"The future ain't what it used to be."

Is time real?



How do we know time isn't a figment of our imagination? By humans it is just understood as the space between two events. Can someone prove to me that time exists within in the universe. That it is not only a measurement but something tangible that can be changed. Everything I base theories on is upon the thinking that time is tangible. But nothing stops me from doubting that it doesn't exist out of our brains. Some one help me.
Your question might be similar to the classic "If a tree falls in the forest and noone hears it..."

My answer to the above question is a definite YES! Why? Because it is possible for us (or a squirrel) to go in there afterward and piece together what happened.

Even though there were no humans around billions of years ago, we can look at the Earth and the Universe around us and collect definitive evidence of events that occurred. We have good evidence of the Big Bang, the existence of tropical forests at the North and South Poles, the existence of Wooly Mammoths in North America, the existence of Neanderthals and the eventual demise, etc.

The evidence clearly suggests that these events didn't occur at the same instant, but over "time". And not just over any period, but within well-defined parameters such as 16 Billion years ago, or 1 million years ago or 100 years ago.

Of course the units we choose are arbitrary, but the fact that we can map these events to a linear function which we call "time" is pretty certain.

I would recommend reading/watching Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" where he talks about the psychological aspects of how we perceive time, but he never talks about it being a complete illusion.
Re:Re:Is time real?

If you PAGE DOWN (previous) the board to April 16, you will find a post I made called "A Bill Nye Trick" that I don't want to re-post here now since it's a bit lengthy.

But it tells why I DO believe we trick ourselves to some extent in just what it is we think time is. No so much that it doesn't exist at all, but that it doesn't exist in the manner we have fooled ourselves into perceiving it.

If you get a chance, check it out and let me know what you think. This was before you joined us so I doubt you've seen it. I just re-read it again now, and I stand by it.


Re:Re:Re:Is time real?

Thanks for pointing out the interesting post.

I don't think that your decimal math analogy holds. Decimal math is to binary math, like Spanish is to English. Binary math may be more "natural" to a universe that seems to be forever flipping atomic coins, but in both cases we are still counting. Other species count. Animals that pair off with just one other member of their species. Birds that keep track of their eggs. Squirrels that harvest nuts for the winter until they fill a certain volume. They are all doing some form of counting however different from our unnatural decimal system.

In this way, time really doesn't match. In one way it is an entity or measurement rather than a method. If, however, you are talking about the activity of keeping time, then it is just another form of counting, which other animals seem to also be capable of. For example, animals that repeat behavior over fixed intervals such as a month or year or in some case dozens of years. I understand that there is some specied of cicada that comes up out of the ground every 20 or so years like clockwork.

The problems that I think we get into is that we are always trying to treat time like a dimension of space. Yes we can move back and forth through space, so we analogize and imagine we can go back and forth through time. If time were truly like space, then there would be three dimensions of time as well. Also, time would not always appear with that annoying minus sign in front of it in all the relativistic equations!

The more I think about it, the more I believe that time travel is indeed impossible, and it could very well be because time is not just another dimension in the universe. Counting time may be similar to counting inches, only that you can never count to -10 seconds but you can easily walk backward 10 paces.
Re:Re:Is time real?

I strongly disagree!

I believe that that tree didn't fall unless we saw it! Or, unless we went into the wood afterward to see it laying on the floor. And if it were laying on the floor, then how do we know at which point in "time" it actually fell? In fact, how can we be sure it even stood at all in the past?

Re:Re:Re:Is time real?

I think it is kind of anthropocentric to decide that the only things that happen are things that either we or some other human has seen. For example, no human saw that the ozone hole was being depleted by fluorocarbons until years after it started happening. The way we know this is that we can see what the situation is now, measure as we go into the future, and extrapolate back into the past.

If we see one or several trees fall down, then we will know what a fallen tree looks like. So when we see the fallen tree we will be pretty certain that it fell and didn't grow that way.

Also we can look at the tree rings on the tree to see how old it was when it fell. Then we can compare the tree rings of the fallen tree with other trees to see which years it grew during. For example, if we know that 1985 was a particularly rainy year, then that particular tree ring should be thicker than the others. By locating this ring and working forward, we can determine what year it fell in. More subtle measurement techniques might allow us to determine what season or even month the tree fell in.

Of course any of the following scenarios could also be true:
a) We were planted here by a super-intelligent alien culture just a year ago with our memories created in place so we think we had a past.
b) We are part of a computer simulation
c) We are highly intelligent blobs of goo in a highly interconnected lab of petri dishes being fed artificial signals to make us think we are humans, etc.

But I like Lee's idea of Occam's Razor: If two theories are equally possible, then choose the simplest. In this case we ARE humans that AREN'T in some sort of virtual reality device and if we see a fallen tree in a forest, with a little study we can figure out pretty much when the thing fell down.
Re:Re:Re:Re:Is time real?

I think you may have missed the point I was trying to make.

What you say about math is true, but it was just what I chose an analogy as opposed to something else. (I do stand by the "decimal" concept as possibly unique to the Human race, even tho it IS just "counting" which any intelligent species will find a way to do in it's own manner.)

The real point is that we (some folks anyway) have tricked ourselves into believing that the "past" and the "future" are some sort of physical reality that can be traveled to. This is what I don't buy. They aren't. They are purely conceptual in this sense. They are the result of our describing cause and effect and expanding that concept into what is almost described as "places" we can go to.

"Where" is the past of future? In that sense, they don't exist. There are places we can TRY to describe where we used to be, but as we've discussed before, those places themselves become downright impossible to pinpoint. The same is true if we try to predict "where" we will be in the future. Location-wise, it's the same problem.

We seem to have "transposed" the concepts of time and space to some degree that we begin to speculate as to time as if it actually WERE a place. Even before relativity and the description of time as the fourth dimension, we speculated time travel as if it were some "place" we were going to. Classic H. G. Wells stuff. His "jumps" always describe the "place" the machine materializes in relation to "where" it was when he left.

Does time pass? Of course it does. But you can describe every single infitessimaly small interval of it as containing SOME cause that results in SOME effect. How can it ever be really any more than this? (For the moment, I'm sidestepping Quantum Theory wave collapse, but that's a seperate issue from what I'm addressing here. I'm talking concepts and perception, not physics for the moment.)

I don't (and didn't) say time does not exist, or that it is a total figment of our imaginations, merely that it doesn't exist in the way we have led ourselves to believe it does. That's not the same thing as saying it doesn't exist.

Our imaginations have led us to postulate a past and a future as tangibles we can manipulate and possibly travel "to".

If you think about it, how can it EVER be anything but "Right Now"?
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I think Lee is right. Putting away the physics and looking at it at a philasophical point of view I think it goes like this. Time is really thought of as some thing it's not. We can't go to a certain time because its not a place. Everyone treats it like length height or width but its very different. Just as an inch is a measure for length a second is a measure for time. But time and length are very different things. As we can logicaly see an inch does not exist out of the human brain. Does anything operate according to the inch? Of course not. We can say the same thing for the second.(Or minute or year,etc. for that matter. It doesn't exist. We now know any measurements of them do not really exist. What can we say about time and length themselves? Are they also illusions? Have we thought that this was the truth for so long it is hard to doubt it? What about heat and cold? We know that there is a such thing as heat. But there is no such thing as coldness. There is only heat and the absence of heat. If we can doubt the existence of coldness why not time or length or much more. We do not want to get so set in our way of thinking that we can't doubt what may actually be wrong. I'm not saying that time and length don't exist but I'm just asking people to doubt that they exist and really think about it and see if it makes better sense.
The consept of a computer or laboratory simulation would be one of
recent perseption. I would better place my bet on an older one,
spirtuality. I would conclude that the fabric of the universe is
real to an extent, but is irrelevant. Our minds and sprit
are the most important things to us. Everything else around us
is a projection, tool, or instrument that adds to experience.
We are in only one reality, "Here" and in only one time, "Now".
Everything else around us is uncertain and speculative. This is why
I belive that nearly every culture is partial to a creative or religious view of living for today, forgeting the past, and being passive to the future. Regardless of what deity, this Truth is constant.
We would not be oversteping our bounds to say that we are Life as
is the Tree, as is the Mammoth, as is a Rock, or even a piece of
furniture or a painting. They either are or were alive, created
and formed by another life, or a combination, and therefore have energy. We are within a fabric of Energy or Life. Not superior to any form that seems below us, nor lower than that which may have made or created us. Only our opinion or conception separates us. We are One, as is Time, in a world that is all Here and Now. Regardless to our form of measurment, or source and place in the Universe, there is still one constant of energy. It's possible that matter itself is relative. Time and place could be harvested in a correct manner that will suit the picture of all things for which we are a participant. Selfish intent would never go far. It's a part of universal protection that seems to exsist, keeping us from being plaqued by visitors from the future. But, life and an awareness are infinte and without an origin or an ending so long as there is or ever was a sense of "Now."
Time travel might be more feasible if we can figure out what we are, where we are, and most importantly, have a clearer definition of what reality is, more than constucting a machine that only touches a single part.
Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Is time real?

Thank you. My point exactly, with another analogy, perhaps better than mine.