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Last updated: Oct, 2020

How Does Time Flow?

Our minds create the present moment to separate the past from the future, and then slow down time to a manageable pace -- otherwise it would all be over at once, argues author, Alan R Graham.

Time's Paradigm: PART TWO - Time

Does time flow? No one knows, nor for that matter, have we any idea where time is going; whether it progresses or if, conversely, time is a stationary phenomenon and it is us doing the flowing through time. Something appears to flow, we perceive a sense of motion in time from one moment to the next and, yes, we can even measure the concept with time pieces. But isn't that just our minds making the whole thing up?

Underwater photo of sun rays in blue water with caption, Space: A Giant Ocean.


Our consideration of space is not much better: We can only relate our physical whereabouts and trajectory to other meandering bodies in the universe that are, like ourselves, equally confused. It's the best we can do though gets us no nearer understanding where we are actually going.

As with space, our place in time is unfathomable if we cannot relate to a beginning or an end and all we have to perceive the flow of time are events flashing by. Pin-pointing a beginning of time is akin to denoting a stationary point in the universe... which is scientifically unacceptable. Pin-pointing the end of time would be like finding the edge of the universe. Wow!

Ironically, Physics asserts that there was a beginning of time, "The Big Bang", where existence and our universe first emerged. Presumably, therefore, they are inferring that time has since been progressing positively towards a distant, infinite horizon, possibly even an end.

That time flows in a linear fashion from beginning to end, like a ruler, is rather old fashioned. It is much more likely that time -- as with space -- has no boundaries. In other words, time's passage is cyclical, thus solid, with no ends. Moreover, if viewed from the fourth dimension, time doesn't flow at all.

Space-time is curved, we know that! Light has been measured to bend... gravitational waves distort.

Few scientists will offer a conclusive meaning of time. How time flows, what it is and where it is going, are all up for debate. Indeed, many will argue time is just an illusion, and yet it appears in some of our most grandiose astro-physics equations, so surely it exists...

HOW INFINITIES AFFECT TIME!
Time suddenly appears, like the separation of oily water
when a drop of detergent hits the surface.
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Time flows in our heads.

We "conscious creatures" create a world around us to suit our needs and imagine this moment we live in as best we can. Yes, it is real to us, but what reality actually is may be far from the truth as we know it. Our brains interpret the world around us by means of senses -- eyes, ears, nose, etc -- and make up a scene for us in which to act. We perceive "Now" by means of biological stimulus and associative conditioning in an otherwise static environment, thus it is we that are flowing through time.

the Atlas Mountains, Morocco.

Everything is up for interpretation by our minds: Colour pigments are mixed by proximity to make varying shades that don't really exist; molecules are all stuck together to form clumps of recognizable shape depending on perspective. Red and white become pink, trees become mountains, and the moon is a dime in our mind's eye. It's all a confabulation -- Isn't everything?

We look through a telescope and see our cycling galaxy in all its glory. Just look at a slide under a microscope to discover a whole new universe.

A magician waves his hand about and the audience sees four fingers when really there were only three visible; the Mickey Mouse illusion. It is a common fact that humans will create reality if things don't add up or a key element is missing -- we apparently need to make sense of madness... it's a comfort thing. Klaus Conrad conceived the term Apophenia to describe the necessary human trait of seeing meaning in things that really aren't valid, uh... like, Mother Teresa's face on a muffin. Yes, as many psychologists will point out, by and large we actually invent the world around us.

But time is not the illusion. There is a past behind us and a future still to come. Time is all real. All of time already exists in a static, Block Universe model established by cyclical time. There's no illusion in that model... the illusion is the present moment and how we make time flow.

DOES DESTINY EXIST?
From Rock Stars to Multi-Worlds
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Time flows on a conscious level, of that we can be certain, we evolved to make use of it. Here we are in "The Present", which is our moment of awareness, our sense of time. If conscious living beings such as ourselves were absent from this universe, time would still exist, would it not? But would the present?

Without the present as our cursor identifying the passage of time, it would not appear to flow. History might exist, as might destiny, but there would be no indication of how time flows.

Here's a simple analogy: All of time and existence is like a DVD; on its own, a flat, rather boring, nondescript piece of plastic. But when the laser hits it the TV explodes into magnificent flowing colour and action... In other words, existence is nothing without us. We flow through time and make it happen.

Everything you ever wanted to know... About Time!

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Some Definitions of Time

There are a few. The first is a literary liberty describing a swath of history, as above, "All of time..." or, "Travelling through time." Secondly, there is, "Time to put on the kettle," here being used as another word for 'moment', referring to 'The Time' as measured by a clock.

Thirdly (as per dictionaries), time is lamely described as, a sequential and irreversible measure of period between the past and the future. This definition is on shaky ground, it relies on the notion that the past and future exist at the same time, which is hotly disputed... If they exist at all.

Fundamentally, time is about change. There is a difference between the past and the future. From one minute to the next, things are altering their position, their form and their state, be they great celestial bodies or tiny atomic particles. If no change occurs, there is no need for time. In other words, if the past and the future are identical, existence does not occur, because there is no point nor reason for it being, and no place for it to be.

Space, it seems, is a prerequisite for time, because motion needs a playground in which to roam. These three phenomena are the cornerstones of existence; like our three dimensions, one cannot exist without the other two.

It's all or nothing with time.

We need time to contemplate existence.

Better said: We need "Now" to contemplate existence, thus dividing the canvass into a past and a future, creating a flow of time. This canvass is all of time seeming to exist at once, The Block Universe, as one branch of ontology hypothesizes and this proposal endorsed in the previous chapter -- all of time already in place.

To summarize: Time flows from our three dimensional perspective; but objectively, looking at existence from the outside as a block, the past and future are a single, static entity.

Time, our present moment, is the definition of three dimensions; it's what happens upon creating space, energy begins to flow. A step further and we surpass the need for time's passage on discovering that time is the fourth dimension and doesn't flow at all.

How We Perceive Time's Flow

Blink rapidly and you will get a rough understanding of how our brains process life. That's how time works. The passing of time is like a film strip in our minds, with still frames being recorded at high speed. It is well understood that the human eye can capture between 30 and 50 frames per second and that our brains then meld those still frames into a single, smooth sequence of movement. Thus, with our eyes open we are constantly registering change at that rate and perceive the flow of time. It's called the 'flicker fusion rate'.

Scientists have recently worked out that not all creatures see at the same speed. Pigeons, for example, may register change at double our rate per second, slowing down life for these fast flying birds, making it easier for them to spot a food source, land on a branch and avoid predators. House flies register an incredible 250 frames in a second, making time crawl by and your chances of swatting them with a newspaper nigh on impossible.

Nevertheless, all us creatures are missing a substantial chunk of what is available reality within one second -- even flies. If there were a creature that could get close to seeing every part of a second, with a flicker fusion rate in the millions, from their perspective time would freeze up.

THE WAY TIME WORKS:

Our minds create the present moment to separate the past from the future, and then slow down time to a manageable pace -- otherwise it would all be over at once.

Such a creature would experience all of time simultaneously, the past at the same time as the future, on pause. Time would not flow, akin to the experience of an astronaut travelling at near relativistic speeds.

Scientists have tested the flicker fusion rates of a number of conscious creatures, including us humans, from super fast flies to rather slow turtles. And, as is so often the case with science, both ends of this scale will no doubt one day surprise us. Geological time is measured in millions of years and often described to us for our encapsulation as if a thousand years were mere seconds in length. What if they were? It is entirely possible that a conscious entity might experience the flow of time super-slow, where a single frame of awareness occurs just once, say, every 250 years -- or a Pluto year.

The suggestion that immobile, inert objects like liquids and crystals could possibly be attuned to time, or be in the least bit conscious, will strike most of us as silly. And it is, from our perspective. However, we should be cautious of considering that what we see and believe is the absolute truth (just ask a fly). It is not the realm of fantasy to suggest that a conscious entity might be aware of mountains rising, continents adrift and ice-ages coming and going. Our planet may well be more alive than we give it credit for.

What we are doing by being aware of time's flow at 30 frames per second is slowing down the periods between moments to a rate efficient for our purposes. This is not an illusion, it's how time works: a representation of a fraction of time's vast breadth. In order to see all of time the processing power of our brains would have to be immense.

Arrows of Time.

One could argue, the mere fact that there is a difference between a past and a future, forces there to be a transition, and it is NOT our conscious consideration that influences the flow of time. Reaching equilibrium is a natural and well studied trend in nature, from osmosis to temperature and pressure variances, so a difference between now and then in time may just be a balancing act. Another word for which is, Entropy.

photograph of an African skimmer in flight.

Entropy, or Time's Arrow, is one view of how time can be said to flow. Things break but they do not un-break. There is only one direction and that is towards chaos. Quantum Physics might disagree, as it likes to argue that sub-atomic particles may wish to do things in reverse; but on a macro scale we don't seem to be heading for birth. So, entropy is the redistribution of energy in time. It is described by the second law of Thermodynamics as the passing of energy from useful levels to ever less useful levels, in decline.

With respect to time, therefore, entropy is said to increase with this redistribution process, from a state of perfection in the past and little chance of change, to a state of more possibilities due to more freedom in the future. This suggests progress, however it is a linear model, where energy flows from a beginning (perfection) towards an end (chaos).

... although there is something to be said for the old adage, "Within Chaos Hides Perfection."

Most modern conjecture on time revolves around Einstein's theories of Relativity, where Space-Time is the leading component. It insinuates time's irrelevance to some degree, but, by the same token, places time and space firmly together in formalizing existence. And that existence all began with "The Big Bang".

Recently, however, there has been quite a stir in Science circles, and time has become the topic of much debate. Ideas range from: A Conformal Cosmological Cycle by Sir Roger Penrose, proposing that our universe must have existed before the Big Bang; to a more recent suggestion that two identical universes erupted from the Big Bang, one heading forwards, the other flowing backwards in time, thus providing equilibrium.

Indeed, Stephen Hawking questioned the concept of when our Universe began and has spoken of the quirky possibility that it might only have come into existence a few years ago, and that all our memories of before such a time are merely implanted -- though it is likely he was simply making a point.

The Big Bang is understandably thought of as the beginning of time. So, where there is a beginning there is, no doubt, an end. Ending is relative to something that continues. Stopping means the prospect of starting -- forwards or backwards? All these issues need reconciling, if we are to believe in the flow of time.

If time can stop here, then what is to say it cannot stop there, or there, or there..? Or stop for a moment and then proceed? Time could come and go as it pleased. However, it appears to be a continuous, uninterrupted passage, with no complicated rules to address all these queries aforementioned.

Enter the theory of cycles. If Cyclical Time can adequately square all these round pegs, where does that leave the Big Bang?

NB. From a philosophical standpoint, time cannot flow backwards. To use such a word implies an opposite direction to the norm, i.e. "forwards". Time may have a course -- if such a notion can practically apply -- but precisely retracing steps taken is impossible as this would run contrary to causality. Positive momentum occurs, there are no negatives in physical nature. In considering an expanding universe which may eventually collapse in upon itself, contraction would not be an identically opposite phenomenon. Deflating balloons do not collapse in reverse. Time flowing Backwards is thus a misnomer.

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A Cosmological Cycle of Time

Until the disciplines of science unite, we will never fully comprehend time.

While time's progress is not a true flow, because we make it happen, time has form or structure when considering its purpose. There are a number of strong arguments why time must progress cyclically rather than as a linear model, all hidden within the confines of physical laws and mathematical formulations.

To get something started requires purpose, potential and impetus. However, in a state of non-existence, before time (before the Big Bang), it is unlikely these three players could have operated. Change is energetic, and to suggest that energy magically starts or suddenly stops is far fetched; it goes against the very fundamentals of our Laws of Physics.

Time is change, change is energy. Ergo: Time does not start and stop.

Disclaimer: It is quite likely that before the Big Bang space-time existed in a different form, perhaps warped into an indiscernible shape and following unknown physical laws that humans have yet to fathom.

If we accept that time has continuous flow, either it wanders off into 'forever' and infinity, or it appears to go on forever by revolution, a cyclical progression. Both scenarios offer the notion of continuity, but a cycle offers contained stability -- no loose ends.

The greatest human invention was, arguably, the wheel; it revolutionised mobility and functionality by later being transformed into gears and motors, pulleys, roundabouts and conveyor belts. Long before us, the cosmos had got it all started with solar systems, nitrogen cycles and atomic energy.

Likewise, time has the same potential, of being a circuit, in that it feeds itself rather than having an undefined reason for linear progression. Time flows into itself, like rain that feeds a river that flows to the ocean, which in turn produces rain. Thus we can answer one of the most fundamental questions regarding the meaning of time, its purpose and potential: In cyclical models, time has reason.

The comic analogy: A swimming pool is a river with a beginning and an end.

Time must surely cycle, as do all progressive systems, the consequence of which is that all matter in our universe will eventually return to their state of origin, and the cycle continues. No loss of energy in the universe, no catastrophic beginning or apocalyptic end, because there are no ends in a cyclical model. All matter through time already exists, as if a giant, revolving wheel whose parts are all connected. Like a necklace of pearls, uniform and able only to flow in one direction. Such systems drive themselves; they are autonomous, contained and independent, lacking infinities and finalities.

The opposite is potentially chaotic: a singular present moment on a linear trajectory lacks directive and would be susceptible to influence. There would be no purpose or urge in 'now', time's flow, inconsistent; individuals would not be bound together in procession, their headings arbitrary.

A second resolution surfaces for consideration: In cyclical models, time is consistent.

But the outstanding reason why time cannot be a linear progression and must have cyclical flow is all about infinities: Individuality crashes progress. Connectivity is key; one thing in space or time cannot stand out on its own. If something can be identified as existing independent of others then the entire system will suddenly grind to a halt!

Fluid progress is only possible under indefinite conditions (The Uncertainty Principle). A cyclical model for time's flow provides such a scenario, where there are no relative ends and so no points along the way can be isolated or identified as individual entities. If all considered points are unrealistic, then flow is possible. Otherwise, 11.59 would never become midnight.

And that is why our dreamy, subconscious mind does not experience the flow of time. It considers events as points in time. We can recollect moments but we can't move through them -- as noted in the previous chapter.

A simple, cyclical measuring device, like a clock or compass, has no ends and, therefore, all points around it are uncertain. If we don't know exactly where we are on it, we can pass through it from one moment or angle to the next. They accomplish this by offering infinite progression by proxy. Cyclical processes thus ensure continuity and immeasurable flow; whereas, linear models with finite ends impede progress.

Even just one end would do the trick. The Big Bang, if considered the beginning of time and space, would be a serious impediment to progress.

Time cannot exist for a single moment... though this rather obvious statement implies a lot more than it says. Time needs a past and a future to propagate, so every moment must be preceded by and followed by another... and another, eternally. A single moment with a past but no future would not exist and, therefore, we would have a cascading domino effect where time would unwind.

More on the devilish duties of our illustrious twins, The Infinities, in the following chapter.

The Paradoxes of Linear Models in Space-Time

A linear model depicting progress of any kind, having defined ends, means that any point along its length can be precisely extrapolated from them -– leading to the impossibility of motion therein.

Starting and stopping are attributes of an identified point that, if exists, evokes Zeno's paradox of motion... Except for one very clever magic trick.

If it is conceived -- as it has been by physics -- that the two ends of such a linear model are not relative to anything in between, then we can have ends with motion and... no problem. In this rather dubious model, flow throughout is perceived to exist while the two ends are understandably unattainable. Et voila!

In physics, velocities are described on a linear scale, like a speedometer, from zero to the speed of light. At the beginning of the last century, in order to explain certain cosmological conundrums, light speed was established as being invariant, the other end was deemed irrelevant. Light was then seen to travel at a constant speed regardless of any observer's inertial frame of reference, and the conundrum was resolved -- the luminiferous ether could be put to bed.

In this view, velocity is measured, as it were, on a flat, plastic ruler laying on a table that apparently does not exist.

We can describe time's flow in the same way by cutting the circumference of a clock at midnight and stretching it out like a flat ruler on a table. We would then, in order to progress from one minute to the next, have to conclude that neither end of the day was relative. Movement throughout the day would seem to flow smoothly, but as we approached the evening things would get decidedly tense as midnight would seem forever to regress and tomorrow would never arrive. However, for creatures such as mayflies that only live for a few hours... no problem.

On the flip side... Imagine what would happen if we took velocity's linear ruler and bent it around so that zero and the speed of light were one and the same place... like an acceleration clock? That's what Chapter 6. Travel is all about. Relativistic speeds and time dilation in a new light.

While it is perfectly understandable that mathematicians need points to establish fact and express our understanding of spatial awareness in any reasonable fashion, such references should only extend so far. Points have no width, no substance, they are for all intents and purposes, invented non-entities.

Mathematicians realised early on that points on a linear scale of velocity would render their models useless, so they invented calculus, another illusory horror sometimes referred to as time divided by time -- yup, if you haven't yet wrapped your head around time in the singular, calculus is probably not for you.

The assumption we have that acceleration is a linear progression is analogous with our ancient belief that the World was flat. It is clearly not. It curves around on its self as does time and, also, space. A linear model with invariant ends is merely a pseudo-cyclical phenomenon that works well up until the moment when somebody calls its bluff.

Simply put: Once in motion, time must go on, round and round, like the current in a copper wire that flows from a battery only if it can return. Break the wire -- the current stops flowing -- the light goes out.

Cycles permit progress; they contain continuity. These facts become abundantly clear in the next chapter when awful infinities are tackled head on.

Clocks are repetitive, they cycle through the days. One day does not end abruptly for another to begin. A compass cycles through 360 degrees, and keeps right on going. Our planet is a sphere, upon which we wander, with no apparent end in sight. Solar systems, giant galaxies, all cycles, as are the myriad of infinitesimally small atomic structures, of which we are made.

The binding glory of a Block Universe Model is in the configuration of a cyclical phenomenon.

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Reincarnation?

A cosmological cycle of time might conjure in the minds of some the supernatural idea of reincarnation, living our lives over and over again, the world repeating itself every so often. Unlikely. For afterlives and reincarnation you'd do better acquainting yourself with mysticism and the Buddhist faiths.

The more likely case is that a reconstruction of matter in the Universe over time (billions of years?) will occur. Growth and nature might be somewhat similar, showing repetitive iterations; but never will it repeat itself precisely nor, indeed, produce the likes of you or I ever again.

Alternatively, we can re-consider Stephen Hawking's comment above, and question whether a few billion years is all that realistic. A cyclical progression for time, where the end meets the beginning and renders both void, might be just a few years long. The end could be minutes away, while the beginning might have been yesterday. In terms of designated moments in time nominated by humans, however, these points in cyclical time do not apply, and neither does the present -- it could be anywhere.

Whilst we are conscious and aware of any given moment in time we also carry memories. It would make no difference to our consideration of the present moment if the end of today was connected seamlessly to the beginning of today rather than tomorrow, a one day loop, as imagined by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Our brains would not complain that we missed out on living tomorrow because we would wake up as always with all memories from yesterday intact... and we would live today over and over again with the same enthusiasm, unaware of the reality.

If time already exists throughout its entire circuitry length and flows as a result of conscious consideration, what makes the present moment universal? Could we not be conscious anywhere along our time lines?

So, you get up and go make yourself a cup of coffee. You come back and sit down with it. Now you might wonder if you are still in the kitchen -- though not your current consciousness -- just as you might also be washing your mug in the sink sometime in the future even before you have drunk the coffee you are staring at. Bizarre!

In cyclical time, everything is connected.

There is no before and after.

It all happens at once.

A coffee cup with the words: I am here now

The determination will be: We are conscious simultaneously at all moments throughout our lives, not just in this moment we call "now"... we just don't know it! How could this be possible? Well, if it were not for time's flow we would see the whole of our existence all at once. With a little mental dissociation we can visualise to a certain extent what it might appear to be like, that string of pearls giving us an indication.

No matter where we might be on our time line, there is a procession, an order of events, and though we might consider that a future episode is unfolding right now, we are creatures who have evolved to benefit from the constraints imposed -- so, much as we might like to, we can't skip over to another moment on our time-line. Other creatures may have evolved to do so, not us.

As will be discussed later, it wouldn't matter where we were on our time-line, wherever we are conscious, life would feel normal. That is because we are all conscious everywhere. It's not so hard to swallow when we realise that if it were not for our inferior brains, everything would happen at once.

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A Universal Present Moment

So, when is now? We say we exist in the present, and yet everything we experience in this so called 'now moment' is actually from the past. It takes time for sound to reach our ears, for light to reach our eyes; even if we were deaf and blind it would take time for our brains to receive and process the feeling of the chair we just sat down in. So what exactly are we experiencing in whose present? Is there such a thing?

A few decades ago we would watch BBC coverage of an event in the Middle East, and the journalist on the scene was often having difficulty with the lag time between questions and answers. So were we. It would take a few infuriating seconds before she was able to comprehend what the Anchor was asking, and for us another nail-biting few seconds before we began to get the answer.

Imagine just how frustrating it must be for scientists controlling a rover on the surface of Mars!

Information received classifies the present moment in our minds, regardless of its origin. Many sensory deprivation experiments have found that our sense of now becomes dramatically distorted, even with just one or two inputs denied.

Sensory deprivation would render us completely unaware of time's flow. If we could not smell, hear, move, feel or see, we would have no sense of now. We would be in a coma. We would be a living entity with no conscious consideration, not unlike the vast majority of creatures inhabiting this planet including the aforementioned clam. We might still have our memory, our inner voice being the only cognitive operating process with the ability to flow through time, but even that would eventually be in doubt.

Sleep is a form of sensory deprivation. A dreaming mind has no use for time; though you might wake up and consider the dream you were in, it is difficult to be sure you or anyone else in that dream were actually moving, that time was actually flowing. The sub-conscious is also without time. Test subjects on awaking during scientific experiments have sworn they were in a dream sequence lasting up to half an hour, whereas the monitors could see that the dreams they were having were just a few seconds long.

Close your eyes. You can probably project a purple light out in the distant darkness ahead of you -- most people can -- which may grow as you concentrate.

Now visualize a car on a road and demand it run forwards like a video. It won't... at least not smoothly, it will progress in blocks which you may find end up altogether as one single, stretched out frame. Time does not flow in our closeted minds.

Our brains work with still images. Our eyes do not capture fluid progress, they settle on a desired spot before taking the picture. Try sweeping your eyes slowly left or right - it won't happen. Time's smooth flow is created by our minds.

Silver Land Rover Defender on dirt road at night.
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There is no "Now".

Today, we are witness to past moments from many millions of years ago, thanks to the telescope. In fact, we can see the history of the entire Universe unfold before our eyes, almost back to the Big Bang itself. But oddly, not our own history.

Peering out into the Cosmos, we watch as if a video or film recording of a bygone 'now', whether a huge supernova event or the tiny variance of light from a distant star announcing the existence of an exo-planet. Light has guarded that moment on stream, conserved it while it travels, for whomever might come across it at some time somewhere else in the Universe. It is not hugely different to imagine that we could film an event here on Earth and beam it out into space, on a curved trajectory that would have it return to Earth many centuries from now. Or, we could just stick it on a flash drive and carry it with us into the next century.

Consciousness creates now for an individual, but not necessarily for the collective. It explains how we experience a moment by continuous input, but it does not explain how we all feel as if we are in the present moment together. Why don't we all experience 'now' out of sync'? Or, perhaps we do...

The BBC journalist continued to experience her now, long after she transmitted and presumably at the same time as our now, even though we are not by her side to verify as much. Is there a Universal Clock that keeps us all in line? Like a laser beam, we might imagine it, running through everyone's time line, making us all aware simultaneously. There is no reason to assume otherwise, is the hasty conclusion. Some process does seem to act so, as individuals do not appear to be wandering in and out of the present moment or stopping here and there to cool down.

Inanimate objects don't come and go, so this universal clock applies to everything. And who is to suggest that an individual mind could recklessly endanger everyone else by deciding to control their own destiny?

Two phenomena help satisfy this curiosity: First, the concept that time is a solid, tenseless block where everything happens all at once; secondly, we are glued together in time because we are all stuck on this planet and our velocities in space are relatively comparable -- in consequence our clock speeds, too, as discussed below. But neither explains why we must all adhere to the same 'now moment', as the universe -- and science -- seem to demand.

To be conscious in another moment besides now requires that other moments exist and that the physical world functions in them as normal. To be so suggests that we are all conscious at every moment throughout. Nevertheless, it is impossible to say with certainty that other moments exist simultaneously because there is no way of proving so. The only conscious consideration we have is 'now'.

Until, that is, we consider Special Relativity and the extraordinary revelation that time's flow varies.

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Time Dilation and Astronauts.

In the 1970s work with atomic clocks proved the predictions made years earlier by Special Relativity: that all our time pieces -- clocks, watches, etc. -- tick along at different speeds, dependent on our velocities.

If a space traveller sets off at a great speed from this planet, her on-board clock will slow down the faster she goes. This does not affect her ability to function; for her everything appears to be just fine. To some extent, we know this because people travel by jet aircraft all the time; indeed, some atomic clock experiments were conducted on-board passenger planes.

The common consensus is this: While our clocks at home continue as normal and a few years pass, in that time the speedy space traveller's clock has only registered a few months going by (an exaggeration in order to appreciate the difference). When she returns to Earth we will all be much older than she. From her younger perspective, she has somehow returned in our future. But, would she have? 'Now' is a conscious creation, a sub-conscious non-entity.

It is expressed by the majority of academics, that our metabolism slows down as we accelerate. Just as the mechanisms in our clocks will function slower. (Does our flicker fusion rate increase with acceleration, I wonder..?) Regardless, both we and those speedy space travellers would all be aware in the same moment (had we the means to communicate), demanding that there be a present moment by which we all abide regardless of conscious consideration. A constant universal clock? What have we missed?

An analogy of clock variances might be this: A vehicle's tachometer doesn't quite measure distance or speed as accurately as one might hope if the tyres are worn -- but the distance is still the distance. Clocks give us the impression they are reading the speed at which the present moment is moving toward the future, but this is considered a fallacy. If the battery in your watch is nearly dead, the arms move slower; we say your watch is losing time -- but 'now', we maintain, is still now.

So back to the speedy space traveller: Would she have returned as if in our future without aging as much? Her now and our now seem locked together in progress, even though our measuring devices are not. The question never asked is: Why should she be bound to the 'now' of those with faster ticking clocks?

universal clocks relating to astronauts during space travel

If 'now' is not a unilateral occurrence for everyone, it could be argued that her 'now' is just as relevant. But, as far as we are concerned, she must arrive home having completed her mission in the time we say, and the distance we calculate, in our present moment. What makes us right? She might just as easily return to Earth when her present moment dictates, and we have to abide by it. Projecting our own views on where 'now' is and how time flows for others is subjective, relative and quite uninformative. It is, simply, bending reality to conform with our self-influenced observations and self-induced calculations. (See the next chapter for some fun thought experiments).

To truly consider time and any moment or event therein, we must disengage from it. Observing the universe from afar and being devoid of procession, with no beginning or end of time, we see that there is no present moment we have imposed. We see all of time, not just the bit we choose. Think of it like this:

Two marbles rolled across the table at different speeds. One ends up ahead of the other; it is common sense that the slow one does not keep up with the fast one and is tangent to a prior moment in the life of the faster moving marble.

Because we are conscious throughout our timelines, and she is in sync' with Earth in her own time, we in earlier states of awareness will witness her home-coming at a concurrent age.

This conundrum exploits the illusion that we are aware not only of time but also space, i.e. distance (more on this in pt6. Travel). It all boils down to one, plain fact: The present does not exist. In Cyclical Time it cannot. We think it does because we are all stuck together on this planet, travelling at the same speed through the cosmos. We presume that it therefore must elsewhere, and at the same time -- some kind of Universal Clock.

A similar scenario to the speedy traveller was beautifully illustrated in the H. G. Wells fictional classic, The Time Machine. The machine was a pod situated in the time traveller's living room. He was then somehow able to slow down the on-board clocks, while he could look out from the machine and watch the world around him fast-forwarding through time. The beauty of this concept is that he and his surroundings were in visual contact with one another, whereas we on the planet can never visually determine that a speeding astronaut traversing our galaxy and a few light years away, is in fact, living in slow motion from our point of view.

The way this clock variance is often looked at is as if we have two rulers laid out on a table, side by side. The ruler depicting the slower clock of the astronaut being twice as long as ours on Earth, for example. When she passes through 30 minutes, we have reached one hour. That is not a problem, from our perspective, on Earth. But for her, after a journey of many months, there is a big problem: She will say she must have travelled at twice the speed we say she was going, in that time. Meanwhile, we are all shocked to see that she is so much younger than us when she returns.

She is a scientist well aware of relativistic physics and she knows that, while travelling at near light speed, Lorentz Factors would have bent time and space so she would not have noticed any spurious velocity. However, back on Earth she can look in the mirror, look at a calendar and then examine her charts and say, without a doubt, she has travelled to a distant star and returned in less than a year -- not ten years as prescribed by us.

"In that case, what is the true distance between two stars?" she mutters to herself. (Neither distance nor time is true, she has to uphold; only the speed of light is constant and invariant).

"However," she doubles down, adamantly, "What if 'now' was not a shared commodity. I mean, a photon of light still takes time to travel from one star to another, even though its clock must have stopped. Speed is distance divided by time and 100d/0t = (as we all know) Zero... which means as far as a photon is concerned there is no distance between Alpha Centauri and Planet Earth. In other words, it should take no time to get here -- not four light years. So we are the ones imposing distances between bodies in the Universe by simply being conscious of time. This is scary stuff. What's going on? Jeez, pass me an Aspirin, honey."

There cannot be a universal clock

A Constant Universal Clock governing all has to assert that there is only one conscious, present moment for everyone, and that neither the past nor the future exist through which we can individually meander.

Doing away with a Universal Clock governing 'now' implies that fundamentally we move in time, not space; so when we rush off into the cosmos at speed, we are shifting on our time line and no peculiar illusions surface regarding time travellers or variable speeds, as common consensus expresses above; there is only the apparent conclusion that superluminal velocities are possible. Of course, at first glance this appears at odds with Special Relativity, a debate which is addressed in later chapters, though actually there is no argument. Mathematical formulas are correct in cosmological terms -- but in conscious terms marbles apply.

Different inertial frames of reference provide observers with differing views on when an event occurs. According to Special Relativity, simultaneity is unfounded. It is clear that relativistic physics makes things appear different to different observers: lengths, clocks, gravity, speeds, events and so on. However, awareness of 'now' has its roots somewhere else. As explained earlier, the present moment is a creation of conscious beings, it does not exist outside of awareness. On a planet with no lifeforms capable of reason, there would be no 'now'. There would certainly be potential: geological; gravitational; atmospheric and so on -- but no experience of such things.

Once again we discover the intricate web holding physics and psychology together, as Einstein and Jung did all those years ago. Acausal existence, a solid, tenseless block.

At relativistic speeds realities are unknown, only the physics. We don't know how astronauts might respond at such speeds, whether they would be lucid, whether they might be conscious, at all. And consciousness is key to our experience of now. 'Now' is the realm of psychology (and cats), not really physics. In this respect, physics can tell us what our clocks are doing, what our measuring devices are doing, what a robot is doing, but not what our human minds might be experiencing.

Physics says the impossibility of simultaneity is absolute, but then by contrast demands that our consideration of 'now' be the same for everyone. Physics has been having difficulties lately with concepts approaching the edge of knowledge and reason. Physics places limits on existence (such as light speed, zero Kelvin, the Universe and the Big Bang), and then says that if we approach those limits things start to get a bit strange. Perhaps known physical laws are having difficulty with such limits, rather than reality.

In cyclical time and space there are no limits, there are no beginnings and ends. And, for that reason there is no universal 'now'! Later chapters reveal more on this subject.

Time Flows as a Whole.

Of death we can say this: When we eventually lose our state of mental awareness, our molecules continue to exist. They join the myriad cycles of atomic arrangement that will eventually make up other entities, like gasses, liquids, rocks, plants and, perhaps, at some time in the future, parts of another creature that may become aware of time.

Cycles are everywhere. They are a sign of progress and the affirmation that time cannot flow backwards.

There are many loops in the passage of time, from the very smallest to the biggest and most complex of them all: this universe. Every morning we set off for work, or drive the kids to school, or walk down to the mall. What do you know? Every day we return home, we recharge our batteries and the next day we're off again. Sometimes we pick our noses -- usually the same way and at the same traffic lights -- we tie our shoe laces or check our mail, call our partners, and often at almost the same time as the day before. One day is pretty much the same as the next.

What we experience is a progression through time that is in itself, one giant flowing cycle; no end nor beginning of time. We are creatures of habit, we do not decide our fate, we are already connected to our future, so we can't screw it up. We sense the flow of time in a moment we call 'now', apparently all together, however this is just because we are firmly stuck to our planet. In reality we are sub-conscious throughout time and can consciously meander within it dependent on our velocities.

Part 3. Infinity, discusses the peculiar conditions for progress and temporal perception, and part 4. Dimensions, defines time as being a structure intimately related to our three spatial dimension.

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Everything you ever wanted to know about time.

TIME'S PARADIGM

Philosophy of Science Proposal
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