Max Tegmark – Is Time Fundamental?

Mathematical physicist Herman Minkowski was Albert Einstein’s teacher. When Minkowski saw Einstein’s paper on special relativity, he suggested that space and time as Einstein was describing them are not separate; they must be referred to as “space-time,” a four-dimensional block made of our three dimensions plus time as a fourth dimension. While time has traditionally been seen as an arrow traveling from past to present to future, in Minkowski space-time, all events that ever were or ever will be are somewhere in the infinite block of space-time right now.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist Max Tegmark describes it in this way:

We can portray our reality as either a three-dimensional place where stuff happens over time or as a four-dimensional place where nothing happens [“block universe”] — and if it really is the second picture, then change really is an illusion, because there’s nothing that’s changing; it’s all just there — past, present, future.

So life is like a movie, and space-time is like the DVD. There’s nothing about the DVD itself that is changing in any way, even though there’s all this drama unfolding in the movie. We have the illusion, at any given moment, that the past already happened and the future doesn’t yet exist, and that things are changing. But all I’m ever aware of is my brain state right now. The only reason I feel like I have a past is that my brain contains memories.

The video of Max Tegmark explaining this principle follows.

Closer to Truth

Interview of Max Tegmark by Robert Lawrence Kuhn, July 2, 2015.