It was Einstein who said the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubborn illusion. He claimed that time and space are not conditions in which we live but simply manners in which we think. This idea has caused an unending debate among physicists and some confusion to the average person. Without getting too technical let’s see if we can dig into time and understand exactly what it is.
Einstein said that time was an illusion because it is something that can not be touched, tasted, or seen yet we perceive it all around us. In addition, time is relative. This means that it changes depending on where we are and what we are doing. Einstein says this is proof that time does not exist in a clear and defined form but that it is changeable based on us and is, therefore, an illusion of the mind. That is pretty confusing and many physicists disagree and say that time clearly exists I mean if it takes you five minutes to read this article then that was time spent reading the article, what else could it be?
Yet what Einstein likely meant was that time is not something that is inflicted upon as a part of the universe, it is not a constant. Instead, he argued that it was relative to us and ever-changing. He proved the relativity of time by showing that time moves slower or faster depending on how it is measured. If you use a stationary clock and measure time and if you run with a clock in your hand, time will move at different speeds. If you are running around your yard the difference will be so small that you will not notice but it can be seen in clocks that are positioned on jets that fly around the world for example.
Of course, it is also relative in how we perceive it. If you spend one hour massaging your grandmother’s feet it will seem like a long time (unless you really enjoy that) but if you spend one-hour playing video games with your friends it will go quickly. This is because the brain is able to track time but is not perfect at it. However, when the brain is excited it fires more neurons and increases our perception of time, while decreased neuron firing slows down time perception. This means that when time is sped up it is because the brain is distinguishing more events within an interval. In relation to that, in moments of danger, the brain tries to remember more things which help to slow our brains down. Here time is not changing but our perception of it is.
Finally, it is relative as it is the fourth dimension with which we perceive things in our three-dimension world. Yet there are theories that everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen has already taken place but we simply need to perceive these things through the lens of time in order to be able to perceive them at all. This is a theory that is a little more tricky to understand but it could be that we are slaves to how we perceive the universe and that a different lifeform could land on Earth that sees times differently.
One thing about time that is certain is that it continues. The entropy of the universe means time will continue to tick on until the day the universe dies. Existence has been in place for almost 14 billion years when the Big Bang took place. How many more years we have is anyone’s guess.