I Remember World War II, but does Nature remember World War II?
-- Memory, Records and the Meaning of Time
Copyright 2010, John Manimas Medeiros
Nature records nothing. Records exist in Nature, but Nature itself does not need and does not have any records in order to do what it does. "Present moment only moment" is not a philosophical or religious idea; it is a description of the real, physical universe.
If memory is a record, then time is only a record, not an entity or phenomenon that exists independently of a record. If time is equal to "duration," then time is only a measurement, not an entity or phenomenon that exists independently of a count of a cyclical event that is the measurement of duration. These two statements support the conclusion that all of human physics must be revised.
I believe that "proofs" or demonstrations of General Relativity are in error because the experimenters conclude, before the experiment, that time is a variable physical factor, a factor that can vary in relation to other physical variables such as space. However, if we regard time as being only a measurement of the duration of an event or process (a series of connected events) where the duration of that event is compared to the duration of another cyclical event (this is always the case), then the experimenter would observe that duration is an intangible quality of an event or process and not a variable physical factor. If a defined event or process possesses an identifiable duration, then that duration is fixed; that duration is not a physical thing and no person or thing can "travel through it." Think about how different these two questions sound:
1) "Can one travel through time?"
2) "Can one travel through duration?"
Scientists fantasize that we can travel through time because human physics has formulated the concept of the universe where time is an independent entity that could exist even if nothing else existed. In other words, if whatever it was that created space and matter did not occur, there would be no universe, but time would still elapse, as though waiting for something to happen. But if we make time a record, a memory, and a measure of duration, then it becomes intangible, not a physical thing. That would mean that traveling through time could only mean traveling through a record, like reading or listening to music. A device that "plays back" a voice and music is called a "recording" because that is what it is. Therefore, if time is always a "recording," then traveling through time could only mean traveling through "a recording." In a strictly limited sense, we can travel to a recording by treating it as fixed and immutable, because we can identify a given point in a record or recording and focus upon it. For example, on a calendar, Monday May 17, 2010, 6:00 pm, or a high C note in a recorded musical composition. But we have no means to "travel" from the present through a recording to a point, thereby passing by or through a number of points in "time" on the way.
We can change a record if the record was created by human art. For example, accountants can and do falsify financial records for a human purpose. But the key to understanding this phenomenon is the "falsification" aspect. If humans make a record, any record of events, that record is either true or false. It cannot be both. Natural records, which reveal the reality of time, cannot be changed. For example, tree rings are counted and observed by humans as a record of the growth of a tree "over time." But if we had some means to alter the rings in a particular tree, such as the ring that the tree generated twenty years ago, that would not change what occurred twenty years ago that had caused the formation of that tree ring. There may be a sense in which we can alter the record, but we can not alter the events that the record is a record of (memory). We often suggest that someone with a political or ideological motive has "revised history" (the Soviet Communists even coined the word "revisionism"). But of course that means altering only a particular recording of history. The true history of events that occurred is not and cannot be altered. Events that have occurred cannot be revised like a paragraph or a structure that exists in the present and can be revised (modified or renovated) in the present. This is why this essay begins as it does: we cannot travel through a record and alter the events that the record is a record of.
The meaning of measurement is the key:
I do not accept the historical viewpoint that an ancient Greek philosopher said "Man is the measure of all things." That is a mistranslation, made because the translator either consciously or sub-consciously injected human ego into the translation. I believe that the original philosopher knew what he (or she) was talking about, and what was said was far more scientifically both trivial and profound: "Man is the measure-er of all things." This statement is in fact an observation of the obvious, demonstrated and true. There, I have revised a record of history by revising the record of what a person said in the past. But is my record true? And if my record is wrong, does that change what was actually said? No.
But give me the scientific courtesy to follow the logic that follows from my viewpoint: Humankind is the measure-er of all things. We measure everything. Quite literally. I cannot think of anything that we do not measure. Even the handsomeness of my face, and the oxygen content of my red blood cells have been measured. One will also find, upon examining "measurement" and what "measurement" is and how it is accomplished that "measurement" invariably entails "counting." Whenever we measure anything, we select or devise or define a "unit" of that quality of measurement, and then we count the units. Try it. Be amazed as if observing a magic show. There is no other way that we measure. No one can identify any other phenomenon of measurement. We always engage in exactly the same pattern of "measuring" behavior: identify or create a "unit" and then count the units. That is how we measure, always and ever and without variation.
So, I cry out to the general public and to the physicists of the world: "Do you see how we measure time?" Do you? We follow the single pattern of measuring behavior that we have. We identify and or define a "unit" of time and then count them. And then I beg you to face reality, my friend, and ask yourself, seriously, what is a "unit of time"? Upon this contemplation, one (rational person) will invariably conclude that a unit of time can exist because and only because there are many, MANY, cyclical events in Nature. That is, if we define a cyclical event as a pattern of repeated events that always possess -- or appear to possess -- exactly the same duration. We do not use horse farts as a unit of time. This is because horse farts, similar to a few other common and natural events, do not possess equal duration. Some farts last longer than others, and the interval of duration between farts also has been observed to vary. Therefore, horse farts are not useful as a unit of time. So, let's discuss briefly, but sufficiently, what kinds of cyclical events have been accepted as useful units of time, or of duration.
Back to elementary school. The Earth revolves around the Sun. The Earth rotates. The Moon revolves around the Earth. The Moon rotates. But in fact these cyclical motions are more complex (moving on to higher education). The Moon rotates at exactly the same rate that it revolves around the Earth, and therefore we can see from the Earth only one side or "face" of the spherical Moon. --
(Actually, I cannot resist taking note that this particular phenomenon seems to approach the impossible. How can it even happen? Of all the physical realities discovered in our Solar System, all of which science alleges occurred naturally or "accidentally," the exact synchronization of the rotation of the Moon with the revolution of the Moon seems to be the most unlikely. If there is anything in the real universe that shocks and appears contrived, this is it.) --
And, when two celestial bodies are connected by gravity in the way the Earth and Moon are so connected, they are actually a rotating pair. That is, there is a center of gravity that is physically determined by the mass of each body -- the Earth and the Moon -- relative to one another, and to the sum of the two masses together, and in reality both spheres are revolving around that center of gravity. As I recall, the Earth is sufficiently larger than the Moon, and they are sufficiently close so that in the case of the Earth and the Moon the center of gravity of their paired masses exists within the sphere of the Earth. So, even if observed from outer space, it still looks like the Moon is revolving around the Earth.
These and a few other physical facts gave us two cyclical events: solar time and sidereal time. Solar time and sidereal time are close, but different. Solar time is based on the cyclical events that can be observed with regard to the Sun and the Earth. Sidereal time is based on the observed cyclical movements of the moon: months, phases, revolutions that occur for each Earth "year." One can see already how cyclical events give us our units of time. The year is a unit of time, also the month, the week, the day, and the hour, and the minute, and the second. They all started with observing the Sun, the Moon, and stars, which are fun to watch.
There is more. I recall learning in school that there was -- and possibly still is -- a culture that measured time by making a small hole in the bottom of a copper bowl. That bowl was then placed in a much larger container of water. As the water flowed upward through the hole, the copper bowl gradually filled with water and the bowl sank into the water. That was used as a reliable unit of time. And in fact it is a reliable unit of time. The duration of this event, the filling of the bowl with a sufficient quantity of water to cause it to make the transition from "floating" to "sinking" is always the same. The swinging of a pendulum is a cyclical event so long as there is a small force, steadily exerted, that prevents the pendulum from slowing down due to inertia. That is why a traditional mechanical clock includes a "mainspring" or weights. The spring or weights exert that small force that keeps the pendulum swinging, until it is "time" to rewind, or raise the weights (grandfather clock).
If an employer (Prince Cedar) wanted to conduct an efficiency study of his employees, and measure how long it took employee A (Abaloo) and employee B (Bobsheesh) to stack a cord of wood, he would then count out the pieces of wood that will be used to constitute the "cord" to be fair. Each worker would then start with a pile of the same number of pieces of wood, approximately the same average size and weight -- to be fair. And, the distance between the pile of wood and the line upon which the cord is to be stacked -- to be fair -- would be the same, for the wood. Assuring that each test is run under the same weather conditions, and each employee has equal access to the water fountain, we now have a reasonably fair test. And while each employee stacks the same pile of wood, Prince Cedar -- or a consultant -- would repeatedly place the same bowl in the same container of water and watch it sink and lift it out immediately and put it back on the water surface and therein count the number of "bowls" (of time!) that Abaloo required to stack the cord of wood as compared to the number of "bowls" that Bobsheesh required to complete the same task. Then, Abaloo and Bobsheesh would feel confirmed in their suspicion that their employer, Prince Cedar, is an idiot for wasting so many bowls of time on his obsession with the "laziness" of his employees instead of searching for better wood.
I could write almost infinitely about scenarios that demonstrate the same reality over and over again. (By the way, just for fun, according to both mathematics and doctrines of time, there is no such thing as "almost infinitely." Ha Ha.) There is no such thing as an absolute measure of time in Nature. Any unit of time that you or I or anyone can name or identify will always exist within the same rational boundaries: a unit of time is the duration of a cyclical event that can be compared to the duration of another cyclical event. No one can identify "time" scientifically in any other way. Any other type of statement about time would of necessity be a religious statement, a statement of belief that cannot be demonstrated. The reason this argument is so important is that it states that time is strictly a measurement or a record. We see "time" in records. We see records in Nature, which means that natural processes leave behind physical evidence of events that have occurred. Because our brains function with a profound dependence upon the concept of cause and effect, we see a record of "time" in tree rings and layers of silt, or folds of rock and we can talk about "local time" and "geologic" time and "cosmic" time or "deep time." All of these concepts or discussions are encompassed within and cannot escape from the limitation that "time" is always a reference to a cyclical event, the unit of duration, that is counted.
Relativity Removed or Revised:
Here is the bomb that I throw at the "proofs" of General Relativity: Do the experiments over again but this time begin with the premise that "time" is a measurement, and treat it as a measurement. The result will be that the only thing that is altered during the experiment is the measurement of the duration of the event. If the duration of the physical event were changed by acceleration, that simply means that acceleration is a causal factor of the event. It simply means that with a change in acceleration, the event itself is changed. In other words, it is wrong, as a matter of physics, to say that when a stone is traveling twenty miles per hour and strikes a tree and when a stone is traveling a hundred miles per hour and strikes a tree, they are two occurrences of the same event at different velocities. If the acceleration is different, the event is different. So, with acceleration being the velocity of light, or faster, the reality is not that the duration of one event is altered, but rather the first event, at 100 miles per hour, and the second event, at the velocity of light, are in reality two separate and different events. That is why the measured results are different. This is like agreeing that time is altered, but it is only altered because it is a measurement applied to two separate events. It is more like saying that a ship is blue when you paint it blue and red when you paint it red. The blue ship and the red ship are two different ships, not the same ship that is blue at 100 miles per hour and red at the speed of light. This viewpoint makes General Relativity and my definition of time compatible, on the grounds that a change in velocity actually comprises a change of event. When a train arrives at the station going 41 miles per hour, and then arrives the next day at 40 miles per hour, it is not the same train. The train traveling 41 miles per hour is, in Nature, a different event, different from what we would deem to be the same train traveling at 40 miles per hour. Hold head, inhale. One stick is longer than another. We have measured length. We say that they are both sticks, suggesting that they are each the same thing. But stick A is not stick B. They are each two separate events with some similar characteristics. But their lengths are different. Train A at 100 miles per hour is a train, and train B at the velocity of light is a train but not the same train. The two trains have some similar characteristics, BUT, at the velocity of light, the train is a different event. Being a different event, some of the other characteristics of the train change due to the change in velocity. It is not the same train, and the event of the train possesses a different duration. The time measurement has changed, but not because the same event has occurred with a different duration. It is not the same event. It has become a different event, and that is why is has a different duration. This argument could actually be construed as a new defense of General Relativity, but that was not my main intent.
Let's get back to duration, and records, and World War II. We find tree rings and see a record of events. We find layers of silt and see records of events. Fine. I remember World War II. That is a record, a memory. Where do I see it? I have seen it in printed characters and in movies. I see it in my head. Or I feel it or sense it. Memory is not so easily defined. I do not necessarily see it on a screen. The human brain is the greatest mystery of all. I can think to myself, even as I type, what was Adolf Hilter like. I have seen his image on film. I have heard his voice recorded. I have read about him. I remember that he wrote a book entitled Mein Kampf, in German, that described his political plan for Germany. My memory, which is sometimes imprecise, says that this book was written in 1922 or some time in the 1920's. My memory says that the book either says outright, or at least implies, that Hitler planned to use a simplistic form of eugenics to improve future generations. He also planned to "remove" people that he and other "scientists" believed to be defective and an intolerable burden on society. Because I have been a student of history in general, I am aware that Hitler's ideas about using genetics to breed humans were supported by some people in the United States at about the same time, in the 1930's, including in the state where I now live, Vermont. These simplistic eugenics theories were deemed to be philosophically interesting and benevolent at the time, or at least worth exploring, until the Holocaust.
Now how can I remember these events, and so many others, such as prohibition and the Roaring Twenties and the Charleston (a dance) and the attack on Pearl Harbor when I was not born until 1943? Because history is a record, a memory, and it can be conveyed in print and on film and on a voice recording and can then be absorbed by the human eyes and ears and re-recorded in a human brain: memory. Do you see how this is inseparable from our concept of time? History, what happened in the past, your personal past, the past of a nation and of Earth and of humanity and of the universe is all a record. We look, we explore, we examine, and we see a record of some kind. We give meaning to what we find. We see evidence of what occurred before we existed, or what occurred when we existed but where we were not present. I was not present at World War II, or at the signing of the Magna Carta. Why should I remember these events? I do. You do also. But you were not there either. Does Nature remember World War II? How? Where? Where does Nature have a record of World War II? Do you think that the preservation of Auschwitz is a record of World War II? I suppose it is. But Nature does not preserve Auschwitz. We do. Nature without us would do the same thing with Auschwitz that it would do with St. Peter's Basilica and the Washington Monument -- let them rot, return to the earth. There is no memory in Nature outside of those things that function as a memory, and that would include only animal brains and manufactured computers, as well as books and films and all human records, such as birth certificates and divorce orders. If a physicist really wants to see time in action, forget your rockets and go to a divorce hearing. There one will find the trauma of time. At a divorce hearing, and in a divorce order, one will find the past, the present and the future. The recitation of the date and place of marriage, the children of the marriage, often a brief statement of how things went well at first, but events changed and people changed, just as likely a brief statement of the deterioration of the marriage, why one or both of the parties want a divorce, what will become of the children, who will pay who for child support in the future, how will the property of the parties be distributed, what will be the new relationship between the parties and between each of them and the children. There you go, discuss and define the past, present and future, of one's heart and soul and mind all together and try to treat it all as though it is one grand event. No wonder divorce traumatizes people, even the judge and the lawyers, because the records of time are examined and manipulated so intensively, so personally, with such confusing and violent disagreement over the measurements in the record of time.
Trees may have rings, and silt may persist in visible layers, but how could anyone say that Nature remembers World War II? In what sense? Of course, we have history books and the remains of the Colluseum still stand to remind (re-remember) us of ancient Rome. But this is all our doing. Nature, the stones and the oceans and the clouds and the flowers that are blooming today do not possess and do not need any record of anything that occurred in the past. Unless of course we think of genetics as a record, which is reasonable. That would mean, that the genes, the record, are re-creating something that existed in the past but is now gone, but is occurring again, another cyclical event, the plant grows, matures, produces seed, and re-produces itself, patterned after the record that is in the genes, which genes are living material that embody molecules that are a recording of a plant that is played back and therein the plant is re-produced. A cyclical event. Spring. It is not the same plant that existed before and yet it is almost perfectly the same plant. When I see the flower I re-member it. I find it's name in my brain. I member it again. The flower is a recording of a flower that existed once before, and my memory of it matches the previous recording. I am here, now, viewing the flower, but the flower and me and the name of the flower all existed before and exist right now in the present. Am I in the presence of only the present, or also in the presence of the past? Present moment only moment? Present moment only moment! A recording of a person is viewing a recording of a flower, smelling a recording of a fragrance, retrieving a record of a name. The recording of the person remembers how to talk and asks another recording of a person, his wife, standing nearby, and asks a question that is made up of words that he remembers: "Do you remember the name of this flower?" And that wife who is a recording of a person remembers the meaning of all of those words and looks at the recording of the flower that she searches for in the records of her brain, and she responds, with words that she remembers: "I think it is a geranium."
I think? What the hell is that? I think. I think and I remember, and I could not possibly think without memories, without records of so many things they are beyond counting. I have to remember innumerable words and things that happened in the past in order to understand your question and answer it. I have to remember what a flower is and what a plant is and what a word is and what a sentence is and what a question is and what a garden is and what a husband is and what the shapes of the leaves and the flower petals are and what words and names they are associated with. Do you see? Do you see the un-namable number of records that must exist in my brain in order for me to perform this simple task, and at the same time we both have memories of World War II and the Roman Empire and Chinese emperors and Emperor Penguins and we keep them properly sorted and categorized so that we can have pleasant conversations and be prepared to kill anyone who tries to enslave us and be suitably angry at anyone who adulterates our food. Do you think this stream is turning to babbling? Well, no, not really -- I will answer for you because the stream is always babbling but we have devices in our brains, probably the most important devices in the world, that collect and sort the babbles and put them in order so that we can make use of them. That is why we can think that a penguin is an emperor and be right. That is what our brains do, in addition to keeping enormous records of incomprehensible complexity and size. That is where the records are. That is where the measurements of time are: the seconds and light years, the past, present and future. But not out there in the universe. Time is a fiction of consciousness. Our imaginations are also in our brains, and they are wonderful, and it is so much fun to travel through time in our imaginations, but that is the only location where time travel can and will occur. Time is the human measurement of duration. Even if we are willing to assign every different velocity the identity of a different event, not same train at different speed but rather different speed means different train, time is still and can only be a measurement of the duration of an event. We cannot travel to or by or around or through a measurement. Nature does not need such a device. It would serve no useful purpose, therefore it does not exist.
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