Space and time: from intuition up to reality

Time and space

Intuition tells us that the “real things” exist in space and time. Physical science, to Newton, agreed with this intuition, and philosophy, with Kant, but from there people start to analyze the very concept of space and time, increasing the number of dimensions from three to four (theory of relativity) and even more dimensions in other physical theories, questioning the continuity of space and time, and discussing whether finite or infinite.

Roma god Jano

Roman god Janus

The Roman god Janus, with one face looking back and the other forward, symbolizes the classical idea that still currently have the time: a continuous and infinite sequence of events. However, little to look carefully that concept, begins to show inconsistencies. What is the now? How long? One second maybe? In fact “now” is like a line between the past and the future, and has no extension. But there is a paradox, because the past is gone, the future not yet, and this is a dividing line without extension, or a mental construct with no real existence; therefore nothing exists!

Parmenides imagined space as an eternal and omnipresent absolute stillness sphere within which all matter is contained. Since this is similar to the concept of God (eternal, omnipresent) have been opinions that has been linked directly, such as Henry More. Furthermore, it is assumed that the objects and space are independent concepts: objects occupy space as it is one of its properties (volume, but also shape, mass, hardness, position, etc.). If we move the object, the space it occupied is still there, regardless.

Mental space and time: fragmentation of concepts
The usual concept of space is given to us by various sensory experiences:

  • The real, tangible things, “are there”
  • Objects have relative positions to each other, separated by a space
  • The objects have a size and therefore occupy space
  • Also, when we see a vast landscape, or look at the sky, we experience a sense of unlimited space

Much like the sensory experience time, so we can draw a parallel between objects and time intervals:

  • The presence of any one incident, is equivalent to “being there” of objects
  • The time between two events is to be equivalent to the space between two objects
  • The duration of an event is related to the size of an object
  • You remember a past event a while, or think about eternity is related to the vast space.

In fact the mind has a tendency to interpret sensory data in terms of ordered in time and in space objects; latter only serves to support, so to speak, for the mind, what matters is always the object in front of the space.

By measuring space, model becomes complicated …
To measure the dimensions of a body just use a ruler; in more complicated cases use more technology: ultrasound to measure depths, laser light to mediate the exact distance to the moon, etc. All these methods are based on the existence of an ideal unit of length, the meter, for which measurements are made.

But here arriving mathematicians, with their eagerness to accuracy, and argue that the above measures are supposed to always make the shortest possible distance, but can we be sure that we are really doing well? May confuse the distance along our line of sight with the shortest possible. Will they be equivalent? What do the more accurate measurements between two points A and B as all possible paths, and define the distance between A and B is the lesser of all those obtained.

Some possible ways between two points

Some possible ways between two points

Notice that the measurement is compared to an object of known length makes yardstick, graduated measuring rod for example. What will happen if the rule of measurement changed size according to the direction in which it is lying? For example in the upper broken trajectory of the figure, the measuring rod may be extended, resulting in lower than that obtained in as straight paths. Are we this possibility seems implausible? Consider that the only two-dimensional surface in which geometric properties are fixed when we move for him is the plane. On an uneven surface distances vary according to the directions. And if we consider three-dimensional surfaces have the same situation.

Relativistic metric
When the theory of relativity discovered that the length of a body depends on the speed of the observer, and also the time measurements are affected by the motion, it was clear that they had reviewed the concepts of space and time. Specifically, the measuring rod has a variable measuring graduation according to the speed of the observer: it is a variable geometry, which is different for each observer by relative velocity. Since the time depends also on the speed, the clocks must also be adapted. Moreover, as time also depends on the speed, it is incorporated in the metric space, which becomes a space-time.

Although these statements are at odds with our intuition, we must not make the mistake of regarding it as something sophisticated, far from reality. On the contrary, is related to the observed behavior of nature.

Imagine a rigid body moved and turn of all the possible ways. It turns out that the infinite possible moves can be reduced to a finite set of moves and combinations thereof: mathematically this set is called the group of movements. This movement group identifies the properties of space as well as its metric, indeed is an alternative way to study it. Look at the detail: we can define the space as a group of operations on bodies; or whether the space is not independent of bodies containing, unlike is defined by them.

Contraction of time and space: non duality

Another impressive result of the theory of relativity is the contraction of space-time as the speed increases. Imagine you are a ray of light. In this case, as an observer, not would detect no distance between you and the rest of the Universe. Nor would the time for you. That is, you are not separate, by space (distance zero) or by time, from the rest of the Universe. This is not philosophy, it’s science.

Of course, the trick is: we are not a ray of light. For any material object, there is space and time. But we are sure that we are not light? Our body does not. But, what about our minds? Perhaps here we have a connection between science and spirituality: as we know from various sources, training the mind, we can access a state of consciousness in which we are one with the universe, no distance or time, timeless. Exactly the reality described by science.

Manifested reality and unmanifested reality
So are there or not space and time? You can not answer affirmatively or negatively nor depends. Imagine reality as a sheet of paper, on one end the matter stands at the other end there is only emptiness, empty space but there is nothing at all, there is neither space nor time. As we move from the end of nowhere towards the material end, something begins to exist: first immaterial “stuff” as light (more generally, radiation), after almost immaterial things, like certain subatomic particles. As we move towards the material end space-time unfolds, continuously. Some authors names the void end, unmanifested reality, and the other end, manifested reality, but there are not clearly separated, but together makes a continuum. Maybe our consciousness is able, with training, to move along this continuum.


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