Our Time On Earth

in #philosophy4 years ago

Time is one of the great mysteries in life; we can measure it, we organize our lifes around it, we can observe it's effects in a seemingly endless succession of causes and effects, always progressing in the same direction because entropy can only go up... But we don't know what it is.

Image by geralt - source: Pixabay

Our understanding of time doesn't stand still though. Newton saw space and time as separate, space being the "stage" on which the spectacle of the universe takes place, and time being universal, passing at the same rate or speed no matter the location or circumstances. But then along came Einstein who's theories of relativity gave us a new understanding, that space and time were united in space-time, the new fabric of the universe. Here's a crazy notion; in Einstein's universe every moment in time that has ever been and will ever be, exist at the same time, all at once. Our experience of time passing by, might be nothing more than an illusion conjured up by our brains in an attempt to make sense of a reality that's far too complicated for our feeble intellects to comprehend.

The passing of time as we experience it is something personal and its behavior varies with speed and gravitational force. Gravity, yet another thing we know by its effects, but can't put our finger on as to explain what it actually is. But these mysterious aspects of our existence, gravity and time, provide the forces that shaped our planet as well as all that grows and lives on it. "Nature to be commanded must be obeyed." Wise words by Francis Bacon; before we master nature we must first understand it. Bacon was an empiricist, advocating that knowledge starts with observing nature. And trust our intuitions. We observe that causes precede effects, we observe that material bodies attract each other, and starting with these observations, through a generations long process of other observations, developing and testing hypotheses and developing our understanding of the "language of the universe", mathematics, we've now arrived in a universe made up of the four-dimensional fabric of space-time, and the ironclad second law of thermodynamics that explains why the time-dimension knows only one direction; away from the past, towards the future.

Is consciousness what collapses the quantum wave function? | Robert Wright & David Chalmers

Newton's model of the universe feels much more natural to us, but new understanding gives us the tools to develop new "intuitions". In quantum mechanics it seems that time is not a fundamental property of all that is; it might be an emergent property caused by nothing more than information, and the same goes for space. The "problem of time" as explained in Wikipedia:

In theoretical physics, the problem of time is a conceptual conflict between general relativity and quantum mechanics in that quantum mechanics regards the flow of time as universal and absolute, whereas general relativity regards the flow of time as malleable and relative. This problem raises the question of what time really is in a physical sense and whether it is truly a real, distinct phenomenon.
source: Wikipedia

Under the heading "Proposed solutions to the problem of time"

In 2013, at the Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica (INRIM) in Turin, Italy, Ekaterina Moreva, together with Giorgio Brida, Marco Gramegna, Vittorio Giovannetti, Lorenzo Maccone, and Marco Genovese performed the first experimental test of Page and Wootters' ideas. They confirmed that time is an emergent phenomenon for internal observers but absent for external observers of the universe just as the Wheeler–DeWitt equation predicts.
source: Wikipedia

I am not able to fully understand, let alone explain the specifics of the Wheeler–DeWitt equation; read the linked Wikipedia article if you like, but I much rather point you to the above linked video that discusses the possibility that maybe consciousness is the thing that collapses the wave function, maybe some omnipresent consciousness, or shared consciousness presents our senses with the reality, maybe that's the observer that's so essential in quantum mechanics. Who knows? What I do know is that time, as experienced by human consciousness is a weird thing. Ever noticed how in one dream a lifetime can pass by? Ever heard someone claim they saw their whole life flash before their eyes, the second before they lost consciousness in an accident? Or how time seems to crawl when you're bored, yet flies by far too fast when you're having fun? Time and consciousness, they make a mysterious pair indeed, as "consciousness" is yet another of the great questions we haven't been able to answer...

I'll close with the video linked below, as an illustration how difficult it really is for us to really appreciate our time on Earth, not just to embrace the miraculous mystery of our fleeting existence, but to realistically place our own time on the timeline of our own planet. It's a discussion of a professional geologist who takes us through just the last billion years of the geology of our planet. It explains why the Middle East has so much oil and how CO2 levels were much higher in the past, but also why we might not want to return to the paradise-Earth that had forests everywhere, the poles included. It does all that by compressing 1 billion years into just 33 minutes... miraculous ;-)

The story of the Earth in 33 minutes

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