Friday, May 21, 2010

What Time is it?

Time is a timeless concept. The flow of time. The flow of events. Diving our experiences into the past , the present and the future.

Clocks tell us what time it is now. seconds, minutes, hours, days and so on create boundaries that seem distinct and absolute.

The periodicity of events such as day and night makes time all the more a real and absolute thing. One can say the whole experience of life is a sequence of events. and time is nothing but an interval between events. So we can say the interval between two sun rises constitute a day. Similarly we can specify the position of the sun across the sky at certain locations and define them as events, the intervals between them being hours. We can similarly define finer or courser intervals of time. How absolute is this measurement or definition of time?

This will lead us to abstract this further and define time as simply the interval between states of the Universe. The universe simply moves from state to state. The state being the totality of all things in the Universe such as the diameter, or luminosity or some such property of a star. Or it could be the position of all things in the universe with reference to an origin etc. And any change in the state constitutes movement of time. we could arrive at some particular event which has an apparently independent periodicity and use it to define a uniform movement of time.

All of this implies there are concrete absolute events that occur. let us say we define time as the interval between two sun rises. and if for whatever reason the sun's apparent movement stops for 5 seconds and then resumes, will the suspension be noted? If for instance the entire Universe 'stops' for a certain period of time, will that suspension be noted? No. because we define time as the interval between such events.

This leads us to the question, how do we know the state of the universe has changed? How do we know that the next event has occurred, so that the universal clock can make a tick. The state of the Universe is a set of attributes. and in order to say that this has changed, one has to observe it! Unless the state of the universe is constantly observed, there is no way to figure out if it has changed or not. It could be in suspended animation of 'ages' and yet we will never know.

This implies that if we cannot observe anything at all in this Universe, then it is impossible to talk about time. So, if it was the case that I loose all my power of perception, including the sense of touch, then there is no sense in talking about observing anything. and hence I cannot observe any change whatsoever in anything, and hence there can be no meaning for time. The perception, or observation of the Universe is a must for the very concept of time.

The observer is an important factor. If there were no observer, then there is no observation and hence no Universe. And time is something that happens entirely based on this observation and has no absolute existence. This relativistic view of time thus collapses our notion of years, millennium etc. entirely into our own cognition of the world, without any absolute existence. time is after a sequence of events.

The sequence is a result of our ability to remember. memory creates sequences out of random events. A following, B following C. If I do not remember, then there is no sequence. If we investigate what memory really is, it is just a thought occuring NOW. we recollect the past, but we do that always in the present. We talk about the future, but we do that always in the present. We talk of a hundred years. But we do it only in the NOW. Again, all that we are talking are about sequence of events. the longer this sequence is, longer the time is.The mind using this quantum of events creates its own sense of scale for time. So it is really meaningless to talk about what time it is now.

The fact is we are in the present. and the time is NOW.

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