Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Twenty-six years later...

Is it odd that my birthday makes me think about death? I don't feel like I have much to show for the past twenty-six years, not do I expect to accomplish anything meaningful in whatever time I have left, mostly because I can't imagine what a meaningful contribution to the world would look like. Everything done today will be gradually eroded by the tides of time, washing back and forth over the perpetual present.

Death would be more intimidating if I thought that what I had now was qualitatively different. But the person I am today is not the same as the person I was yesterday; the me of five minutes ago is already dead. Existence consists solely of a sequence of moments, disjoint but for the tenuous links forged by memory and anticipation. Sometimes I try to see myself as existing in each moment independently. I envision time as a spatial dimension, and see myself extending into the past and future, each instant existing beyond the ravages of temporal dynamics. I think this is a better understanding of reality than the more traditional model of directed time moving at a constant rate.

This essay was worth reading. My mother thinks that I am devoid of empathy. She is wrong. I have empathy to spare, but very little sympathy. The Mean Monkey doesn't care if you are sad, but he does feel your pain.


eric said...

It turns out that the \psi^*\psi in qunatum mechanics (e.g. the modulus of the wavefunction) comes about naturally if one considers a model in which wavefunction-changes propogate forward and backward in time from a particular instant. I think Feynman showed this.

What it really means is beyond me, except to say that time-reversibility is not really a good word for what happens at microscopic scales. And yet to say that time is just liek space does not seem justified either. In the schrodinger equation, there is a second-order diffusion term in space and only a first order diffusion equation in time. How this fits in with the difference time in relativity c*dt, and time in thermo is really really beyond me.

Sometimes I pretend that coarse-graining of phase-space explains the irreversibility issue, but really that doesn't work either. Why should physics coarse-grain in a way that has anything to do with the assumptions we make which leads to averaging?

Deep stuff. Certainly, compared to this, human mortality is pretty unimportant.

John said...


I am about to see the the #50 milestone on 26 May, so I have been dillydallying on this sorry orb about twice as long as you have.