What time really is? an illusion | Time intervals

Time is essential for every event that occurs in this world but still, we don’t know yet what is time? Time is one of the most complex puzzle for scientists and philosophers. Some of them said, time is an illusion and some said that time doesn’t exist.

It’s really hard to define, what time really is. Einstein was the first scientist who really understands a few aspects of time.  According to physicist and author Paul Davies, “time is Einstein’s incomplete revolution.” 


time is an illusion


There are many unresolved questions related to the nature of time. In this article, we’ll try to find answers to questions related to time with a philosophical approach.



50,000 BCE ago Australia’s first inhabitants, the ancestors of today’s aboriginal peoples, are believed to have embraced a timeless view of nature, in which the present and past are intimately connected. The spirits of long-dead ancestors, for example, were believed to inhabit the living. These spirits reflected a long-ago golden age sometimes known as the Dreamtime.

Archaeologists found the first timekeeping people of human history in eastern Scotland who lived in 8000 BCE. A line of 12 pits was found that may have been dug by hunter-gatherers of that time which may have functioned as a lunar calendar

Archaeologists have noted that the shapes of the pits mirror the phases of the moon. The pits also appear to align with a point on the horizon corresponding to the midwinter sunrise. Given that the number of lunar months does not fit evenly into a solar year, this may have allowed the calendar to be “reset” every year.


It was Aristotle who first asked the question “What is time?” Aristotle had speculated that time may be the effect of speed, but he also said that speed can be slow or fast but not time! Aristotle had no means of knowing Einstein’s theory of relativity according to which it is possible to change the speed of time.

Similarly, when Einstein was working on the development of the theory of simple relativity, and he made a revolutionary proposal that the effect of mass causes curvature in spacetime. But Einstein did not have any knowledge of the expansion of the universe at that time.

It was Edwin Hubble, who discovered the expansion of the universe 13 years after Einstein published “the theory of simple relativity”. If Einstein knew about the expansion of the universe, he would have included it into his theory of simple relativity.


Illusion of Time

Time is an emergent concept. Time is produced as a result of processes of motion and forces, but what we consider to be time is just an illusion. Our memory produces the illusion of the past. 

Our consciousness creates an impression of the present as a result of events happening around us. The future is just a memory-based mental structure of our past. The concept of time arises from our mind’s gradual view of the constantly changing world around us. 

According to John Ellis McTaggart and other philosophers, time is only an illusion, only the present is true. McTaggart is famous for the A, B, and C series of time analysis. The summary of the analysis is presented below at this time:

  • The pre and post aspect of time is basically the same as the arrow of time. A person will be born before his death, even if both events are part of a distant past. This is a definite relationship; For this reason, McTaggart says that it should be more original than some time.
  • The past, present, and future aspects of time are constantly changing, future events come in the present and then go on in the past. This aspect gives a feeling of a stream of time. This continuously variable relationship is necessary to explain time. McTaggart realized that time is not real because the difference between a past, present, and future (a continuously variable relationship) is more important for time than for a permanent relationship between the former and the latter.


Time as memory

McTaggart’s most important observation was that historical events and human stories have the same characteristics of time. For example, when comparing man-made stories and historical events of the past, both past and present have past, present and future. 

It shows that past events are mere memory and do not exist except in the imagination of the writer. This becomes more clear if we think about the past, present and future stored in a computer memory device such as CD or HardDisk.


Present: An extremely short moment?

“Present” This is the most real notion of time, but what we see as the present is already past. The present is fleeting, whatever is happening in the present is limited to a very small point on the timeline and our past and future are constantly being encroached upon.

The present is the sharp laser point or needle of a recording device. Whereas the past is the used part of the recording medium such as tape or CD and the future is its empty part.

There may be a mental awareness of memory accumulated in our present brain. If a person falls asleep even after going to a program, he might completely forget that event. Now that event does not exist in its past. If we are not conscious of an event then it does not become part of our past memory.


The past and future are intervals of time.

Unlike the present, we see the past and future as a form of measurable intervals in hours, days, months, and years. Historical events of the past, future weddings, or any other event are all measurable intervals, such as a track of a recording item such as a tape, video, or a CD / DVD.

This resemblance shows that the past tense is like accumulated memory, while the future is like empty memory. The future is just an image created by past experiences accumulated in our memory.


Measurement of Time

Any physical quantity such as money, mass, ground piece, speed, distance, or resistance is measured by certain parameters we define. For the measurement of mass, we use values ​​like kilograms or pounds. We measure the distance using standard meters, yards or feet. 

Keeping them in mind, pay attention to how we measure speed! We use the time to measure speed, that is, meters per second or kilometres per hour. This gives an indication that when we dealing with time, in reality, we are dealing with some standard of motion.

Perhaps we have made the concept of time more complex than reality. The measurement of time has started from the earliest stages of human development. you can find Its signs in words of greetings in almost every language. Time in the day was related to the position or absence of the Sun in the sky. This includes morning, sunrise, morning, afternoon, evening, sunset, night, midnight. 

Also, the year, month, the week is clearly based on the yearly changes in weather and Earth’s orbit around the Sun. The use of units such as seconds and minutes is based on angular measurements in geometry, which in reality is a method related to angular measurements of the motion of cosmic bodies in the sky.

Ever since we started using clockwork, we have drifted away from these natural methods of time measurement and the concept of time has become distorted. The simple solution to the problem of understanding time is to return to the measurement method of time by observing the orbit of the sun. 

When we measure the speed of a car, then we compare its speed with the speed of the needle of the clock, indirectly we compare it to the cosmic speed of the Sun. We are not measuring speed with an abstract quantity like time, we are comparing unknown speed (car) with known speed (celestial motion of sun).


Time as a unit of motion

Time is used as a unit for the comparison of different speeds, such as light speed, heart rate, the rotation of the Earth on its own axis. But these processes can also be compared without reference to time. Time can be a common unit for measuring speed, which will make it easier to measure speed from one unit all over the world. 

It will be an entity that does not exist independently. The measurement of time in terms of the dynamic process can be compared using currency (currency) in trade. Note that here too, the concept of the presence of time, that is, the presence of motion, is being confirmed.


What is time in real terms?

Time is an emergent concept. It is a real change in our life. To understand time, we have to understand the process that produces this continuous change, which creates the illusion of the flow of time. Time is visible by speed and is measured by comparison to other speeds. Sunrise, sunset, night and day, changing seasons, the speed of celestial bodies are all evidence of continuous change. 

The process of aging is also an effect of our molecular motion and the process is also a part of the time. Besides, an important aspect of the presence of time is the motion of particles at the photon and atomic levels.


A mental experiment

Imagine two celestial bodies, in which one object is orbiting another. Now let us assume that at a certain time from a remote inspection point we find that time has slowed down in the area with both bodies. With the slowing of time, the speed of the objects should also be slow. In this inspection, the gravitational force must also be weakened in a similar way, otherwise, the two bodies will be drawn towards each other. 

If we see an increase in the speed of time, then the speed and gravity will also increase, which will prevent those objects from moving away from each other. At the same time, everything will become zero at zero speed, that is, the speed and gravity of the objects will become zero.

The increase or decrease in the gravitational force potential is only related to the fixed time of our inspection point. In the time frame of the revolving bodies, neither their speed has changed nor their gravity. This mental experiment can also be done on particles bound by electromagnetic force, then we can say that time incorporates both force and momentum.


A possible definition of time

Time can be defined in multiple contexts. From the perspective of knowledge, time is an emergent concept created by our brains. The information of the writing of events is present in our consciousness or in our memory. The past is memory while the future does not exist.

In the context of physics, time is the presence of motion and movement in the universe.

Time includes all kinds of motion. The spin of particles and the speed of photons are also time-dependent. The force of gravity, the electromagnetic force is also a part of the time, in the same way, the speed of celestial bodies, the speed of atoms.


Rajat Red

Admin and Founder of "UNTOLD SCIENCE | Exploring The World Of Science & Nature". He is a science student pursuing B.Sc in Biology from India. He is a curious being and an explorer, who has an interest in many fields besides science. But, He loves to study and write about science.

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