The Future fixes our Past

Understanding the connections between the non-deterministic claims of the Quantum Physics and the deterministic predictions of Classical Physics is, at least philosophically speaking, THE scientific challenge of physics today.

One way of looking at the problem – and a way that preserves the strongest form of the “Copernican Principle, that no point in time and space can claim to be special” (which is just a restatement of the Principles of Relativity (that there is no fundamental rest frame and that each inertial frame observer’s observations must be considered valid) – is to imagine something called the Block Universe.

In the block Universe each point in time and space is equivalent to any other. Which means that we are taking time to be reversible. And it means that time is, speaking in terms of higher dimensionality, just another coordinate. Looking at the Universe in such a view one would see that all present and future are fully present in the model – there’s not a sense of evolutionary development where past flows only into future. (Theologically this is very evocative of the term “eternity”.)


“Today, Ellis and Rothman introduce a significant new type of block universe. They say the character of the block changes dramatically when quantum mechanics is thrown into the mix. All of a sudden, the past and the future take on entirely different characteristics. The future is dominated by the weird laws of quantum mechanics in which objects can exist in two places at the same time and particles can be so deeply linked that they share the same existence. By contrast, the past is dominated by the unflinching certainty of classical mechanics.

What’s interesting is that the transition between these states takes place largely in the present. It’s almost as if the past crystallises out of the future, in the instant we call the present. Ellis and Rothman call this model the ‘crystallising block universe’ and go on to explore some of its properties.

They point out, for example, that this crystallisation process doesn’t take place entirely in the present. In quantum mechanics the past can sometimes be delayed, for example in delayed choice experiments. This means the structure of the transition from future to past is more complex than a cursory thought might suggest.”

Read the full article here.

The upshot then is that the future is in a non-simple way measurably influencing the past.

Theologically, the vision of Revelation is modifying the meaning of the stories of Genesis even though it has not yet “happened” as far as we who live now are concerned.

See? Isn’t Physics fun?!

Author: Nick Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

1 thought on “The Future fixes our Past”

  1. Hmm Two thoughts.
    If time is reversible, then how could we say that the past condenses out of the future anymore than the future condenses out of the past.
    Theologically speaking, we who await the Lord’s Advent borrow from the future to live fully in the present. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
    George Ellis is a man of faith, perhaps his theology enlarges his view of physics.

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