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On A Quest For The Ultimate Theory Of Time

By James Donahue

This month Theoretical Physicist Sean Carroll at the prestigious California Institute of Technology is releasing a newly published book titled “From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time.”

For those of us who have long puzzled over the very reality of time, Carroll’s book should be on the top of our list of books to read in 2010.

Comments by reviewers and promotional statements from Carroll’s own web site suggest that his concepts of time are about as abstract as one might imagine. What this book contains is sure to make some of the wheels in our heads jump a few gears, and our concepts of reality move into new paradigms.

One very brief review noted that Carroll argues that our perception of time is linked to the level of disorder that exists in a system, or something called entropy. Entropy is described as a function of thermodynamic variables or perhaps the loss of information in a transmitted signal.

Now that the definition of entropy is cleared up, we will go on to note that Carroll carries this thought further when he says the movement from low to high entropy as the universe expands establishes the direction in which time flows.

The review states: “Furthermore, (Carroll) posits that our cosmos may be a relatively young member of a large family and that in some of our sibling universes time runs in the opposite direction.”

So is he suggesting that if we had been born in such a universe, we would have entered life as elderly citizens and experience more and more youth as reverse time passes? Where is Captain Kirk when we need him?

And for a third concept, Carroll suggests that some very old universes, that have reached “maximum entropy, reach a timeless state. There is no past or present.

“We’re so used to the arrow of time that it’s hard to conceptualize time without the arrow,” Carroll wrote. We have difficulty imagining how time might exist outside of our own personal experience of it.

On his web site Carroll asks such tantalizing questions as: “Why do we remember the past, but not the future? Why don’t we meet people who grow younger as they age? Why do things left by themselves tend to become messier and more chaotic?”

He also reminds us how “time pervades our lives.” Carroll writes: “We keep track of it, lament its loss, put it to good use. The rhythm of our clocks and our bodies let us measure the passing of time, as a ruler lets us measure the distance between two objects. But unlike distances, time has a direction, pointing from past to future.”

Carroll writes: “The only way to understand the origin of entropy is to understand the origin of the universe – by asking what happened at the Big Bang, and even before.”

He says his book “tells a story that starts in the kitchen, where we can turn eggs into omelets but never the other way around, and takes us to the edges of the universe.”

We can hardly wait to get our hands on this book.