Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Is time ‘a stubbornly persistent illusion’?

29 May 2023


It’s impossible giving a definition of time without including geographical location, gravity, and/or speed in that definition. “The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”, according to theoretical physicist Albert Einstein (eg, 2009 book, quote).

Quite often, I don’t know which day it is. The amount of sunlight gives me a good indication about the time of that day. In my situation, time is hardly relevant because my agenda is nearly always “empty”. Hence, time is mostly an illusion for me. For most others, time is (very) relevant (eg, jobs).

In my blogs, I use time and space as dimensions. A dimension is a property, like height, length, and width of (geographical) space. Time may well be another property of space. Hence, spacetime, the “mathematical model that combines the three dimensions of space and one dimension of time“.

A recent Aeon article argues that time is not an illusion but an object. I doubt that. Usually, we refer to objects as things that we can view, hear, smell, touch – and weigh. Past, present and future seem rather vague dimensions for an object. Moreover, time needs space to “work”.

If and when time is a mere attribute of space then time travel should be possible. A 2023 Scientific American article – Is Time Travel Possible? – confirms this view: “In fact, the laws of physics might allow chronological hopping, but the devil is in the details.” Also see quote below.

For whatever reason, ancient civilizations studied the Universe. We still do. For many thousands of years, calculations for the Universe and time use the Base-60 or sexagesimal system (eg, 60 seconds/minutes, 360 degrees) rather than the (much later) decimal numeral system.

Without the Sumerian invention of time (eg, Wiki), we might still speak in terms like past, present, and future. Nevertheless, it’s better to be approximately right than exactly wrong. Actually, that quote belongs more to Carveth Read than to John Maynard Keynes (eg, quote, source).

“Time traveling to the near future is easy: you’re doing it right now at a rate of one second per second, and physicists say that rate can change. According to Einstein’s special theory of relativity, time’s flow depends on how fast you’re moving. The quicker you travel, the slower seconds pass. And according to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, gravity also affects clocks: the more forceful the gravity nearby, the slower time goes.”

An excerpt of the 2023 Scientific American article: Is Time Travel Possible?

Faster Than the Speed of Night (1983) by Bonnie Tyler
artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-artist, Wiki-album+song

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.


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