FQXi, the Foundational Questions Institute, held a multidisciplinary meeting investigating the Nature of Time in Scandinavia August 27 – September 1, 2011 (Figure 1). FQXi promulgates original thinking and research on fundamental questions in physics and cosmology through research grants and essay-writing contests on topics such as “The Nature of Time,” and “Is Reality Digital or Analog?”
Time is familiar in the sense of the three space dimensions and the one time dimension around which human affairs in the physical world are organized. Additionally, each person has a subjective and identifiable relationship to time, even though this may be little more than a convenient construct. In science, time has been developed to the greatest degree in physics and cosmology, and in the philosophy of science. Other fields too are starting to consider time more robustly, including complexity, biology, and computation.
The conference addressed the issue of the arrow of time from many perspectives. While most fundamental laws of nature are time-symmetric, some areas have a time arrow flowing in one direction such as thermodynamics, quantum theory, radiation, and gravity. This can be problematic to explain. A suggested analysis structure involving the trade-offs between complexity and entropy as systems evolve over time served as a useful model for analyzing different aspects of time throughout the meeting.