Richard Muller's New Book Explores the Physics of 'NOW'

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A simple question from his wife – Does physics really allow people to travel back in time? – propelled physicist Richard Muller on a quest to resolve a fundamental problem that had puzzled him throughout his 45-year career: Why does the arrow of time flow inexorably toward the future, constantly creating new “nows”?

That quest resulted in a book published today, NOW: The Physics of Time (W. W. Norton), which delves into the history of philosophers’ and scientists’ concepts of time, uncovers a tendency physicists have to be vague about time’s passage, demolishes the popular explanation for the arrow of time and proposes a totally new theory.

“Time has been a stumbling block to our understanding of the universe,” said Muller, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus who for many years taught a popular introductory course, “Physics for Future Presidents,” which he turned into a 2008 book of the same name. “Over my career, I’ve seen a lot of nonsense published about time, and I started thinking about it and realized I had a lot to say from having taught the subject over many decades, having thought about it, having been annoyed by it, having some really interesting ways of presenting it, and some whole new ideas that have never appeared in the literature.”

In commenting on the theory and Muller’s new book, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the 2014 TV miniseries “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” wrote, “Maybe it’s right. Maybe it’s wrong. But along the way he’s given you a master class in what time is and how and why we perceive it the way we do.”

Muller’s new idea: Time is expanding because space is expanding.

“The new physics principle is that space and time are linked; when you create new space, you will create new time,” Muller said.

Read the entire article here.

Read the book review in Science Magazine.

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Editor: 
Robert Sanders