Search FQXi

If you are aware of an interesting new academic paper (that has been published in a peer-reviewed journal or has appeared on the arXiv), a conference talk (at an official professional scientific meeting), an external blog post (by a professional scientist) or a news item (in the mainstream news media), which you think might make an interesting topic for an FQXi blog post, then please contact us at with a link to the original source and a sentence about why you think that the work is worthy of discussion. Please note that we receive many such suggestions and while we endeavour to respond to them, we may not be able to reply to all suggestions.

Please also note that we do not accept unsolicited posts and we cannot review, or open new threads for, unsolicited articles or papers. Requests to review or post such materials will not be answered. If you have your own novel physics theory or model, which you would like to post for further discussion among then FQXi community, then please add them directly to the "Alternative Models of Reality" thread, or to the "Alternative Models of Cosmology" thread. Thank you.

Contests Home

Current Essay Contest

Previous Contests

Wandering Towards a Goal
How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?
December 2, 2016 to March 3, 2017
Contest Partner: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Fnd.

Trick or Truth: The Mysterious Connection Between Physics and Mathematics
Contest Partners: Nanotronics Imaging, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, and The John Templeton Foundation
Media Partner: Scientific American


How Should Humanity Steer the Future?
January 9, 2014 - August 31, 2014
Contest Partners: Jaan Tallinn, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, The John Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

It From Bit or Bit From It
March 25 - June 28, 2013
Contest Partners: The Gruber Foundation, J. Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

Questioning the Foundations
Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?
May 24 - August 31, 2012
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, SubMeta, and Scientific American

Is Reality Digital or Analog?
November 2010 - February 2011
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation and Scientific American

What's Ultimately Possible in Physics?
May - October 2009
Contest Partners: Astrid and Bruce McWilliams

The Nature of Time
August - December 2008

Forum Home
Terms of Use

Order posts by:
 chronological order
 most recent first

Posts by the author are highlighted in orange; posts by FQXi Members are highlighted in blue.

By using the FQXi Forum, you acknowledge reading and agree to abide by the Terms of Use

 RSS feed | RSS help


Thomas Ray: "(reposted in correct thread) Lorraine, Nah. That's nothing like my view...." in 2015 in Review: New...

Lorraine Ford: "Clearly “law-of-nature” relationships and associated numbers represent..." in Physics of the Observer -...

Lee Bloomquist: "Information Channel. An example from Jon Barwise. At the workshop..." in Physics of the Observer -...

Lee Bloomquist: "Please clarify. I just tried to put a simple model of an observer in the..." in Alternative Models of...

Lee Bloomquist: "Footnote...for the above post, the one with the equation existence =..." in Alternative Models of...

Thomas Ray: "In fact, symmetry is the most pervasive physical principle that exists. ..." in “Spookiness”...

Thomas Ray: "It's easy to get wound around the axle with black hole thermodynamics,..." in “Spookiness”...

Joe Fisher: "It seems to have escaped Wolpert’s somewhat limited attention that no two..." in Inferring the Limits on...

click titles to read articles

The Complexity Conundrum
Resolving the black hole firewall paradox—by calculating what a real astronaut would compute at the black hole's edge.

Quantum Dream Time
Defining a ‘quantum clock’ and a 'quantum ruler' could help those attempting to unify physics—and solve the mystery of vanishing time.

Our Place in the Multiverse
Calculating the odds that intelligent observers arise in parallel universes—and working out what they might see.

Sounding the Drums to Listen for Gravity’s Effect on Quantum Phenomena
A bench-top experiment could test the notion that gravity breaks delicate quantum superpositions.

Watching the Observers
Accounting for quantum fuzziness could help us measure space and time—and the cosmos—more accurately.

January 19, 2018

CATEGORY: The Nature of Time Essay Contest (2008) [back]
TOPIC: What Is Time? by Gregory Keaton [refresh]
Bookmark and Share
Login or create account to post reply or comment.

Gregory Keaton wrote on Dec. 2, 2008 @ 14:40 GMT
Essay Abstract

I examine the point of view, advocated by Einstein, that the flow of time is an illusion. Evidence to support this view comes from the fact that the time variable t can be eliminated from the equations of classical and quantum mechanics. However, I argue that quantum jumps—which are notoriously left out of the equations—play a role in creating a real, objective flow of time.

Author Bio

Greg has always been interested in the philosophical aspects of science. He earned a Ph.D. in theoretical particle physics from U.C. Berkeley, and since then has had a variety of jobs, including teaching, patent writing, and laser design. He currently works for a small laser startup called Mobius Photonics. More than once he has tried to prove that time doesn’t really exist—probably because he is such a terrible procrastinator.

Download Essay PDF File

Carl Brannen wrote on Dec. 2, 2008 @ 22:15 GMT
I loved your essay! Wonderful!

Chi Ming Hung wrote on Dec. 2, 2008 @ 23:10 GMT
Nice essay Greg. I share your view that the only possible explanation for the "flow" of Time in modern physics is in quantum "jumps". In fact it seems to me that the Schroedinger equation and other wave equations in quantum mechanics should be regarded as mathematical artifacts which arise when we try to describe what's essentially discontinuous Becoming by the mathematics of the continuous and the differentiable. The continuous evolution of the wave function in time as described by quantum mechanics is not observable, only the quantum jumps and the frequencies of various quantum phenomena are observable. My contention is that these are the basic building blocks from which one should use to try to re-build quantum mechanics. I've written more about this in my essay.

T H Ray wrote on Dec. 3, 2008 @ 12:34 GMT
Very nice essay, Greg, and it perfectly frames the actual physics of time without invoking philosophical prejudice. You write:

"If the future is entirely determined by its past, then the flow of time makes little sense: all of the information necessary to predict the future already

exists today."

Excellent. And then, on other hand, if future information impinges on the present probabilistically (as in the quantum jump phenomenon) time _must_ flow.

All best wishes.


Marek Alboszta wrote on Dec. 5, 2008 @ 02:15 GMT
Excellent essay to communicate your fundamental insight that deterministic formulations of physical law could be mapped to just space parameters using mathematics, but for the quantum jumps that saved us from such a boring fate. Though irksome to those that try to construct a complete and axiomatic system, I thank the existence of these pesky and discontinuous QM jumps for saving me from the thought that I have no free will and time is an illusion.

all the best!


Christine Koenig wrote on Dec. 14, 2008 @ 00:35 GMT
Wonderful essay, Greg! I enjoyed the mix of humour with technical know-how. Very entertaining and spiritual at the same time. Thank you!

Cristi Stoica wrote on Dec. 27, 2008 @ 18:34 GMT
Hi Greg,

Beautiful and interesting essay! Nice idea of identifying the existence of time with indeterminism.

Best wishes,

Cristi Stoica

John Merryman wrote on Jan. 1, 2009 @ 16:46 GMT

"I believe that time can be eliminated from the laws of physics because the

equations are deterministic. If the future is entirely determined by its past, then the flow of time makes little sense: all of the information necessary to predict the future already exists today. In the words of Pierre Simon Laplace, given a sufficiently intelligent being who knew every detail of...

view entire post

Wilton Alano wrote on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 18:45 GMT

No need of formulas to know what is time, sorry!

Time means matter particles and corpses continuously change their spatial position, exactly like energy. Is this continuous motion that we call "time".

No energy, no time. So, in a supposed system where no energy happens (no movement, no kinetics, like a frozen bottle at absolute 0º), no time occurs.

Once no thing in known universe is unenergized, so time is elapsed in any place.

Important is to keep in mind that time is synonym of Energy (motion) and is also synonym of change.



Larry Moss wrote on Aug. 2, 2016 @ 11:31 GMT
Very nice and informative post. Need more information about Essay???? Visit here Essay Writing Help.

report post as inappropriate

Login or create account to post reply or comment.

Please enter your e-mail address:
Note: Joining the FQXi mailing list does not give you a login account or constitute membership in the organization.