DISCLAIMER: This post is an unorganised mind-dump and contains a lot of corny time/space/maths related puns so I sincerely apologise in advance for my terrible attempts at making jokes. There are just so many puns and so little time (Sorry…)
You are reading this sentence now. OR ARE YOU? What is “now”? By the time you answer the question, “now” will be in the past and will no longer be “now”. The future will become the present which will become the past. Every tiny moment in the entire universe is infinitesimally small and completely impossible to measure.
But then, you might argue, “now” is simply the Present. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. The simple truth of the matter is this: TIME DOES NOT EXIST (as a physical entity). The past, present and future are all happening at the same time. In the words of The Doctor, “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually — from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint — it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… timey-wimey… stuff.” (The Tenth Doctor, Doctor Who – Blink).
But let’s be honest. That doesn’t really explain anything. It just sounds really clever (although that sentence got away from him…). Let’s take it from the basics, shall we? Firstly, let me just say that I’m unbelievably ecstatic that I will (finally) be able to use something I learned in a Maths class in real life. I will attempt to prove that time does not exist as a physical entity.
For this proof, I shall prove by contradiction. Therefore, I need to assume the opposite (that time does exist). Then, if time exists, there needs to be a Past, a Present, and a Future. The Future depends on the Present, which depends on the Past. So far, so good. The past is immutable and therefore cannot be altered in any way. The future also cannot be changed since it hasn’t really happened yet. So all that’s changeable is the Present. But what is the Present? The present is simply our perception of the Future becoming the Past. So then, the Present doesn’t exist since there is no measurement of time small enough to measure the Present. So then if there’s no Present, then there’s no Future. And since the Present depends on the Past, (and we’ve established that there is no Present), the Past ceases to exist (not that it existed in the first place). So Time does not exist. /SQUARE
(A possibly cyclical and flimsy proof, I admit, but in fairness, this is still a work in progress and I just really wanted an excuse to use a Mathematical Proof in real life).
In simpler terms, the Present is like Adobe Flash; it’s constantly updating (Ba Dum Tss!). And if it’s constantly updating, then it is never stable. So technically, there is no such thing as the Present since it is in a constant state of change.
So what is time? If it doesn’t exist, why are all those stupid Physics questions always asking you to solve for t? (I stand on a hill 200m from the ground and decide to throw yet another rock 20m horizontally at some old people in the park. Find the time (t) it takes for the police to arrive, arrest me and forcefully escort me off the premises.). We know time is measured in seconds. We also know that 1 second is the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom (What would we do without Wikipedia?). But that doesn’t explain what time IS.
We just know how to measure it. Ever since the “dawn of time”, there’s been a method to measure what we perceive as time. We managed to realise the cyclical nature of day and night and used that to come up with sundials. Then came the sand hourglasses, then the hypnotic swinging of a pendulum, and then the oscillation of a quartz crystal. All that has evolved is our method to measure time; all we have been able to do is measure time more accurately. The smaller the repetitive natural event that we can measure, the more accurate our measurement of time can be. We can convert time, spend time, waste time, kill time, stop time (I’ll get to this later) and measure time, and yet we still have no idea what it is.
And Einstein’s just sitting back and laughing at the rest of us trying to figure out what time is. First he goes and does shows off his theories of relativity and then he says that “…physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.” So what exactly does he want? This entire problem started with Einstein and his theories of relativity. In his formulas, time essentially works exactly like gravity does. Neither gravity nor time exists as a physical entity but we can still use them to measure things and just generally do stuff. The denser space gets, the slower time seems to pass; as gravity increases, time slows down. This is why time really gets messed up when you throw a Black Hole into the equation.
So in conclusion, I proved that time doesn’t actually exist as a physical entity. Then I went and said a couple of things about how we measure time. Then I went to get a glass of water. Then I dropped the glass and got annoyed at Einstein and then said something about gravity. Then I mentioned a black hole and decided to stop writing since I lost track of what I was trying to say. So from what I’ve understood, time is simply the measurement of change. And if you can fully comprehend the concept of timelessness, then you are not bound the limits and constraints of time. You can theoretically manipulate, change and essentially stop time, since it is nothing but an idea.
But that doesn’t explain anything at all. And after writing 1064 words, I’ve still not gotten anywhere close to explaining properly what time is. That’s because of two reasons. Firstly, the whole topic is just incredibly fascinating and horribly complicated and I’ve absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. And SECONDly, it would just take too much time.