by Geoff Taylor
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‘Time Reborn’ by Lee Smolin

‘I’m Confused As Ever’
Score: 4/5

Lee Smolin

I’ve never really understood what time is. It obviously seems to exist, but I’ve never really come up with a good definition or way to describe it. Things like temperature have nice enough definitions and explanations that make sense – not just enough sense to be practical, but enough allow for testable predictions.

Not so time.

(FWIW I’m equally confused when it comes to space. What does it actually mean to say that a wall is 3 feet away?)

A lot of the current physics models say that time doesn’t really exist, because there’s no real ‘arrow’ of time in the equations and so the equations are reversible. Smolin’s approach here is to say that this doesn’t mean what it’s currently purported to me, and that instead physics should try treating time as ‘more real’ than space.

It’s an interesting idea, and one which should give some testable predictions. As to whether it’s right or not, even the author says he doesn’t know but that it’s important to try thinking about.

Maybe we are at a turning point in some of our thinking, like before the Copernican view of things where the paths of planets couldn’t really be explained. Once we had the heliocentric model, things started making a lot more sense. At the minute(?) our confusion over time may be similar – we’re just waiting for the right leap to a new model.

As for the book itself? I thought the first half was interesting but the second half dragged on a bit. I appreciate that it’s worth the author exploring the different approach in all the different avenues, but my attention span isn’t what it once was and I didn’t get as much from that as I got from the start of the book.

The book didn’t really end my confusion so much as add a new layer on top of it. Still, fascinating stuff.

Categories: 4 Word Book Reviews
Permalink #.Posted by 'geoff' on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 at 9:44AM

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