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Thread: Is Time Linear?

  1. #1
    a cantori Perdix's Avatar
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    Is Time Linear?

    (I'm assuming tachyons exist)

    The notion that time is linear is a Judeo-Christian one, however the; Incans, Mayans, Hopi, Native American Tribes, Babylonians, Ancient Greeks, Hindus, Buddhists, Jaini all believe time is cyclical.

    Tachyons travel faster than light violating causality, if this is truly the case then free will can not exist...

    Do you really have control over your actions, or has everything already happened?
    Last edited by Perdix; 03-29-2014 at 12:32 AM.

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    Is Time Linear?
    Depends on what you're doing.

  3. #3
    Merry Christmas Dot's Avatar
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    yes and no. I assume that's the answer. I don't have the philosophical knowledge/muscles to go more in-depth.

    But I don't think linearity and cyclicalism (spelling?) are mutually exclusive (though they might be, I guess). I guess a question is, which one (linearity or cycles) is the overall, overarching structure, if there even is such a thing-- maybe they share the status of 'overall structure', or maybe they alternate (for "a while" the overall structure of time is cyclical, for a while linear)?

  4. #4
    Global Moderator Polemarch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prometheus View Post
    Do you really have control over your actions, or has everything already happened?
    I can't address the linearity of time - I see this as fundamentally unknowable (not to mention, irrelevant) - but I do think there's a nugget of useful inquiry in there, along the lines of free will v determinism.

    I remember puzzling over this when I was a kid - it was one of my first existential anxieties - but this what I came up with, and I've been fine with it ever since:

    Imagine that an observer outside the universe had the ability to hit the pause button. By hitting pause, everything in the universe would just stop for a moment and be observable in every way. So every particle, every atom, every wave, every physical thing just there, on display. All of the momentums and positions perfectly preserved, stored, as objective truths.

    Given a particular physical state of the universe, it stands to reason that when the observer hits the play button, the entire future is established, as each moment occurs as a direct result of the physical state that preceded it in the prior moment. Physical laws of the universe, which don't change, leading to a specific set of future states which proceed in order. Essentially, determinism.

    But what about choice? Do I have the ability to make choices which will alter the future? Absolutely! This only seems like a contradiction because we forget that choices are baked into the deterministic equation from the beginning. Our choices are really a series of matter configurations and energy states in our brains - in other words, physical universe states. So the choices that every human being will ever make are direct results of the physical universe states that preceded them in the moment before, and so forth.

    The future is unknowable, because we lack the ability to truly observe and measure the physical universe state at any given moment. Partially because it's insanely complex - way too much data to gather and understand - but more importantly, because we are not that observer which exists outside the universe. We are inherently part of the universe, which makes it impossible to observe it. (Observer problem: more info)

    In summary, free will and determinism do not actually conflict - they coexist, because free will is baked into the model of a deterministic universe.

    A more salient explanation of this idea can also be obtained by reading and thinking carefully about A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, which I incidentally read later in my life, after I had come to these conclusions. He alludes to this without getting too deeply into it.
    We didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Starjots's Avatar
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    I was typing a nonsensical half baked science reply until I saw this was in Philosophy and Spirituality.

    Western spiritual viewpoints often look like the typical story, beginning middle and end while others have that cyclical thing going. I found it interesting that Norse mythology was more cyclical, creation, fighting an drinking, Ragnarok - new world repeat. It's like a cheap easy way to visualize and place yourself inside infinity - put a goto statement at the end of time. Preserves the story aspect we love but gets you the divine mystical infinite. A very neat trick that would meme its way into the collective consciousness.

    If i'd been a spiritual trilobite I could argue that extinction is forever and new forms will replace the old - if a rock could argue that is.

    Say we are one combination of what is possible given N constituent parts of matter and energy and location. The numbers of permutations blow up so fast we won't get another go around before the heat death of the universe.

    Example: A simple grid cellular automata, where the state N+1 of one square is determined by eight neighbor cells and current state N. There are 2^(2^9) possible rule sets or 2^512 permutations for rules or about 1.3x10^154 combinations of rules, while there are only 2^80 hydrogen atoms in the universe. You can't even try out all the rules on your computer for a laughably simple automata before the universe reaches heat death (10^100 years or 3x10^108 seconds). Get a petaflop supercomputer with 10^15 instructions per second and you could squeeze out 10^123 calculations before the black holes all evaporate, so maybe 10^30 such super computers might get the job done before the end of time.

    While I think the time repeating itself narrative is a lot more clever than genesis, middle, end of times narrative - it ultimately has this man-centric ring to it like every other old idea. Time, like the sun and stars and animals has to revolve around us.

    So no, I don't think it's cyclical and there is room for having control of your actions.

    *heat death of universe assumed, multiverse not addressed. Perhaps multiverses being connected would open other possibilities?
    Last edited by Starjots; 03-28-2014 at 07:51 AM.

  6. #6
    Aporia Dysphoria Dirac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prometheus View Post
    Neutrinos travel faster than light violating causality, if this is truly the case then free will can not exist...
    Neutrinos do exist but they don't travel faster than the speed of light. Are you thinking of the mistaken results from the OPERA experiment?

  7. #7
    凸(ಠ_ರೃ )凸 stuck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prometheus View Post
    Neutrinos travel faster than light violating causality, if this is truly the case then free will can not exist...

    Do you really have control over your actions, or has everything already happened?
    I think that the causality-violating functions operate like quantum mechanics- a broad aggregate of multiple universes existing only at the fringes of reality as a lube/fuzz, in the infinitesimal sense, tending to largely cancel each other out. We would only get the gross and coarse effects at physical extremes, as in a big bang, which would have enough energy to multiply these effects over the threshold where a genuine new universe could form- or a black hole.

    Kind of like how quantum mechanics becomes plain old newtonian mechanics when things get too big, the time jumping effects of neutrinos are more like insects influencing gravity- even if you had a huge biomass, it's hard to put all those fuckers in the same place. It doesn't mean free will can't exist.

    I think that multiple universes, which would be roughly analogous to "free will", is exactly the slack through which complexity such as a human brain naturally slides.

    /brain diarrhea

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    Member ObtainGnosis's Avatar
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    The progression or evolution of time is a strange attractor. It is fractal, not linear. Reality is being pulled or evolved toward something. Time pulls the present into the teleological future. The present doesn't linearly move out from the past into the future. The present is being drawn forward from the future by a transcendental attractor at the end of time.

    ...I say this with conviction, but it's not my theory, and it's only a hypothesis.
    Last edited by ObtainGnosis; 03-28-2014 at 05:42 PM.
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    Limber Member floid's Avatar
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    Time is linear from a state of minimal entropy to a state of maximal entropy and is not present outside this context.

    In certain quantum states entropy is not locally operative, so neither is time locally present.

  10. #10
    Scala Mountains Resonance's Avatar
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    stop mixing quantum physics and phenomenology, you will never not fuck it up

    seriously, there are like 6 different posts, each with completely different reasons why you are on the wrong track. just give up.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong
    Empty your mind. Be formless. Shapeless. Like water. Water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

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