Discover Magazine tells me time may not exist, which will be handy to tell my employer the next time I show up to work “late”.
The article’s point is that time is a bit of an oddball force in that it only ever moves in one direction. But I wouldn’t call it unique by that alone. One of the things that always bugged me in high school physics was that one could never have negative centripetal force, only a positive force from zero to whatever. And even velocity can’t have a negative value, just a different vector in which it’s moving. An object may be moving backwards relative to you because of its direction, but its velocity is still a positive value. It’s either moving or it isn’t. So is one-directional time really so unusual, or are we merely unable to perceive it moving in different directions?
Maybe it’s incorrect to assume that time moves in a strictly linear fashion. The Physics and Phenomenology of Time states that time may not necessarily move as the crow flies, but meander around like a vine on a pole, sometimes forward, sometimes backward, but it gets where it’s going in the end. I left home this morning and arrived at work afterwards; I didn’t take a straight line to get there — but I got there in the end. Just as the motion of subatomic particles occur on such a small scale that we don’t notice them, maybe that we’re all meandering through time on such a large scale that we don’t notice it, just as my car moved along various city streets on my way to work, but I didn’t change my position inside it.
Even the measurement of time may have cause and effect backwards:
â€œI recently went to the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder,â€ says Lloyd. (NIST is the government lab that houses the atomic clock that standardizes time for the nation.) â€œI said something like, â€˜Your clocks measure time very accurately.â€™ They told me, â€˜Our clocks do not measure time.â€™ I thought, Wow, thatâ€™s very humble of these guys. But they said, â€˜No, time is defined to be what our clocks measure.â€™â€
This illustrates the problem of time: it cannot be observed. The change in the state of objects (such as the hands of a clock) can be measured over a given period of, erm… time, but what’s being measured is just the objects themselves: the unwinding of a spring, the rotation of a cog, the pulse of an atom… but where is the “time” happening?
Now one question remains: if time doesn’t exist, why hadn’t I heard about this sooner?