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It is well known that when a person goes to sleep, there are instances when we do not experience time which has phenomenological implications. There is a temporal discontinuity. It is also known that psychoactive substances often slow down time, making the passage of 5 minutes feel like 10 minutes. We also know that any interval can be segmented into infinitely many sub-intervals according to the various definitions of the real numbers.

Considering the above facts, what is the relevant philosophy about refuting the (physical) possibility that the last 10 nano-seconds of our life may be dilated to a potentially infinitely lengthy span of perceived time? In other words, are the arguments of Zeno of Elea and his paradoxes the best logical basis for argumentation about the intersection of experience and the division of time? Has such an argument already been made?

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    Why would one refute it ? Are there any reasons to believe that this is indeed happening in the first place ?
    – armand
    Nov 1, 2020 at 1:44
  • Psychosomatic processes that are responsible for sensations of time dilation can only operate on a much longer scale than nanoseconds, neurons can not fire that fast. And an interval "can" be segmented into infinitely many sub-intervals only in the idealized sense of mathematical abstraction, not in any physical sense. So one shouldn't hold their breath for this "possibility" any more than for the "possibility" of meeting real life unicorns based on hallucinating them and having the ability to draw them on paper.
    – Conifold
    Nov 1, 2020 at 3:18
  • Why would one take the idea seriously enough to want to refute it? Very little brain activity can take place in 10 ns, it would be an extremely dull eternity. Nov 1, 2020 at 14:12
  • I read a sci-fi novel based on this premise.
    – Olivier5
    Oct 20, 2023 at 22:00
  • idk, half speed seems verry different to nothing
    – user67675
    Nov 20, 2023 at 6:20

2 Answers 2

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It seems that our experience of the passage of time in the absence of any visual cues is linked to the rate at which certain periodic processes take place in the brain. Crudely, if you wanted to make five minutes seem like ten you would have to double the speed of your mental clock. To stretch ten nanoseconds to infinity would require an infinite increase in the rate of your mental processes, and the possibility of that hardly needs to be refuted.

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You are assuming there is an 'ultimate restframe' against which time is measured, as either dilated or not. But that's not what Relativity says.

Consider the Grandfather 'Paradox'. One person can stay younger by undergoing continuous relativistic acceleration compared to someone else. But they haven't lived longer, in their own restframe, rather they have experienced less time. Subjectively in their own restframe, we would always experience the ten nanoseconds as that. But, we might use them to watch all the stars burn up and every particle decay back to photons, is all.

The Planck-length implies we cannot infinitely subdivide either space or time, although without a theory of Quantum Gravity we don't know what's really happening at such small scales. For instance, we can't understand what happened at the point the Big Bang was at that scale, yet. Personally I like the Conformal Cyclic Cosmology picture, which suggests a conformal equivalence between a cosmos of only timeless photons (photons don't experience time) and the smooth minimum entropy state of a white hole (ie the Big Bang).

Zeno's Paradoxes are generally considered refuted by the calculus of variations.

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