I’ve been thinking about time this week. What is time? Can we travel through it? These two questions have been at the forefront of my mind, and so I shall begin by offering my thoughts on the first of those questions….
The human notion of time is more or less as a tunnel that we are all passing through. We break down our passage through this tunnel into endlessly numbered segments and map those segments with devices called with clocks. In truth though, can we really be accurate in thinking of time in such ways? Long before humans even arrived in this world, clocks did not exist and time was not numbered. To understand time we must step outside of human constructions. That means the numerical system we have etched into our brains must be discarded, and we must boil everything down to the simple question of: what remains in the universe that indicates the passage of something akin to our ideas of time, when you take all human ideas and constructions out of the equation? The most obvious thing is the orbit of planets in our solar system, and chemical reactions. The expansion of our universe is perhaps another.
The movement of planets was the sole driving force behind the earliest clocks, which were dials using shadows to map the position of the sun, and if we are to say that time exists, then what is time other than the shifting of objects in space and the reactions of chemical compounds? The growth and decay of organic matter falls under the umbrella of chemical changes I would say, as we are made from carbon atoms. So if there were a theoretical way for us to reverse those reactions, move planets backwards in their orbital paths, shift all the molecules of our universe back to where they were yesterday, have we travelled back in time? There appear to be no other constituents of time itself to alter, assuming that we accept time exists, and so we could say that yes, we have. If that is indeed the case, then time travel is theoretically possible, while also being entirely impossible in any practical sense.
You might suggest that time exists outside of anything physical and time must still pass even if the universe and everything beyond it were simply nothingness. But in that situation where nothing at all exists, how can you ever get a grip on quantifying the speed at which time is passing? There is absolutely nothing to anchor the idea to. It’s like saying you’d still know which way is up or down. So, while we think of time as something which is always passing by and can be thought of as something we are passing through, in reality, it isn’t really that at all because it can’t be tracked or perceived in any way outside of our universe and how we understand the processes of that universe. It becomes a ghost. The truth, I feel is that time doesn’t exist at all. It’s just a concept in our minds. Matter continually shifts its location while energy is stored and released as that matter interacts with itself. That’s the only thing that factually changes. We simply tried to find a system to make sense of those things in a way that would be easy for our minds to comprehend, and then named our system ‘time’.
As a footnote, I’d like to add that if time were exactly as we imagine it, and it is possible to pop out of a little hatch on top of the tunnel of time, and re-enter through another hatch at a different point in it, then the fact that no time travellers have showed up in our present or past, indicates one of two things: either human beings never work out how to do this at any point in the future, or we wipe ourselves out before we get a chance. Given the massive upswing in the technological trajectory of our species in recent decades, you would expect us to work out time travel within the next hundred years or so if ‘time’ exists as we think of it. If we worked out time travel, we would immediately get billionaire time tourists booking a trip just as they are on the brink of doing right now with trips to the moon. Hundreds of people would be appearing from nowhere, having travelled from the future.
So, either I’m onto something here, and time is entirely different to how most people perceive it, and essentially, doesn’t exist….or we will wipe ourselves out of existence within the next hundred years. Both scenarios seem entirely possible to me.