Man is inseparable from time - for better or worse.

The philosopher Immanuel Kant believed time is not a thing in itself, but part of our perception. Time as an illusion is common in Buddhist philosophy. In relativity theory, the postulate that the speed of light is a constant, requires that space and time become intertwined (spacetime). In this sense time becomes as real as space. It is sometimes said that Everything is Relative. Is this true? Here’s a Strange Loop:

The statement “everything is relative” is an absolute statement. If “everything is relative” is true then some things (at least that statement) aren’t relative. If some things aren’t relative, “everything is relative” is false.

So, everything is not relative it would seem, and I believe Einstein would agree too. Still, an objective reality outside our perceptions may exist. It’s an absolute, independent of any external conditions. Relativity is just a physical theory of reference frames, and doesn’t hold much philosophical water to make generalizations like: “everything is relative“. Human beings have been bantering around ‘relative truth’ and ‘absolute truth’ since the days of Plato. Arguments can be made to validate/negate each. I guess ultimately a statement is true if things in reality are as the statement says it is. But which reality? The objective one (absolute) or the subjective one (relative). That’s part of the human condition – to live in both at the same time and try to reconcile. Language is not always the best tool, and semantics can be troublesome, but such ideas are always worthy of a discussion.

Time seems to always float downstream

But what of time? Time does seem to be relative, and has a dependence on the frame of reference of the observer. This is embodied in the Twin Paradox. One brother stays on earth, while the other (an identical twin) travels at the speed of light out into space and then returns home. The result is a paradox – The brother who stayed on earth is an old man, while the brother who traveled is still youthful. This result has been proved by experiment, not with people, but elementary particles and their lifetime. Experiments with atomic clocks flown on airplanes agree with this theory exactly as the theory predicts. How can this be? It seems to have something to do with motion and/or the expansion of the universe.

Where does the time go? To know where time goes it helps to know what time is and where is comes from. A very basic definition might be: Time is the presence of motion and forces and is caused by the expansion of space. This is at least consistent with the idea that time began with the “Big Bang”. In a sense, maybe ‘time really does fly‘. Space began with the Big Bang and has been expanding ever since. So time began then too and is related to the expansion of space. I’m not sure space is infinite, but it’s probably boundless. Some suggest it may fold back in on itself like a Mobius strip. Recent theories talk about Branes, which is short for Membranes, and  M-theory of parallel universes offer an explanation for the our universe.


accessory link: Before, Meanwhile and After the BIG BANG (M-Theory)

Some have suggested that the Laws of Physics are not forever, and may change with time, reflecting the expansion of space since the Big Bang. The laws of physics turn out to be a result of various symmetries in nature including space and time. This is what we know today, but the universe may have been very different at its birth. So, can some conclusion be made on the postulate of the blog: “What is Time“?

The physics aside, I am not sure. It seems to go in one direction, cannot be slowed down by normal means, makes us its slave, and inevitably is master of us in the end. Still, there is a positive viewpoint I see. Were it not for the imperative of time, what would be my motivation to do what I do?  Yes, there is the reality of that sense of limited time, but one just knows what must be done – somehow. It is the limited sense of time that drives me. Maybe time is the realization that everything is finite, even the universe itself. If I had a vision of it, it may be something Dali painted.

Salvador Dali's Perspective of Time

Maybe that is just the essence. Time may be just a perspective after all. It’s not how much of it you are given, but what you do with it that matters – at least for human beings anyway. I can’t speak for the animals of this world like cats and dogs, but perhaps they have some understanding too. My cats seem to have a more instinctive feel for time than I do. Maybe time is understanding that all living things (great and small) have a place and a purpose. Who am I to pass judgment? Time is the fire in which we all burn, so let each burn in its own way…