What is change?

Google defines change as “an act or process through which something becomes different”, which seems like a good place to start.

A few examples of change might be moving, heating up, changing colour, losing energy, gaining weight, radioactivity decay. The first one, moving, i.e. motion is an important one to note. Motion makes the state of position of something (our object) different.

Put simply, change occurs at events (singular or series). Or, to put it another way, an event (or event-series) is an occurrence of change. That is, unless we decide to invoke a nominal event (like NOW) for reference purposes.

That change might be referenced as quantum change (i.e. a change to a quantum particle e.g. a single quark decay) or compound change (a change to an object made up of multiple other component objects, e.g. the Earth spinning is compound change).

An object is either unchanging (between two distinct reference frames), or it isn’t. There isn’t a half way. It’s either the same in reference frame 1 as it is in reference frame 2, or its different. And reference frame 1 cannot be reference frame 2. Reference frame 1 has changed to reference frame 2…if it hasn’t changed we are still in reference frame 1.

However, an object could have multiple attributes (and hence multiple reference frames). Each attribute is referenced by a different dimension. Its heat is measurable by the dimension of temperature, its spatial position by the dimension of space, its weight by a dimension calibrated in, say, kilograms, and so on.

An object might be the same in one dimension (temperature) but different in another (position), i.e., our object has not got any warmer, but it has moved.

There is a little complication to this…relative change. Object 1 might be unchanging relative to object 2, and changing relative to object 3. As we know, some change (like motion) can be relative. Or, it might be referenced to an absolute – temperature is referenced from an absolute (zero).

But whether change is relative or absolute doesn’t matter so long as the change is calibrated uniformly then it can be measured against that uniform calibration frame. This doesn’t rely on there being absolutes, just uniformity of calibration.

The rate of change.

A change in position is quantified by the dimension of space, a change in heat is quantified by the dimension of Temperature, a change in sound volume quantified by decibels and so on. But we also want to know the rate of these changes.

For example, a change in temperatures of 10 degrees is a quantification of the change in Heat. But we also reference the how long did that change of temperature take? We want to know the RATE of change.

Change is referenced in the dimension of the state(s) being altered (e.g. heat), and in the dimension time to measure how the duration of the change, to give us the rate of change.

In other words, every change has at least two elements to it – the quantification and the rate. The quantification of change is measured by the relevant dimension (Space, temperature etc), and the rate of change is measured by the dimension of Time.

Some dimensions are simple, non-exact. Do we have a dimension for brightness? Astronomers do for far off stars. But do we measure brightness in our lives. Well, we have words to describe different levels of brightness…dark, dingy, murky, overcast, sunny, glaring all vaguely calibrate brightness. And we see the change on brightness everyday as we move from night to dawn, through midday, then dusk back to night. Calibrate these in a uniform set of units, and we have ourselves a dimension. That’s bright.

An object may be subject to multiple dimensions. For instance, one that is both moving and heating up will require the dimension of space (to reference the motion), the dimension of temperature (to reference the heat) and two sets of the dimension of time – one associated with the motion and one associated with the heat – to quantify the rates of change.

And we might get into higher dimensions. If space is the dimension of position, and time the dimension of change, then space-time is the dimension of motion (changing position). And if an objects motion is changing, we have another dimension, that of changing motion. Space-time-time we could call it, or motion-time …or maybe acceleration might be simpler. And then we could have a dimension of the change in acceleration… Space-time-time-time maybe. Or acceleration-time.  And so on. The dimension will always be attached to an underlying objective reality, even if it that reality is as elevated as changing acceleration.

What causes change.

There is a peculiar belief, misconception or perhaps even lazy lapse, that many people have (including academics who should know better), that time causes change. “We age because of time” is essentially the idea.

What do people mean when they say ‘We age because of time’. Do they mean that time causes ageing? Ageing (e.g. of the human body) is a complex series of bio-chemistry events that occur in a sequence, with series dependencies, which lead to the eventual breakdown of our bodies. We age because of complex bio-chemistry – and that bio-chemistry is caused essentially by energy differential. So time doesn’t cause it.

And don’t all events (a change of state or a change of position) always have a cause (other than time)?

Julian Barbour in The End of Time (Phoenix, London, 1999), says (p231):-

 All true change in quantum mechanics comes from interference between stationary states with different energies. In a system described by a stationary state, no change takes place.

So, energy differentials cause change. Then time can be considered to be the measurement of the effect of realised energy differential – measuring and calibrating change rate. So, if we can determine change causation without reference to time, we know that time doesn’t cause change. So, time isn’t a force.