We have identified that Time is a mass noun. Mass nouns are non-specific sets or a collective of items, as already mentioned. And the collective that the mass noun Time refers to are events (or change).
‘Traffic’ is a good example of a mass noun. Traffic actually refers to a non-specific set of vehicles. see ‘Traffic explains Time’.
If asked what time is many people see time as analogous to, perhaps, a stream. This is usually referring to the mass noun meaning.
Time as a stream or flow
We’ve talked about the illusion of time, and the idea of a flow comes from this illusion. We perceive that the stream of time flows constantly and unending – though we’re never quite sure what the stream consists of. We are all in the stream, and it is assumed, in a somewhat vague way, that it’s this stream of time flowing around us that causes change. Change such as we grow, get older, and eventually die. If the flow of time stopped, we wouldn’t age, surely?
We have recognised from the dictionary definitions that time refers to change (events and intervals). Change is continual, the universe is dynamic. Quantum particles change state and/or position continually. Each quantum particle therefore experiences its own unique series of events, its ‘lifecycle’ or ‘change stream’
Composite objects (those that are made up of more than one quantum particle) have their own events lifecycle- their own change stream – which are composites of the underling quantum change streams; every atom, molecule, humans, planets, solar systems or even the universe – each will have a unique change stream, independent and unique. Each composite object will also have multiple underlying change sub-streams, i.e. the change stream of a composite object is itself composed of change streams of its composite elements.
As each object in the universe has its own independent change characteristics, with independent change events, intervals and durations, each object therefore exists in its own “change stream” of events happening to it.
So the ‘flow’ that is often perceived as time is actually a flow of events. The only empirical evidence to identify ‘time passing’ is events happening. Living as we do in the constant, regular, rhythmic event-series of the earth’s rotation, we are almost hard wired with this misconception that it’s time that flows. What we mean is events happen; sometime articulated as time being the continuum of change.
The Illusion of time
Two continual change streams that are intimately wrapped into our every awareness cause us to believe in the notion that ‘time passes’. Firstly, the earth spinning and orbiting the sun frames our lives tightly into days and years. And secondly we are organic life-forms – our bodies must change constantly, that is life.
So we find it difficult to let go of the idea that time isn’t its own real thing – it must be, it’s happening all the time; we experience change continually, which adds to the ‘time passing’ misconception being hardwired in us
The truth is, what is happening all the time are events – events are happening in us and around us continually. Time is just a way of measuring these events, or referring to their sequence. Or just as a way of talking about or grouping all these events in a non-specific collective (the dreaded mass noun).
How old are you?
The measurement of our age changes every time we re-measure (we get older, obviously). If we are doing this continually, then the measurement grows continually, and this continual ‘growth’ of duration we therefore perceive as time (i.e. time measures the change continuum).
As we live wrapped in a near constant and continual change system of the earth’s rotation, we have this illusion of ‘time passing’ being constantly reinforced to us. (Continual change is also a necessity of organic life forms).
We’ve got older, but is that time passing, or events happening…or are they the same thing?
As has been pointed out before, time can’t measure time, it makes no sense. Time measures the period between our birth and now (our age) and calibrates it according to the constant, rhythmic change of the earth orbiting the sun – i.e. we measure age in years.
But this ‘age’ reflects the rhythmic change of the earth (i.e how many times it has orbited the sun since we were born) rather than the change to our bodies. Everyone ages differently. We each have millions of events happening in our bodies that cause our bodies to change toward old age – so our age is unique, except when we measure it against the standard of the earth’s orbit.