What if I told you that time doesn’t exist? What if I say that the ‘future,’ ‘present’ and ‘past’ are just illusions?
Many of us have stared into the sky and welcomed the brilliant night star. We’ve also observed the crescendo and diminuendo of sound as a vehicle approaches and drives past us.We’ve also looked up at the aeroplane passing over our heads, as we listen to the sound it produces.
What should be clear to us therefore, is the fact that what we observe in our “now” from the sound and light is as it happened a million millionth years ago and a thirty, forty or twenty minutes (+/-) ago. Before the sound from that vehicle reaches us, before that light from the distant star reaches us, there is a pause, a rather long pause between you and what you thought you saw or observed. It is a deception you might not be aware of.
(The now slice)
Furthermore, “if you stand still, and I stand still, and there’s 30 years between us in light speed, then when you observe me from your point of view, you will see whatever is going on exactly 30 years ago. That is why everything in the Universe is moving rapidly in different directions. It is possible for two beings traveling in opposite (or different) directions to both arrive before the other in their own frame. It takes time for your eyes to “signal” what they see to your brain. About 70 milliseconds IIRC. That means that everything you see is about 70 ms delayed per default.
Apart from that, light doesn’t travel instantly, and is always going to be more and more delayed the futher you get from what you’re looking at (cf https://www.reddit.com/r/space/comments/3pzx06/can_someone_smart_please_help_me_understand_if/).
You should therefore also take cognizance of the implications of such a question as “what is happening now?” For at that very time, that person may be eating, birds may be flying, someone may be dieing, someone is being born, a bomb is being detonated, et cetera. At that very time in the Universe, a star is dead, a galaxy is born, a planet is formed, a meteorite is hitting the moon, et cetera. All these stuffs captured simultaneously, is what Brain Greens refers to as the “Now Slice” (watch documentary here).
One interesting point to be noted however, is that the “now slice” changes depending on your velocity, but this has no practical significance. The information you receive does not come from “now”, it comes to you from the past light cone. What a distant galaxy is doing “now” cannot be observed, because signals do not propagate infinitely fast. Likewise, a person on the distant galaxy can only observe what we were doing 10 billion years ago.
Furthermore, we must now understand that Time is not just an illusion as Albert Einstein had asserted but that it isn’t what we thought it was. It is the case here that great swatches of the past remain undefined or forgotten. It is also the case that the present doesn’t really exist at all, because all we can sense is the past – our past. Hence, according to George Dishman, the Andromeda paradox emphasizes that “future,” “present” and “past” are meaningful only insofar as they refer to an observer’s light cones.
It is therefore the ejaculation of physics to conclude, using the lenses of special relativity, that what we call “Time” doesn’t exist as a definite reality independent of observers (cf https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/illusion-of-time-is-the-future-already-written.550435/). One must come to the realization that the call of death is the dead of Time as observed by such a fellow while alive.
In his “The Fabric of the Cosmos: Illusion of Time” on PBS (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/fabric-of-cosmos.html#fabric-) time” , Green had further explained the 4-dimensional continuum represented in the mathematics of special relativity. One of his most brilliantly written summary is: “Once we know that your now can be what I consider the past, or your now can be what I consider the future, and your now is every bit as valid as my now, then we learn that the past must be real, the future must be real. They could be your now. That means past, present, future, are equally real, they all exist.”
This is amazing isn’t it? That it doesn’t really matter whether your now is better than my now. For somewhere in the Universe, your now could be, and is someone’s past or future. Have you ever wondered why many get a divorce while others are getting married? Have you ever thought that your wealth today was someone’s past and might be someone else’s future? Have you ever thought about the fact that your birthday was another’s deathday?
There are indeed many existential questions the now slice answers and still hopes to answer. No, it doesn’t speak of determinism in the Universe. It speaks of what we know today as quantum uncertainty -of that quest in our lives to answer the question, “why am I not in his/her shoes?” “Why am I not privileged like him/her?” The mere thought that your uncertain future and uncertain present is another’s dream come true – another’s past, should give you hope, should console you and should halt perennially the ‘negative comparisons!’
Written by David Francis E.
All images from Google.