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Time Doesn't Exist

Hemos posted about 15 years ago | from the i-am-a-travellor-of-both-time-and-space dept.

Science 375

Meshula writes "An interesting article suggesting that time is an illusion of perception has appeared at New Scientist. "...quantum mechanics supports it. In 1929, the British physicist Nevill Mott and Werner Heisenberg from Germany explained how alpha particles, emitted by radioactive nuclei, form straight tracks in cloud chambers. Mott pointed out that, quantum mechanically, the emitted alpha particle is a spherical wave which slowly leaks out of the nucleus. It is difficult to picture how it is that an outgoing spherical wave can produce a straight line," he argued. We think intuitively that it should ionise atoms at random throughout space. Mott noted that we think this way because we imagine that quantum processes take place in ordinary three-dimensional space. In fact, the possible configurations of the alpha particle and the particles in the detecting chamber must be regarded as the points of a hugely multidimensional configuration space, a miniature Platonia, with the position of the radioactive nucleus playing the role of Alpha. " It's worth a read. "

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of course it doesnt (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614123)

M$ is phasing out the whole Time and Date nonsense with windows 2000. that's why in a recent interview when asked if windows 2000 would ship on time, steve ballmer said "That's not an issue."

Geem, where have I seen this before... (2)

Kintanon (65528) | about 15 years ago | (#1614126)

Oh YEAH! I already wrote a paper on this... and brought it up on slashdot a while back in a thread. And several people were calling me absurd. Oh well... Silly me.>:)


Douglas Adams was right (2)

Big Jez (89415) | about 15 years ago | (#1614129)

Time is an illusion, lunch time doubly so. - Ford Prefect : Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy

if that's the case (1)

bmabray (84486) | about 15 years ago | (#1614132)

Why did I come to work early this morning? In fact, why am I putting in any time at work at all, if there isn't any?

I would consider these questions more, but I'm going home...


So then I'm not really late? (1)

turg (19864) | about 15 years ago | (#1614135)

My project isn't overdue, the client has just narrowed his perception of the universe to three dimensions.
"I am not trying to prove that I am right... I am only trying to find out whether." -Bertolt Brecht

Time (4)

Signal 11 (7608) | about 15 years ago | (#1614138)

Assuming time doesn't exist, why is it that I always get to work late? Is it that I'm already at work and exist at home simultaniously (and thus I really am not late)? If so, they're not paying me enough!!


More quantum..uhm..stuff (2)

Mark F. Komarinski (97174) | about 15 years ago | (#1614140)

IANARS (I Am Not a Rocket Scientist), but NOVA on PBS has a great episode on the nature of time, wormholes, and other really out-there physics. Yes, it's off topic, but it's on this week. Go see it.

Of particular note:

1) A person who says that he's seen microwaves go faster than the speed of light.

2) Wormhole theory (with lots of chats with Hawking)

3) If you've ever seen the light experiment where a light source goes through two slits in a wall, causing the light to split, you'll be curious to see what happens when they let only one photon at a time go to the wall. The result? Same as if you let all the photons through. Bars of light.


If time doesn't exist, (1)

afniv (10789) | about 15 years ago | (#1614142)

how can I get to work? In order to move from one location to another, I need to have time:

distance = rate x time

If I can't get to work, I can't earn money. If I can't earn money, I can't own a computer. If I can't own a computer, how the hell am I going to read Slashdot?

Try to answer that universal question!

"Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"

People (1)

mattermite (100724) | about 15 years ago | (#1614143)

I know in my expirience, people (esp. scientists) love to use the expression, "Time/Everything is relative so..." to prove just about any point they want in a conversation. Now I can correct them and say no what doesn't exist can't be relative. I have been trying to figure this one out for a while, it is a somewhat old idea, and it's just plain confusing. I guess someone was smart/bored enough to finally gave at least some proof to it. Oh, yes and that junkmail email address does work, its just the address I use if I post anything, anywhere.

Big Deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614238)

This isn't a new perception, nor is it anything out of the ordinary. Time is one of those things that exists however, despite whether you think it fundamental does or not. It's like telling a kid that has already burnt themselves by touching a hot pan handle that it's not really the pan handle being hot, it's the fact that you touch it and it conducts. A better article to go over could have been chosen.

SciFi?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614241)

Um. This entire theory is really old ('50s) and has been the subject of countless sci-fi stories, treated in many different ways. I would assume geeks everywhere have alreayd read this theory, which BTW lead to much more interesting treatments.

time (0)

PimpSmurf (20322) | about 15 years ago | (#1614244)

if time doesn't exist... why is it every 4 hours windows reboots itself? you can set your watch by that $hit.

time (0)

bSMfh (bastard Scout (21306) | about 15 years ago | (#1614247)

"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so".
Douglas Adams saw this one coming -- THHGTTG

Entropy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614251)

So, we have this particular interpretation of QM contradicting thermodynamics?

Re:Geem, where have I seen this before... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614255)

I have argued this many times as well. It seems only logical that time is a derived convenience to describe the truth and the sequence of life's existance and its events. It is not a "real" thing.

DUH! (1)

trongey (21550) | about 15 years ago | (#1614258)

I haven't believed in time as something real in ages (no pun intended). Actually, I first got the idea watching an episode of DS9 where the subject was raised by some alien. At most, I would accept the idea that time is a consumable - once you use it, it's gone. No going back to check on it later or jumping ahead to see how it's progressing. Kind of a bummer from the time-travel perspective, but it really sorts out some tough issues.

Consider this. If both past and future time exist and the objects that existed in that time also exist in those times then every moving particle in the universe is essentially a string of matter extending across time. Meaning that there would be an infinite amount of matter spread across the so-called space-time continuum. Now that's an ugly situation.

Re:time (1)

httptech (5553) | about 15 years ago | (#1614263)

Chalk it up to GUI whore programmers I guess...

Re:SciFi?? (1)

justin_saunders (99661) | about 15 years ago | (#1614266)

I would assume geeks everywhere have already read this theory, which BTW lead to much more interesting treatments.

... like "Sliders" (suppressed laughter) ?.


question (1)

FreakBoy (70961) | about 15 years ago | (#1614268)

I haven't gotten all the way through the article yet, but I have a question...

He seems to be saying that there is no history, on many Now's. How can that be? If I take a picture of someone running, I have captured a few Now's (the blurred image of the runners arms or legs).

What am I missing?


Is this guy on any of the Kook Lists? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614278)

One of the problems with the intersection of the Internet and theoretical physics is that you get to hear about every kook's favourite invention - any sci.physics people remember the TIME HAS MASS guy?

Is this authour a known kook? The "independant theoretical physicist" tag on the end of the article does nothing to re-enforce my confidence.

However, the visualization of "triangle land" is interesting, and logically consistant. Assuming a fixed number of "particles", Platonica (as a spacial definitition) makes sense - the space defined by the interrelationships of all particles to all other particles - is also logically consistant (if complex!)

If there's nothing a more qualified physicist can find obviously wrong with this theory, it seems worthy to persue it further.

Hmm.. (1)

Kitsune Sushi (87987) | about 15 years ago | (#1614280)

A person who says that he's seen microwaves go faster than the speed of light.

How do you see that, precisely..? I guess I have to turn on my television for once for this one..

Re:question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614284)

What am I missing?

A brain, perhaps?

Suggested reading (1)

fishbowl (7759) | about 15 years ago | (#1614286)

The Dancing Wu Li Masters
by Gary Zukav ISBN 0-688-08402-8

It's a very easy-to-read introduction to the concepts of Quantum Mechanics.

Hummm... (1)

A well known coward (2835) | about 15 years ago | (#1614290)

[Python character="Gumby"]

Doctor! Doctor!!! My brane hurts!


"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so." - Douglas Adams (as Ford Perfect)

Of course! (1)

vr (9777) | about 15 years ago | (#1614292)

IANAS (I Am Not A Scientist)

I've been saying that time doesn't exist for ages. The idea of time exists, and it is a concept we humans have introduced to make some sense out of the world we live in.

How have I come to this conclusion? Errr.. well.. I figured it out a long time ago, and I can't remember why..


First posters? (1)

Darchmare (5387) | about 15 years ago | (#1614296)

So, does this alter the practice of creating a 'first post' post?

- Darchmare
- Axis Mutatis,

Read this as well. (1)

Ih8sG8s (4112) | about 15 years ago | (#1614298)

Interesting. I wonder what Hawking has to say about it? Read Hawking's lecture on warping time:

Wait a minute... (1)

Dark_Yoda (97138) | about 15 years ago | (#1614300)

oh well i guess if time does not exsite you cant... but if time does not exist and i get paid by the hour, then i am not getting paid, hence i am not going to work, so i get to play slashdot reload all day! YES WHAT FUN!!!!

Amazing (1)

Betcour (50623) | about 15 years ago | (#1614302)

What I find really amazing is that we are now able to have such powerfull physic studies, we can simulate big-bang situation in particules accelerator or "simply" design transistors of incredibly small sizes... biology and medecine looks so primitive in comparison. We are getting closer everyday to the master of time and space, and we still don't have a definitive cure against the flu, let alone AIDS or cancer.

you are an idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614308)

he wasn't referring to the time on your watch stupid. He was referring to the perception that time.. (you know like those lame time travel sci-fi shows) actually can exist after it has passed. Time is just way for our human brain to quantify length between one event and the other. Like how long it took for you to drive to work

Re:question (1)

FreakBoy (70961) | about 15 years ago | (#1614311)


That was really funny! How did you ever come up with that one?!?! You must be in second or third grade, right?

Damn, you're cool...

Wheeler (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614313)

I think Wheeler (to whom this article often refers) will go down in history as one of our greatest scientists and thinkers. He's produced a lot of radical, some would even say visionary, ideas about cosmology and reality, a lot of stuff that many consider on the fringe of mainstream physics. This is mainly due to the fact that if a theory cannot produce any testable predictions, it is not taken seriously -- and that's the way it should be. Unfortunately, we just don't have the tools today to examine and test much of his theses although, as this article points out, this is slowly changing. I suspect that his is a mind much ahead of its time.

not just the photon, but the electron (1)

physic (83957) | about 15 years ago | (#1614317)

Re. no. 3,

If you think its kewl that you get an interference
pattern when you send one photon though at a time,
then you'll be delighted that the same thing happens when one sends one electron through at a time. That means the electron goes through both
slits, just like the photon. But since we are more used to thinking of an electron as a single
particle it always struck me a stranger.

In fact, quantum mechanics says that if we would
perform the same experiment with a bowling ball
(and we had a few billion years to perform the
experiment) the same interference pattern would

Physicists don't understand the universe. All
they understand is how to approximate some of the
universe with some tough mathematics.

Re:Douglas Adams was right (1)

NullGrey (46215) | about 15 years ago | (#1614320)

Oh, man, you store my reply. Almost word-for-word, also.

stack. the off .sig this pop I as Watch

Re:Hmm.. (1)

Mark F. Komarinski (97174) | about 15 years ago | (#1614323)

Well, see on a scope. He had two paths for the beam to travel: one through the air, one through some material that blocks microwaves. The receivers are hooked into a scope, and you see two peaks of transmission. One was through the air, and the other was through the blocking material. The peak for the blocked material showed up before the peak for the unblocked. IANARS.

my head hurts (1)

Cryptacool (98556) | about 15 years ago | (#1614324)

time, dimensions it so confusing time for bed

This is silly (5)

jd (1658) | about 15 years ago | (#1614326)

Let's take the following Greek puzzle: If someone fires an arrow at you, and you blink at a given rate, then the arrow travels a finite distance between blinks. The faster you blink, the shorter the distance. If you blink fast enough, the arrow remains stationary.

Why doesn't this work? Simple. This is simply a misunderstanding of Calculus. Mind you, as calculus hadn't been invented then, they can be forgiven for misunderstanding it. As dt approaches zero, dx/dt approaches the true rate of change at -that point-. It's an instantaneous rate of change, so you don't see the effect of it, for that instant, but it's still non-zero, so an effect will occur.

How does this apply here? Here, the reverse has happened. This guy is looking at the INTEGRAL of time, and confusing that with time itself. If you take a line, and integrate it, you will get an area. An area isn't a line, and does not visibly consist of lines, but a simple differentiation will show those lines must exist.

His argument, concerning straight tracks, are this kind of error. He's looking for the integral of a probabalistic wave (as he's looking over a period of time), but he's getting the raw, collapsed wave instead. If you look in the wrong places, you are bound to not find what you expect.

IMHO, this is very poor science. Any school-age kid who's done maths has done calculus, and knows this very simple pitfall. There is NO excuse for it.

How Old is this? (1)

pbroderi (18723) | about 15 years ago | (#1614328)

The standard sorts of arguments concerning the reality of time in the philosophy journals usually reference the work of McTaggart, a turn of the last century scottish philosopher.

Of course, some of these ideas go back to the pre-Socratics, but McTaggarts contrast between tensed and untensed theories of time has had a major influence among philosophers and philosopher-physicists (here I would suggest looking up some of Abner Shimony's work collected in his _Towards a Naturalistic World View_


arrow of time == direction of entropy increase (2)

Megasphaera Elsdenii (54465) | about 15 years ago | (#1614332)

usually, the direction in which time flows is the one in which the entropy (degree of disorder) increases. That is, say you have snapshots A and B of a piston with 1 million gas molecules.
A: all 1 million molecules randomly distributed throughout the piston
B: all 1 million gas molecules very close to the bottom of the piston
The chances of situation B occuring by chance are exceedingly small, and were probably caused by compression of the piston or so (and the piston was expanded and immediately after that the snapshot was taken). In any case, moving from situation A to B by chance alone can safely be ignored, so time B is before time A. That's all there is to it; all the other laws of nature appear to be time-invariant.

Now, *how* the universe could have started with such an incredibly low entropy (== high order) is anybody's guess; fact is that the total entropy keeps increasing, and that's what we observe.

Now, you can play word games using the anthropic (!= entropic !!) principle: if the universe did not start with such a low entropy, who would have been there to observe it and argue about it on slashdot :-) So perhaps that's where the beholder bit comes in. But I should read the original I suppose.

Re:People (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614338)

From memory humm?... Do you use it as your password too?

Re:This is silly (2)

fishbowl (7759) | about 15 years ago | (#1614341)

You are correct. It is supposed to be silly. What you're saying with the arrow is supposed to be right. Isaac Newton spelled it out, very
completely and correctly.


Newton turns out to be wrong on the subatomic level.

I don't understand why people continue to try to use imagery such as flying arrows to explain the problems in quantum mechanics. You're supposed to be correct. But then experimentation comes along and consistently finds results that can't be explained like that.

You can't say "QM is bullshit because Arrows don't stand still when you blink."

Douglas Adams on track? (2)

Blnky (35330) | about 15 years ago | (#1614344)

That article was highly interesting. Tell me though, as you read the discussion of how we perceive time and motion, was anyone else thinking what I was thinking? "Infinate Improbability Drive"! Movement by altering the probability mist of the Platonic landscape. Make the improbable more probable and suddenly your there. No 'movement' needed at all. Hmm... Ok, Mr. Douglas Adams, maybe that flying thing has some potential after all. ;)

Impact on common jokes (4)

GnomeAttic (97126) | about 15 years ago | (#1614346)

This "time doesn't exist" thing really puts a damper on a very large and hilarious group of jokes. For example, "What time is it when an elephant sits on your watch? Time to get a new watch!" Will now have to be updated to "What time is it when an elephant sits on your watch? An interesting article suggesting that time is an illusion of perception has appeared at New Scientist...". I suggest that , as mature adults, we squelch this discovery for the good of all mankind, so our children and our children's children can enjoy this diverse category of jokes.

Re:Douglas Adams was right (1)

QuMa (19440) | about 15 years ago | (#1614350)

You should send that to the readers digest. They have a whole page for people like you, you know.

What about relativity? (1)

swingkid (3585) | about 15 years ago | (#1614352)

Einstein predicted (and was later proven) that time (or the rate at which things change) changes relative to the gravitational field you're in. If that's not a concrete proof of the existence of time, what is?

Re:Time (1)

QuMa (19440) | about 15 years ago | (#1614354)

It's just that what is often called time is a space dimension. So the problem isn't that you're late, the problem is just that you're ALLWAYS supposed to be at 52*5*43 locations. (52 weeks, 5 days, 43 years. (Yes, that's an approximation).

Re:More quantum..uhm..stuff (1)

JM_the_Great (70802) | about 15 years ago | (#1614357)

Actually, said program was on earlier in the week, so sorry to all you /.'ers who didn't get the privilege of seening a awesome show on wormholes, quantum physics and time travel.

(Oh, wait, if there is no time, then how could it have been on earlier in the week?)

That's my $(2^4*3+1/7%3*2/100)

Re:Time (1)

QuMa (19440) | about 15 years ago | (#1614359)


Re:Hmm.. (1)

Crazy Diamond (102014) | about 15 years ago | (#1614361)

Yeah, basically nothing travels through a vacuum faster than electromagnetic waves. Going a different medium allows different speeds. And there are also notions of traveling waves that also go faster than light. There is something called a phase velocity and group velocity. Phase velocity can be faster than light like in a microwave waveguide but the group velocity is always less than c.

Re:This is silly (1)

Eponymous, Showered (73818) | about 15 years ago | (#1614368)

I'm not hardcore into mechanics, quantum, or otherwise, but your assesment rings true with me. It almost appears as if he's trying to apply Newtonian mechanics right on top of quantum. His concept seems too simplistic.

Time doesn't exist? (2)

Evangelion (2145) | about 15 years ago | (#1614370)

Cool! That means that I must have been imagining all that crappy journalism!

Makes me feel better about the world that Time never existed.

all the crackpots... (1)

pestel (22040) | about 15 years ago | (#1614372)

Man, why is that all the crackpots always come to general relativity or quantum mechanics?

The Wheeler-DeWitt equation is wrong. Wheeler and DeWitt don't believe it anymore (and yes I've heard both of them talk about it). DeWitt thinks it may have still been an okay jumping off place but it's got about as much validity in trying to describe the universe as Newton's laws have in describing black holes or objects moving near the speed of light.

I think you can find a real statement of how useful this article is by looking at the bottom:

The author of this article, Julian Barbour is an independent theoretical physicist who lives near Oxford, UK

Note this man does not have any professional credentials listed. If he actually works at a university with a degree in physics I'd eat my hat.

Tired of crackpots who haven't earned a PhD... Maybe this guy is the replacement for Abian (the time has mass guy on comp.sci.[physics,astro] who died fairly recently)


No more crypto (1)

Eponymous, Showered (73818) | about 15 years ago | (#1614374)

Hmm - it would seem there can be no crypto in Platonia since randomness appears to have been thrown out the window in this essay. I guess I'm off to write my 10-line 3DES cracker...

Re:Hummm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614375)

I believe... in smashing two bricks together!

Re:People (1)

QuMa (19440) | about 15 years ago | (#1614376)

WAhahaha. You mumbling fool! It's
3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993 7510, not
3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693994 1971

Re:Hummm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614378)

Dr. Gumby: IT'LL HAVE TO COME OUT! Mr. Gumby: OUT?! OF MY HEAD?! Dr. Gumby: ONLY BITS OF IT!

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614379)

because dealing with biological organisms is inherently more complex than postulating about abstract concepts like the nature of time or even figuring out how to print microchips with .10-micron dies.

St. Augustine (1)

EnderWiggnz (39214) | about 15 years ago | (#1614380)

This concept really isnt new. St. Augustine pondered the nature of time in "Confessions". He concluded that the only thing that is real is the present, that the future is only a figment of our imagination, and that the past is just a memory, neither really existing, so if there is no future, and no past, how can time exist?

So this concept isnt really new.. or surprising to me. actually, augutines views made an awful lot of sense...

see what i get for a nice jesuit education?

Re:First posters? (1)

QuMa (19440) | about 15 years ago | (#1614381)

And more importantly: How can we build a beowulf cluster if we don't have the time for it?

Is it a bird? is it a plane? No, it's a -1 moderation.

Re:Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614382)

Because you're within the quantum probability mist which creates the illusion of time, and cannot get you or your paycheck outside of the dimensions.

Re:question... there is no Now. (1)

CaptSwifty (61835) | about 15 years ago | (#1614383)

Now does not exist. Now is simply something invented by humans, and the definition of now changes for every person. For example: "Right Now, humans use airplanes to fly" (as opposed to a common space flight somtime in the future). Anyone who reads this article gets a different thought of what the now in that is. For some people, it might be this year, for some, it might be since 1923. Now only exists in a given persons head, so it doesn't really exist.

Now for time, that doesn't exist either. How do we measure time? In minutes, hours, days, months, and years. How is that time derived? Because of how often our world turns (the sun rises), or how quickly it orbits around the sun. What was time measured in before the Milky way galaxy existed? (It's about 6 billion years old, the universe is speculated to be about 12 billion years old). Time was not measured before the Earth and the Milky Way galaxy existed, so time never really existed then, and it doesn't now.

Re:First posters? (1)

IHateEverybody (75727) | about 15 years ago | (#1614384)

Yes, it means that we're all first posters. From now on "First Post" must be appended to the .sig of every Slashdotter.

New candy: Now and Now (1)

mudnux (97604) | about 15 years ago | (#1614385)

Quite an interesting article. I wish I had the time to study all the references sited. One paragraph stands out, the last paragraph. If you read closely it appears there is a conclusion in the final sentence: "We need a new notion of time." The author apparently is not stating that there is no time but that our perception of time as "an immense immobile space, stretching like a block of glass from infinity to infinity" is invalid.

I know time exists. I just wasted 10 minutes of it writing this post (hope the boss doesn't get too upset).

Consider this: (2)

Brian Knotts (855) | about 15 years ago | (#1614386)

If time is real, when did time start?

Interested in XFMail? New XFMail home page []

Calculating bogon trajectories (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614387)

If I told you temperature does not exist, because heat is nothing more than a measure of the avarage kinetic energy of the particles that compose an object, which quantum mechanically should be described as a linear combination of an (almost) infinite number of wavelengths and can not be measured directly, would this be posted on slashdot as a great new scientific insight, or would I be advised to stick my head in an oven at various temperature settings, to see if I can spot some of those wavefunctions?

String theory rules! (1)

dhowe (95060) | about 15 years ago | (#1614388)

Consult with enough physists and you'll find pretty much every opinion under the sun. However, the most promising approach for a TOE (Theory of Everything) is String Theory. Quantum mechanics has to ignore gravity to work - kind of like putting one's head in the sand. For a real interesting read try:
The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian R. Greene

This new popular guide to string theory is absolutely essential reading. There have been transformative theoretical discoveries made by string theorists in the last few years -- insights that have changed the way theoretical physicists think about spacetime, about strings, and the role played by black holes and other black objects. String theorist Brian Greene has both the technical expertise and the artistic flair to compose a compelling and highly readable portrait of the "cutting edge of the cutting edge" in theoretical physics.

Singularities.... (2)

oblisk (99139) | about 15 years ago | (#1614389)

According to Classical General Relativity, there are only 2 areas where time ceases to exist:

A singularity, where the Curvature of space is infinte and there exists something with a volume of zero and infinite density. Time and General Relativity Break down here.

Velocities at the Speed of light, time dialation becomes infinte and time stops for anything with a velocity of c.

From what i can understand from this article is Time does not exist on a Universal scale, it is kind of like the homogenity of the universe. 'The universe is symmetrical only on a universal scale'. In other words time exists when your reference frame is smaller than the whole universe.

However, If Time just dosent exist, i wasted allot of nothing on a paper on singularities which is compleatly misguided as of this new (wait it can't be new b/c there isn't time) research.

Argh i'll prolly have to fit something on this in my conclusion,

P.S. Thank god for the slowness of radical ideas acceptance in science.

Re:you are an idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614390)

I suggest you discontinue reading /. until you acquire something resembling even a rudimentary sense of humor.

How to verify? (1)

jpritikin (30460) | about 15 years ago | (#1614391)

It's one thing to talk about. But how can something like this be verified? If words are used then we quickly run up against Godel's incompleteness theorem: Words cannot be used to describe something truly non-conceptual. But are we limited only to words?

What is left over after we eliminate concepts & words from our experience? Surely there is light, direct perception, intensity, and concentration. Still, I'm getting lost because I have started using words again. Maybe the way out is to use paradox?

Fortunately, quantum physics offers a suggestion: Heisenberg's uncertainty principle limits the precision to which position and momentum can be known for any object. But what if you attempt to measure the position and momentum of your own mind? Doesn't the uncertainty principle only apply to *separate* observers?

Surely, you should be able to do this because you are yourself, right?

Re:More quantum..uhm..stuff (2)

pestel (22040) | about 15 years ago | (#1614392)

There are maybe 3 people in the world still working on wormholes (one is Matt Visser who wrote a nice book on wormholes - can't find the reference right now - in the wrong office so I can't see it on the shelf).

Work [] done by Ford and Roman showed that to have a wormhole you need stupendously large amounts of negative energy density to maintain the throat of the wormhole (what you would travel through). Think millions of galaxies worth of mass stretched over an area smaller than 10^(-19) meters thick.

Work [] by Taylor, Hiscock, and Anderson (yes I'm Taylor) showed that even the simplest kind of matter field you can imagine, a scalar field, will not support the wormhole throat. The other fields' (fermionic, electromagnetic, and gravitational) effect have not been calculated because they're much too difficult in this case, but in simpler cases they vary from the scalar field by a factor of 2-4. This isn't nearly enough to maintain the wormhole throat.

Because of all these problems (and others), most everyone has abandoned wormhole research for the time being. There are hints (work by Tanaka) that it may be possible, but it seems very unlikely in the general case that we can create or maintain a wormhole (if we happened to find one suddenly).

Re:Consider this: (1)

Floris (21037) | about 15 years ago | (#1614393)

Consider this:
If space is real, where does it start?


Re:Of course! (1)

JM_the_Great (70802) | about 15 years ago | (#1614394) came up with the theory that there is no time a long time ago? Hmmm.........

That's my $(2^4*3+1/7%3*2/100)

Can you expand on this? (1)

mellon (7048) | about 15 years ago | (#1614395)

I read the article, and found it interesting. Your criticism of it didn't connect for me - what you say makes sense, but I don't see how it connects to the article. I think I may not know some fundamental thing that you assumed when you wrote this comment.

Can you try to say more about your reasoning and how it connects to the article?

Article explanation and rebuttal (5)

Ted V (67691) | about 15 years ago | (#1614396)

Here's a brief explanation of the article:

Consider the set of all possible configurations of all particles in the universe. (He names this set Platonia.) Arrange the set so that configurations which are similar are close to each other. In other words, the configuration where I've just gotten out of my chair is close to the configuration where I'm about to get out of my chair, but they're both really far from the configuration where I'm on an airplane flying to Bombay.

He then defines the "arrows" of time as a straight "track" traced between different configurations. Each configuration contains data which has records of "the past"-- other configurations on the same track. Essentially he's changed the definition of the Universe. What we consider "the universe" is a single element of the set he names Platonia. But he names Platonia the universe-- the set of all possible particle configurations.

Let me use his arguments to prove that distance doesn't exist. "Consider what we think of as points on the real line. The point 1 and the point 4 have a distance of three. But there's really an infinite number of points, and they're all connected. I will define the real line R as a point. Distance has no meaning to the real line so distance must not exist! What we think of as distance is really just the separation between two different instantiations of our point R." Technically stated this is true. He's redefining terms in such a way that they're no longer meaningful.

On the bright side, if he could get from "Time doesn't exist" to "consider a set that contains the concept of time", he might be able to theorize something useful.

I'm going to comment on his credentials in a later post...


Re:What about relativity? (1)

WanderingWastrel (98947) | about 15 years ago | (#1614397)

I'm not entirely sure I understood the article, mind you. But if time is viewed as a reflection of the lengths/relationships between particles, then Einstein's "time is relative to gravational field" is simply a statement that the length between particles will be different depending on what kind of gravational field the particles are in.

I think I sprained my brain on that one. Anyway, I remember reading somewhere that physicists aren't describing the universe anymore, they're describing the way humans perceive the universe -- which is not necessarily the same thing. Sort of like how in the movie Matrix, the humans perceive a spoon, but there is no spoon there, only lines of code.

I have to go roll around on the floor making quiet noises of pain and confusion now...

Interesting, but... (2)

joshv (13017) | about 15 years ago | (#1614398)

Ok, what he seems to be saying is that every possible configuration of the universe has some probability, which is determinable by plugging that configuration into some equation (who knows what this thing looks like).

Now, in the set of all possible configurations, there are bound to exist configurations that LOOK as if they are a time evolved state of another confuration. In other words, state B is configured in such a way as it appears to contain information imparted by a previous state A.

But in 'reality' they are merely two status in the 'mist' which have some finite probability of 'existing'. String enough of these states together in a sequence and you get his 'time capsules'.

Ok, interesting mind candy, but it does not seem like there is much here to chew on for the real physicist. My understanding of physics is that is about the production of mathematical models which should predict the real, observed behavior of physical systems.

The progression of time is an observable. Just about every observation one could wish to make will involve time, whatever it is, even if it is an 'illusion'.

If you were to produce a theory that did not contain time you would have to demonstrate how time appears to come into being in some special cases (and demonstrate it a little bit better than with some speciously reasoned 'time capsule' argument), and demonstrate that your model not only describes all currently obsevable physical behavior properly, but in some way BETTER than other models.


Re:More quantum..uhm..stuff (1)

mmontour (2208) | about 15 years ago | (#1614399)

1) A person who says that he's seen microwaves go faster than the speed of light.

For me that was the most interesting part of the program. Basically, a microwave beam was split, and half of it went through air while half went through some barrier (apparantly by quantum tunneling). This signal arrived at the detector before the signal which went through air (by a significant margin; it's not just refractive index of air).

It looked like they were using a pulsed waveform, which might indicate this is more than just a phase velocity / group velocity confusion (electromagnetic waves can travel "faster than light" in an ionized plasma or a waveguide, but if you try to modulate any information on them, it always propagates "slower than light").

On the show there was some discussion about whether or not this apparatus could transmit information FTL; the researcher claimed it could and demonstrated it by modulating a piece of music through the apparatus. A fair bit of static, but easily recognizable. There is a large attenuation of the FTL signal; most photons don't make it through the barrier.

This was a table-top experiment, and it did not look like it would scale up to larger sizes very easily. Due to the large signal attenuation, you couldn't just stack devices end-to-end.

As far as time travel goes, SR shows that if you can send information FTL in opposite directions in two reference frames with a high relative velocity, then you can send it back in time. So, if you sent one of these microwave devices whizzing past another one in your lab, you might be able to send a couple of bits of information back in time by a nanosecond or so.

Quantum Zeno Effect (1)

Bobort (289) | about 15 years ago | (#1614401)

From my handy Quantum Mechanics textbook:
"In 1977 Misra and Sudarshan proposed what they call the quantum Zeno effect as a dramatic experimental demonstration of the collapse of the wave function. Their idea was to take an unstable system (an atom in an excited state, say) and subject it to repeated measurements. Each observation collapses the wave function, resetting the clock, and it is possible by this means to delay indefinitely the expected transition to the lower state. ... As it turns out, the experiment is impractical for spontaneous transitions, but it can be done using induced transitions, and the results are in excellent agreement with theoretical predictions."

_Introduction to Quantum Mechanics_, David Griffiths, pp. 383-4

bogon meter started to click and hum while reading (2)

zptdooda (28851) | about 15 years ago | (#1614403)

The author's reasoning seems incomplete in some ways.

First of all you'd need 12 numbers, not 10 to describe the location of 3 points in Newton's universe. Maybe he assumes that all 3 points exist at the same time. But he should state these assumptions, especially in an article about time.

His rules for Triangle Land would sweep out a plane, not a pyramid. Maybe he's leaving some other assumptions out. It would be useful to see the diagram he refers to to find what defines the axis extending from his Alpha point.

I'd say he's still firmly in Euclidean space however uncool that may be these days.

His mention of a particle's spherical wave function misses the point that the function breaks down when observed. It then takes on a single value. The path taken by the Alpha particle sweeps out a sphere until you look. It then becomes a particular path. Schrodinger's Cat only exists as a wave function until you open the box. After that it's just an ordinary cat.

He seems to be stirring a lot of concepts together, but instead coming up with chocolate chip cookies he ends up with a gooey mess that we can't sink our teeth into.

I'd say the topic was time, but the substance was bogon.

Re:People and pi (1)

wass (72082) | about 15 years ago | (#1614405)

You're off with the last 5 digits of pi in your sig. You know pi to the same precision that I know it, namely 50 digits after the decimal point, however you messed up at the end.

It's really (well, more accurately, that is) 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375 10

check out here [] as one of several pi repositories.

Then speed doesn't either, therefore: e # mc2 ? (1)

Cy Guy (56083) | about 15 years ago | (#1614412)

If speed is distance travelled over time, and time doesn't exist, we get a Division by zero error.

Now we can assume distance/zero = inifinity, in which case
e = c^2 * infinity = infinity

Or we can assume distance/zero = zero so
e = c^2 * zero = zero

I think our best choice is distance/zero = 1 so
e = c^2 * 1 = c^2


A Big Gnu Thrush (12795) | about 15 years ago | (#1614413)

Thanks for parsing this, for a minute I thought you were Not A Retarded Slashdotter.

I almost didn't take your post seriously.

Time flies when your having fun. - Humor (1)

andrews (12425) | about 15 years ago | (#1614414)

So time doesn't exist... That would explain how time seems to speed up when your having fun and seems to slow down when your bored. If the illusion of time is caused by memory, and assuming the brain can only store a finite amount of data/second, when exciting things are going on we have more detailed but fewer records causing the illusion of less time. When things slow down and change less, we have less detailed (because there is less change and less new stuff to store), and more frequent records, causing a perception of "more" time.

Re:Amazing (1)

pestel (22040) | about 15 years ago | (#1614415)

We cannot come even close to the energies released during the big bang (energy equivalent to all of the mass and energy present in the universe today. We're not even close. We haven't even found the Higgs particle yet (and that is something to worry about, especially if you're a physicist). Either we find the Higgs particle RSN or most of quantum electrodynamics is wrong (the Higgs particle sets the mass for all of the other interacting particles).

Both biology and the study of very high energies/fundamental interactions are complex. There are hints now that the electron, which we thought was the smallest free charged particles (quarks can't be free), appears to have structure inside of it. We still have no idea how to unify gravity with the other 3 fundamental forces. Lots of people think M-theory is the way to go (M-theory is the successor of string theory) but I'm not holding my breath as they have nothing we can check by doing an experiment and likely won't for a long long time. There's lots more fundamental physics we just don't get precisely for the same reason biology and medicine "seem" primitive - it's too complex.

well of course it doesnt.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614416)

Without any scientific proof we can concieve that time only exsists as a human concept. Truth and Justice also fall into the catagory of metaphysical concepts, none of which exist anywhere but in our heads. Groups of people decide upon a measure and off they go.

Re:More quantum..uhm..stuff (1)

sqrlbait5 (67782) | about 15 years ago | (#1614417)

My roomate watched that special and I actually found myself watching it pretty closely before too long...I was just sitting here and all of a sudden I heard a voice exactly like that of the agent from The Matrix (agent Smith, maybe?) and I turned around only to see none other than Carl Sagan talking...Does anybody know if they got that agent voice from Sagan or did I miss something?

memory fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614419)

Your last 5 digits of pi are wrong. Should be 37510.

Re:question... there is no Now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614421)

Sure, maybe the solar system didn't exist billions of years ago, but there are other, more universal reference points (like the halflife of some radioactive material for example). It's impossible to speculate about before the Big Bang though.

Quantum Theory interpretation (2)

SpinyNorman (33776) | about 15 years ago | (#1614422)

I've always felt that the mainstream Quantum Theory interpretations are way too conservative, and seem to be driven by a desire to make the percieved classical world real.

IMNSHO, Schroedringers equation describes the world - period. The collapse postulate is bunk, as only serves the purpose of supporting the classical view.

The correct "interpretation" of Quantum Theory is therefore that the world actually is an evolving "probabalistic" wave equation. As classically scaled creatures, our classical perceptive systems naturally see a "collaped" view (although if reality there is no collapse), and the path of time we experience is just the history of this percieved collapsed event history.

There again, I might be wrong! ;-)

Re:More quantum..uhm..stuff (1)

Mark F. Komarinski (97174) | about 15 years ago | (#1614424)

Sagan died in '96, before the Matrix was made. If you get the Matrix on DVD, you get to see the actor who portrayed Smith chatting (with an Aussie accent IIRC).

Author's Credentials (5)

Ted V (67691) | about 15 years ago | (#1614431)

This article has all the ear marks of a crack pot theoretical physicist whom no one listens to.

The author of this article, Julian Barbour is an independent theoretical physicist who lives near Oxford, UK.

First, notice how he's not actually working at any university, but cites that he "lives near Oxford" as if that makes him smarter. He also does NOT state what kind of degree he has and where it's from. (Not that degrees make one smart, but when the rest of the article is suspect, the degree is too.)

Consider this paragraph:

The notion of time as an invisible framework that contains and constrains the Universe is not unlike the crystal spheres invented centuries ago to carry the planets. After the spheres had been shattered by Tycho Brahe's observations, Kepler said: "We must philosophise about these things differently." Much of modern physics stems from this insight. We need a new notion of time.

He's basically saying, "You might think I'm crazy but I'm really as insightful as Kepler! Save yourself the embarassment and support my ideas now!" Of course, Kepler actually came up with real equations, and Kepler's Laws provided meaningful insight into planetary motion. This article's author has not provided anything useful.

Here is the best support he can muster from other physicists:

Americans Bryce DeWitt and John Wheeler combined quantum mechanics and Einstein's theory of general relativity to produce an equation that describes the whole Universe. Put into the equation a configuration of the Universe, and out comes a probability for that configuration. There is no mention of time. Admittedly, the Wheeler-DeWitt equation is controversial and fraught with mathematical difficulties...

Wow, his best cite is contraversial and came up with a useless mathematical equation. He's really just using the idea that for any configuration of the universe, there is a probability that it exists. (But doesn't his article state that all configurations of the universe exist? We just experience them one at a time? Hmmm, sounds like a contradiction...)

The feeling I got from reading this article was that the author wasn't taken seriously by the academic community because his ideas are some subset of: {Trivial, Unprovable, Useless}. If this is an average article for Julian, then I agree with the academics.


Concentration/Focus affects time? (1)

Hurricane_Bill (96738) | about 15 years ago | (#1614432)

How does meditation affect the perception of Time? According to Thoreau, the world is both infinitely large and small; The vast universe and a single pedal of a flower.

If Time doesn't exist, then our perception of time varies from person to person. Does meditation actually allow one to 'slow' down his/her life? Compare a highly skilled artisan, for example. He has put his "Time and Energy" in learning that skill. Each minute of education becomes increasingly more focused/magnified. If you magnify a line, don't you begin to see the dots. If you focus/magnify your life, does that mean that in essence you've slowed down your life? In contrast, a person who chooses not to study, learn... could be considered one who skips through life (sort of like skimming a rock across the surface of water); in the end, this person might look back and wonder where it all went. Does this make sense?

this article says nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614433)

I can't believe this article was posted. It says absolutely nothing. All it does is suggest that we view space in some hugely complicated way. It doesn't give any suggestion of the BIG EQUATION that's going to solve everything. It doesn't solve any of the problems of space and time.

It's not even consistent with quantum mechanics or general relativity, as it claims. Quantum mechanics views a system in a Hilbert space, which is totally different from a physical space of separations. A consequence of General Relativity is that there is no cartesian embedding space for curved space-time. This is to say, the curvature of space and the local nature of our perception of time make it impossible to describe space-time in any absolute frame - there is no way to account for the interactions between particles. The way this doesn't fit with that guy's view is that every particle's relative VELOCITY (which contains the notion of time) enters into its interactions and is indispensable in describing the particle physically, and there is NO ABSOLUTE WAY of describing the relative velocity of every particle relative to every other in a simple, time independent coordinate system.

And what about pair creation and what goes on in accelerators? Particles DO come out of nowhere, at the cost of some energy. Do we then add more dimensions to our space on the fly, or are the dimensions of every possible particle that will ever be (an uncountable infinity) already there?

If you want to know something about space and time and physics, find a good book or read a respected journal. This author likes to name drop, but the article is garbage. Just because a theory is really complicated doesn't mean that it's profound.

This is evidence to prove my theory... (3)

Amoeba Protozoa (15911) | about 15 years ago | (#1614434)

...of how many dimensions a creature can perceive:

Number of Dimensions = (Number of Eyes + 1)


Eyes: 2

Dimensions: 3 (Length, Width, & Height)
Evolved Human:
Eyes: 3

Dimensions: 4 (Length, Width, Height, & Time)
Common Arachnid:
Eyes: 8

Dimensions: 9, making them the wisest beings on the planet.

My plan is to use spiders to predict the future of the stock market, and grow rich off of as of yet unknown bio-medical research groups. The spider tells me that any company that engineers "crop-protecting superbugs," is a good bet.
But...perhaps I have said too much...


If time doesn't exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614435)

...then that invoice I just sent to the agency must be fraudulent.

But then, of course, as time is money, if time doesn't exist then money doesn't exist either, so I guess I can't be sued for claiming non-existent renumeration for non-existent time spent on /. , er, work.

I'll stop before this gets even more Douglas Adamsish. (Universe - size: infinite, population: none, currency: none etc.)

[AC to protect the guilty]

Re:Entropy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1614436)

This article is what happens when people who don't understand quantum physics learn the tricks how to work with it.

You derive a model that describes the universe, or parts of it. When you can use that model to describe the universe, and make predictions about it: great. That doesn't make the model a law of nature.

This guy takes a mathematical model of the universe as a set of probabilities, that describes a certain aspect of the universe in a certain way. He then declares his model 'the universe', and projects every property of his model on the universe. It just doesnt work that way. A model isn't the universe, it's an approximation of the universe. That's the whole point of a model.

Re:More quantum..uhm..stuff (1)

sqrlbait5 (67782) | about 15 years ago | (#1614438)

Yeah yeah I know, but I mean, the voices are eerily similar...just an observation that struck me as curious.

Re:Is this guy on any of the Kook Lists? (1)

Compuser (14899) | about 15 years ago | (#1614440)

Platonia has a name: phase space.
His (?) entire idea is that one
needs to write down the wavefunction
for the universe in full phase space.

My guess is that the guy is confused.
It is true that for every phase transition,
like the big bang, you want a scaling
description, so only the scale of time
would be important. You want a description
in terms of unitless quantities, so one
may describe this as timeless, but the scale
of time will still be there.

Re:Big Deal (1)

N8Dog (74031) | about 15 years ago | (#1614441)

c'mon, its fun to read this stuff.

Re:This is silly (1)

fmackay (23605) | about 15 years ago | (#1614443)

If something "rings true", and has anything to do with quantum mechanics, then it's probably wrong :)
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