Is Time Real?

Hublot Big Bang

Yes – so what is the problem?

The problem lies with the definition of time. On a day-to-day level, I believe that time is functionally constant and reliable. We can create mechanical and electronic devices to divide time into useful tiny pieces, small enough to measure the minute triangulation differences needed for GPS, large enough to let us know when it’s time to take a tea break. This is time as we need it, to control processes, to know what day it is and to be absolutely sure when an astronomical event will occur, or when Santa will come.

However, when some of these devices are taken into more extreme environments, for example to sea, up into the mountains, or indeed into space, they begin to misbehave. Usually, this is because the mechanisms within are subject to, for example, gravitational conditions which have now changed. Time has not changed, we have just failed to measure it correctly.

On a subjective level time can shrink and expand purely as a result of out mental state, stage of life or whatever. When we are excited and absorbed in some enjoyable event, time flies. When we are bored and waiting for something to happen, time drags. When we are young, days are long. As we get older, they seem shorter. Of course, time has not changed, only our perception or experience of it, and I do not think that this is an important part of the question.  On a practical level, we can calculate how long it will take to boil an egg, or travel to the moon and land on schedule.

Some have suggested that time only exists if there is an observer. This is not logical. If our current universe started with a big bang, it started to expand without any audience, and it took time to do so. It continues to expand as we watch, and it will continue to expand, or start contracting, with or without our observation. Time is as solid as the material in the universe, but is it constant?

Perhaps, before the big bang, when all was compressed pure energy, there was no time. When the big bang occurred, time also began, but was it moving more quickly, or slowly, during those energetic first ‘moments’. Is time sort of just cruising right now? Will it slow towards the point of maximum expansion, and then speed up as contraction gets firmly underway? And will it finally stop again when the universe contracts down to its original tiny energy point, only to burst forth again? Different parts of space must be in different states, expanding at different rates. I suspect that time is different there. If we were able to travel at ‘unnatural’ speeds, then it seems plain that our measurement of time would be distorted.

From where I stand, time is a function of space and distance, and if we go with the flow all will seem natural. If we disturb the flow, we will feel some disruption.

Malcolm 🙂

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Aracema
    Jun 17, 2012 @ 07:15:47

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