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How do we know we are going forward in time?

How do we know we are going forward in time?
John Richard Jones from Lancashire (Age 45-54)

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12 Responses

  1. Because you cannot unsmash a window by throwing a brick through it in the opposite direction.

  2. My University physics tells me that Entropy(or the level of disorder) in the Universe is the great forward arrow of time. As systems(planets, stars, car engines and environements) move forward in time the total amount of entropy(or disorder) increases. For example, CO2 and H2O does not self organise into wood. It takes sunlight(from nuclear fission), tree biology and plant growth to make a tree. The net increase in order on our planet is more tahn compensated for by the total disorder increase in the full solar system.

  3. Lady Black

    Unsmashing something as you describe it is doing something in a negative direction while going forward in time.

    If you were going back in time then what you would see would be the item unsmashing but because you were also going back in time you would not be aware of it – you would have to be going forward in time to be aware of it unsmashing itself which you wouldn’t be doing if you were going back in time.

  4. Perhaps we are not ‘going forward’ in time, we just experience time that way.

  5. To witness the unsmash of a window would require that incident to be going back in time and you to be going forward in time.

    If you and that were both going back in time you probably wouldn’t be aware since you would be travelling back in time in the same direction at the same rate.

    This is my interpretation of what is being asked which doesn’t require one part to be going forward in time whilst the other goes back in time. Everything would be going back in time together.

  6. I would regard this as one of the biggest questions around. There has not been much treatment of time in the scientific community. Yes, in special relativity time can contract and expand as seen from different systems, but neither has it explained anything about the direction of time nor has given us better insight into what is time.

    Science and mathematics regard time mostly as a parameter to measure changes. In fact one can say that time does not exist, only changes do. For example we measure one change, say growth of a tree, by comparing it to a change of another system, which we postulate to be a standard, say a watch or an atomic clock.

    The concept of time in Newton’s formulation is symmetric; the famous Newton’s equation is valid whether time runs forward or backward. In calculus time again is only a parameter to measure changes and rates.

    We do not perceive time as running forward only. Rather we perceive that there are irreversible changes. So probably the more appropriate question is why are there irreversible changes.

    True, there is entropy, as the learned Mr or Dr McDonach mentions above. But entropy is an equilibrium concept and one needs to go beyond that in a universe that is manifestly out of equilibrium almost everywhere.

    At the basis of entropy there lies chaos, the mathematical observation that if there are too many variables in a system then any small change results in a big effect. This is a good DESCRIPTION of the irreversibility, rather then an explanation for it.

    Please do not take any of this as an answer, it is not. Rather, I use my training as a physicist to clear just a bit of fog and sharpen the question, which I believe is, and will remain for some time, a big unanswered question.

  7. I recently read that the possibility of 2 or more dimensions of time could help to sort out string theory. Don’t ask me what this actually means in terms of our experience of the world though.
    I’m inclined to agree with Pete on this one; what we call time is merely the way we perceive things. If pushed, I might go as far as saying that time as a concept is a product of the mind rather than the world around us.

  8. Rather than attempt to answer the question, I would like to ask another one which I think is relevant to any explanation of the ‘passage of time’. If time moves forward then there is: ‘the past,’ ‘the present’ and ‘the future’. How long does ‘the present’ last for? Is it perhaps related to the Planck time: i.e 10 to the minus 41seconds, a combination of the gravitational constant, the speed of light and Planck’s constant. This is the period that it is presumed that quantum gravity operated in the early Universe immediately after the ‘Big Bang’. Any answers?

  9. We know we are going forward in time because we have defined forward as the direction we are going.

  10. Think of it – if you were going forward in time you would see things moving forward with time and since your memory would be accumulating this knowledge it would ‘appear’ you were going forward in time.

    But supposing you were going back in time with everything else. Everything would move backwards together with you and what you have in your memory would gradually be rolling back to supposedly what it was before (earlier in time), and thus you would have no recollection of having been in the future since these memories would have been extracted as you move back in time.

    Something would have to be created where we can make the world around us go back in time but we have to go forward (to retain our memory) in order to see it going backwards and be aware of it.

    Forward might be defined as the way we believe we are going but where is the proof that we are going that way? When in a vehicle we travel in reverse but this isn’t the same direction as forward – it is forward in the negative sense.

  11. Hi John :).
    Great Big Question ! You have challenged many minds. Well Done! My thoughts on this are as follows:
    Our memory stores events which have already occurred and our experiences enable us to anticipate or predict the events which we expect to follow – as a consequence of what we see that exists in the present. I believe, therefoe, that the present used to be the future and consequently that we are moving forward in time.
    I hope that this conclusion is justified…
    Good Luck,
    Rockno3

  12. If we move faster than the speed of light then time will slow down for us our earth 10min will be your 5min if you travel more than the speed of light like in black hole
    If you not understand you may google twin pardox it is awesome example

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