No Time Like This Time

Science nerd that I am, I’m often trying to convince people that time doesn’t exist.

In 1952, in his book Relativity, Einstein writes:
Since there exists in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent “now” objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated. It appears therefore more natural to think of physical reality as a four dimensional existence, instead of, as hitherto, the evolution of a three dimensional existence.

When his lifelong friend Besso died, Einstein wrote a letter to Besso’s family, saying that although Besso had preceded him in death it was of no consequence, “…for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.”

This idea of no past and no future ties in nicely with non-dualistic philosophy (see The Advaita Show) and actually has major consequences for how we live our lives. If the future has already happened, what’s the point worrying about it? That’s part of the LOTU philosophy I’ve been developing.

If you don’t believe me (or Einstein), try to wrap your mind around this news:

Astronomers have pushed NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to its limits by finding what is likely to be the most distant object ever seen in the universe. The object’s light traveled 13.2 billion years to reach Hubble, roughly 150 million years longer than the previous record holder. The age of the universe is approximately 13.7 billion years.

The tiny, dim object is a compact galaxy of blue stars that existed 480 million years after the big bang. More than 100 such mini-galaxies would be needed to make up our Milky Way. The new research offers surprising evidence that the rate of star birth in the early universe grew dramatically, increasing by about a factor of 10 from 480 million years to 650 million years after the big bang.

Here’s a great video that zooms into the sky to show you the location of the galaxy:

So here’s the deal: when astronomers look into the Hubble at this object, they are looking back into time. Their “present” co-exists with an event that happened 13 billion years ago. From that galaxy’s perspective, circa 13 billion years ago, we would be in their future. Their “past” is our present. And we won’t be able to see that galaxy’s present (what’s happening on it right now our time) for another 13 billion years, so that means they are in OUR future.


The same thing happens on a smaller scale when two people are standing in a room together. If one says “let’s both lift our hands when I say ‘now’… “NOW!”” – here’s what happens. When Person A speaks the word “NOW!”, it takes a fraction of a second before Person B actually hears the words or sees their lips move, because that’s how long it takes for the light and sound waves to travel. Person B’s awareness of the Person A’s “now” is actually in that Person A’s past. So Person B’s idea of “now” and Person B’s idea of “now” are actually different. That’s because they both occupy different points in space-time and so their points of reference are slightly different.

So… no past, no future.

What are you doing to do now?

Could The QLD Floods Have Been Prevented?

QLD Premier Anna Bligh has been getting a lot of positive comments over the last few days for her leadership during the flood crisis. But the question needs to be asked – could she have done more to prevent it from happening in the first place? It’s not like Brisbane hasn’t suffered massive floods in the past (as we’ve all heard repeatedly over the last couple of weeks).

I’ve copped some flack on Twitter this morning for asking the question – I was called a “cock” and told to shove some cigars up my ass by some of the less erudite members – but I think the true test of leadership isn’t when you clean up after a disaster that costs lives and billions of dollars, but when you prevent the disaster from happening in the first place.

People are dead.

Homes are destroyed.

Businesses are destroyed.

QLD taxpayers are going to have to foot a massive clean-up bill in the billions of dollars.

Could the QLD floods have been prevented?

Obviously the government can’t control the weather (I think that’s coming in IOS4.3), but they are charged with policy regarding water management and building permits in flood zones.

I don’t know anything about water management, but I have some questions.

Did the Bligh Govt do a good enough job managing the amount of water in our dams over the last year?

Did the Bligh Govt do enough to prepare homes and businesses in the flood danger zones for the possibility of major flooding over this period?

Did the Bligh Govt have the right people on the job?

“Seqwater spokesman Mike Foster said yesterday if Wivenhoe’s flood gates were opened, there should be no fears about flooding in Brisbane, because even when full, the dam retained the capacity for an additional 1,450,000 megalitres (almost three Sydney Harbours) in flood storage.” – Courier Mail, March 8, 2010. I wonder what Mike Foster is doing this week?

“Premier Anna Bligh and water managers say there will be no easing of permanent water saving measures. “We can’t be complacent and we must treat water as a precious resource not to be wasted whether our dams are 50 or 100 per cent,” Ms Bligh said.”Courier Mail, March 8, 2010. In retrospect, would better planning have allowed us to keep less reserves in the dams in the lead up to summer, meaning we wouldn’t have had to release so much overflow?

“It is expected that during a flood similar in magnitude to that experienced in 1974, Wivenhoe’s flood mitigation factor will cut flood levels by about 2m.” – Journalist Brian Williams, Courier Mail, March 8, 2010. Nine months later, the actual peak of the Brisbane River scraped in just under the 1974 peak, surprising everyone, as the general consensus for the previous few days had been that it would EXCEED the 1974 peak.

As of October, the dams were all at full or near full – and we knew it was going to be a very wet summer (Courier Mail, “Major Wet Season Tipped For QLD”, October 1, 2010) – but the myth that, in the event of another 1974-scale flood, the Wivenhoe dam would cut 2m of the river levels was still being perpetuated. I wonder who came up with that prediction and what methodology they used? Was it a myth the government wanted to believe because it relieved them from having to do anything?

Lockyer Valley farm owner, Raleigh Davey, recalling the 1974 flood, said back in August 2010 “There is a cycle sequence through drought, flood and fires and even dust storms, it is part of the Australian scene. Should another cycle cross the Coral Sea and the Toowoomba Range gets eight or 10 inches of rain, the Lockyer Creek would get a major flood. If the country is sodden wet with the storm rains, there will be a backsurge on Tenthill Creek and the council workers will be sand bagging the library, you mark my words.” (Gatton Star, 31 August, 2010).

Maybe the Premier should have listened to Farmer Davey instead of Mike Foster?

Should we have built MORE dams? Bigger dams?

(Photo of Anna Bligh from her Flickr page.)