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Philosophical View on Time

Updated on May 26, 2012

A Few Introductory Concepts

Translation is a type of movement that is a deviation of position with respect to some initial condition in a constant direction. For example, the initial position (X1) of an object is 2X. If the object experiences translational motion, it's next position (X2) may be 5X. There are three spatially extent dimensions that we are aware of. Translational motion is a simple rigid motion in any of those directions. I will call these dimensions X, Y, and Z for length, width and height. There are other types of movement that are possible, such as rotation and vibration. These are more complex than translation, but the important thing to note is, at least in traditional physics, all motion is some combination of movement within X, Y or Z.

A Brief History of Space and Time

Ever since incredible individuals like Albert Einstein and Hermann Minkowski, people have merged the temporal dimension with the three spatial dimensions. This merger is called space-time. The reason behind the merger is that relativity shows a dynamic relationship between space and time, as opposed to the classical view that time was completely independent. Before relativity, time was viewed as a one-way trip at a constant velocity. Now we are aware that the rate at which time "flows" is effected by properties in the spatial dimensions, like mass and velocity. This phenomena, known as time dilation, is important to consider in a lot of modern contexts, perhaps most famously in GPS technology. Theory even suggests that it is possible to have retrograde temporal motion, which means to go backwards through time. Even traversing time in reverse is still a translational movement; it just means time is no longer one-way. If other types of motion are possible in the spatial dimensions, why cannot rotation, vibration, or other undefined complex types of motion be possible with the time dimension?

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Hermann Minkowski
Hermann Minkowski
Turning back the hands on a clock won't make time go backwards.
Turning back the hands on a clock won't make time go backwards.
Neither will looking at a backwards clock.
Neither will looking at a backwards clock.
The time dilation equation.
The time dilation equation.

The Postulate

Non-translational motion in the time dimension could cause an array of phenomena. Perhaps it is responsible for why people perceive time differently based from their activity level. As the saying goes, "time flies when you are having fun." Time dilation already proves that the spatial dimensions effect the temporal one. Considering that, it is no great stretch to presume that the spatial dimensions may cause the temporal one to experience non-translational motion. There is also no reason to assume that time has always proceeded at precisely the same rate.

Possible Effects of the Big Bang on Dimensions

Relativity has shown that mass has an effect on the rate of the passage of time, as does velocity. Prior to the big bang, the universal singularity had an infinite mass. Thus it would experience no time. There are many theories about the big bang, and what happened immediately afterwards. In all probability, we will never know. Perhaps tachyons, particles that travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum, sped outwards, essentially pulling the fabric of the universe with them. At any rate, there could not be dimensions (including time) until mass/density was less than infinite and the velocity was less than the speed of light. Infinite mass and superluminal velocity would violate the Lorentz invariance and cause Lorentz contractions, making any dimension too small to exist.

Why Time Cannot be Uniform

Since there was a charge-parity violation and density anomalies, the amount of matter is not uniform throughout the universe. Since matter effects time, then time is likewise not uniform across the universe. Fundamentally, every point in space-time would experience time at its own rate. Every local gauge symmetry or inertial reference frame may be continuously decomposed down to specific points. Since most objects are on a macro scale, from one point to the next the mass and velocity is unlikely to change appreciably. Therefore the translational movement for adjacent points of space-time is nearly constant, except in extreme scales of time. Consider a main sequence star, which may last for billions of years. It's mass and velocity are fairly stable across even that incredible length of time. Another example is interstellar space. There is comparatively little, although not nothing, there across almost any timescale. However, if it is true that effects in the spatial dimensions generate temporal motion of types other than translation, only the translational motion of time may be regarded as nearly constant. The opposite is true for the spacial dimensions. On a fundamental basis, the rotation and velocity is unlikely to change, while the translation is very likely to. This is exemplified by zero point energy, in which the translational motion stops, but the rotation and vibration continue (at minimum) in order to provide stability. This minimum amount of vibrational and rotational motion may be regarded as the near constant for the dimensions of space.

Some Closing Comments

If the spatial dimensions have effects of the temporal dimension, there seems no reason to assume that the opposite is not true. Of course, people age over time, and the effect is obvious. That has been tentatively explained by the shortening of telomeres, the cumulative assaults hypothesis, and various other theories. Does it really have anything to do with time effecting matter, or is it that, as time passes, these events occur? It is fair to say that space is usually thought of as being made up of, or at least containing particles. Perhaps it is for this reason that space, or the particles it contains, is able to effect time. What about time though? Is it possible for a dimension to contain no particles? To answer these questions, and more, I have some additional theories.

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    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

      Whew! Have to make note to come back and re-read this one again when I have more time.

    • profile image

      Joeythegrreat 5 years ago

      Wow, action packed of info, very nice.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 5 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Yes, I agree, packed with info, and understandable as well, although as Danette said, it requires a reread or two.

      If I recall a lecture I heard correctly, in order for certain phenomena to occur in quantum mechanics, it is necessary for a two-way concept of time to exist in order to explain it.

    • professorcoban profile image
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      professorcoban 5 years ago from Florida

      Thank you all. Yes, quantum mechanics requires that we alter a lot of concepts in order to make sense of quantum phenomena.

    • Jonas James profile image

      Jonas James 4 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      Clocks are affected by “mass and velocity”, the imaginary concept of time remains unaffected. Gravitational tensions affect the rate at which clocks count, if a clock in orbit is ticking at a different rate to a clock on the ground all we can say is that physical stresses are affecting the clocks differently; the concept of time has nothing to do with it!

      For a living object to have an awareness of time first it must have memory. Without this ability time is meaningless. There is no physical separation between each moment and thus time is merely a concept based on our ability to remember. All objects are trapped in the eternal moment and not one can escape!

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 4 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Not sure I can buy that. By extension, what you just said, Jonas, is that if a sentient being, capable of experiencing the passage of time, then the Big Bang would not have happened since physical processes occur in a sequence of events and not simultaneously. Consequently, if time does not exist, then a sequence of events cannot occur within a time-span either.

    • Jonas James profile image

      Jonas James 4 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      "Consequently, if time does not exist, then a sequence of events cannot occur within a time-span either."

      Do you exist yesterday, tomorrow, or right this instant? Do you think it is possible to exist yesterday, My Esoteric, really?

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 4 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Of course I did, although I don't know about tomorrow. In fact, as I look at a star, I see now, in my time, as it existed millions of years ago, and not how it is today.

    • Jonas James profile image

      Jonas James 4 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      The question was DO you exist yesterday, not did you...

      Just because the light we see from other stars has traveled a long way to be here does not mean its source is out of temporal sync. You really need to remove yourself out of your explanations to see this clearly. Perhaps if you ask God for a copy of the universal movie you might notice that all objects of the the universe are present and stationary in each frame of the film. Hit the play button and everything starts moving again. All objects exist in the same moment everywhere. You do not exist yesterday or tomorrow, you exist right now.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 4 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      OK, I buy that, but what is your point, what is the practical application?

    • Jonas James profile image

      Jonas James 4 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      Well, if we understand that time does not exist as a stand alone entity, we can then define it and have no illusions about it.

      Time: the measure of object motion.

      This measurement is a consensus that we all agree to use (seconds, minutes, etc.) Time is nothing more than a concept requiring the observers memory. Without memory, time is meaningless.

      So, we apply this to the claims of relativity's time dilation and realize that time cannot be warped physically. You cannot bend a concept, only physical objects like clocks can slow down or speed up. That is its practical application.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 4 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      OK, I understand your point, but you just tossed out a century of physics, supported by emperical, observable evidence that counters your theory.

    • fatfist profile image

      fatfist 4 years ago

      “that counters your theory.”

      Time is not a theory. A theory is a rational explanation of a consummated event; i.e. theory of gravitation. Time is not an event. Time is a scalar quantity we measure as the relative motion between objects. Time is a concept that we have no choice but to define. At best, one can attempt to hypothesize time to be an object and use this alleged object as an actor to explain a Theory. But you would be committing the Fallacy of Reification.

      “but you just tossed out a century of physics, supported by emperical, observable evidence”

      That’s nothing! Atheists & Mathematicians have tossed out thousands of years of supported empirical observable evidence on God, His motley crew (i.e. Jesus, Mohammed, angels, spirits, souls, etc.), not to mention His Creation. There is no difference. Only an arrogant person can put a gun to your head and say “my evidence is more authoritative than your evidence”. Evidence is naught but the sensory opinion of an individual. Lies in court are “evidence”. The issue of time is resolved conceptually. There is no evidence for 'time' or for any other concept for that matter. One can only evidence an object; i.e. here it is on the podium of the Physics Conference.

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