Sunday, July 12, 2020

Is Time Linear or Circular?

The helicoid geochronograph is Dinotopia's water-powered timepiece that reconciles cyclical and linear conceptions of time. 

Which is it? Is time linear or cyclical? Here are some arguments in favor of each view:

1. Things decay. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that all systems tend toward maximum entropy.
2. Time cannot be reversed. Organisms grow older and die. Time travel isn't possible.
3. The past adds up. Libraries fill with books and our computers fill with data.
4. Time is precisely measurable in linear terms using clocks and other devices. 

1. The planets and seasons repeat their movements in very predictable ways. 
2. Cyclical time is more useful and increases our connection to nature. 
3. It's a falsification of history to see it only in terms of progress, because cycles of growth and decay can be well documented in human history.
4. We tend to underestimate the effects of circadian rhythms on the changing states of our body and mind.

Can we have both? Is it possible to keep both of these conceptions in mind at the same time? I think so. Even in the Western tradition, we say both "time marches on" and "history repeats itself." 


Timothy Bollenbaugh said...

“Even in the Western tradition, we say both "time marches on" and "history repeats itself."
You touched on something similar elsewhere.
A few nights ago, rereading "Journey to Chandara" I stayed a while with your Spotters and Liners on pages 42-43.
The characters were either Spotters or they were Liners. No "and" so far as they were concerned.
We so often say or hear "black and white", not aware we're really feeling, perceiving or meaning "black or white", sometimes hamstringing our own logic.
Gray, in this sense, seems to be something we feel a need to resolve, quantify, abstract into either black or white, whereas if we learn it exists, what a dynamic range we’re given...we can adjust to individual situations...
...a knowledge analogous to the grayscale between black and white, and to the advantage of black and white.
Time being line or a circle, or both? How this applies to time I couldn’t guess, but only consider that it would, and it’s bound to be of great value to science, maybe well-being, when it can apprehended.

arturoquimico said...

As a retired scientist (and hobby artist), I vote BOTH... Light can be particulate and wave like simultaneously... so why can't time be both linear and cyclical?

Joe Kulka said...

I would say time moves along a circular staircase. There are rhythms but it also definitely progresses forward.

Sandra Strait said...

The 'block-universe' theory has everything both past and present always existing somewhere in spacetime. Somewhere, in the universe you could stand and see live dinosaurs. If time is something more than a human construct, then it's certainly different from the way we perceive it to be. Our brains are such liars!

Drake Gomez said...

Joe Kulka, the spiral staircase analogy is excellent. I might add, a spiral staircase in which the steps are not always the same height or depth. Our perception of time has that pesky quality of sometimes speeding up and sometimes slowing down.

Unknown said...

And here I thought it was a discombooberator!

williamblomstrom said...

I believe that all things are connected, including the past and the present. But I don't know if our present self can influence the past. Time is malleable according to relativity, but that would mean it can be slowed or brought to a stop, but the question is can it be reversed.

Unknown said...

Honestly, this is one of the thongs thay has stayed with me the longest.

Bill Marshall said...

One thing I know to be true from my experience; linear or cyclical, time speeds up exponentially after you turn 60. YIKES!!!

Bill (borderline humor)