the multiverse is real, then all of these
multiverses must contain all the energy there is. And that means that at any
moment energy is multiplied into as many multiverses as thereare formed. And
that is in violation with the law of conservation of energy. In other words,
the law of conservation of energy excludes the whole multiverse picture.
Of course you can rebut, that in each universe of the multiverse the law of
conservation of energy is only apparent, but I do not buy that. It is just a
I shall not explain here how we can understand spacetime, if we only
consider the present as real. I have worked this out, even up to the point
wherein I succeeded to explain not only exactly why we only experience the
present, but even why space is 3-dimensional. (In fact, it is 8-dimensional,
if you also add rotations, scalars and expansion to reality, but I leave
this for now.) Also I succeeeded to derive the Lorentz transformations. To
be precise, I derived the Lorentz transformations from quantum mechanics.
Eiinstein tried to explain the quantum phenomena with relativity theory, and
failed. This is inevitable, because quantum mechanics is the most
fundamental of the two. Therefore it IS POSSIBLE to derive relativity theory
from quantum mechanics. And I think I have succeeded in doing that. Not that
I am the first. Feynman also has made a similar derivation, but he did not
have the philosophical schooling to see that he had found something
important, much like Lorentz did not understand the fundamental nature of
his own transformations. Einstein's philosophical understanding was needed.
A similar philosophical understanding is needed to see that, indeed,
spacetime itself is a consequence of quantum mechanics. But I will not
explain this here. I limit myself here to the concept of time, and the
special nature of now, and how we can understand time as a concept.
So, to return to time, I begin with taking my experience serious. If
experiencing is only possible IN the present, then the whole idea of a
present we are IN, is wrong. My conclusion is simply, that the present then
MUST BE ALL there is. In other words, we do not experience only the present
because THAT is 'when' we are, but we experience only the present because
THAT is all there is.
But this is not enough to arriva at a concept of time. For that we need a
second observation. And that is that we are able to observe change.
Moreover, we can observe different changes. Or, to be more precise, we can
see differences in the changes we see. Some changes appear to go more
rapidly than others.
If we look even more closely (with our instruments) to existence, then we
can see that EVERYTHING changes. Moreover, everyTHING consists of change.
Look at a stone. It appears to not change. But if we look at it with our
instruments, we see fotons falling on its atoms, being absorbed, and some of
hem being emitted. We see electrons hopping to a more distant orbit when it
catches a photon, and the emitting it when it falls to a lower state. If we
look at the core of the atom, we see protons and neutrons in motion. If we
look at the protons, they consist of quarks and gluons, all kinds of parts
And if we look even more closely, and really think about the famous
equations E = mc^2 = h v, we might realize that everything consists of
energy. Energy itself is the potential to make motions; so energy is just
another name for change. And the frequency part tells us, that 'things' are
changes that change into themselves. Therefore everything is changing. The
only reason why there appear to be things, is because the changes the things
consist of happen both periodically and far more rapidly than our senses are
able to follow. In essence, at every moment every-thing consists of motions
changing into themselves.
If you really understand this, then this puts all of metaphysics on its
head! We are looking at 'is-ness' in metaphysics. We are looking for the
unchanging in change. We try to understand change by understanding
'is-ness', but that is wrong! To really understand time, you must do the
exact opposite: trying to understand the unchanging as a consequence of
change. And that is easy. A thing in general is always a change changing
into itself. So althoug it is impossible to understand change in terms of
'is-ness', it is relatively easy to understand 'is-ness' in terms of change.
This is the step that is needed to really understand time.
So what are the conclusions we have now?
1. The present is the only 'thing' that is real. (Since change is more
fundamental than 'is-ness' there are no 'things', there are only changes.)
2. Every-thing changes. To be precise, this means that there are no
'things'. There are only changes.
3. The changes of which the world consists, or, rahter, at any moment
recreates itself, do not happen with 'the same speed', but are different.
This is enough to arrive at a concept of time.
What do we mean with time? Duration is another name for time. But what do we
mean by that?
Consider this: if I compare the minute hand of a clock, and compare it with
the rotation of the earth around its own axis, then I can see that if the
earth has revolved exactly once around its axis, the minute hand of the
clock has revolved exactly 24 times around its center.
I can reformulate this very simple observation in terms of change in the
following way. The change of the minute hand revolving around its center
happens 24 TIMES FASTER than the change of the earth revolving around its
But I can also say, that the change of the earth revolving around its axis
happens 24 TIMESMORE SLOWLY than the change of the minute hand revolving
around its center.
Yet another way to express the same thing is stating, that the DURATION of
the process of the earth revolving around its own axis is 24 times LONGER
than that of the process of the minute hand revolving around its center.
From this I arrive at the following concept, already anticipated by
Aristotle. Aristotle said: time is a MEASURE of change.
I say, time is an IINDIRECT MESURE of change. Indirect, because time does
not measure the speed of change directly, but a derived magnitude, the
reciprocal of the speed of change, which I call its SLOWNESS.
I thus arrive at the following CONCEPT of time: time is the SLOWNESS of
So there is only now, and there is only change. Past and future are not
metaphysically real, only the present is.
Why is time the SLOWNESS of change, and not the change itself? This is
because focusing on the slowness of change allows us to consider time to be
an extensive magnitude. If a certain process takes 2 hours, and another
process following that exactly takes 3 hours, both together take 5 hours. I
can calculate it by simple addition. But if I consider changes directly, the
calculation becomes much more difficult. In fact, it is the difficulty of
this calculation that has caused virtually everything to understand the
equivalence of time and change.
If I have no concept of time, but only of change, and I want to compare
different changes with each other, then I must say is that the proces that
takes 2 hours is 1/2 as FAST as my standard process, and the process that
takes 3 hours is 1/3 as FAST as my standard process. To calculate how fast
the total process goes compared to my standard process, I must make the
1/(1/(1/2)+1/(1/3))= 1/(2 + 3) = 1/5.
And from this I conclude, that the combined process is 1/5 as fast, that is
it has 1/5th the speed of my standard process.
That is why we must focus on how SLOW a process goes compared to the
standard process. But if that is so, then duration and slowness of change
are exactly the same thing. And since duration is equivalent to time, then
time IS the slowness of change.
So, I repeat, the answer to Brett Hall's question, and that of Einstein, is
that they ask a question from a wrong picture of the world. Spacetime, and
the multiverse are CONSTRUCTIONS OF THE MIND that see patterns in the world.
But these constructions of the mind must not be confused with reality
itself. Our experiences tells us, that 'now' is special in the sense that
'now' is the only 'thing' we experience. From this it is inevitable to draw
the conclusion that this is BECAUSE the present is all there 'is'. Time
arises as a concept, through also seeing that there is only change, and that
changes happen with different speeds. The mind then tries to construct a
measure it can use to distinguish between the different speeds of the
changes, and the demand for that measure to be an extensive measure then
requires that we focus on the SLOWNESS of these changes.
And from this the ridiculously simple picture, and the awareness that
Aristotle was right, emerges. Time is a measure of change. More precise,
time is a measure of the SLOWNESS of change. It is a measure that tells us
how close a change, any change, is to 'the unchanging'.
The above is just the first step. During the last years I have developed a
full-blown theory of spacetime, that is even able to explain the
3-dimensionality of space, and why it has to be so. Moreover, from this
theory the Lorentz transformations also follow. At present I am developing
this theory further, and try to extend it to general relativity. Alas, there
are many things that pull me in many directions, therefore I have not much
time to do so. Nevertheless, I think that my vision on time is much clearer
than those bemuddled visions I find everywhere else.
I leave it at this.
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