» Time and Becoming: The Experimental Metaphysics of Time and the Observing Self

The speakers and audience in this proposed interdisciplinary conference will discuss several focused questions concerning the nature of time. We will bring together leading researchers in physics, philosophy, psychology, religious studies and neuroscience/complex systems.

The proposed conference is a natural follow-up to the previous conference on free will, and will take place on Monday, April 28, 2014.

Our intuitive view of physical reality, the outgrowth of everyday experience, often conflicts with the world-view described by physics. Indeed, many of our core beliefs about the physical world lack a firm scientific foundation. 

One such example concerns the nature of time. Since the dawn of civilization, mankind has tried to understand the meaning of the inexorable flow of time. We experience that time has a certain direction: we are born, grow old, and die; our offices tend to get more disordered - not the other way around. Yet remarkably, in physics time has no such built-in direction and both classical and quantum theories mostly work just as well from past-to-future as from future-to-past. 

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Conference Schedule

Monday, April 28, 2014

8:30 - 9:45 a.m. "A new approach to time based on weak values" by Yakir Aharonov
10 - 11 a.m. "Limitations of Dynamical description" by George Sudarshan
11 a.m. - noon "Black Hole and Cosmological Horizon Entropy" by Paul Davies
Noon - 1 p.m. Lunch Break
1 - 1:45 p.m. "When is Now? How Beeps, Flashes and Snaps undermine a Priviledged Now"
by Craig Callender
1:45 - 2:30 p.m. "The Experience of Duration" by Carla Merino-Raime
2:45 - 3:15 p.m. "Time and Contemplative Practice" by Gurucharan Khalsa
3:15 - 3:45 p.m. “Time and Emergence” by Philip Clayton
3:45 - 4:15 p.m. "'Holiness' in Time" by Gail Stearns
4:15 - 5 p.m. Ending Discussion
5 - 7 p.m. Dinner Break
7 - 9 p.m. "The Mystery of Time's Arrow" by Paul Davies

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

9 - 11:30 a.m.

Meditation 101: Skillful Observation and your True Self
by Gurucharan Khalsa and Jay Kumar

"An experiential class to introduce several basic but powerful techniques of meditation.
How do we master the mind and body as an instrument that serves our heart, reveals
the nature of the self and gives us an experience of  timelessness and timeliness in
our life. Time and Self are part of the mystery of consciousness and meditation is
the royal road to explore this.  Gurucharan Khalsa, will take us into deep meditations
and Jay Kumar will uncover how we think and experience time in our lives." 

2 - 4 p.m. The Beauty of Physics 101 by Jeff Tollaksen

Paper Presentation Abstracts

"The Experience of Duration"
Carla Merino-Rajme


How do we experience the duration of an event? What is it to experience today’s jog as lasting twice as long as yesterday’s? Why does time seem to fly during a fun party but to slow down during a boring one? How could events that are experienced as happening now, like this glass falling off the table or you stepping into that puddle, also be experienced as part of longer-lived events such as whole parties or jogs? In this talk, I will put forward and elaborate an account of the experience of duration that aims at answering these and related questions.

"When is Now? How Beeps, Flashes and Snaps Undermine a Privileged Now"
Craig Callender


Relativity famously challenges the model of time that we implicitly adopt as we navigate through life. Metaphysicians often fight back on behalf of this model, appealing to the strength of our experience of the present in order to posit a privileged Now.  In his talk Callender will argue that the science of our temporal experience supports the construction of an experiential counterpart of relativity’s case against the Now. But he'll do more than that. Using beeps, flashes, snaps and other stimuli, he aims to cast doubt on the idea that there is any unified perceived present at all.  Then, after tearing down the Now, he’ll show how to put it back together again so that we can understand why organisms like us employ the model of time that we do.


"The mystery of time's arrow"

Paul Davies


Physical states of the universe evolve in time with an objective and readily-observable directionality. The ultimate origin of this asymmetry in time, which is most famously captured by the second law of thermodynamics and the irreversible rise of entropy, rests with cosmology and the state of the universe at its origin. I trace the various physical processes that contribute to the growth of entropy, and conclude that gravitation holds the key to providing a comprehensive explanation of the elusive arrow.

"Black Hole and Cosmological Horizon Entropy"

Paul Davies


Hawking's demonstration that black holes radiate heat led to the association of entropy with event horizon area, and the formulation of a generalized second law of thermodynamics. The area-entropy link was then extended to cosmological event horizons, mainly by analogy, thus generalizing the second law (on a cosmological scale) even further. But the status of this extension has always been unclear, especially in cases where the horizon changes significantly with time. I will present results that clarify when, and how far, cosmological and black hole event horizons represent the "same currency", and offer clues to a more encompassing "gravitational entropy" needed to explain why the universe possesses an overall arrow of time.

“Holiness” in Time

Gail Stearns


Human experience shows us that linear time as we understand it is not our deepest experience of the nature of time. Throughout the centuries, spiritual and religious traditions have honed practices through which people experience a realm of time that can be called “holiness.” This experience has been described variously as being “in accord” with time, purely in “presence,” transcendent to time, “outside” time, or “suspended” in time. These subtle descriptions and experiences will be discussed from several traditions, and common themes such as the dissolution of the ego boundary explored.

“Time and Emergence”

Philip Clayton


I will argue that time is as real as emergent systems are. More carefully put, an emergent system counts as provisionally irreducible if explaining its system dynamics requires the introduction of theoretical concepts that are not required to explain the dynamics of lower-level systems. It’s possible that no systems are actually irreducible, but at present, at least, some are provisionally so. Significantly different notions of time play explanatory roles in these different types of systems. We will explore examples drawn from thermodynamic systems, biological or “teleo-dynamic” systems, and conscious systems (e.g., human thought) and will attempt to draw some initial conclusions.