Archive for November 6th, 2010

Yes, today it’s about time. It is also about immortality. A weird mix, perhaps … especially in a post starting out with the intro from one of the dumbest shows in TV history … but in actuality is where the rubber meets the road we travel.

Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For us believing physicists the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. ~Albert Einstein

I like it. There’s something William Penn in that, since he did say, “For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity,” and that seems a freeing conversion.

But I’m not dead yet and today is an illusion. Hm. Does that mean I can just go back to sleep? Sure. But if today is an illusion, and so is tomorrow … the past, present and future … it’s probably a better idea to pay attention and see if I can figure at least some of it out. After all, if someone was to saw me in half someday, I wouldn’t sleep through that, even if it was merely deception of the entertaining kind.

Instead of plopping back to the pillow, I’m giving my mind a wander around the wonder of time, a favorite confused meander, prompted by this article in the Huff Post titled: Is Death the End? Experiments Suggest You Create Time.

We watch our loved ones age and die, and we assume that an external entity called time is responsible for the crime. But experiments increasingly cast doubt on the existence of time as we know it. In fact, the reality of time has long been questioned by philosophers and physicists. When we speak of time, we’re usually referring to change.

Philosophers have been taking this on for as long as there have been philosophers, going back to the oh-so-cool-named Zeno, who came up with the Arrow Paradox mentioned in the article.

Zeno states that for motion to occur, an object must change the position which it occupies. He gives an example of an arrow in flight. He states that in any one instant of time, for the arrow to be moving it must either move to where it is, or it must move to where it is not. However, it cannot move to where it is not, because this is a single instant, and it cannot move to where it is because it is already there. In other words, in any instant of time there is no motion occurring, because an instant is a snapshot. Therefore, if it cannot move in a single instant it cannot move in any instant, making any motion impossible.

… this paradox starts by dividing time—and not into segments, but into points.

Wrapped your head around that one? Then take on the the idea that “space and time are forms of animal intuition”, simply “tools of the mind and thus don’t exist as external objects independent of life.”

An experiment published in 1990 suggests that Zeno was right. In this experiment, scientists demonstrated the quantum equivalent of the adage that “a watched pot doesn’t boil.” This behavior, the “quantum Zeno effect,” turns out to be a function of observation. “It seems,”said physicist Peter Coveney, “that the act of looking at an atom prevents it from changing”. Theoretically, if a nuclear bomb were watched intently enough — that is, if you could check its atoms every million trillionth of a second — it wouldn’t explode. Bizarre? The problem lies not in the experiments but in our way of thinking about time. Biocentrism is the only comprehensible way to explain these results, which are only “weird” in the context of the existing paradigm.

We are limited by our biology, peeps, packed into a container that can only perceive space and time in relation to our point in both.

Oh! For Stephen Hawking’s brain, who said, “There is no way to remove the observer — us — from our perceptions of the world … In classical physics, the past is assumed to exist as a definite series of events, but according to quantum physics, the past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a spectrum of possibilities.” The guy who finds thinking about paradoxes great fun and probably never gets headaches like the one I’m developing just writing this bloody post.

The whole series, plus another 5-parter, is on YouTube, so if you have the inclination you can fill up on his ideas … since it seems time is not a problem.

Check out the bit in the episode above about the worm holes that are everywhere. Tiny, yes, but I can’t help wondering what that’s all about and what would be different if there weren’t there.

Yes, those tiny, tiny passages through time exist in the quantum world, but is that not our world, too?

But this “two-world” view (that is, the view that there is one set of laws for quantum objects and another for the rest of the universe, including us) has no basis in reason and is being challenged in labs around the world. Last year, researchers published a study in Nature suggesting that quantum behavior extends into the everyday realm. Pairs of ions were coaxed to entangle, and then their properties remained bound together when separated by large distances (“spooky action at a distance,” as Einstein put it) as if there were no time or space. And in 2005, KHCO3 crystals exhibited entanglement ridges half an inch high, demonstrating that quantum behavior could nudge into the ordinary world of human-scale objects.

Do you realize that we all see our own noses all the time? It’s right there in our vision every time we open our eyes, but our brain ignores it. Our noses are big … some more than others … not anything close to microscopic, yet invisible to us unless we consciously focus attention. What in the nanosphere is just as ‘there’ that we’re missing?

Okay. So we know time is not linear, and although it’s trippy to watch someone talking on a cell phone in footage shot in 1928, that’s really not the point. Time travel … backward, forward, sideways … sounds like fun, sure — who wouldn’t want to hear Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address or tool around in a flying car or see themselves young and their lost loved ones walking around — but if there is no time, aren’t we doing that already?

Maybe we’re just missing our noses again …

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