In the conclusion of this post, we will discuss Planck time and a new hypothesis, the time uncertainty principle.

Planck Time

Planck time is the smallest interval of time that science is able to define. The theoretical formulation of Planck time comes from dimensional analysis, which studies units of measurement, physical constants, and the relationship between units of measurement and physical constants. In simpler terms, one Planck interval is approximately equal to 10-44 seconds (i.e., 1 divided by 1 with 44 zeros after it). As far as the science community is concerned, there is a consensus that we would not be able to measure anything smaller than a Planck interval. In fact, the smallest interval science is able to measure as of this writing is trillions of times larger than a Planck interval. It is also widely believed that we would not be able to measure a change smaller than a Planck interval. From this standpoint, we can assert that time is only reducible to an interval, not a dimensionless sliver, and that interval is the Planck interval. Therefore, our scientific definition of time forces us to acknowledge that time is only definable as an interval, the Planck interval.

The time uncertainty interval

Since the smallest unit of time is only definable as the Planck interval, this suggests there is a fundamental limit to our ability to measure an event in absolute terms. This fundamental limit to measure an event in absolute terms is independent of the measurement technology. The error in measuring the start or end of any event will always be at least one Planck interval. This is analogous to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which states it is impossible to know the position and momentum of a particle, such as an electron, simultaneously. Based on fundamental theoretical considerations, the scientific community widely agrees that the Planck interval is the smallest measure of time possible. Therefore, any event that occurs cannot be measured to occur less than one Planck interval. This means the amount of uncertainty regarding the start or completion of an event is only knowable to one Planck interval. In our everyday life, our movements consist of a sequence of Planck intervals. We do not perceive this because the intervals are so small that the movement appears continuous, much like watching a movie where the projector is projecting each frame at the rate of approximately sixteen frames per second. Although each frame is actually a still picture of one element of a moving scene, the projection of each frame at the rate of sixteen frames per second gives the appearance of continuous motion. I term this inability to measure an event in absolute terms “the time uncertainty interval.”

Summary

1. Time is real, not a mental construct, but there is no consensus on the scientific definition of time. Instead, science describe how time behaves during an interval, a change in time. Science is unable to point to an entity and say “that is time.” The reason for this is that time is not a single entity, but scientifically an interval.

2. Planck time is the smallest interval of time that science is able to define. The theoretical formulation of Planck time comes from dimensional analysis, which studies units of measurement, physical constants, and the relationship between units of measurement and physical constants.

3. Since the smallest unit of time is only definable as the Planck interval, this suggests there is a fundamental limit to our ability to measure an event in absolute terms, independent of the measurement technology. The error in measuring the start or end of any event will always be at least one Planck interval. I term this inability to measure an event in absolute terms “the time uncertainty interval.”