New Theory of Time?

Via Blogdex: I’m generally skeptical of any theory that offers itself as “ground-breaking,” but Peter Lynds’ “Time and Classical and Quantum Mechanics: Indeterminacy vs. Discontinuity,” soon to be published in Foundations of Physics Letters is apparently making waves, specifically for the Lynds’ apparent resolution of two of the most famous of Zeno’s Paradoxes.

The most famous involves an arrow being fired toward a target. Zeno argued that the arrow should never reach its destination because before it does, it has to travel half the distance to the target, when it again must travel half that distance, and so on. Lyndes’ solution to the paradox is that motion cannot be derived from freezing objects in a single instant:

According to both ancient and present day physics, objects in motion have determined relative positions. Indeed, the physics of motion from Zeno to Newton and through to today take this assumption as given. Lynds says that the paradoxes arose because people assumed wrongly that objects in motion had determined positions at any instant in time, thus freezing the bodies motion static at that instant and enabling the impossible situation of the paradoxes to be derived. “There’s no such thing as an instant in time or present moment in nature. It’s something entirely subjective that we project onto the world around us. That is, it’s the outcome of brain function and consciousness.”

I may be misreading Lyndes’ argument slightly, but it sounds similar to Bergson’s critique of Zeno–and by extension–the cinema for attempting to re-create movement from static instants. Zeno’s paradox transforms the movement of the arrow into its trajectory, the line that it follows through its course, which as Doane points out in her discussion of Bergson’s critique of Zeno, is infinitely divisible. In short, “movement cannot be reconstituted from immobilities” (174).

Lynds does extend this logic to suggest that there is no necessary progression of time, that time is essentially directionless, which is a much different conclusion than the one Bergson (who is highly invested in duration) makes, but I’m not sure this is an entirely new position either. I’m just not ready to tackle it right now.

The article touting Lynds’ discoveries has the language of a press release, which only adds to my incredulity, and part of the “fantasy” embedded in the tone of the article emphasizes Lynds’ status as an “untutored” genius, the next Einstein, whose ideas were not acceptable within the mainstream academic and scientific establishments. A copy of Lyndes’ paper, “Zeno’s Paradoxes: A Timely Solution,” is available online in PDF format.

I realize I’m coming across as a little harsh here, and I don’t mean to be. I still feel more like a dabbler when it comes to theories of time, and my main interest in cinematic constructions of time focuses more on the ideological implications of these temporalities. In fact, I’m not sure that I disagree with Lynds’ reading of Zeno; I’m just not sure these ideas are entirely new (lively discussion available at Slashdot).


  1. kenrufo Said,

    August 5, 2003 @ 6:10 pm

    Ahh, the Lynds essay on time. If you’re interested, there was an interesting and marginally informative discussion of the piece on Metafilter recently.

    To move to a different person and stay with the question of time, I have been floored by what I’ve read about Joao Magueijo, who has authored the Varying Speed of Light theory. You can check out this description of his book or the second (pretty sure) issue of Seed Magazine which has him on the cover. Utterly fascinating stuff.

  2. kenrufo Said,

    August 5, 2003 @ 6:12 pm

    Sorry, the comment section didn’t allow the hyperlink tag. For the book description:

    For the Metafilter discussion:

    Enjoy 🙂

  3. chuck Said,

    August 6, 2003 @ 2:15 pm

    Thanks for the links, Ken. Have you read any of Lynds’ work? What’s your take on his theory?

  4. kenrufo Said,

    August 10, 2003 @ 4:17 pm

    I have not read any of Lynds primary work, so I apologize if I seem dismissive. I’ve just seen a lot of discussion prompted by that press release.

    As for my take regarding the claims made in the press release and in subsequent summations of Lynds’ work – so all caveats about secondary sources apply – I’m not convinced of its monumental potential.

    First, while I have little training in physics, I find the blanket assertion that every dicussion of motion is inflected with certain assumptions regarding the distinctness of the moment. My cousin is pursuing a PhD in quantum physics up in Cincinnati, and my limited chats with him never leave me with the impression that physicists believe in the ontic discreteness of time. Indeed, I would think (and here Greene’s _Elegant Universe_ is informative) that general relativity requires that one suspend any objective notion of a moment in favor of one always already limited by one’s own apperceptions. If the paper is meant to argue that relativity still requires a mathematical application of time as a concrete variable, that’s a different claim than the one about the past assumptiong regarding the actual existence of concrete time.

    Second, even if I assume Lynds is right at the level of lit review, I find it unlikely that modern physics is unaware of Bergson’s discussion of the subject in _Matter and Memory_ which seems eerily similar to what Lynds wants to argue here. Even if we come up with a way of parsing Bergson out of Lynds’ work (Bergson’s indebtedness to psychology or his use of “image” or some such thing), I think special attention would need to get paid to Deleuze’s reading of Berson in _Bergsonism_, which removes a lot of the problems folks might attach to Bergson proper, and provides an interesting way to look at the same set of phenomena that Lynds is supposed to be addressing.

    Third, I wonder if there’s a disconnect between the hueristic potential of deploying a strategic concept of concrete time and the ontological belief in the concreteness of time. Take for instance, a strange line from the press release (and this is in quotes, which makes me think it’s from the original article): There’s no such thing as an instant in time or present moment in nature. It’s something entirely subjective that we project onto the world around us. That is, it’s the outcome of brain function and consciousness.” The word “present” really leaps out to me, as I wonder what role that term plays in differentiating “present moments” from other “moments”. It makes me wonder if Lynds is simply reiterating a kind of discomfort with the calculative realm of science (concrete variables) that Heidegger had talked out in terms of the artificial, ontic presence found in vulgar time. I’m mildly curious to see the actual paper to find out, but I’m not that curious, so we’ll see what time allows. Still, if Lynds is playing this game, that’s not a revolution in physics, it’s a reworking of the culture wars within some subset of the discipline of physics. And assuming that we don’t want to follow Heidegger or repeat the culture wars, we might just agree that there’s a benefit to producing an artificial measure of time (relative to light, for example) even if you agree that time as an entity/form remains irreducible.

    Fourth and final problem, still philosophical in nature, but a bit more physics based. If time lacks discreteness and remains indeterminate, then my understanding of quanta is that time in this instance is a non-resolved/non-collapsed wave function. As with Schrodinger’s Cat, the decision to deny time determinacy reflects not so much the determinacy or indeterminacy of time but rather the lack of perception necessary to collapse the probability wave. The tough part here is that the collapse of the probability wave requires some indeterminate parsing on its own – for example, why can’t the cat resolve the question posed by Shcrodinger? Well in that particular example, the consciousness implicitly awarded the force necessary to collapse the wave belongs to the human observer rather than the cat. But what do you do when thinking through basic atomic structures? There’s a school of thought that believes that electrons are not so much particles as they are negatively charged probability waves. So when we then consider the probability wave that is the electron and intermingle it with the fourth dimension of matter – time – it seems like much of the conclusion regarding discreteness will be based upon believing in the discreteness of the observer, as if the observer isn’t produced by the resolution of the wave to begin with. Scientific American this month has a fascinating cover article about the amount of information that the universe could hold, and concludes with the bizarre possibility that reality could be a hologram – a projection of information. If we’re to take Scientific American as credible, it would seem that Lynds is a bit behind the curve, but doing a great job of pushing his particular rest stop to the extreme – time becomes fully indeterminate just so long as everything else maintains the possibility of ontic concreteness. It would seem, in the limited reading I’ve done on the subject, that the “reality” of time and space is much more complicated. One the one hand, you have the Copenhagen Interpretation of time (in relation to Schrodinger’s cat) that relies on Newtonian physics, and then you have the more recent “Transactinal” interpretation, which incorporates relativity, and thinks that the interactions related to observation of time function in a feedback loop, constructing time and observer/observation simultaneously. Like a physics version of Giddens’ structuration. I could be reading/remembering those schools of thoughts incorrectly, but I know that at a minimum, there’s not a uniform belief across physics regarding the discreteness of time as a variable. If I remember, the debate has something to do with time, as it relates to the speed of light (since if the speed of light was infinite, there’d be no difference between local time/interactions and non-localized time/interactions, but given that it’s not (and may even be variable) time is produced by the difference in speed, rather than speed or velocity being produced by time.

    Anyway, I might take a look at some of the physics books I have around if I get some spare time before the semester starts up, but those are my initial impressions – again, without a “full” knowledge of physics or Lynds’ body of work.

  5. chuck Said,

    August 11, 2003 @ 1:00 pm

    I don’t have the depth of knowledge in physics that you provide here, but as my original post suggests, I think I’m pretty much in agreement. I do think that part of Lynds’ appeal is that he fulfills a popular narrative, the fantasy of the “untutored genius” who operates somewhat outside the system because they weren’t ready to accept his revolutionary ideas.

    To be fair, I only galnced at the bibliography of one of Lynds’ essays, but I saw no mention of Bergson or Deleuze, for that matter. I’ll have to take a look at the Scientific American piece that argues that reality could be a hologram.

  6. amrit sorli Said,

    September 7, 2003 @ 3:11 pm

    Dott. Amrit Sorli
    Osho Miasto Institute
    Podere San Giorgio 16
    53012 Chiusdino (SI), Italy
    phone: 0039-3488127445

    Physical Time And Psychological Time

    In the universe the passing of physical time cannot be clearly perceived as matter and space; one can perceive only irreversible physical, chemical, and biological changes (hereinafter referred to as “change”) in cosmic space. On the basis of elementary perception (sight) one can conclude that physical time exists only as a stream of change that runs through cosmic space. The terms “physical time” and “change” describe the same phenomenon. Physical time is irreversible. Change A transforms into change B, B transforms into C and so on. When B is in existence A does not exist anymore, when C is in existence B does not exist anymore.
    The question arises: Why is it that irreversible physical time is experienced as past, present and future? The answer is obtained by analysing the scientific way of experiencing. The eyes perceive a stream of irreversible change. Once elaborated by the mind, the stream of change is experienced chronologically through psychological time that is a part of the human mind (1).
    Let’s look at the relationship between physical and psychological time by carrying out an experiment. Take a pen and move it from the left side of the table to the right. You can perceive only the movement of the pen in space, but you experience that the pen has also moved through time. How come? Perception passes first through psychological time and then the experience occurs. That’s why you experience the movement of the pen in time. But on the basis of elementary perception (sight) one can only state that the pen has changed position in space.
    By observing the continuous stream of irreversible physical change humans have developed psychological time through which we experience the universe. Psychological time is reversible. One can go back into past. This creates an idea that physical time also has a past, but this is not so.
    General Relativity allows for speculation about time travel. Someone could travel through a black hole with a spaceship , go back into the past and kill his grandmother. The consequence is that he could never have been born (2). Travelling into the past through black holes is not possible because physical time is irreversible; the past exists only as psychological time through which it is not possible to travel with a spaceship.
    The speed of psychological time does not always follow physical time, it depends on one’s well-being. The more relaxed you are the slower the speed of psychological time is. In modern society time passes quickly, in so called primitive societies time passed slowly. In an altered state of consciousness, such as meditation, ecstatic dance, deep prayer, psychological time stops.
    Already in a normal state of health there are, every now and then, aberrations of subjective time such as acceleration or deceleration of lapse of time. Under several mental disturbances (like those characterising serious mental psychoses, drug-induced states, trances, mediations, as well as other deep “altered” states of consciousness), these anomalies / peculiarities become more pronounced. The flux of time may even cease completely (the sensations usually described as “time standing still”, or “suspended”, arrested” time or expand without limit (the feelings of “everlasting now, eternity”) (3).
    Human consciousness has the capacity to watch the human mind. Everybody can watch his thoughts and emotions. By watching them the speed of thought and the intensity of emotion calms down. Once the mind stops, human consciousness can watch and recognize itself (4). When the mind stops, psychological time stops too. One experiences physical time as he/she perceive it: as a stream of change.
    The understanding of physical time has changed over the ages. For ancient Greeks, Indians, and Mayans, time was considered a cyclic phenomenon; time moving in circles, with no beginning and no end. When Judaeo-Christian civilization arose in Europe, another understanding of time became prominent – time going forward in a straight line. According to this civilization, time has its beginning with God’s creation of the universe and will have its end with the Last Judgement. In Newtonian physics, physical time is an independent quantity (absolute time), running uniformly throughout the entire cosmic space (absolute space). In the General Theory of Relativity, time is no more an independent physical quantity – it is linked with space in four-dimensional space-time.
    Here physical time is understood as a stream of irreversible change that runs through cosmic space. It is not that change happens in physical time, change itself is physical time. The image of space-time has developed into the image of space in which change runs. We can measure with clocks the duration and speed of change. Experiments with high precision clocks confirm that change runs slower in the parts of universal space where the gravitational field is stronger. The speed of clocks near the sea in Venice is slower than on the mountain Monte Rosa, because gravity is stronger near sea level.

    1. Sorli, 1990, Konec Casa (The End of The Time), Slovenia, Ljubljana
    2. Paul Davis (1995), About Time, Chapter 11, Time Travels: Reality of Fantasy?, Orion Productions
    3. Rosolino, Metod, Endo-Physical Paradigm and Mathematics of Subjective Time,
    Frontier Perspectives, Volume 12, Number 1
    4. Sorli (2001), Watching the Mind As an Individual Research Method,
    Frontier Perspectives, Volume 10, Number 1

  7. chuck Said,

    September 9, 2003 @ 5:47 pm

    I’m not sure I have much to add to these comments right now. Still, it’s interesting when an older post resurfaces after several weeks. For a long time, this was one of my most popular entries, usually ranked second or third in my referrer log. I do think there’s an interesting relationship between the “cinematographic” time that Bergson criticized and time as it has been constructed within blogs.

  8. Not for sale Said,

    June 5, 2005 @ 6:02 am

    Its Time Jim, Just Not As We Know It

    What if Zeno’s real lesson isn’t that movement from point A to point B is impossible (obviously it isn’t), but rather that there is no such thing as a discrete slice of time?

  9. amrit Said,

    March 26, 2006 @ 2:39 pm

    The Thesis of A-Temporal Universe

    Amrit Sorli, SpaceLife Institute, Italy
    (published mainly in Electronic Journal of Theoretical Physics:

    Ernst Mach about time:
    It is utterly beyond our power to measure the changes of things by time. Quite the contrary, time is an abstraction at which we arrive by means of the changes of things.

    Albert Einstein about time:
    Space and time are modes by which we think, not conditions under which we live.” Time–the time that we know through clocks and calendars–was invented.

    Roger Penrose about time:
    The temporal ordering that we ‘appear’ to perceive is, I am claiming, something that we impose upon our perceptions in order to make sense of them in relation to the uniform forward time-progression of an external physical reality.…ics/Time_2.html

    Author about time:
    With a meter we measure distance, with a second we measure duration of motion on a given distance. Meter and second are units of measurement invented by the man. The shortest units are Planck Distance and Planck time. A photon pass the Planck distance into a Planck time. Before man appeared on the planet earth meter and second did not exist on its own.
    In the universe one can observe only motion and not time. Time is a construction of the mind into which humans experience motion. Motion belongs to the Universe, time to the mind. Also “arrow of time” belongs to the mind. Universe itself is an a-temporal phenomena.

    Julian Barbour gave his book title: The End of Time, The Next Revolution in Physics.

    He has all reasons for this title. Existence of time as a physical reality has no experimental evidence. In all physical formulas symbol t means duration of motion. Universe is an a-temporal phenomena, time is of the mind, motion is of the universe. With clocks we measure duration of motion. The second is a unit with which we measure duration of motion. In 86400 seconds earth turn once around its axe. Second has no existence on it own, it came into existence when motion is measured by a clock. Second is a tool of the mind that man uses to measure duration of different motions. Motions by itself have no duration. Man give them a sense of duration by measuring them.

    motion……perception (eyes)……elaboration (time)……experience (observer)

    Motion is measured by clocks. With clocks we measure duration of the movement of body or particle regarding another body or particle. The speed of the motion depends on a density D of space. Density D in centre of planet or star is D = m x G (m3 s-2), where m is a mass and G is gravitational constant. Density D is diminishing with the distance r on square from the centre of the star. Speed of time is increasing with the diminishing of density D. Clocks run faster on the top of the high mountain and slower at the sea side under the mountain. Density of space is higher at sea side and lover on the top of the mountain.

    Density of space is increasing by going towards the sun. Time (speed of bodies and particles) is becoming slower by going towards the sun. That’s the cause of “Mercury perihelion dilate”.

    2. Loop quantum gravity introduces the idea of granular structure of cosmic space; space is made out of quanta of space QS. One can consider that “granular space” has some density that depends on the amount of matter into it. More matter in a given volume of space, higher its density. Density of space is a physical property of the space that determinates its geometric shape, its roundness.
    Density of space D is in relation with mass according to the formula

    D = m x G (formula 1)

    where D is density in the centre of the object, m is a mass of the object and G is gravitational constant. Introducing this formula in math formalism of SR and GR can be seen that density D is a concrete physical quantity that determinates gravity and motion.

    Cosmic space is build up out of quanta of space QS that have a size of Planck. Gravitational force acts between quanta of space QS. Every QS attract the QS around it. Between QS near by the moon and QS near by the earth gravitation acts on the distance and instantly via QS that are between them. Gravitational force does not propagate into space, gravitational force is the force that builds up the space. The wall is made out of bricks. The cement keeps together the bricks. Gravitational force is a cement that keeps together the QS, the bricks of the space.

    The strength of gravitational force depends on the density of QS that build up cosmic space. Density D of QS of a given volume of cosmic space depends on the density of matter contained in it:

    D = m x G

    where D is the density of QS in the centre of the material object, m is the mass of the object and G is the gravitational constant. QS are “elastic”. Its density changes with the amount of matter. The gravitational force Fg between two material objects is given by the following relation:

    Fg = (D1 x D2) / ( r on square x G)

    where r is the distance between the centers of the two material objects.

    Gravitational force Fg on material body or on a particle that has a mass m depends on the density G of space.

    Fg = (m x D) / r on square

    where m is a mass of a body or particle, D is the density if space in a centre of planet or star, r is the distance from the centre of the planet or star; r can be shorter or longer as t the radius of the planet or star.

    In a centre of the planet or star Fg on a material object or mass particle is:

    Fg = (m x D) m10^-2

    Gravitational acceleration g in a given distance r from the centre of the planet or star is:

    g = (m x G) / r on square

    m is a mass of planet or star,
    G is gravitational constant
    r is a distance from a centre

    According to the formula 1: D = m x G

    g = D / r on square

    where D is the density of space in the centre of planet or star and r is a distance from the centre

    3. Relation between mass m of particle and density of space D into it is:
    D = m x G
    where G is gravitational constant. The density of space inside of the same atom is higher on the earth than on the moon, because on the earth the density of space is higher than on the moon. The same atom will have a bigger weight on the earth than on the moon. But its density D that defines its mass will remain the same. So by moving through the space the weight of particles changes, but its mass remains the same. Photon is an exception here. Around the photon there is no additional density D of cosmic space, so photon has no weight and no mass.

    Energy of matter and energy of space inside of a material object or mass particle are in equilibrium, equal: Espace ( Es ) = Ematter ( Em )

    Es = Em = m x cc, ( D = m x G)

    where m is a mass of the object, c is speed of light, D is density of space around the object and G is gravitational constant.

    Es = Em = (D x cc) / G

    Energy of space Es inside of particle or material object depends on the density of space D.

    First experiments that proves mass increasing of particles that moves fast were done about 100 years ago. The faster the elementary particle, the bigger will be its mass. We call that “The Relativistic Mass Increase”.

    The formula E = 0.5m x vv shows the relationship between the increase in mass of the relativistic particle and its increase in kinetic energy.

    In this formula we can change m with D/G and we will get the formula:

    E = (0.5D x vv) / G

    which shows clearly that the kinetic energy of particle depends on the density D of space into it and on the speed v

    The mass of accelerated particle is increasing because the with the speed increasing the density around the particle is increasing.

    Density of space is increasing also inside of the inertial system that moves with the higher speed regarding the inertial system that moves with the lower speed. This higher density of space causes the speed of clocks is slower into the faster inertial system.

    Higher density of cosmic space inside of an fast inertial system is the bridge SR and GR. In SR the speed of inertial system causes the increasing of the density of cosmic space, in GR the mass causes the increasing of the density of cosmic space. “Inertial mass” and “gravitational mass” of a material object or particle are equal because the density of cosmic space in inertial mass and gravitational mass is equal.

    Let’s say we are in a fast space ship that travels far away from the stars and planets in cosmic space with low density. With increasing of the speed of the space ship the density of cosmic space into it will increase. By attaining a certain speed the density of the space in the space ship will be equal to the density on the surface of the earth. Space ship travel than with this constant speed. We have two material bodies that are identical. Both of bodies will behave in exact the same way in the space ship and on the surface of the earth. The density D of space in both bodies is equal. This means the equality between inertial mass and gravitational mass.

    4. Cosmic space is composed by quanta of space (QS) having the size of Planck length. Light is a physical event in which photons are “jumping” from one quantum of space to another in a Planck time. Cosmic space is a medium of light, inertial systems move through the cosmic space. That’s why the speed of light is “maximum speed” in the universe and it is same in all inertial systems.

    Light has a double particle-wave nature simultaneously. A single photon jumping from one quantum of space to another in its trajectory is the central part – particle. The “chain jumping” of the photon changes the frequency of the QS on its trajectory from its basic frequency to the frequency of the photon. The central part of the photon also changes the vibration of QS around its trajectory that is its circumference part – wave.

    In a “double slit experiment” we can settle instruments and observe photon’s particle-part or we can settle instruments differently and observe the wave’s part of the photon.
    When we settle instruments to observe a particle, we will observe (detect) the particle part of the photon, when we settle instruments to observe a wave, we will observe (detect) the wave part of the photon. Scientist (Observer) should not play any role in this experiment.

    5. When a star has a mass of 3,2 masses of sun in its centre the density of cosmic space is so strong that gravitation overpowers all other forces. Matter transforms back into quanta of space (QS) that build up cosmic space.

    Beyond Schwarzschild Radius gravity is so strong that prevails above all other forces. All elementary particles transform back into the energy of cosmic space. Matter and space are made out of the same “stuff”. Black holes are the “fabric” where matter transforms back into space. In big explosions of AGN space transforms back into matter.
    Universe is composed by one energy. The basic packets of this one energy are QS. Energy is circulating continuously “space-matter-space-matter-…”. Universe is a self-renewing system. There was no beginning and there will be no end.

    Schwarzschild Radius Rs is:

    Rs = (2G x m) / (c x c)

    G is gravitational constant
    m is mass of the stellar object

    According to the formula (1) D = G x m
    D is the density of cosmic space in the centre of the black hole

    Rs = 2D / (c x c)

    Inside Rs gravitation has no direction, density of space does not increases towards the centre of the black hole. The area inside of Rs is a fabric where matter transforms back into the QS of cosmic space.

    A mass has a weight when it is in a space where density changes, it has a direction. At the “weightless” Lagrange point between earth and sun happens that density D of space is stable, there is no change of density, no direction. So gravity is there because gravity is carried by the quanta of space QS, and QS build up cosmic space also at the “weightless point”. If it would be no gravitation at the “weightless point” earth would fly away long time ago.
    A body at Lagrange point will not move, but this does not mean that gravitational force is not there.

    Decreasing of the duration of motion of the orbital period of the binary pulsar PRS1913+16 is the result of matter transforming back into space in the centre of one star. This diminishes the mass of the star, diminishing of the mass causes diminishing of the speed of rotation, with diminishing of the speed the duration of motion on the orbit is increasing.
    There is no gravitational radiation, gravitational waves do not exist.

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