# Why time is not just a series of events?

humy
Science 06 Mar '16 07:57
1. 06 Mar '16 07:57
I once heard of somebody claiming that time doesn't exist because it is nothing but an illusion because "time is just a series of events".
But does that really make any sense?
I think the following is my best argument so far that it doesn't:

If time is illusionary because it is nothing more than 'a series of events', how much time passes between one event and the very next one i.e. between 'adjacent' events?
If no time, then the sum of a series of periods of time between adjacent events within a whole series of events must also be no time and we wouldn't experience even the illusion of time because there wouldn't be any time between one mental experience, which is itself an event, of an event and the next mental experience of an event.
If some none zero finite period of time between adjacent events, what series of events defines the magnitude of that finite period of time? If a finite number of series of events, we are back to the same problem; how much time passes between adjacent events within that finite number of series of events? If there is an infinite number of series of events between adjacent events then, because of the way the mathematics of infinity works and because if you multiply or divide infinity by any finite number you get the same infinity, one hour will have the same length as two hours and there is nothing to define the differences in length of time between adjacent events. But then how is it that clocks can apparently show approximately the same time most of the time?
Besides, in mathematics, infinity is technically not even a 'number' so you cannot completely even accurately say the amount time between two adjacent events is defined as an 'infinite number' of events between them.

Is the above a completely valid argument?
Can you come up with a better one?
2. 06 Mar '16 13:04
The space-time universe is a set of events. The time dimension is the order in which the events depend on each other ie the time dimension is the causal chain.
How events affect (or cause) each other spatially is what determines time. The famous speed of light is basically the maximum speed at which causal chains (information) can travel. The speed of light is a function of time and distance.
I don't think you can completely describe causality without a proper time dimension any more than you can remove one of the space dimensions.
3. 06 Mar '16 21:595 edits
... The time dimension is the order in which the events depend on each other ie the time dimension is the causal chain. .
So what defines the amount of time between an event and the next event it directly causes? Can the amount of time between two events always and necessarily be defined as a chain of events. Because if the amount of time between two events cannot always be defined that way then the claim that "time is just a series of events" must be false for that reason if no other -right?
4. 07 Mar '16 06:38
Originally posted by humy
So what defines the amount of time between an event and the next event it directly causes? Can the amount of time between two events always and necessarily be defined as a chain of events. Because if the amount of time between two events cannot always be defined that way then the claim that "time is just a series of events" must be false for that reason if no other -right?
I haven't studied the subject, but I suspect that yes, the amount of time can be defined in terms of the event series. It can certainly be defined in terms of how far the events may travel across space.
5. 07 Mar '16 07:218 edits
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I suspect that yes, the amount of time can be defined in terms of the event series. .
So the amount if time between any given two events can be defined as the number of events between those events? But then how is time defined between each one of those events and the next one? -is it by yet another series of events? But then how is time defined between each one of those events and the next one? ...and so on for infinitum.
But would that make sense? -It appears to me to be circular.

It can certainly be defined in terms of how far the events may travel across space.

But an 'event' could be a sudden occurrence, such as a sudden realization (in your mind) , that has nothing to do with "how far the events may travel across space" because it, at least in your frame of reference, doesn't 'travel'.
6. 07 Mar '16 10:27
Originally posted by humy
But would that make sense? -It appears to me to be circular.
Not if the universe is quantized.
Alternatively if one looks at the universe through the quantum dynamics lens where everything is a smoothed out probability curve, then one could define time in terms of probability spread.

But an 'event' could be a sudden occurrence, such as a sudden realization (in your mind) , that has nothing to do with "how far the events may travel across space" because it, at least in your frame of reference, doesn't 'travel'.
The event itself doesn't travel (by definition), but the causal chain does. That event will have an effect on its surroundings at the speed of light.
7. 07 Mar '16 11:121 edit
Not if the universe is quantized.
Are you thinking here about Planck time? :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planck_time
8. 07 Mar '16 11:262 edits
Although I find it completely impossible to mentally visualize this, I can conceive of there being a universe with time but without space and with there being events in that universe with definable finite non-zero intervals of time between them (I would really hate to be in such a universe because I am a claustrophobic and want elbow room ðŸ˜› )
But is there anything logically self-contradictory or logically erroneous about that concept?
Anyone?
9. 07 Mar '16 11:27
Originally posted by humy
Are you thinking here about Planck time? :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planck_time
Plank space-time or an equivalent, possibly at a smaller scale.
10. moonbus
Uber-Nerd
08 Mar '16 13:261 edit
"Why is time not just a series of events?" For the same reason that a game of chess is not just a series of moves. In chess, there are rules which determine which moves are legal and which rule out certain others. The rules of the game stand at a different logical type than moves within the game; confusing logical types leads to nonsense.

The same insight applies to time and space: time and space stand at a different logical type than the events which take place within time and space. Confusing time (or space) for something which happens in time (or space) leads to the sort of paradox for which Zeno was famous (and you're getting perilously close to that with your argument that one hour is the same as two hours).

Think of time as the framework within which events occur, and not as something happening between events (or as a nothing happening between events)--keep your categories straight--and the paradoxes disappear.
11. 08 Mar '16 13:35
This may be of interest:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causal_dynamical_triangulation