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Thread: Can you answer the most fundamental question about time?

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    Time is a measure of change.
    Yes, time is a measure of change, but that “is” isn’t the “‘is’ of identity.” It’s a bit like saying “a cat is an animal”—we’re saying something true about cats, but that truth doesn’t therefore stand good as a definition of the word, “cat.” Moreover, saying “time is a measure of change” says something true about time: it’s a measure of change; however, that truth isn’t a more encapsolating definition for the word.

    How much time is passing can often be measured by measuring its proxy, change, but if our world suddenly ceased to have change, it’s not time that stand stills but instead our ability to measure any change.

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    Contributor Speakpigeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon View Post
    This is the most fundamental question concerning time:

    If time doesn't exist as such, if the only reality of time is to be a mere convention, a convenience to ensure the necessary synchronisation of our activities across society, including the synchronisation of our machines and of our scientific instruments, then how is it at all possible to durably synchronise different clocks, among other things? Assuming a number of clocks are set to read the same as some master clock, and assuming time doesn't exist, why would the clocks stay synchronised at all?
    EB
    Clocks do not remain synchronised, unless they share an acceleration frame.

    Your question is founded on a false premise, and so is unanswerable. You could just as well ask "Why doesn't nature allow the existence of a vacuum?". Lots of very smart people were perplexed by this question, until it was discovered that nature is mostly a vacuum, and that the belief that vacuums were not natural phenomena was an artifact of a narrow worldview that assumed that a local oddity was a universal truth.

    As beings who rarely undergo sustained and rapid acceleration, we are ill-equipped to observe the fact that clocks with differing acceleration histories become desynchronised. But they do. Whatever time might be, Einstein showed that it is not universal or absolute. As your question hinges on the assumption that it is, the question isn't coherent, and cannot be answered.
    Jesus, I know that since a very, very long time. The point is that different clocks CAN stay synchronised and for a very long time.

    So... let's rephrase to cater to all idiosyncrasies.

    If time doesn't exist as such, if the only reality of time is to be a mere convention, a convenience to ensure the necessary synchronisation of our activities across society, including the synchronisation of our machines and of our scientific instruments, then how is it at all possible to durably synchronise different clocks, among other things? Assuming a number of clocks, at a standstill relative to each other, are set to read the same as some master clock, and assuming time doesn't exist, why would the clocks stay synchronised at all?

    As if you couldn't assume the obvious by yourself.
    EB

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    Quote Originally Posted by fast View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    Time is a measure of change.
    Yes, time is a measure of change, but that “is” isn’t the “‘is’ of identity.” It’s a bit like saying “a cat is an animal”—we’re saying something true about cats, but that truth doesn’t therefore stand good as a definition of the word, “cat.” Moreover, saying “time is a measure of change” says something true about time: it’s a measure of change; however, that truth isn’t a more encapsolating definition for the word.

    How much time is passing can often be measured by measuring its proxy, change, but if our world suddenly ceased to have change, it’s not time that stand stills but instead our ability to measure any change.
    I am sorry but your response to me is philsophical dancing.

    You are still not definng what you mean by time if it is nit seconds.

    It is bewildering why time becomes such a philosophical sticking point.

    We define a standard for the meter and construct meter sticks out of plastic, wood, or metal. We define time as the second and out of materials make clocks. Clocks and meter stick are the three dimension, a dimension being a meas8re. Why do you not have the same issue with the meter?

    So, what is time? You are sounding like a theist making an existence claim for god but is unable to define what god is. Theists talk about it as a reality without any definition.

    Maybe you are just arguing semantics, I can not tell. Do you think time is some kind of independent reality you move through like the old Aether concept?

    Both the word time and cat have specific scientific meaning. Cats or felines have a specific category in the animal kingdom. The word cat says nothing about cats, iy refers to a biological category of futures and genealogy.

    Time is a word with a definition, cat is a word with a definition. Why the resistance? The identity is the definition. Seconds and meters are identities, words for specific phenomena.

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    EB

    Seconds, meters, kilograms, latitude. longitude, north, south, east, west are all conventions. Time is a convetion.

    It is impossibly physically to make two clocks run at the exact rate and to exactly synchronize two clocks. There are physical issues involving how the seconds are created typical with quartz crystals, temperatures, aging, and noise. No two reference crys5als will be exactly the same.

    The finite speed of light precedes exact synchronization even for two clocks next to each other.

    The WWV short wave broadcast which I assume still exists announces that at a tone the time will be HH:SS to the second. The propagation time of the sort wave broadcast makes it impossible to be exact. On the internet there is also a latency due to the speed of light.

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    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon View Post
    This is the most fundamental question concerning time:

    If time doesn't exist as such, if the only reality of time is to be a mere convention, a convenience to ensure the necessary synchronisation of our activities across society, including the synchronisation of our machines and of our scientific instruments, then how is it at all possible to durably synchronise different clocks, among other things? Assuming a number of clocks are set to read the same as some master clock, and assuming time doesn't exist, why would the clocks stay synchronised at all?
    EB
    Clocks do not remain synchronised, unless they share an acceleration frame.

    Your question is founded on a false premise, and so is unanswerable. You could just as well ask "Why doesn't nature allow the existence of a vacuum?". Lots of very smart people were perplexed by this question, until it was discovered that nature is mostly a vacuum, and that the belief that vacuums were not natural phenomena was an artifact of a narrow worldview that assumed that a local oddity was a universal truth.

    As beings who rarely undergo sustained and rapid acceleration, we are ill-equipped to observe the fact that clocks with differing acceleration histories become desynchronised. But they do. Whatever time might be, Einstein showed that it is not universal or absolute. As your question hinges on the assumption that it is, the question isn't coherent, and cannot be answered.
    Jesus, I know that since a very, very long time. The point is that different clocks CAN stay synchronised and for a very long time.

    So... let's rephrase to cater to all idiosyncrasies.

    If time doesn't exist as such, if the only reality of time is to be a mere convention, a convenience to ensure the necessary synchronisation of our activities across society, including the synchronisation of our machines and of our scientific instruments, then how is it at all possible to durably synchronise different clocks, among other things? Assuming a number of clocks, at a standstill relative to each other, are set to read the same as some master clock, and assuming time doesn't exist, why would the clocks stay synchronised at all?

    As if you couldn't assume the obvious by yourself.
    EB
    It's not only not obvious; It's not achievable. Two clocks in the same room are experiencing different accelerations due to gravity. Not measurably so, but different nonetheless. They will not stay synchronized. Clocks DON'T stay synchronized with each other. That's the answer to your question.

    It's the same basic answer as to the question 'Why do coffee tables migrate eastwards in December?' - they DON'T.

    Your question is based on a false premise. I understand what you mean. But you don't understand that you are describing an hypothetical situation that cannot exist, as though it were a normal and routine situation in need of an explanation. It isn't; so it doesn't. The appearance that it does is an artifact of your human experience, wherein the desynchronization is too small to observe under most circumstances.

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    Contributor Speakpigeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon View Post

    Jesus, I know that since a very, very long time. The point is that different clocks CAN stay synchronised and for a very long time.

    So... let's rephrase to cater to all idiosyncrasies.

    If time doesn't exist as such, if the only reality of time is to be a mere convention, a convenience to ensure the necessary synchronisation of our activities across society, including the synchronisation of our machines and of our scientific instruments, then how is it at all possible to durably synchronise different clocks, among other things? Assuming a number of clocks, at a standstill relative to each other, are set to read the same as some master clock, and assuming time doesn't exist, why would the clocks stay synchronised at all?

    As if you couldn't assume the obvious by yourself.
    EB
    It's not only not obvious; It's not achievable. Two clocks in the same room are experiencing different accelerations due to gravity. Not measurably so, but different nonetheless. They will not stay synchronized. Clocks DON'T stay synchronized with each other. That's the answer to your question.

    It's the same basic answer as to the question 'Why do coffee tables migrate eastwards in December?' - they DON'T.

    Your question is based on a false premise. I understand what you mean. But you don't understand that you are describing an hypothetical situation that cannot exist, as though it were a normal and routine situation in need of an explanation. It isn't; so it doesn't. The appearance that it does is an artifact of your human experience, wherein the desynchronization is too small to observe under most circumstances.
    I'm still not brain dead and I know perfectly well that clocks don't stay synchronised. It's really funny that you should even think we need to bring in the effect of relativity. Nobody believes clocks can stay synchronised. Yet, we keep talking of synchronising our clocks. Asks people on the ground for god's sake. Special op's and all that. LOL, go tell them they can't synchronise their watches. Get a bodyguard first to save your ass. When I want to synchronise my watch I go underground here in Paris because they synchronise their digital clocks by signal and my watch picks it up. So, my watch can be synchronised within one second with the underground railway's clocks here in Paris. And all these clocks, hundreds of them all over Paris--plus all the many watches, like mine, of the people going on the Underground--are synchronised within one second. If they are synchronised within one second, they are synchronised. You don't understand that, just too bad.

    I'm pleased to see you've finally opted for Steve's way. Not bothering to understand what people say must be so much more comfortable, somehow. Maybe a virus. Or old age? You've just synchronised yourself with stupidity.
    EB

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    Steve,

    Time (like distance) is a discoverable dimension. Using motion to calculate it is a devised convention. Take away the convention, the dimension persists.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank
    Time is not a reality, it is a unit of measure.
    Hi Steve, it's been a while since I've participated in any substantive thread on these fora, so it's refreshing and I appreciate your call for precision. While Speakpigeon's OP may have lacked specificity, I'm not sure that it is reduced to babbling by that lack. Maybe I was too generous in my assumptions that the OP referred to time in the common, colloquial sense of being the measure of when events take place or how long they take, typically measured using some cyclical thing like a clock ticking or caesium atoms oscillating. While absolute simultanaeity has been ruled out, it doesn't preclude relative simultanaeity, and that's what I thought we were talking about. Certainly, it has been shown that relative motion has effects on observations of time but I don't think that obviates the question as to whether time or its passage is a thing. Even though two observers in different inertial frames may disagree about the duration or order of events, and even though neither perspective takes precedence over the other, the observations aren't of something unreal or meaningless. The very fact that observers in different inertial frames might disagree about the order or duration of events, or agree upon them by taking their relative motion into consideration and agreeing on an arbitrarily preferred inertial frame of reference, suggests that both parties acknowledge that events have apparent sequences and duration. Furthermore, the fact that they could agree on a preferred reference frame, synchronize their clocks and successfully rendezvouz, means that consideration of time is not only meaningful but practically useful.

    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank
    The word time is a loaded word.
    As I mentioned in my initial response, I'm not aware of any language that doesn't fundamentally assume the existence and passage of time. Verbs, which are required of any complete statement (in English at least), are tainted with time. I predict that almost any statements intended to convey an idea of time as anything other than the common, colloquial understanding will be hamstrung by the language in which it is conveyed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon
    Strictly speaking, you don't observe motion. At any moment in time, you can only look at what is happening in that moment. Obviously, our senses suggest the reality of motion and indeed the reality of time. But, strictly speaking, perception doesn't "imply" anything.
    I am not sure that I quite follow your meaning entirely, especially considering the way it is (probably necessarily) worded. I would contest that I, or anyone else, does observe motion but, I think your argument is that you can only observe a "moment" (I assume an infinitessimally short period of time) without reference to the preceding or subsequent moment and that our senses construct the sequence of events. The term "happening in that moment" seems inappropriate since nothing can be happening in no time, only things being. I think that, contrary to your statement, the apparent sensation of time not only suggests, but implies that the passage of time is a real thing. If there is more than one moment to observe and construct as the sense of time passing, then how else could those two moments exist unless they were in fact separated by a period of time.

    Maybe, as you suggested and I mused earlier, time is like a fourth spatial dimension where two events that we would ordinarily describe as separated by time could be viewed by something with four dimensional perception as existing at the same time with separation along the fourth axis. However, I question whether it would be sensible to consider the same object separated on a time axis as having different identities at different positions in time. In any case, I don't think this negates our sensation of time as being reflective of reality.

    Quote Originally Posted by bilby
    Clocks do not remain synchronised, unless they share an acceleration frame.
    I certainly wouldn't dispute this, however, clocks in the same inertial frame can be synchronized to a degree that is practical and of essential utility. I think, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that the opening question asks why synchronization would be possible at all if time were not real, not that absolute simultanaeity can be established. I believe that absolute simultanaeity has been more than adequately ruled out.

    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank
    Imagine a closed box with a number of balls in it. I shake the box and relative positions change, in this case what does time mean?
    If there can be two different states of the balls then that limits us to only a few options. There are two states, separated by time. There is really only one state and the second is somehow unreal, irrelevant or dissociated. Both states are real but not separated by time (a concept which, if true, I can't wrap my head around). Perhaps there are other options that I haven't considered?

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    How much time is passing can often be measured by measuring its proxy, change, but if our world suddenly ceased to have change, it’s not time that stand stills but instead our ability to measure any change.
    But would this really be true? Would time have any meaning in a changeless universe? My general position is formed from the opposite approach which seems to be presented in the OP; without time, how is any change (and more specifically, the synchronization of changes) explicable?

    Quote Originally Posted by bilby
    It's not only not obvious; It's not achievable. Two clocks in the same room are experiencing different accelerations due to gravity. Not measurably so, but different nonetheless. They will not stay synchronized. Clocks DON'T stay synchronized with each other. That's the answer to your question.

    It's the same basic answer as to the question 'Why do coffee tables migrate eastwards in December?' - they DON'T.

    Your question is based on a false premise. I understand what you mean. But you don't understand that you are describing an hypothetical situation that cannot exist, as though it were a normal and routine situation in need of an explanation. It isn't; so it doesn't. The appearance that it does is an artifact of your human experience, wherein the desynchronization is too small to observe under most circumstances.
    I don't think anyone here has yet argued that absolute synchronization to an arbitrary degree is possible. I think the OP is asking why synchronization would be possible at all without time, not that synchronization could be perfect. For the purpose of discussing whether time is a thing, any degree of synchronization is worth discussing. We can definitely synchronize clocks to the point where two things can happen down to the minute, second, and even subsecond periods. We can do it very well in a shared reference frame and we can arbitrarily "correct" observations between two frames. If the existence of time, the apparent duration and sequence of events, were not a real thing, how could even gross synchronicity be achieved?

    Thanks to all for the discussion. I doubt we'll solve the riddle presented but I think it's worthwhile to think about it carefully and share our thoughts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fast View Post
    Steve,

    Time (like distance) is a discoverable dimension. Using motion to calculate it is a devised convention. Take away the convention, the dimension persists.
    Again I an sorry, but to me that is philosophical woo.

    Granted the forum is metaphysics, but it is woo. Left, right, latitude, longitude exist only in the brains of humans. Unless you postulate some kind of mind body duality or a causal link between brain and external reality the reality of our metaphysics is solely in our brains. That is my working paradigm, whatever 'it ' is , it is in our brain.

    We use inventions like metres, kilograms, and seconds to describe and quantify reality. I can not get a bucket of kilograms, but I can get a buck of objects that weigh 1 kilogram. I can not get a bucket of blue for that matter, I can get a bucket of blue paint.

    Colors, meters, cold, hot are all human inventions. Whether something is cold or hot or heavy or lite is solely dependent on being relative to human perception. And that is our brain.

    'Meters persist' 'seconds persist' to me does not mean anything. When all humans are dead and gone does the second, kilogram, and meter persist? If so how? Space and change go on. Our mtaphysics does not.

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    Words have meaning, but (some) also have referents. Most all words have meaning while merely some (substantively less than most) have referents. The referent of a word, however, exists independent of the word. Take the moon for example. The object (the thing we call a moon) has been orbiting this planet we call Earth a very long time before there were even people, and certainly before our labeling of it. Language is not a necessity for the existence for many of the things that would be referenced should there be words to reference them.

    The moon, however, is a concrete object, but an abstract object (a highly misunderstood phenomenon resulting in widespread objection) is neverless a reality for the discovering that may include man, conventions, and language to describe them, but that they exist independent of abstraction (which also is easily confused with the completely distinct notion of an abstract object) is important, as non-concrete phenomenon exist independent of our ability to engage in abstract thinking. To illustrate, before man, there exists the moon, but so too does the time it takes to orbit the sun.

    There can be no woo before humanity, and I’m giving an example that predates humanity, so I’m not injecting any woo.

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