Time; what is time? By definition time is: an instance or single occasion for some event; however, that does not nearly clarify the question of what is time. The answer to this question varies according to the person you ask. Some people will answer with a simple: “Time is of the essence; it keeps life on track.” Others will most likely answer: “Time is the way in which we measure life.” But what exactly does time have to do with living?
From the first instant that humans were able to think and ask questions, time began to appear. Pre-historic people would look to the sun to keep track of the days, the hours, and when they had to do certain activities. With that in mind, another question arises: Did humans invent time just by thinking about it? The clear answer to this question is that it is impossible to invent time. Time is not touchable, it simply exists. According to Albert Einstein and his theory of relativity, time simply is an illusion. It is what we think; it is what we want to perceive. Time and space are closely related that they not only co-exist, but they are intertwined, this is known as space-time. The pace at which an individual goes through a day is completely different than the pace of another. This can simply be proven by “an hour that seemed like two hours” or “an hour that felt like only twenty minutes.” Is time an illusion? An event that has taken place in history always survives; it is always remembered and always reenacted. Does this mean that it does still exist even if, according to time, it took place in the past? The past always exists. It exists in the now.
“Since there exists in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent “now” objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated. It appears therefore more natural to think of physical reality as a four dimensional existence, instead of, as hitherto, the evolution of a three dimensional existence.”
Albert Einstein, Relativity
Einstein’s theory of relativity answers the questions many may have about time. He simply states that the “now” is much more than what just meets the eye. The “now” is the past, the present, and the future combined. The “now” is always happening, but in order for it to be happening simultaneously there has to be an explanation. The answer to all this is a “four-dimensional structure.” This structure simply states that Earth and all human kind live in only one variation of a possible four-dimensional system. Imagine living near the speed of light, where a millisecond becomes a day. That is another dimension. Einstein proved that time is relative (not absolute as Newton once thought).
“With the proper technology, such as a very fast spaceship, one person is able to experience several days while another person simultaneously experiences only a few hours or minutes. The same two people can meet up again, one having experienced days or even years while the other has only experienced minutes. The person in the spaceship only needs to travel near to the speed of light. The faster they travel, the slower their time will pass relative to someone planted firmly on the Earth. If they were able to travel at the speed of light, their time would cease completely and they would only exist trapped in timelessness.”
Richard Feynman believed in Einstein theory and in timelessness. His Sum over Histories theory led him to reject time completely. Instead he believed that time was simply a direction in space. Feynman’s summing of all possible histories could be described as the first timeless description of a multitude of space-time worlds all existing simultaneously. He states that if there was a particle in space going from point A to point B, then anyone would imagine it getting there in which ever possible way, just as long as it finally gets there. Feynman states: “When summed the vast majority of all these directions add up to zero, and all that remains is the comparably few paths that abide by the laws and forces of nature.”
In simple terms our search for the question of whether time exists has yet to be answered. However, in recent years the most famous and popular physicist, who has followed and expanded Einstein and Feynman’s theory, is Stephen Hawking. Even though he suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease, he has been able to support the theories of timelessness. Stephen Hawking, along with James Hartle, was able to create the No Boundary Proposal Theory. This theory coins the term: imaginary time. Imaginary time is not time that does not exist, as “imaginary” might portray, it is the time that is not measured. Imaginary time has no beginning and no end; it simply is.
“Quantum theory introduces a new idea, that of imaginary time. Imaginary time may sound like science fiction, and it has been brought into Doctor Who [an English Star Trek]. But nevertheless, it is a genuine scientific concept. One can picture it in the following way. One can think of ordinary, real, time as a horizontal line. On the left, one has the past, and on the right, the future. But there’s another kind of time in the vertical direction. This is called imaginary time, because it is not the kind of time we normally experience. But in a sense, it is just as real, as what we call real time.” Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time
In the “now” we believe that many things have happened to us while growing up and getting to this point, however what actually occurred and what we perceived might have occurred are completely different, but they can still be true in another reality. The No Boundary Proposal simply states that the universe has no boundaries. Even though, many believe that the Big Bang occurred the universe just is. It simply exists. Nothing outside of itself could hurt it or cause its disappearance.
Imaginary time versus real time is a most confusing idea to understand. In order to understand time, one must see it from a different perspective. Hawking challenges your mind by stating:
“This might suggest that the so-called imaginary time is really the real time, and that what we call real time is just a figment of our imaginations. In real time, the universe has a beginning and an end at singularities that form a boundary to space-time and at which the laws of science break down. But in imaginary time, there are no singularities or boundaries. So maybe what we call imaginary time is really more basic, and what we call real is just an idea that we invent to help us describe what we think the universe is like.”
In recent years there has been more talk and theorizing about the space-time continuum and about Stephen Hawking’s No Boundary Proposal Theory. As always scientific theories are always sought to be answer or explain in any possible way. With that said, on February 4, 2008, Science Daily reported that a new particle accelerator, known as the Large Hadron Collider, was scheduled to begin operating in Geneva, Switzerland. This accelerator was supposed to go at a speed very close to the speed of light. At this speed, small particles, or “shapes” would be able to prove that Einstein, Hawking, and other physicist would be correct on their theories. The Large Hadron Collider was thought to be the answer that everyone was looking for. However, the answer has not yet been receive nor exploited to its fullest.
Timelessness, as described by various physicists, has been combined into the ultimate theory known as the String Theory. There could possibly be eleven dimensions within this universe, each with its own believes and each with its own theories. The String Theory is supposed to specifically combine quantum mechanics with general relativity. The reason for the mutual acceptance of this theory is the involvement of mathematics. Mathematics has allowed this theory to remain in existence since the Babylonians first established “the metric of flat 2-dimensional space by observation.” Even though this theory has been in existence since before Albert Einstein or any recent physicist, it has been excluded from physics because of its many changes and enhance as the years went by. The string theory has also been said to have crossed the line from the believable to the debatable.
Einstein once asked the question: “How much choice did God have in constructing the universe?” Even though timelessness has many possible theories, they remain just that: theories. A set of questions set forth by Stephen Hawking gives the non-scientific person something to wonder about. These questions are:
1. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?
2. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?
3. Is the unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence?
4. Or does it need a creator, if so, does he have any other effect on the universe and who created him?
Time and timelessness remain debatable. The theories at this point in time are accepted, but they still need to be fully examined and fully proven. Until that point in time occurs, scientists, philosophers, and all ordinary people will be able to discuss why we and the universe exist in a space-time continuum. As Stephen hawking says: “If we find the answer, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason-for then we should know the mind of God.”