Time Is Change

(Amrit Sorli)


Abstract - Does Time Really Exist As A Fourth Dimension Of Space-time? Regarding this question scientist should trust more his senses that his mind. Physical time exists only as a stream of change in physical space. Change does not "happen" in physical time -- change itself is physical time. This is a different and more correct perspective than the conventional view in physics, in which space-time is the theater or "stage" on which change happens.

Physical Time And Psychological time

In the universe the passing of physical time cannot be clearly perceived as matter and space directly; one can perceive only irreversible physical, chemical, and biological changes in material media. On the basis of elementary perception (sight) one can conclude that physical time exists only as a stream of change that runs through material space. The terms "physical time" and "change" describe the same phenomenon. Physical time is irreversible. Change A transforms into change B, B transforms into C and so on. When B is in existence A does not exist anymore, when C is in existence B does not exist anymore.

The question arises: Why is it that irreversible physical time is experienced as past, present and future? The answer is obtained by analysing the scientific way of experiencing. The human senses perceive a stream of irreversible change. Once elaborated by the mind, the stream of change is experienced chronologically through psychological time that is a part of the human mind(1).

Let's look at the relationship between physical and psychological time by carrying out an experiment. Take a ball and allow it to roll down an incline. You can perceive only the movement of the ball in space, but you experience that the ball has also moved through time. How come? Perception passes first through psychological time and then the experience occurs. That's why you experience the movement of the ball in time. But on the basis of elementary perception (sight) one can only state that the ball has changed position in space.

By observing the continuous stream of irreversible physical change humans have developed psychological time through which we experience the universe. Psychological time is reversible. One can return to the past, in psychological time, through memory. This creates an idea that physical time also has a past, but this is not so.

Relativity Theory allows for speculation about time travel. It is possible for someone to travel through a black hole with a spaceship, go back into the past and kill his grandmother? The consequence is that he could never have been born(2). Travelling into the past through black holes is not possible because physical time is irreversible; the past exists only as psychological time through which it is not possible to travel with a spaceship.

The speed of psychological time does not always follow physical time, it depends on one's well-being. The more relaxed you are the slower the speed of psychological time is. In modern society time passes quickly, in so-called primitive societies time passed slowly. In an altered state of consciousness, such as meditation, ecstatic dance, deep prayer, psychological time stops.

In abnormal state of health, there are aberration of subjective time such as acceleration or deceleration of lapse of time. Under several mental disturbances (like those characterising serious mental psychoses, drug-induced states, trances, mediations, as well as other deep "altered" states of consciousness), these anomalies / peculiarities become more pronounced. The flux of time may even cease completely (the sensations usually described as "time standing still", or "suspended", arrested" time or expand without limit (the feelings of "everlasting now, eternity")(3).

The understanding of physical time has changed over the ages. For ancient Greeks, Indians, and Mayans, time was considered a cyclic phenomenon; time moving in circles, with no beginning and no end. When Judaeo-Christian civilization arose in Europe, another understanding of time became prominent - time going forward in a straight line. According to this civilization, time has its beginning with Godís creation of the universe and will have its end with the Last Judgement. In Newtonian physics, physical time is an independent quantity (absolute time), running uniformly throughout the entire cosmic space (absolute space). In the Theory of Relativity, time is no more an independent physical quantity - it is linked with space in four-dimensional space-time. Here physical time is understood as a stream of irreversible change that runs through physical space.

Linear And Cyclic Concept Of Time In Cosmology

The understanding of time have been different over the ages. For ancient Greeks, Indians, and Mayans, time was considered a cyclic phenomena. In Judaeo-Christian civilization as linear phenomena. In current scientific thought the concept of linear time is still prevalent. Stephan Hawkins says: "The conclusion of this lecture is that the universe has not existed forever. Rather, the universe, and time itself, had a beginning in the Big Bang, about 15 billion years ago. The beginning of real time, would have been a singularity, at which the laws of physics would have broken down. Nevertheless, the way the universe began would have been determined by the laws of physics, if the universe satisfied the no boundary condition. This says that in the imaginary time direction, space-time is finite in extent, but doesn't have any boundary or edge. The predictions of the no boundary proposal seem to agree with observation. The no boundary hypothesis also predicts that the universe will eventually collapse again. However, the contracting phase, will not have the opposite arrow of time, to the expanding phase. So we will keep on getting older, and we won't return to our youth. Because time is not going to go backwards, think I better stop now."(4)

Some recent cosmological models describe universe is a self-renewing system. Big bangs are cyclic. Transformation of the energy of matter into the energy of the space and vice versa is in a permanent dynamic equilibrium, universe has no beginning and no end. It is made of one energy that appears as space and as matter.(5) In the cosmological model of dynamic equilibrium time is a cyclic phenomena, a permanent dynamics between matter and space. It has no beginning and no end.

Time Is Change

We can measure with clocks speed and duration of change. By Newton and in Theory of Relativity time is an abstract physical quantity that can not be perceived clearly. Here time is visible. According to this understanding the "t" in physical formulas means "duration of change". For example:

d (distance) = v (speed of change) * t (duration of change)


In the Special Relativity the "theater" of the four dimensional space-time can be replaced with the three dimensional physical space. Lets imagine that a train is passing a station with the speed v. The observer on the train throws a ball that is rolling on the floor of the corridor. The duration (time) of ball rolling will be for him D t', for the observer on the embankment the duration (time) of the ball rolling will be D t., the connection D t' = D t (this is the so-called "time dilation") between these two values being determined by the fourth equation of Lorentz transformation, see below:

t' = 


This is the actual meaning of Special Relativity: time is relative, its speed changes with the speed of the inertial system. The faster the speed of the system the slower is the speed of time (change). That's why the twin that remains on the Earth is getting old faster that his twin brother that travels with the fast space-ship through the universe. In the fast space-ship the speed of biological change is slower than on the Earth. So when he comes back home he is younger than his brother.

The doubt that "space-time" is the ultimate arena of the universe was raised by Dirac and recently by Julian Barbour: "On a beautiful October afternoon in 1936 I ravelled to the Bavarian Alps with a student friend, Jurgen. We planned to spend the night in a hut and climb to the peak of Watzmann at down next day. On the train, I read an article about Dirac's attempt to unify Einstein's theory of relativity with quantum theory. A single sentence in it was to transform my life: "This result has let me to doubt how fundamental the four-dimensional requirement in physics is". In other words Dirac was doubting that most wonderful creation of twentieth-century physics: the fusion of space and time into space-time."(6)

In his book "The End Of Time" Barbour discusses brilliantly about time, but his final conclusions are against the elementary perception and seems to be wrong: "In fact, 35 years on from that failed attempt on the Watzmann, I know believe that time does not exists at all, and that motion itself is pure illusion. What is more, I believe there is quite strong support in physics for his view. I have a vision and I have to tell you about it."(7)

Barbour's idea that motion is an illusion is against elementary perception (sight) and can not be considered as valid. Motion is the fundamental nature of the universe.

Physical Space And Its Mathematical Description

Position of an object in physical space can be defined with three coordinates. That's why in daily life we experience it as three dimensional. Three dimensional Euclid geometry corresponds better the nature of the physical space than other geometries do. In cosmology physical space is experienced through different mathematical models: three-dimensional infinite Euclid geometry, four dimensional geometry of Minkowsky, four dimensional finite spherical Riemann geometry. Cosmologists should develop awareness that mathematical model and physical space are two different things.


Scientific understanding of time and space should be revised on the basis of elementary perception. Einstein says: <<Reality is a feature of theory used to understand the world, rather than a feature of the world itself. One is in danger of being misled by the illusion that the "real" of our daily experience, "exists really", and that certain concepts of physics are "mere ideas" separated from the "real" by an unbridgeable gulf.>>(8)



1. Sorli A. (2004). Physical Time And Psychological Time. Frontier Perspectives, Vol 13, Num 1.

2. Davies P. (1995). About Time. Chapter 11, Time Travels: Reality of Fantasy? Orion Productions.

3. Buccheri R., Saniga M. (2003), Endo-Physical Paradigm and Mathematics of Subjective Time. Frontier Perspectives, Vol 12.

4. Hawking S. The Beginning of Time. Public Lectures.

5. Sorli A., Sorli K. (2004). Evolution As A Universal Process. Frontier Perspectives, Vol 13, Num 1.

6. Barbour J. (1999). The End Of Time. Oxford University Press, p. 2.

7. Barbour J. (1999). The End Of Time. Oxford University Press, p. 4.

8. Einstein A. http://www.edscuola.it/archivio/lre/manzelli.html

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Amrit Sorli obtained BS in engineering at the University of Ljubljana, in 1980. He continued studying physics, cosmology and psychology. He is publishing articles about time, consciousness, evolution of the universe and of life in "Frontier Perspectives", The Center For Frontier Sciences, Philadelphia. In 2000 he founded the "SpaceLife Institute", composed of different independent researchers, situated in Tuscany (Italy). He is giving seminars on the subject of Rational And Conscious Experienc Of The Universe. Member of Scientific and Medical Network (SMN) and Association For Scientific Study Of Consciousness (ASSC).

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