Julian Barbour: Killing Time

Time's Arrow
What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know. St. Augustine (354—430)

Theologists could help support their theologies if they did more thinking about the problematic nature of time. Me at Mind Shadows (\infty\infty)

According to the math of quantum physics, Time's Arrow can flow either direction, into the future, or into the past. Time is symmetrical. Why then do we experience time as asymmetrical? Our deaths lie ahead, not our births.

Physicist Julian Barbour: Time and motion are illusions. They are put into the external world by our brains, but don't exist there.

Where is now? You can't find it. Snap your fingers, it's gone. Where is the past? The future? As we cannot perceive past, present, and future, is the flow of time an illusion? What about block time? The year 1750 exists before 1850, which exists before 1950. Here, time has relationships identifiably next one another, unlike flow, whose parts cannot be laid out in a single block. In his "A" and "B" series of time, J. M. E. McTaggart (1866–1925) argued that "A" (past, present,future) is logically incoherent and "B" (the block) does not allow for change to happen. He concluded that time is unreal.

According to Julian Barbour, linear stories are illusions. If we could see the totality we would understand that nothing is linear. If you could look at the hemoglobin molecules in your blood you would see millions and millions of them not recognizing any "me" from one instant to the next. Your wrist watch measures the average of all nows.

He holds the controversial view that time does not exist as anything other than an illusion, and that a number of physics' problems arise from assuming that it does exist. He argues that we have no evidence of the past other than our memory of it, and no evidence of the future other than our belief in it. "Change merely creates an illusion of time, with each individual moment existing in its own right, complete and whole. He calls these moments "Nows." It is all an illusion: there is no motion and no change. He argues that the illusion of time is what we interpret through what he calls "time capsules," which are "any fixed pattern that creates or encodes the appearance of motion, change or history."

Barbour lives near Oxford, England. Since receiving his Ph.D. degree on the foundations of Einstein's general theory of relativity at the University of Cologne in 1968, he has supported himself and his family without a job in academia, working part-time as a translator.

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