How big is the present?

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TheSK00T3R
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Is there anything between the future and the past?
Surely there is, because it is what we experience.
But if everything that did happen is the past, and everything that will happen is the future, then there seems to be nothing in between.
Is the size of the present 0? \dfrac{1}{\infty}?
Or is there a margin of time that extends slightly into the past and slightly into the future, which is what we experience?
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tinshed
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past doesn't exist and neither does future because time doesn't exist, or more specifically there is no such thing as THE time. different time can be experienced by two different individuals in a given moment depending on whether they are accelerating or standing still (or what pull of gravity they are experiencing).

also future cannot possibly exist due to quantum physics. if future existed and you could potentially predict it, quantum physics won't allow for that. you can work out probability but not specific events so future has no part to play as far as time is concerned.
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ThisIsn'tSpam
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Time is simply an illusion. Therefore, the combined weight of all the tenses automatically becomes 0.
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Rich00
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" People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff"
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ThisIsn'tSpam
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(Original post by Rich00)
" People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff"
Sometimes it even goes ding when there's stuff.
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Rich00
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(Original post by ThisIsn'tSpam)
Sometimes it even goes ding when there's stuff.
It's only as I started reading up on physics that i noticed that quote had surprising amount of truth to it
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nulli tertius
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How big is the box?
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ThisIsn'tSpam
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(Original post by Rich00)
It's only as I started reading up on physics that i noticed that quote had surprising amount of truth to it
The best references are the ones that make more sense than you give them credit for.
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miser
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These concepts are ones we have created in order to simplify our interaction with the world. Physically speaking, there is no definition of 'now', since it is relative to location. So when posing the question of whether there is a 'gap' between the future and the past, really this is a matter decided by what we define the concepts of 'future' and 'past' to mean (and even what we mean by a 'gap').

(Original post by TheSK00T3R)
Is there anything between the future and the past?
Surely there is, because it is what we experience.
This isn't strictly accurate. What we experience is in fact the past, because it takes a small amount of time for the brain to process stimuli and generate our conscious experience of it. Our experience of the past, however, is in the present. So I suppose you could say, "surely there is, because that is when we experience." There's still trouble with that though.

If the past is what has finished occurring, and the future is what is yet to occur, then there is a gap for what has started occurring but has not finished. However, if we were to go looking for something that has 'started occurring but has not finished', for any one instant we would find it to be composed of what has already finished (and things we expect to happen shortly). Our investigation would probably be undermined in several ways though: It takes time to make our observation, yet we need to observe an instant exactly as it occurs; the granularity of our observation will always be too imprecise; there is perhaps no such thing as an instant.

So, if we were to use the above definitions of past and present, it could be that the present has a length, but it probably cannot be measured; in another case, it may not have a length, since it would be a single instance, indivisible. Personally, my guess would be that it does have a length - there seems no reason to think my current experience is happening in a single instant. One part might start, then a second, then a third, and only then might the first part stop.

I'm just speculating though and I may be overlooking some things.
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TheSK00T3R
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(Original post by nulli tertius)
How big is the box?
The product of it's height, width and depth.
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TheSK00T3R
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(Original post by miser)
...
Quality post man, thanks.
I particularly found your point about the present being a process that has started but not finished.
Maybe in that case, we can only measure the present relative to something.
So maybe for us, the present could consist of a single brain signal at it's terminal processing stage? In that case the present would be measurable.
I guess, though, you could delve further into the question of consciousness, and what the brain actually feeds into (soul, spirit, whatever), and that would mess things up. Maybe then you could say the present is infinitely small, seeing as the self isn't necessarily physical.
As for measuring the present, your right, it would be impossible. The speed of propagation of change into our consciousness is finite, therefore, what we experience in our minds as the present is always the past in relation to whatever we're detecting.
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miser
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(Original post by TheSK00T3R)
Quality post man, thanks.
I particularly found your point about the present being a process that has started but not finished.
Maybe in that case, we can only measure the present relative to something.
So maybe for us, the present could consist of a single brain signal at it's terminal processing stage? In that case the present would be measurable.
I guess, though, you could delve further into the question of consciousness, and what the brain actually feeds into (soul, spirit, whatever), and that would mess things up. Maybe then you could say the present is infinitely small, seeing as the self isn't necessarily physical.
As for measuring the present, your right, it would be impossible. The speed of propagation of change into our consciousness is finite, therefore, what we experience in our minds as the present is always the past in relation to whatever we're detecting.
It's an interesting subject. If you're interested, I've written some other things on the nature of time here: http://journalofinterest.com/tag/time/
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skunkboy
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the future of the past is the present. the past of the future is also the present. time depends on 3 things - distance, velocity, and consciousness. time can't exist without those things. time is invisible, so how can we know how big the present is?
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BlueSam3
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Depending on what you mean by "present", either "it depends how far apart you are", or "there's no such thing as 'present'". If you mean the "present" to be the set of events that are uncontroversially concurrent with a given event, then that set is exactly that event (that is: nothing is ever in the present apart from whichever point in spacetime you choose to measure the present from). If you mean the "present" to be the set of points that aren't in the proper future or proper past of that given event, then the width (in time) of this interval is twice the product of the distance between the two points (in space) and the speed of light.
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JohnPaul_
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It's correct to say that time is relative but it doesn't make it an illusion/non-existent. If time didn't exist then everything would happen at once, in other words.. 'Once' wouldn't exist therefore nothing could ever exist if time didn't because time allows things to happen.

Locating the present is a difficult thing but to extrapolate that the passing of time and the very nature of time is illusory is just false.


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BlueSam3
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(Original post by JohnPaul_)
It's correct to say that time is relative but it doesn't make it an illusion/non-existent. If time didn't exist then everything would happen at once, in other words.. 'Once' wouldn't exist therefore nothing could ever exist if time didn't because time allows things to happen.

Locating the present is a difficult thing but to extrapolate that the passing of time and the very nature of time is illusory is just false.


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There is no such thing as "universal time". Time as experienced by me will be (very slightly) different from time as experienced by you. If I were travelling at a significant percentage of the speed of light relative to you, then it would be drastically different.
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JohnPaul_
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(Original post by BlueSam3)
There is no such thing as "universal time". Time as experienced by me will be (very slightly) different from time as experienced by you. If I were travelling at a significant percentage of the speed of light relative to you, then it would be drastically different.
I agree, I may have misconstrued this truth in my post but my point was still that the passing of time can literally vary depending who is moving relative to who.


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mikeyd85
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I would define it as the time between an event happening and it being realised.

For example, my monitor is currently launching photons at me, but it takes time for that photon to be realised by me and interpreted in to sight. That is the present.

However, not all events are so short. Let us say that I am a Formula 1 fan and that I am watching Sebastian Vettel become the most successful F1 driver of all time in terms of championships. Now, this has been happening for several years already, but until (and if, of course) this is realised, it is the present. The moment he wins his last title, it is the past.

Another example is that I presently work in West Leeds. Of course, I'm not there now, but it is still the present.

I am presently alive. This will be the present until I die.

This universe is presently expanding.

This thread is presently starting to make the word present sound weird in my head.
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JohnPaul_
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(Original post by mikeyd85)
I would define it as the time between an event happening and it being realised.

For example, my monitor is currently launching photons at me, but it takes time for that photon to be realised by me and interpreted in to sight. That is the present.

However, not all events are so short. Let us say that I am a Formula 1 fan and that I am watching Sebastian Vettel become the most successful F1 driver of all time in terms of championships. Now, this has been happening for several years already, but until (and if, of course) this is realised, it is the present. The moment he wins his last title, it is the past.

Another example is that I presently work in West Leeds. Of course, I'm not there now, but it is still the present.

I am presently alive. This will be the present until I die.

This universe is presently expanding.

This thread is presently starting to make the word present sound weird in my head.
What you've done here is made the present a conceptual and holistic thing where as this question is a question about the universe (needing to be answered by physicists) and when you reduce time and try and locate the present, it's a very difficult thing to.


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Racoon
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The present is the size of your awareness, ie from the time you were aware of things to the time of not being aware of things. Anything before that is before and anything after is afterwards so its individual in size.
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