Saturday, February 02, 2008


Time, is it an Essence?

As you may recall in a previous entry I discussed time and how it could and is considered in physical terms. That is where time is not simply imagined as a marker which we use to separate one state in a changing physical process from another, yet rather as an actual part of the physical process itself. That is as to be a dimension or degree of freedom which forms part of the actual substance of reality to both define the limits of the scope and potential to which such physical process can evolve. Now what is interesting and relevant in the context of this blog is this has been and still continues to be a central subject of study and concern for both of our considered two disciplines, being science and philosophy. In this way it forms a commonality within the struggle for understanding shared by both.

To continue, in order to explore this further, I wondered how I might form an analogy that could at least, in some crude way, describe what I’m talking about as to whether time is simply a marker within physical process or rather is part of the physicality of the process itself? The analogy I have come up with is to be found in the comparison of playing a record (musical phonograph) with the actual production of one. So to begin when we play a record what is involved? What’s entailed is that first we have a media (substance), on which there is inscribed a pattern (information), that when actualized by a process (the playing) we are presented with or realize its content. This physical process of course involves motion in the sense that the record turns (travels) and a needle striking (following) dimensional differences within the media presented. These differences scientifically would be described in terms of its amplitude (height), wave length (length) and frequency (depth or density or how many per given length). These could be considered as the three commonly understood dimensions (degrees of freedom) of what we understand as space and can be interpreted and imagined without the need for anything else at all. That is they can remain fixed and still be thought to be real. However to have all this actualized or realized for the listener we must have something else and that is the movement (time) which when added has the music come into being. This compares to how some physicists imagine time to be as a dimension.

First, it is important to point out that the three (space) dimensions between them can have no affect on each other or enable there actualization (to be realized as considered fixed. However. the fourth one (time) certainly can. What do I mean by this? Well let’s consider the record again. In the playing of a record to have it come out (realized) the way it was recorded it must turn at a speed that is consistent with the way it was produced and the record must turn in the correct direction (clockwise or forward as formed). To play it at a different speed, although one may still be able to comprehend it, will have it display different qualities (characteristics) as related to the perceived (not self actual) distances of all three involved. To play it in the opposite direction renders it for the most part incomprehensible. I think you can see what I’m getting at here. That is in Einstein’s view of reality all what I have said comes into consideration. The speed (time) of the universe can have us perceive and experience our reality (the universe) differently according to the speed and relative to the fixed qualities and quantities of its content (mass/energy). Also, it suggests that if this is to be meaningful at all, it can have only one direction. This is considered in science within an action or consequence of action called entropy, where the averaged actual relative positions of the matter/energy contained in the universe is perceived as becoming more disordered as related to both its previous and initial state. This in turn is connected to space to both expanding and lowering in average energy content (temperature).

Now this is where the two concepts in a way cross swords. In the entropy concept time is simply a marker, in as it is only considered as way to differentiate one state of realization from the other and therefore is merely a tool used in our conceptualization of it. This is however only true if you consider this speed as being both constant and regular. In other words if time has only one aspect (character or element) and thereby consequence. Yet how could this be other then having something external arbitrarily controlling these variables. This would seem to point to some omnipotent being or some such thing being required. What we forgot is that in our analogy of the record the difference between playing one and making (producing) one. When we play a record we only actualize what has already been produced. When a record is being made it is in the act of forming what it is to be. In the case of the recording a record someone supplies the content (music) and the pattern (information) of this is etched (copied) to a malleable and consistant physical substance such as wax. So is this the only way to make a record that would realize something and thus require conscious and intended input? There is another way this could be considered and that is the medium on which it is being recorded although holistic (one thing) is not homogenous or predicatively consistent. Imagine something like a wax plate that had itself both varying malleability and slickness (resistance to travel). What would be produced if we cut a record on such a substance without supplying input? What would happen is that the needle when confined to the inward revolving motion facilitated with a constant force of rotation (travel) would create grooves displaying varying amplitude(height), wave length(length) and frequency (depth or density) in accordance to these related factors. That is that the record produced would create a pattern (information) that tells one of the character of the substance encountered in relation to the action included (time). In this way the whole thing is resultant of the mutual potential realized (actualized) between the two.

So now let’s speculate further how this could relate to our world as what it serves to represent. First it should be understood that the playing of the record is not a state of being or becoming but merely the act of observing the past. This we also do every day when we look out in front of us whether it is merely at the screen of this computer I am typing on or out into the heavens at night. It is only different in terms of how far this is from our own now (present). The being of the universe takes place in the now (cutting the record) which is never truly experienced only later to be realized. The becoming is in the future and depends on what is encountered (nature of the wax). It must be understood that within this highly speculative model although the character or nature of the substance on which it will be enacted (realized) is already there and in some sense predetermined. However in the act of travelling through, although the force and initial direction may be set and consistant, would however still leave this future to remain difficult if not impossible to predict. What would make this truly to remain uncertain and unknowable is of course is if the substance itself is not simply variable because of a changing set nature but rather if it were also reactant to itself and by its own complex interactions constantly changing in terms of its total local and universal character at any given instance. This universal character although changing could still preserve its overall (averaged) value.

All this of course supplies no answers and yet at least gives us one way to frame the questions of concern which are how, what and why. This may give you further reason to understand and perhaps even to accept that we can and should address them all as to be considered in terms of our search for understanding.

“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable”

T.S Elliot - Burnt Norton (1935)

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