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Is time objective?


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#1 J.K. Gregg

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 09:44 PM

Is time objective?

In my free time, I have been working on a science fiction novel based in an Objectivist, human society, and as I was developing the universe I began to ponder the nature of time. We take time for granted, but upon review, it seems so subjective. It's based on the rotation of the earth, and its orbit around the sun. We've developed seemingly subjective months that have, over the course of human history, has changed in number and length (and even those changes were subject to moods and opinions of roman emperors).

So, is the current way we mere mortals measure time objective? Is there even an objective way to measure time?

I'd be very interested in your thoughts.

Thanks,
J.K.

#2 Brant Gaede

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 09:57 PM

Time is the measurement of motion. If time is not objective, how do you measure motion, which presumably is?

--Brant

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#3 Selene

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 10:14 PM

This selection is from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

TIME

One of the opening paragraphs poses the following:

Consider this one issue upon which philosophers are deeply divided: What sort of ontological differences are there among the present, past and future? There are three competing theories. Presentists argue that necessarily only present objects and present experiences are real, and we conscious beings recognize this in the special "vividness" of our present experience. The dinosaurs have slipped out of reality. However, according to the growing-universe or growing-block theory, the past and present are both real, but the future is not real because the future is indeterminate or merely potential. Dinosaurs are real, but our death is not. The third and more popular theory is that there are no significant ontological differences among present, past, and future because the differences are merely subjective. This view is called "the block universe theory" or "eternalism."

This is from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, TIME:

Discussions of the nature of time, and of various issues related to time, have always featured prominently in philosophy, but they have been especially important since the beginning of the 20th Century. This article contains a brief overview of some of the main topics in the philosophy of time Fatalism; Reductionism and Platonism with respect to time; the topology of time; McTaggart's arguments; The A Theory and The B Theory; Presentism, Eternalism, and The Growing Universe Theory; time travel; and the 3D/4D controversy together with some suggestions for further reading on each topic, and a bibliography.





Edited by Selene, 12 June 2011 - 10:18 PM.

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#4 Michael E. Marotta

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 04:18 AM

Thanks, Adam, nice opening!

Is space objective? We can measure it in human feet or "natural" wavelengths. Natural is in quotes, because feet are natural, too, of course. The point is that the meter is now defined by atomic vibrations, as is the second. Obviously, the units and the methods are not essential. I agree with Brant Gaede's claim but say it differently: "Time is a measure of distance between events." The key is "a measure." Events are separated by space and time. As the paragraph from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy points out, the problem took on special form in the 20th century. We speaks of the "space-time continuum." That is why I asked at first if space is objective.

Objective though spacetime is, our perception of it can be very personal. That is a different consideration entirely.

The meter was defined by krypton-86 but with the second defined by cesium-133, the meter becomes the distance that light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second.
BTW - they have to specify "in a vacuum" because the speed of light is not constant. It depends on the medium through which light travels. There is no correlation between density and index of refraction, but it may be that time is "faster" in water, glass, etc., so light travels "slower." That would keep the speed of light "constant."

Edited by Michael E. Marotta, 13 June 2011 - 04:30 AM.

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#5 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 04:30 AM

Time is the measurement of motion. If time is not objective, how do you measure motion, which presumably is?

--Brant


By correlating that state of one system with the state of another.

For example: System 1 = a watch System 2 = a particle.

Correlate the position of the particle (use a measuring rod) with the reading of the watch.

A system measures time if it is a harmonic oscillator, such as a pendulum.

All the participating systems are objective in the sense that they exist independent of our wishes.

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#6 whYNOT

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 07:39 AM

Human consciousness is well accustomed to the apparent dilation and contraction of time, in various contexts, so time is subjective to each person.
Time is also precisely measurable, and objectifiable, therefore it is also objective.
My understanding is that it is both things - simultaneously - providing a fascinating glimpse of the cusp between reality and consciousness.
Not a new idea, I'm sure, but it seems to me that there isn't a comprehensible 'present'; only the 'past' immediately becoming the 'future' :- even as we unsuccesfully attempt to freeze the moment.
'The Present' is then merely a convention.


Tony

Edited by whYNOT, 13 June 2011 - 09:43 AM.

"To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge". Nicolaus Copernicus (An original objectivist) 1473-1543 ***No man may be smaller than his philosophy...***

#7 william.scherk

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 09:26 AM

Is time objective?

[ . . . ]

So, is the current way we mere mortals measure time objective? Is there even an objective way to measure time?


You have got good advice on understanding time/space and relativity; that is the best that the human being can now propose as the relationship of subject, event, time, and 'objectivity.' The uncertainties can be solved by physics in the Out There world, but we still need to look into the mere mortals' wetware. A few scientific disciplines study 'biological time-telling' and give tantalizing glimpses of just what we can know at this time.

If you cast your eyes around and dig a bit you will find some wonderful findings and theories to explain human time-telling; Objectivish considerations will generally come later, I think -- first figure out what is coming off the coalface and follow that.

Have a look at the work coming out of the Buonomano lab -- I was struck by an earlier report of his model for 'time in the brain' (here via the Washington Post in 2007):

FRIDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have developed a new model of how the brain tells time, which challenges the popular theory of an internal clock that generates and counts regular fixed moments.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, suggest that a series of physical changes to the brain's cells help it track the passage of time.

"If you toss a pebble into a lake, the ripples of water produced by the pebble's impact act like a signature of the pebble's entry time. The farther the ripples travel, the more time has passed," Dean Buonomano, associate professor of neurobiology and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said in a prepared statement.

"We propose that a similar process takes place in the brain that allows it to track time. Every time the brain processes a sensory event, such as a sound or flash of light, it triggers a cascade of reactions between brain cells and their connections. Each reaction leaves a signature that enables the brain-cell network to encode time," said Buonomano, who is also a member of UCLA's Brain Research Institute.

Using a computer model, the researchers demonstrated that this kind of network could tell time. Their new model is outlined in an article in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal Neuron [full text of the paper is available here: "Timing in the Absence of Clocks: Encoding Time in Neural Network States"].

"The value of this research lies in understanding how the brain works. Many complex human behaviors -- from understanding speech to playing catch to performing music -- rely on the brain's ability to accurately tell time. Yet no one knows how the brain does it," Buonomano said.

More information

The U.S. Institute of Mental Health explains how biological clocks work [dead link in original story -- see reproduction here; this deals with the understood 'circadian clock' and its problems in humans].

SOURCE: University of California, Los Angeles, news release, Jan. 31, 2007


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#8 Merlin Jetton

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 11:20 AM

Time can be described in two basic ways: sequence and duration. Children learn and better understand sequence first. State/event B comes after A, or state/event A comes before B. For example, getting out of bed in the morning comes before having breakfast. Duration can be comparative or measured. A comparative example would be it takes longer to get to location A than location B, since B is farther distance-wise. A measured example would be it takes about one hour to go to location B.

Non-measured time is sometimes called personal or episodic time.

#9 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 11:26 AM

Time can be described in two basic ways: sequence and duration. Children learn and better understand sequence first. State/event B comes after A, or state/event A comes before B. For example, getting out of bed in the morning comes before having breakfast. Duration can be comparative or measured. A comparative example would be it takes longer to get to location A than location B, since B is farther distance-wise. A measured example would be it takes about one hour to go to location B.

Non-measured time is sometimes called personal or episodic time.


Sequence assumes an order of which we are conscious. However it should be noted, that sometimes people confuse the order in which events happen. Also the order of events can be dependent on the frame of reference. Consider a pair of events A, B. Say in Frame 1 they are simultaneous. We can find frames 2 and 3 in motion relative to 1 such that in Frame 2 A precedes B and in Frame 3 B precedes A. Also memory is not one hundred percent reliable for noting the order of events.

Duration is a different matter. If one has a harmonic oscillator and can mark discrete times from the device (which is a clock) duration in the frame of reference of the clock can be determined by taking the difference in times of two events. The time duration in frames moving relative to the frame of the clock will be different from the time duration measured within the frame of the clock.

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#10 Merlin Jetton

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 12:20 PM

Also the order of events can be dependent on the frame of reference. Consider a pair of events A, B. Say in Frame 1 they are simultaneous. We can find frames 2 and 3 in motion relative to 1 such that in Frame 2 A precedes B and in Frame 3 B precedes A. Also memory is not one hundred percent reliable for noting the order of events.


A diagram makes it clearer.

------------------ A ----------------- B

-----------------F2---------F1----------F3

The dashes are only for spacing. A and B are flashes of light. Suppose A and B appear simultaneous to F1. Then A will appear before B at F2 and B will appear before A at F3, both because of the time it takes light to travel. Of course, the distances would have to be large enough for a viewer to discern any difference.

Edited by Merlin Jetton, 13 June 2011 - 12:36 PM.


#11 Brant Gaede

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 12:24 PM


Also the order of events can be dependent on the frame of reference. Consider a pair of events A, B. Say in Frame 1 they are simultaneous. We can find frames 2 and 3 in motion relative to 1 such that in Frame 2 A precedes B and in Frame 3 B precedes A. Also memory is not one hundred percent reliable for noting the order of events.


A diagram makes it clearer.

------------------ A ----------------- B

-----------------F2---------F1----------F3

The dashes are only for spacing. A and B are flashes of light. Suppose A and B appear simultaneous to F1. Then A will appear before B at F2 and B will appear for A at F3, both because of the time it takes light to travel. Of course, the distances would have to be large enough for a viewer to discern any difference.

But isn't this beyond experiment?

--Brant

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#12 Merlin Jetton

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 12:28 PM

But isn't this beyond experiment?

No.

#13 Reidy

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 12:31 PM

I think what you're asking is not "is time objective?" but "are the standard units of time natural or conventional?" Put this way it becomes a lot simpler than we're making it out to be. As your examples in #1 remind us, the answer is: some are natural and some are conventional.

#14 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 03:36 PM

I think what you're asking is not "is time objective?" but "are the standard units of time natural or conventional?" Put this way it becomes a lot simpler than we're making it out to be. As your examples in #1 remind us, the answer is: some are natural and some are conventional.


Planck time units are natural. They are derived from the speed of light (relativistic invariant) and Planck Length.

Other units are conventional or only quasi natural like a day (the period of rotation of the earth).

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#15 Christopher

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 12:34 AM

Time is the measurement of motion. If time is not objective, how do you measure motion, which presumably is?

--Brant


I don't like this approach. If time is the measure of motion, then space is the measure of an object's position. But the problem with either of these definitions is that the object itself becomes the standard from which both time and space are dependent. Meaning, we're taking an object in a system and using that object to justify the existence of the wider system. I'd rather start from some axiom about the time-space system in which objects exist and function.

Chris

#16 Christopher

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 12:34 AM

[deleted repost]

Edited by Christopher, 03 July 2011 - 12:34 AM.


#17 Brant Gaede

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 01:05 AM


Time is the measurement of motion. If time is not objective, how do you measure motion, which presumably is?

--Brant


I don't like this approach. If time is the measure of motion, then space is the measure of an object's position. But the problem with either of these definitions is that the object itself becomes the standard from which both time and space are dependent. Meaning, we're taking an object in a system and using that object to justify the existence of the wider system. I'd rather start from some axiom about the time-space system in which objects exist and function.

Chris

Whatever. Time is still a measurement of motion. It is not an existent, neither is space. Space is a measurement of distance. There is always something between objects, the question is the density of those things and what they are in particular. Per se, space and time are simply nothing at all. Everything is connected to something and something is connected to everything through something. Everything moves, too.

--Brant

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#18 Brant Gaede

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 01:05 AM


Time is the measurement of motion. If time is not objective, how do you measure motion, which presumably is?

--Brant


I don't like this approach. If time is the measure of motion, then space is the measure of an object's position. But the problem with either of these definitions is that the object itself becomes the standard from which both time and space are dependent. Meaning, we're taking an object in a system and using that object to justify the existence of the wider system. I'd rather start from some axiom about the time-space system in which objects exist and function.

Chris

Whatever. Time is still a measurement of motion. It is not an existent, neither is space. Space is a measurement of distance. There is always something between objects, the question is the density of those things and what they are in particular. Per se, space and time are simply nothing at all. Everything is connected to something and something is connected to everything through something. Everything moves, too.

--Brant

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#19 gulch8

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 03:59 AM

Reading this thread I am reminded of the expression about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Given the situation in which the U. S. Dollar is in the process of collapse which will affect everyone on the planet I suppose it does make sense to distract oneself as you are.

I realize that the founders of America, with the exception of ALexander Hamilton who favored a monarchy, tried to fashion a government which enabled individuals to be as free from tyranny as possible.

Some of them did worry that certain words in the written Constitution might lead to tyranny. The "general welfare," the commerce clause and the "necessary and proper" clause were worrisome to some of the Founders. Sure enough those who sought powers not granted have construed these words as they wished to justify tyrannical powers for the federal government.

It took time to erode our freedom and it will take time, but not just time, to regain the freedoms lost.

It is ironic that the antidote is already known. To the extent that the problems of our society are caused by the prevalence of mystic, altruist, collectivist ideas, we know the antidote is Objectivism. Likewise to the extent that our freedoms have been lost because of errors in the Constitution, the antidote can be found in Tom Wood's Nullificiation book.

Enjoy!

#20 Michael E. Marotta

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 09:25 AM

... Given the situation in which the U. S. Dollar is in the process of collapse which will affect everyone on the planet I suppose it does make sense to distract oneself as you are.


Aside from hijacking the thread or just inserting an irrelevant comment, do you have a point? The collapse of the dollar will indeed affect everyone. So, does the butterfly's wing. Do you own any gold or silver? You don't have to answer, but you see the point. In your second paragraph, you confuse monarchy with tyranny. You think that we are contemplating our navels, but you seem ignorant. The errors and evils of the social world are caused by incorrect metaphysics and wrongful epistemology. Lay the foundations first. Otherwise, you win some small reform - or, really, only prevent a bad one - and tomorrow, you lose what you gained as more fallacies are instantiated.

In another topic, Frediano posted about arbitrage - the profiting from small differences in price within small units of time, regardless of the distances. Arbitrage is a global electronic market. I know a market - numismatics - where objects are transported across (humanly) huge times and spaces. Have you ever held in your hand an Owl tetradrachm from Athens? Metaphysical discussions have economic consequences.

But if you want to talk politics without context, there are other Forums here for that.

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