Eternalism, time dilation and the land of nod

Eternalism is where all moments in time co-exist. Can dreaming give us a clue as to how we can train our brain to access the past or future as well as experience the present?

Dreaming and eternalism

Eternalism

There’s an idea called eternalism which is where all moments in time co-exist. There’s no past, present or future – just time, and different segments of that time can be experienced by calling on it (though on a practical footing, I’m not sure how…)

This idea came to mind a few days ago when I was watching a video clip on youtube. Being an English gentleman I naturally wanted to be sipping a cup of tea during my viewing pleasure so I clicked pause and put the kettle on. Whilst I was waiting for it to boil I took a moment to look out of the lounge window.

There’s something in the air

The sun was shining, sending forth its electromagnetic radiation of multiple frequencies. Despite this, my neighbour had smoke chugging out of his chimney from his wood fire. A couple of planes were scratching contrails across the sky. So much for the visible – I knew that the pilots would be in radio contact with air control. A gaggle of schoolgirls were texting on their data connected smartphones as they walked by. I could see the TV was on in the house over the road (the one with the satellite dish), and cars zipped by with open windows, music from the radio streaming outside.

I couldn’t help wonder about all stuff in the air. Some things we put there for our convenience (thought sometimes it’s inconvenient for others…) It’s all there for our taking. Like my own WiFi connection which I was planning on reconnecting to in a few moments. At my convenience.

Sadly I’m no technical buff, but I find technology immensely interesting. Whilst I can use WiFi and understand its basic principles, I don’t actually know how it really works – how does information get carried along a wave?

And how can a video be on pause on WiFi? Is the electromagnetic wave also on pause? Does it now stand stationary, or temporarily reduce it’s frequency from a number of gigahertz to zero, awaiting for my beck and call? Is my paused 40 minute video stored somewhere along a wave of a fixed length to hold the length of the film clip? What if I move my phone around in my lounge, would it encounter a different part of the em wave and I’d be watching a different part of the movie?

And this is just my paused video! What about all of the videos? Or the other information out there on the web? Other media, sound files, web pages, all kinds of things, all co-existing somewhere out there waiting for me to access them at any time I like. Things off the web even. Pick up a phone and you can start talking to anyone about anything you like. They’re all waiting for your call…

Frasier Crane - I'm listening!
Frasier Crane – I’m listening! (Image source: http://utbblogs.com/your-apps-are-listening/)

Is all of this information out there floating around waiting for me to access it?

Accessing time

Is this like eternalism, that all time is out there, waiting for us to access it? Can we choose which bit we’d like to access? Any moment, and we call it the present?

I suspect that in my WiFi reality, I’d request certain information, and that part wings it way over to me along optical fibers and WiFi airways. Much like when someone asks me to remember a specific moment and we can choose to ‘relive’ a certain part of our history.

I can’t remember which famous person said it, but someone had problems remembering his future, and I must admit that I suffer the same problem. (Notice the irony that I also can’t remember bits of the past too…). But I think dreaming comes quite close – we dream of brighter futures, for instance.

The land of nod

Those of us who remember our dreams often find that they are complete stories.

A colleague once told me that this is because our brains aren’t capable of producing a movie-like plot each and every night in real-time; when we dream we actually dream in snippets and our brains are clever enough to interpolate through the gaps (much like it’s able to recreate sight in our blind spot) to produce a seemingly continuous dream.

In this way, dreams might appear to span several days or even longer – a ‘dream feature’ alluded to in the movie “Inception” where time passes faster in dreams than in the real waking life.

In other words, when our brain joins the dots its net effect is to stretch out time.

The idea of stretching time isn’t so far-fetched – I expect that most of us have heard of time dilation, and further, I expect that we’ve all hit the snooze button on the alarm clock and been surprised at how quickly it goes off again. I know this: I never have enough time in bed!

If interpolation can stretch time can we somehow get to extrapolate it so that we can get into the future?

You are feeling sleepy…

Hypnotism - an alternative path to the land of nod
Hypnotism – an alternative path to the land of nod. Image source: www.guideopedia.com

Under hypnosis (a dodgy form of suggested dreaming) a person can allegedly transfer their point of view from one point in space to another, or to more accurately recall certain moments in their visible history. Once we find the temporal analogue to this then perhaps we can say that we’ve cracked eternalism.

Perhaps we’re already closer than we thought. “In 1996 a National Institutes of Health panel judged that hypnosis might help alleviate pain from cancer and other chronic conditions.” πŸ˜‰ (emphasis added, source.)

Hmm, I think I’ll sleep on this…

Paul

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Eternalism, time dilation and the land of nod
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Eternalism, time dilation and the land of nod
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Eternalism is where all moments in time co-exist. Can dreaming give us a clue as to how we can train our brain to access the past or future as well as experience the present?
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Author: Paul Wandason

I love astronomy and science fiction, but I love my family more. So I love time travel too!

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