Static interpretation of time

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The static interpretation of time is a view of time which arose in the early years of the 20th century from Einstein's special relativity and Hermann Minkowski's extension of special relativity in which time and space were famously united in physicists' thinking as spacetime.

Special relativity Theory of interwoven space and time by Albert Einstein

In physics, special relativity is the generally accepted and experimentally confirmed physical theory regarding the relationship between space and time. In Albert Einstein's original pedagogical treatment, it is based on two postulates:

  1. the laws of physics are invariant in all inertial frames of reference ; and
  2. the speed of light in a vacuum is the same for all observers, regardless of the motion of the light source or observer.
Hermann Minkowski German mathematician and physicist

Hermann Minkowski was a German mathematician and professor at Königsberg, Zürich and Göttingen. He created and developed the geometry of numbers and used geometrical methods to solve problems in number theory, mathematical physics, and the theory of relativity.


Essentially the universe is regarded as akin to a reel of film which is a wholly static physical object but which when played through a movie projector conjures a world of movement, color, light and change. In the static view our whole universe our past, present, and future are fixed parts of that reel of film, and the projector is our consciousness. But the 'happenings' of our consciousness have no objective significance the objective universe does not happen, it simply exists in its entirety, albeit perceived from within as a world of changes.

The alternative, and commonly assumed view, is that the world unfolds in existence, that our present has some wider physical significance, because the universe evolves in step with it.

The static view is the simpler in that all that is held to exist is the physical ordering of the universe. All that there is at every time simply exists. The unfolding view requires an additional quality to the universe that besides the physical ordering there is some quality of coming into and out of existence.

One can argue that the onus is therefore upon those who propose it, that the world unfolds, and that this additional quality they hold to (absent from special relativity) is indeed a physical feature of the world. There is however as yet no proof, experiment, or measurement, to show that our conscious experience of an unfolding present has any objective physical significance, or that the universe is anything other than static.

The static view is however commonly rejected for psychological, not scientific reasons, because it leads to a fatalistic or "fixed" conclusion about human existence our 'past', 'present', and 'future' being what they are there is no contingency in the world and no possibility of 'altering' or creating the future through some act of will the future exists. It is simply that our consciousness has not yet reached it.


Hermann Weyl German mathematician

Hermann Klaus Hugo Weyl, was a German mathematician, theoretical physicist and philosopher. Although much of his working life was spent in Zürich, Switzerland and then Princeton, New Jersey, he is associated with the University of Göttingen tradition of mathematics, represented by David Hilbert and Hermann Minkowski.

See also

Eternalism is a philosophical approach to the ontological nature of time, which takes the view that all existence in time is equally real, as opposed to presentism or the growing block universe theory of time, in which at least the future is not the same as any other time. Some forms of eternalism give time a similar ontology to that of space, as a dimension, with different times being as real as different places, and future events are "already there" in the same sense other places are already there, and that there is no objective flow of time. It is sometimes referred to as the "block time" or "block universe" theory due to its description of space-time as an unchanging four-dimensional "block", as opposed to the view of the world as a three-dimensional space modulated by the passage of time.

Falsifiability the possibility of a statement to be proven wrong

A statement, hypothesis, or theory has falsifiability if it is contradicted by a basic statement, which, in an eventual successful or failed falsification, must respectively correspond to a true or hypothetical observation. For example, the claim "all swans are white and have always been white" is falsifiable since it is contradicted by this basic statement: "In 1697, during the Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh expedition, there were black swans on the shore of the Swan River in Australia", which in this case is a true observation. The concept is also known by the terms refutable and refutability.

In philosophy, four-dimensionalism is an ontological position that an object's persistence through time is like its extension through space. Thus, an object that exists in time has temporal parts in the various subregions of the total region of time it occupies, just like an object that exists in a region of space has at least one part in every subregion of that space.

Further reading

Clement Vavasor Durell was an English schoolmaster who wrote mathematical textbooks.

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In philosophy, idealism is the group of metaphysical philosophies that assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In contrast to materialism, idealism asserts the primacy of consciousness as the origin and prerequisite of material phenomena. According to this view, consciousness exists before and is the pre-condition of material existence. Consciousness creates and determines the material and not vice versa. Idealism believes consciousness and mind to be the origin of the material world and aims to explain the existing world according to these principles.

Metaphysics Branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of reality

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between potentiality and actuality. The word "metaphysics" comes from two Greek words that, together, literally mean "after or behind or among [the study of] the natural". It has been suggested that the term might have been coined by a first century CE editor who assembled various small selections of Aristotle’s works into the treatise we now know by the name Metaphysics.

Time dimension in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future

Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in an apparently irreversible succession from the past, through the present, to the future. Time is a component quantity of various measurements used to sequence events, to compare the duration of events or the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change of quantities in material reality or in the conscious experience. Time is often referred to as a fourth dimension, along with three spatial dimensions.

Universe Universe events since the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago

The Universe is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxies, and all other forms of matter and energy. While the spatial size of the entire Universe is unknown, it is possible to measure the size of the observable universe, which is currently estimated to be 93 billion light-years in diameter. In various multiverse hypotheses, a universe is one of many causally disconnected constituent parts of a larger multiverse, which itself comprises all of space and time and its contents.

Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent, as opposed to that which is merely imaginary. The term is also used to refer to the ontological status of things, indicating their existence. In physical terms, reality is the totality of the universe, known and unknown. Philosophical questions about the nature of reality or existence or being are considered under the rubric of ontology, which is a major branch of metaphysics in the Western philosophical tradition. Ontological questions also feature in diverse branches of philosophy, including the philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, philosophy of mathematics, and philosophical logic. These include questions about whether only physical objects are real, whether reality is fundamentally immaterial, whether hypothetical unobservable entities posited by scientific theories exist, whether God exists, whether numbers and other abstract objects exist, and whether possible worlds exist.

Philosophy of physics

In philosophy, philosophy of physics deals with conceptual and interpretational issues in modern physics, and often overlaps with research done by certain kinds of theoretical physicists. Philosophy of physics can be very broadly lumped into three main areas:

World line unique path of an object as it travels through 4-dimensional spacetime

The world line of an object is the path that object traces in 4-dimensional spacetime. It is an important concept in modern physics, and particularly theoretical physics.

Thomas Nagel American philosopher

Thomas Nagel is an American philosopher. He is University Professor of Philosophy and Law, Emeritus, at New York University, where he taught from 1980 to 2016. His main areas of philosophical interest are legal philosophy, political philosophy, and ethics.

Philosophy of space and time is the branch of philosophy concerned with the issues surrounding the ontology, epistemology, and character of space and time. While such ideas have been central to philosophy from its inception, the philosophy of space and time was both an inspiration for and a central aspect of early analytic philosophy. The subject focuses on a number of basic issues, including whether time and space exist independently of the mind, whether they exist independently of one another, what accounts for time's apparently unidirectional flow, whether times other than the present moment exist, and questions about the nature of identity.

In philosophy, emergentism is the belief in emergence, particularly as it involves consciousness and the philosophy of mind, and as it contrasts with reductionism. A property of a system is said to be emergent if it is a new outcome of some other properties of the system and their interaction, while it is itself different from them. Emergent properties are not identical with, reducible to, or deducible from the other properties. The different ways in which this independence requirement can be satisfied lead to variant types of emergence.

Absolute space and time theoretical foundation of Newtonian mechanics

Absolute space and time is a concept in physics and philosophy about the properties of the universe. In physics, absolute space and time may be a preferred frame.

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J. Richard Gott American astronomer

John Richard Gott III is a professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University. He is known for his work on time travel and the Doomsday argument.

Cosmology Universe events since the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago

Cosmology is a branch of astronomy concerned with the studies of the origin and evolution of the universe, from the Big Bang to today and on into the future. It is the scientific study of the origin, evolution, and eventual fate of the universe. Physical cosmology is the scientific study of the universe's origin, its large-scale structures and dynamics, and its ultimate fate, as well as the laws of science that govern these areas.

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