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Posted: 26 May 2010 07:00 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Interesting podcast from the New York Academy of Sciences HERE on the illusory nature of time. This jibes with a good deal of our discussion in the philosophy thread HERE. It’s a discussion with physicist Brian Greene and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. Fortunately Kaufman largely gets out of the way and lets Brian talk about the physics.

I debated whether or not to include this in the above thread, but as a philosophy talk it’s pretty poor, so I’d take their philosophizing (about science, existence, etc.) with very large grains of salt. The stuff about time on the other hand is absolutely correct, at least as I’d been taught it in the past. In particular, the notion of “now” is relative to one’s reference frame, so all times in the universe are equally “now”, so really the universe is best understood as a single four-dimensional spacetime manifold. The movement of time is an illusion, corresponding to nothing in physical reality.

Needless to say, this is mind bending stuff.

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Posted: 26 May 2010 07:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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dougsmith - 26 May 2010 07:00 AM

Needless to say, this is mind bending stuff.

Indeed. I just finished reading Sean Carroll’s From Eternity to Here, The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time, and let’s say I am glad I somehow got through it and maintained my sanity at the same time.

Thanks for the link, Doug.

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Posted: 26 May 2010 07:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I am very scared to discuss this topic, but there are a few things I have had on my mind now for some time, so I’ll give it a try.

Assuming that the theory of “Block Universe” is correct, I thought of an analogy of a motion picture (our universe being such a picture with endless number of frames) and came to realize that our minds, our conscious minds, seem to be playing the part of the viewer of that motion picture. It is only when we remember the past, feel the present, and have the ability to calculate the future that the whole thing, our universe, seems to be now in motion, creating the illusion of time. Does this make any sense?

[ Edited: 26 May 2010 07:58 AM by George ]
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Posted: 26 May 2010 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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FWIW I was taught the correct term for “block universe” was “four-dimensional spacetime manifold”. Or just “the manifold” for short.

As to where the illusion of the passage of time comes from, Hmmmm .....

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Posted: 26 May 2010 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Okay, finished listening to the podcast and I feel the same way as when I finished Carroll’s book: it was fun, but I am happy it’s over now.  grin

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Posted: 26 May 2010 09:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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God I hate philosophy.

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“In the end nature is horrific and teaches us nothing.” -Mutual of Omicron

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Posted: 26 May 2010 09:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Dead Monky - 26 May 2010 09:35 AM

God I hate philosophy.

Anything in particular? Or just thinking carefully? This was a podcast about physics, FWIW ...

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Posted: 26 May 2010 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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This was a podcast about physics, FWIW ...

Yeah, I know.  It just got me thinking is all.  Philosophy is one those things that bothers me because people always seem to make it way more complicated and pretentious than it needs to be.  It seems like once a philosophy discussion gets going it inevitably devolves into a contest to see who can quote the most obscure dead guy or pull out the most obtuse and arcane wordage.  And people never seem to use their own ideas.  Just quotes and ideas taken from the musings of other people.  It’s never, “I thought this…..”  Always, “But So-And-So postulated this…..”  Just my observations.

I edited a couple typos.

[ Edited: 26 May 2010 10:37 AM by Dead Monky ]
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Posted: 26 May 2010 02:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I don’t hate philosophy, but it does make my head spin when I try to delve into it. As far as time is concerned, I have had that argument with friends and coworkers before, and they don’t believe me. They are stuck in a world where time has an assigned meaning, and can’t imagine it being any other way. It was a BIG argument when 2000 rolled around. Even our weeks, minutes, seconds only work if they are universally agreed upon. Other societies use our calendar, because the western world has the money, and you have to spend your dime on our time!!

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Posted: 26 May 2010 02:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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dougsmith - 26 May 2010 07:00 AM

The stuff about time on the other hand is absolutely correct, at least as I’d been taught it in the past. In particular, the notion of “now” is relative to one’s reference frame, so all times in the universe are equally “now”, so really the universe is best understood as a single four-dimensional spacetime manifold.

Similar question from me as on the supertask thread (hope that’s ok).

Why do we have a frame of reference at all? And why is it what we consider to be now, rather than some other time within our lifetimes?

Stephen

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Posted: 26 May 2010 03:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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StephenLawrence - 26 May 2010 02:33 PM

Why do we have a frame of reference at all?

I don’t understand the question. It’s like asking, “Why am I someplace rather than no place?” If you were no place, you wouldn’t be asking the question. In fact, you wouldn’t exist at all. In order to exist, you have to exist within some frame of reference or other. You have to exist at some place and time. (And in some state of motion w/r/t the rest of the universe, etc.)

StephenLawrence - 26 May 2010 02:33 PM

And why is it what we consider to be now, rather than some other time within our lifetimes?

I also don’t understand that question. Every time is considered to be now during our lifetimes.

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Posted: 26 May 2010 03:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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StephenLawrence - 26 May 2010 02:33 PM
dougsmith - 26 May 2010 07:00 AM

The stuff about time on the other hand is absolutely correct, at least as I’d been taught it in the past. In particular, the notion of “now” is relative to one’s reference frame, so all times in the universe are equally “now”, so really the universe is best understood as a single four-dimensional spacetime manifold.

Similar question from me as on the supertask thread (hope that’s ok).

Why do we have a frame of reference at all? And why is it what we consider to be now, rather than some other time within our lifetimes?

Stephen

erggh I knew the thread would be hijacked by philosophers…. LOL

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Posted: 26 May 2010 04:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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dougsmith - 26 May 2010 07:00 AM

Interesting podcast from the New York Academy of Sciences HERE on the illusory nature of time.

Thanks Doug will listen to it this weekend (which will seem too short)

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Posted: 26 May 2010 05:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Stephen, because life is immensely easier when you have measurements that everyone can agree upon..

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Posted: 26 May 2010 06:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I LOVE this subject.  grin  I’ve got the following podcasts about time on my mp3 player:

In Search of Time (Leonard Lopate Show)
Time (Radio Lab)
Beyond Time (Radio Lab)
Why Does Time Fly By As You Get Older? (NPR)
Time, Space, and Other Big Questions (Science Friday)

btw, Sean Carroll is the guest on the last podcast. In “Beyond Time” an eccentric artist named David McDermott doesn’t believe in the present. Instead, he chooses to live in the past. I don’t quite get his philosophy, though.

And in one of these shows it’s mentioned that Einstein said that time is an illusion, that the past, present, and future are all happening at once. I think this is how physicist Brian Greene thinks about time, as well. (He’s discusses the subject on Radio Lab’s “Time” episode.)

I honestly can’t define what time is. That’s why I love this quote:

Time is the cable that pulls the cable car. Life is the cable car itself. I think it was attributed to J.T. Fraser (“Time the Familiar Stranger”) but I’m not sure.

I have such a fetish for watches but I think it’s more about aesthetics than my fascination with the subject of time.

Anyway, thanks dougsmith for posting the link. I’ve already downloaded it.

[ Edited: 26 May 2010 06:29 PM by T. Ruth ]
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Posted: 26 May 2010 06:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Jackson - 26 May 2010 04:08 PM

(which will seem too short)

Try to move faster, Jackson. You know, the faster you move the slower time travels and the more you’ll get out of your weekend.  cheese

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