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Author Topic:   Julian Barbour on Time
GDR
Member
Posts: 5410
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 1 of 39 (231974)
08-10-2005 3:42 PM


I am wondering if there is anyone on the forum that is familiar with and has an opinion on the theories of Julian Barbour. He wrote a book called “The End of Time”, in which he claims that time does not exist. He claims as I understand it that we function in a series of nows, and that each now exists forever. This is an excerpt from a book review.

Julian Barbour writes:

Specifically, DeWitt hijacked the Schrödinger equation, named for the great
Austrian physicist who created it. In its original form, the equation reveals how
the arrangement of electrons determines the geometrical shapes of atoms and
molecules. As modified by DeWitt, the equation describes different possible
shapes for the entire universe and the position of everything in it. The key
difference between Schrödinger's quantum and DeWitt's cosmic version of the
equation— besides the scale of the things involved— is that atoms, over time,
can interact with other atoms and change their energies. But the universe has
nothing to interact with except itself and has only a fixed total energy. Because
the energy of the universe doesn't change with time, the easiest of the many
ways to solve what has become known as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation is to
eliminate time.
Most physicists balk at that solution, believing it couldn't possibly describe the
real universe. But a number of respected theorists, Barbour and Stephen
Hawking among them, take DeWitt's work seriously. Barbour sees it as the
best path to a real theory of everything, even with its staggering implication that
we live in a universe without time, motion, or change of any kind.
Strolling in the meadows of oxford's Christ Church College with Julian Barbour,
time and motion seem undeniable. Towering cumulus clouds float overhead,
ferried by a gentle breeze. Children run and shout in the same field where Alice
Liddell, the girl who inspired Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland, often played. How can there be no time, no movement? Barbour
settles his tall, lean frame into the grass, readying himself for a long explanation
to yet another skeptic. He begins with what seems a most straightforward
proposition: Time is nothing but a measure of the changing positions of objects.
A pendulum swings, the hands on a clock advance. Objects— and their
positions— he argues, are therefore more fundamental than time. The universe
at any given instant simply consists of many different objects in many different
positions.
That sounds reasonable, as it should, coming from a thoughtful gentleman like
Barbour. But the next part of his argument— the crux of his view— is much
harder to swallow: Every possible configuration of the universe, past, present,
and future, exists separately and eternally. We don't live in a single universe that
passes through time. Instead, we— or many slightly different versions of
ourselves— simultaneously inhabit a multitude of static, everlasting tableaux that
include everything in the universe at any given moment. Barbour calls each of
these possible still-life configurations a "Now." Every Now is a complete,
self-contained, timeless, unchanging universe. We mistakenly perceive the
Nows as fleeting, when in fact each one persists forever. Because the word
universe seems too small to encompass all possible Nows, Barbour coined a
new word for it: Platonia. The name honors the ancient Greek philosopher who
argued that reality is composed of eternal and changeless forms, even though
the physical world we perceive through our senses appears to be in constant
flux.

The following is another quote from the review on the reaction of some of his peers.

interviewer writes:

How does the physics community react to such ideas? Physicists who know
Barbour's work agree that it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. At a physics
conference in Spain, Barbour conducted an informal poll. He asked how many
of the physicists believed that time would not be a part of a final, complete
description of the universe. A majority were inclined to agree.
Don Page, a cosmologist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton who
frequently collaborates with Stephen Hawking, raised his hand that day. "I think
Julian's work clears up a lot of misconceptions," says Page. "Physicists might
not need time as much as we might have thought before. He is really
questioning the basic nature of time, its nonexistence. You can't make technical
advances if you're stuck in a conceptual muddle." Strangely enough, Page feels
that Barbour might actually be too conservative. When physicists finally iron
out a new theory of the universe, Page suspects that time won't be the only
casualty. "I think space will go too," he says cryptically.

Here is the link:
http://www.discover.com/issues/dec-00/cover/

I realize that I should develop this more than I have, but I don’t have the personal knowledge to make any type of intelligent comment. I would just like to know what the opinion is of those who do know what they’re talking about.
I suggest that this should be posted under "Big Bang and Cosmology"


Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by cavediver, posted 08-12-2005 8:17 AM GDR has responded
 Message 8 by randman, posted 08-16-2005 12:57 AM GDR has not yet responded
 Message 9 by NosyNed, posted 08-16-2005 1:14 AM GDR has not yet responded
 Message 10 by randman, posted 08-16-2005 1:19 AM GDR has responded
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GDR
Member
Posts: 5410
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 4 of 39 (232829)
08-12-2005 10:49 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by cavediver
08-12-2005 8:17 AM


I kinda thought this topic wouldn't produce a huge response but I wanted to get an idea of whether Barbour was generally accepted and it sounds as if he is. Also I just wanted to hear what someone with your expertise would have to say about him.

Thanks for the response cavediver. (I am curious about your name by the way. :) )


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by cavediver, posted 08-12-2005 8:17 AM cavediver has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by cavediver, posted 08-13-2005 4:42 AM GDR has not yet responded
 Message 6 by cavediver, posted 08-13-2005 7:30 AM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member
Posts: 5410
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 7 of 39 (232971)
08-13-2005 12:02 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by cavediver
08-13-2005 7:30 AM


Just what is it you're looking for in those caves?

Nice thing about being an astronomer is that you can keep on doing it as long as you like. I had a job I loved but one that we have to retire from at age 60. (A mixed blessing.)

Thanks for the thoughts on Barbour. I keep reading that linked article and trying to get my head around his ideas. I imagine some day someone like Barbour or cavediver is going to have something go click and they will see something that everyone will have missed, and physics will head off in a totally new direction. :)


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

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 Message 6 by cavediver, posted 08-13-2005 7:30 AM cavediver has not yet responded

  
GDR
Member
Posts: 5410
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 11 of 39 (233582)
08-16-2005 1:37 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by randman
08-16-2005 1:19 AM


Re: wonderful link
Hi randman

The link is the same link that I used in the OP. :) (Great minds think alike.)

Barbour's whole concept has huge implications for both science and theology. It is impossible to really get our heads around. Time does seem to be a real enigma in that our perceotion of it certainly changes as we age and I imagine we have all had those experiences where time seems to stop during an accident.

I think it does also indicate however, that science really has come up against a bit if a wall and that it is going to take another Einstein, (Maybe it's Barbour), to go off in some new direction that everyone else has missed.

I'm working my way through Greene's book for the second time in hopes that I retain more this time around. :)


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by randman, posted 08-16-2005 1:19 AM randman has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 12 by randman, posted 08-16-2005 1:44 AM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member
Posts: 5410
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 13 of 39 (233592)
08-16-2005 2:08 AM
Reply to: Message 12 by randman
08-16-2005 1:44 AM


Some kinda hard drive
But where is all the data from all these eternal universes stored? I gather that each of Barbour's nows are a planck time. There's been more than a few planck times pass into history since the BB. :)

I agree that the notion that photons or anything else that moves at light speed is fascinating. Cavediver, who seems to know more about this stuff than the rest of us put together seems to have it figured out mathematically and isn't too impressed. Still, it seems to me that the fact that we have particles that take billions of light years to get to us and yet from their perspective got here in zero time over zero distance is enough to at least get one's attention.

I'm not sure how light, or gravity for that matter fits into Barbour's universes. It seems to me, that as anything that travels at light speed is effectively outside of time, then light would be able to move freely from one universe to the next under Barbour's scenario.

Well I am severely out of my depth here but it sure is a fascinating topic. There is a young girl in our church that just about to start university with the goal of being a research physicist. She has scholarships coming out here ears and has already completed several university courses while still in high school. She just loves the stuff. If she can stick with it I think that she is going into this field at a an incredible time.


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 12 by randman, posted 08-16-2005 1:44 AM randman has responded

Replies to this message:
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 Message 15 by JustinC, posted 08-16-2005 2:17 PM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member
Posts: 5410
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 16 of 39 (233734)
08-16-2005 3:10 PM
Reply to: Message 15 by JustinC
08-16-2005 2:17 PM


Re: Some kinda hard drive
Thanks Justin

Well I'm 61, (had to retire at 60), and the idea of going to school to learn some of this stuff crossed my mind. The trouble is I have a volunteer job that involves me most of the week and I'm not prepared to give that up, so I'll content myself with reading books and listening to guys like cavediver. I'll only be able to deal with concepts as I don't have the math however.

It is amazing how little people know about this stuff, and what really blows me away is how many aren't even interested. Go figure. :)


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

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 Message 15 by JustinC, posted 08-16-2005 2:17 PM JustinC has not yet responded

  
GDR
Member
Posts: 5410
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 18 of 39 (233832)
08-16-2005 7:30 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by 1.61803
08-16-2005 5:47 PM


1.61803 writes:

The only reason for time is so everything does not happen at once. The only reason for time is so everything does not happen at once. :D

Try telling that to a photon. (If you can get him to sit still long enough to listen. :) )


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

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 Message 17 by 1.61803, posted 08-16-2005 5:47 PM 1.61803 has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
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GDR
Member
Posts: 5410
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 19 of 39 (730207)
06-25-2014 11:32 AM
Reply to: Message 18 by GDR
08-16-2005 7:30 PM


This is an old topic but I thought I'd see if anyone has anything new to add after reading this article about a man who essentially saw time virtually stop. Time is the way we experience or preceive change. The passage of time seems somehow to be tied in with cour consciousness.

Personally I have had time slow down by a remarkable amount during a bicycle accident and other times as well. I am also of the belief that we experience the passage of time differently as we age.

Here is the BBC article.

The Man Who Saw Time Freeze


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


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Replies to this message:
 Message 20 by NoNukes, posted 06-25-2014 10:43 PM GDR has responded
 Message 22 by Minnemooseus, posted 06-25-2014 11:47 PM GDR has responded
 Message 24 by Dr Adequate, posted 06-26-2014 1:35 AM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member
Posts: 5410
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 21 of 39 (730242)
06-25-2014 11:37 PM
Reply to: Message 20 by NoNukes
06-25-2014 10:43 PM


I'll go back to what I quoted in the OP.

quote:
How does the physics community react to such ideas? Physicists who know Barbour's work agree that it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. At a physics conference in Spain, Barbour conducted an informal poll. He asked how many of the physicists believed that time would not be a part of a final, complete description of the universe. A majority were inclined to agree.

Don Page, a cosmologist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton who
frequently collaborates with Stephen Hawking, raised his hand that day. "I think Julian's work clears up a lot of misconceptions," says Page. "Physicists might not need time as much as we might have thought before. He is really questioning the basic nature of time, its nonexistence. You can't make technical advances if you're stuck in a conceptual muddle." Strangely enough, Page feels that Barbour might actually be too conservative. When physicists finally iron out a new theory of the universe, Page suspects that time won't be the only
casualty. "I think space will go too," he says cryptically.


We know that time varies with speed and gravity. But again time is the way we measure change but we know that depending on those two factors we don't perceive that change simultaneously. Our perceptions are different as to when something happened.

NoNukes writes:

It is far easier to believe that a man who saw time stop actually has a issue with memory that causes him to believe that. How would you ever be able to tell unless you saw him actually take advantage of slowed time in some way?

But it isn't just a case of memory. His claim is that he could view individual droplets, whereas if time was passing normally it would just look like a normal stream from a shower.

I have a clear memory of coming off my bike when the pedal snapped off. I had considerable time to think as I rolled over backwards and the bike went over top me. I remember clearly thinking that I was wearing a white jacket that was going to get dirty and then I casually thought that I'd better put me chin on my chest so that I wouldn't crack my head on the pavement. I have no doubt that in some sense time slowed down for me.

NoNukes writes:

But do you believe that time is actually changing its rate of passage as you age?

Virtually everyone seems to think that as the get older time passes more quickly. I'm inclined to believe that our perceptions do cause a more rapid passage of time as we age. We don't notice in short intervals but we do over longer periods of time. I agree that this is only conjecture but after having read a few books designed for the layman it seems to make sense.

Incidentally here is a quote of something that I wrote in this thread in 2005.

quote:
There is a young girl in our church that just about to start university with the goal of being a research physicist. She has scholarships coming out here ears and has already completed several university courses while still in high school. She just loves the stuff. If she can stick with it I think that she is going into this field at a an incredible time.

This young woman has now been awarded a full scholarship to study theoretical physics at the The Perimeter Institute. I take credit for it all as I gave her Brian Greene's "The Fabric of the Cosmos" when she was still in high school.


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


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Replies to this message:
 Message 25 by NoNukes, posted 06-26-2014 6:20 AM GDR has responded
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GDR
Member
Posts: 5410
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 23 of 39 (730245)
06-26-2014 12:20 AM
Reply to: Message 22 by Minnemooseus
06-25-2014 11:47 PM


Re: Time passes faster when you get older?
Minnemooseus writes:

I seem to recall that the common perception is that time seems to pass faster as you get older. It does for me, although it doesn't seem to be a "time of the moment" thing, rather it's a "the last 10 years seemed to go by fast" thing.

In other word your perception of the passage of time has changed, which begs the question of whether the perception represents a reality specific to you.

Hypothesis 1) 10 years is till ten years regardless of how many decades have gone before. I can see the logic but we still measure time by our spatial relation to the sun so I don't see on that basis why our first ten years of life seems to take so much longer than or 5th or 6th ten years.

Hypothesis 2) I agree with you "psychological paradox" comment. I don't have any answers but I think that guys like Barbour, Page (from the OP) and others are on the right track.


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 22 by Minnemooseus, posted 06-25-2014 11:47 PM Minnemooseus has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 26 by New Cat's Eye, posted 06-26-2014 10:30 AM GDR has responded
 Message 34 by Minnemooseus, posted 06-27-2014 12:30 AM GDR has not yet responded

  
GDR
Member
Posts: 5410
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 27 of 39 (730282)
06-26-2014 2:10 PM
Reply to: Message 24 by Dr Adequate
06-26-2014 1:35 AM


Dr Adequate writes:

It's fascinating as far as psychology goes, but I don't know if it tells us anything about physics. To take a parallel case, if a bang to the head in the right (wrong) place can make someone go blind, does that tell us anything about light that we didn't already know?

I obviously don't know if it tells us anything about physics or not. I'd suggest that no one knows definitively and it is all a matter of opinion which of course does not mean that all opinions are equally valid.

If you google time, physics and consciousness there are a wide variety of opinions. It does seem to me though that we do perceive the world in a particular fashion and physics has told us that in many cases, including time, our perceptions aren't exactly in tune with discoveries made by our scientists.

Many of the sites go so far to claim that time is an illusion, and as Don Page says in the OP quote he believes that we will find that both time and space are illusions.

With all that in mind it is my highly unqualified belief that ultimately there is a necessary connection between physics and consciousness.


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 24 by Dr Adequate, posted 06-26-2014 1:35 AM Dr Adequate has not yet responded

  
GDR
Member
Posts: 5410
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 28 of 39 (730283)
06-26-2014 2:15 PM
Reply to: Message 25 by NoNukes
06-26-2014 6:20 AM


NoNukes writes:

Yes. And that information did reach his brain through his eyes. I am suggesting a trick of the brain where he has a false memory of actually experiencing time at a slower rate based on this information. Or alternatively even the memory of the droplets being bogus.

It may be a trick of the brain, but it was his perception unless of course, as you say, it is bogus. However the article does indicate that he is a credible individual.

NoNukes writes:

Those things actually happened.

Sure, but it was what happened afterwards in terms of the passage of time that is interesting.

NoNukes writes:

I'm suggesting that this part could be a trick of memory generated after the event and based on the information collected during the event. Perhaps the "slowing" is actually based on biology and not physics.

Sure, or even both.


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 25 by NoNukes, posted 06-26-2014 6:20 AM NoNukes has responded

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GDR
Member
Posts: 5410
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 29 of 39 (730285)
06-26-2014 2:26 PM
Reply to: Message 26 by New Cat's Eye
06-26-2014 10:30 AM


Re: Time passes faster when you get older?
GDR writes:

In other words your perception of the passage of time has changed, which begs the question of whether the perception represents a reality specific to you.

Catholic Scientist writes:

Nope. Consider the Twin Paradox, where one goes flying in a spaceship near the speed of light while the other stays home. When they get back together, they are not the same age anymore.

Your perceived change in the passage of time only affects you, everybody else keeps on keepin' on.

It seems to me that you made my point. In the twins paradox they aren't the same age anymore. They have perceived time differently between the time the spaceship left and the time it returned home. Their individual perception of time created their own individual reality.

Both of us have experienced situations where time appears to have slowed for us. We perceived time differently than those around us. If we had twinsthen maybe we are now a second or two younger than our twin in the same way that it is explained by the twins paradox.


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 26 by New Cat's Eye, posted 06-26-2014 10:30 AM New Cat's Eye has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 30 by New Cat's Eye, posted 06-26-2014 3:01 PM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member
Posts: 5410
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 36 of 39 (730329)
06-27-2014 11:10 AM
Reply to: Message 30 by New Cat's Eye
06-26-2014 3:01 PM


Re: Time passes faster when you get older?
Catholic Scientist writes:

Nah, you gotta go really fast for that to happen. Our perceptions don't change reality.

I'm not so sure. I have a couple of books on the subject. One is Biocentrism by Robert Lanza. His claim is that, "it is biology that is primary - life creates the universe and not the other way around". If he is correct then it is quite likely thhat our perceptions create our own individual reality.
The other book I referred to is Quantum Enigma by Roenblum and Kuttner where they come at the sunject from more of a physics angle but come to a similar conclusion.

I'm not saying that they are correct but I contend that their ideas are worth exploring and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. I'll requote JUlian Barbour from the OP>

quote:
Every possible configuration of the universe, past, present,
and future, exists separately and eternally. We don't live in a single universe that
passes through time. Instead, we— or many slightly different versions of
ourselves— simultaneously inhabit a multitude of static, everlasting tableaux that
include everything in the universe at any given moment. Barbour calls each of
these possible still-life configurations a "Now." Every Now is a complete,
self-contained, timeless, unchanging universe. We mistakenly perceive the
Nows as fleeting, when in fact each one persists forever. Because the word
universe seems too small to encompass all possible Nows, Barbour coined a
new word for it: Platonia. The name honors the ancient Greek philosopher who
argued that reality is composed of eternal and changeless forms, even though
the physical world we perceive through our senses appears to be in constant
flux.

It seems to me that it is worth considering the idea that our individual perceptions form our individual reality that is distinct from everyone else's.


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


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 Message 30 by New Cat's Eye, posted 06-26-2014 3:01 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

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