Updated: Jul 17, 2021
The box Universe theory describes “now” as an arbitrary place in time and states that the past, the future and the present all exist simultaneously.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of philosophy Dr. Bradford Skow suggests that if we “look down” on the universe as if we were looking at a piece of paper, we would see time spanning all directions, exactly the same way that we see space at some point.
So what does this really mean? Well, this suggests that time as we know it is incorrect, in other words, it is not linear as we have always thought. In fact, everything around us is always present.
Dr. Skow is not the first scientist to question the way we all perceive time.
In 1915, Einstein introduced a theory of unified space and time. In his general theory of relativity, he proposes that space-time takes shape in a multiple or continuous way. And that if viewed, you’ll see both as a four-dimensional vector space. And this vector is known as the “block theory.”
The author argues that he “wouldn’t want to believe in that unless I saw good arguments for it.”
“I was interested in seeing what kind of view of the universe you would have if you took these metaphors about the passage of time very, very seriously,” Skow says.
Dr. Skow further details: “The block universe theory says you’re spread out in time, something like the way you’re spread out in space. We’re not located at a single time.”
Dr. Skow agrees that while things change and we see time as if it were passing, he believes that we are in a ‘scattered conditions’ and that different parts of time may be dotted around the infinite universe.
Once you try to wrap your head around this theory, you’ll begin to realize that it could also change the way we think of time travel.
If this theory is real, then we can’t simply travel time and change it. If everything is happening simultaneously — your past, present, future laid out in space — then it would be impossible to create “grandfather paradoxes.”
Instead, you will only travel through time and experience it as it is and as it always would be.
An illustration of the hypothetical box universe, Source: ABC Science
Dr. Kristie Miller, who is the joint director for the Centre for Time at the University of Sydney, explained the theory in a piece published by ABC Science. Miller described how all moments that exist are relative to each other within three spatial dimensions and a single time dimension.
The block universe theory is also known in some scientific circles as Eternalism, in which the past, present, and future all co-exist ‘now’. This is opposed to Presentism, which states that the past doesn’t exist anymore and is constantly disappearing thanks to that pesky notion of ‘present’ time.
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