/ Time, gentlemen please....But can you prove it?

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The Lemming - on 23 Jan 2013
I have just spent 20 pence on a QI book and one of the first facts to blow my fuzzy little brain was that there has not been a single experiment to prove time exists.

Is this fact true?

Would I need to include a conveyor belt?
Kevin Woods - on 23 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming: Would be interesting to hear a back story to this one. Knowing that someone's probably got a deeper understanding of time than I, I'd be quite happy to look at a clock for my proof. But considering how weird things can get in the universe with time, space and dimensions, it wouldn't surprise me that I'm missing out on something.

Or maybe I'm on the wrong track altogether and it's just a wrongly-regurgitated philosophical question
Scarab9 - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming:

Your difficulty here is defining time. It exists as a construct to /describe explain observable phenomenon.

So you wouldn't get am experiment to prove it exists, you'd use it to describe the results of an experiment
cuppatea on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming:

...and does the Observer Effect change the result of the measurement of what may or may not be time?
caravanshaker on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming: You could not have typed this post without the passage of time. Thus you've proven the existence of time.
climber david - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming:

Or are time and space intertwined into minkowski's spacetime theory?
Kimono - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming:
what do you mean by exist?
time is a 'product' of mind...of course there is no such thing as time. There is only this...
ice.solo - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming:

whoever wrote that has never had a stopover in brunei.
Martin W on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming:

> I have just spent 20 pence on a QI book

There's your problem right there. QI is a comedy programme based on the flimsy premise of purveying largely meaningless factlets. It's light entertainment, it's not meant to be taken seriously.
sbc_10 - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming:

I do not think scientists have found or intend to find a 'time' particle. There does not seem to be any measurable quantum identity that refers to absolute positions in time either. We, the human element have imposed criteria such as 'important' measurable 'events' that need cataloging in terms of an order. Hence time is really a library reference code for the unfolding of the Universe.
Relativity messes with time in terms of our viewpoint of it, but does it actually mess up the fundamental processes that occur within the Universe, no it doesn't.
Human thought processes follow the semantic lines used to describe our experiences, hence we can be be led into areas of vagueness because we have no real words to describe what is going on.
eg. what happened before the Big Bang?..... well the word 'before' creates a flow of time across the event. There is no evidence to support this view, hence it is a meaningless question.
My God, look at the time....it flies you know.....
pineapple - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming:

All there is is 'now'.

I think that 'time' is (as Scarab9 said) a construction invented by us so we could better get along in life. Think about when they decided to introduce a leap year; up until then they had been ignoring the extra quarter day that the Earth took to go around the Sun. Three of four years last the same amount of time, and the fourth year is a 365th longer than the others. We just decide for ourselves what a year is.

Having said that, I guess there have been no experiments to prove that time definitely DOESN'T exist. I thought about distance, and how we decided what a 'foot' or a 'mile' would be. It seems pretty arbitrary again. But there is definitely some sort of space between me and my computer screen, or my house and the one across the street. Whether or not it is defined as a foot or 15 metres, that space still exists.

So though we can't 'see' time, does that mean it doesn't exist like distance clearly does?

Depends what you determine 'time' as, I suppose - in terms of the definition and conventions given by us, or just the general existence and passage of it?

I think I've changed my mind in a single post.
Trangia - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to cuppatea:
> (In reply to The Lemming)
>
> ...and does the Observer Effect change the result of the measurement of what may or may not be time?

You don't need the Observer to prove that the Times exists, just read it.
timjones - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to kieran b:
> (In reply to The Lemming)
> what do you mean by exist?
> time is a 'product' of mind...of course there is no such thing as time. There is only this...

You're getting ahead of yourself there. Existence is a product of the mind :-)
Pero - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming: I think the answer to your original question is "no, it is not true". There are a number of pseudo-scientific books and views around that misinterpret relativity and quantum mechanics and state things like "no one can prove time exists". QI has picked up on this, I imagine.

Physics, generally, is based on a mathematical model of the universe, in which time is a central element. From that point of view, time exists by definition in that the concept of time is needed in any model of the universe that explains our observations.

I've never heard of a model of the universe that works without the concept of time.

So, any experiment that includes the concepts of time, space and motion in essence proves that all these things exist. Scientifically, it makes no sense to say that "time, space and motion do not exist".

From a mystical, philosophical point of view, I guess you can state that nothing exists and since you don't admit the existence of the laws of physics (or the existence of anything) then no one can prove you wrong. But, that's metaphysics, not science.







Robert Dickson on 24 Jan 2013 - jbgb1.ast.man.ac.uk
In reply to The Lemming: This is a great review of the philosophical and scientific views of time.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Labyrinth-Time-Introducing-Universe/dp/0199217262
Jimbo W on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming:

Ask Coel Hellier. He knows the answer.. ..and there is no faith involved in it.... ;)
In reply to The Lemming:


Atomic clocks flown round the planet at high speed run more slowly than ones that remain on the ground. Isn't that measuring time - as well as 'proving' relativity?


Chris
Pero - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs: Yes, that's actually a very succinct way of looking at it. Any experiment that measures time, by default, shows that time exists (in the scientific sense of existence).
Kimono - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:
> (In reply to kieran b)
> [...]
>
> You're getting ahead of yourself there. Existence is a product of the mind :-)

indeed, we cant say anything really exists beyond our experience of it

Pete Fish - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming:

<sightly fuzzy remembering of physics that I haven't used in a while>

Have experiments been done that prove the existence of time? Yes, kinda.

In that experiments have been done to prove the second law of thermodynamics "the entropy of an isolated system never decreases".

In short, you can't un-whisk the egg.

If time did not exist then the effects of an action would be reversed simply by reversing the action.

If you take the universe as a closed system then that gives us an absolute definition of time as the entropy of the universe (note that this does not state anything about what happens outside of our universe).

<sightly fuzzy remembering of physics that I haven't used in a while>

At Least that's my theory.

Pete
ads.ukclimbing.com
ChrisBrooke - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming: Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene is a 'popular science' book which guides you through the difficulty in accounting for 'time's arrow'. Which is to say why time moves in the direction it does. I read it while on holiday at Todhra Gorge. My simple little mind 'popped' after a few hundred pages but I'd still recommend it.
thin bob on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming:
A great philosopher once wrote 'Time flies like an arrow....'
.
.
....and fruit flies like a banana :-)


subalpine - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to Pete Fish: yeah, but how you explain the low entropy of the early universe?
subalpine - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs:
> (In reply to The Lemming)
>
>
> Atomic clocks flown round the planet at high speed run more slowly than ones that remain on the ground. Isn't that measuring time - as well as 'proving' relativity?
>
yeah, but 'time is what clocks measure' isn't very enlightening?

interesting that GPS systems use special and general relativity to avoid significant location errors (10m+?)

a couple of podcasts on the general subject:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=in-search-of-time-09-03-19
http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=from-eternity-to-here-sean-m-carrol-10-03-3...


subalpine - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to The Lemming)
>
> Ask Coel Hellier. He knows the answer.. ..and there is no faith involved in it.... ;)

the answer is the multiverse;)
ripper - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to kieran b:
> (In reply to The Lemming)
> what do you mean by exist?
> time is a 'product' of mind...of course there is no such thing as time. There is only this...

Are you quoting Roberto Mancini there?
subalpine - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to subalpine:
>

> yeah, but 'time is what clocks measure' isn't very enlightening?
>

Why not: rulers measure length, clock measure time - or is that too simplistic?


Chris
Pete Fish - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to subalpine:
> yeah, but how you explain the low entropy of the early universe?

Is this "Whats the difference between the early universe and a black hole?"

Why is the Early universe (all the matter in the universe crammed into a small space) considered a low entropy system when a black hole (shed load of matter crammed into a space so small it warps space time to a asymptotic level) considered a high entropy system?

and the answer is, I don't know. But I hope some one does.

We're taught that gravity is a force that draws all things together based on their energy. And that if we can get the energy close enough this force can override every opposing force (electrical, material, etc). So why does the early universe expand, why does the big bang, bang?

If the early universe is the lowest entropy possible then it must be a homogenous distribution of energy then as it starts to expand fluctuations and variations start to come in and as there are more possibilities then there is a higher entropy (kinda). But why does it expand as without matter or electrical forces surely the gravitational effect of the energy would just cause them to stay in place and never expand.

And I guess that as with a lot of questions the answer comes down to boundary conditions, what we are declaring our closed system. In the case of the black hole our boundary conditions cannot be the event horizon as the black hole would never have formed if it wasn't for the supernova so now this system includes not only a small dense possibly uniform black hole but also the massive cloud of expanding matter that is shooting off around the rest of the universe that could end up being absolutely any where. So it is now a high entropy system.

Logically that would suggest that there is something outside of our universe as well, something that caused the big bang but we are prevented from even knowing what it is because the edge of the universe is an impenetrable barrier where our knowledge ends. Much like the barrier of the event horizon of a black hole.

A lecturer of mine made a throwaway comment that at the event horizon of a black hole the dimensions we know as time and space swap over maybe that's what happens and that inside a black hole is a new universe and we are just inside a black hole in someone elses universe.


Or maybe I'm just talking a load of old twonk as I wait for a machine to slowly compress a piece of plastic (Woohoo for cutting edge research).


Hope that helps.

Pete
Robert Durran - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming:

It doe exist. To paraphrase someone, it's what stops everything happening at the same time.
subalpine - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to Robert Durran: or starts.. time is an illusion..
Flinticus - on 24 Jan 2013
If it feels like it exists, if it acts like it exists, if we appear to be subject to it etc then whether it does or not is irrelevant.
bigbobbyking - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs:
> (In reply to subalpine)
> [...]
>
> [...]
>
> Why not: rulers measure length, clock measure time - or is that too simplistic?
>
>
> Chris

I think that's a pretty good answer. Time is the parameter measured by a perfect clock, distance is the parameter measured by a perfect ruler. We notice other things vary as a function of these two variables.
Orgsm on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to The Lemming:

Yes I was chucked out of the pub after "time gentleman please" , so it definitely exists...

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