The Block Universe


The great paradoxes of time arise because once again the new physics tells us the universe is very different to how we have always understood it. Relativity shows us without question that time is a fourth dimension, essentially just like space. And this means that the past and even the future exist in the same way as the North and the South. It is all there ‘already’. This image of the block universe may be useful to see what this means.

This means that the world is static. Nothing happens. As stated by Deutsch:

Spacetime is sometimes referred to as the ‘block universe’ because within it the whole of physical reality – past present and future – is laid out once and for all, frozen in a single four-dimensional block. (1997, 268)

This, of course, is why there can be no passage of time. The whole extent of time just is. This of course is very strange because it means that the dynamics of the universe do not actually happen, as Deutsch goes on to describe in some detail.

The World Line

As the physicist Sir Roger Penrose states.

… particles do not even move, being represented by ‘static’ curves drawn on space–time. (1994, 389)

In physics each static curve is called a ‘worldline’. The worldline is the 4-dimensional existence of each object.

A worldine
A Worldline

As physicist David Deutsch explains, this means there is no such thing as the passage of time. …

So the static extent of the worldline simply exists, with the sequence of events all laid out in space-time. As cosmologist Max Tegmark states:

So life is like a movie, and space-time is like the DVD. … there’s nothing about the DVD itself that is changing in any way, even though there’s all this drama unfolding in the movie. (Kuhn, 2015)

As described in The Now, all of the events in the future of your worldline are there in the future, just as all the frames of the movie on the DVD are there in sequence on the disk. And just as the DVD does not change, there is nothing about the space-time world that is changing. Nothing actually happens. Yet there is all this drama unfolding in the world.

So this is the great paradox. We are witnessing the passage of time, and the world changing, but none of this is actually happening. The solution is as stated by Weyl. Consciousness passes along the worldline, and there is the experience of the passage of time, as at each subsequent moment “… does a section of this world come to life as a fleeting image in space which continuously changes in time.”