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Will Time be Replaced by Another Space Dimension?

Space-time cones - what if time were to disappear?
What if time disappeared? Yes, it sounds like a silly question – and if the cosmos sticks to the current laws of physics – it’s a question we need never ask beyond this article. Writing this article would in itself be a waste of my time if the cosmos was that simple. But I’m hedging my bets and continuing to type, as I believe we have only just scratched the surface of the universal laws of physics; the universe is anything but simple. There may in fact be something to this crazy notion that the nature of the universe could be turned on its head should the fundamental quantity of time be transformed into another dimension of space. An idea like this falls out of the domain of classical thought, and into the realms of “braneworlds”, a view that encapsulates the 4-dimensional universe we know and love with superstrings threaded straight through…

Brane theory is a strange idea. In a nutshell, a brane (short for “membrane”) can be viewed as a sheet floating in a fifth dimension. As we can only experience three dimensional space along one dimension of time (four dimensional space-time, a.k.a. a Lorentzian universe), we cannot understand what this fifth dimension looks like, but we are fortunate to have mathematics to help us out. Mathematics can be used to describe as many dimensions as we like. Useful, as branes describe the cumulative effect of “strings” threading through many dimensions and the forces interacting to create the universe we observe in boring old three dimensional space. According to the “braneworld” view, our four dimensional cosmos may actually be embedded within a multidimensional universe – our cosmic version only uses four of the many possible dimensions.

Theorists contemplating braneworlds, such as Marc Mars at the University of Salamanca in Spain, now believe they have stumbled on an implication that could, quite literally, stop cosmologists in their tracks. The time dimension could soon be disappearing to be replaced by a fourth space dimension. Our familiar Lorentzian universe could turn Euclidean (i.e. four spatial dimensions, no time) and Mars believes the evidence for the change is staring us in the face.

One of the interesting, and intriguing, properties of these signature-changing branes is that, even though the change of signature may be conceived as a dramatical event within the brane, both the bulk and the brane can be fully smooth. In particular, observers living in the brane but assuming that their Universe is Lorentzian everywhere may be misled to interpret that a curvature singularity arises precisely at the signature change” – Marc Mars, from Is the accelerated expansion evidence of a forthcoming change of signature on the brane?.

The observed expansion of the universe (as discovered by Edwin Hubble in 1925) may in fact be a symptom of a “signature changing” brane. If our brane is mutating from time-like to space-like, observers in the Lorentzian universe should observe an expanding and accelerating universe, exactly as we are observing presently. Mars goes on to detail that this theory can explain this ever increasing expansion, whilst keeping the physical characteristics of the cosmos as we observe today, without assuming any form of dark matter or dark energy is responsible.

It is doubtful that we can ever perceive a time-less cosmos, and what would happen to the universe should time go space-like is beyond our comprehension. So, enjoy your four dimensions while they last, time could soon be running out.

Source: arXiv blog


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Hello! My name is Ian O'Neill and I've been writing for the Universe Today since December 2007. I am a solar physics doctor, but my space interests are wide-ranging. Since becoming a science writer I have been drawn to the more extreme astrophysics concepts (like black hole dynamics), high energy physics (getting excited about the LHC!) and general space colonization efforts. I am also heavily involved with the Mars Homestead project (run by the Mars Foundation), an international organization to advance our settlement concepts on Mars. I also run my own space physics blog: Astroengine.com, be sure to check it out!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Nuno January 30, 2008, 8:52 AM

    There will be space, but no time.
    (doesn’t this sounds recursively wrong?)

    Well people,
    Keep on changing!

  • Wayne February 4, 2008, 2:22 PM

    God will cause this transition of space time bible states that we will live forever KIOS time.

  • Wayne February 4, 2008, 2:40 PM

    This transition will go unnoticed in the normal spacetime continuem as this dissapates it will be replaced by a forever dimensional scale in outerspace and innerspace the mathmatics behind this is unreal we could never understand even in eternity.Lets leave that to YAHWEH. (Afterall he’s thd great mathmatician Alfa & Omega.

  • Chuck Lam February 6, 2008, 6:57 AM

    To Jason L. WOW!

  • Chuck Lam February 6, 2008, 7:25 AM

    To all those linking time and space. Keep in mind both lack substance. To say space is expanding or time is flowing or both are directly connected is only an impression. Yes, I’m familiar with the math! It might be argued that space is measurable in three dimensions for example, but that doesn’t quanfify what was measured has substance.. The same for time. Simply watching a clock doesn’t prove time exists. It’s a mechanism in motion. Refering to both space and time as being somthing is questionable. If we could bottle both, weigh, touch, take it apart for study, actually get our hands on the stuff for study then maybe we could do some serious science. Wacky?Maybe! Maybe not!

  • Zephir February 10, 2008, 3:17 AM

    From Aether Wave Theory the concept of time as another space dimension follows easilly and naturaly from concept of Aether density gradient. For example, at the gradient formed by water surface, the time is the direction perpendicular to the water surface, which forms the local space-time for surface wave spreading.


  • M Jones February 11, 2008, 8:25 PM

    we are the past

    Remeber these words and we can change the future

  • N Stone February 11, 2008, 8:28 PM

    Time is a concept,

    time never stops, we cannot go back in time, and so, the universe and us are just moving around in space endlssly and so, time is the universe and us moving around space. and so,
    “time can be seen as just a result of space moving around or space can be seen as a result of time’. either way

  • Bob February 19, 2008, 3:52 AM

    Time is God

  • Z March 9, 2008, 10:57 AM

    Pope X

    You are moronic and primitive. (And thats coming from a 15 year old)

    Should we find the ability of time travel, make sure you take a trip back to the Renaissance; you have been left behind.

    It is not directly your fault, but you have been severely misguided and left narrow-minded. Broaden your horizon.

  • will May 27, 2008, 8:24 AM

    as long as there is movement, let there be time

  • Antti Roine June 28, 2008, 3:47 AM

    Time is a mathematical and mental illusion but gravity is the real physical thing. See some arguments from:


    Time originates from the movement and change.

  • ian July 9, 2008, 7:17 PM

    looks like a galactic center

  • Bryan Brookes-Smith July 13, 2008, 6:33 PM

    Is time really so different to space? Or is it that difference which is an illusion?

    Sure matter probably cannot move backward in time, thereby occupying the same time twice, but then no-one has ever demonstrated matter occupying the same space twice either, sure it can happen in principle, but probably in the whole history of the universe never has.

    In fact with the universe constantly evolving and apparentally expanding, isn’t discreet, absolute space just as much an illusion?

  • Billy joe September 13, 2008, 2:53 PM

    i think this idea is so stupid and scientist are dumb and retarded and they don’t know what they’re talking about so they need to shut their faces, i mean we should not worry about this stuff because god will tell us when the time is to die.

  • woodrooster September 30, 2008, 9:35 PM

    There can be no time without movement.