"space/time Continuum" Maybe

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Old_Geezer | 20:14 Tue 06th Aug 2013 | Religion & Spirituality
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Hardly a question but :

Due to totally overwhelming demand in naomi24's Water Divining thread, (well 2 requests actually) here is a basic description of an alternative view of time I mulled over.

Rather hoping I'm not expected to defend it to death since I mull over many different ways to look at things, especially when I have a pint in my hand. But if folk want to discuss pros and cons, weaknesses and strengths, then be my guest.

In a similar way as a photon (or whatever) in Quantum Physics is considered to take every single possible path when travelling from one point to another, I'm wondering if time has a not so different existence. That all possible points in time exist, in some form, at all/the same time(s).

Consider an individual's life. At all moments in time where they exist, they are experiencing that moment. What is the present moment for them. (For ever for want of a better way to put it. I accept there is difficulty using descriptions of passage of time when trying to say it all is there at once, but I hope the meaning is clear enough without having to defined the descriptions used.)

Somehow the individual's memory holds a collection of moments that could have lead up to the moment being experienced. They need not had done so, as all "past" moments that reach the present one is equally valid. Any path through the collection of moments, works. This would give the individual at that point in time the illusion of time flowing. They recall what they would believe to be their past.

This has consequences. Agreeing for the sake of discussion to agree all points in time do exist at once, then one can conceive of the occasional flaw in the normal situation where only "past" moments are recalled, and the mind gets access to "memory" of possible "future" moments instead.

Thus one consequence is that seeing the future becomes a possibility.

(Oh and experiencing a memory of a present or recently past moment you ought not normally have expected to be aware of works just as well.)


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If there is a weakness then it seems to be in the way you describe it, rather than the idea itself. I'm really not that good at General Relativity, or at least the maths of it, but in a nutshell you can imagine that the Universe does exist at at once, from a certain point of view, and so that all of time exists "simultaneously". Loosely you can imagine of time as one axis of a graph of the universe, and then the graph itself can exist all at once while the Universe develops in that graph; or perhaps, it's like a movie-reel that can only be played a frame at a time, but still exists completely.

Then you can start drawing routes which objects and individuals can take through space and time, and there are several well-known cases in which these loop back on themselves -- a "closed timelike curve", which means that you arrive back at where you started both in space and in time. It's not unreasonable to imagine that these loops might also latch on to a forward-moving line, so that something moving along this line could take a journey forwards, loop back on itself, and move forwards again. Why could they not pick up memories along the way that they would suddenly experience all at once, and so see the future?

So much for allowing that your idea is plausible, and at some level already exists. There are however problems with the idea. In order to get these effects gravity needs to be locally very strong, so what is going on at the surface of the Earth shouldn't be enough to bend time back on itself. Secondly, if such loops existed and could be seen (it's reckoned, for example, that such weird stuff goes on behind the event horizons of Black Holes, and are therefore cut off from the rest of the Universe) -- if these weird loops could be seen, then, they would essentially destroy the predictive power of classical physics. This is not necessarily a strong argument against the idea, but naturally physicists would rather that we could make predictions about the future. This is difficult if the future influences the past, and we need that past to predict things. At any rate, Causality -- "events can only be influenced by that which precedes them" -- is pretty well essential to Physics and all of Science and it isn't going to be got rid of lightly.

What this means is that the idea of a "flaw" emerging is, I think, possible, but probably not on Earth. Odd, that, but there you go. I think you might enjoy reading more about General Relativity, as the nature of time in GR as I understand it is not all that different from your idea.

I can’t remember which eminent scientist said that we will eventually discover laws of physics currently unknown to us. I think we have much to learn. This is interesting.
Time is a weird thing. Most of the fundamental laws of the universe are time-independent, as I understand it, indicating that what we term time might be some sort of perceptual filter we impose upon the universe.

But time is very relevant when it comes to the "secondary" laws of nature - the laws of thermodynamics for instance. "The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of the universe always increases in the course of every spontaneous (natural) change. In other words: over time, differences in temperature, pressure, and density tend to even out"

Any theory about time has to explain some basic observations, all of which speak to times arrow, flowing in one direction only.
Observations such as why we never see milk unspilling back into the carton; why we never see omelletes turning into eggs; why we never see heat passing from a colder to a hotter body; why we are born young and small, gradually age and grow bigger, and finally die when old.

The arrow of time and its association with entropy, in other words. I cannot see how these fundamental (and inviolable, as far as I understand it) observations fit with the idea that all time is happening at once, everywhere. And if that were true, and that our memories were just signposts which could concievably be of we might interpret as "future" events = how is it that more of us do not routinely experience "memories" of events that have not happened yet? How is it that I can remember events and people attending my 10th Birthday party, but never "remember" my 70th, say?

Its a long time since I read it, but Vonnegut talked about a race called the Tramalfadores, who could experience all time simultaneously in his book "slaughterhouse 5", who interact with Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of the novel.
"I can’t remember which eminent scientist said that we will eventually discover laws of physics currently unknown to us."

I've certainly said that, or words to that effect, but I'm not an eminent scientist. Thing is, that the "laws of physics currently unknown" must also operate at a higher energy level -- or else we would surely have detected it by now. (Given the sheer volume of data on fundamental interactions from all the particle accelerator experiments, this is a statement I can make with high confidence.) This means that its relevance for such weird effects as telepathy, or reading the future, is likely to be limited. Or non-existent.

At any rate, the search is on for new physics, I'll hopefully be taking part to some extent in that search myself, but that we haven't found it yet is a strong indication that it's not going to be tied into anything currently deemed "paranormal". After all, physicists would quite like to find new physics!

You might find more answers in quantum gravity, if and when we work out how to do that. But even then the ability to travel in a path that reaches the future and then turns back to the past before proceeding into the future again (like the character thorn, ϸ ), is likely to be extremely limited and almost certainly restricted to the very small, in exceptional gravity, and therefore not on Earth.

//but that we haven't found it yet is a strong indication that it's not going to be tied into anything currently deemed "paranormal".//

Why do you assume that? If it's new physics, then it follows that you don't know what it is, so how can there be any indication?
Granted we might have missed something, but it's highly unlikely. The gist of it is this: you don't need to be able to know what new physics is to be able to look for it. One simple sign would be results that aren't expected. You don't have to be able to explain these results straightaway, but you do have to be able not to explain them. If there is a way of explaining results that fits in to current theories then you do not need to turn to new physics -- such ways include, but are not limited to, statistical anomalies, flaws in the experimental technique, human error, misinterpretation of results. Only when all of these are ruled out can you claim to have found something new.

Any new physics, therefore, can be found long before it is understood, because we would see it, and be unable to account for it. And by see it I mean find reputable scientific evidence for it. That is how physics has moved forward, and will continue to do so.

As a final note, there is a technique that is well-established for analysing physics that is poorly understood, called an "effective theory". This is a theory where you have no idea what is going on, but do have some idea of what might be involved, and this is enough to be able to make some effort to describe the situation. For example, it is known that the dynamics of nuclei are too complicated to understand properly using the full model that includes all of their (known) substructure. But if you ignore all that and just talk in terms of protons, neutrons and something between them then you have a decent enough effective theory for making first-order estimates for some properties of what is going on. These calculations can be extraordinarily useful even though they ignore a lot of the detail. (For more details, look up the Yukawa theory, which is what I am describing).

In the same sort of way, imagine that people can read other people's minds. To do this there is presumably some sort of new interaction between matter that carries thoughts, but above this level you can think of two brains connected by a "thought force". Doesn't matter what this force is, but we can approximate it fairly enough. Now you have something you can already work with, and make predictions with, that while not completely accurate will likely be good enough to make an order-of-magnitude estimate of how likely it is that (a) such a force exists, and (b) how strong and common it will be. I can do all of this without ever having to explain how the mind-reading happens. While you may dismiss this you have no grounds for doing so, as the approach I have outlined works spectacularly well. The history of physics is the history of better and better approximations.
//Any new physics, therefore, can be found long before it is understood, because we would see it, and be unable to account for it.//

That is surely stating the obvious. The point is by your own admission you wouldn’t initially understand it or be able to account for it, and therefore I really don’t see how you can, at this present time, presume to know how it might work.
All you need for an effective theory really is to know what two things are involved, and then you postulate a third thing that travels between them. I don't need to know anything about what this thing is, other than that it must be there in order for the effect to be going on. Believe it or not, this is enough to analyse any new force there may be. It has already been used to invent and consider, and so far reject, more new forces than you can shake a stick at.
Speaking of memories of past and future events . . . wasn't it Einstein who was so wrapped up in thoughts of relativity that he once found himself peddling his bicycle to the laboratory only to look down and discover he'd forgotten to slip on a pair of trousers?
Jim, //I don't need to know anything about what this thing is, other than that it must be there in order for the effect to be going on.//

My thoughts precisely – except that I would like to know about it.

Mibs, //“If one studies too zealously, one easily loses his pants.”//

Love it! :o)
//Mibs, //“If one studies too zealously, one easily loses his pants.”//

Love it! :o)//

For me it's usually the other way around. :o/
De ja vu...
// can’t remember which eminent scientist said that we will eventually discover laws of physics currently unknown to us..... //The

Naomi24 - i used that argument in response to another thread about time travel and the speed light .

Thus -

'' Who is to say what knowlege mankind will gain / what will be discovered , in the next 200k years - no one can .

We can only speculate currently on what we can envisage , given our current knowlege ''

No one agreed with me

So would I Naomi, but the difference is that I might be able to investigate it before I know about it -- all that's needed is for someone to show that there is good reason to believe that it needs to be investigated.
Jim, // the difference is that I might be able to investigate it before I know about it//

That’s not the point.

Bazile, I agree with you.

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I may well regret responding to posts that seem to come from folk well versed in physics whilst I merely read and try to retain what’s presented in the popular science mags, but still ….

Paths through the time landscape that loop back to an “earlier” time point. This seems like an enhancement of the basic thought I had. I'm not saying it’s wrong, merely that I didn’t envisage a need to loop with my more general description, and as such if there is an issue whereby our present knowledge/belief says it can’t happen everywhere, I’m unsure that negates the overall, “all time at once”, idea.

And we have no theory as yet on how a path is formed for a particular point in time. Ultimately this only matters to a sentient being who can consider such things as cause and effect, and "time’s arrow". So having a lack of such a theory, it may be that something ensures the being's perception shows what we would consider to be a natural order of events. I appreciate that is a very unsatisfactory explanation given it is pure conjecture, but I throw it in the mix anyway.

As for why awareness of future events are not more common, since we do not know how a rare it is for a situation whereby a future point in time can tunnel back into someone’s perception at a point before they should be expected to be aware of it, they can be as rare as you wish to imagine.

Ah new physics eh ? Ok. I see shades of Occam’s Razor here. If the presently believed theories seem to explain the present observations without spotting any flaws yet, then no need for a more complex theory. But that doesn’t mean there are not problems with the present beliefs which are, as yet, unspotted. And which would need an overhaul in the theories which in turn allowed some things to be potentially true that presently are dismissed.
Isn't it the point? What is? The point is that we can examine and consider things that we cannot yet fully understand, that there is a well-established method for doing so, and that there are well-established grounds for considering whether or not an idea is worth considering. And, finally, the point is that this method for understanding, or trying to understand, the world, works.

Bazile, the only problem with that argument is that it's unfalsifiable. Arguments that that aren't worth having, as while you may be shown to be right, you can never be shown to be wrong. We have a lot to discover, still -- but it's unlikely to be revolutionary.
From a Buddhist perspective'time travels from the past to the present; it spans the past, present, and future. Likewise, space covers hundreds and thousands of realms; it spreads across all directions. For most living beings, time and space are just like the act of breathing: we breathe every moment yet are not conscious of this action. Depending on our individual make-up, we all have different understandings about time and space. For example, certain insects live for a day and are contented; humans live to seventy and are still not satisfied. We all confine ourselves to our own limited slice of time and space. From the Buddhist perspective of samsara, the cycles of rebirth, the life span of all sentient beings is limitless. Not only is space without bounds, time is also endless and cannot be measured. If we penetrate the ultimate truth of time and space, we can be liberated from the space defined by the four directions of north, east, south, and west and emerge from the time cocoon of seconds, minutes, days, and months. We then will be in the dimension of total freedom.'
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If the cycles of rebirth, the life span of all sentient beings is without limit, we are all in for a shock as the universe approaches the Big Rip !
I still do not see how a theory which suggests that past, present and future are all one intertwined "continuum", for want of a better word, explains certain physical realities.
1.You do not see heat moving from cold regions to hotter ones.
2. Eggs in an omelette never reform into eggs.
3. Spilled milk never unspills and flows back into the carton.
4. Except for certain eating disorders, people very rarely spew their meals back up - and even more rarely does that ejecta reform into the steak and chips or whatever it was.

Any theory of time has to offer an explanation of known phenomenon as well as providing predictive outcomes as yet unseen. So any alternative theory to Space-Time,with time as the 4th dimension, time travel only possible into the future 1 second at a time, increasing entropy has to explain such phenomena as well as if not better than the existing theory.

And I take your point O_G about not necessarily knowing how common a dream about the future might be - but still, assuming you were only a teenager, say, with a reasonable expectation of a life span of 70-80 years or more, most of your life memories- if i can put it like that- would still be in the future. So how come when we are younger we do not have more recollections from our own futures? Whats stopping that happening?

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