Closer To Reality: Time And Time Travel

Time is just one of the most mysterious concepts the human mind has ever invented and grappled with. From what is time, to was time created and if so by God, to what is the state of timelessness and was God in such a state, to whether or not time travel (especially to the past) is possible. Much of what follows arose out of a few debates I had with various others on the general nature of time.

Regarding Time 1

“Time actually has a direction”, but that in itself is a mystery because there are no violations in the physical laws, physical relationships and physical principles if you reverse the direction of time. The only way you would identify an anomaly in a film that was reversed and run backwards would be if whatever you were filming ran contrary to probability like an egg unscrambling. However, the unscrambling of an egg isn’t in itself a violation of physical law. Actually you could film many things and run the film backwards and not detect anything weird going on. For example, tree branches swaying in the wind.

Regarding Time 2

The direction of time is fundamental to our existence and understanding of the cosmos. However, the direction of time is determined more by what is probable than what are the laws, principles and relationships of physics. You know time has passed in a unidirectional way when your hot cup of coffee warms up the kitchen while the cooler kitchen cools down the coffee. But there is no law that says that must of necessity be the case. It’s just probability that that will happen instead of the hot cup of coffee staying hot hour after hour.

Regarding Time 3

There is always an “earlier than” and a “later than” relationship when it comes to the flow of time. My sole point is that there is no actual physical law, like say gravity or the cosmic speed limit of light that governs the flow of time. When it comes to time, you can run two identical scenarios and not get the exact same results. In one scenario your hot coffee and cool kitchen might hit uniformity in say 300 seconds; next time it might be 298 or 302 seconds.

Regarding Time 4

Time has a direction. That direction is based on probability, probability that overwhelmingly favours one direction (past to future) over the other. Eggs get scrambled; eggs don’t tend to unscramble. However, there is no physical law that wouldn’t operate in the exact same way going from future to past. Reversing the direction of time wouldn’t change gravity into anti-gravity.

Regarding Time 5

We define time by the order of events. If eggs now started to unscramble; if the galaxies now reversed direction and started getting closer together, if your wrinkles unwrinkled and your grey hair turned back to black (or red or blond) and what you recalled from 2015 you’ve now forgotten because it’s now 2014, then to an outsider outside of time and unaffected by all of this, that outsider would conclude that the direction of time had reversed. To those affected of course the direction of time would still be consistently in one direction. Eggs scrambling is time in one direction. Eggs unscrambling is time in one direction. The direction is arbitrary. If everyone agreed that what is left is now right and what is right is now left, so be it. It’s like Planet Earth. North is up and south is down. Canada is north of the USA and Mexico is south of the USA. But Planet Earth is still Planet Earth if you turn the globe upside down. Now Antarctica is north of Australia and Mexico is north of the USA. A rose by any other name seems to apply here.

Regarding Time 6

There’s no time reversal on the grounds that the “laws” that govern probability are unlikely to reverse. That’s what makes watching most films in reverse so odd. They defy probability as we understand it. Now an interesting question might be, say a Maximally Greatest Being like God waved a magic wand such that eggs unscrambled and warm cups of coffee got hotter while warm kitchens grew cooler and your wrinkles unwrinkled and babies popped into the womb. Would we actually think that anything was actually odd about this temporal state of affairs? Would we still have memories of how things were the other way?

Regarding Time 7

I’ve never claimed that time can reverse in the sum totality of all things cosmic, just that every now and again the improbable will happen and give rise to an event that gives the illusion that time has reversed. For all I care one could put it down to Maxwell’s Demon.

Regarding Time 8

My favourite sparring partner, the Accidental Meta-physician, notes that 1) there is an arrow of time independent of the ordering of events; 2) as a true believer in Biblical events that he will live to the longevity of say Methuselah and that 3) he will be resurrected. My reply is that yes, there’s an arrow of time which points to him kickin’ the bucket well short (about roughly 870 years’ worth) of the record set by Methuselah with no possibility given the logical impossibility called The Resurrection of an actual resurrection.

Meantime, IMHO the past series of temporal events is infinite, you just can’t ever reach that pseudo-‘beginning’ since there was no beginning. It, the journey, can’t be completed. That doesn’t rule out infinity. And the journey can extend infinitely into the future. Infinity crosses the ‘now’ which is often claimed to be an end point ruling out an infinite past. IMHO, the idea of ‘now’ or the present moment is illusionary, unless someone, anyone, can tell me what the actual duration of ‘now’ actually is. If it has no duration there is no present moment and so the logical argument that time cannot be infinite goes down the drain.

The Accidental Meta-physician claims that when someone proposes a possibility, no evidence is required to back that up, but when someone claim that something is an actuality then evidence is required. But he has indeed admitted that the creation of something from nothing, a first cause, a beginning, thus no temporal infinity, is an ACTUALITY not a POSSIBILITY so by his own logic he now needs to provide the actual physical evidence for that beginning, something he has never been able to do. Till then, infinity rules, OK?

Did God Create Time 1?

Time is just a mental concept, the way we come to terms with change, motion and causality. Time, and units of time, are inventions. They have no structure or substance; no physical, chemical, biological, etc. properties. Wednesday is a unit of time. You would not say that Wednesday has any independent reality. Wednesday cannot be created as a something with mass, electric charge, colour, shape, density, and so on. Since time cannot be created since time has no actual physicality, the question “did God create time?” is meaningless. God did not create Wednesday, the hour, the decade or any other mental concept or term we associate with time. If anyone “created” the mental concept of time, that creation lies within the human mind.

Did God Create Time 2?

If you absolutely cannot create an absolute something from an absolute nothing, then the cosmos (of which our Universe is just a part of) must have always existed – the ultimate ‘factory’ that endlessly recycles stuff, well, endlessly. If the cosmos has always existed, then ‘time’ (as change or motion) has always existed. Anything that has always existed cannot have had a creation. But if there was no creation (of time or anything else) then why religion?

As to the origins of religion, I think there are two complementary reasons. Firstly, we mostly all tend to desire some sort of existence after we fall off of the perch or kick the bucket. Since we can’t manage that desire on our own, well we have to appeal to a higher authority and hope that higher authority exists and grants our post-death desires. The second is that when we can’t explain a mystery, and there were lots of unexplainable mysteries to the ancients like comets and supernovae and rainbows and thunder, then we ‘explain’ them by attributing these unexplainable phenomena to, again, a higher authority who works in mysterious ways. It’s the appeal to the God-of-the-gaps – God explains the gaps in our understanding.

Did God Create Time 3?

Regardless of the ultimate cause of the origin of our Universe, even if just a random quantum fluctuation, it was still a case of something that produced a something – quantum foam is a something. There is movement within the realm of the quantum, therefore there is that concept associated with it that we call time. Even if events run backwards*, it’s still motion; still change, therefore the concept of time still applies.

*For example, the late Richard Feynman postulated that a positron, an anti-electron (the antimatter equivalent of an electron), was in fact an actual electron, only travelling from future to past.

Did God Create Time 4?

The quantum foam, otherwise known as the vacuum energy, has been experimentally verified. In fact it apparently accounts for a goodly percentage of your weight since if you add up the mass of all of the electrons, neutrons and protons that comprise you, you come up short. The vacuum energy creates virtual particles which only last for nanoseconds before annihilating back into the pure vacuum energy again – recall Einstein’s famous equation. These particles are virtual only because they exist for such incredibly brief time frames. But all of that vacuum energy/virtual particles count in terms of contributions to your bulk. Of course all of that popping into and out of existence creates a force and it is that force which has been experimentally confirmed. The apparently rather nasty fly in the ointment is that the predicted/theoretical force and the experimentally observed force differ by 120 orders of magnitude, creating one of the biggest discrepancies in modern physics.

Anyway, there has to exist some amount of absolute nothing in addition to lots of absolute something for the following reason. If the cosmos were 100% something, then there could be no motion since no individual something could move since there would always be some other individual something in the way. Think of you trying to move in a typical office elevator crammed with fifty people. So some nothingness must exist to allow some individual something to shift position.

Regarding God’s Timelessness 1

Regardless of God’s existence in a timeless state, or His existence in this state of time, what the heck does He actually do? If He had no beginning while He existed in a timeless state, well that’s a heck of a long time to do – well, what? God either had to have been bored out of His timeless mind and/or been the greatest party-poop of all time. It would seem the sum total of His CV is creating the cosmos in just a tiny interval of His existence. I mean if you live for 100 years and the sum total of your accomplishments in that time is making one breakfast, well that doesn’t strike me as being something to brag about!

Regarding God’s Timelessness 2

OK, if God or any other Maximally Greatest Being was changeless, frozen in a state of suspended animation, doing nothing, thinking about nothing while in that timeless state then He could NOT have come up with an idea to cross the Rubicon and create time and a physical cosmos. The very idea to do such a thing had to have existed while in that timeless state and that’s a contradiction.

OK, never mind about what God did do or didn’t do or could do or couldn’t do while in a timeless state, what’s God done post creation? Now that this theoretical deity, a Maximally Greatest Being, has created the cosmos and crossed the Rubicon into time and is now stuck here in time (not all that omnipotent now is He?), what is He going to do for an encore? Or perhaps He has just packed it up and gone off to Florida to retire and just do a bit of fishing.

Regarding God’s Timelessness 3

IMHO the concept of timelessness or timeless as used in theology it is utter claptrap. There is no truism to be had. Can true believers show me a state of timelessness? Theologians can’t walk-the-walk but they sure can talk-the-talk. It’s all metaphysical waffle like arguing angels and pinheads.

Regarding God’s Timelessness 4

Arguments are often prefaced with the “If” word as if that somehow equates to something of actual fact. Ah, yet another true believer has made use of the word “If” again. “If time had a beginning” and if time “was caused to exist” then only a timeless state could have created that beginning and that cause. Well, here’s my “If” rebuttal. If time did NOT have a beginning, and if it was NOT caused to exist, then there does NOT have to be a timeless state or a timeless entity. You’re not getting that through your head! Actually since time is change and change requires a state of matter/energy, we’re just back to that golden oldie about creating something-from-nothing versus creating something-from-something. Sigh!

Is Time Travel Possible 1?

Question: Do you need to travel outside of the Universe in order to plot the positions and velocities of all of the objects contained therein and extrapolate for both the past and the future before you time travel?

Point Number One: What if you didn’t have any destination in mind; you didn’t care where you ended up but just wanted to see if it could be done?

Point Number Two: To get outside of the Universe, you say that you’d need to outrun gravity which would travel faster than the actual expansion rate. But you’d also need to outrun light, or the velocity of electromagnetic radiation since the speed of light (and all electromagnetic radiation) and the speed of gravity are the same. Therefore, if outside that boundary, the every increasing boundary of the expanding Universe, you couldn’t actually see all of the bits and pieces that make up the Universe and their respective ever-changing positions. In other words, it’s a useless exercise and it also breaks the absolute barrier that thou shall not go faster than the speed of light.

Point Number Three: One can get a pretty good handle on the movements of any objects we were interested in travelling to from inside the Universe. We extrapolate all the time from the present into the future to know where objects will be as our planetary probes and manned voyages to the Moon proved. We can extrapolate into the past just as easily.

Is Time Travel Possible 2?

Here are just a few further thoughts that have crossed my mind on this topic.

1) If somehow your past history or ancient history or prehistory were altered by time travellers from the future, we’d be none the wiser since our memories would have altered right along with the textbooks, fossils, archaeological artefacts or whatever else was relevant in the alteration.

2) Perhaps time travellers from our future might downplay the “Butterfly Effect” but still adhere to a principle of minimal interactions. They might use aerial drones in the shape of real birds; submarine drones in the shape of real fish; or have highly realistic robotic ‘terrestrial’ animals plant cams in trees, etc. assuming they weren’t themselves equipped with an “I spy with my little eye” cam. If you have advanced technologies enough enabling you to time travel, you probably have advanced enough technologies to cloak yourself and do advanced surveillance behind the scenes.

3) Perhaps in the far future Earthlings don’t have the most savoury of reputations with those other inhabitants amongst the stars (Earthlings, go home!), so one advanced ET civilization travels back in time to Earth to hobble our interstellar space-flight capacity before it even gets off the ground.