What is Time? (My hypothesis)

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Four years ago my high school physics teacher asked the class, "What is time?" I think I finally have an answer.

Submitted: August 24, 2016

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Submitted: August 24, 2016

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Time, An Artificial Property

My physics teacher in high school once asked the class, “What is time?” He told us that, “time is the measurement of change”, an idea put forth by Aristotle. Newton hypothesized the existence of “absolute time”, an imperceptible universal time which progressed at a constant rate. I disagree with this interpretation as well.

Beginning with the Newtonian concept of time: it is fundamentally flawed. Newton’s theory presumes a force which propels absolute time forward. But what is this force which compels time to progress? Furthermore, for something to “progress” it must progress through something. So what is absolute time progressing through? Furthermore, if time is moving forward, then it must have a beginning. And the existence of that beginning means that the force which compels time forward at some point did not compel time. So what compelled the force that compels time to start compelling time?

Aristotle’s hypothesis of time being the measurement of change is close, but it does not define time. If time is a measurement of change, then no change would mean time cease to exist. But how can something which exists stop existing then re-exist? The laws of conservation of mass and energy state that no physical object or energy can leave existance. If this is the case, then time cannot be a physical entity or an energy. The one thing that can exist, then not exist, and exist again is an idea. Just as an example: if someone were to think of an invention, but die before they passed it on to someone else or made the idea a reality, and then someone else was to think of the exact same invention, the idea of the invention would have come into existence, cease to exist upon the death of the first inventor, then re-exist when conceived by the second inventor. The measurement of change is timekeeping. Timekeeping is impossible when no change is observed, but time can still be assigned.

Furthermore, if time is a perceivable property of an object, like position and temperature, then how can events have a time as well? The only property of an event is the time it took, or will take, place, and this of course is completely relative to when other identified events took place. But again, if time is a perceivable property of an object, then how can intangibles such as events also have that same property, for how would we perceive time given an event and nothing else? If time was a perceivable property of an object, meaning it was independent from artificial assignment, then we would be able to relate the time of an event back to the time of an object, which we can’t. We do, however, relate the time of an object back to the time of events.

Time is an artificial label which relates something, be it an object or event, to an identified event, or multiple events. It is a property of an object only because we have assigned each object a time. The “time a change takes to happen” is the difference between the time when State B came into existence and when State A existed. Likewise, actions do not “take time” to happen. Changes happen at the rate they do and we use certain consistently-rated changes as a basis for timekeeping.


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