Julian Barbour has written a clear and groundbreaking manifesto in The End of Time that states what may be the most profound insight since Aristotle. Time, according to Barbour, the reference by which all of Newtonian physics is measured is merely an illusion!
Newton proposed a universe of physics which contained a fixed reference coordinate system upon which physical existence plays out. The cartesian or polar playing field contains three fixed dimensions of space and one of time. In Newtonian physics, the world simply operates according to the rules of motion which he so clearly identified.
While most experiments conformed to Newton’s picture of physical reality, there were some experiments, like black body radiation, that did not work out according to plan. Just as Newton corrected and extended Aristotle’s views, Einstein, Bohr and the others corrected and extended Newton’s mechanics with quantum mechanics.
Just as Newton’s view ran into experimental problems, quantum theory runs into problems when trying to incorporate gravity into a grand theory. Barbour painstakingly develops his theory, and a method of visualizing the basic concepts that permit his theory to be understood. (more…)