Time Doesn’t Exist: A Step-by-Step Proof

The Illusory Nature of Time: II

“And there we were, all in one place
- a generation lost in space,
with no time left to start again.”
Don McLean, ‘American Pie’.

For thousands of years sages and mystics have been telling us that time is an illusion.

Recently scientists discovered that at levels below Planck Time, even the concept of time drops off the scientific agenda.

Here, in very simple terms, is an explanation for why that is. As an objective cosmic reality, time literally does not exist.

Confused? You won’t be – read on …

Taking a Step Backwards

Picture the scene: broken glass littered all over the floor, small orange thing flapping around on soaking wet carpet. Suddenly glass, water, orange thing lift off the ground and leap towards the table, assembling themselves as a goldfish swimming in a bowl – just as a cat leaping in backwards through the window brushes past the goldfish bowl, off the table and out through the door in reverse gear.

Couldn’t happen? Course it couldn’t, the universe isn’t built that way.

Then what way is the universe built, if the total matter and energy content is identical at both ends of that little episode but it can only happen in one direction? What is this ‘arrow of time’?

That one’s actually quite simple.  Imagine a bag full of grasshoppers: open the bag, and in no time the little critters are everywhere, heading in every direction.  Reversing the process, getting them back into the bag, would be nigh on impossible.  It certainly wouldn’t happen by chance.

The material universe is made up of energy, every bit of which is a good deal livelier than those grasshoppers. Some of that energy is tied up as bundles that we refer to as ‘particles’ – the particles that make up you and me and everything else. The rest is flying about as light, radio waves, microwaves and the like.

All of the effects of time are driven by that energy escaping – just like those grasshoppers.

Every physical or chemical reaction, including those in biological processes, involves energy transfers in which some of that energy gets away.  The nuclear reactions in stars are driven by the release of energy, the energy that comes to us as heat and light from the sun.  Scientists call this increasing entropy, also The Second Law of Thermodynamics.

That lost energy scatters in every direction, making the reverse process about as likely as all those grasshoppers obligingly stepping back into that bag.  [Reversing one of those reactions requires more energy, so there’s always a net energy loss.]  The one-way street of time is the route taken by those grasshoppers and that energy alike: out, never back in; scattering, never regrouping.

… And One More Time Around …

Numerous studies point to particles of matter being light wrapped round in closed loops.  The book Tapestry of Light shows how this precisely fits a whole spread of proven scientific facts.  Here, too, some of that steadily circulating energy can be released ‘into the wild’ by one-way reactions – such as two atoms joining to form a molecule, releasing some of the electron energy from each of those atoms.

So there we have the flow of time.  It’s actually those energy flows, scattering randomly from events that thus can’t run in reverse (since they’d need a random focused input of energy – a contradiction) or circulating round to form material particles.  The rate of those energy flows – the speed of light – defines the rate of time.

Or does it?  Let’s take a closer look.

Anything You Can Do …

If the rate of those energy flows doubled, then energy would get from A to B twice as fast, it would disperse from chemical reactions and nuclear fusion events twice as fast.

But it would also circulate around particles, atoms and molecules, twice as fast …

And that’s what gives us our measure of time, whether it’s an atomic clock or marks on a burning candle – or even the synapses in your brain or mine, giving us an estimate of time.  The faster rate of external events would be precisely balanced by the faster rate of every measure of time that you can imagine, including our own perception.  If something happens twice as fast, and your clock runs twice as fast, you won’t notice the difference.

Those energy flows* could speed up by a hundred, a thousand, a million times – or, conversely, slow down by any of those factors – and it would make no detectable difference whatever to the universe.  Our experience, and the way of being of everything around us, would be absolutely unchanged.
[* Yes, we’re talking about the speed of light here.]

This is because what we refer to as ‘timing’ a process or event is actually a comparison of two distances travelled by energy flows: around the process/event and around the ‘timing’ device, whatever that may be.  That comparison doesn’t change, whatever the speed of those energy flows.

In short: any externally imposed ‘rate of time’ would be 100% irrelevant to the workings of the material universe.  So inclusion of that concept in our world view is a red herring, it simply gets in the way of an objective analysis of material reality.  Time, in that sense, does not exist.

[This reasoning, of course, applies equally to the ‘proper time’ of objects in different frames of reference, for those concerned with relativity theory.]

How the – ?  What the – ?  Who the – ?

But … but … but there is time. We experience it every day, every minute, every second.


Clouds, bluebells,
Houndtor Rocks
[Dartmoor, UK]

Each reinforcing our perception of the steady progress of time – whether it be minutes, days, or thousands of years.

Yes.  We experience sequencing of events – but we also experience sequencing of the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and the sequencing of notes on the piano.  Neither of them involves time.  We also have the sensation of duration: we can even check that sensation against a clock – but that’s just comparing the distance travelled by energy flows around the circuits in our brain with distance around energy-flow circuits in our clock.  Two distances again.

So – dammit, what is the thing we experience as time?

It’s the mind rationalising a rather greater (though actually very simple) cosmic principle – just as the mind rationalises some electromagnetic frequencies as colours.  That’ll have to wait for another time – but you could try reading this paper in the meantime (especially the final paragraph). [You'll need to register, free, here first.]

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65 Responses to “Time Doesn’t Exist: A Step-by-Step Proof”

  1. Reality Check admin says:

    Thanks, Kurt, for your very insightful observation.
    From what I understand of what you say, I believe I pretty much agree with it!

  2. Reality Check admin says:

    Thanks for your input, Gary.
    I’d fully agree that time is a notational convenience, a sort of ‘mental bookkeeping system’. I think, though, that we have to be able to explain terms like ‘movement’ and ‘duration’ in that context – not impossible, but sometimes a bit mind-bending!
    I would fully agree that the slowing of time at high velocities is intricately bound up with increases in mass/energy at those speeds – as I explain in some detail in my book ‘Tapestry of Light’ at http://www.transfinitemind.com.

  3. Much easier than trying to explain that time does not exist through the quantum theory

  4. Reality Check admin says:


  5. P Jilbert says:

    Feedback for Gary Tash: I fully agree with your first three sentences. Children perceive a day as very long because it is filled with many new observations, which form markers throughout the day so subliminally their day is proportional to the number of new events. Old crusties (like me) have few new events and so our weeks rush by. I reject the independent physical dimension of time and so the concept of space-time is merely a mathematical construct for me where mathematicians wander off into the darkest corners of reasoning. Perhaps “all of physics can be expressed mathematically but all of mathematics does not express physics” applies.
    Concerning your penultimate sentence about Special Relativity I would say: Kinetic energy equates to mass and so even for the tiniest of accelerations the mass of a body increases and similarly a clock would slow down; there are ‘no boundaries’ for those processes. Those processes do not just appear close to the speed of light as so many science popularists tell the lay folk. At some time (long ago) those sloppy remarks impeded my understanding of Special Relativity. Hope this helps.

  6. Bleazy P. says:

    I keep on seeing those shows and websites where top-of-the-line scientists insist that Time Travel is a realistic thought. I think they are idiots and need to have their credentials stripped, and for this very reason. TIme is simply a concept humans have invented to rationalize the way everything changes. Going backwards or forwards in ‘time’ would mean totally reversing or speeding up every particle in the universe…
    Energy input required = Damn.

  7. Jason says:

    I look at time as tool for measuring, time was invented by man as a means of measurement and nothing more. When did time gain magical powers?. Time is a very handy tool, but people have to remember, MATH IS NOT REALITY!. Math is tool like a mile or liter etc. Time is in the same category as all other measurements, they don’t exert a force on the physical world. When you die, all the physical matter and energy that make you up doesn’t cease to exist. It all existed in another form before you were born.

  8. Immobile says:

    Time is just another function used by us in order to achieve goals. It’s how our brain decides what moment in the process to interact. Time does exist but only in our perception, not a fixed state.
    “Time Travel” is possible, but you would have to have the ability to put every molecule back in the same spot it was X years ago. The only measuring stick we have between now and 6 seconds ago is everything that has moved or changed. If you put those things back where they were (exactly) 6 seconds ago then nothing is different. By our own definition, you have traveled back 6 seconds in “time.”

    The universe is a machine, we are machines, everything is running on constant energy like a car engine.

  9. Dan says:

    Not long ago I was introduced to an extraordinary book titled: “Revelations of a human space navigator”, downloadable free from Lulu.com, written by a chap called Victor Senchenko. The book reveals all that currently is unknown or misunderstood by science. This includes precise explanation why time, and gods, not only don’t exist but couldn’t possibly exist, as their existence would be superfluous and of no need to the basic particles that form everything in physical existence in structures that eternally unite only to disperse.

  10. Reality Check admin says:

    Dear Dan,

    since you’ve taken the trouble to comment I feel it would be ungracious not to include your submission, but I’m afraid it’s rather longer than its content seems to merit. Approx. the last 40% consists of VS explaining how the human race is too preoccupied with profit to recognise his genius; this is a common complaint among those who can’t seem to get their ideas out there.

    I’m more than a little puzzled by a book that includes “What gravity is”, “Why gods do not exist”,”Why there is homosexuality in humans” and “What ‘happiness’ actually is” all under one cover. I don’t feel that such a text is really in the spirit of what this blog, or this blog post, is about. Nevertheless, as you’ll see, I’ve posted your first para, which will enable anyone who so wishes to find out about this guy and his ideas – I recommend judicious use of Google by anyone so inclined.

  11. Ridzuan Yusuf Pagaduan says:

    Time doesn’t exist because we, human beings, invented it as a measurement of events that took place in a given scenario in order for us to create what we called history on earth. Money is also invented in order to have a unit of exchange for a ceratin commodity or service, since barter is quite not practical to use. The same goes with temperature, volume, length & mass. We humans love to standardize everything without knowing everything while animals learned the changes in the earth seasons they migrate every year not on the same earth time but by the changes in atmospheric humidity. Without considering time, traveling at speed of light is possible if we converted ourselves into light waves.

  12. David fletcher says:

    My theory is simple time is decay no decay no time

  13. Collin Merenoff says:

    Yes, of course a random walk through a state space from an orderly initial state will produce states that are more and more chaotic as the iteration count increases.

    However, the iteration count is a time parameter, which you hid (probably without realizing it) in the structure of your argument.

  14. Reality Check admin says:

    Thanks for your comment, Collin.

    It seems to me that the concept of ‘iteration’ was introduced by you, not me. I’ve shown initially that what we regard as ‘time’ is actually a transition from a more ordered to less ordered state; that transition doesn’t need to be objectively based on time, my point about comparisons of distances in photon paths shows that there’s no concrete reason to believe it is.

    If we consider a piece of rope that at one end is well braided together whilst at the other end is totally frayed (with the rope between showing the transition from one state to the other), we have in concrete form a clear illustration of a transition from order to disorder. There’s nothing preventing those two states (and every state in between) existing simultaneously, nor is there anything preventing us from experiencing that steady transition from one state to the other in one visual snapshot. Most importantly, there’s nothing iterative, in terms of a time-sequence, between one end of that rope and the other.

    If you wish to introduce a time parameter into consideration of such a scenario, that’s fine – but I’m happy for you NOT to attribute to me a construct that you yourself have chosen to add into the mix.

  15. Scamander says:

    Time does not exist, as is proven by the illusion which we call day and night. Light replaces dark and vice versa, thus the time of a day is said to have expired. But we all know that this is just the light of the Sun versus the Earth rotating, a process measured by clocks invented by mankind.

    Modern mankind lives in the greatest illusion ever invented; her own. We literally invented and named everything around us; Tables, chairs and even time. Apples fall from trees, that’s a fact, and probably have been doing so long before mankind picked and ate them. Before that those fallen apples rotted away on their own pace, a pace not designated anything and certainly not time.

    Time is but the art of reflection in mankind. the ability to remember and measure one’s own evolution. The evolution of a day, a week, a month or a thousand years.
    Or the decay of a single apple.

    But in doing so, do we not merely remember the invention of time?