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Max™: on 11/1/09 at 13:15pm UTC, wrote Well, I seem to be artificially ending my post somehow... Either way,...

Max™: on 11/1/09 at 13:06pm UTC, wrote Oops, post got cut off. I wrote out a longer (rambling >.

Max™: on 11/1/09 at 12:56pm UTC, wrote Wow, I can't believe I managed to miss your papers regarding retro-causal...

Eckard Blumschein: on 1/14/09 at 14:48pm UTC, wrote Response to Prof. Wharton's response: To someone who was not educated in a...

William Wharton: on 12/15/08 at 20:22pm UTC, wrote response to comments: I mention that time is a coordinate of our space-time...

Eckard Blumschein: on 12/10/08 at 14:15pm UTC, wrote Professor Wharton, A key element of your essay is "causal chain". Are...

matthew kolasinski: on 12/5/08 at 21:12pm UTC, wrote Hello Prof. Wharton, re: "The water flowing down the river is analogous...

Ken Wharton: on 12/1/08 at 4:06am UTC, wrote Hi Dad, You mention in your Bio that we have a different view of the...


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September 19, 2018

CATEGORY: The Nature of Time Essay Contest (2008) [back]
TOPIC: Time and Causality by William R. Wharton [refresh]
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William R. Wharton wrote on Nov. 26, 2008 @ 11:18 GMT
Essay Abstract

The difference between past, present, and future which we all experience is due to causal chains moving forward in time. Time is a coordinate but is distinct from the spatial coordinates primarily because of a special relationship with causal chains. This paper examines systems which are static because of a lack of causal chains. Without causal chains there are no localized events in space-time. Such systems are time-independent because causal chains are the source of all processes of becoming. Causation introduces a time asymmetry in nature. On a microscopic scale where an accurate description requires quantum mechanics, time symmetry can be restored by including causal chains progressing backward in time.

Author Bio

William R. Wharton is a Professor of Physics at Wheaton College to which he came in 1984 after eighteen years of research in nuclear physics. William has a deep interest in cosmology and teaches astronomy at the Wheaton College Science Station in South Dakota. His son, Ken Wharton, is a physics professor at San Jose State. Ken has a different view of the nature of time, which leads to lively discussions.

Download Essay PDF File

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Cristi Stoica wrote on Nov. 27, 2008 @ 22:52 GMT
Hello William,

I liked your essay about causal chains.

I agree with you that, properly interpreted, Quantum Mechanics involves a kind of “backward causation” that makes quantum non-locality compatible with Special Relativity.


Cristi Stoica

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John Merryman wrote on Nov. 30, 2008 @ 14:49 GMT
Professor Wharton,

There is a natural feature to time I based my entry on, but doesn't seem to draw attention in these many other essays on the topic. It is that while the present goes from past events to future ones, these particular events go from being in the future to being in the past. It seems to me that much of the problem with understanding time is caused by this assumption that all aspects of time travel from the past into the future and the only way around is to propose some form of "block time," or other mechanism where the essential dynamic is negated. Since your essay seems to be an effort to peel away this particular encrustation to examine the underlaying dynamics, I thought I'd pose the point to you for consideration.

Consider that any motion, or cycling, or process is going through a progression of events. Your chain of causality. What is time? Is it some underlaying dimension along which physical reality travels, from past events to future ones? Or is it these series of events which start as future potential, then manifested by the energies determining which events prevail out of the potentials, then replaced by the next event and fade into past circumstance?

For much of human history and before, we thought of the sun as traveling from east to west, but than realized it was the earth rotating west to east. Could it be the problem with our understanding of time is a similar juxtaposition, where it is actually time going by the present of physical reality, from future to past, rather than this reality traveling along some meta-dimension from past to future?

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Ken Wharton wrote on Dec. 1, 2008 @ 04:06 GMT
Hi Dad,

You mention in your Bio that we have a different view of the nature of time, but you should also mention that there's some substantial overlap as well...

(For anyone else reading this, when I was a kid my father would often play our home movies in reverse and tell me that everything I saw was still obeying all the regular laws of physics. I've been trying to puzzle that one out ever since... :-)


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matthew kolasinski wrote on Dec. 5, 2008 @ 21:12 GMT
Hello Prof. Wharton,



water flowing down the river is analogous to the causal chains moving forward in time. A

place where the water is stagnating is analogous to a lack of causal chains, and therefore a

lack of events."

time does seem to be largely a perceptual problem. another way of looking at it:

we can toss a hula hoop out on a lake,...

view entire post

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Dec. 10, 2008 @ 14:15 GMT
Professor Wharton,

A key element of your essay is "causal chain". Are there really causal chains? I prefer causal forks like for instance family trees. Maybe you feel in position to refute my conclusions from flaws I am claiming to have found in interpretations of basic mathematics for quantum mechanics.

A fork is like an arrow while Minkowski's cones could be flipped. Could you imagine having exactly one son and one daughter but possibly several mothers and no father at all?

I consider my reasoning very serious and suspect Baez, Wheeler and many others might possibly be fundamentally wrong.

Eckard Blumschein

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William Wharton wrote on Dec. 15, 2008 @ 20:22 GMT
response to comments: I mention that time is a coordinate of our space-time universe. What makes this important is that all events (localized reality) must be defined by specific values for all of the coordinates, including time. The concept of past, present, and future is related to the process of physical reality (defined by events) coming into existence by causal chains. In the microworld described by quantum mechanics these causal chains can go equally in both time directions. There is time symmetry and past, present, and future can’t be defined in terms of time progression. Only in the macroworld where causal chains are restricted to moving forward in time can we associate past, present, and future with a time direction.

The problem with a block universe model is that it is inappropriately taking our understanding of time from relativity theory to argue that there is no process of becoming. My model has a much looser connection between ‘becoming’ and time, which is an inanimate coordinate. The logic behind a block universe model is scientifically flawed. Its defense must come solely from philosophy. Of course my model is mostly metaphysical as well, but this only reaffirms the philosophical nature of a block universe model.

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Jan. 14, 2009 @ 14:48 GMT
Response to Prof. Wharton's response:

To someone who was not educated in a world of believers, virtually every sentence of you reminds of a gospel. Is there really for sure a space-time universe?

While I do not object against the possibility to in principle ascribe age and spatial location to a fossil, I consider any future event unreal.

I already got aware of the chicken-egg problem nearly 50 years ago when I dealt with linear relations between quantities like B, H, E, J etc. at university.

What about present, I understand it as a deliberately undecided description which is valuable in social life but not in physics.

You are quite right in that the process of physical reality is a collection of what already happened.

You wrote: In the micro world, described by quantum mechanics, the causal chains can go equally in both time directions. There is time symmetry.

Instead of blindly defending some obviously flawed logic you should be open for the possibility that not just Thomas Gold was wrong when he naively imagined an time-inverse anti-world. Incidentally, Gold was correct when he criticized in 1947 the passive TW model of cochlea.

Meanwhile, even Prof. em. Zeh, who does not question so far decoherence, wrote a blog you should read.

Eckard Blumschein

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Max™ wrote on Nov. 1, 2009 @ 12:56 GMT
Wow, I can't believe I managed to miss your papers regarding retro-causal interpretations of QM, Prof. Wharton.

This time last year I was busily scouring the web for some sort of known disproof for this, not because of the backward causation model specifically, as I had already known of it and it's... uh, useful validity at describing the effects.

It is because I was pondering a...

view entire post

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Max™ wrote on Nov. 1, 2009 @ 13:06 GMT
Oops, post got cut off.

I wrote out a longer (rambling >.

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Max™ wrote on Nov. 1, 2009 @ 13:15 GMT
Well, I seem to be artificially ending my post somehow...

Either way, thank you for the time it took to read that, it is somewhat frustrating trying to get in touch with those within academic circles when you are not in them yourself. I must admit I would be extremely excited at the possibility of discussing this with, not just a Professor, but one with similar intuitions about Relativity being correct, and an interest in adjusting causality.

I'll be looking for more of your work to read, if you're interested I have a somewhat embarrassingly rambling paper I wrote about this that I like to call Simply Relativity.

If I'm correct and you can express extended temporal interaction this way through GR, then something that acts like QM "falls out" into your lap, so everything would be Simply Relativity.

Thank you for your time.

Max Morriss

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