Time and the Theory of Everything


Many theoretical physicists belief that a complete theory of time is contingent upon finding a quantum definition of gravity, which will lead to the Theory of Everything, the Final Theory, the Universal Theory: the reputed theory of theoretical physics that fully explains and links together all known physical phenomena. The primary problem in producing a Theory of Everything is that general relativity and quantum mechanics are hard to unify – the theory of gravity works in the macro (the world we see around us), but does not hold true in the micro world of quantum mechanics.  This is one of the greatest unsolved problems in physics today and the solution depends on a greater understanding of gravity.

Accordingly, our search for the theory of time is inextricably linked with two other central questions facing physics today:

  1. Grand Unified Theory, (GUT) and
  2. Theory of Everything (ToE) or Final Theory

Defining the GUT will lead to the ToE, which will provide a foundation for The Theory of Time.

A Grand Unified Theory (GUT) merges three of the four fundamental forces of nature  – the electromagnetic and the weak and strong nuclear forces.

  • Electromagnetism is pervasive in daily life  – we see it and use the forces constantly. Additionally, the earth itself produces electromagnetic fields that protects life itself from the harmful rays from the sun.
  • The weak nuclear force is responsible for radioactivity and decay. The weak interaction finds practical application in the radioactive elements used in medicine and technology, which are in general beta-radioactive, and in the beta-decay of a carbon isotope into nitrogen. At “long” distances, approximately the width of a proton, the weak charge looks smaller because of quantum fluctuations in the vacuum.
  • In particle physics, the strong interaction (also called the strong force, or the strong nuclear force) is one of the fundamental interactions of nature and is the strongest of the four fundamental forces of nature; but it only has a very short range – a length equal to one quadrillionth of a meter. It is the force that holds the nucleus of an atom together.

Combining GUT with gravity, the last of the four forces, will produce the long sought after Theory of Everything (ToE), which is theorized to produce a complete explanation of the forces in the universe. While this sounds simple, the solution has eluded physicists for nearly 100 years since Einstein presented the general theory of relativity in 1915.

  • Newton’s theory of gravitation accurately predicts the motion of bodies in the macro – the world we see around us  (ie.. apples falling from a tree). HOWEVER, general relativity is incompatible with quantum mechanics. Gravity, pursuant to the general theory of relativity by Einstein, is a consequence of the curvature of Space-time, and  provides an accurate approximation for gravity in most physical situations.  However theories of quantum gravity do not work in the micro world. We currently do not have a theory for gravitation that works in the micro world of quantum mechanics.

So we are stymied inbetween the quest for a unifying principle of gravity that thrives in the macro world of general relativity and simultaneously resolves the inherent “weirdness” of gravity’s role in the microscopic realm of quantum mechanics.

Finally, we arrive back to the central question, the pebble in my shoe: how can we find a path that will lead us to the Theory of Time.

  • If I were Newton and could create calculus, we might use math to define the Theory of Time.      Such as:     Input   \sum_k c_k\,x_k(t)   produces output   \sum_k c_k\,y_k(t).\,I
  • then   \int_{-\infty}^{\infty} c_{\omega}\,x_{\omega}(t) \, \operatorname{d}\omega   and  \int_{-\infty}^{\infty} c_{\omega}\,y_{\omega}(t) \, \operatorname{d}\omega\,
  • If I were Einstein and could postulate the workings of the universe as a thought experiment, we might use relativity – general or special – to define the Theory of Time using “light cones” (see below – we will utilize the concept later)

However, if I had the intellect of Newton or Einstein, I would have resolved The Theory of Time before my sixteenth birthday and there would be no need for this blog. Being a man whose curiosity greatly exceeds his intellect; we will continue to toil among these big questions with few answers.

Come back again soon!

The Holographic Universe

Just so life does not get too easy or boring, try to wrap your noggin around the holographic principle of the universe.    [Ok, concentrate and read this passage until your brain hurts]

The theory suggests that the entire universe can be seen as a two-dimensional informational structure “painted” on the cosmological horizon, such that the three dimensions we observe are an effective description. So, think of the universe and your reality as a balloon, where you live on the inside of the balloon interacting with reality as a 3D holographic projection of a two dimensional set of “instructions” that is “painted” on the inside walls of the balloon.  Stated differently…holy crap – who thinks this stuff up?

Well, actually some of our most respected theoretical physicists. First proposed by Gerard ‘t Hooft, “. . . it was given a precise string-theory interpretation by Leonard Susskind who combined his ideas with previous ones of ‘t Hooft and Charles Thorn. As pointed out by Raphael Bousso, Thorn observed in 1978 that string theory admits a lower dimensional description in which gravity emerges from it in what would now be called a holographic way.” (I hate citing Wikipedia, but you can lookup the specifics and cites).

Note: Please See

[The Holographic Universe, by Michael Tabot, 1992 and 2011]


[Black Holes, Information and the String Theory Revolution – The Holographic Universe, By Leonard Susskind and James Lindsey, 2005 – 2010]

And, of course

[From Eternity to Here – The Quest For The Ultimate Theory of Time, By Sean Carroll, 2010]

Now that we have cleared that up, the question is, what impact does the holographic principle have on a workable theory of time? Importantly, the holographic principle actually solves the black hole information paradox within string theory and independently proves entropy’s role in determining the direction of time (from the past to the future – see previous posts on entropy).

The arrow of time moves from low entropy (order) to high entropy (disorder), pursuant to the 2nd law of thermodynamics.  A good example of entropy in action is how the 1000+ pages of War & Peace react to being thrown in the air. If the book is unbound and in single sheets, entropy predicts, correctly, that if the pages are thrown off the 4th floor of a building, they will land in any one of a trillion or more different and distinct combinations – and none of them will have page 1 on top and page 1o00 on the bottom. Just like a broken egg (high entropy-disorder) will never turn back into a whole egg incased in the shell (low entropy-order). This is inspired by black hole thermodynamics.

In the case of a black hole, the insight was that the informational content of all the objects that have fallen into the hole could be entirely contained in surface fluctuations of the event horizon. The holographic principle resolves the black hole information paradox within the framework of string theory.

Now, if you are still confused, take heart – it is said that there are only a handful of   theoretical physicists in the world who have the understanding to properly explain the interaction of quantum mechanics, string theory, and the theory of time.

The Theory of Time – A Practical Footnote

This blog has attempted to consider the concept of “time”, utilizing the works and writings of theoretical physicists; to make observations and illuminate “time” as the 4th dimension and its meaning of Einstein’s “Spacetime”; and to discuss the abstract meaning of cosmological time. Fortunately, the comments I have received thus far have been positive, however, a recurring question from a few readers has been “where is the practical application?” I have ignored these comments, with no disrespect intended. While this is a serious and critical topic within the theoretical physics community, with many academics and scientists devoting their careers to the topic, it is not meant to help anyone with time management.

 However, this post is practical and I believe important for all of us to consider.

For so many of us time, and really life itself, is lived as a waiting game. An illusion based in the belief that that the next job, spouse, child, or phase of life will open the gates to true happiness.  The story to so familiar and heartbreaking, and often based in the fear of failure:

In high school a 17 year old believes “this sucks, life will be better when I graduate”.

Then, “college will be great and life will then be good”.

Then, “once I graduate and find a career, life will start to be great and all the rewards are there”.

Then, “finding a spouse is a must and then life will be what I want”.

Then, “starting a family, making big bucks, buying fast cars – this is when life begins and everything will be great”.

But, “now I need a new job to get there and then life will be satisfying”

Then twenty or thirty years pass and one starts to believe that “retirement is freedom and will be key to fulfillment and life will finally be really great”.

We all know where this ends. There is a 75 year wondering what happened to all his or hers dreams. What happened? Where did all the years go and why am I not fulfilled? We all know the fatal flaw here, BUT we still forget it each day.

LIFE EXISTS IN THE MOMENT. Seize it every damn day.


Take a risk; put yourself out there to experience the moments that pass so many of us by. Win or lose, succeed or fail – it does not matter – you will be IN life experiencing the joys, the sorrow and every other emotion.

I am not arguing for a carefree life – to live fast and die young.  Yes, you still need to plan, think, save, work hard, and treat others well, etc… However, along the way and from 17 to 75, life is the journey  – it is not a destination. Not the next new place that is just around the corner at the next thing or next phase of life. It exists in each day, in each moment and in each opportunity. The joys, rewards, success, and the heartbreaks and failures exist in each day and in each opportunity too many of us avoid for the fear of failure or by merely failing to recognize that this is where life is.

Whether you date the right girl in college, or find the right job at age 30 doesn’t matter unless you are living life in the moments at hand. Do not wait and do not fear failing. The greatest achievers throughout history also had repeated failures. From the industry icons (John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan) who built this country, to Internet billionaires; from political and cultural leaders; from Abe Lincoln to the Kennedys – none found success, riches or fame without going through far more failures and miscues. Michael Jordan could not have said it better – “I can accept failure, I cannot accept not trying”. (See below – it is worth the read)

I can promise you that the only way to absolutely doom yourself to regrets and misery and to commit your future to be dictated by your past – is to stand on the sidelines waiting for the next day, month, year and decade to pass you by.

Seize the day.



I Can’t Accept Not Trying

      By Michael Jordan  

“I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot. Why? Because when you think about the consequences you always think as a negative result.

Some people get frozen by that fear of failure. They get it from peers or from just thinking 
about the possibility of a negative result. They might be afraid of looking bad or being 
embarrassed. I realized that if I was going to achieve anything in life I . . . . had to get out there and go for it. I don’t believe you can achieve anything by being passive. 
I’m not thinking about anything except what I’m trying to accomplish. Any fear is an illusion. You think something is standing in your way, but nothing is really there. What is there is an opportunity to do your best….. and gain some success. If it turns out my best isn’t good enough, then at least I’ll never be able to look back and say I was too afraid to try. Failure always made me try harder the next time.

That’s why my advice has always been to ‘think positive’ and find fuel in any failure . . .   So relax and perform. After that you can’t control anything anyway. It’s out of your hands so don’t worry about it.  But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it… “

When is a straight-line the slowest way to arrive anywhere?

* I have been gone for a few months nursing a healing brain. This post may make your brain ache a bit.

Q: When does moving in straight line from point A to point B take the longest duration in time to get from A to B?

A: Always. Huh?? This thinking really hurts, so hang in there.

Time, no matter whether it is measured in months, weeks, or even nanoseconds, is indeed the longest distance between any two points.

Newtonian physics, before Einstein, saw space and time as separate and distinct. There is distance between two places in space and elapsed time between two events in time. Not surprising, the shortest path in space between two points in three-dimensional space is a straight line and every 12-year-old will tell you so. Accordingly, you can make the distance you actually travel between two points in space as long as you wish by taking a wildly winding path. Got it – no problems yet.

However, Special Relativity says this is not right and the answer hinges on Einstein’s Special Relativity and the fact that the three dimensions of space combine with time to make “spacetime” (which is an interval between two events in our four-dimensional universe). Modern physics combines the three basic directions in which a person is free to move from place to place, with the unfolding sequence of moments in his life, into a unified universe of four basic directions (or “dimensions”). Recognizing that space and time are not separate leads to the seemingly contradictory finding that the longest TIME between to points is a STRAIGHT LINEyea, ouch, it hurts my brain too. So how do we get there?

Most of us live in a world where questions involving the speed of light never enter into our daily lives. In this slower than light speed world moving is much like a running back covering the distance between the 10-yard line and the 40-yard line by running straight down the field never swerving left or right. Here the straight line is the shortest distance between two points and we assume it represents the fastest elapsed time to get from the 10 to the 40 yard line. In doing so we are accepting the notion that time is a universal feature of the universe, but it is not. Time is relative – i.e. clocks moving at different velocities will record different elapsed times. A clock on a jet traveling around the world will reflect a shorter elapsed time compared to a clock that is stationary on earth. The key here is velocity.

Moving in a straight line – an unaccelerated trajectory moving at constant velocity, results in the longest duration possible. Doing the opposite – zipping all over the place accelerating as fast as you can, but taking care to reach your destination at an appointed time, you will experience a shorter duration. Restated, longest elapsed time between two points is a straight line.


  1. See, From Eternity to Here, by Sean Carroll, © 2010. A great read on time from an award-winning theoretical physicist.
  2. At the end of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, Tom claims to have traveled much farther by standing still on the fire escape than if he had gone to the moon, “for time is the longest distance between two places.” – an incredible quote because:  (a) it is exactly in line with the understanding of modern physics, and (b) it is from a playwright who likely knew little of physics.

You Are an Expert in the Second law of Thermodynamics

Entropy increases over time. This is the basis on of the second law of thermodynamics = the tendency that over time, differences in temperature, pressure, and chemical potential equilibrate in an isolated physical system.  A change in the entropy (S) of a system is the infinitesimal transfer of heat (Q) to a closed system driving a reversible process, divided by the equilibrium temperature (T) of the system. The entropy of an isolated system that is in equilibrium is constant and has reached its maximum value.

You can prove this yourself as a house of cards (which is very low entropy) would always prefer to be a pile of random cards (representing high entropy)

Therefore, disorder increases as time passes. At the heart of every difference between the past and future — memory, aging, causality, free will — is the fact that the universe is evolving from order to disorder. Entropy is increasing, as we physicists say. There are more ways to be disorderly (high entropy) than orderly (low entropy), so the increase of entropy seems natural. But to explain the lower entropy of past times we need to go all the way back to the Big Bang. We still haven’t answered the hard questions: why was entropy low near the Big Bang, and how does increasing entropy account for memory and causality and all the rest?

An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything

Garrett Lisi is an incredibly brilliant and unique physicist – as much surfer as scientist. While there is a great volume of info here, I would be remiss not pointing it out. The E8 model is considered one of the most beautiful designs in physics.

Quantum Mechanic without math -see Garrett Lisi at TED http://www.ted.com/talks/garrett_lisi_on_his_theory_of_everything.html

Click on the link to the .mov 240 vector simulation: http://www.valdostamuseum.org/hamsmith/E8GLTSCl8xtnd.html#apndx

And more generally, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Exceptionally_Simple_Theory_of_Everything

Time Does Fly As You Get Older – Too Bad for us, Why lose the child’s mind?

As people get older, “they just have this sense, this feeling that time is going faster than they are,” says Warren Meck, a psychology professor at Duke University.
No one is sure where this feeling comes from, but his seems to be true across cultures, across time, all over the world.

There are theories, of course, and one of them is that when you experience something for the very first time, more details, more information gets stored in your memory – like your first kiss.

Neuroscientists at Baylor College of Medicine says that since the touch of the lips, the excitement, the taste, the smell — everything about this moment is novel — you aren’t embroidering a bank of previous experiences, you are starting fresh.
When it’s the “first”, there are so many things to remember. The list of encoded memories is so dense, reading them back gives you a feeling that they must have taken forever. But that’s an illusion. It’s a construction of the brain, the more memory you have of something, you think, ‘Wow, that really took a long time!’

Have you noticed, that when you recall your first kisses, early birthdays, your earliest summer vacations, they seem to be in slow motion? I know when I look back on a childhood summer, it seems to have lasted forever.

Of course, you can see this in everyday life when you drive to your new workplace for the first time and it seems to take a really long time to get there. But when you drive back and forth to your work every day after that, it takes no time at all, because you’re not really writing it down anymore.

There’s nothing novel about it.

That may be because the brain records new experiences — especially novel and exciting experiences — differently. This is even measurable. Brains use more energy to represent a memory when the memory is novel.

So, first memories are dense. The routines of later life are sketchy. The past wasn’t really slower than the present. It just feels that way.

This is not meant to cheapen the experience, it is just a matter of how our brains record and remember the event.

It is said that there is nothing so special as a child’s mind experiences new things – I love that and it does not make it any less so when we understand the brain function is behind it.

I want to experience everything with a child mind that accepts everything as new and novel. Think what a wonderful world it could be.

Do Faster-than-light neutrinos exist?

Nope. This turns out to be BS as of February 22, 2012. The fast fellows were first reported a few days earlier and astounded the physics community as well as making the front page of the Washington Post and every other news outlet. Turns out that a faulty optical cable alignment in a GPS device produced the inaccurate results (read “loose wire”).
For now the world is safe again knowing that “nothing is faster than light” isn’t just a rule, its the law.


We Are All Time Travelers

(To the future)

 Google shows well over 100,000 references to “Time Machine,” a phrase that first appeared in an H.G. Wells novella in1895. Throughout the centuries, the idea of time travel has captured the imagination of everyone from the average “Jane” to Nobel Prize-winning physicists. While time travel has been fantasized, fictionalized, filmed and debated, there is no real consensus on the viability of traveling forward or backward in time.

In April 2007, Stephen Hawking wrote, ”Time travel was once considered scientific heresy. I used to avoid talking about it for fear of being labeled a crank. But these days I’m not so cautious. In fact, I’m more like the people who built Stonehenge. I’m obsessed by time. If I had a time machine, I’d visit Marilyn Monroe in her prime or drop in on Galileo as he turned his telescope to the heavens. Perhaps I’d even travel to the end of the universe to find out how our whole cosmic story ends.”

In physics, time is described as a dimension just like the three we commonly think of: length, width and height. When traveling from your house to the work, however, you are not only moving in 3-D, but traveling forward in time, the fourth dimension. From this perspective, we are all Time Travelers, moving at the rate of 1 second per second in the direction of the future. Or are we?

Interestingly, we live about 80 milliseconds in in the past. Use one hand to touch your nose, and the other to touch one of your feet, at exactly the same time. You will experience them as simultaneous acts. But clearly, it takes more time for a signal to travel from your feet to your brain than from your nose to your brain. The reconciliation is simple: our conscious experience takes time to assemble, and your brain waits for all the relevant input before it experiences the “now.” Experiments have shown that the lag between when things happen and when we experience them is about 80 milliseconds. (per David Eagleman.)

Here you are, living in the past yet moving towards the future, so time travel is clearly possible. The challenge is to travel through time in increments that are perceptible: hours, days, years, decades and centuries. That brings us to Wormholes and Time Dilation, two of the most prominent theories of time travel.


A wormhole is a theoretical ‘tunnel’ or shortcut, predicted by Einstein’s theory of relativity, that links two places in space-time – visualized above as the contours of a 3-D map. Here, negative energy pulls space and time into the mouth of a tunnel, and it emerges in another space and time.

As illustrated above, a beam of light traversing a path between two points in curved space-time will take longer to complete the journey than a hypothetical spaceship taking advantage of a wormhole’s shortcut. **

While Wormholes are only hypothetical constructs, many physicists believe that they do exist, although microscopic in size and equally so in duration. Down at the smallest of scales, smaller even than atoms, we get to a place called the quantum foam. This is where wormholes are believed to exist. Tiny tunnels or shortcuts through space and time constantly form, disappear, and reform within this quantum foam, and they actually link two separate places and two different times.

Unfortunately, these real-life time tunnels are just a billion-trillion-trillionths of a centimeter across and last well under a billionth of a second. Some scientists theorize that it may be possible to capture a wormhole and enlarge so it becomes big enough for a human, or even a spaceship, to enter. Given enough power and advanced technology, perhaps a giant wormhole could be constructed. If so, it would be a truly remarkable device. One end could be here, near Earth, and the other far, far away, in some distant galaxy.

Theoretically, a time tunnel or wormhole could do even more than take us to other planets. If both ends were in the same place, and separated by time instead of distance, a ship could fly in and come out still near Earth, but in the distant past. Maybe dinosaurs would witness the ship coming in for a landing! Astro-physicists have theorized that the power necessary to keep a wormhole open will not exist in the foreseeable futures; but how often have we heard that, only to be proven wrong?

Time Travel to the Future Made Easy (-er)

In my second post, “7 Theories on Time That Would Make Doc Brown’s Head Explode,”  the author’s talked about how, “The Faster You Go, the Slower Time Moves” and “The Higher You Live, the Faster You Age.” These are the keys to time travel, and they arise from Einstein’s work during his  prolific period of 1905-1922. We can save the detail for later, but Einstein proved that acceleration and gravity were essentially indistinguishable. Both of these concepts are related to time dilation, and it happens because gravity warps time as well as space. The closer you are to the ground, the more you are affected by the Earth’s gravity and the slower time moves. On the other hand, as you get higher, gravity’s pull weakens and time speeds up.

Additionally, the faster you travel, the slower time moves. ( See Time Dilation http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/einsteinlight/jw/module4_time_dilation.htm) You may already know this, thanks again to Einstein – if you’re going the speed of light, time pretty much stops. We can save the math for another day, **but in his famous work on special relativity in 1905, Albert Einstein predicted that when two clocks were brought together and synchronized, and then one was moved away and brought back, the clock that had traveled would lag behind the clock that had stayed put. Einstein considered this to be a natural consequence of special relativity, not a paradox as some suggested, and in 1911, he restated and elaborated on this result as follows:

“If the stationary organism is a man and the traveling one is his twin, then the traveler returns home to find his twin brother much aged compared to him. The paradox centers around the contention that, in relativity, either twin could regard the other as the traveler, in which case each should find the other younger—a logical contradiction. This contention assumes that the twins’ situations are symmetrical and interchangeable, an assumption that is not correct.”

Furthermore, accessible experiments have been done that support Einstein’s prediction. In 1911, Paul Langevin gave a “striking example” by describing the story of a traveler making a trip traveling at 80% of the speed of light. The traveler remains in a projectile for one year of his time, and then reverses direction. Upon return, the traveler will find that he has aged two years, while 160 years have passed on Earth. [[**See Wikipedia – Twin Paradox]] Thus, the traveling twin will have travelled 160 years into the future while his clock shows only 2 years have past!

This is not supposition and has been verified through rigorous and continuous experiments since 1911. While theoretical problems persist, i.e. long term space travel and the absence of the vehicle that can attain anywhere near 80% the speed of light, it is indeed foreseeable that this issue will be overcome in the century ahead of us.

The Case Against Travel To the Past

 We will spend time discussing this concept at a later time, but suffice it to say that the overwhelming consensus is that it is not possible under current laws of physics to travel backward in time. If travel to the past were possible, the world would be filled with billionaires making their riches from betting on sporting events.  Moreover, have you ever heard of anyone sanely stating, “Hello, I am from the future.”

As Robert A. Heinlein concluded, “His older self had taught his younger self a language which the older self knew because the younger self, after being taught, grew up to be the older self and was, therefore, capable of teaching. ”



It is certainly easy to ascertain ‘WHEN IN TIME” it is at any given moment:  it’s 3:54pm on Sunday, February 12, 2012.  “WHERE” in time his another question. As illustrated by Euclidean geometry there is another dimension in time that could tells us, on a city map for example, the street, the floor and where in the room that particular time exists. So in edition to 3:54pm on Sunday, February 12, 2012 we are on the northeast corner of the 5th floor at 700 13th Street, Washington, DC 2016. USA, Earth. This would be considered precise in most situations.

 BUT does anybody really know what time it really is?

As precise as the above example illustrates, we are always seeing into the past due to the time light (photons) takes to travel. Light travels at a speed of 186000 miles a second or 700 million miles an hour.  The sunlight which warms your face, departed the surface of the sun eight minutes ago. The photons that left the center of the sun left hundreds of thousand of years ago.  Looking into a clear night’s sky the closest of stars are EIGHT to TWENTY MILLION light years away.  We see them as they existed eight to twenty million years ago! Some are no longer there.  These oldest of galaxies appear to us as they existed THIRTEEN BILLION YEARS AGO.  We will spend much more time dissecting this at in a later post.


If Angel is standing stationary on the train embankment as the train travels West-to-East, and Buffy is riding in the last row of only car the engine is pulling, and Cruela is in the front row or that car; as the train runs 55 mph Angel will perceive the train pass him at the same 55 mph. Now if our Buffy is standing still she will also perceive the same 55 mph as she looks out the windowing relation to Angel. But in relation to a stationary Cruela, who is also on the train, there is no perceived movement at all.

Now lets change the facts:

  • The train travels at 60 mph East
  • Buffy runs 3 mph east
  • Cruela is sitting stationary

Now, therefore,

  • Angel perceives the train traveling 60 mph west-to-east
  • Angel perceives the Buffy traveling 63 mph (60mph + 3mph)
  • To Cruela the Buffy is traveling 3 mph east (0 + 3 mph)

Now, can Cruela run 61 mph East relative to Buffy – and why ??