The Arrow of Time and Misuse of Statistics

As an amateur physicist I try to avoid disputing established science, but one place I believe science has it wrong is the dimensionality of time.  If you read this blog at all, you’ll see I am trying to create a self-consistent world-view that conforms with peer-reviewed science.  My world-view attempts to add analysis and conclusions on some of the unanswered questions about our universe such as why are there so many elementary particles or how can quantum entanglement work.  I try never to dispute established science and to accept that my world-view is a belief system, not fact that must be forced on others–that is the mark of a crackpot that has just enough knowledge to waste other peoples’ time.

However, one place I break my rules of good behavior is this concept that time is one-dimensional.  For a long time, I’ve recoiled at the notion that the observer’s timeline could physically intersect a particular local spacetime neighborhood of an object event  multiple times.  I discussed this in a previous post, but now I want to discuss this disagreement from another angle–the claim for an existence of an Arrow of Time.

The Arrow of Time is a concept that describes the apparent one way nature of the evolution of a system of objects.  We see a dropped wine glass shatter on the floor,  but we never see a shattered wine glass re-assemble itself and rise up back onto a table.  We record a memory of events in the past, but never see an imprint of the future on our brain memory cells.  This directional evolution of systems is a question mark given that the math unambiguously allows evolution in either direction.  To put it in LaGrange equation of motion terms, the minimum energy path of an object such as a particle or a field element is one dimensional and there are two possible ways to traverse it.  The fundamental question is–why is one way chosen and not the other?

The standard answer is to invoke statistics in the form of the Laws of Thermodynamics, and I have always felt that was not the right answer.  Here is why I have trouble with that–statistics are mathematical derivations for the probability something will happen, and cannot provide a force that makes a particle go one way or the other on a *particular* LaGrangian minimum energy path.  It’s a misuse of statistics to use the thermodynamics laws to define what happens here.  In the case of the shattered wine glass, there are vastly more combinations of paths (and thus far higher probability) for the glass pieces to stay on the floor than there are for the glass shards to reassemble themselves–but that is not why they stay there!

The problem with the Arrow of Time interpretation comes from thinking the math gives us an extra degree of freedom that isn’t really there.  The minimum energy path can truly be traversed in either the time-forward or time-backward path, but it is an illusion to think both are possible.  Any system where information cannot be lost will be mathematically symmetric in time, creating the illusion of an actual path in time if only the observer were in the right place to observe the entirety of that path.  Einstein developed the equations of special relativity that were the epitomy of the path illusion by creating the concept of spacetime.  Does that mean the equations are wrong?  Of course not–but it exemplifies the danger of using the math to create an interpretation.  Just because the math allows it does not mean that the Arrow of Time exists–any relativistic system where information cannot be destroyed will allow the illusion of a directionality of time.

So what really is going on?  I’ll save that for a later post, but in my world-view, time is a property of the objects in the system.  There is only ONE copy of our existence, it is the one we are in right now, and visits to previous existences is simply not possible.  Our system evolves over time and previous existences no longer exist to visit.   Relativity does mean that time between events has to be carefully analyzed, but it does not imply its dimensionality.


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