All the Time in the World: All the World in the Time
By Alan Thurley
Our world, and indeed the Universe, is made up of solids, liquids, gases and plasmas1, the four (known) states of matter. Additionally, the world and the Universe are awash with energies, some of which we know and understand, others which we do not know or are barely aware of. Matter, energy and the apparent spaces between the worlds and stars in the Universe are subject to time. So what is time?
We all think we know what it is but when it comes down to it, we have no idea at all. We, humankind, have experienced time since we first became aware beings, perhaps a hundred thousand years ago, and to some extent so have all creatures since life first appeared. We have from antiquity been aware of the cycle of day and night and the repeating seasons. There has been a recognition that plants develop over many days, as do babies, and that all creatures are limited to a number of seasons of life. Because this planet has a moon which is unique in many respects2, there was, and still is, an awareness of an intermediate period between a day and a year, and of a much longer irregular period between shadings of the moon or sun to various degrees (eclipses). For most of our developmental history, these natural cycles were accepted without question, as indeed they are today.
Eventually man found the need to divide up the day into shorter periods in order to perform rituals or exert controls over the population. This was the start of man’s self-imposed slavery to conformity. The initial division of the day was by simple means, the emptying of a cistern of water through a hole, or the burning of a length of wax candle, a process exclusive to the rulers and priests of the period. It was not until the Middle Ages that mechanical devices were made to subdivide the day. These clocks were the first reliable instruments for measuring time. The consistency of timekeeping improved rapidly and shorter periods could soon be described. It was not until this century and the rise of electronics that the subdivision of time has been possible with such amazing precision. The second, 1/86400 of a standard day, can now be subdivided to such an extent that laser pulses 7 to 15 femtoseconds long are now resolvable. (1 femtosecond is one thousandth of a millionth of a millionth of a second. This is the same relationship as one second to 30 million years).
You will notice that we now have a standard day. The real day varies in length throughout the year, which in turn itself is now standardised. In fact these days, the period called one second is now derived from the rate of transition between two excited states of a specified caesium isotope under controlled laboratory conditions3. We are no longer connected to the natural periods we can observe for ourselves in the world; they are not consistent enough for us! But is this really what time is?
Einstein tells us that time is a dimension of the Universe, interchangeable with the dimensions of space. What do we understand by dimension normally?
We say that measuring a length of wood and also its breadth and thickness gives its dimensions. Three measurements mutually at right angles define the size of the piece of wood. These same three measurements can determine the position of any point in space. They are the only things we need to know to find where a point in space is located. Because it needs three numbers to specify this, we say that space is three-dimensional. So what happens if you only supply two numbers? This will only specify the position of a point on a flat surface4, a two-dimensional thing. Similarly, one measurement can only determine position on a line, which is therefore one-dimensional.
What then of the point itself? It has no size and therefore cannot itself have a dimension. Obviously it must exist or we could not specify its position in other dimensions. To exist, it must have duration, as indeed must any object or position in any dimension. Now we have another characteristic which must be included in our measurements, duration, which of course is another word for time.
So we have proved Einstein’s theory that time is a dimension of the Universe, and without any recourse to mathematics. It is also pretty obviously not what we commonly call time, which can be shuffled about and controlled. You cannot put its clocks forward or back an hour to suit yourself. Indeed, it has no clocks. It just is; the same as any other dimension just is5.
With three dimensions of space one can move about and inspect them at any point in space. With time we have a problem. For some reason we are unable to move in time other than to what we call the future. The past is irrevocably gone. It is a primary determinant of physical life that it can only travel one way in time6. However we can look at it logically and agree that the fact that we missed some event does not negate it. We are sure that if we could travel through time we would be able to observe it exactly as it was experienced by others. So time is apparently linear. It starts when the Universe starts and ends when the Universe ends, and everything in between is always there, if only you could travel in time to get to it.
This suggests that if we could repeat our life we would find it identical in all respects, as would everyone else. But effectively that says that our life is mapped out in precise detail, totally invariant, because the dimension of time is invariant7, what we usually refer to as determinism. So we have a rigidly determined existence, however much it may look like freedom of choice.
Not according to quantum physics.
This century has seen the birth and growth of the new science of nuclear physics, an investigation of the structure of the world in the smallest possible detail. It has been shown that everything we think of as real is made up of molecules, the smallest component of any specific thing, and that in turn molecules are made up of atoms. Beyond this, even atoms are found to be comprised of smaller components, of which the electron, proton and neutron are stable, and in various combinations make up all the 92 natural elements8.
Now it has been consistently found by physicists that, whereas individual atoms can be characterised by values of mass, energy and position, the sub-atomic particles cannot, primarily because they never stop moving. For instance, if we try and find the position of one of these particles, we inevitably give it energy as we look for it, which changes both its position and its direction of movement. So it is impossible to define the position of, say, an electron or photon at the same time as knowing where it is going. The same applies in reverse. If you know where it is going, you cannot tell where it is until it gets there, because, if you look for it, you will change its path and it will not get to where you expected. Scientists can no longer claim to be observers only in these experiments.
This is found to be an absolutely fundamental attribute of sub-atomic physics, and it is known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle after its discoverer. It means that in the sub-atomic world every particle is elusive and impossible to tie down9. The whole subject can only be dealt with in terms of probability; where a particle probably is, where it will probably be.
So what of that rigidly fatalistic view of time? How can that be valid in view of this fundamental discovery?
It can’t. It can only be resolved in terms of four dimensions of space, of a universe which includes an infinite set of realities, of which we experience only one. In fact the course we take in life is governed by probabilities arising from each and every moment of our lives. For each of us, the universe we see is self-consistent, determined by choice, chance and probability, and certainly not immutable.
So what of time in all this? Time remains unchanged and is common to all the probability worlds. It is still interchangeable with distance, as Einstein said. The length of a journey can always be stated in terms of how far away your destination is, or of how long it will take to get from here to there.
Another of Einstein’s statements was that the speed of light is a constant, and that nothing can go faster than that in the space-time universe. Indeed only photons, the individual particles of light, can travel at light speed, because they have no mass. Einstein also tells us that any particle with mass will find its mass increases as its speed increases, so that it would never reach the speed of light. It would require infinite energy to do so. Also, for any object moving at close to the speed of light, time would appear to run more slowly, until at the speed of light time would stand still. If this is true, then a photon does not age between being emitted at some remote point in the universe and being detected on earth. Thus it could be said that at the moment of detection the photon converts into a value of time and distance according to when and where it was emitted.
All this is rather complicated, but we are left with the suspicion that photons in a sense create the universe by generating distance and time.
- A plasma is completely ionised. It consists only of positive and negative ions and is a perfect conductor of electricity. This usually, but not exclusively, means that it is at a very high temperature, typically some thousands of degrees.
- The moon is 2016 miles in diameter, about 1/4 that of the earth. It is at exactly the distance from earth at which it appears to be the same size as the sun. Thus total eclipses of both sun and moon are possible. The moon’s rotation period and orbital period are the same, so that the moon always presents the same face to the earth. The orbit of the earth-moon system about its common centre of gravity (which is outside of the earth) leads to a situation in which both the orbits of earth and moon about the sun are always concave to the sun. This leads to warmer periods as the moon waxes and cooler periods as it wanes. (All good gardeners know this and plant between new and full moon).
- Kaye and Laby: “Tables of Chemical and Physical Constants”, 1986. Page 5: “1 second = 9,192,631,770 periods of the hyperfine transition of the caesium — 133 atom.”
- Strictly the surface does not have to be flat at all, only of zero thickness. The surface of a balloon is two-dimensional. Correspondingly a point on a line, which is one-dimensional, does not prevent the line being screwed up in three dimensions like a ball of string.
- All dimensions have existed from the creation of the Universe (or before), and this clearly applies to time. However the usual ascribed characteristics of time are imposed by us and are not inherent properties of time at all.
- We do not ourselves “move” towards the future, or in any way at all travel or move in time. It is consciousness which seems to move forward in time, with its continuous appraisal of our life-state. In fact, time just is, just as a solid object just is — until you put conscious values on it, such as size.
- Time is invariant physically if the speed of light is invariant, which Einstein showed to be true early this century.
- Atoms with greater than 92 protons in the nucleus are unstable and decay radioactively. Atoms are sub-divided into many “smaller” particles. Recently even these have been shown to consist of yet more fundamental parts which have been called “quarks”.
- This means that it is impossible even to say with certainty that a particle even exists between its emission and detection.
Do we have any direct physical evidence for a fourth dimension of space?
Possibly. There is a modification to the famous Young’s slit experiment, that seems to show that a single photon can take two different paths through the apparatus at the same time1. This has caused a great conceptual problem in the realm of physics which can be quite simply explained in terms of contact with the fourth spatial dimension. The single photon takes two distinct paths through the apparatus in our world and the alternate world, with identical results in each of the worlds. However cleverly done, this experiment always produces the same apparent impossibility of a single photon being in two places at once, if viewed only in three spatial dimensions.
There is a famous thought experiment, proposed in 1935 by Erwin Schrodinger, which also resolves simply in four dimensions. Suppose a cat were placed in a windowless box along with a vial of poison which would only be broken if a certain unstable atom decays. It is known that the likelihood of this happening is 50%. After the experiment there is no way to tell whether the atom has decayed and the cat is dead, or not decayed and the cat is alive2.
So is the cat alive or dead before the box is opened?
Because there is no way to find out without opening the box, it could equally well be alive or dead, or apparently alive and dead. In four dimensions it could obviously be both, but in this world we cannot know without opening the box, and until then it must be both alive and dead with equal validity. As soon as the box is opened the fate of the cat is known.
Now, supposing there was a spaceship circling the star Centaurus, about four light years from Earth. They also know of the experiment and await the opening of the box. The quickest way they can learn the answer is at light speed, say by beaming a laser towards them and flashing it on and off in morse code.
The occupants of the spaceship will not know for four years the fate of the cat. For them the cat is both alive and dead simultaneously for four years after the box is opened. True?
Subjectively, yes, but in terms of the light signal, no. The photons of the signal did not age in transit, and therefore the detection of the signal as seen by the photons was instantaneous with the emission of the signal when the box was opened.
But is still four years later for the spaceship’s crew. What has gone wrong? What it shows is that the way our consciousness operates is local to our position in space, and that all positions in space are relative to positions in time, because time and space are interchangeable. So there is no conflict with the cat still being alive when it has been found to be dead, or vice versa, because the laser signal did not age en route. For an instant of time the crew were at the opening of the box, even though they were four years, or 25 million million miles away from the event. So time then, though real, is subjective.
Now we know by observation that time is mutable experientially. When forced to wait, time seems so slow moving. Yet in another situation time passes so swiftly that we feel cheated. In thought we are able to travel in time to the past and relive experiences of our own, or even to some extent of others. We are seemingly able to experience possible futures and alternative presents. We are even able to create a present time to match or explain a future event, as in the dream sequence that leads up to and includes the alarm clock sounding.
So what is different here?
It is the inclusion of Mind. In fact Mind cannot be excluded from our discussion of the cat either. The observed problem seems to be that time is not a constant at all. Indeed experientially we know that time varies enormously and differently according to our involvement in a situation. If you climb on a chair to reach something and the chair tips over so that you fall off it, then time stretches. You are aware of falling slowly and helplessly, of landing on the floor in a heap with your head hitting the floor last. This is followed by feelings of muscle strain and pain, which seem to have taken ages to get through to the heap on the floor.
When everything catches up with reality, time reverts to normal.
The time to reach the floor as seen by an observer will be only a second or two, but for the person experiencing it, it will have lasted ages. Time apparently stretched as you fell. That can only mean that time ran more slowly, which is contrary to physical law. What else was involved?
Mind. So the passage of time is not fixed in the realm of Mind. This in turn means that the speed of light and the measure of distance are also not fixed, since they are interdependent with time in the physical world.
So Mind is different, non-physical. That does not sound like a personal problem. It sounds like an observation of universal fact, which in turn shows that Mind is somehow a part of the universe itself, a non-physical part.
In fact Mind can be viewed as dimension, a dimension that includes time in all its aspects, and form in all its variety.
Mind is the sixth dimension subsuming the five dimensions of space-time. In Mind it is possible to travel, non-physically, in time and space, into the past, or a possible future or alternative reality. So Time is a constant in the physical world, as is light speed, but both are variable in the realm of Mind which is non-physical.
We live predominantly in the world of Mind, either in the past or some imagined future or alternative present. We never seem to live Now, do we?
Where does the past stop and the future begin?
From our experience of the sound of an alarm clock being incorporated in a dream just in time to accept the intrusion as a part of our sleep, we know that the very near future, perhaps a second or two, is knowable to us. In the same way, if we look carefully, we can see the past developing from a few seconds back. So the present is maybe three or four seconds long experientially.
We call this “Now”, but it is difficult for us to stay in the Now, even though it has one unique characteristic. It is both Eternal and Timeless. And it is the only thing that Is.
So if you want eternal life, you can have it. Now. In this life.
You don’t have to die physically first!
- “In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat”: John Gribbin, pp 12–17, for a basic treatment; pp. 164–171 for the esoteric. The experiment consists of a monochromatic light source and a white screen, between which are two other screens. The screen closer to the lamp has a narrow vertical slit, the other screen has two such slits. The light seen on the screen appears as a series of parallel light and dark bands. If either of the slits on the second board is covered, the pattern will be replaced by an evenly lit area. This is found to be true even though single photons pass through the apparatus.
- “In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat”: John Gribbin, pp. 203–208. The hypothetical cat is deemed to be both alive and dead simultaneously, according to the Copenhagen Interpretation (1927), which seeks to formalise the discoveries of the quantum state. The “cat” thought experiment was proposed by Schrodinger in an attempt to repudiate this interpretation, with the obvious impossibility of a real cat being both alive and dead at the same time. However the cat is not itself a subatomic particle or state, and thus does not behave in accord with quantum physics, so that the Interpretation still stands today.