Would time exist without observation, i.e. the observer effect?

No, but not because of the ‘observer effect’, but because Time is an abstract noun in both its core meanings. Abstract nouns only exist in our minds, so need an observers mind to ‘observe’ it.

Two example of abstract nouns to illustrate:-

  1. Traffic is a mass noun – i.e. a non-specific set of an underlying reality. Traffic is a collective noun (abstract) vehicles are he underlying reality. Traffic only exist sin our minds. In reality only individual vehicles exist.
  2. Temperature is a dimension – a measurement framework. Temperature measures heat. Heat is real, temperature is abstract,

Time has two core meaning, both abstract, both reference the only empirical evidence of Time passing:-

a. Time is a non-specific set of change events. Time is to change/ change-events what Traffic is to vehicles.

b. Time is the way we calibrate change – e.g. mile per hour is changing position (motion) being calibrated, quantity and rate. Time is to change what temperature is to heat.

Time – one word, two distinct meanings, both reference change and bot are abstract.

Without the observer, all that ‘exists’ is change. With the observer we use Time to calibrate and aggregate change.


This is an email I sent to about 20 leading scientists who have all put vidoes on You Tube on the subject of Time ..and who all fail, continually, to explain time in any meaningful way.

Hi. This is a humble plea. You are all academics or writers who write/vlog on the subject of Time and Space. All of you brandish these significant words with great aplomb. Yet these two words both have multiple meanings depending on context. With the greatest respect, none of you ever secure their context and definition before you use them…causing confusion, I suspect.  And, if you don’t mind me saying, also often seem to ignore the only empirical evidence we have of ‘Time passing’…that is change/change-events.

Let me be bold:-

·        Again with respect, a small reminder – a dimension is an abstract framework for calibrating and indexing a specific objective property or attribute – the underling reality. Abstracts only exist in our collective minds. As an example, temperature is a dimension – the dimension of heat. Temperature calibrates and indexes the underlying objective reality of heat.  So temperature is abstract; heat is the underlying reality. Dimensions must have a singular underlying objective reality to which they refer, else they ain’t dimensions, just maths.

·        Time (in this context – see A. below) is the dimension of change. Time is abstract; change is the underlying reality. (i.e. time is how we calibrate ‘rate’, obviously).

·        Space (in this context – see B. below)) is the dimension of (static) position. (Static because, by definition, it excludes time.) Space (in this context) is abstract; position is the underlying reality.

·        Spacetime, hence, is the dimension of motion (i.e. ‘changing position’ – the clue is in the name). Spacetime is abstract; motion is the underlying reality.

·        [Space and time are simple, single reference-frame dimensions, hence linear in scope. Space-time is a complex compound dimension, and adds higher dimension with changing motion i.e. acceleration (‘spacetime-time’ maybe) and changing acceleration (spacetime-time-time) etc. Hence non-linear].

We don’t ‘move’ in time. Move is a spatial reference. We change in time. [Like we don’t ‘move’ in the dimension of temperature, we cool-down or warm -up etc]. Please don’t use spatial references for other dimensions. Maybe Einstein confused us all a bit by implying time was sort of a spatial dimension? Really, we know it’s not.

A.     On time specifically – where the biggest struggles seem to occur – the word time has two core, distinct meanings. An assertion, the ONLY empirical evidence we have for Time ‘passing’ is change (events). Ask Aristotle. Or just look around you. From the first change-event (the Big Bang?) there have been, (and are, and will be to come), zillions of subsequent quantum (and compound) change-events. 1. We attribute the word time to both the dimension [that we use to calibrate and index change]; 2. and we use the same word, time, as a non-specific collective term to aggregate change – the ‘flow’ of change (i.e. time is to change what traffic is to vehicles – a non-specific collective noun – time and traffic are both said to ‘flow’, even though collective nouns are abstract). There is no other evidence of times ‘nature’ than the zillions of quantum and compound change events happening all around us. Time (in this context) is a collective, the ‘flow’ of change. ‘Time passing’ is really change ‘flowing’ i.e. happening.

So, time has two distinct core contexts/meanings (both abstract). The dimension (of change) and the flow (of change). Yet it is only ever spoken of in a vague, ill-defined way. Which do you mean? [And some of you even infer time is somehow tangible or ‘real’ – where is your evidence please?]

B.     And, as mentioned, space is obviously the dimension of position (ergo length, breadth, height). Though the word space also has other contexts and meanings (not that you often differentiate…you should; for example, do you mean a non-specific subset of the universe? A gap? Not Earth?) There seems to be a space in our definition and understanding here.

A few other observations come from this:-

·        Position, change and motion are the reality; Space (in this context), time and spacetime are the abstracts. Often people conflate objective reality and abstracts when hypothesising (i.e. see arrow of time below).

·        It is worth remembering that position and change are [reference frame or quantum] specific. NOT universal. i.e. there is not a universal time ‘thing’. There is individual change, which is specific. Yes, space and time (in this context) are universal dimensions / calibrations (like temperature is), but they are abstract, and apply reference frame specifically, not universally.  This is a crucial distinction.

·        Time-dilation is not the warping of time…you can’t warp an abstract. Time is simple, reference frame specific, and linear. Einstein showed that it is (relative) motion that does the ‘warping’ – spacetime is complex and non-linear (see above).

·        The arrow of time? Really? The arrow (‘direction’) must belong not to the abstract, but to the underlying objective reality…the arrow of change? But there are hence zillions of them, for these arrows are reference-frame (or quantum) specific, NOT universal like the ‘arrow of time’ would infer. One arrow of change for each quantum change event? That is a lot of arrows. (Remember, entropy is about change [all change is caused by energy differential], it’s not about time; time just calibrates it).

·        The Block universe theory…really? Time infers change. The past has changed to become the present, which changes again to be the future. That is why they don’t all exists together. 

·        Do you have a ‘profound experience’ (as one of you describe) of time, or do you have a profound experience of CHANGE? I know what I experience.

So, respectfully, that’s my tuppence worth. Disagree with me, by all means. But, please, I do just wish we might all apply some fundamental academic rigour in this particularly slippery subject:

 1. Define your terms and context precisely (particularly the words Space, Time and Dimension),

 2. Secure what objective empirical evidence we have (Position, Change, Motion) and differentiate reality from abstract concepts, they need to be treated separately. [‘What’s reality’ I hear you cry…I define it as anything that doesn’t only exist in our collective minds.]

Please, if you consider these two principles, then we might all save Time…

I sincerely hope this helps,

Does time and temperature still exist?

I’m not fully sure of the context of your question. If I assume by the word ‘exist’ that you mean that is a ‘concrete noun’ (as opposed to an abstract noun); that it has a tangible reality beyond our collective imaginations.

Temperature and Time are both abstract nouns. So they only ‘exist’ in our collective minds.

Temperature is the calibration framework based on a standard set of units, by which we measure heat. Heat is real, temperature is abstract. Temperature is the dimension of heat (a dimension being an abstract calibration framework).

So no, temperature does not exist (beyond mans collective mind), it is heat that is real, that exists.

The word Time has two core meanings, two different contexts.

In one context Time too is, like Temperature, a dimension, i.e. an abstract calibration framework. Time is the dimension of change. Time is how we calibrate and index change. We say, for instance, motion (i.e. changing position ) is calibrated as, say, miles PER HOUR. The per hour bit is the calibration of the change. Time (in this context) is the dimension of change. Time is abstract, change is real.

So in this context Time, like temperature, only exists in our collective minds.

Time has another seperate (though similar) meaning. It is also a collective noun. It is a mass noun. Mass nouns are non-specific sets of something. For example ‘Traffic’ is a mass noun. Traffic is a non-specific set of vehicles. We give Traffic physical attributes…we say it stops, it starts, it flows, for example. But in reality its the underlying vehicles that move. Fundamentally Traffic doesn’t exist, its an abstract collective noun. Only individual vehicles exist.

Simarly, Time is a mass noun. It is a non-specific set of change-events. The only evidence of ‘Time passing’ is change/change-events. Time is to Change what Traffic is to vehicles. We give Time physical attributes…it starts, it stops, it flows. But fundamentally Time doesn’t exist, its an abstract collective noun. Only individual change-events exist.

But try telling a taxi driver late for the airport that Time and Traffic don’t exist..


What exactly is the nature of time in physics?

The only tangible empirical evidence of ‘Time passing’ is change. Time references change in two core contexts:-

  1. The dimension of change. Time calibrates and indexes change and events in standard units. Hence rate i.e. miles per hour. The per hour bit is the calibration of change rate.
  2. The collective ‘flow’ of change events. Time is to change-events what traffic is to vehicles….a non-specific collective term. Does Traffic actually exist? Fundamentally all that exists are individual vehicles. Does Time actually exist..fundamentally all that exists are quantum change-events.

So Time references change in two contexts…both are abstract. So the nature of Time is that it is abstract. The tangible reality is change and change-events.

(Though try telling a taxi driver late for the airport that fundamentally neither Traffic nor Time actually exist)