Baggott, Anders: Time

Baggott: Time

“Our experience of time is not born of an intrinsic, fundamental element of reality called ‘time.’ What we experience is rather the changing geometry of the universe and the masses within it, which we synthesize in our minds and interpret as evolving instants of time.” —Jim Baggott in The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments (Oxford Univ. Press, 2011), p. 369.


Guest Writer: Isabel Anders

“Save us from the time of trial.” —The Lord’s Prayer.

“Preserve us in your will within the changing geometry of the universe.” —Quantum version.

Science writer Jim Baggott , author of The Quantum Story (which I just read) and new title Quantum Space (Oxford Univ. Press, 2019), continues to ask tough questions about the nature of the universe, what space is actually composed of, and the existence of time itself.

“Loop Quantum Gravity,” a new contender for the “Theory of Everything” physicists have long sought, zeroes in on the very fabric of spacetime rather than the pursuit of relationships among particles or strings. It deals with the possibility that time may not exist, a conundrum addressed by physicists as “the problem of time.”

LQG suggests that the ultimate essence of space actually is comprised of little loops of gravitational force. Yet Baggott points out that, in following such a formulation to its logical conclusion, “time gets lost in the equations”—as various theories vie to uncover what we know about the universe.

“[Time] has to be reinstated, in effect, as a juxtaposition of different spatial states, i. e., different geometries. So, as the geometry changes, it creates the impression, or illusion, of time,” Baggott concludes.

Does this bring us any closer, perhaps, to a stab at understanding eternity—a “glimpse” of how all persons and events could be equally present in God’s sight? Of a God who is the unchanging center of the shifting universe?

Certainly it brings to mind the words of Hebrews 4:13 that nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight—as well as these lines of Walter Chalmers Smith’s famous hymn:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, thy great Name we praise.

In worship, the questions and the pondering cease for what we, who still feel as though we dwell in time, would call a “moment.”

Isabel Anders