Monday, October 23, 2017

Craig Callender's "What Makes Time Special?"

Craig Callender earned his PhD with research on the direction of time at Rutgers University. He then worked at the London School of Economics before moving to the University of California, San Diego. He has interests in time and physics, the interpretation of quantum mechanics, quantum gravity, philosophy of science, and environmental ethics.

Callender applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, What Makes Time Special?, and reported the following:
Page 99 is a fair representation of the first half of the book. The book can be divided into two parts, one on time and physics followed by one on time and psychology. As we navigate through life, we employ a model of time that is deeply tied to what makes our lives recognizably human. This model of flowing time is connected to personal identity, agency, freedom and more. The first half investigates the fate of this model when confronted by physics. The model doesn’t fare well: current physics judges it to be more or less rubbish. The second half accepts this conclusion and then uses psychology, evolution, and more to explain why the model we use, even if fundamentally flawed, nonetheless makes sense for creatures like us to use.

But what about future physics? Could it possibly save intuitive time? That is the question addressed on page 99. Here I point out that on the horizon we have quantum gravity, a set of research programs aiming to join quantum theory with relativity. Depending upon whether one regards quantum theory or relativity as the more secure foundation, one will either “rescue” time from relativity or further relativity’s attempt to demolish time. Neither task, I show, is so easy. The time of relativity is very resilient. Because it connects up with the central tension running throughout the book — is the flow of time an illusion? — Page 99 is a good indication of what you’ll find throughout.
Learn more about What Makes Time Special? at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue