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Monday, August 25, 2008

It's about time...

From Yourgrau, P., A World without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Godel and Einstein (Allen Lane, 2005)

p. 122

"Appearances, however, can be deceptive. The universe, for example, as everyone knows, is very old. Its exact age is a matter for debate, but there is no disagreement that it runs to billlions of years [setting aside, that many do disagree]. We marvel that as frail and isolated a species as we are can have achieved such impressive wisdom about the origins of everything that is. In truth, however, it is more than marvelous to have discovered the age of the universe. It is impossible. For if the universe is n years old, its present state comes n years after the moment when it all began. In 1905, however, Einstein had demonstrated in the special theory of relativity that there is no such thing as "the present state of the universe," that is, what would be revealed by a snapshot of the universe as it exists at this very moment. The relativity of simultaneity implies that what is taken to be "now" relative to one inertial frame will differ from what is "now" in another frame if the second frame is in motion relative to the first. It follows immediately that if the theory of relativity is correct, there simply is no such thing as "the present state of the universe" of four-dimensional space-time. Einstein himself said this quite clearly: "The four-dimensional continuum is now no longer resolvable objectively into sections, all of which contain simultaneous events; 'now' loses for the spatially extended world its objective meaning." "

For a cosmos that was made by being 'stretched out' as is mentioned about 17 times in the Bible, the response to claims about its age might well be: how interesting; where and when is it such and such an age? On earth we have biblical history taking us back about 6,000 years; but it may be that nowhere else in the universe is there commensurate space-time. We may be left with the assessment above: "it is impossible." to tell!!