20 July 2004
Classical physics says time is reversible because its laws hold true
whether time flows forward or backward. Thermodynamics says time
only flows forward, because were it to reverse, entropy of an
isolated system could decrease which would violate the second law of
So is time reversible or irreversible?
The answer cannot be deduced
from either classical physics or thermodynamics because both are
flawed in their assumptions.
Classical Systems are Timeless
Classical physics only deals with deterministic systems whose past,
present, and future are entirely contained in a single timeless
equation. As a result, for such systems time does not exist except
as spatial increments marking the various aspects of a static
pattern frozen in eternity.
Moving one way or another on a static
pattern does not change it, and for this reason the laws of
classical physics hold true regardless of whether the time variable
is positive or negative.
Because time is not an intrinsic part of
deterministic systems, classical physics has nothing valid to say
about the real nature of time.
Thermodynamics Is Just A Suggestion
Thermodynamics is a statistical science that calculates trends
rather than individual events.
This means it sweeps complex
molecular motion under the rug and only makes observations about the
resulting lump. It is important to remember that according to
classical physics, molecular motion is deterministic, implying that
thermodynamic systems must also be deterministic because they are
merely collections of deterministic molecules. If the components of
a system are time reversible, then so must the system itself.
So why does thermodynamics claim time is irreversible?
to the overwhelming complexity in keeping track of every
deterministic molecule, it is forced to ignore this level of
precision where reversibility resides.
The illusion of time irreversibility in thermodynamics arises from
its inability to calculate a system with absolute precision,
which prevents it from mathematically confirming time symmetry, and
that its laws are based on incomplete statistical observations
Time symmetry or reversibility requires that the laws of a system in
question do not change when time is reversed. In classical physics,
this is easy to check because past and future of a system can be
calculated with absolute precision.
But thermodynamics cannot
completely know the total characteristics of a system because its
molecular details are too complex to take into account. So it cannot
even compare the forward and reversed systems to check for symmetry
because they are too complex.
On this point alone, thermodynamics is
therefore inconclusive about the nature of time.
Thermodynamics Makes Statistical Laws Apply to Individual Cases
Resorting to statistical observations, it forces a match between
limited laboratory observation and mathematics by fatally assuming
that instead of collections of deterministic particles, things are
made of perfect fluids. This is done as a matter of practicality to
smooth over the randomness of molecular motion, which unfortunately
throws out its inherent deterministic and time reversible nature.
Assuming a perfect fluid is like assuming that each family in
America has exactly 1.3 children, to match the national statistic.
While this is a neat mathematical device, when it gets taken too
seriously any family’s claim to have two children is seen as an
impossibility because it would “violate the statistical law.”
Likewise, when time is reversed and entropy decreases, the resulting
violation of the second law of thermodynamics should be no cause for
alarm because the second law is only a unique statistical trend, not
an absolute pillar of physics as its supporters claim. It seems
universal only because the mathematics apparently support it, but
remember that the math in thermodynamics is built upon the
assumption that systems are made of perfect fluids.
While the systems to which science has restricted its observations
do show increasing entropy, this says nothing about the ignored
systems. What applies to the minority need not be universal for the
majority. In truth, a decrease of entropy violates nothing because
it is not an impossibility – it simply has lower probability than
were the system to increase in entropy.
Therefore, the mathematical
and observational proof in thermodynamics are insufficient to claim
that time is irreversible.
Proper Definition of Time Irreversibility
So how do we determine whether time is reversible or irreversible,
being that classical physics and thermodynamics have now been
eliminated from the debate?
We see that thermodynamics is on the
right track - stated another way, time seems irreversible because
the future is more uncertain than the past. While the past can be
clearly observed from observation of what transpired in a system, if
calculations are unable to perfectly predict the future as well, the
future will seem murkier.
So the future seems always “in the making”
which gives rise to an apparent forward flow of time.
But this murkiness of the future is only due to incomplete
information concerning the individual particles of a thermodynamic
system. Were we to know them in detail, we could indeed see that the
future is as certain as the past and that time in that case is
The nearsightedness of an observer says nothing about
the intrinsic fuzziness of the object observed; that science cannot
determine the future state of a system does not mean the system
itself is nondeterministic.
Quantum Mechanics Proves Direction of Time
It should now be clear that only nondeterministic systems are time
irreversible. Time cannot be symmetric in systems whose future is
not already contained in some tidy equation connecting it with the
Do such systems exist?
Yes, quantum processes are nondetermistic by
nature. What state a wave function collapses into cannot be
Quantum mechanics is a lot like
thermodynamics in the sense that its laws deal with the statistical
trends of random processes, except there is one crucial difference:
the unpredictability of a quantum system comes not from shallowness
of an observer’s perception, but on the intrinsically
nondeterministic nature of the system itself.
Then how exactly does time arise?
By consciousness sequentially
choosing which aspects of quantum wave functions to manifest as
physical experience. Choice is nondeterministic because were it not,
it would already be pre-decided, leaving no choice. Choice
necessitates freewill, so the irreversibility of time ultimately
stems from freewill being neither predictable nor easily undoable.
Perhaps this sounds like new age mumbo jumbo to you, but all this is
self evident from the mathematics of quantum mechanics. There are no
hidden variables in quantum theory, only those created on the spot
by conscious selection.
Nothing in quantum physics contradicts this
Consciousness and Quantum Phase
The phase of a wave function is entirely “arbitrary” according to
physics, and it is precisely this phase that creates huge
consequences for how a time-dependent wave function evolves and
interacts with other wave functions.
In truth, this phase factor is
not arbitrary, but deliberately chosen at some level of
consciousness because being detached from the deterministic
(statistical) parts of quantum theory, phase is left entirely at the
discretion of choice. This shows how mind ultimately affects
physical reality, not by violating its classical laws, but by
working through nonlinear systems to amplify “arbitrary” quantum
fluctuations into macroscopic effects.
Time dependent wave functions show how consciousness creates time.
The only reason they appear to evolve through time is that they
consist of multiple stationary states (wave functions independent of
time) whose various phases change to produce a “moving” wave
function. But these phases are chosen by
consciousness, and since it
is the phases that give rise to the seeming time-dependence of a
wave function, it should be beyond debate at this point that
consciousness creates time.
Furthermore, once a wave function has “collapsed” (one disc of the
jukebox selected to be played), it cannot “uncollapse”. The collapse
of a wave function is not time reversible because mathematics cannot
calculate it equally well forwards and back. Only linear systems
which are perfectly predictable are time reversible.
So once more,
time is irreversible when, and only when, it comes to quantum
systems and freewill choice.
The Interface Between Quantum and Classical Systems
How does all this fit with the systems of classical physics?
Classical systems are merely series of deterministic effects, while
conscious choice is the original nondeterministic cause.
The interval between deterministic events is known as linear time,
which is illusion for the simple fact that the span between first
and last effect is redundant and thus nonexistent except to the
observer choosing to observe it as real. Deterministic systems
appear to move only because our consciousness slides its
observational focal point along the eternally static pattern of the
system, not because the system itself is changing.
As an analogy, the songs on a CD do not change with time because
they all exist simultaneously as data on a disc, and any illusion of
time between beginning and end of a song arises solely from them
being played as such. When a CD is played, it progresses at a
default sequence, direction, and speed – but these can be changed if
one chooses to skip tracks, increase the speed, or listen to it
backwards, all without actually changing the CD itself.
True time does not span intervals of deterministic sequences, but
rather intervals of freewill choice. If consciousness were to choose
to view the static pattern backwards, sideways, or in jumps, then
that is perfectly permissible. The term “irreversible” only means
that there exists a tendency for time to progress in the direction
that conscious choices are made.
Thus, reality progresses in piecewise deterministic jumps. This can
be compared to how road trips consist of roads and intersections.
What roads have been traveled determine which new roads are
available at an intersection, but not which particular road will be
chosen. Quantum physics equations show what roads are available, but
consciousness ultimately decides which to follow.
And so it is with reality - the choices we make determine what
choices are available, but not which ones we’ll end up making.
classical and quantum processes interact to give rise to the rich
dynamic fractal we call life.