Our experience of time may be blinding us to its true nature, say scientists.
- Time may not be passing at all, says the Block Universe Theory.
- Time travel may be possible.
- Your perception of time is likely relative to you and limited.
A new study challenges what we understand about the workings of time.
Quantum physics has spawned its share of strange ideas and hard-to-grasp concepts - from Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance” to the adventures of Shroedinger’s cat. Now a new study lends support to another mind-bender - the idea of retrocausality, which basically proposes that the future can influence the past and the effect, in essence, happens before the cause.
When it comes to time, and what the heck it actually is, there's a clash of ideas between physics and neuroscience.
If you're here to indulge in some mind-bending talk about time travel, neuroscientist Dean Buonomano is about to break some hearts. He doesn't think it's plausible—but if it were, there is one hypothesis of the universe in which it could theoretically happen. There are currently two main ideas about time: Presentism—the notion is that only the present is real: the past happened, the future will happen, but only the present exists—and Eternalism, in which the past, present, and future are all equally real. If you want to flux-capacitor your way back in time, you'll want to hope that Eternalism turns out to be the true theory. It's known to physicists as Block Universe, where all moments of the past, present, and future are already laid out in a continuum—there are places to travel to. "Under Presentism we can pretty much take the possibility of time travel off the table because there’s no other moments to go to—only the present is real," says Buonomano.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the nature of time and the conundrums of time travel in a recent interview.
Physicists' ideas about the nature and existence of time may seem incongruent with our experience of it, but author James Gleick makes a case for why we need to keep an open mind.
Physics often makes a fool of our gut feelings. James Gleick, author of Time Travel: A History makes this point using the most elemental example. You, sitting or standing to read this now, your gut feeling and experience tells you that you’re sitting or standing on a flat plane, on an immobile surface. Science has some news for you though, in Gleick’s words: "You're actually on the surface of a giant sphere that's spinning at high speed and hurtling through space, and by the way there's no difference between up and down except an illusion that's created by the force of gravity."