Time Does Not Pass or Flow? Physicist Paul Davies and the Block Universe

Here’s a quote from physicist Paul Davies on the notion that we might live in a “block universe”:

“Physicists prefer to think of time as laid out in its entirety – a timescape, analogous to a landscape – with all past and future events located there together … Completely absent from this description of nature is anything that singles out a privileged special moment as the present or any process that would systematically turn future events into the present, then past, events. In short, the time of the physicist does not pass or flow.”

In other words, the block universe is all there and static (past, present, and future). It’s a big, fricken mind-boggling 747 if there ever was one.

Another way I’ve heard the block universe laid out is as a time-space landscape where every discreet quantum moment is both “somewhere” and “somewhen.” These other past and future moments are as present and existent as this very moment, but are not experienced by our individual consciousnesses because we inhabit this particular and very different somewhere/somewhen place in the grid.

In short, all of the universe’s “time moments” are as present as Sydney and Los Angeles are present. We just might not be in a position in space/time to see and experience them.

Quote source: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/local/scisoc/time/chennotes.html

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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4 Responses to Time Does Not Pass or Flow? Physicist Paul Davies and the Block Universe

  1. pochp says:

    Why do we have memories of the past and why can psychics
    predict the future if we live in a ‘block universe’ where past, present , and future is one?

  2. santitafarella says:

    pochp:

    Good question. Do you have any theories about this? Julian Barbour suggests that our consciousness somehow perceives itself as moving in the grid of the block universe, and memories are perceptions of one part of the block universe from the vantage of another part.

    I assume you meant, by the way, that psychics can’t predict the future.

    —Santi

  3. Jack Danbury says:

    Might it be that space-time is a computer program and we physically exist outside while our consciousness looks through the eyes of our simulation or avatar.. Being non physical it can pass through space-time without violating the law which states nothing physical can do so. After all no one can prove anybody other than themselves are conscious. so space-time is never violated
    There is something else:.It is one thing to believe that the universe came from the big bang and slowly developed until it brought forth life, but it is something else altogether different to have an infinitely old universe, that even if it did have a birth then it arrived totally complete.with all life forms and their histories laid out.
    Come on who is kidding whom.
    Jack Danbury

  4. Jack Danbury says:

    Looking back at what I wrote I have to admit to being somewhat brusque, so perhaps I should explain the reasoning better.
    Physicists, like religious people have a mantra which in this case states that if something that cannot be weighed, measured or in anyway tested it cannot have any affect on reality, and therefore it does not exist. Unfortunately consciousness comes within that category.
    However, when it comes to the block universe then science comes up against one almighty paradox namely how do humans experience the passage of time? Physics answer is that the human brain plays tricks due to its ability only to see the past but not the future. I am sorry, but that is one hell of a feeble answer. In a frozen universe the human brain is also frozen. Every neuron is static, every electric current throughout the billions of dendrites are motionless. How the heck can a totally paralyzed brain give you the illusion that you are moving through space time?
    Yet in reality that is precisely what we do, we experience movement, we experience the flow of time, this is something that cannot be denied. If you wish to know the answer to the age old question: ‘What is time, and how fast does it flow’? The answer is time is the measure of the relative speed of consciousness to that of the static background of space time and it flows, you’ve guessed it, at one second per second.
    A philosopher once said: ‘Nobody knows what consciousness is and nobody knows how they would feel if they ever found out’ which I find very profound. However, we do know it allows us to experience the world rather then simply react to it like a robot and we know that it cannot be physical because it allows us to travel through space time. This is something physicist have to come to terms with.
    I also said previously that it is one thing to believe the universe came naturally into existence and slowly developed into what we see today, but it is something altogether different to believe the universe has always existed as it is now, complete with all of life’s histories from beginning to end included, yet still be considered to be natural. I am sorry but that is an idea stretched beyond breaking point.
    Space time is saying to me that it is a program and we are the players looking through the eyes of our avatars from the outside. And why not? Surely space time could be considered as the natural evolution of all the virtual realities we have today. If, however I am wrong and our consciousness is a product of the universe then we are all condemned to relive our lives for all eternity. But if I am right then we have a get out, namely that when we die we return to the real world, a world in which consciousness makes sense.
    One last thing. If I have got it hopelessly wrong, then I hope science will come out and explain the why and wherefore, and if it does not know the answer then say so. But please, do not feed us silly dribble such as the brain is playing tricks on us.

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