Is time really something that can be traversed or manipulated, or is it just an idea, a perception, a memory, a measurement of a series of events?

Question Detail:

In response to a question of time paradox for a movie, a user explained away the time paradox as follows:

Consider two walls on a road, traveling like vehicles, spaced apart from each other about 3 feet (1 meter), moving down the road. You are between the walls, and must move with them down the road. You do not have the ability to go around or over the walls, nor visibility to see what's beyond them - only what you see in the 3 feet of ground, and what's above and to the sides. You suspect that the walls aren't infinite, but you don't have the tools or ability to climb over or around the walls. So you are pushed forward, and you can't go "back" to places you've already been, nor "forward" to places you'll eventually come to.

Now change it slightly. Put the walls in the ocean, and put a fish there. It doesn't even perceive the need for tools or techniques to go over the wall - it just swims up and over. In fact the wall isn't an obstacle at all. It can fully utilize all three dimensions, and even when resting there's no need for it to move at all along with the walls.

The walls are irrelevant to the fish.

We perceive time as these walls. We can't travel to the past or the future. We don't have the ability to stop the walls or move outside the walls.

But a being that perceives time in the same way we perceive places can go to anywhen, the same way we might travel to anywhere.

In the same way that you have the monitor placed on your desk in a certain position so you can use it - it belongs there - the wormhole is placed in a certain when. That when is neither "before" or "after" any other when. It's just a when, exactly the same as your monitor is not "before" or "after" any other where. It's just a where. All where's exist without an ordering. You might perceive two monitors, one in "front" of the other as having an order, but if you move yourself around them, the order changes and isn't any less or more relevant.

So all whens exist. Some beings perceive whens in a particular order, but that doesn't mean that these whens actually have an ordering anymore than we see wheres as having an ordering. - Adam Davis

My response to this was as follows:

You describe "when" and "where" as being comparable, however, I find this concept problematic. My perception of "where" is a location of matter relative to other matter. My perception of "when", however is very different: I perceive time not to be a dimension or "thing" to traverse at all; time is instead a measure or memory of a series of events. Subatomic particles move around, but their movement states don't exist as a trillion units of time, they just happen and there is nothing except for "now".

So my argument is that there is no navigable "time", only "now". For time to be traversable or manipulatable, like space, there would have to be an infinite number of states of the universe, a new one for every unit of time that passes; only there are no units of time, because physics work at an infinitely divisible "rate", which would mean that an infinite number of states of the universe exist for every moment of time. Time is just a perception of a series of events happening in chronological order.

I was so intrigued by this argument (which is just my thought, open to argument) that I decided to ask it as it's own question:

Is Time? More specifically, "Is time more than a more than a measure / memory of a series of events?"

Is time really something that can be traversed or manipulated, or is it just an idea, a perception, a memory, a measurement of a series of events?

  • Perhaps I should move this to physics.se. It does seem to have a pretty philosophical nature to it.. I'm not sure physics.se would be open to such a question. Jan 17 '15 at 10:35
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    I've just been donwvoted. How should I react? - I downvoted because this question is primarily opinion-based as it stands now. See the help center for more information.
    – user2953
    Jan 17 '15 at 11:52
  • @Keelan, I'm sorry, but I fail to see where any opinion at all comes into play here. This is science. Jan 17 '15 at 15:40
  • That's alright. If you're right, there will never be four other people who're going to vote to close, so then there's nothing to worry about. On a side note, if this is purely science, and about time, you should consider Physics, as time in science is essentially part of physics. But to be honest I'm not very interested in discussing more. Let's give this to the community and see how the (close) votes turn out.
    – user2953
    Jan 17 '15 at 15:46
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    this is NOT a physical question, the reality of time is a real philosophical issue. there IS a stanford article on time, read it, if u struggle with it the community can help, probably even without specific passages... philosophy can be difficult at first haha. i will read the argument and comment on it yo, but ur best bet is to do some research
    – user6917
    Jan 17 '15 at 15:53

It depends on who you ask, but one school of thought holds that there is no time per se, rather there is only change and that we abstract this change and conceptualize it as time.

Looked at this way, time is measured in terms of change. Something moves, a quartz crystal vibrates, a particle decays and so on. Even my inner perception of the passage of time is due to my marking some kind of change, even if it's inside my body (breaths, heartbeats, etc...).

  • This is my thinking. But it doesn't seem to be a universal concept.. Jan 17 '15 at 16:14
  • @CuriousWebDeveloper agreed. I think opinions vary, and so I only presented one view.
    – user13354
    Jan 17 '15 at 16:15

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