General Relativity and Gravitation

, Volume 38, Issue 12, pp 1797–1824

Physics in the real universe: time and spacetime

Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10714-006-0332-z

Cite this article as:
Ellis, G.F.R. Gen Relativ Gravit (2006) 38: 1797. doi:10.1007/s10714-006-0332-z


The Block Universe idea, representing spacetime as a fixed whole, suggests the flow of time is an illusion: the entire universe just is, with no special meaning attached to the present time. This paper points out that this view, in essence represented by usual space time diagrams, is based on time- reversible microphysical laws, which fail to capture essential features of the time-irreversible macro-physical behaviour and the development of emergent complex systems, including life, which exist in the real universe. When these are taken into account, the unchanging block universe view of spacetime is best replaced by an evolving block universe which extends as time evolves, with the potential of the future continually becoming the certainty of the past; spacetime itself evolves, as do the entities within it. However, this time evolution is not related to any preferred surfaces in spacetime; rather it is associated with the evolution of proper time along families of world lines.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mathematics DepartmentUniversity of Cape TownRonde boschSouth Africa

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