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Most physicists think time is a subjective illusion, but what if time is real?
New York - Is time real, or the ultimate illusion?
Most physicists would say the latter, but Lee Smolin challenges this orthodoxy in his new book, Time Reborn
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2013), which he discussed here Wednesday (April 24) at the Rubin Museum of Art.
In a conversation with Duke University neuroscientist Warren Meck, theoretical physicist Smolin, who's based at Canada's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, argued for the controversial idea that time is real. "Time is paramount," he said, "and the experience we all have of reality being in the present moment is not an illusion, but the deepest clue we have to the fundamental nature of reality."
Smolin said he hadn't come to this concept lightly. He started out thinking, as most physicists do, that time is subjective and illusory. According to Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity
, time is just another dimension in space, traversable in either direction
, and our human perception of moments passing steadily and sequentially is all in our heads.
Over time, though, Smolin became convinced not only that time was real
, but that this notion could be the key to understanding the laws of nature.
"If laws are outside of time, then they're inexplicable," he said. "If law just simply is, there's no explanation. If we want to understand law ... then law must evolve, law must change, law must be subject to time. Law then emerges from time and is subject to time rather than the reverse."