A Hole at the Heart of Physics; Scientific American Time; Special Editions; by George Musser; 2 Page(s)
For most people, the great mystery of time is that there never seems to be enough of it. If it is any consolation, physicists are having much the same problem. The laws of physics contain a time variable, but it fails to capture key aspects of time as we live it—notably, the distinction between past and future. And as researchers try to formulate more fundamental laws, the little t evaporates altogether. Stymied, many physicists have sought help from an unfamiliar source: philosophers.
From philosophers? To most physicists, that sounds rather quaint. The closest some get to philosophy is a late-night conversation over dark beer. Even those who have read serious philosophy generally doubt its usefulness; after a dozen pages of Immanuel Kant, philosophy begins to seem like the unintelligible in pursuit of the undeterminable. “To tell you the truth, I think most of my colleagues are terrified of talking to philosophers—like being caught coming out of a pornographic cinema,” says physicist Max Tegmark, now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.