Transcending the Notion of Time
From Roadmap to Reality: Consciousness, Worldviews, and the Blossoming of Human Spirit
"Wherever one starts, there is always the question: 'What was before that?' This question comes from our sense of objective causality-that everything must be preceded by its cause. Must everything have a cause? If 'no,' then one leaps immediately to invoking mystical beginnings. If 'yes,' then the beginning is a logical impossibility. There can, by definition, be no beginning if everything must have a cause. By the logic of causality, beginnings are illogical. The logic of causality requires (because we do exist) the initial existence from
which we are derived to erupt spontaneously from nothing. Clearly, the notion of objective causality must violate its own logic to get started."
--Thomas Campbell, My Big TOE
Detaching from Time
There is a time to wake and a time to sleep, a time to eat, a time to build shelter, and a time to plant and harvest crops. And yet, our ancestors experienced a largely static world where people commonly lived their entire lives within a short distance of their birthplace, and little seemed to change within a lifetime. In the early 1800s, it took weeks or months to transmit a message across the country to or from Washington DC, even though the country ended at the Mississippi river. Life moved at a different pace, as revealed by handcrafted details in carpentry and metalworking. The experience of time as we know it didn't exist until the invention of the telegram and the railroads.
Prior to railroads, all clocks were set according to local solar time. Noon was the moment the sun was at its highest point in the sky, which made noon a different time in every town. That wasn't an issue in a culture that wasn't run by the clock, but the rise of railroads necessitated standardized timekeeping so that trains could run on a consistent schedule. The railroads initiated time zones and ran by the clock so that they could post a reliable schedule in each town. Today life moves at a faster pace, and most of us watch the clock to keep hopping from one appointment to another on time. We live in a culture that is hyper-aware of the passage of time.
The conventional wisdom is that time passes at a constant rate and only in one direction. But reality, and Einstein's theory of relativity, tells us otherwise. Tests have verified that increased velocity makes time pass more slowly. In 1971 four cesium atomic clocks were put on jets to go around the world, first eastward, and then westward, to physically measure this time distortion. Planes move faster going east due to the spin of the earth and its atmosphere, so the eastbound clocks slowed down by 332 nanoseconds (billionths of a second) relative to the westbound clocks. As phrased by Michio Kaku in Discover magazine, "time is more like a river that meanders across the universe, speeding up and slowing down as it snakes across stars and galaxies."
By comparison, a clock onboard a spaceship traveling at 87 percent of the speed of light would tick only half as fast as a clock on earth. You would experience time normally onboard the spaceship, but upon returning to earth you would find that you aged only half as much as your friends and family. Time slows down the faster you travel, and would come to a complete stop at the speed of light.
Similarly, time slows down due to the effects of gravity. A small object like our planet causes a barely perceptible time dilation compared to objects in orbit around it. The Global Positioning System (GPS) corrects for this time dilation to preserve accuracy. A massive gravitational object, such as a black hole, causes time to slow down to a crawl. If your ship fell into a black hole, the event would happen quickly to you, but to an outside observer, the tragedy might unfold over thousands of years. By any objective measure, time is not constant, and our normal perception of it is highly skewed.
To complicate matters, time apparently did not exist prior to the Big Bang. Time is part of the space-time continuum and does not exist without space. Contrary to commonsense, empty space is something rather than nothing, and space-time continues to stretch as galaxies race away from each other. Neither space nor time as we know them exist outside the universe. To add to the weirdness, scientists demonstrated that two photons or electrons emitted from the same atom remain linked, even miles apart from each other. Whatever is done to one photon or electron, such as measuring its polar orientation, immediately affects its partner the same way. There is zero time involved in the transmission of information from entity to the other, even if they are on opposite sides of the universe. Although Einstein predicted the phenomenon, it was too much for him to believe.
To make matters more interesting, tachyon particles, if they exist as theorized, move faster than the speed of light, and travel forwards and backwards through time. The future and past seem to exist simultaneously with the present. If it were possible for an object of mass to travel faster than the speed of light like tachyon particles, then we could literally travel through time.
By any objective measure, our linear experience of time does not give us an accurate perception of reality. To discover the universe as it really is, we must transcend our limited perceptions of time. We must acknowledge that time exists, since that is our normal day-to-day experience, but if we mentally put ourselves outside the universe then it is also true that time does not exist, so time both does and does not exist. And, if we start talking about tachyons moving forward and backwards through time, then we are basically treading on fundamental questions about the nature of our own lives in terms of fate or free will.
1. Thomas Campbell. My Big TOE. Lightning Strike Books. 2003. Book 1. Pages 120 - 121.
2. Stephen Ambrose. Nothing Like it in the World. Simon & Schuster: New York, NY. 2001. Page 57.
3. Michio Kaku. "Through the Wormhole." Discover. March 2008. Pages 38 - 42.
4. John Boslough. "The Enigma of Time." National Geographic. March 1990. Pages 109 - 132.
5. Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D. Dr. Quantum's Little Book of Big Ideas. Moment Point Press: Needham, MA. 2005. Page 60.
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