Insight, News, and Opinion by Nick Abramo
  • September 23, 2021
Like Aristotle Postulated: Time Is Nothing More Than A Measurement Of Change

Since about 1991, when I had been out on my own in Hawaii for a few years and had lots of time to read and think, my deep thoughts led me to a realization of something that people either scoff at or they try but fail to see my reasoning.

I am no physicist or mathematician, mind you, but I kind of came up with a layman’s equation. On one side of the equals sign, I put TIME. On the other, CHANGE and MOVEMENT.

Like I was trying to say in that last paragraph, I’m no genius and I probably got a D in freshman Algebra under Mr. Peter Lepore in 1974-75. But I do remember learning the rule that says you can cross out one side of the equation as you move forward with future calculations. You can remove the other side completely.

So that is what I’m going to do for this article and it’s what I did in my own mind 30 years ago. I’m removing the TIME completely, leaving only CHANGE AND MOVEMENT.

One of many, many timeless sunsets.

In other words, time is nothing more than movement and change. Clocks, watches, sun dials, the Earth orbiting the sun, the Earth spinning on its own axis, all of those things are merely MEASURING movement and change. There is no additional thing called TIME. Time is a man-made device, in essence a word, our best effort in making sense of things.

With that in mind, and this is my opinion, time is not passing. There is no real and tangible thing such as “1991” and “30 years ago.” Sure, a lot of movement and change happened. The terms in parentheses are merely markers, like “ultraviolet” on the light spectrum. But TIME does not come here, stay for a “nanosecond” or some smaller division of that measurement, and then pass.

This thinking that there is no such real thing as external time, to me, aligns with that Eastern philosophy of “being one with nature.” Or just “to be” or “to exist,” the simplest kinds of notions.

We just are. We move and we change. We are born, we live and we die. We measure all of that. Universally speaking, though, we are in essence the same as we were when we were younger. Physical changes, yes. Different places, yes. But no TIME  has passed.  Just the ol’ M and the C.

Taking it one step further, we are, also universally speaking, right there where we were in “1991” or “30 years ago” but we don’t recognize it because of all that movement and change that occurred.

An image of Dum Dum, from the cartoon “Touche Turtle and Dum Dum.”
I refer to myself as a possible dumb dumb in this article,
just in case everything I’m getting at is wrong.

If this all sounds absurd to you, I will not be surprised or offended. But I am not the only one who sees things this way. Many physicists eliminate time at the subatomic level.

Recently, I’ve been reading physicist Carlo Rovelli’s books on this same subject. I’m in the process of reading his “The Order of Time” and he certainly heads in my direction (or perhaps, more likely I’m the dumb dumb heading in his direction).

But, so far in my reading, Rovelli hasn’t completely eliminated the passing of time as something real and tangible and replacing it fully with movement and change. He almost gets all that way, but continually comes back to the subject of such things as what Albert Einstein called spacetime, so it seems, he’s not ready to fully cut ties with absolute time.

Interestingly, Rovelli brings up Aristotle in some of his passages. One such passage IS THE REASON I’m writing this article today (that last word, remember, is just a measurement of movement and change). And it turns out that my thinking aligns pretty closely with Aristotle’s.

Here’s how Rovelli weaves Aristotle’s thoughts into his book:

“Aristotle is the first we are aware of to have asked himself the question, ‘What is time?,’ and he came to the following conclusion: time is the measurement of change. Things change continually. We call ‘time’ the measurement, the counting of this change.

“Aristotle’s idea is sound: time is what we refer to when we ask ‘when?’ ‘After how much time will you return?’ means ‘When will you return?’ The answer to the question ‘when?’ refers to something that happens. ‘I’ll return in three days’ time’ means that between departure and return the sun will have completed three circuits in the sky. It’s as simple as that.

“So if nothing changes, if nothing moves, does time therefore cease to pass? Aristotle believed that it did. If nothing changes, time does not pass — because time is our way of situating ourselves in relation to the change of things: the placing of ourselves in relation to the counting of days. Time is the measure of change. If nothing changes, there is no time.”

And a little bit later in the book, Rovelli sums up Aristotle’s thinking, AND THIS IS THE BIGGIE for me: “If nothing moves, there is no time because time is nothing but registering movement.”

According to Rovelli, Isaac Newton understood what Aristotle was saying but also believed in time being absolute, writing that Newton thought that “A true time passes regardless, independently of things and of their changes. If all things remained motionless and even the movements of our souls were to be frozen, this time would continue to pass, according to Newton, unaffected and equal to itself.”

Oh wait, but there’s more by Rovelli that puts a kind of whammy on Newton’s thinking on this matter, and THIS IS ANOTHER BIGGIE: “Newton’s time is not evidence given to us by our senses: It is an elegant intellectual construction. If my dear cultivated reader, the existence of this Newtonian concept of time which is independent of things seems to you simple and natural, it’s because you encountered it at school. Because it has gradually become the way in which we all think about time. We have turned it into our common sense. But the existence of time that is uniform, independent of things and of their movement that today seems so natural to us is not an ancient intuition that is natural to humanity itself. It’s an idea of Newton’s.”

So, yo, yo, yo, let’s get back to Earth here, shall we? My writing that time is not what we’ve been taught (or, indeed, that there really is no such reality as time passing) reminds me of all the Flat Earthers out there saying the Earth is not round.

Ahh, but with one difference. I can actually write (pseudo?) intellectually on the subject, with support from a brilliant physicist and probably the most famous Greek philosopher. The Flat Earthers I know want me to watch a video that somebody made. They never give me anything that they themselves have written based on those others’ deductions.

So, maybe this screed is crazy talk. I don’t think so. Y0u are free to dissect it any way you want and call it bullshit if that’s how you feel. That’s another difference between me and the Flat Earthers. They don’t want to be told that their thinking is bullshit. I don’t mind at all.

Also, I’ll leave you with another idea from Rovelli that is fascinating, whether he’s right or not.

Rovelli makes an analogy that parallels our PERCEPTION of time passing in only one direction with the thermodynamic law in which energy passes from a hot body to cold one and not the other way around — one direction only.

Eh, very interesting, yes. Ahh, but if I start believing in that kind of thing, then I’ve got to give more credence to the actual passing of time and I’m not sure I’m ready to do that.

In the meantime, I will keep reading.

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