November 28, 2011

Let's talk about time

Dali's "Persistence of Time". Indeed.
I've been remiss. I should have posted a notice about the broadcast of Brian Greene's "Fabric of the Cosmos" on PBS. But I was wary of the show.

Greene wrote two books: "Elegant Universe", which is the best science book I've ever read, and "Fabric of the Cosmos", which was a terrible, simplistic follow-up book to Elegant Universe. But the odd thing is that the five shows based on Elegant Universe were terrible and the shows based on Fabric of the Cosmos were great. Go figure.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. One of the Fabric of the Cosmos shows was about time, and in it, Greene expanded on something he said in Elegant Universe. It's a startling, earthshaking fact. Here's how he presented it in the Fabric of the Cosmos episode.

Some sort of intelligent being is way on the other side of the universe. The question is how this creature's "now" relates to our own "now". Are these moments concurrent? The answer is: sometimes. Greene suggests that when the being moves from one place to another, his now matches different "now" moments on Earth.

When we first see this creature, his now is our now. What he does at that moment and what we do on Earth are occurring in the same timeframe. Our "nows" coincide. But if he walks a certain distance from his present location, it is "now" the 1800s on Earth. And the humans who lived on Earth in that time period are alive. At that moment, their "now" is his "now".

Similarly, if the creature walks in the other direction, his now becomes concurrent with our future. In other words, as he lives through his "now" moment, it is the year 2,187 on Earth. And the people who are alive in that future are truly alive. Their "now" is concurrent with his "now".

I don't know about you but I find this more shocking than anything I've ever heard. If this is true, and math and physics apparently confirm that it is, then the future has "already" happened and the past is "still" alive. Take this a step further and it means that you and I have "already" died -- yet we're still here. What could this possibly mean?

Time seems to be a block item, containing all of time: past, present and future. We perceive that there is a passage of time, but it's all happened and it continues to happen. I take this to mean that in some sense, we are immortal. Time continues to run, although we think it's "behind" us, in "the past". But every "now" moment continues to happen, forever.

As I said, it's shocking. But since science confirms this as fact, I think it would behoove us to work this idea into our framework of reality. I'm trying. I don't get it, but I'm trying. What do you think about this? It doesn't seem like something we should ignore. This is telling us something basic about reality.

PS: If you get a chance to watch the "Fabric fo the Cosmos" episode on time, please do. I think the episode is called "Is time real?" It's an amazing concept. Remember, we're not talking fantasy here. This is real.

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