Mundane Time

  • C. K. Raju
Part of the Fundamental Theories of Physics book series (FTPH, volume 65)


We bring out the difference between the notion of time in physics and the notion of time in daily use. In the mundane notion of time, the past is linear and the future branches: the past is decided, the future is not. We argue that the mundane view cannot be ignored because both views pertain to time in the real world. If the mundane view is accepted, the branching of time suggests a failure of physical laws, but rejection of the mundane view implies rejection of the belief that one may choose between physical theories by putting them to test.

Quantum indeterminism fails to resolve the conflict, because mere indeterminism is quite different from mundane choice, and this approach begs the question by implicitly assuming mundane choice in the measurement postulate. The thermodynamic argument from complexity, and the argument via chaos also fail: if unpredictable events are regarded as undecided, the argument may be time-reversed to conclude that the past is not decided.

A microphysical tilt in the arrow of time not only provides the most conservative solution to the consistency problem with time, within physics, but a decided past and an undecided future, as in mundane time, are consistent with this hypothesis. Unlike mere indeterminism, future data may now have some bearing on evolution, so that ‘purpose’ defined as future data resembles mundane intention. Certain problems remain unresolved. These concern, for example, the availability of choice at the macrophysical level, by the selective amplification of future contingents, while past contingents remain confined to microphysics. These problems all seem to involve deep questions concerning the characterization of living organisms in physics.


Physical Theory Advanced Action Copenhagen Interpretation Future Contingent Intentional Choice 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    J. B. Preistley, Man and Time, Aldus Books, London, 1964, p 97.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    S.W. Hawking and G.F. R. Ellis, The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime ( Cambridge: Univ. Press, 1974 ), p 189.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    K.R. Popper, The Open Universe, Hutchinson, London, 1982.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    R. Sorabji, Time, Creation and the Continuum, Duckworth, London, 1983, p 299.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    In addition to the arguments given earlier, Popper argues, in Ref. 3, that in the case of relativity, the information available to an observer must come from the past null cone. Therefore, complete Cauchy data can never be available to Laplace’s demon. This argument is correct as it stands, but nothing forces Laplace’s demon to solve a Cauchy problem rather than a characteristic initial value problem. For the latter problem the required data lies on the past null cone. Therefore, the suggestion that there is an added source of uncertainity in relativity is incorrect.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. K. Raju
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Indian Institute of Advanced StudyRashtrapati NivasShimlaIndia
  2. 2.Centre for Development of Advanced ComputingNew DelhiIndia

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