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The Illusion of Time

Since time immemorial, scientific thought did not flow in a straight line. It was full of retrograde motion and ups and downs and many theories were debunked along the way. Take for instant Einstein’s static universe or theory about existence of small planet in the orbit between Mercury and the Sun. On the other hand, illusions originated in our brains were not uncommon either. For the biggest example, we are all aware that weirdly huge Moon right next to the horizon is coming strait from the trickery of our mind. But what about time? It is definitely something we are taking for granted for a vary long time. Could it be both, construct of our own brain and yet based on something more fundamental and still waiting for better understanding?


The time from our daily experience, feels very much real. We are living in it's present state and it flows inevitably forward to the uncertain future and thanks to our memories and factual evidence all around us it came from the certain past. If we bring the physics to the help, the future state of the universe is as it seems and thanks to current understanding fully dependent of the previous state, energy, speed and direction of its every component down to the smallest particle or energy unit or whatever is the most fundamental object of the universe. The current mainstream science agrees with Einstein who presented time as a mere fourth coordinate of the three dimensional space we are living in.

However and by all we know today, we could imagine an incredibly powered computer capable of predicting any future state of the universe just by knowing current state of all fundamentals within. In simple words if we know that two particles are going to collide our futuristic computer could accurately predict what happens after the collision based on direction, energy, speed and all the properties of the two particles. Or energy waves. Or strings. Or whatever. Now, if that same engine is the one governing the entire universe, it could easily render the next state of existence and pretty much everything what will happen in the future. And not only that it could render all the states of the universe in the future - it could store them all in so called block universe that contains everything that has ever happened and will happen at any time and at any place. In such solution, the time would only be changing states of the block universe from one render to another.


In this kind of philosophy of time, all states of predefined or pre-calculated universe we could call present. There is no past or the future. Instead, the present state simply constantly changes. Or simply the past, present and future all exist - and are equally real. To paraphrase physicist Max Tegmark from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the analogy could be the disc with a two hours long movie. If we are watching the movie we would need that two hours to pass and yet the entire movie is stored at that one disc. Every single scene of it is there at once and we could go forward or rewind to each scene and the moment of perceiving them would always be the present.

Now, if the block universe is what we are living in, could we go fast forward to the future render or rewind back to some point in history snapshot? In this alternative of what we recognize as time travel, could we make changes and would it force the universe to recalculate and re-render everything that this particular changes affect from that point forward? It's easy to imagine that even the small information leaked from one present frame to another could cause the ripple and the need for new rendering of countable percentage of the block universe depending to the degree of the change.


How we, conscious minds living within the block universe, experience time would be just an illusion. What we know as yesterday, today or tomorrow would all be the same, encoded snapshots of one universe govern by the fundamentals on the microscopic level we are all made of. It's sure hard to accept this possibility as the one of the feasible solutions to the grand understanding of everything considering the fact that everything is already determined and that the free will is only apparent due to enormous number of variables. On the other hand we are already living in the weird world according to all we know today that we are taking for granted. For instance, consider the time needed the light to come from your loved ones standing just next to you and the time needed the brain to process the image captured in your eyes into neural network of your brain - what you are actually seeing is already in the past. Few fraction of nanoseconds but the past it is. What we think of the present, it could be something else entirely.

At the very end, and to jump from scientific philosophy to science fiction, exploring the idea of living in the block universe with possibility to travel back to earlier memory and keep original timeline memory stream intact would be extraordinary to say the least. Yesterday I finished reading 'Recursion', a novel by Blake Crouch that is centered to this very idea. Without spoiling anything further I'd just say that my entire review to the Amazon's page was: "Where's the sixth star?" 

Image refs:
https://plus.maths.org/content/why-not-block-time
https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/.../blake-crouch-on-his-wild-new-thriller
https://www.healththoroughfare.com/science/.../first-time-machine/

Science refs:
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-04558-7
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