The Order of Time
part 1, the crumbling of time
... the sun and the Earth do not attract each other directly but that each of the two gradually acts on that which is between them.
There is not "truer" time; there are two times and they change relative to each other.
Time has lost its first aspect or layer: its unity.
The difference between past and future, between cause and effect, between memory and hope, between regret and intention... in the elementary laws that describe the mechanisms of the world, there is no such difference.
If I watch a film that shows a ball rolling, I cannot tell if the film is being projected correctly or in reverse. But if the ball stops, I know that it is being run properly; run backward, it would show an implausible event: a ball starting to move by itself. The ball's slowing down and coming to rest are due to friction, and friction produces heat. Only where there is heat is there a distinction between past and future. Thoughts, for instance, unfold from the past to the future, not vice versa - and, in fact, thinking produces heat in our heads...
Heat is the microscopic agitation of molecules.
The growth of entropy is nothing other than the ubiquitous and familiar natural increase of disorder.
...all the phenomena that characterize the flowing of time are reduced to a "particular" state in the world's past, the "particularity" of which may be attributed to the blurring of our perspective.
Time passes more slowly for the one who keeps moving.
Our "present" does not extend throughout the universe. It is like a bubble around us.
The difference between Aristotle and Newton is glaring. For Newton, between two things there may also be "empty space". For Aristotle, it is absurd to speak of "empty" space, because space is only the spatial order of things. If there are no things - their extension, their contacts - there is no space. Newton imagines that things are situated in a "space" that continues to exist, empty, even when divested of things. For Aristotle, this "empty space" is nonsensical, because if two things do not touch it means that there is something else between them, and if there is something, then this something is a thing, and therefore a thing that is there. It cannot be that there is "nothing".
...a minimum interval of time exists. Below this, the notion of time does not exist - even in its most basic meaning.
part 2, the world without time
We can think of the world as made up of things. Of substances. Of entities. Of something that is. Or we can think of it as made up of events. Of happenings. Of processes. Of something that occurs. Something that does not last, and that undergoes continual transformation, that is not permanent in time. The destruction of the notion of time in fundamental physics is the crumbling of the first of these two perspectives, not of the second. It is the realization of the ubiquity of impermanence, not of stasis in a motionless time.
Simple events, and more complex events can be disassembled into combinations of simpler ones.
"Things" in themselves are only events that for a while are monotonous.
But only before turning to dust. Because sooner or later, obviously, everything returns to dust.
We are struggling to adapt our language and our intuition to a new discovery: the fact that "past" and "future" do not have a universal meaning. Instead, they have a meaning that changes between here and there.
Thoughts and emotions that create bonds of attachment between us have no difficulty in crossing seas and decades, sometimes even centuries, tied to thin sheets of paper or dancing between the microchips of a computer. We are part of a network that goes far beyond the few days of our lives and the few square meters that we tread.
part 3, the sources of time
Everything in the world becomes blurred when seen close up.
Time emerges from a world without time.
...the unpredictability of the world is maintained even if it were possible to measure everything that is measurable.
I have had the unheard-of good fortune experiencing a global vision of my being-not of a particular moment, but of my existence "as a whole". I was able to compare its finite nature in space, against which no one protests, with its finite nature in time, which is instead the source of sum outrage.
The re-emergence of time seemed to me like an intrusion, a source of mental confusion, anguish, fear, and alienation.
Therefore, our vision of the world is blurred because the physical interactions between the part of the world to which we belong and the rest are blind to many variables.
The same may be true for the entropy of the universe: perhaps it was in no particular configuration.
It is unnatural to assume that the entire universe has been in an incredibly "special" configuration in the past, but there is nothing unnatural in imagining that the universe has parts that are "special".
In its anxious pursuit of objectivity, science must not forget that our experience of the world comes from within.
..."indexicality": the characteristic of certain words that have a different meaning every time they are used, a meaning determined by where, how, when, and by whom they are being spoken.
In every experience, we are situated within the world: within a mind, a brain, a position in space, a moment in time. Our being situated in the world is essential to understanding our experience of time.
The truth is that there is plenty of energy and it is not consumed. It's not energy that the world needs in order to keep going. What it needs is low entropy. ... Without low entropy, energy would dilute into uniform heat and the world would go to sleep in a state of thermal equilibrium - there would no longer be any distinction between past and future, and nothing would happen.
Life is this network of processes for increasing entropy - processes that act as catalysts to each other.
The fact that entropy has been low in the past leads to an important fact that is ubiquitous and crucial for the difference between past and future: the past leaves traces of itself in the present.
It is the presence of abundant traces of the past that produces the familiar sensation that the past is determined. The absence of any analogous traces of the future produces the sensation that the future is open. The existence of traces serves to make it possible for our brain to dispose of extensive maps of past events. There is nothing analogous to this for the future ones. The fact is at the origin of our sensation of being able to act freely: choosing between different futures, even though we are unable to act upon the past.
To understand ourselves means to reflect on time. But to understand time we need to reflect on ourselves.
... the brain is a mechanism for collecting memories of the past in order to use them continually to predict the future.
... our consciousness is based on memory and anticipation.
... whereas space is shaped by our external sense, that is to say, by our way of ordering things that we see in the world outside of us, time is shaped by our internal sense, that is to say, by our way of ordering internal states within ourselves.
What (little) we are beginning to understand of this functioning is that our entire brain operates on the basis of a collection of traces of the past left in the synapses that connect neurons. Synapses are continually formed in their thousands and the erased - especially during sleep, leaving behind a blurry reflection of that which has acted on our nervous system in the past. A blurred image, no doubt - think of how many millions of details our eyes see every moment that do not stay in our memory - but one which contains worlds.
We are stories, contained within the twenty complicated centimeters behind our eyes, lines drawn by traces left by the (re)mingling together of things in the world, and oriented toward predicting events in the future, toward the direction of increasing entropy, in a rather particular corner of this immense, chaotic universe.
This space - memory - combined with our continuous process of anticipation, is the source of our sensing time as time, and ourselves as ourselves. Think about it: our introspection is easily capable of imagining itself without there being space or matter, but can it imagine itself not existing in time?
[Time is the source] of our suffering. ... It's suffering because we must lose what we have and are attached to. Because everything that begins must end. What causes us to suffer is not in the past or the future: it is here, now, in our memory, in our expectations. We long for timelessness, we endure the passing of time: we suffer time. Time is suffering.
Events are not ordered in pasts, presents, and futures; they are only "partially" ordered. There is a present that is near to us, but nothin that is "present" in a far-off galaxy. The present is a localized rather than a global phenomenon.
... in the past, the world found itself subject to a state that, with our blurred take on things, appears particular to us.
From our perspective - the perspective of creatures who make up a small part of the world - we see that world flowing in time. Our interaction with the world is partial, which is why we see it in a blurred way.
We see the occurrence of things ordered in this variable, which we simply call "time," and the growth of entropy distinguishes the past from the future for us and leads to the unfolding of the cosmos. It determines the existence of traces, residues, and memories of the past.
We are this space, this clearing opened by the traces of memory inside the connections between our neurons. We are memory. We are nostalgia. We are longing for a future that will not come. The clearing that is opened up in this way, by memory and by anticipation, is time: a source of anguish sometimes, but in the end a tremendous gift.
the sister of sleep
"Every day countless people die, yet those who remain live as if they were immortals."
I love life, but life is also struggle, suffering, pain. I think of death as akin to a well-earned rest.
Our thinking is prey to its own weakness, but even more so to its own grammar.