Friday, December 05, 2008

Markopoulou: Time is Fundamental, Space is Not

The Foundational Questions Institute has run an essay contest on "The Nature of Time" and received a wide variety of responses. These come from well known physicists, other academics, and amateurs alike. Because of time contraints I've only read a few, beginning with authors I recognized (there are likely some "diamonds in the rough" if one plows through all the contributions).

Fotini Markopoulou of the Perimeter Institute, whose work I mentioned in the last post (and several older ones), wrote: "Space does not exist, so time can." She has a talent for writing clearly about these deep concepts, and I find her arguments persuasive (even if her work toward a full theory of quantum gravity still has a long road ahead). So I highly recommend the essay.

Kudos also to cosmologist and blogger Sean Carroll for his nice essay: "What if Time Really Exists" (here is the Cosmic Variance post introducing it). While I don't like some of his specific suggestions (associating time's arrow with macroscopic entropy considerations), I liked the stance he takes in the essay.

For countervailing views you can read the contributions of Carlo Rovelli and Julian Barbour.

UPDATE (7 January 2009): I just found this interesting post by Scott Aaronson - "Time: Different from space" which includes his computer science-derived insight on why time (causal structure)is fundamental.