A big challenge is understanding what we use to call the term “time”.
For our reality nothing is more mysterious and elusive to us than time; it appears to us as the greatest and unstoppable force in the universe, which accompanies us inexorably from the cradle to the grave.
So what is time? Many philosophers, scientists, poets and artists have tried to give some answer to what is one of man’s great unsolved questions.
In the seventh century St. Augustine in His Confessions said: “If nobody asks me, I know what time is, but if I am asked to explain it, I don’t know what to say”. The well-known contemporary existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger, when he set about writing an essay on time, said that he lacked the words to be able to speak on this subject.
Most of us conscious men tend to associate time with the phenomena of change and / or evolution, but underneath there is perhaps something else that escapes us in our haste to live!
There is no shortage of questions. Does time move in one direction, creating a constantly changing present? Does the past still exist? If so, where did it go? The future is already determined, and is it waiting for us, even if we don’t know it? Etc.
It may seem strange, but classical physics has always tried to avoid this question, rather leaving the difficult task to philosophers. The reason is probably given by the overwhelming authority of Newton and Einstein for the way they have shaped space, time and motion.
Both built models of the universe of extraordinary clarity, but then, once the structure was made, they did not worry too much about the foundations; and this leaves room for potential confusion.
Without any doubt, their theories are full of great truths, but both give time as something taken for granted: it is a brick like space, a primary element. Einstein even merged it with space to create a four-dimensional “space-time”; in fact one of the great revolutions of modern physics: “relativity”, is completely hinged on “Time”.
In “relativity” Einstein had eliminated the more Newtonian concept of absolute space and time, in fact much of our difficulty in understanding the theory of “relativity” comes from human reluctance to recognize that the sense of time, such as that of color , it’s just our way of perceiving some things that happen around us.
Just as what we call “color” does not actually exist without our eye to perceive it, so an instant, an hour a day, they are indistinguishable without the events that characterize them; therefore as space we can identify it as a possible order of material objects, so time is identifiable as a possible order of events.
Eistein explained the subjectivity of time with these words: “the experiences of an individual appear to us ordered in a series of single events, which we remember appearing ordered according to the criterion of anterior and posterior. There therefore exists for the individual his own subjective time which in itself is not measurable “.
We can associate numbers and events in such a way that a greater number is associated with a later rather than an earlier event, and we can quantify this continuity by means of a clock, which is our tool used to count the passage of a series of events. ; so while we do our daily work, Bonn’s atomic clock keeps time on Earth.
But whatever it is, that time is marked by the Bonn watch, yours, mine, or that of an inhabitant of a planet of the Andromeda galaxy, they are always only subjective times that conscious beings feel in relation to the environment in which they live; for example, a patient sitting in a dentist’s chair certainly feels the time marked by Bonn’s atomic clock differently than a listener sitting in an armchair while listening to a Mozart symphony.
Since ancient times two different conceptions of “time” have clashed, for example among the Greek Philosophers, Heraclitus argued the need for the eternal flow of everything, and Parmenides instead maintained that time and motion did not exist.
Very few thinkers in later times took Parmenides’ ideas seriously, to find one you have to go to the present day; the English Julian Barbour astrophysics and time theorist, who maintains in his thesis, that the eternal flow of Heraclitus is only a deep-rooted illusion of ours.
His theory is that the “quantum” universe is static, existing as a series of states independent of time, governed only by their probability of existing.
Says Barbour: “our notion of time derives from the observation of these states, time is our pure illusion, since the phenomena from which we deduce its existence are real, but We interpret them incorrectly for the reason that the roots of our knowledge are essentially rooted today in two physics theories defined as: classical mechanics, and quantum mechanics, which give a non-holistic view of the Whole, and therefore sometimes they can also be misleading “.
However, the theory closest to Barbour’s concept of time is certainly quantum mechanics, as it assumes that there is not a single sequence of states, but every possible sequence of states, and that therefore all possible events are present at the same time. ; it is we with our mind that decide what state to follow and / or live, while for classical mechanics time is something like an invisible thread on which events are hung in succession.
The new physics vivifies and opens new horizons towards a better understanding of the ancient enigma existing between the concepts of time, free will and determinism; in fact Eistein’s theory of relativity opens up to us a vision of a universe extended in time as well as in space, without taking away a certain freedom of action; and quantum theory, which attributes such an important role to our mind, helps us to understand more deeply the question of free will because, in effect, the quantum factor has wiped out the old deterministic conception of the universe, according to which everything what we do was predetermined by universal mechanisms even before we were born.
So what is behind our concept of Time ????????