Friday, October 28, 2005

The Illusion of the "Present"- Liquid Sculpture

Liquid Sculpture - Fine art photography of drops and splashes, (c) 2007 Martin Waugh
1/10,000th of a second... still contains an infinity of time... and therefore this image is still a dirty "smudge" rather than a clean slice through time.

How can one thing lead to another when...
The past has already happened
The future does not exist
The present is an infinitessimally thin slice of time... too thin for anything to actually happen in. *

Maybe this is just a re-statement of Zeno's paradox of motion?

On a deep physical level there is something 'fishy' about the idea of the 'present'.
According to my limited understanding of relativity ... 2 observers moving in different directions cannot agree on the timing of an event- thus 'synchronicity' is an illusion. The universe 'squeezes' or 'dilates' time, space, mass so that the speed of light is constant- no matter what you're doing or where you are. Clocks tick more slowly on a plane than in a car. Therefore- (very new age) - we (and every point in the universe) all have our own individual 'presents'.
What would time feel like on a quantum scale? Who knows? (really- who actually knows?- if you know email me!). Maybe our idea of macro-time is an 'emergent property' of something quite different happening at the quantum level. Maybe it's all an illusion.
Whatever clock is or isn't ticking away in the physical universe- it makes sense that our primate (primative?) sense if time is limited from seconds to decades. Why should our brains have evolved to comprehend the cosmological or the quantum time scales? Perhaps this is why people have such trouble accepting natural selection- which requires time-scales people are just not used to understanding on an intuitive level.
Our brains perceive the present through different 'lag' times of different senses... lightning before thunder etc.. presumably a stubbed toe hurts sooner if you are shorter! Our biological present is necessarily a composite.
*having done some further reading i am very proud to announce that St Augustine had the same idea as me! Apparently this view is called "presentism" - the belief that the future and the past do not exist.

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