When looking at esoteric topics I always look first at any underlying science. It is amazing how often that scientific explanations begin to look possible for even the most alternative view of the real nature of the universe. To this end a Daily Telegraph headline grabbed my attention just a few weeks ago. It said “Is it time to rewrite the laws of physics ?“
To me this was actually a play on words because the article was actually discussing the physics of the concept of time itself. Unsurprisingly this is a topic that has been debated for thousands of years. Is it fixed? Does it actually exist or not? Is it linear or does everything happen at the sametime and we just perceive it to be linear?
I was surprised to realise that what is considered the alternative view of time, that linear time it is actually illusion, was actually the physicists mainstream view.
That is, as Einstien said,
” Physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.”
Lee Smolin has written a book, Time Reborn, refuting this view. He feels that time is a fundamental reality of the universe, and without it, too many of the big questions of physics are left unanswerable.
- Sir Isaac Newton- felt that time was absolute and marches on regardless of the doings of the stuff of the universe.
- Einstein thought that that was wrong. He saw time and space as part of an interwoven fabric; the presence of matter changes both, stretching the fabric like a weight on a sheet.
What could be going on?
The truth is that on an every day basis we feel that we are moving through time in an ordered manner. Things decay and change or come into existence around us. There are laws of physics, thermodynamics in particular, such as entropy ( or disorder) which means particles behave in a manner to give us that impression. Smolin points out that we do not know why these laws are as they are, or why the universe should have started the way it did.
The big picture
This may seem a very academic debate, but the principle does matter. If time is an illusion and it all happens at once then the future may be fixed, as it has already happened. If time is linear, then we cannot absolutely predict, unless we are really sure of all the rules of physics and the universe, which we are not, what the future will hold. Only time, in both senses, will tell which is the correct theory.