Thursday, May 12, 2011 11:09 AM

Does "time" even exist?

in General | Science and Technology by MegaBearsFan

I recently discussed some the problems inherent to time travel in works of fiction. Most notably, the paradoxes contained in the Terminator and Back to the Future movies. But now I want to take a step back and look at time itself.

Does "time" even exist?

The standard notion of time is that it is a fourth dimension just as fundamental and intrinsic to the universe as the three spatial dimensions of length, width, and height.

But the truth is: time is just an abstraction of the human imagination. It is a convenient construct that we use to explain relationships between things in our universe. Like motion, time does not exist without the objects that we use as a frame of reference for measuring it.

The definition of a second

Time is scientifically defined as a relationship to the rate of decay of a radioactive caesium atom. It is also often linked with the speed of light, which is often seen as a “cosmic speed limit”.

But is this view of time really necessary? Is time truly a fundamental property of our universe?

“What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning”
   - Werner Heisenberg, father of quantum physics.
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Star Trek First Contact poster

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of participating in a podcast called Geek Fights, and the topic was "Worst episode of Star Trek". During that debate, I railed pretty heavily against a particular episode of Star Trek Voyager called "Dark Frontier", and alleged that that episode (and Voyager in general) ruined the Borg - one of Star Trek's most compelling villains. Although, I don't think I was as hard on "Dark Frontier" as Allen was on Republicans...

But, due to time constraints, I tried to restrain myself, and I mentioned that I would go into more detail on my blog.


Well, Geek Fights fans, the podcast was recently released, and so here is that blog!

First of all, the podcast itself is included in the embedded player below, or you can listen to it from its original source at Geek Fights.

The story arc from "Dark Frontier" is a representation of the 2 things that I most hate about the last few seasons of Voyager. The first being that they were too heavily focused on Seven of Nine and the Doctor. Yeah, she looked great in that skin-tight unitard. Yeah, sure, she and the Doctor are probably the best and most interesting characters in the entire series. And I will defend Jeri Ryan's acting performance to the last -- she totally nailed the part! And yeah the Doctor is Voyager's equivalent of TNG's Data (arguably that show's most popular character). And Robert Picardo probably provides the second-best acting performance on the series. But there are like 7 other major characters on the show, make an episode about one of them for a change...

The other problem I had with Voyager was the Borg. The Borg were probably the best, most perfect villain for Roddenberry's Star Trek because Star Trek was supposed to be a "human voyage". The Borg were antithetical to everything that the show was about: the human spirit, the spirit of discovery, self-betterment, compassion, friendship, loyalty, and so on.

Star Trek The Next Generation - Best of Both Worlds part II

The Borg had none of that. They were mindless, infallible automatons with a collective will, who single-mindedly sought out technology and mercilessly destroyed anything and anyone that got in their way. They were a representation of technology gone amok.

They had NO humanity.

But that's not even the worst of it!

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Time travel is a difficult subject. It also happens to be a very popular subject of many stories in books, television, movies, video games, and so on. But human kind's limited understanding of the workings of time and the possibility of time travel (especially the limited understanding of the casual book reader, movie viewer, or video game player) leads to depictions of this subject being wrought with logical inconsistencies, paradoxes, and plot holes.

One of the most common problems with time travel stories is the creation of paradoxes. Of these, some of the most common paradoxes are the "predestination paradox", the "bootstrap paradox", and the "grandfather paradox" (or the "reverse grandfather" paradox). You're probably familiar with all of these, but you may not know them by name, so I'll take a moment to define them for you:

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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