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The How of Now
Noel Eberz February 2005

As of late, modern physics in areas of cosmology and string theory has become quite speculative in ideas of multi-universes, space warps, tears, or holes and bizarre perceptions of time frequently associated with the internal nature of black holes. All is not happy. At this point there are even books on the bizarre directions of String theory.

In an earlier booklet ‘A Deeper Look at thee Night Sky’ (2002) or on this website, the essay ‘The Size of Our Universe’, started in the 1980’s as a simple technique with doubling numbers to visualize some characteristics of the Big Bang expansion paradigm as might be presented to an average audience and noted to need no more visual aids than a campfire in Grand Canyon and a starry sky above. But over ten years it grew into a set of essays broadening the subject. While adding a few other new ideas and stating some different viewpoints it was not a disruptive challenge to the basic scientific wisdom of Western thought. Yet theme by theme it teased me into reviewing and reinterpreting some fundamental physical and cosmological assumptions. As a result I developed a novel world view. It is not that difficult to explain and offers interesting advantages in cosmic interpretation. Yet there is a major hang-up - it is an alternative view to Relativity theory and therein the difficulty to suggest or pass on. But the term ‘view’ is the key - not a refutation of Relativity theory but another way of looking at reality. Is one more realistic than the other? Possibly!

In analogy: There are two views of the heavens - let’s say a Flat earth view and the Copernican view - regardless of the bad connotation of the earlier idea, both are accepted without much hang-up. In one we see the sun rise and set and the planets wander. In the other view, we imagine or visualize the Solar system dynamics in all its technical and complex wonder. To me, Relativity is more akin to the above Flat earth model - I’d call it the isolated observer syndrome. It’s not that it doesn’t work or lacks proof - it does work, beautifully well. The Global positioning system (GPS) is a marvel to relative relationships including Relativity theory in the computations. But there is more.

This short dissertation is a summary more thoroughly covered in the above mentioned sources. This is more to the point. The key comparisons herein are: Space-now vs. Space-time, Integrated multiple observers vs. a Single observer and a Euclidian space fabric vs. a distorted Space-time metric. From this list it can be argued that both views can be equivalent if there is a different choice of what is constant vs. what is variable. While this interchange might appear arbitrary locally it has a profound effect on cosmological models and what might be more characteristic of the actual universe.

The starting point of this view first concerns the nature of time. It is not a new idea. Metaphysics has questioned and argued between two concepts, one of continuous time, the other, some version of time as only a moving ‘now’. Never settled over two millennia, in fact in some cases it was concluded time doesn’t exist at all. Restating the problem: Modern physics has chosen time as a dimension as in space-time and refutes or trivializes the notion of the past, present and future as different entities. This alternative view here is that ‘now’ is all there is and that the past and future in fact also do not exist except as mental constructs of either memory or anticipation, again just ‘now’. Physically ‘now’ includes time’s arrow and any arbitrary space volume contains the integral of past changes and is merely the 'substantive' trends of the future. If you wade thru my detailed assertions, you will see how these differences can be derived, explained, compared and applied to a more Copernican view as the analogy suggests and if you don’t necessarily agree a better view, at least together doubly insightful. Now I can be written off as a quack and to date this seems my fate but reconsider. Join my bandwagon - there’s still plenty of room on board.

Why ‘now’ works
Beside discussing the idea of time as just ‘now’, the Einsteinian notion that there is not commensurate ‘nows’ in space-time must also be shown to be a chimera by a number of approaches. As best as these ideas can be separated, the specific topic of ‘Space’ follows later. First in order these are:
1) The how of ‘Now’
2) Events, unique and otherwise
3) Causality and how others deal with it
4) A Feynman diagram as space-time or a set of ‘nows in space
5) Biorates as a touchstone

1) The how of ‘Now’ - The conceptual goal of this effort is to show that time is not a continuum but rather a stress singularity on space, the drive & place of change. While this place is everywhere space wise, it is only ‘now’. The mechanism of physical change is the essence of it and is simultaneous everywhere by its single definition.

How can time be simultaneous everywhere? Easily, if it is a unified ‘now’. With only one value it is a single manifold over all space, regardless of different environments wherever, fast, slow, dense, void. Also, if ‘nows’ (the place of change) are not commensurate - how much would you have them off? As we will discuss, out of causal order is not allowed, only spacing intervals are. The next question of time is duration and becomes relevant when asking how long is ‘now’? One measure of time is a cyclic event, a heart beat, drifting continents as in a Wilson cycle (about 600 Myr) or a single passing radio wave at a gigahertz rate. Like a line of atoms, all these may be subdivided again and again into some kind of causal order. To some minimum? The shortest quantum mechanic interval appears less than 10-23 seconds. While this is almost vanishingly short it is not necessarily the answer. But I don’t think a minimum tick is required, more importantly it uniquely has an ‘arrow’ direction, therefore consider it merely a stress on space with no duration at all. Put another way, the fluid illusion of time is an accumulating set of strains from an applied stress.

The mechanical concept of stress-strain does not involve time except when stress causes strain, Eg. Change with an endless variety of parameter descriptions. So how does stress yield time’s arrow? Beside being a force, it includes a direction. Like a clock mechanism under stress, reverse the handedness of the escapement and it would drive the clock counterclockwise. This differs profoundly from mechanical motion equations indifferent to direction and a plague of mathematical physics not to show time’s arrow. But unlike both examples, the time stress is applied ‘only now’ to the total physical susceptibilities the universe presents and that is time as we know it. For example, our sense of one second is as much a product of physiology as it is any absolute time rate.

If there is only ‘now, other ‘thens’ are discerned only by recognition of their noted changes (essentially a bare two, observed either as events in the form of modified mass ‘here’ or events in energy variations in transmission ‘just’ received from ‘there’) and our recourse to interpreted time intervals between other ‘then’ events, such as light-years in distance or counting cycles such as days. In terms of time there is nothing else. If all this is true, time is not a dimension and space-time is not a reality.

2) Events, unique or otherwise - The term event means action of something but only in a very broad sense. Duration varies, the ‘something’ varies (consider drifting continents on the slow side of dynamics for example). We also demand at least one cognizant observer, yet more than one often means trouble. Even narrowing this subject to just physics, what might be haggled about for an event with multiple observers? The event itself, the time of the event or when it was observed. Or the course taken by Einstein and say it’s impossible to know. A further complication of the issue gives consecutive ‘nows’ the illusion of a continuum of time with the differences between past, present and future. Consider three different cases for discussion.

Observe a flowing river. A complexity of location with dynamic water in laminar & turbulent flow yield an infinite number of minute events indistinguishable. (From experience, I’ll admit, this is a totally unacceptable concept for river guides in the Grand Canyon who have mastered the more significant vagaries.)

Observe a skier down a mountain slope as a single entity in a consecutive trail of places. Another indistinguishable continuum? Here is a named life-form, a composite of a family of animal cells coordinated only by instantly doing their own thing. But this event can take on a unique distinguishable ‘now’ if he clobbers a tree and his life is extinguished. We might still argue about the when of that ‘now’, but the uniqueness and place is firmly established.

Thirdly, observe a supernova named 1987A, a unique event of short duration far away. This astronomic example is buried in many consensual determinations of many theoreticians and observers (granted, in one earthly place). What can we say about the now of that event? There are many things, but they can all be correlated depending on what physical change we are discussing. The crux of this example is the multiplicity in the time confirmation of the event. On earth it was first observed optically then observed a few days later as a predicted neutrino shower. This simple little fact draws on an amazing amount of know'ability. Detailed analysis and extrapolation identifies ‘nows’ (a place of change) spread over nanoseconds to years - causal supernova nuclear events to astronomic observing features. And all of this can be correlated to some arbitrary sequential universal time system if desired, in this case earth-time.

Of the three examples given, the flowing river is closest to the concept of time as a continuum. Not very definitive. The supernova is a good example of the potential of calculating commensurate ‘nows’ by different observers, but not easily. Sorry, no free lunch. But the ski slope and the living entity mutually demonstrate we each possess ‘now’ and that's all. And time is truly like that skiing environment, a person thriving externally on the down pull of gravity and internally burning calories. Aware too, if we similarly engage a tree, we may also lose our most precious asset ‘now’. This event would have various degrees of uniqueness among us survivors as in the specific case of Sonny Bono regardless of where we were then or now.

3) Causality and how others deal with it - If the world did not have a universal date system a rare event might be reported ‘six ways from Sunday’ and an historian might conclude times in different places might not be commensurate. However, even the ‘Histories’ of Herodotus can be reworked into a causal order - did this happen because of that or before it? But we do have a date and time system, newspapers are reliable and order can be established by time alone or if seriously questioned revert back to causality order. Note: This is another prime rule of time - the order of change.
Geologists resolve prehistory events (an oxymoron, it’s still history) with numerous ways to establish a broad time frame into the past, again ‘six ways from Sunday’, but resolve these differences by consensus and committees. Astronomers do more or less the same thing, judging lookback times to the Big Bang with a variety of sequential events in terms of seconds or billions of years. Yet Physicists are still pondering why their symmetry math yields no arrow of time.

But with Einstein, dealing with very short intervals of times, he took a very different approach and declared different observers could not report the same event commensurately. He was right with respect to different whens and wheres and Relativity theory has proved the existence of different gravitational and velocity environments which affect local clocks. But a detailed causality test to a fine resolution could return the observations to commensurate times if each observer followed a universal time system . This means each observer is aware of his own special environment such as location, velocity and clock rate with respect to some Greenwich standard. Applied to a futuristic moving frame reference, each would have an odometer keeping track of such things, such that his ‘now’ is commensurate with the standard so that any event mutually observed with others would also calculate as commensurate. With respect to a universal system, while all these variables can be known they can not be easily derived from just onboard sensors. A complication? Yet each in their own way, the other above examples manage.

4) A Feynman diagram as space-time or a set of ‘now’s - The traditional Feynman diagram in Quantum-electrodynamics, QED, displays a causal sequence over a tiny moment of time and space: An event and something happens. It can also be depicted as the midpoint of ‘x’ or a diagonal cross of propagating causality bound by the velocity of light to elsewhere. Further, a plot of these sequential x’s can be identified as a world-line of a given observer or object. Is it possible for such a diagram to depict a set of observers (different world-lines) to note the time of some object event yet all be in different relativistic environments? The answer is ‘no’ if each is isolated with their own clock, but the answer could be ‘yes’ if individually they recognized their environment with some universal standard and their distance to the event. The accuracy or precision of the computations is not relevant to the validity of the idea but with one exception - how to treat the Relativistic effects. Yet there is a problem - how to identify what's important about these different environments.

5) Biorates as the touchstone - Another concept must be added to tip the scale which we will define as Biorate - the physical composite of an observer and his environment. The significance of the idea has two elements - The single observer and the uncanny set of physical constants about him, most arguably the Velocity of light is a constant (Voc=k) and a ratio of exchange E=mc2. However if two separated biorates are in communication, the dilemma unfolds. While six different biorates are discussed here in A Big Apparent Universe, the more static two biorates over time that will serve adequately, are an earthling and resident of a much heavier planet. Together they must conclude that while their individual physical constants are the same within their respective biorate laboratory, their compared biorates have different absolute clock rates. Between mutually recognized different ‘nows’ (they have endless choices from which to compute) their clocks measure different spans of consecutive time. What to do?

This in itself is not a new or big deal. It’s similar to the space-twins paradox, well theorized. Recall their motion is not just relative - they do age differently. Even the case of light & heavy planet twins has been technically demonstrated and accurately accommodated in Relativistic mechanics, although in miniscule proportions. Even still, there never can be both an earlier and later ‘now’ for the same event and this is certainly not to be confused with delay times in receiving the information of the event. Such a determination might be accomplished only with E-mail or even recalcitrant postal mail. For example, geology had events and time scales established by such media over centuries of communication even by slow boat and before electronics.

What would be different, is if the two different biorate twins accepted ‘now’ as the singularity as it is stated here and worked out the consequences. Assume they are equally brilliant, one twin might have the advantage of working the computations more rapidly in comparison but also burn out his life before his brother. Concerning the other twin (this is a totally imaginative proof about their differences), we might expect the later to grow more physically robust in his slower higher gravity environment. But together this is what they would discover:

If they are to communicate about events, they need a common clock. Since the earthling at the home port, not moving and least gravity, has the faster clock compared to most other environments, his clock might be the most convenient standard. The others could be modified to the appropriate computed rate change . Then comes the greatest deviation from accepted wisdom. If the slower clock is in the gravitation hole, why imagine an extended space (space-time) instead of a compressed space as better fitting the concept of compression. In fact, what if we kept the global space metric as Euclidian? With commensurate ‘nows’ satisfied the compressed twin has a slower Voc, a more ponderous mass and is in a metric space with refractive properties. They may also interpret the cause factors for the different exchange ratio of E=mc2 at each other’s environment. For example, if one sends a quantity of M or E to the other, what changes?

Questions on the how of ‘Now’
Time is hardly a question, much is assumed with little curiosity. If one asked “What time is it in London?”, here in Hawaii you would get a variety of answers, if at all. Ten hours later, or a specific watch time might be offered. A smart aleck answer would be: It’s now. Yet the first two are relative clock answers assuming the third. This critique deals with the latter as to the how of it, in first an historical, then the present and my proposed interpretation. For most it is a non issue but I think it should be. Starting simply but then more technically, I will relate to a Newtonian, Einsteinian and Machian view and in what way these differ on the meaning of ‘now’. The central thesis is that ‘now’, at least locally, is the only place change can occur and that we can positively relate to the proper order of such change. What can be argued about for other places or other thens or other ideas of time is open to further discussion.

‘Here’ we can establish there is but one ‘now’. And elsewhere? Empirically we might say from our travels, ‘now’ follows us around and consensus expands the domain to a global interpretation. Hence everyplace has only one now and changes are what makes ‘now’ unique. Further we recognize that we exist only in the present and that over time, changes are sequential to ourselves and things around us. Other rules follow: For any one place, there can only be sequential nows, not random nor their being out of order(1). At a distance these observations may be less certain.

Are all ‘now’s synchronous?
If there is a ‘now’ everywhere, how are they correlated or synchronized - globally or locally? Today, timepieces throughout the nation are correlated globally by a radio system WWV. Whether your watch receives this timing signal or not, the accuracy drifts down to a tolerance you wish to tolerate. Consider the alternative. Could everybody coordinate the time with a horrendous conference call and then decide whose time would establish the reference, and how often to reestablish it again? This might be called a bottom/up approach. History is replete with interesting stories how ships concerned with longitude and railroads concerned with train schedules dealt with both top/down and bottom/up time adjustment methods for synchronization but again what constitutes ‘now’ was never in question. To establish the reference time from bottom/up seems futile, but to me, that seems to be the way the universe works in spite of us. I critically think this actuality works because ‘now’ is not time but a stress on each local volume of space applicable to the local susceptibility there and that an accumulated strain yields the allusion of time. Simultaneous is a time term, a true ‘now’ is devoid of time yet it is impractical not to use the word. Overall, not an idea easy to tackle but maybe in steps. Also, space can not be separated from the topic, therefore in discussion we will call it ‘space-now’ physics.

I have stated elsewhere that ‘now is synchronous everywhere by definition. If there is but one ‘now’, the place of change, then that has to be a single manifold thru-out space everywhere. But it is not really a synchronaity mechanism (like the WWV system described above). Rather it is a local system integrated outward. As much as anybody or anything communicates around and what ever communication system is employed, literally bullets to light rays, the ‘only now here’ interacts with other theres, that invariably have their own interpreted ‘now’ later. But then, reciprocity makes you revert to the original common now.

What is the history of ‘now’?
Today accuracy counts, at least conceptually, although not consistently. I would say consensus imagines a universe with a broad simultaneity with acceptance of a crude look-back to distant galactic vistas and billion year time scales, yet in modern terms it claims on the short scale, time is not commensurate. This dilemma I acknowledge with the question “How much would you have it off?” Can the universe be broadly synchronous with the Big bang, and sloppy with what is ‘now’, or that ‘now is not a real uniqueness of time? The later is the formal position of modern physics with space-time. Consequently and unfortunately on the fringe of this kind of thinking, there are some ideas that time is some archive that could be revisited. I won’t open that Pandora’s box(2).

I think there is a second fundamental reason that ‘now’ is universal, beyond the issue of simultaneous. There is only one now, each and everywhere, and the awareness of it elsewhere is uniform in all directions (isotropic). Hence it is the transmission of notice of change between places that ties them together, rather than being globally controlled. Regardless of the ‘global communication rates’ of antiquity (snail-mail is a more recent antiquity), mutual nows labeled by calendar sequencing was established without question millennia ago. As long as the precision of the simultaneity was overlooked, it was assumed that it was global, e.g. top/down and not communication dependent. This idea became locked in formally with Newtonian mechanics which essentially didn’t worry about it. Fair enough, light travels pretty fast and really facilitates communication. Now this is not to say that light from the sun or the location of the moons of Jupiter was not recognized as a delayed signal to earth but rather ‘now’ was still assumed global, including the flow rate of time being assumed equally universal.

About the turn of the last century, a number of precise measurements suggested a more complex view. Among these factors bring in Mach’s view of inertia, the Michelson/Morley aether test and discovery of Mercury’s errant orbital precision. Consequently gravity, inertia and time concepts were brought into question. Essentially Einstein solved the problem, particularly from the single observer viewpoint, noting that different observers could not correlate events commensurately. While different velocity and gravity environments yielded a consistent environment for every observer, different effects occurred between them. Correction of these differences require Relativistic equations. Because the single observer appeared to have fixed physical constants such as Voc=k and E=mc2 , the concept of simultaneity of ‘now’s took the hit as invalid. Formally this idea still holds while in retrospect, we know observers in different environments experience different clock rates and perceive different Machian backgrounds. Technical discussion always refers to motion as relative rather than uniquely different. This is ostrich thinking, as the space-twin paradox demonstrates(3). Including the Machian view truly satisfies the question as to who is doing the traveling with respect to others or the whole universe with standard Doppler observations.

If there is only one ‘now’ manifold, then the global ‘now’ can be worked out with these same relativistic equations referenced to any common ‘now’ and by being aware of the different environments of the diverse observers. Further this could be done in a Euclidian framework with a reshuffle of which relativistic parameters are variable. Granted, this would cause a new reinterpretation of space-time, if not its conceptual invalidation.

Is there a past, present and future?
This question yields bizarre and diverse answers as a public question but always a general yes. Very different is both the modern physics and contrasted here, ‘space-now’ ideas. Modern physics established space-time, with time as a dimension or continuum with space, and in partial consequence, denies or trivializes any difference between the past, present or future. To be honest I don’t know what they consider ‘now’ to be. Essentially, it’s not discussed(3). ‘Space-now’ claims ‘now’ is all there is and that the past and future do not exist for a different reason, the former being no more that the physical integral of previous ‘now’s and the future only the susceptibility of this or any other arbitrary volume of space to change. To sentient observers the past and future are recollection and anticipation, a mental exercise, again only capable of occurring ‘now’.

Does time exist in empty space?
This might be expanded to another question: Is time only ‘now’ or is it space-time and how does that apply to empty space? Space-time suggests it is a four dimension metric field and has no particular feature of past, present and future and consequently empty space is disconnected from any observational feature so is ignored with a vengeance. “Space-now’ would say there might not be any stress to yield any observational change but as a minimum, it must be a transmission medium between other non-empty changing spaces, hence in fact does exhibit change and therefore a ‘now’.

What is Change?
Change is any modification of mass or energy in any arbitrary volume of space. Change may be one time only, cyclic but running down or perpetual of sorts, like the earth going around the sun. It can be fast or slow like switching on a light or drifting continents. Empirically it only occurs ‘now’ although many words cover a longer set of ‘now’s to yield a product or process term. Changes that seem inevitable but not yet, have them still coming. Changes that are past are done and occurred when ‘now’ was then, leaving a physical modification, or initiation of a transmission signal or a trace, if residual only in the head. I recall both sides of the Shoemaker/Levy event with Jupiter, predictions and post mortem records with all kinds of place and time calculations performed. After the flash it was gone. Compare that to Shoemaker’s Arizona meteor crater, a true change relic.

Do things have to be changing?
Yes and no. A pristine chondritic meteorite, maybe 4.65 Byr old, may appear astonishingly unchanged in microscopic detail. So too, think of what we might store in a warehouse essentially inert to time flow (the main objective of a warehouse). Grandfather clocks, unwound: chemical fuzes, unlit: stacked books, unchecked out. Without these noted installed stresses, repetitive strains are not accumulating, such as Grandfather metering time, no ‘explode’ signal transmitted by the fuze over distance, and no reading story rendered by you, respectively. So time appears either inert or something is happening. We readily perceive our world bifurcated this way. Lucky us. Even with the ‘relentless’ sea beating on the ‘enduring’ rocky shore, more wisely we know the earth has a fragile contingent water budget and the waves do ultimately eat away the coast. These things constitute our sense of time but again the changing aspect of what is ‘now’ is not really questioned.

How can we reestablish synchronaity to ‘now’?
As previously noted, for the most part we already do with acceptable precision tolerances. In high precision cases, top/down with calibrated delays to all recipients also works. This may also be coupled with complex relativistic equations as in the existing and amazing GPS system. This is all fine in a relatively static and slow moving world but I venture transition to a high speed travel, with greater solar system distances and different gravity environments, it will be necessary to establish a larger Greenwich style synchronous clock system, recognizing all the relativistic environments as they affect diverse locales with different time rates. Ironically, an Einsteinian space-time approach wouldn’t work because it would create an intractable N-body problem. So after a period of this contrived confusion, adopt a universal time system, and we will return to the familiar notation that time everywhere is only ‘now’. I am sure I won’t live to see it.

In conclusion, actually arguing that ‘now’ is globally universal seems less out on a limb than thinking time is drifting off at it’s own pace in remote celestial corners elsewhere. If time were a continuum, the latter case might be a real concern, there is nothing to tie it all together. But if time was that single stress, causing change (arrow automatically thrown in), it exists no other way, hence is simultaneous by default. One part of the universe cannot be behind or ahead of the other. There is only one state - now! Then when we substitute the word ‘present’ for ‘now’, that leaves the past and future only as our personal mental constructs, but in physically reality are no more than the integral of past changes and susceptibilities to future change, all contained in ‘now’.

Now I can appreciate Einstein’s position that honest physics must deal with measurable observations, while here I talk about global judgments, but on the other hand his complaint with quantum physics was similar: there must be more to infer within reality than just the statistics. This interpretation of time satisfies the same conundrum of his space-time.

Foot notes to questions
1) What constitutes ‘time’s direction’ is an enigma in modern physics. They rather contemplate simple billiard balls than eggs and consequent egg shells. Amusing to add, compared to the intractable question in modern physics, time’s arrow falls in place as a consequence of stress as the mechanism of time (being a force vector with direction) and strain the accumulating product. Furthermore considering other attempts, seeking Thermodynamics for time’s arrow is obfuscation at best and recognizing Quantum mechanics going in all time directions at once, even instantly over a distance, doesn’t help either. I see nothing to argue for or against time’s arrow in these approaches. That there is considerable consternation that mathematical mechanics does not yield time’s arrow, is not quite true. Any equation can be made to go forward or reverse by a simple sign change, notably our choice, as are too the construct of the equations themselves. The universe does not run on math, it just does it’s own thing, everywhere but only ‘now’.

2) Pandora boxes are invariably opened. The question of revisiting the past is also analogous to: Can time go backward? Again stress/strain concepts provide reasonable answers. Cyclic changes as in a pendulum can be thought of going both ways, save the minor loss to friction and being within a larger system subject to the arrow of time. Revisiting the past is suggesting reconstructing a former stress state involving an indefinite number of separate stress/strain systems, most not like pendulums but more like egg shells and you have heard of Humpty Dumpty. Again, these absurdities tend to arise from the concept of time as a continuum.

3) Even as recent and as good a book as Brian Green’s ‘Fabric of the Cosmos’, it uses the classic but disconcerting example of relative motion yielding non-commensurate ‘now’s: A very distant other-galaxy observer modifies his concept of an earth-now by many years by simply walking across his room from a still position. I’m sure Brian’s relativistic calculation is correct but it notably excludes the similar calculation of including the appropriate doppler shift to his Cosmic background radiation, eg.. blue-shift forward, red-shift aft. This would be part of the Machian concept - In his time Mach spoke of the inertial effect of distant stars. That still holds and is related but he was not aware then of such a background that determines our sun and planet velocities with respect to the whole. He would be a true advocate here. My guess on the rejection of ‘now’ as universal comes in part from denying the term ‘present’ as universal as in past, present, future, essentially confusing the place of change with commensurate over distance.

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