The Most Interesting Scientific Idea of the Decade: Time Is More Real Than Space



I really enjoy Lee Smolin's popular physics books, but he occasionally falls into the same trap the grabs almost all popular physics books: not making clear what is exciting but entirely conjectural, and what is solidly known, but perhaps boring. I highly recommend Carol Rovelli's book "The Order of Time. It's a meditation on the gulf between the nature of time as understood by physics, and the human experience of time. Get the audiobook version read by Benedict Cumberbatch.


This was great, Charles! If I’m getting this, time isn’t the thing which keeps everything from happening all at once, more so, space is what keeps us from seeing that everything happens all at once.


i also thought Smolin's book was great, though still very speculative. Another great book is Ball's Beyond Weird, which for me really tightened up what is and what is not baffling about quantum mechanics.


The opening paragraphs seem to imply that the Copenhagen interpretation of QM is still the dominant one among working physicists, however the relative state formulation, or many-worlds, eclipsed it a decade or two ago.


Bravo, Charles! And interesting comment mulata. I hadn't made that leap, but I think you're spot on. (Charles: "causal" not "casual". Twice.)


Although maybe not, mulata. There's a great interview with Smolin about all this here:


There is no such thing as time, it's always the present. What we are witnessing is simply the constant decay of matter.


Really interesting column. I've been reading a lot on the philosophy and science of time perception (after I read Marcel Proust last year). Your column brought to mind Borges' essay "A New Refutation of Time." Although in that column he nominally attempted to refute the existence of time in the same way that some philosophers have refuted the existence of space, I don't think his thinking is incompatible with the views described in your column. He concluded that person(s) having the same experience at two different times are essentially experiencing the same moment. Even if time "is real," as Smolin says, I think it's still fair to ask whether "the past" is real, because memory is creative, as you say- as G.H. Mead wrote, the past is always projected backwards from the present, it originates here. To put it another way, two subjectively identical moments in time may be separated by time in a "real" sense, but that's not a quality of the experience that we can perceive in a phenomenological sense.

Thanks for your thoughts, Charles.


Do writers at The Stranger now get free weed samples from the paper's advertisers?


"The distinction of the Copenhagen Interpretation is that it fully accepts the weird (I would even use the Japanese word kwaidan) behavior . . ."

And for what possible reason would you do that? The word (meaning, essentially, "ghost story") doesn't fit.