Saturday, January 12, 2019

Time dilation, movement and eternity

Relativistic time dilation formula:

, where tS is Stationary Time, t' is relativistic time, v = subject's velocity, c = speed of light = 3 x 108 m/s

The theory of special relativity states that time is not fixed but rather relative to the speed of light. As an object moves closer to the speed of light, time slows down from their perspective, alongside other interesting effects. For example, someone traveling at the 0.8 times the speed of light for 180 seconds (from his perspective) will find that 300 seconds has passed in real life (i.e. the stationary observer). Time around him seems to slow down such that 1 of his seconds is longer than the 1 second of the observer. If he moves even faster, time around him will slow more and more. When he accelerates to 2.999 x 108 m/s, more than 0.99 times the speed of light, only about 7.7 seconds has passed while 300 seconds have passed for the observer.

Albert Einstein's theories of relativity (both special and general) show that time is not a fixed quality. Furthermore, if time is not a fixed quality, then perhaps time is a dimension just like our three-dimensional space (thus 4-dimensional space-time). Regardless of whether time is a dimension or not, I would like to look here at the implications of Special Relativity on the issue of eternity.

According to the relativistic formula of time dilation, the faster the speed of the object, the slower time flows around the object. Due to the Lorentz transformation, it is impossible for any object with mass to reach light speed, since any object approaching light speed will approach infinite mass and will require infinite energy to do so. But suppose an object were to reach light speed. What happens then? Well, the object will have infinite mass so it will collapse into a black hole. But as the object reaches light speed, the flow of time around the object stops. The object at the speed of light has reached timelessness, where t' equals 0. Time as perceived by the object has essentially stopped, and he can "travel" whatever distance he desires without time moving at all.

What does this have to do with movement and eternity? Well, actions involves movements, which means there is change over time. Timelessness and spontaneity in the physical world occurs for objects at the speed of light. However, if the object is timeless, then the object is stuck at that time (frozen in time). For any action done to take effect, the object has to exit the state of timelessness.

To speak of God as being "timeless" therefore is to create a deistic god, where the world is wound up and all the actions began at the singularity that is the beginning of the world. Something that is eternally timeless can only interact with time at the point of singularity, and anything that becomes timeless at time t1 can only interact with the world at time t1. Surely a god who is timeless, if he is to preserve timelessness, cannot cease being timeless even for an instant. Therefore, the only logical conclusion for a god who is timeless is that he does not interact with the world except to wind it up. Providence in this model is merely the unfolding of the decrees inbuilt within creation. There cannot be miracles, except the miracles that have been decreed to be worked out from creation. God cannot hear prayers, for a timeless god cannot be in time.

Needless to say, this is not the God of the Bible. Thus, the biblical God cannot be timeless, or at least he cannot be timeless in his interaction with the world. Timelessness can only be attributed to God's essence since His essence does not deal with us, but it cannot be attributed to God in His three persons, since Father, Son, and Spirit interacts with the world and with us. It is because of this that we must reject the classical theistic view of timelessness. God is eternal yes, and eternal time in his essence can be said to be "timeless." But God in His persons is not timeless neither does that even make sense. We are not supposed to be deists after all! The God of the Bible is portrayed as one who hears our prayers and acts on behalf of His people, whereas in a deistic system one can only say that this god began a process at creation to seemingly answer prayer even before the prayer has been uttered, and thus give an illusion that prayer has been answered.

It is because of this that God's eternity in His persons is everlasting "time," and not "timelessness." The Son in everlasting "time," in eternity past, submits to the Father in the Pactum Salutis to save His people. "Time" did not begin for God with the Incarnation, but it has always been present, as long and as eternal as the persons of the Trinity have their fellowship one with another.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Time, and the idea of the Time Stone

... he denies, like Leibniz does, that time is any sort of substantival entity over and above the phenomena that are located in time. [Paul Horwich, Asymmetries in Time: Problems in the Philosophy of Science (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), 47]

In sci-fi/ fantasy movies, certain exotic scientific concepts are explored. Time travel is one such exotic concept, which is based upon a certain view of time (i.e. time is a dimension just like our three dimensions of space). But even more exotic concepts have to do with time manipulation in the here and now, including reversing time with everything going in reverse (e.g. raindrops gathering from the ground and moving up to the clouds). We see those concepts in play in Marvel movies like Doctor Strange and Avengers: Infinity War. In Doctor Strange, Doctor Strange uses the Time Stone to reverse time in an attempt to prevent Dormammu from entering the "Earth dimension," and when he was stopped from completing the time reversal, he used time loops to force Dormammu to retreat from the Earth . In Infinity War, the mad Titan Thanos used the Time Stone to reverse time in a small circle around the place where Vision was destroyed, reversing the Mind Stone's destruction so that he could take it from Vision and complete his Infinity Gauntlet. In both of these movies, we see the use of an artifact that uses energy to manipulate time. Time is depicted as a dimension that can be manipulated by someone, and that person must be situated outside of time when he manipulates time in whatever manner he desires.

The manipulation of time is somewhat problematic when one actually thinks about it. We are creatures of time, in that time moves all around us. We are born in time, grow up in time, age in time, and die in time. The movement of time is essentially movement. Without the movement of time, nothing moves in the world, for movement is after all change of position over time (e.g. meters PER second). Therefore, to say that one can manipulate time would mean that one must be outside of time. For otherwise, if one reverses time, does the process of reversing time reverses the action of the person who is trying to reverse time? Thus, in order to manipulate time, if it were possible, one must be at a position outside time.

But, if one is outside of time, then how can we speak of action at all? For timelessness implies a cessation of any and all actions. Thus, the purported time manipulator would be frozen in eternal timelessness and unable to manipulate time as he had intended (or was it "has" or "will be") [As an aside, this is why I reject timelessness as an understanding of God's eternity]

The only way to allow time manipulation, which comes from a 'B-series' view of time, is to see time as just another dimension of physics. In Einstein's special theory of relativity, space and time are relativized while the speed of light remains constant. In General Relativity, gravity is predicted to distort both space and time, such that time slows down near objects of great gravitational potential like black holes. Now, I do not know if Einstein's theories necessitates a 'B-series' view of time, but they certainly make it easy to see time as just another dimension that could be manipulated. If time is seen to be just another dimension, then the whole concept of time manipulation is at least plausible. But surely that does not solve the problem of time manipulation by an agent like Doctors Strange or Thanos, does it? No, it does not. Reversing time would be possible, but not having a person standing in the midst of a city while everything around him gets reversed except for him and Wong. Reversing time would be possible, but reversing time in a arbitrarily chosen sphere around Vision while time flows forward all around that invisible sphere, without a massive rupture of the space-time continuum around the sphere, is not.

But before we just say that movies are not meant to be taken as serious science, consider as a thought experiment whether such time manipulation can be conceived philosophically. If one holds to a 'B-series' view of time, then perhaps such specific time manipulation is philosophically plausible if one holds to more than one axis of time. What does this mean? Just as space has three dimensions (x, y, z), so likewise if time has more than one time dimensions, then perhaps time manipulation is plausible. Having three space dimensions means that if everyone has to move 3 spaces, someone can appear to be stationary along the x-axis because he moved three spaces in the y-axis, or he moved 2 spaces on the y-axis and 1 on the z-axis. The point here is that having more than one dimension means that one can be actually moving while appearing stationary in one particular axis.

Since action requires movement, and manipulation of time is an action, therefore time must move forward while time manipulation is happening. But if there are more than one time dimension, then the time manipulator can seemingly appear stationary while time all around him is reversed. Assume two temporal dimensions: t1 and t2, with t1 being the one we see. Everyone must move forward "in time" 2 minutes. With time manipulation, the entire earth could be moving forward 4 minutes in t2 while moving back 2 minutes in t1, whereas the manipulator moves +2 on the t1 axis and 0 on the other. Likewise, when Thanos reverse Vision's first death, all the molecules and whatever the Mind Stone is made up of shifts -10 on the t1 axis and +14 on the t2 axis.

This does not imply whatsoever that time manipulation is even remotely possible, but rather how one must understand time to operate if time manipulation is a possibility. Remember that we are not talking about merely slowing the passage of time, but about reversing time, and on a small scale without event horizons.

[Yes, I know that t1 and t2 would probably be vectors and are not be added and subtracted like scalars. The numbers are just there for illustration]

Sermon: Do all for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:14-33)

Here is the sermon I had preached a few weeks ago on 1 Corinthians 10:14-33.