Friday, May 15, 2009

About Time

This is an exercising post. I want you to stand up and try the following:
Look at your clock.
Jump. You probably moved up and down.
Slide left. Slide back to the right.
Slide forward. Slide backward.
Stand still.
Step left. Step right. You probably moved both up-and-down and left, up-and-down and right.
Look at the clock. How much time has passed?

Refer back to your exercises to help you answer the following questions.
Can you move in one dimension?
Can you move in two dimensions?
Can you move in three dimensions?
Can you do any of those without moving through time?

In science today, there are four accepted dimensions. We tend to call these space-time. There are three spatial dimensions (sideways, forward, vertical), and one dimension for time. These four dimensions are connected, sometimes in mysterious ways allowing for the concepts of wormholes and time travel. More practically, these connections are used in Einstein’s famous Special Theory of Relativity and General Theory of Relativity, which are applied all over physics today with some very helpful results.

I don’t know if this is Einstein’s own illustration, or some textbook writer’s, but the principle belongs to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity: Time is relative. This is proven, supposedly, by the fact that if you were to throw a clock at the speed of light (something no one has done), the hands would shorten, and thus they would travel the dial at a different speed. Since we use a clock to measure time, obviously time is relative to the speed at which one is traveling. That is what a physics book once taught me. What nonsense! The measurement of time does not equal time. Time is not contained in the length of the hands on a clock; it is described by them. So while I’m not arguing necessarily that time is not relative, I am saying that the reasons we think it is are less than persuasive.

In the very least, we ought not classify time in the exact category as the spatial dimensions, because, as shown, we can move in any one of those dimensions without moving in another one. We can also move in two or even three of those dimensions, but the choice is ours. Human experience has not produced a circumstance in which anything has moved in a spatial dimension without moving in time. In fact, we cannot even fail to move spatially and keep ourselves still in the “dimension” of time. Hypothetically we could stand still in time, moving outside of time or existing without time. But there is no observational evidence of this phenomenon.

So I remain a little skeptical of the description of our universe as four-dimensional (let alone boasting more dimensions, as some theoretical physicists like to suggest). How tied is our matter and energy reality to time? What is time? Is it linear? Does perception define time? What is the meaning of action, thought, or existence outside of time? Can time really accelerate? Can it change direction? Some physicists are suggesting, based on observations, that space is actually stretching. Can time stretch?

To God be all glory.

1 comment:

åslaug said...

Wow, I got my exercise for the day, both mentally and physically. Thanks for that. Your posts are always thought provoking. Your new picture is neat =) Have a good weekend!!
Soli Deo Gloria
åslaug