Category Archives: definition of time

Does Time Exist?

There is no question that we experience what we call time.   There is a precision with which we can measure the progression of events over time that is phenomenally accurate.   Things age and particles decay over “time” and it is consistent.    However, physical laws that use time as a reference work equally well for time reversal – going backward – a particle hitting another particle, generating other particles and emitting photons will work just as well running backward according to physics.   We just have never experienced time reversal and this disconnect with the laws of physics seems to be a mystery.  This disconnect is used by many to express the opinion that time exists.   However the fact remains that equations of space and time break down at certain points and time falls out of some of them as an unnecessary factor.

Think of this: photons live in “null” time.  They live and die in the same instant because they travel at the speed of light and therefore if time exists for them, they do not experience it.   They experience zero flight time over zero distance no matter how far apart the start and finish line are.  They live in a go-splat world.    A photon leaving a star a billion light years away destroys itself in our eye the instant it is emitted, having not aged even a fraction of a nanosecond in its long trip.   Space and time are that warped!

The space and the time have been warped because of the speed of the photon.  It travels at the speed of light.   Our very definition of speed involves time so when we say the speed of light we assume that time exists, but for the photon time does not exist.  

A photon experiences zero distance and zero time due to its incredible speed.   Every photon that lights our office or illuminates our book arrives the instant it is emitted.  It has not aged even though we can calculate that it moved from the bulb to our book and then to our eye at about one nanosecond per foot of travel.  The photon did not experience the “time” that we measure or calculate.  It aged not at all.  Time does not exist for any particle moving at c.  It only exists for us as calculated or measured in a laboratory.  But does it exist as a real dimension?  Does it have a physical basis?  

A photon in flight between point a and point b is invisible to any and all observers.  It does not exist in flight and can only be detected at b when it actually arrives.   The photon in flight experiences null time – time zero – no time – non-existent time, and travels a null path – or no path at all, regardless of the length of its travel.   Time for the photon does not exist, nor does distance.  Those measurements of time and distance for the photon are for our domain only – the human one.

Now consider an extension of that thought – most of the particles that make up our world vibrate and exchange energy with each other.  That occurs even at temperatures close to zero.   There is also a froth of virtual particles that pop into and out of existence continually at all times even in a so-called perfect vacuum.     All the energy exchanged through photons is timeless because all photons are moving at c.   Even gravity moves at c.  Gravity is also timeless within its self.   The exception is for atoms that bump into each other and exchange energy through vibration and bumping.   Or do they?   Do they actually touch or isn’t there an exchange of particles  moving at c that keep them apart?

If the energy transfer by photons is timeless, the photons are timeless, gravity is timeless all due to the speed of light as experienced by the particles that carry them, then does time exist or are we merely measuring external events by counting uniform progressions that we experience and can see?

I know and acknowledge that we can measure the speed of a photon to a very high precision.  I know that we can measure the speed of gravity as other planets tug on ours and on each other.    The measurement is based on the progression of the components of our clocks.   We do live in a dimension that experiences progression of events in one direction which we call time.  

However, we can measure but we cannot see.  We can observe the effects but not the event.   The truth is that whenever something is traveling at c, simultaneous observations are impossible.  Every observer of the same event sees something different.    Have you ever seen time?  Maybe the change in a clock, which is actually only a measure of repetitive events, whether a wind up (measuring escapement events) or a NBS clock counting cycles of an atomic nature, but not timeWe can’t see time, only experience it.  We can’t measure time, only define it.

Time for us may be just a projection of ourselves on a line defined by a progression of events that occur in a uniform manner, but it may not really exist.    We are bundles of energy made up of atoms and particles in extraordinarily rapid motion.  Take us down to the quantum world and we are made up of many quadrillions of particles exchanging energy among themselves in mostly empty space.    In such huge numbers there is an average motion and an average progression of events that may make up our concept of time.  Certainly our most accurate “clocks” are merely counting cycles of an atomic nature.   Even the National Bureau of Standards admit they are “not measuring time, but only defining it“.

Does time exist just for us because we experience this progression in a uniform manner? Perhaps it is not actually an extra dimension as we have been so often told.

Do you think time exists as a dimension in the same manner as x, y, z?  Is time real?  If you have been following my last two posts, you will understand it is the lack of time, at least on the photon level, that explains quantum weirdness.   And explains it well.

What do you think? 

Oldtimer

PS:  here are some other articles by Oldtimer on the subject of time

Enjoy!