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Closer To Reality: Time & Time Travel - by John Prytz

Time is just oneof the most mysterious concepts the human mind has ever invented and grappledwith. From what is time, to was time created and if so by God, to what is thestate of timelessness and was God in such a state, to whether or not timetravel (especially to the past) is possible. Much of what follows arose out ofa 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 physicallaws, physical relationships and physical principles if you reverse thedirection of time. The only way you would identify an anomaly in a film thatwas reversed and run backwards would be if whatever you were filming rancontrary to probability like an egg unscrambling. However, the unscrambling ofan egg isn't in itself a violation of physical law. Actually you could filmmany 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 toour existence and understanding of the cosmos. However, the direction of timeis determined more by what is probable than what are the laws, principles andrelationships of physics. You know time has passed in a unidirectional way whenyour hot cup of coffee warms up the kitchen while the cooler kitchen cools downthe 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 coffeestaying hot hour after hour.


Regarding Time 3


There is always an "earlierthan" and a "later than" relationship when it comes to the flowof time. My sole point is that there is no actual physical law, like saygravity or the cosmic speed limit of light that governs the flow of time. Whenit comes to time, you can run two identical scenarios and not get the exactsame results. In one scenario your hot coffee and cool kitchen might hituniformity in say 300 seconds; next time it might be 298 or 302 seconds.


Regarding Time 4


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


Regarding Time 5


We define time by the order of events. Ifeggs now started to unscramble; if the galaxies now reversed direction andstarted getting closer together, if your wrinkles unwrinkled and your grey hairturned back to black (or red or blond) and what you recalled from 2015 you'venow forgotten because it's now 2014, then to an outsider outside of time andunaffected by all of this, that outsider would conclude that the direction oftime had reversed. To those affected of course the direction of time wouldstill be consistently in one direction. Eggs scrambling is time in onedirection. Eggs unscrambling is time in one direction. The direction isarbitrary. If everyone agreed that what is left is now right and what is rightis now left, so be it. It's like Planet Earth. North is up and south is down. Canada is north of the USA and Mexicois south of the USA.But Planet Earth is still Planet Earth if you turn the globe upside down. NowAntarctica is north of Australiaand Mexico is north of the USA. Arose by any other name seems to apply here.


Regarding Time 6


There's no time reversal on the groundsthat the "laws" that govern probability are unlikely to reverse.That's what makes watching most films in reverse so odd. They defy probabilityas we understand it. Now an interesting question might be, say a MaximallyGreatest Being like God waved a magic wand such that eggs unscrambled and warmcups of coffee got hotter while warm kitchens grew cooler and your wrinklesunwrinkled and babies popped into the womb. Would we actually think thatanything was actually odd about this temporal state of affairs? Would we stillhave memories of how things were the other way?


Regarding Time 7


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


Regarding Time 8


My favorite sparring partner, the AccidentalMetaphysician, notes that 1) there is an arrow of time independent of theordering of events; 2) as a true believer in Biblical events that he will liveto the longevity of say Methuselah and that 3) he will be resurrected. My replyis that yes, there's an arrow of time which points to him kickin' the bucketwell short (about roughly 870 years’ worth) of the record set by Methuselahwith no possibility given the logical impossibility called The Resurrection ofan actual resurrection.


Meantime, IMHO the past series of temporalevents is infinite, you just can't ever reach that pseudo-'beginning' sincethere was no beginning. It, the journey, can't be completed. That doesn't ruleout infinity. And the journey can extend infinitely into the future. Infinitycrosses the 'now' which is often claimed to be an end point ruling out aninfinite past. IMHO, the idea of 'now' or the present moment is illusionary,unless someone, anyone, can tell me what the actual duration of 'now' actuallyis. If it has no duration there is no present moment and so the logicalargument that time cannot be infinite goes down the drain.


The Accidental Metaphysician claims thatwhen someone proposes a possibility, no evidence is required to back that up,but when someone claim that something is an actuality then evidence isrequired. But he has indeed admitted that the creation of something fromnothing, a first cause, a beginning, thus no temporal infinity, is an ACTUALITYnot a POSSIBILITY so by his own logic he now needs to provide the actualphysical evidence for that beginning, something he has never been able to do.Till then, infinity rules, OK?


DidGod Create Time 1?


Time is just a mental concept, the way wecome to terms with change, motion and causality. Time, and units of time, areinventions. They have no structure or substance; no physical, chemical,biological, etc. properties. Wednesday is a unit of time. You would not saythat Wednesday has any independent reality. Wednesday cannot be created as asomething with mass, electric charge, color, shape, density, and so on. Sincetime 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 withtime. If anyone "created" the mental concept of time, that creationlies within the human mind.


Did God Create Time 2?


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


As to the origins of religion, I thinkthere are two complementary reasons. Firstly, we mostly all tend to desire somesort of existence after we fall off of the perch or kick the bucket. Since wecan't manage that desire on our own, well we have to appeal to a higherauthority and hope that higher authority exists and grants our post-deathdesires. The second is that when we can't explain a mystery, and there were lotsof unexplainable mysteries to the ancients like comets and supernovae andrainbows and thunder, then we 'explain' them by attributing these unexplainablephenomena to, again, a higher authority who works in mysterious ways. It's theappeal to the God-of-the-gaps - God explains the gaps in our understanding.


Did God Create Time 3?


Regardless of the ultimate cause of theorigin of our Universe, even if just a random quantum fluctuation, it was stilla case of something that produced a something - quantum foam is a something.There is movement within the realm of the quantum, therefore there is thatconcept 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 Feynmanpostulated that a positron, an anti-electron (the antimatter equivalent of anelectron), was in fact an actual electron, only traveling from future to past.


Did God Create Time 4?


The quantum foam, otherwise known as thevacuum energy, has been experimentally verified. In fact it apparently accountsfor a goodly percentage of your weight since if you add up the mass of all ofthe electrons, neutrons and protons that comprise you, you come up short. Thevacuum energy creates virtual particles which only last for nanoseconds beforeannihilating back into the pure vacuum energy again - recall Einstein's famousequation. These particles are virtual only because they exist for suchincredibly brief time frames. But all of that vacuum energy/virtual particlescount in terms of contributions to your bulk. Of course all of that poppinginto and out of existence creates a force and it is that force which has beenexperimentally confirmed. The apparently rather nasty fly in the ointment isthat the predicted/theoretical force and the experimentally observed forcediffer by 120 orders of magnitude, creating one of the biggest discrepancies inmodern physics.


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


RegardingGod’s Timelessness 1


Regardless of God’s existence in atimeless state, or His existence in this state of time, what the heck does Heactually do? If He had no beginning while He existed in a timeless state, wellthat's a heck of a long time to do - well, what? God either had to have beenbored 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 tinyinterval of His existence. I mean if you live for 100 years and the sum totalof your accomplishments in that time is making one breakfast, well that doesn'tstrike me as being something to brag about!


RegardingGod’s Timelessness 2


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


OK, never mind about what God did do ordidn't do or could do or couldn't do while in a timeless state, what's God donepost creation? Now that this theoretical deity, a Maximally Greatest Being, hascreated the cosmos and crossed the Rubicon into time and is now stuck here intime (not all that omnipotent now is He?), what is He going to do for anencore? Or perhaps He has just packed it up and gone off to Florida to retire and just do a bit offishing.


RegardingGod’s Timelessness 3


IMHO the concept of timelessness ortimeless as used in theology it is utter claptrap. There is no truism to behad. Can true believers show me a state of timelessness? Theologians can'twalk-the-walk but they sure can talk-the-talk. It's all metaphysical wafflelike arguing angels and pinheads.


RegardingGod’s Timelessness 4


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


Is Time Travel Possible 1?


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


Point Number One: What if you didn't haveany destination in mind; you didn't care where you ended up but just wanted tosee if it could be done?


Point Number Two: To get outside of theUniverse, you say that you'd need to outrun gravity which would travel fasterthan the actual expansion rate. But you'd also need to outrun light, or thevelocity of electromagnetic radiation since the speed of light (and allelectromagnetic radiation) and the speed of gravity are the same. Therefore, ifoutside 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 Universeand their respective ever-changing positions. In other words, it's a uselessexercise and it also breaks the absolute barrier that thou shall not go fasterthan the speed of light.


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


Is Time Travel Possible 2?


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


1) If somehow your past history or ancienthistory or prehistory were altered by time travelers from the future, we'd benone the wiser since our memories would have altered right along with thetextbooks, fossils, archaeological artifacts or whatever else was relevant inthe alteration.


2) Perhaps time travelers from our futuremight downplay the "Butterfly Effect" but still adhere to a principleof minimal interactions. They might use aerial drones in the shape of realbirds; submarine drones in the shape of real fish; or have highly realisticrobotic 'terrestrial' animals plant cams in trees, etc. assuming they weren'tthemselves equipped with an "I spy with my little eye" cam. If youhave advanced technologies enough enabling you to time travel, you probablyhave advanced enough technologies to cloak yourself and do advancedsurveillance behind the scenes.


3) Perhaps in the far future Earthlingsdon't have the most savory of reputations with those other inhabitants amongstthe stars (Earthlings, go home!), so one advanced ET civilization travels backin time to Earth to hobble our interstellar spaceflight capacity before it evengets off the ground. 

Science librarian; retired.

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