Archive for the ‘Time’ Category

Ain’t Got No Time
April 12, 2007

     I’m convinced that Time does not exist.
     That’s a hard idea to get your head around. We are time-bound animals. Time has the feel of a force coursing through our lives. Or are we coursing through time? We wear watches. We put clocks everywhere, except in casinos. Before clocks we measured our lives in days and seasons, in dark and light. We calculated the sun and the stars to find out where we were in life.
     Today, physicists speak of Time as if it were a force, a particle, an energy, a field, an existent entity that they slice and dice into fractions unimaginable in their smallness. Einstein gave us spacetime, a conflation of two mysteries, a joint that explains the universe.
     But does it?
     There is no evidence for Time. No one has captured a particle of Time, or measured a force or an energy or a field of Time. Our cloud chambers and particle traps are bereft of even a whisper of Time.
     We’re trapped in a metaphor. The River of Time. The Flow of Time. We live our lives in the field of Time.
     Yet, when we look closely, there is nothing there. There is no when there. Einstein’s spacetime collapses into nothing, because space is a lot of nothing and Time doesn’t exist and zero times zero, or zero plus zero, gives us zero. Good grief, we don’t exist.
     I think we’ve simply confused ourselves. What we call Time is nothing more than duration. A monarch butterfly lights on a leaf, then flits away. We say it was there for a second. That’s duration. The event lasted one second.
     In our minds that second is a piece of Time. And in that very same second, across the universe, the entire universe, uncountable events occurred, on the scale of galaxies and on the scale of the internal workings of every atom’s nucleus. That second is awesome in its wealth of events.
     But it still is no more than a duration, an arbitrary measure of duration, a second. We could, and physicists do, slice it into milliseconds, microseconds, nanoseconds, picoseconds, femtoseconds, into pieces that are meaningless on a human scale. And we can charge into meaninglessness on the other end of the scale too. The universe we know has endured for fourteen billion years, or thereabouts.
     We speak of the beginning of the universe as the beginning of Time. Instead, it’s merely the point from which we measure the age, or duration, of the universe. And it’s an arbitrary point, since if there was a ‘before’, then Time must have existed then.
     We cannot escape the sense of Time. It’s wired into us by our very existence over millions of years. We wake and sleep to the passage of events – sunrise, sunset, the ticking of arbitrary watches and cesium atoms. Before modernity struck we planted our crops by the passage of the sun through its self-referential year.
     We measure everything and call our measuring Time. But it is arbitrary, dictated by whatever we choose as a standard. The solar year. The lunar month. The frequency of an atom’s vibration.
     It makes as much sense to attribute a second to Time as it does to attribute an inch to Length.
     And if there is no Time, then what?
     The planets still orbit their stars. The atoms still vibrate. Electrons still course through wires. Our hearts still beat.
     And physicists’ formulas still work, but they tell us nothing of Time. They tell us only of duration.
     We’ve created a myth, Time, and used it to enforce a tyranny upon our lives. Can our lives change if we look at the universe as a place without Time, an event without Time, a stream of events without Time?
     I think we might feel a little more peaceful and calm.
     Time is dead. Long live time. The universe endures.