Time might not exist, according to physicists and philosophers
By: April Carson
Do you really believe that time exists? The fact that the answer to this question appears obvious may suggest otherwise. After all, what could be more real than time? We measure it, we experience it, it seems like the very foundation of our existence. And yet, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that time might not exist at all.
Developments in physics suggest that the non-existence of time is a real possibility, and one that we should consider.
What is the significance of this, and how can that be? It will take some time to explain, but don't worry; even if time doesn't exist, our lives will continue as normal.
A Physics Crisis
Physical science is in crisis. We've utilized two wildly successful physical theories, general relativity and quantum mechanics, to explain the universe for more than a century.
But the two theories are incompatible. It's as if we're trying to describe a table with both a pen and a ruler; they might both give us an accurate description, but they'll tell us different stories.
How things work in the tiny world of particles and particle interactions is explained by quantum mechanics. The overall picture of gravity and how things move is described by general relativity.
According to both of these theories, however, they are thought to conflict with one another. Although the specifics of the disagreement are up for debate, scientists across the board agree that both must be supplanted with a more all-encompassing theory.
Physicists are seeking for a quantum gravity theory that replaces general relativity and quantum mechanics, while also capturing the successes of both. Such a theory would shed light on how the macroscopic workings of gravity operate at the atomic level.
In fact, the development of a quantum gravity theory turns out to be quite challenging.
String theory is one approach to reconcile the conflict between the two theories. String theory replaces particles with strings that vibrate in up to 11 dimensions.
The problem is, however, that string theories must be extended to handle the fact that space and time are interwoven. String models describe a universe comparable to our own in various ways, and they provide no definitive predictions that can be determined through experiments to see which model is correct.
Many physicists in the 1980s and 1990s became dissatisfied with string theory and developed a variety of new mathematical approaches to quantum gravity as a result.
Loop quantum gravity is one of the most well-known variants. Loop quantum gravity proposes that space and time are composed of a network of tiny discrete pieces, known as "loops."
Loop quantum gravity's most fascinating aspect is that it appears to negate time entirely.
The concept of time as we know it is being challenged by a growing number of disciplines, including loop quantum gravity. The idea that time is fundamental to reality has been challenged by various approaches, including asymptotic freedom and timelessness.
So we know we need a new physical theory to explain the universe, and that it is quite possible that time will not be included.
Consider a hypothetical scenario in which such a hypothesis turns out to be true. Would it follow that time does not exist if this theory is valid?
It's difficult, and it all depends on what we're talking about. We still accept that tables, chairs, and humans exist even though physical theories do not contain any tables, chairs, or people.
Why? Because we believe that events at a higher level of reality than those observed by physics exist.
We say that tables, for example, "spring forth" from the fundamental physics of particles whizzing through space.
While we have a solid understanding of how an atomic table may be constructed from fundamental particles, we have no idea how time might be "made out of" something more basic.
But until we can provide a solid account of how time comes into being, it's impossible to just assume that time is real.
The future is impossible to predict because time does not exist at any level.
It's like claiming that there are no tables at all if you claim that time does not exist at any degree.
In a world without tables, attempting to get by may be difficult, but leading in a world without time looks like an impossible task.
Our lives are structured around time. We prepare for the future, taking into account what we know about the past. People are held morally responsible for their actions in light of current knowledge regarding them.
We think of ourselves as agents (people who can act) because we may intend to behave in a certain way in the future, implying that we have the potential to affect things.
What's the use of striving to make a difference in the future when there is no future to affect?
What's the use of punishing someone for an event that hasn't happened yet?
The realization that time does not exist would seem to render the entire world immobilized. We would have no motivation to get out of bed.
But then again, if there is no time, there is also no such thing as cause and effect. So maybe we would still get out of bed because we wanted to, not because we had to.
In any case, the idea that time might not exist is a fascinating one. And it's one that has been pondered by some of the greatest minds in history.
Whether or not time actually exists is still an open question. But it's one that we may soon be able to answer, thanks to the work of physicists and philosophers.
Business as usual
There is a solution to the problem.
Although physics may seem to eliminate causation, it appears to preserve it: the belief that one entity can cause another.
In the subatomic world, particles do not have definite positions until they are observed. It is only when we look that they “collapse” into a certain position.
This means that the act of observation creates reality. So, it seems that causation still exists, even if time doesn’t.
What physics is telling us, then, is that the fundamental feature of our world is causation, not time.
If it's true, then the agency may survive even if the company fails. In causal terms, it is entirely possible to rebuild a sense of agency.
We would have to start living in a world where causality, not time, is the fundamental feature.
It would be a very different world, but it would still be a world we can make sense of.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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