Unpopular new theory: Past, present, and future are simultaneous
Dr. Kristie Miller, co-director of the Centre for Time at the University of Sydney, explained that the block universe theory says that our universe could be seen as a big four-dimensional block of spacetime that holds everything that ever happens.
In the world of blocks, there is no “now” or “now.” Within the three directions of space and the one direction of time, all moments only exist in relation to each other. Your experience of the present is just a reflection of where you are in the block world at the time. The “past” is just a piece of the world at a different time. The “future,” on the other hand, is at a different time.
So, is time just a trick your mind plays on you? And, more importantly, is it possible to go back in time?
Dr. Miller says “yes” to that. Of course, this is just a thought experiment, since we would first have to figure out how to travel at “some reasonable percentage of the speed of light.” Wormholes, which are “short cuts through space-time,” would have to be used to go back in time.
Now, if you do go back in time, you can’t change what happened. This is because your past is always someone else’s future at the same time. So, if you go back in time, you’re just changing the future. So don’t worry about “grandfather paradoxes”—your time machine is already part of the big picture.
‘If I travel to the past, I am part of the past,” said Miller. “Importantly, I was always part of the past.”
Also, it’s possible that time travelers have already changed the past. How would we know if it hasn’t happened? “For all we know, the way the past is could be partly because time travelers were there,” said Miller.
By that reasoning, what you do tomorrow will make it the way it is, with you fulfilling a certain destiny written in time, which is more of an illusion than a fundamental property of nature.
With claims like these, it’s not hard to see why some people don’t like the block universe theory. One of the biggest complaints is that the future shouldn’t already exist. Lee Smolin, a physicist, wrote, “The future is not real now, and there can be no facts about the future.” During a conference, he also said that what is real is just “the process by which future events are made from present events.”
Another problem with this idea is that if the block universe is always the same, why do anything? Can you move forward? The “evolving block universe” model gives an answer to this question. In this model, the block of space-time in the universe grows instead of staying the same. The surface of a volume like this would be the present. It’s when, as cosmologist George Ellis put it, “the uncertainty of the future becomes the certainty of the past.” In that model, the part that changes is the future.
Even though the debates will go on, the block universe theory is one of the most promising ways to explain how the cosmological view of time fits with what we see in our everyday lives. One thing is for sure: time is much more than it seems to be. Understanding the human experience requires getting to the bottom of its mysteries.
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