∆ Arrows and astronauts.

(This is a slightly long winded piece that I wrote early in the project - I will edit it down at some stage - but I still think it makes a good point as is.)

Order, order! Which came 'first' the Arrow or the Astronaut?

Figure: Was the 'stuff' that made up Apollo 11 'nowhere' as the battle of Hastings was happening?

 - After the battle, did all the 'stuff' involved in it 'stop doing anything'? 

- If matter just exists and changes would that explain the Bayeux Tapestry - or must Time exists as well? 

We generally see the time order of events as being very clear and unmistakable, or to quote professor Paul Davies, in  - ‘How to build a time machine’; ‘There is never any ambiguity about the time order of a sequence of events happening at one place; Nobody claims that the battle of Hastings came after the battle of Waterloo’.

 But if everything is all just here now, as we constantly observe, and time is just a persistent illusion, then what do terms such as ‘Before’ and ‘After’  really mean?


Most people would agree with the idea that  ‘There is never any ambiguity about the time order of a sequence of events happening at one place’, and the clear common sense and apparently undeniable ‘temporal order’ of events, large and small, all seem to be very strong proof of the existence, flow, and direction of time.

But there is in fact another, logical and scientific way to view any number of events, and to see all events, as ‘all constantly happening now’, and effectively not happening in ‘time order’ at all.

This may sound unfeasible, and if it is, then trying to explain the ‘time order’ of events in a ‘Timeless’ way should fail very quickly, and thus show up some critical flaw in the whole idea of timelessness, so let’s give it a go.

To avoid the possible confusion that might arise if we compare two similar types of events, i.e. two ‘Battles’, let’s still look at two ‘historically famous and time separated events’ but compare The battle of Hastings ‘1066’ to the ‘later’ and very different NASA trips to the moon ‘1969’.

Here again most people would be happy to say that the ‘Battle of Hastings’ very clearly happened long before the trips to the moon. If only for the obvious fact that there is no evidence of computer guided, liquid fuelled, rocket technology being used at Hastings in 1066, and no evidence that NASA tried to launch astronauts to the moon using a very big ‘bow and arrow’ type contraption.

Note; Whether or not Astronauts have walked on the moon, or whether or not the battle of Hastings happened for that matter, is not the point here[1]. This book is about Time and not a discussion about ‘Conspiracy Theories’, Historical details, or any other of the fascinating subjects that all involve ‘time’ and are bound to crop up in examples used when discussing Time. In fact it is the regular temptation to discuss every interesting subject that crops up when discussing Time that generally leads to casual, meandering, conversations about time which never reach any solid conclusions. So it is my job here to keep things on track.

Let the battle commence… but when exactly.

Figure : The Battle of Hastings. All this stuff, every 'atom' is still here now, doing something. Just a bit more spread out and sedate. So technically everything involved in the battle is still existing, and active. Makes you wonder when the battle will really end... and when it started. 

So it seems clear that we are talking about two events that were separated by time, and which occurred in a very distinct temporal order, Hastings, then Apollo, and whose very nature proves this if only because of the phenomenal difference in technologies involved.

Everything seems very clear cut here, but let’s take a closer look at each event in turn, from a time-based view, and then see just how separate they really are.

First let's look at what we seem to factually know about each of these two events. A quick Internet search lists about 80,000 entries mentioning ‘the Battle of Hastings’. Many of these pages will probably be duplicates, but a random sample of five or six entries all return the year of the battle as ‘1066’ a date that almost every western schoolchild learns.

A similar search for ‘NASA’ and ‘Apollo’ returns pages about the moon landings, giving the date of the first touchdown as ‘July 20th 1969’. Here we are given not just the year but the day and the month. Most of the pages discussing the Battle of Hastings aren’t so forthcoming, perhaps because it was so long ago?

A deeper search on Hastings, gives us October 14th for the battle, and tells us ‘this was the day King Harold II died from wounds received in battle while fighting the Norman Duke William later known as William the conqueror’.

If we get out our date-calculator we find that the Apollo landing, July 20th 1969 minus the Battle of Hastings, October 14th 1066 gives us a separation of around 897 years, or more accurately 329,722 days.

This seems to make sense, and shows us that the events were separated by almost one third of a million days. And in this period mankind advanced from launching arrows at each other by harnessing the few pounds of thrust stored in a piece of twine stretched across a springy stick, to harnessing the 7.6 million pounds of rocket thrust used to launch astronauts to the moon.

Ok, the Battle of Hastings started in 1066, but not just 1066, October the 14th 1066. But when exactly did the battle start?

From my web search I stumbled across a beautifully presented page of facts about the battle of Hastings www.battle1066.com[2] , and from here we learn…

Harold set up his command post behind [his men] and centrally positioned to give him an elevated view of proceedings. The time would now have been about 09:30. In many of the battles through history of this type, there seems to have been a level of protocol that was adhered to prior to proceedings. Similar to a lull before a storm, a short period of recollection seems to occur followed by taunting of the opposition. The Saxon war cry was Ut, ut ( or out, out ), Godemite ( God Almighty ) and ‘Oli Crosse’ ( Holy Cross ). The Normans would have responded in kind. The battle was about to begin.

So we are nearly there. The battle started sometime after 9:30 in the morning, makes sense, no point fighting in the dark , someone could get hurt !, to continue …

If the chronicler, ‘Wace’ is to be believed, the battle commenced with a heroic but foolhardy one man attack on the English line by a minstrel named Taillefer. He was quickly cut down by the Saxon housecarls. This was the signal for the battle to begin in earnest.

Apparently then the battle probably started ‘around’ 9:30, and it started ‘in earnest’ as Mr Taillefer’s fellow soldiers noticed that he seemed to have just been fatally wounded or had in fact just died.

The more astute of his colleagues would have imagined that as soon as Taillefer had started running towards the Saxon armies on his own he was bound to die, and so they may have been in battle mode before he actually was struck. ‘Taillefer’ was killed by Saxon ‘Housecarls’. Housecarls it transpires were full time Anglo Saxon soldiers armed with Battleaxes or double edged swords so agitating one or more of them was never going to be an easy option for Taillefer in the first place.

Although a Battleaxe, or double edged sword, is obviously a dangerous weapon, just being accidentally touched gently by one as the owner walked past wouldn’t really hurt. A polite ‘no harm done’ would clear things up immediately, so the Axe or sword that wounded, and then killed Taillefer, must have penetrated his body with some force at a critical point.

Then again, it could have been that Taillefer was hit on the head with the axe and then fell. He might not have been hurt too badly, but just decided to play dead. If he was wearing a helmet the axe that injured him, or led him to play dead, may have never actually touched him, as in his body, and yet soldiers on either side, seeing him go down might have taken that to be their cue to actually start of the battle in earnest. Then again, perhaps it was some particular cry or insult from the Saxon side that led Taillefer to break ranks in the first place, in which case perhaps that ‘cry’, reaching his ears, was the point at which the battle started. But of course that could only have happened if both armies had ended up in the same location in the first place,  so perhaps whatever previous specific event caused the two sides to meet up some time later, was really the event that ‘started the battle’, but what caused that event?… and so on, and so on.

If we simplify things and say the battle is defined as happening at least ‘at the field’ in Hastings, did it start just as Taillefer heard an insulting taunt or just as the taunt was issued? Or was it when he started approaching the Saxons? Was it when he was injured? When he fell? When his colleagues each individually decided to back him up? When the first colleague did rush out to fight, making the vent more than just two people engaged in combat? Did the battle start when the first actual injury occurred, or when the first actual death occurred, maybe seconds or minutes after that injury? Or did the battle in essence start years before the two armies met, as two kings had a long range dispute over land or property.

What if the first death was caused by a long-range arrow? If so would the start of the battle have been when the arrow was pulled back, released, hit its victim, injured him, or when it actually killed him? What if someone injured later in the battle died before someone injured earlier? When would you say that the battle started? Or ultimately, if you were there with a ‘stopwatch’ timing the battle when precisely would you actually start, and stop, the clock?

The point I’m making here is not just that it is hard to be precise about exactly what ‘time’ and event , e.g. the battle , started but it can also be very hard to decide exactly what defines the actual ‘start’ of the event.


Let’s move on, because perhaps these points are trivial or insignificant anyway, and ultimately we can agree that ‘the battle happened’. If you turned a corner in hasting mid morning on October 14th 1066 – you would be in no doubt about this and probably decide to avoid your usual short cut through that particular field, having seen a lot of people having a massive battle, and no matter ‘precisely’ when it started, it must have clearly ‘started’ some time earlier.

So, let’s accept that if the battle is in mid flow then it clearly ‘must have started’ no matter how we choose to define or bicker about precisely what marked the start of it and exactly ‘when’ this was, and now consider, ‘when did the battle end?

‘Oh no not again’ I imagine you saying, relax we won’t go into too much detail but you can see how similar problems arise. Did the battle end just after the last blow from either side was struck? After the last serious injury happened, after the last battle related death? As the last bit of childish taunting died out? As the last person left the field (remember to close the gate) or, and here’s a new can of worms was it a political ending? When does a battle officially end? One might imagine it is when certain declarations have been made by the side that agrees it has lost, or when another side decides it has won and forces its will on the losers.   

The point here is that to see that it is by no means a simple matter to say ‘when’ an event started or indeed ended. If we look into the politics of the Battle of Hastings we learn that it was, perhaps unsurprisingly …

‘…the culmination of a battle between two men who had politically and mentally been at war for many years.’

‘Culmination’ would suggest it was the ‘conclusion’ the , ‘finale’ or ‘end’ of the matter but if you read up on the battle of Hastings you will find that those involved and their supporters did not in fact shake hands and call it a day in the evening of  October 14th,but carried on discussions and violent disputes for generations afterwards.

You might even find people arguing sides, or at least discussing the issues involved today, as this book is indeed doing, which means that in some sense, just as a fire has not died until the last ember has died, even today ‘the Battle of Hastings’ has not completely died.

If you follow this line of reasoning, forwards and backwards, you can see that it is effectively impossible to say precisely when an event, such as a battle really starts or ends. If we had happened to turn a corner, mid morning, as the battle of Hastings was in full flow and even at its peak, then perhaps we could consider some high resolution ‘aerial photograph’ of the scene at that moment to be a pretty good snapshot of the situation, the location, weapons, and all the people involved in the battle.

But looking at this snap-shot we could consider tracing each individuals ‘past’ back and back, ‘in time’, and in location, and realise that every individual involved in the battle would have had to have been born first, and so each individuals birth was essential for the battle to be as it was. And therefore at the very least, in a sense the ‘start’ of the battle stretches back to each individual’s birth time and place. But of course then we have to go back a further 9 months to each individual’s conception… and of course to their parent’s conception and so on and so on.

From such a ‘snapshot’ of the battle, we could also define the full and final end of the battle as being the moment the last person involved in the battle actually died. So we would have to trace out all of their futures, and perhaps the futures of all their offspring to be complete, and their offspring, and so on.

Here we can see that if we define the battle ‘loosely’, and then trace the people involved in the battle ‘forwards and backwards ‘, in time, the whole thing becomes much more vague and hard to define, or ‘put a circle around’.

What is more, if we were to trace on a map the actual paths before and after the battle, of all of the people, and all of the ‘stuff’ that could in any way be said to be involved in the battle, we would of course find a massive and convoluted maze of criss-crossing trails expanding well beyond the boundaries of a few fields in south east England.

If we expand these ‘simple’ views of when and where, the battle started and ended, we need only ask if the ‘molecules’ that made up the soldiers, their weapons, their armour, their food, the air that they breathed and so on are ‘part of the battle’ or not, to see how the scene becomes a magnitude larger and how it becomes much more complicated to actually and accurately, pin down and define what we mean by ‘the battle’.

3, 2, 1 we have lift off.

Figure : Apollo 11 Launch - All this stuff is still here now, doing something. Just a bit more spread out and sedate.

A manned rocket launch is very different to a battle. A rocket launch still involves hundreds or thousands of people but they are all generally trying to cooperate in getting the rocket safely of the launch pad rather than brutally attacking each other with sharp and blunt weapons.

However, we can still see that if we take a snapshot of the entire launch, at some point where most people would agree ‘the launch is happening’, we can see that as with the battle example we could also extend the ‘history’ and trails of all the people, and all the equipment essential for the launch, backwards or forwards in ‘time’ and physical locations, pretty much without limit.

If, for example, we decide to trace the path of every single atom that makes up every human, every rocket component, and every molecule of fuel involved in the launch, we could see that while the fairly easily defined ‘rocket ship’  itself was in the middle of its flight, the atoms of fuel involved might have ‘come from’ an extremely wide area, from wells and refineries etc all over the world, and all the spent fuel will be being spread out over an extremely wide area as it is burnt and exhausted into the atmosphere, and space, at greater and greater altitude and speed. 

So, for a battle, and for a rocket launch, the physical, and ‘temporal’ boundaries of each event are extremely hard to actually define, and then physically, or chronologically measure.

This may not seem to be the case at first. We can say that a battle starts when a leader shouts ‘charge’, or a rocket launches when the countdown reaches zero, but if a ‘leader’ stands in a field alone and just shouts ‘charge’, no battle follows, and if a solitary, isolated, unwatched  computer, attached to nothing, counts down to zero no rocket launch will happen.

If you sit with someone and try to clearly define the actual start, and end of any vaguely complicated event you may be hard pressed to reach an agreement, and, even if you do reach an agreement that it will only mean that your own personal opinions happen to match.

Order, order, the timeless conclusion, let’s make it simpler… and mix them up.

The point that this chapter is addressing it the idea that ‘There is never any ambiguity about the time order of a sequence of events happening at one place’, so, seeing how ‘individual events’ might not be as easily defined as we may first think, let’s see how ‘timelessness’ may completely reframe our view but still in a logical and scientific way.

First consider the NASA moon shots. If you believe in time, and if you believe the battle of Hastings happened ‘before’ the trips to the moon, then logically you should believe that as the astronauts were on the gantry, at cape Canaveral, in 1969… all of the ‘matter’ involved in the battle of Hastings, must have been somewhere ‘around the launch site’.

This is a critical point, so I’ll define what I mean more carefully. We generally assume that ‘matter’, atoms, electrons, molecules, tables chairs, arrow heads and rocket engines etc, don’t just ‘appear’ out of nowhere, or just dis-appear into nothing. 

Although the exception to this may be that ‘everything’ suddenly appeared in the big-bang, and everything may disappear in a big-crunch, presently individual atoms, or complex structures actually appearing and disappearing is not what we observe.

We do observe however, that on large and small scales, ‘things’ do transform. Photons change into electrons, neutrons split into protons and other sub-atomic elements, arrow shafts rot, arrow heads rust away. Metals and minerals are mined and smelted to make alloys and rocket engine parts – which themselves may disintegrate – corroding slowly at the bottom of a sea after they have done their job and fallen back to earth, or explosively in mid air if they fail to achieve their goal, and so on.

Therefore, as the astronauts were boarding Apollo 11, it makes logical sense to assume that every single atom, from every single piece of matter involved in the battle of Hastings, must have existed in some way, in some form, somewhere, around the Apollo launch site.

Not only this, but as you may have heard, it is apparently a fact that as the average human takes a breath we draw in so many billions of atoms, that statistically in every breath you or I take it is statistically virtually guaranteed that it includes a number of atoms from the last breath of Julius Caesar as he spoke his dying words.

This means, that as the Apollo rocket was ready for launch, not only were ‘samples’ of all the atoms from every human, every item of armour and every weapon as used in the battle of Hastings around the launch site, but also billions of those atoms would literally be ‘part of’ the astronauts; part of their spacesuits, mission control, the launch pad, and the rocket itself.

Bizarre, and true as this may be, it may still seem that we are not addressing the apparently unambiguous ‘time order’ question. So now consider the battle itself again, back in 1066.

Given the understanding of just how many atoms make up a breath or an object, and, how although matter may integrate and disintegrate, or ‘transform’ between identities unrecognizably, nothing essentially ‘appears’ or ‘disappears’, we can see that as the battle of Hastings was in progress – absolutely every piece of ‘matter’ that makes up the 110 metre high Apollo rocket, the launch pad, all of the fuel, the astronauts, their clothes, mission control, the ground crew, and all of the spectators and so on, all existed and must have all been ‘around’ and in places, ‘intimately part of’ the Battle of Hastings!

It’s a mix up but so what?

At this point we have to carefully go over the ‘nature of events’ as discussed so far.

We can see that if you loosen up your definition of any particular event, the physical size of the event grows and grows. if you consider a simple football match that is ‘presently’ i.e. right now, in progress for example, it is very hard to define where ‘the edge’ of the football match ‘is’.

 All the players are clearly part of ‘the game’.  But what of the fans? If the fans are not part of the game, then what of their boos and cheers? Five thousand people shouting ‘your shot’ or something similar, as a player takes a penalty might be the actual cause of them missing the shot, the goal , and losing the game. So if the fans aren’t part of the game, then can the player ask to take the shot again in total silence, and what are the chances of that happening?

What about the sunlight hitting the pitch, the light that lets the players see each other and the ball, or the images flying away from the game as a whole so the fans and TV cameras can see it? Any outdoor game lasting more than ‘ten minutes’ will be partially lit by photons that were trapped and stored physically in the sun 160 million kilometres away at kick off, so is the sun ‘part of the event’?

And, if the images of the game do matter, then at the end of a ’90 minute’ outdoor game the players will have created a set of images that have been spreading out in all directions at the speed of light from kick off to the final whistle. These images will be stretching out and genuinely existing, however degraded, well over one and a half billion km out into space by full time.

And what about rainstorms that affect the game, or a player seeing his girlfriend with another guy in the crowd just as he takes a shot, if that affects the game Is it part of the game? If the game is played indoors then it is likely to be lit by power from the local generating station. In this case, surely the football game is part of the ‘thing’ or ‘event’ of ‘the power station running’. And if this is the case, then surely everything that the PowerStation lights, or powers, is also part of the ‘event’ of the power station running – in which case, all of those ‘sub events’ are surely part of one event.

Please note that I am not aiming to be unscientific, or ludicrously general  here; What I am trying to point out is that while you or I may get distracted by looking at what we think of as being ‘separate’ and individual, ‘things’, objects, or ‘events’, and choose to define them or their boundaries in some personally convenient way, we may miss the point that any such choice is completely made up, arbitrary, and of no real consequence to the actual collection of matter we are looking at.

So, In this way, us trying to define the ‘boundaries of a battle’, or ‘a rocket launch’ or any other ‘thing’ or event is fundamentally similar to us trying to define the precise boundaries of a football match, PowerStation,  a ‘cloud’, or a rainstorm, or a wave, or a volcanic island, or a rock concert, or the sun (which some might say we are actually ‘inside of’), or a waterfall, or a puff of cigar smoke that someone is  breathing in, or any other apparently ‘single’ and separate ‘thing’.

And this is relevant to this general discussion on time, and here, on the  ‘time order’ of events, because we cannot claim to really understand the ‘time order of events’ if we have not genuinely at least first considered what we mean by ‘an event’.

Seeing how arbitrary, boundary-less, and hard to define any one thing or event is, we can now expand our view and consider ‘multiple events’ – i.e. two or more events that are happening ‘now’. And we can see how ‘in the present’ all things are perhaps more closely connected than we may casually realise.

So, if a landslide causes a  wave to hit a rock, causing some spray, which deflects a bird from its attempt to catch a particular fish - then even if we can ‘freeze’ all of the motion in the scene and study it carefully, the question ‘how do we draw a line around the separate events?’ or  the event?’ is still impossible to answer, we can give an opinion, or decide on a rule, but that doesn’t in truth change a thing in reality. And whatever ‘we’ decide about reality is immaterial anyway because it is all constantly changing; for example, if we unfreeze the motion and the bird eats the fish, have two things become one, has the fish ‘gone’?

Time vs. timelessness; The order of events conclusion.

Perhaps all of this debate may actually seem to strengthen the case for the idea of time being a real, and flowing thing, because in the time-based view things seem to at least be slightly clearer.

Time wise, it seems that we can say ‘the landslide caused the wave, that hit the rock, that caused the spray, which deflected the bird so it missed the fish’ – but, now consider that the ‘land’ (whether it is ‘sliding’ or not), the water, the rock, the bird and the fish, are all constantly existing and doing something, whether we think it is a particularly interesting or distinct thing or not.

I.e. these separate ‘things’ never ‘do things one after each other’, the land doesn’t do something while the water waits for it, and takes its cue to do the next thing and so on. What’s more, the land, the water, the bird and so on are all just ‘stuff’. ‘Atoms of matter’, that are all here now. Some taking the form of a rock, some the form of water, and some the form of a bird. So to say the ‘land ‘happens’ before the water’, or that the ‘wave happens before the fish’ makes no sense. All the things are just matter, here now, and constantly moving and changing.

Even if you add a stopwatch, a stick of dynamite and video camera, to the scene you will still only be adding things to the scene. Things that are constantly existing and doing something, i.e. existing and moving and changing, either very passively in the case of a hand rotating on a numbered dial, or very actively in the case of exploding dynamite, or very methodically and ‘impressionably’ in the case of a machine designed to make magnetic representations on video tape of light hitting part of its surface, i.e. a video camera.

Putting it all together.

So, if we put all these views together, the startling conclusion is, that it is true that there is one massive collection of matter in existence.

But while you and I may like to think that many ‘separate or different things are going on’ all at once, it is more accurate to say that ‘one big event’ is going on all at once.

This ‘one big thing’ might be ‘the sun burning, river flowing, bird flying, fish swimming, power station running, football match happening, ‘clock’ running, dynamite exploding, video camera running, and everything else in the universe all happening’ –‘event’.

This might sound odd, but what I mean is if you consider things carefully, say just all the things for a few km around you ‘now’, you can see that in one way there must be trillions of things happening all at once now[3], and in another way it is all one big thing happening now.

 And this is no big surprise, as the ‘boundaries’ of each ‘thing’ that is happening are never really distinct.

So, if you were say having a barbeque, while a police helicopter happens to fly overhead, then you could consider that just as ‘where a burning piece of charcoal in the fire starts and ends’ is impossible to define, so too are just where the boundaries of the presence of the helicopter over-head also really a matter of opinion.

And so although we might not usually think of it this way, in a sense, the ‘burning coal’, and the ‘passing helicopter’ can be seen as both being part of ‘one event’[4]. If you can hold this idea in your mind then we can put in the last pieces of the puzzle…

(You may feel that the helicopter has a bigger field of influence than a piece charcoal, but if the police helicopter has an infrared camera onboard, then a burning ember will show up very clearly on some TV screen proving directly the influence of the coal stretches thousands of metres and beyond, and in all directions.)

If the helicopter is still flying while your barbeque has completely burnt out, leaving only ashes that are being scattered in the wind, then we can still say  that the helicopter is ‘still existing and happening’ and the coal  is still existing and happening. The helicopter might well be completely out of sight because it is far away, and the coal may be completely invisible and unrecognizable because it is finely distributed in the atmosphere,(and no longer burning) but both things can still be said to ‘be’.

Likewise, the helicopter could have landed, its engines no longer burning fuel, and it could even be in the process of being dismantled for maintenance in some distant hanger, while the barbeque fire is still going, and hot enough to burn your hand. So in this case the helicopter may be ‘disintegrated’, yet all of its bits (right down to atoms if you wish) must still exist in some form, together or not, and so again, the fire, and the helicopter can both still be said to ‘be’.

Finally, therefore, perhaps we can see, that whether a helicopter is flying or not, and in one piece, and all in one place, or not, ‘it’ as in all of the things that go up to make ‘it’ can still be said to exist. And therefore, the helicopter, in any form, can always be said to exist.

Likewise of course, we can see that whatever condition the barbeque is in, ‘about to be made’, ‘being burnt’, ‘completely burnt and scattered’, the barbeque, like any other ‘thing’ or ’event’ can always be said to be existing, and ‘happening’ even if it is happening as in ‘being a cloud of ash blowing around in the atmosphere’. (If you don’t think ‘being a cloud of ash in the air’ is ‘happening’ then consider how a volcanic ash cloud can affect air travel on a global scale).

From here, odd as it may sound, we can go back and see that everything, every speck of ‘stuff’, every atom if you wish, involved in say the battle of Hastings, is always somewhere, and doing something ‘now’ no matter how clear this is – as in it being a part of the Bayeux tapestry, or a preserved piece of armour, or how obscure, as in being an isolated atom making up a worm or a cloud somewhere . And likewise, every atom involved in the Apollo missions, no matter what state or location it is in, is also somewhere, doing something, ‘now’.

Scientifically putting these testable observations together, we can see that the Apollo missions have not ended, in that every ‘thing’ involved in the Apollo missions, is doing something now. Furthermore, if this is true then the same reasoning means that the battle of Hastings, is also ‘still going on now’, again, in the sense that every ‘thing’ involved in the battle of Hastings , is doing something now.

Together, even in a ‘time based view’ this means that the battle of Hastings was going on while the Apollo mission was happening.

If we include the observation that atoms are so small and so intermixed that statistically we regularly breath in atoms from Julius Caesar’s last breath, then atoms from the battle of Hastings were part of the integrated collection of atoms that make up the atoms we would call the Apollo rocket, crew, and mission control and so on.  And likewise, therefore, it is logically correct to say that in the integrated collection of atoms that made up the battle of Hastings it is statistically virtually guaranteed that ‘Apollo atoms’ made up part of the battle. So both things (and everything) are logically just different sections of one large and complex ongoing thing.

Note I don’t mean this in any bizarre and unscientific way, you can consider that your left hand and your right hand are logically different parts of one ongoing thing. Then you can consider opposite ends of the same worm as different ongoing parts of one thing. If the worm was to get cut in half, then each end would still be different parts of one ongoing thing, and so on.

Hastings Apollo, simultaneously…

This reasoning may still not seem to show anything other than that the battle of Hastings happened before the Apollo missions, only that they of course they shared some atoms (which the time-based view accommodates easily), and this is why the illusions of the distinctions of time (the illusions of the distinction between the past, the present and the future) can be so hard to see.

So look what happens if we compare the facts as interpreted in a time-based and a timeless way.

Hastings - Apollo the Time based view.

In the time-based view it seems obvious. We have one massive collection of ‘matter’, atoms etc. these atoms move and change ‘over time’, sometimes collections of them ‘being’ or making up everything needed for a ‘battle’. Then, as time passes, in the future some group of atoms may become a spaceship, or any other thing. But different things still form and deform, start and finish, over time and one after the other, hence the Bayeux tapestry doesn’t depict the battle of Hastings happening with an Apollo launch visible in the background.

(if anything the reasoning seems to prove time exists and performs a function – separating events chronologically)

Hastings - Apollo the Timeless view.

In the timeless view, consider that of course we still see massive collections of matter, atoms etc, in the universe, and that these atoms can move and change and integrate and disintegrate, in different ways, in different places.

However we can also consider all the matter in the universe to all ‘be here now’. And we can consider that it makes sense to think of seemingly different events, like a helicopter flying overhead, or a coal burning on a barbeque, as being one multi-featured event.

We also consider, that whether some particular selection of atoms has become some lumps of coal, or whether some particular lumps of coal have been chosen to make a fire, ‘the stuff that is the barbeque always exists anyway. And if the barbeque has burnt out, and the ash and atoms are completely dispersed, ‘that particular collection of stuff’ still exists and is still doing, or being something somewhere.

 Likewise the particular collection of stuff that makes ‘a helicopter’ exists whether the helicopter is flying or not flying, integrated or disintegrated. And whether or not some particular human, can clearly see any particular collection of matter all at once, and whether a human, has a particular opinion about any particular ‘set of matter’ makes no difference.

In this way, it can be seen that ‘separate events’ like the battle of Hastings, and the Apollo Luna missions,

·         A   Are not separate, and,

·         B   Do not happen one after the other! But logically, can both be seen to ‘always, be happening, both at once, now’.

So in the time based, and in the timeless view, all of our observations seem to make sense, though perhaps so far the timeless view still seems a bit shaky, and if anything the time-based view seems to explain things in a much simpler, clearer, linear, way.

So surely this round should go to ‘Time’, and to be honest, this is an all or nothing fight, as I said if any single critical point that I am making can be proven wrong, or if any single attribute of ‘time’ can be proven to exist other than as a notion then I concede that my observation that ‘the universe seems to be timeless’ must be mistaken.

So it looks like all is lost, but consider the following seemingly trivial, yet absolutely critical point;

The time based view of these mixed scenarios works, but it does not actually ‘prove’ that time exists.

Then consider how and why we generally start thinking that time does exist.

We observe the contents of our minds, our ‘memories’ and we observe obvious features in the world around us, fossils, tree growth rings, buildings etc. And we see that these observations, separately and combined can be seen to at least prove, That ‘matter exists’, and that ‘matter can move and change’.

Together our memories, and views of the world around us ,and the way that they correlate so well, seem to also prove that ‘time exists’. And because, we call our memories ‘the past’, and the world seems to confirm our memories are not isolated and random, we see that the past must have in some way happened, but then we make the error of also assuming that the ‘temporal past must therefore also exist’.

And this is the critical distinction and question, things happen and have in a sense happened, but does this mean that ‘the past’ actually exists?

This book accepts completely that things, exist, and move, and change, and that therefore things are happening and thus in a way can be said to ‘have happened’  - buildings and trees, fossils and memories don’t just form in an instant, but steadily form at a finite rate.

 What ‘timelessness’ is saying, is that things ‘just happen now’, and that they do not happen ‘over’, ‘with’, ‘in’ or ‘through’ a thing called ‘time’, and that there is no reason to assume that ‘time’ exists in anyway other than as a notion..

Therefore all there ever is anywhere, Is the ‘suggestion’ , or assumption, that time, and / or the ‘temporal past’ exist, but never any actual tangible proof of either.

And so, while the time-based view of ‘which came first the battle of Hastings or the Apollo mission’ seems to make sense, and seems to suggest time, and time order, if you look at it very carefully[5] you may see that all the facts, and the analysis actually prove, is that matter exists, and that matter can move and change in different ways in different places.

But, at no point does the time-based analysis prove that ‘one thing happens after another’, and specifically the view does not prove the existence of the past as anything other than an ‘idea’ that we come up with as we examine the state of matter existing here now, be it in the form of ‘artefacts’ in museums, tapestries, books, photographs, video tapes and so on. I.e. all the evidence is always just physical stuff, in various states of integration and disintegration that we examine here , now.

To see the significance of this you have to carefully consider the question that ‘if there is no such thing as time in the universe, and if there is just is a large collection of swirling and interacting matter, changing, but not changing over time then would everything appear just as it does to you now ?’ – if the answer to this question is ‘yes’ (as I believe we observe)– then we can understand how a timeless universe might be mistakenly seen as one that had time. – And from there it only makes sense to believe in time if you can come up with some special proof or reason, beyond the observation that matter inside and outside of us exists and changes formation.

So, the time view doesn’t show or explain how things change ‘over time’, or what this means, as opposed to them just simply just changing now.

When we observe that the Bayeux tapestry doesn’t depict an Apollo rocket in the background this is only because any fragments and atoms of matter involved in the Apollo mission would not have been easily visible, or note worthy in their scattered form. To see this another way, when watching film of an Apollo launch consider how much attention you or other people pay to the clear and undisturbed atoms existing invisibly 100 metres to one side of the highly spectacular and energetic launch. The answer is of course none, but some of these atoms may be part of the next supersonic airliner or any other ‘new’ invention, or even atoms involved in the Battle of Hastings.

Those atoms, billions of which will statistically be part of countless famous people, places and events, some may even be part of you as a child etc, are all ‘there’ doing something, but they don’t really show up as being significant to us or show up on video tape.

We can make this timeless, constant swirl of matter easier to grasp and visualise if we imagine a kid in a room playing with a fixed number of interlocking building bricks, say 100 in total.

 As the kid plays, different samples, or selections of the bricks may be grouped together to make what we would see as individual objects, aggregates that clearly resembled a car, a house, a helicopter, a soldier, a spaceship, and so on.

At one stage most of the bricks might be employed in ‘looking like’ a Saxon soldier, (as seen at the battle of Hastings) while the other bricks are scattered around randomly. The kid may then start assembling a spaceship randomly using bricks lying around, and bricks sourced by pulling the soldier apart. Throughout this process all of the bricks are always in the room, and always in a formation, though that formation may appear to be ‘separate bricks’ in some areas of the room and ‘collections of bricks’ in other areas.

In this way we can see that it is true that all the bricks always exist, and that they take on different forms, and that all possible forms are always possible. As the model of the Saxon soldier exists it may take our focus and attention, but all of the other unused and scattered bricks also exist, ‘do’, and ‘mean’ just as much as those that make up soldier, though we might not consider them very much.

As the model of the soldier exists, so too does the model of the spaceship – but its form is partially in the scattered bricks we ignore, and simultaneously, partially scattered within the ‘model soldier’ we are looking at.  As the bricks are moved to ‘form the spaceship’ the model of the soldier doesn’t ‘go’ anywhere, but is partially reorganized and partially scattered[6].

If we don’t watch the child constantly, but just glance over when prompted as the kid completes a different construction from the bricks, we may get the impression that we have seen 3, 4 or 5 completely different and separate things in the room, and be surprised if on closer inspection we can only find the last one that we saw.

And this is what happens constantly in inconceivably fine detail all around and within us in the throughout the universe now. Every single law of physics, piece of matter and unit of energy  needed for every single conceivable building, person, car, helicopter, radio transmission, or ‘event’, and so on, is all here now. Moving and changing. And therefore, everything that ‘is possible’, ‘is possible’ – ‘now’.

For example if it ‘is possible’ for a bow and arrow, or a nuclear PowerStation to be made then these things are always ‘ possible’, whether there are humans around who ‘know how to do them’, or ‘are doing them’ has nothing to do with whether or not they are things that are possible in the universe. (whatever is possible is possible, or as ‘The Beatles’ put it, ‘ there is nothing you can do that can’t be done’)

>>Energy not Time.

[1]. Most of the quoted facts in this book have been taken from simple searches of the popular press or the Internet and from typical daily life experiences. The matters discussed are used purely as examples to make key principals easier to discuss and visualise. If the reader is unhappy with any chosen examples just pick some similar cases that you are happy with.

[2] – XXX get owner’s permission or use other sources.

[3] Discussing the effects of relativity as well here would be confusing, but the topic is addressed separately. Suffice to say that if everything just exists here ‘now’ it still makes sense that space can be warped, and that matter in warped space would exist, move, and change in unintuitive ways, but even if this means that things are changing at fundamentally ‘different rates’ this can all be seen to be happening ‘now’. Indeed, if you send any observer off to any place at any speed you would not expect them to report that it had ever been other than ‘now’ wherever they had been.

[4] If you lived ‘near’ the helicopters base,  and it happened to fly overhead so low that it startled you and you burnt your hand on the fire, then you might be happier to call both things part of one event – and so it would be clear that the question was entirely about what distances you happened to think were important. Also, we shouldn’t ignore that we are always actually talking about ‘the event’ which is ‘whatever is going on in your head now’.XXX del – confusing ?

[5] perhaps this is the part of this book that needs the most careful examination

[6] This might be clearer to see if all of the bricks that made up the spaceship were white, then as we looked at the model soldier we might see white bricks integrated in and scattered throughout it, and know that these were also the spaceship model. XXX del ?