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April 25, 2005

'If time travel is possible then there is no such thing as time'


That sums up the book I finished last night, "A World Without Time," by Palle Yourgrau.

The ostensible subject of the book is the deep friendship between Kurt Gödel and Albert Einstein in Princeton, New Jersey.

Both were early members of Princeton's Institute for Advanced Studies, where the greatest minds in the world were paid to be themselves and simply think about things.

No teaching, no publication requirements, just do what you like each day, forever.

Sounds a lot like bookofjoe, actually, apart from the "greatest minds in the world" part.

There are those who might argue that producing eight posts a day seven days a week is somewhat akin to a "publishing requirement" but I would counter that producing bookofjoe is who and what I am and so not a requirement at all, and certainly not onerous once considered in that light.

Here it is worth noting a definition of work coined by a University of Virginia psychiatry professor years ago, still the best one I've ever come across:

"Work is what you're doing when you'd rather be doing something else."

So if this is my favorite thing to do and what I prefer above everything else then it could hardly be termed "work" and doing it regularly likewise is in no way meeting a "requirement." But I digress.

Yourgrau believes that Gödel's 1949 paper proving that there are possible worlds described by Einstein's theory of relativity in which time — as we ordinarily understand it — does not exist, upended the world of philosophy.

Gödel went further: if time is absent from those theoretical universes, he showed, time does not exist in our world either.

Einstein instantly recognized Gödel's paper as a breakthrough but an overwhelming majority of physicists, mathematicians and philosophers have spent the past half–century–plus trying to either ignore or find fault with Gödel's conclusion.

Neither strategy has succeeded.

Gödel's reasoning, compressed, was this: he could mathematically demonstrate a universe that was closed and rotated on itself.

In such a universe time travel was not only possible — it was inevitable.

If, in that universe, time was travel was possible, and by this Gödel meant precisely what you and I think of as time travel, i.e., the ability to go back and see the past as often as desired, then that past wasn't over: in fact, it never disappeared, since you could go back and find it whenever you liked, exactly as you can travel to Paris as often as you like and expect to find it there in all its reality.

Since the past was there, not having gone anywhere, then there was no such thing as time in the sense that we think of it passing, since nothing had passed at all — it was right there, always accessible.

    From the book:

    From his discussions late in life ..., it emerges that Gödel believed that the proper philosophy should capture axiomatically — though not purely formally — the fundamental concepts that underlie reality, which he took to include "reason, cause, substance, accidens [a traditional Latin term], necessity, value, God, cognition, force, time, form, content, matter, life, truth, idea, reality, possibility."

    The goal of the great logician was not to make room in physics for one's favorite episode of "Star Trek," but rather to demonstrate that if one follows the logic of relativity further even than its father was willing to venture, the results will not just illuminate but eliminate the reality of time.

    Gödel wrote, "I love everything brief, and find that in general the longer a work is, the less there is in it."

    Gödel argued that if it was possible to return to one's past, then what was past never passed at all.

    It is provable that time fails to exist in the Gödel universe.

    It cannot, therefore, exist in our own: the final step is taken, and time really does disappear.

Odd, that I should have read the second half of this book in one sitting — or rather, one reclining, as my reading spot of choice (below, with the square red pillow bearing the indentation of my head)


requires assuming the [supine] position, with my legs covered with a chenille blanket and elevated on at least three pillows, thus returning as much oxygenated blood as possible to my cerebral cortex, which needs every last molecule it can get, trust me on this... but I digress — into the late hours, after watching Robert De Niro in John Frankenheimer's 1998 film "Ronin" on DVD.

Usually after a movie I go to bed, or read magazines or easy material, not books deconstructing the work of Kurt Gödel, considered by many the greatest logician and philosopher since Aristotle.

My smart time, if there is such a thing in bookofjoe world, is in the morning, as a rule: I get stupider as the day goes on.

But last night I was compelled to go at this book, and once I got going I was like a cat with fluffy furniture and no owner at home — I just couldn't stop until it was all done.

April 25, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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Here is a formula I came up with.

Of how time is irrelevant

0=infinity due to the fact 0 does not exist and either does infinity, but infinity can be any number. Numbers are human measurement divided by time multiplied by distance. Distance is equal to human measurement multiplied by time so therefore human time is equal to human measurement.


Because HM/T*D= some number; numbers are man made in order to organize and place things into some place. and infinity can be any number.

Zero is time, therefore there is no time because there is no specific human measurement all the time, its only agreed and implied to only a certain degree. To say time exist is saying that human measurement is accurate 100 percent of the time.

Posted by: Andy | Jun 29, 2009 2:37:48 AM

I think your right, or at least the book you read is right and that Godel is right too. There is no time. Especially not in the linear sense. Yes we can trick atomic clocks in planes i guess, but that dosnt reay mean much if we dont see the trail of the future world super imposed onto the one that just came back in time. Must get that book anywayz. cool.

Posted by: monk head | Feb 1, 2009 8:18:38 PM

Time does not exist.
Only cycles exist. Orbits of the sun. day, night, seasons.
We build clocks which are nothing more than machines that
operate identically. We "then" agree to do things "when" our
machines show identical "times".
Aging, for instance, is nothing more than bad or erratic
cell copying. One cell mis-copies, followed by two, then four.
The end result is death.
There are no natural causes. Bad copying is due to environmental
and social poisoning...Evolution needs to perfect the
species against these.

The biggest obstacle to understanding the non-existence of time
is in our language. Try having conversation without any
time references...things like when, then,was,went....
Our language is shot through with time-related words.
Someone, maybe you, might try inventing a version of English
without these words..
Some cultures, possibly some american indian tribes,may
not recognize the existance of time as our culture does.
The languages of these cultures may translate strangely
to our ear because of the lack of time references.

The art of Zen, living in the moment, is a form
of time denial. I don't know Chinese or Indian
but I wonder if those languages reflect the
Zen view of only living in the moment. I wonder
if those languages have fewer time referred words.

Our culture is very un-Zen and therefore
full of time referenced language.

Thanks for the heads up on the book.

Posted by: jack | Feb 24, 2008 1:27:28 AM

The Ever lasting Moment......
What else is there ?
Today, mmmm
yesterday, a memory.
and tomorrorrow,
we will live.

Posted by: Craig | Jul 26, 2006 7:53:00 PM

wow! megan, that's all i can say..................

Posted by: rs | Mar 31, 2006 10:34:34 PM

What if there is such thing as time travel?My aunt discovered ruins that talked about changing time.It was about Eldorado and how the spanish was about to invais the land.The people got killed by the spanish right before the princess was sent in time to collect 4 artifacts the artifacs was in 4 seperate tempels guarded by animal spirits.When she got the artifacts she went in a time tempel to return the artifacts to send Eldarodo back 1000 years in the past.so by the time the spanish got there all they found was the ruins of the temple,and now that is all we will find is ruins.

Posted by: Megan | Mar 31, 2006 6:42:12 PM

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