Time’s Arrow

I’ve always been concerned with time. How it appears to tick away, methodical and unstoppable. How it has a directionality that is irreversible – “Time’s Arrow”, as Arthur Eddington called it in 1927.

“This thing all things devours: Birds, beasts, trees, flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stone to meal; Slays king, ruins town, And beats high mountain down.” – Gollum to Bilbo

I’m sure it blew people’s mind-hole when physicists began to measure time relative to the higher gravitational areas of the earth and realized that time is elastic – that it moves slower the higher the level of gravity. Gravity slows time. Following this thought, it slows time because the higher the gravity, the greater the force containing the entropic nature of all things. Entropy, the nature of matter in the universe moving from more orderly, more concentrated states to less orderly ones in closed systems, seems to explain Time’s Arrow.

There are two powers which make it difficult to unify Einstein’s ideas of quantum mechanics with general relativity – entropy and gravity. Why is it at the quantum level (the micro level) temporal directionality is irrelevant? The math works exactly the same if time is moving forward or backward.

The ‘settled’ idea (which is no longer settled) was that there was a big bang at the beginning, during which some ‘inflationary’ anti-gravitational event then – following the ‘bang’ – pushed matter into deep space where gravity organized it into galaxies and solar systems etc. Forget the fact that there is no evidence of this ‘inflationary’ event, and that there is no force in the universe that acts as anti-gravity (except entropy which is gradual not explosive). That should mean that all galaxies are moving away from each other into deep space. But we are on a collision course with Andromeda. In fact – Andromeda is about to hit us in 5 billion years, two or three billion years BEFORE our sun dies. So we might be alive to see it (wouldn’t that be spectacular).

My fundamental problem with the big bang is, how did the ‘cosmic egg’ assemble in the first place – how did all matter arrive at a concentrated state and what caused the explosion? There are no good answers to that question. There is an alternate solution – although equally unsatisfying as the big bang. The universe is, in fact, eternal – just like Ludwig Boltzmann thought. What we have, in fact, is matter careening about in space eventually being organized by gravity into states where the laws of thermodynamics begin to apply, and then given (locally at least) a directionality through the laws of entropy. My question for this is, at what point has gravity amassed sufficient mass that entropy begins? Or is entropy happening all along, in our ‘closed systems’ until those systems are acted upon by an outside force (something coming from outside the galaxy, for example).

I have a further problem with black holes; which perhaps can be explained by anti-gravity. The gravitational pulls exerted by black holes does not seem to provide ‘organization’ the way normal gravity works – seems to create instead the ‘cosmic egg’ type of concentration (without organization) that big bang apologists say began everything. Unless anti-gravity is the macro-gravity field into which normal gravity inserts organization.

Final thoughts, provided to us by Julian Barbour and Flavio Mercati – perhaps gravity and entropy are in fact related forces (like positive and negative charges). Perhaps gravity is the “bowstring” that draws back the arrow of time before it unleashes it. Maybe the universe is not product of a big bang emerging from a singularity (a massive black hole) in the depths of time (time? in that sense time has no meaning). Perhaps the universe acts more like that lava lamp that we have in our bedrooms when we are teenagers – where masses grow and fuse and disperse and grow again as they move together and apart. And perhaps “time” as we know it is moving the other direction in another one of the globules as it assembles into the ordered states that become galaxies and solar systems. Or maybe even within those rapidly-amassing systems – like black holes eating stars – entropy still functions to control time. Except time is a local phenomenon.

And perhaps gravity is the force that is staying the heat death of the universe.

I don’t really understand any of this. Physics is the marriage of philosophy and math. Philosophy is that natural niggle within our understanding, some call it ‘reason’, which tells us what makes sense. Math tells us what is possible. Mathematicians came up with the big bang, but for philosophers it has never worked.

Stay tuned, I’m reading more on time – but also entanglement.

About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
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2 Responses to Time’s Arrow

  1. Bill Loughlin says:

    May I recommend you hie yourself over to Edward Feser to see an Aristotelian Thomist’s take?


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