How do we know time flows?

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Reply Tue 24 Mar, 2009 08:51 pm
Kurt Vonnegut wrote a book called the Slaughterhouse-Five where he describes an alien race called Tralfamadorians who can see time in its entirety, not just moment by moment as we do. Most animals cannot perceive time at all. Humans can only perceive time because of our ability to recall the past.
I spoke with a Tibetan Lama who described a Buddhist school of thought that breaks down all things to component parts, including time. He described a body at one instant, and a body at the next. He defined mind as that which connects one of these bodies with the next. I like that definition of consciousness better than any other one I can find. In a sense, all you are is the mind that connects one instant to the next that has the ability to access your memory to put the present moment in context with the ones that it has the ability to recall. Your dog, if you have one, can't recall past memories, which is why they're always as excited when you walk in the door after being gone 5 hours as they would after 5 days. He can recognize you, but recognition and recall are very different things.
With consciousness confined within the space of time between two instances, we could not perceive a greater amount of time all at once, like the Tralfamadorians. How can we even be sure time is flowing? If time travel is theoretically possible, it suggests that past and future are accessible, and therefore must exist. If time exists all at once, would we even know it?
 
xris
 
Reply Wed 25 Mar, 2009 05:50 am
@etcetcetc00,
Strangely my brother in laws dog recognised him after four years in prison.Is time travel possible? i had a thread on the paradox of time and it was decided by most as an illusion.If you existed in small periods of time say an hour every year you would see the passing of time by the physical changes , the history of time.We don't have to be part of time for it to pass ,we only observe it with reference to our time here.As you say we only experience it as now, we anticipate or remember.Sleep is the nearest we get to being outside of time, it is almost an ethereal existence.We experience time differently but our bodies still alter through being in time.Would our experience of time be different if we lived in non physical existence? It comes down to trying to imagining a place where there is no physical change.
 
etcetcetc00
 
Reply Wed 25 Mar, 2009 01:41 pm
@etcetcetc00,
He can recognize you, all mammals could do that. I mean with recall, where he can go back into his memory and fetch an image of you at the park or something. He can't do that. Time isn't really an illusion as I see it, but the way we view it might be illusory. Think of the brain as it processes stimuli. each instant it takes in information from your ears, nose, mouth, eyes, all your nerve endings, controls your cardio-vascular system, endocrine sytems, digestive, etc. It has to be controlling everything your body does at every instant while interpreting everything it takes in. Each instant is another set of information to process and bodily functions to regulate. We perceive time because our consciousness can connect one of those instants to the next, and we have the power of recall to bring up moments from the past to put them in context with present moments. We still can't perceive more than two instants of time, or two planck durations I think is what the physicists call them.
I just found it interesting when I learned how humans are one of the very few species of animals with the ability to recall former events. Only the animals with the most developed brains can perceive time at all. Animals might evolve later on that are able to perceive time in larger portions that we can. Or not. That's what I want to discuss.
 
xris
 
Reply Wed 25 Mar, 2009 02:19 pm
@etcetcetc00,
So how does an animal recognise those who mistreat them, it has to recall past events, how do we know it has no idea of when.Time is a measurement for humans , take his clocks away or his calender can he really recall the exact moment in time he was hit by a drunk.Try telling me how long ago your grandad died if you did not make a purposeful decision to remember.We know it flows but our concept of its speed depends on out attention to it.
 
etcetcetc00
 
Reply Wed 25 Mar, 2009 02:27 pm
@etcetcetc00,
Recognition and recall are two very different things when you're talking about mental precesses. When you see a square, you don't have to think of another time you saw a square to know what it is. A dog recognizes what you look like, your smell, your voice. It doesn't need to think of the last time it saw you to know who you are. What's more, it can't. It can miss you. It can want to be around you. All of its emotions, instincts, observational powers all work fine.
 
xris
 
Reply Wed 25 Mar, 2009 02:47 pm
@etcetcetc00,
etcetcetc00 wrote:
Recognition and recall are two very different things when you're talking about mental precesses. When you see a square, you don't have to think of another time you saw a square to know what it is. A dog recognizes what you look like, your smell, your voice. It doesn't need to think of the last time it saw you to know who you are. What's more, it can't. It can miss you. It can want to be around you. All of its emotions, instincts, observational powers all work fine.
So take away from a child the invention of a timepiece, how would it judge time?Yesterday , three moons away.Time is concept we have to recognise and why should a dog who knows that the rabbit comes out at dusk not be judging his time to hunt?
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Wed 25 Mar, 2009 03:00 pm
@xris,
Have you considered the difference between duration and time.

Duration (Bergson) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
dizzy phil
 
Reply Thu 26 Mar, 2009 01:10 pm
@GoshisDead,
Time is not energy but a perception of sequential events moving linear. Time is just deception.

In this perception we will never know for sure that there is such a thing as time and that it flows. We can only perceive that there is such a thing.



So the answer is simply we cant.
 
Harby phil
 
Reply Tue 31 Mar, 2009 04:32 am
@etcetcetc00,
Time is a tricky thing, and one must separate the experience of time by sentient life and the phenomenon itself, if it even exists, to lead a coherent discussion about it.

Starting with the former, time appears linear to humans (as the prime example, not the only) because we are only able to percieve it with our senses. This gives rise to notions such as past, present and future, but in reality it is much more complicated than that. The delay between an event happening, it getting registered by our senses and then processed by our brain means that we'd technically, by the above criteria, only be able to experience the past. Its truely amazing to think that while you're walking you're actually already ahead of the place you believe you are at. The information gathered is stored though, and through comparison between experiences we can deduce, to a lesser extent atleast, the future.
The way we recall the past is also one piece of the puzzle, rats for an example do not recall an event as it happened, from start to beginning. They literally rewind their experience, recalling the most recent related memory, then the next one etc, creating a backwards sequence of the events. This alone is enough to change your personal perspective of time dramatically. It would be theoretically possible for a society with enough information gathering or processing ability to percieve all time at once, but in my opinion only if the universe is infact deterministic. Otherwise, I do not see how these beings would differentiate what is/has/will happen and what they just believe.


As for time in itself, I am in doubt it exists. Much like space, it seems only a parameter, a simple property of the universe to be reducible into lesser parts and to enable the other workings within it to function as they do. Ultimately, as the previous poster stated, the true nature of time eludes us at this point.
 
Phosphorous
 
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 11:47 am
@etcetcetc00,
Hmm... does time flow? I guess flow, in this case, means continuous. For something to be continuous there would have to be infinitely many divisions of it.

Scientists seem to have isolated the smallest instant of possible time through experiment, where it is impossible to divide the instants any further. Thus, time is not continuous. Therefore it doesn't flow, but manifests to us in discrete moments.

Is that so hard to understand?
 
etcetcetc00
 
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 12:32 pm
@etcetcetc00,
My biggest problem comes with theoretical physicists description of time as potentially traversable. We lack any technology that would make it possible for us now, but this has to do with just the quality of time that would allow travel to be possible.

It almost seems like a coordinate system to me. A person exists based on a coordination between their point in space and their point in time. I imagine a sort of four dimensional map that could indicate where a person is and when. A line could perhaps be drawn between all the points a person occupies in space in a three dimensional plane, and another for all the points in time in a separate plane, and another set of lines connecting each point in space with its corresponding point in time. A person obviously exists in the place they are in when they are in it. This could be a representation of where they've always been.

I just wonder what the possibility of time to be traveled means to this. If human consciousness is a product of the electrical impulses created by the brain, those impulses exist on the same sort of system. Electrical impulses are physical and would exist in the same way. If sometime in the distant future humans develop the abiblity to travel through time and choose to travel to a point in time whithin my lifetime, wouldn't they be accessing a system containing those impulses?

The Lama I spoke with gave me a very compelling definition of consciousness as the connecting entity between a person's body at two different points in time. Think of all the information a brain needs to take in from instant to instant. A person does not see as he would think. The eyes take in light and send impulses to the brain that must be interpreted. The brain is constantly receiving information from the eye. If you break this down into the smallest intervals, it has a certain unit of infromation taking in from the eye per smallest unit of time. There needs to be an agent connecting these signals together in order for the brain to know what it's seeing, something to link one moment's informaton with the next. This is what consciousness is in my view, and because of it's base purpose, it cannot exist between more than one pair of contiguous instants simultaneously.

Scientific evidence seems to, and not for the first time, contradict what basic human observation suggests. What quality of time could allow it to exist only within one instant after another while still allowing it to be travelled upon? How can you travel down a path that doesn't exist? If time can be travelled, wouldn't all the things that were where the were when they were still have been where they were when they were? Would they be there when you got then?
 
xris
 
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 04:38 am
@etcetcetc00,
It reminds me of the question can a fly stop an express train.Initially one thinks not but when you consider that the fly travelling towards the train before it can be turned around by the impact it has to stop,so if the fly stops the train has stopped.Is time flowing does a river flow? When you look closely it only begs the question , what is flowing what does it actually mean? If its looked at this closely nothing flows.
 
ACB
 
Reply Sat 4 Apr, 2009 05:56 pm
@xris,
xris wrote:
It reminds me of the question can a fly stop an express train.Initially one thinks not but when you consider that the fly travelling towards the train before it can be turned around by the impact it has to stop,so if the fly stops the train has stopped.


But a body at rest will remain at rest until a force acts upon it. If both the train and the fly really stop, for however brief an interval, there does not seem to be any reason for the train to start moving again. Therefore, I would say that the train has to be regarded as continuously in motion, while the fly changes direction instantly. Neither actually stops. Or, to put it another way, the 'stopping' interval has zero duration, so it does not really exist.
 
etcetcetc00
 
Reply Sat 4 Apr, 2009 07:09 pm
@etcetcetc00,
I'm with that. The fly has to put forth enough force to cause the train to stop. It can't stop for a moment and then resume going. I think that if you're talking about reducing to the smallest interval of time, nothing is moving, because it requires more than one interval of time for motion to be achieved. The train just is wherever it is at that instant and is in a state of motion, however no motion is achieved over one instant.
 
xris
 
Reply Sun 5 Apr, 2009 03:06 am
@etcetcetc00,
I was trying to give an example of how we see time flowing and if you break down the events of movement ....does anything flow. I will ask again did the fly stop?does the train stop? If i go slightly less controversially a car hits a lorry head on , what happens?.a ball hits a racket.Its about the amount of time it stops not if it stops.
 
ACB
 
Reply Sun 5 Apr, 2009 05:18 pm
@xris,
In quantum mechanics, time is not infinitely divisible. Below certain limits of time and distance, everything is 'fuzzy', so there is not really such a thing as a 'point' of time. There are only linear intervals of time (of greater than zero duration) and, as I said, a body cannot stop for an interval and then start again without a force acting on it. This problem is avoided if we regard the change of direction on impact as instantaneous, i.e. as not involving a stop.

As I understand it, flow or motion is a fundamental and irreducible feature of the universe. Any idea of unextended 'points' or 'instants' is therefore misconceived, and leads to paradoxes.

On the specific question of whether 'time flows', I would say it does, provided that this simply means 'physical events occur in succession'. One could list the events that occurred in a particular year (the earth travelled once round the sun, my heart beat X times, certain people were born or died, etc), but to add 'and time flowed forward a year' as an additional 'event' would be a category mistake.
 
etcetcetc00
 
Reply Sun 5 Apr, 2009 09:50 pm
@etcetcetc00,
what do you mean by 'fuzzy'? There isn't one absolutely smallest interval of time? There is a smallest interval of length, it's the planck length, right? Time is different?
 
xris
 
Reply Mon 6 Apr, 2009 03:53 am
@etcetcetc00,
So does the fly stop or not?If it does not stop how does it change direction without stopping..I still claim its not if it stops, its for how long..The law of logic demands it stops..
 
ACB
 
Reply Mon 6 Apr, 2009 06:29 am
@etcetcetc00,
etcetcetc00 wrote:
what do you mean by 'fuzzy'? There isn't one absolutely smallest interval of time? There is a smallest interval of length, it's the planck length, right? Time is different?


The idea of smallest intervals of time and length - by the very fact that they are 'intervals' - seems to imply some kind of irreducible 'extension' or 'smearing', hence my term 'fuzzy'.

---------- Post added at 02:34 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:29 PM ----------

xris wrote:
So does the fly stop or not?If it does not stop how does it change direction without stopping..I still claim its not if it stops, its for how long..The law of logic demands it stops..


I wonder if we are using the word 'stop' in slightly different ways. Obviously the fly 'stops' moving in one direction and starts moving in another, but does it 'stop' in the sense of being stationary during some interval? That is to say, is it at some place at time t1 and still in the same place at time t2? If so, what gets it moving again?

Does a change of direction logically require a stop? Only if 'stop' means a temporally unextended point of division between travel in one direction and travel in another. But not if 'stop' means (as I think it does) an extended interval of rest. If you maintain that the fly stops in this second sense, I would be interested to hear your reasons.

Even if the turnaround is gradual rather than sudden, a body's speed in the original direction can smoothly change from a positive to a negative value without ever remaining at zero.
 
xris
 
Reply Tue 7 Apr, 2009 12:22 pm
@ACB,
ACB wrote:
The idea of smallest intervals of time and length - by the very fact that they are 'intervals' - seems to imply some kind of irreducible 'extension' or 'smearing', hence my term 'fuzzy'.

---------- Post added at 02:34 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:29 PM ----------



I wonder if we are using the word 'stop' in slightly different ways. Obviously the fly 'stops' moving in one direction and starts moving in another, but does it 'stop' in the sense of being stationary during some interval? That is to say, is it at some place at time t1 and still in the same place at time t2? If so, what gets it moving again?

Does a change of direction logically require a stop? Only if 'stop' means a temporally unextended point of division between travel in one direction and travel in another. But not if 'stop' means (as I think it does) an extended interval of rest. If you maintain that the fly stops in this second sense, I would be interested to hear your reasons.

Even if the turnaround is gradual rather than sudden, a body's speed in the original direction can smoothly change from a positive to a negative value without ever remaining at zero.
Stop is stop go is go????Its not arching!The train has to overcome friction, obstacles to its movement forward..some are more noticeable than others but they are all relative..A million trillion flies will stop the train longer, so a smaller amount, one fly, for less time.Any movement is measured in distant relative to the time it takes..ten miles in an hour..ten micron's in milliseconds and we can still reduce the distance and the time..We live in the moment and the moment is now, it is not moving but it has gone.An instant in time is not moving only when we look from a distance do we see intervals appearing to move.Take a camera that takes the fastest pictures of movement, do you see movement in the individual photo? NO only when you spread them out and see the sequence.Well i know what i mean..
 
 

 
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