Shout out to those of you who enjoy wavering between huge ideas and finding solace in the grey spaces. Some individuals prefer absolutes (good and evil, right and wrong), while others recognise that the majority of our lives take place on a continuum. As it turns out, we are currently seeing one of the most significant such battles: the conventional model of physics vs the quantum model of physics. And, depending on how you look at it, time could not exist at all.
Quantum mechanics is the study of how particles act incredibly close up, with properties such as superposition, in which one particle can be in two or even “all” conceivable places at the same moment. Because the cat we can’t see is both living and dead at the same time, the famous Schrödinger’s cat experiment makes us ponder about superposition. The path to development is generally rocky, but scientists were unprepared for how strange quantum mechanics can be.
Clearly, concepts such as quantum superposition contradict general relativity, which has been included into the mainstream model of physics since Einstein originally articulated it in the early 1900s. Under the standard model, one of the foundational laws of the universe is general relativity, which describes how everything behaves in reaction to gravity, such as how time passes differently depending on where and how you’re travelling through space.
There are also new ideas emerging all the time, one of which is known as “loop quantum gravity.” According to Baron, this hypothesis incorporates microscopic pieces of matter that create little loops. That may sound strange, but it isn’t the biggest surprise here. “One of the amazing properties of loop quantum gravity is that it appears to completely erase time,” adds Baron. “Assume that such a hypothesis is correct. “Does this imply that time does not exist?”
At this stage, the question is one of mathematics as well as ontology, the philosophical study of what exists and what it means to exist. (I’m joking, although you may have heard of ontology in reference to the concept of renowned “proofs” that God exists.)
At the very least, the math is straightforward. If theories such as loop quantum gravity do not take time into account, time as a variable simply does not exist in the work. Consider a three-dimensional set of coordinates such as (x, y, z) with the “z” part removed. You merely have to complete a different amount of work now, with a different result, and “z” may no longer exist.
So, as Baron notes, time may simply not be a part in these higher-order physics theories, just as we don’t account for chairs or tables. Yes, such things exist, but we don’t need to discuss them while we’re attempting to solve the deepest mysteries of our universe. Above all, physics is still profoundly rooted in the concept of causation—tracing one thing from one moment to the next and seeing how acts affect one another.
“If that’s correct,” Baron adds, “then agency can still exist.” “Because it is completely conceivable to recreate a feeling of agency in causal terms.”