On the nature of time, space and everything
Apologies to Douglas Adams
by Matt Giwer © 2011 [Dec 10], 2012 [Feb 01]

Time does not exist until it is observed

This is a different way of looking at time. It does not change anything. This is not yet properly organized and may never be. I have come up with a different way of looking at time than is common. It changes little other than how existing physics is looked at. In considering time this way things make more sense to me than looking at it the common way.

It is a matter of unlearning the linear arrow of time, clock time and the idea of time travel introduced by HG Wells. This is fully compliant with relativity and classical physics. It may be a better way of looking at things like quantum entanglement because it now appears clear to me what is going on. I do find myself having fewer problems with the "impossible" things in quantum physics looking at it this way.

I do not have the advanced math and physics to make this into any kind of paper. I have forgotten most of my B.S. stuff. On the other hand, as it is just a different way of looking at what exists, I don't see the point of filling it with equations just to make it look impressive. Perhaps I am really just being lazy.

There is no time until it is measured.

Damn H.G. Wells! Because of him more or less everyone including such folks as Wheelchairguy assume time behaves as a dimension like the common three. At least I watched him on a TV special talking about time travel in the H.G. Wells sense. I assume he had script approval.

People expect time travel to mean disappearing from now, from existence in the present, and coming to exist in the past or future -- only like length it is assumed to have a single extent like farther or nearer. It is also assumed to be possible to move independently of the spatial dimensions. The solar system is moving through space at several miles per second carrying the Earth along with it. If one moves just in time then the earth is going to be some place else in the past or future. The hero of The Time Machine would find himself hanging in empty space with the Morlocks and Eloi many light years away.

Nothing in relatively addresses any such thing. Nothing suggests any such thing. There is no suggestion any movement in time can be independent of movement in space any more than any one dimension is space can be independent of the other two.

If one wishes to travel in time and be in the same place in the future, we do that all the time. The dead and buried have been doing that longer. Cryogenic suspension is the obvious way to travel to the future and see it too. Doing it by machine clearly requires the expenditure of some energy to move in space and as the expenditure of energy requires time it is unclear how to speed time while traveling in space. It is also unclear how to reverse the process, to expend energy in negative time, that is to violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

As to visitors from our future solving this problem, there is no future. We and everything else, even though relativity says older than us, is on the outer edge of the expanding universe in both space and time. There is no future to come from.

It is well established time is slower the lower one is in a gravity well. Astronauts return to earth modestly older than when they left. They did disappear from our time. The amount of time difference may be incredibly small but it is different. There nothing suggesting time is "quantized" such that small amounts do not cause a Wellsian disappearance but larger amounts would. Particles in an accelerator do not disappear above a certain velocity. They do not disappear at all.

A small effect, no matter how small is a real effect. Feet are trivially younger than heads but younger nevertheless. Fortunately heads do not vanish into the future although case might be made for hair but this can be eliminated by observing it is sex specific correcting for the average height difference between men and women.

All time is local. Local is defined by what is measured. If a thing cannot be measured it may make an interesting thought experiment but no conclusion can be confirmed.

An explosion. A molecule of expanding gas travels faster than an outside observer thus the observer sees it moving more slowly in time. The molecule sees the observer moving slower in time. Yet neither vanishes from the other.

The increase in entropy is a decrease in time. Hotter objects pass through time faster -- or slower depending upon which is observing which. If makes intuitive sense to say the faster moving is moving faster in time rather than slower, that increasing entropy is faster in time rather than slower.

Perhaps this is the perceptual arrow of time. Perhaps we are in a backwards running universe. Most likely it shows intuition is not a reliable guide.

Perhaps it shows more clearly the idea of backward or forward time makes no more sense than backward and forward length or distance. There is only relative distance. It has no direction. Time has no direction. As with distance it is never more than local and local cannot be more than what is measurable.

But as to the local arrow it points in the direction of lower velocity. As velocity goes to c time goes to 0. It is simply a local measure relating distance to velocity.

What is moving slower in time can accomplish more to the outsider observer. End of intuition being wrong. It is just a matter of how we look at it. The hypothetical spaceship moving faster can travel farther in the local lifetime of the pilot in the eye of outside observer but he doesn't accomplish much in the way of aging.

Of course he has to turn around and come back before that can be observed. A closed path particle accelerator does that without having to slow down to turn around. So also the orbiting astronaut. Of course the DC Superman speeding around the earth simply slows his aging rather than changing his aggregate position in time relative to the earth.

All time is local. There is no absolute time to travel through, H.G.! The Eloi are on their own. The Morlocks can continue to be Munchkins.

Traveling through time in the Wellsian sense would be like traveling traveling from point y1 to y2 without its relation to x changing. It would be like eliminating the distance between y1 and y2. Angle A would be equal to angle B. This is not the way distance dimensions work. Neither is it the way time relates to distance dimensions as substituting t for y makes obvious. It is agreed t does not relate to x, y and z as they relate to each other but relativity does give us time's relation to spatial dimensions. Nothing about the difference would make the angles equal.

Unlike Wells, we cannot travel through time independent of distance. Astronauts do not vanish and neither do our heads.

It is difficult to describe time as other than the mechanism of entropy. It is a short step from there to saying time is entropy.

Of the interesting kind
This is when information exchanges via quantum entanglement. This is the equivalent of the two angles being equal. Violating relativity is travel in time. Or it can be looked at as independent travel.

Or it can be looked at as the entropy balance being restored. Nothing says entropy has to be a smooth function and given statistical thermodynamics it is not. Nothing sets a limit on how quickly the energy balance has to match the equations. In fact as it is separating single particles not balancing until observed is what we expect. Thus we can connect quantum behavior with classical expectations.

And we see no difference because even in the macro classical world we do not have a system until it is observable.

Schrodinger's cat may be infamous but alive or dead in the experiment is one thing. It could have died of starvation or committed suicide thus ruining the experiment. More power to Schrodinger and superposed quantum states but because all time is local we cannot know the prior state of anything we find odd about quantum phenomena.

I am not suggesting this explains away anything or makes a lick of difference. I find for myself uncertainty becomes what I expect as in, how could it be otherwise, when I look at it this way. In fact the more I look at things this way the harder it is to remember why I agreed with everyone else and found it odd. Your Mileage Will Vary.

There is only the local time involved in the measurement within which is velocity across position. There is no external absolute time and therefore no absolute velocity. The more accurate the position measurement the greater the velocity change required, the greater the local time change, the entropy increase required. It is eliminating local time from the system to find position. If you take away local time there is no local velocity. What did you expect? Did you really expect to take away velocity and measure it at the same time?

This is not changing the uncertainty principle in any respect. This is just how to look at it so it makes sense. And the making sense is simply to look at time as all the math says it is and not as the independent universal clock. All clocks are local.

So what do extremely precise clocks do? That last thing they do is tell absolute time. They allow a determination of intervals. Heaven help you if you start moving them around as in the GPS systems. Do that and you have constantly correct them. Correct them compared to what? One that is not moving. So now all of them, moving and unmoving are a local system with local time. No matter how absolutely accurate they are on earth, if you are on the moon they are worthless to you because its local time based upon its motion is not part of the system.

When time is considered local the problems diminish. I have no idea if there is something which can be called time which is independent of a local measurement system. There may be but unless it can be made part of the local system it might as well not exist. If it can't be made local it might as well not exist.

This is nothing new. There might be a deadly burst of gammas rays heading our way that will destroy all life on earth. Until it gets here, until it is part of our local system it does not exist to us. It might exist from a viewpoint it is impossible for us to have. So what? The speed of light establishes the maximum limit of what can be in our local system. The gammas rays are not here yet therefore they do not exist for us yet, period.

I simply observe what is well known on the macro level is also true of the quantum level. Local is local whether micro or macro in scope.

Time and no time

If all reference frames are valid then so is the reference frame of the photon. For a photon there is no time. Nor is there space for that matter. Time slows as speed increases and at the speed of light it ceases to occur. And as there is no time a photon is in simultaneous connection with emitter and absorber. Because of that there is no distance between the two. Or perhaps the distance is the wavelength or the particle size. Whether a wave or particle should be related to this.

But there are particles and particles and atoms for which there is no arrow of time roughly anything for which there can be a wave equation. Then groups of such things when they start exhibiting one way time such as in thermodynamics time becomes a necessary dimension. So time is needed to describe relationships between things whose wave equations are independent. Quantum entanglement shows time is not only unnecessary but the simultaneity shows time is inapplicable. The dimension is not just inapplicable but it does not exist in describing the behavior of the entangled objects.

I have no idea what is going on in string theory but if time is one of the dimensions its existence is unnecessary and probably non-existence in matters it describes.

Time is also needed to describe changes in quantum states such as the transition times to and from excited states for the same atom. It is in these times the photon energy can changes such as in fluorescence.

Time does not have a direction per se but it cannot go backwards because a change in quantum states cannot be reverse. The wave equation goes from one random state to another. It has no time involved so there is no time "direction" for it. Direction is another thing to blame on Wells.

If has any analogy it is a drunkard's walk.

Reversing Newtonian Time

In the ideal world of non-quantum physics, meaning a world that cannot exist, time can flow in either direction. However as this is only true in an impossible ideal world it is of trivial importance but of great interest to invoking (HG) Wellsian time. What it might say a baseball could fly from the bat to the fielder and if time were reversed and if entropy could be reversed then it could follow the same path in either direction depending on the flow of time. However it cannot cause the batter to move in reverse as the ball impacts it.

Cheating to introduce people. So lets drop a glass of water and watch it shatter and the water splatter. Reverse that all you want and the glass can never unshatter as the mechanism is entirely different. Because it cannot unshatter it could never fall upward as a whole. Time is a local dimension which is needed to describe a finite set of phenomena. As an absolute concept it only applies in the non-existent ideal cases.

We can even look at the classical perfect ordering of the heavens and measure the length of the year and even ignore the occasional leap second. For six months of the year the earth is moving in the same direction as the sun is moving through space and the other half against that motion. With the change in relative motion time speeds up or slows down. It only averages out of an entire year. What can be said to be the same year after year is different for consecutive six month periods. In fact as the motion vector relative to the sun's direction is constantly changing the results are different in consecutive picoseconds.

But ... the Earth's path around the sun depends upon the mass distribution in the sun which depends upon mass risings and sinking which are driven the the quintessential quantum process hydrogen fusion. At the picosecond, or femtosecond level if you like, pick a level where the fact is easily measured, time is a drunkard's walk not a linear progression.

Consciousness is not being aware of time. It is a record of this drunkard's walk. It is going through a record of prior states in the order in which they occurred. The concept of time, the need for this dimension, is only to order this sequence. But as space apparently goes off to an extent often described as infinite time begins and ends with changing quantum states. These states are in constant flux globally so our record is continuous.

If we record a sequence of random numbers they happened in time, that does not mean post hoc ergo propter hoc.

We can watch the atoms of an atomic clock and observe a regular progression because that is how they are designed. In watching any particular atom no time can be observed without reference to outside quantum state changes. Consider the uncertainty principle.

Observing a thing connects it to the outside quantum state changes. Position is without time, velocity is with time. These are measurements with different dimensionality. Of course both cannot be known at once as they are not the same measurement.

Strings are not x, y, z and t plus a mess of curled up ones. It is x, y and z with a mess of curled up ones, one of which is time. All the descriptions of time I can come up with are discontinuous rather than curled, appearing when needed.

The simplest answer to time travel is no because it is a drunkard's walk where time is only a local measure of distance between quantum transitions not an ordered progression of quantum transitions. There is no point of time to be in and certainly no backwards or forwards. Recreating all previous quantum states is no more credible than creating all future quantum states. We know we cannot predict future quantum states.

We perceive time passing almost randomly. When busy it passes quickly. When bored it passes slowly. Asleep dreams govern.

Regularity is external sunrise to sunset and back again, the moon, the seasons, the stars. Regularity, a baseline reference but...

Food will rot, the warmer the faster, the colder the slower. Near absolute zero it decays so slowly we cannot perceive it changing. The slower the changes in quantum states the slower time by the measure of rotting.

We have at least two kinds of memory. Muscle memory and cognative memory. Psycologists have other terms for them. Muscle memory is how to ride a bike or drive a car, the kinds of things we proverbially never forget. The other is what we remember remembering and do forget like wedding aniversaries. It is the latter that gives us a perception of linear time.

If we use the time dimension we can establish the wave nature of a particle. Without it we measure its particle nature.

We can either use time and measure momentum or not use time and measure position but we cannot both use and not use time in the same measurement.

However some brain injuries prevent the formation of long term memory and thus do not have this perception of time. They do have muscle memory and do retain the ability to do things they did learn with no memory of having learned it.

Reversible and irreversible classical time

There are clearly false examples of what people even physicists should know is not true. The falling and breaking glass of water is the common "dramatic" example but is not true. If there were a way to heal the glass break we would have an entirely new method of manufacture.

As the relationship between gravity and regular processes, i.e. time, is known, it is unclear how they expect reversing time would make gravity repulsive. That is not indicated in any theory.

Do quantum processes determine chaos theory?


Normal time travel of an object first has to define an object. Then its total entropic change is its total change in time.

As we cannot travel in y independent of x neither can we travel in y independent of z and t. Neither can we travel in t independent of x, y and z. For macroscopic objects like you and me it means the atoms we define as composing us. So it only appears we can travel in time without traveling in space. Again a measure of time travel for macroscopic objects is entropy.

It follows the colder a macroscopic object the slower it passes through time. A macroscopic object at absolute zero is not traveling through time. Of course we cannot reach absolute zero and even if we could observing it would nudge it above absolute zero. So no matter how low the temperature, observing that temperature increases that temperature. Of course making use of anything at that temperature also nudges it.

Superconductors exist at these temperatures but do not use those temperatures, use as in nudging.

At the particle level they only travel through time relative to each other. The unobserved particle is not traveling through time. Traveling photons are unobserved particles. Particles only travel through time relative to other particles. Nothing new here since Einstein. It is just a different way of looking at what we already know.

Because time is so very local it is one of those curled up dimensions people are looking for in M-theory. It is not an extended linear, uniform dimension were are all mysteriously traveling through acting like a clock to local events. It is more like Dr. Who describes it, timey, whimey, and wiggly.

PROBLEM, the rate of travel should be maximum at zero velocity whereas it reduces to zero at v=c. It implies time begins slowing once relative motion starts.

  • There is only relative motion to a third party.
  • Only interacting particles can observe each other.
  • All of our observations are interactions.
But as nothing is traveling through time, as time only exists in relation to relative motion, time dilation is an amusing consequence of the equation but considering it alone is incorrectly assuming independent motion is possible. The equation does not describe the "clock" time we imagine real time to be.

When quantum entanglement resolves we have a violation of the Wellsian view of time as applied to relativity. The entanglement requires physical transport of the entangled object which means the entropy of the two particle system as been increased before a violation can be observed. The phenomenon appears when a method is used that does not let entropy be measured. When the states resolve entropy is measured.

The following are undisputed facts in the Wellsian view of time. Now what to do with them?

there is no future, we are the leading edge, everything is now

where did the big bang occur? Every place that is here. When it occurred is every place that is as far in time from now as can be.

The only time direction for not here is backward time. There is no forward time place not to be here.

But looking back in time to the Big Bang is only a metaphor. We are only looking at light that took a long time getting here. Of course everyone will agree to that. But it also means an arrow of time is also a metaphor yet physicists while discuss it as though it is real. We sort of excuse addlepated philosophers for thinking a metaphor is real. We cannot excuse physicists.

We are not looking back in time so it is no surprise there is no forward in time.

All places away from us are behind us in our time but the same as we are in their time. Saying such a thing adopts a godlike perspective which we do not have. Adopting that perspective assumes time has a certain nature. We know that assumption leads to things we cannot explain. That is hardly surprising when we adopt an arbitrary model for what a god would see. Additionally what we do know about time that it is only local and relative is contrary to this assumption. Again what is the surprise? What we do know of time is that it is not like the god-view model we assume.

No matter what direction we look in the universe there is only the present. We know the present contains old light. We do have consistent models explaining how that old light arose. We can say, our models are not inconsistent with a universal time that has a direction but no more than that. There are inconsistencies with this model soon as we get into details. Sort of like phlogisten, good enough if you don't ask too many questions.

We have no reason to believe there is any place further from bang time than us. Even if there were such a place its separation in distance any more than our neighbor in the penthouse.

There is no past in fact only in interpretation of observation. We can see what it was like but it is no longer like that. We are not looking backwards in time.

People living at the top and bottom of sky scraper live at different rates but never disappear from each other. No matter what the time difference both are still here. Aging is local perception not "travel" in time. Astronauts in orbit being a more extreme example.

How I got here
I think "how I got the idea" anecdotes are stupid. I never said I was very bright.

One way time travel, forward, by freezing to absolute zero ignoring that is not exactly possible. Radioactive materials at zero still decay but atomic/chemical processes occur trivially slowly even if quantum. Inside the atom thermal temperature of atoms changes nothing. But those are the kind of quantum things for which time does not apply.

We can only impose time upon atomic decay by taking a large number of atoms. Similarly we impose time on large numbers of atoms to observe thermodynamic processes. Time is only occurring when there is relative motion. A single atom is not governed by thermodynamics. The rate of motion determines the rate of entropy increase. But it cannot be measured unless the motion is relative to something else.

The higher the temperature greater the relative motion, the faster things happen, the faster time occurs. Time occurs, time is a legitimate dimension, only when there is actual motion in space. No surprise there because that is where we always see it, measure it and calculate with it. Again, looking for time where it does not exist is just plain wrong. Assuming time is a fundamental dimension of reality, Minkowski space, is a false assumption. And we know it is false from everyday experience, at least the every day experiences of physicists.

Whereas absolute zero relative to us cannot be achieved there is nothing obvious forbidding all the atoms/molecules moving in the same direction and thus at absolute zero relative to each other.


Classical mechanics assumes motion in the past will continue into the future. There is never a future. It is a useful artifact of the math based upon an observable past.

Objects described by quantum mechanics has no observed past so there is nothing to predict about the future. All predictions for all times are equally uncertain.

Make successive measurements of the position of the same particle over time and it will Newtonian.

Unfortunately this is impossible.


position is a place in time. momentum is a change in place over time. of course both can't be measured at the same time. It can't be done in the macro world either.


Can we predict the future? No. It only appears we can in the macro world because the macro nature of it makes measurements sloppy.

When we try to make precise measurements of particles and such we find we cannot because of Heisenberg and Plank things.


Neutrinos traveling faster than light define the forward edge of space so there is a time to move into.

As time from the bang increases there forward definition of the neutrinos becomes greater so expansion accelerates. No dark energy required.

Matt Giwer © 2011, 2012