Time is A One Way Street…

TimeThe June 2008 issue of Scientific American sets out to answer a very perplexing question:

Why does time only move forward?

To find the answer, according to Sci-Am and Mr. Sean M. Carroll, we have to start looking at a very unlikely place:

To account for it, we have to delve into the prehistory of the universe, to a time before the big bang. Our universe may be part of a much larger multiverse, which as a whole is time-symmetric. Time may run backward in other universes.

The article is filled with high-end physics and a bit of science jargon, but Mr. Caroll puts uses neat little analogies to explain difficult concepts:

The asymmetry of time, the arrow that points from past to future, plays an unmistakable role in our everyday lives: it accounts for why we cannot turn an omelet into an egg, why ice cubes never spontaneously unmelt in a glass of water, and why we remember the past but not the future. And the origin of the asymmetry we experience can be traced…back to the orderliness of the universe near the big bang. Every time you break an egg, you are doing observational cosmology.

All in all, it’s a very interesting article and well worth a read. Some of the concepts used in the article are highly science fictional and are prime idea fodder for stories about multiverses and time travel. In fact, for those who’ve read River of Gods, may recognize the inspiration for ideas in that novel presented in this article. [image by gadl]

3 thoughts on “Time is A One Way Street…”

  1. I can see I’ve got to read River of Gods. Also, Brasyl is one of the best sf novels of the last couple of years.

    There may be no such thing as time.

    In Barbour’s view there is no invisible river of time. Instead, he thinks that change merely creates an illusion of time, with each individual moment existing in its own right, complete and whole. He calls these moments “Nows.”

    “As we live, we seem to move through a succession of Nows. The question is, what are they?” Barbour asks. His answer: Each Now is an arrangement of everything in the universe. “We have the strong impression that things have definite positions relative to each other. I aim to abstract away everything we cannot see, directly or indirectly, and simply keep this idea of many different things coexisting at once. There are simply the Nows, nothing more and nothing less.”

    Barbour’s Nows can be imagined as pages of a novel ripped from the book’s spine and tossed randomly onto the floor. Each page is a separate entity.

  2. Causality appears to be unidirectional though (or maybe that doesn’t have a neutral meaning — but directional at least).

  3. @ Tom, I agree, Brasyl is by far one of the best SF novels written in the last few years. If you enjoyed Brasyl, I’d definitely recommend ROG.

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