A clock is round. A circle has no beginning and no end.

  • Round is shaped like or approximately like a circle or cylinder.
  • A cycle is a series of events that are regularly repeated in the same order.
  • A cylinder is a solid geometric figure with straight parallel sides and a circular or oval cross section.

The Dichotomy Paradox and Myan calendar, both circa mid-5th century BC, seem to be in harmony with the cyclical nature of time, as does the shape of modern time instruments - clocks.

Now, in the 2nd century AD, a scientific community poses "Block Time".

According to our best theories of physics, the universe is a fixed block where time only appears to pass.

Is is possible that something measured only with a circle can be a block?

  • Aside: Aristotle concludes that real motion in the universe is circular; and Hegel distinguishes the good infinite which is circular, from the bad infinite which is not. – Mozibur Ullah Aug 1 '16 at 21:16
  • Have you never seen a surveyor or contractor measuring off a distance or property line with one of this rolling, circular rulers (aka "measuring wheels")? – Dan Bron Aug 2 '16 at 10:52
  • @DanBron good point. The measuring wheel (and ruler) provides distance between 2 points if and only if it takes a straight line. A line and circle are 2 dimensional. A block and sphere are 3 dimensional. Euclidean space puts time in the 4th dimension. – Ron Royston Aug 2 '16 at 16:08

The problem of time is a difficult, and is considered to be one reason why a theory of QG is hard to achieve (Smolin), and is amongst the concepts that Whitehead considers requires reconsideration even from a purely positivist and scientific framework.

The block notion of time, is taken to be implicit in GR; whereas the growing block is implicit in Newtons framework; this, I take it does not mean that it is absolutely true, merely that it's a truth that ought to be taken into consideration in a full understanding of what time is and signifies.

Aristotle took potentially infinite motion to be circular, and time to be measured by such motion; one might suggest that any straight line motion is actually an arc whose centre is at an infinite distance away - and I think such suggestions have been taken up in theological contexts; but this isn't I think the sense that Aristotle means; he means that such motion is local; and in fact this is how time is physically measured - by clocks, where the circular motion is visibly apparent and in atomic clocks where circular motion is implicit - transitions being periodic are 'abstractly' circular.

It might be worth adding that the dichotomy paradox is in the line of descent from Parmenides who suggests that what is wholly actual is unchangeable; and then one deduces from here, given that change in our world is real, that the world is not wholly actual; and this might be one reason that Whitehead describes physical reality as 'occasions of determination', that is of the actual; and in this sense possibility precedes actuality; I take it though he also had QM in mind or the physics of the small.

  • 1
    Dude, how do you know all this stuff? How can one man read and digest that much material? Are you an AI robot? :-) – Ron Royston Aug 2 '16 at 1:01
  • @Royston: put it down to an old-fashioned British education;). – Mozibur Ullah Aug 2 '16 at 1:37
  • When I pinch myself I feel pain, so I guess I'm no robot... – Mozibur Ullah Aug 2 '16 at 1:46
  • Or an convincingly programmed one... – immortal squish Aug 2 '16 at 21:01

Humans tend to track time in a cyclical manner (clocks, seasons, calendars, etc) because that is how we experience it. The earth spins around the sun in a stable orbit, causing our environment oscillate through a predictable pattern of environmental states. And people are really good at identifying patterns.

But that is just our earth-bound perspective, biased heavily by our position on a spinning, wobbly rock. A society living on non-orbiting rogue planet would likely have a very different view of the passage of time, and I doubt it would resemble our cyclical time/date keeping devices.

(tl;dr, our way of measuring time has little to do what time actually "is," as opposed to our perspective of it. Whether time is a block or a parrot, our view from the inside makes it difficult to accurately determine much about it.)

  • I like this answer. Seems to remind me of relativity... Relative to our experience/perception of the thing, time, it is... – Ron Royston Aug 2 '16 at 1:03

Scientists and engineers are restricted to static formal statements to be considered, or computed in a linear-sequential manner. The ‘block universe’ exists in some physicists’ and philosophers’ minds because their mathematical and philosophical systems of logic are limited to fixed frames in which nothing can change. The mindset of fixed frames and the static tools of logic were inherited from the great philosophers of the past. Those proclivities and tools have not yet grown beyond the ability to describe and analyze a static state or at best, a series of static states.

One recent temporal viewpoint perceives time as a frameless ongoing sequence of events. A method of logic has been demonstrated that can describe the dynamic relationships in a frameless manner. In that logic, a process is expressed as a parallel-concurrent system of events that can be monitored as the events occur rather than computationally (frame by frame, after the fact). This modern concept and ability in logic is shown in the book, Natural Logic of Space and Time, a preview of which can be seen at: https://www.createspace.com/Preview/1168334

  • What about nano physics, atoms, electrons, super string theory, etc? I think modern science recognizes analog probability as fundamental (vs digital precision/snapshots). ...If that makes sense. – Ron Royston Aug 4 '16 at 0:14

Obviously yes because 0.999... = 1, and geometry can be used to show that this extends to shapes. However, you seem to be asking about eternalism, which is a different question. Furthermore, you seem to imply that time can have a shape. I think modern physics makes it quite clear that the universe is cyclical, conformal, and eternally recurring but for your question it depends on what you mean by the shape of time.

  • re 0.999... = 1 : an asymptote is defined as a line which is tangent to a curve at infinity. So, I am not sure I follow you on that one. They implied "block time" or "block universe", not me. "Us and them, and after all, we're only ordinary men" :-) – Ron Royston Aug 2 '16 at 1:10

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