Does time exist? Is our perception of the world different from its true reality? Is our concept of time fundamentally flawed? These are the central questions raised by Killing Time, a provocative documentary that explores the nature of time.
This Dutch television film, made in 1999, centers on the work of Julian Barbour, a prominent theoretical physicist, who gained notoriety with the publication of his landmark book, The End of Time: The Next Revolution in Physics.
The film (24 minutes, English with Dutch subtitles) does a remarkably good job of explaining the ideas of The End of Time in a non-technical way. In it, Barbour presents the concept of time as a human construct, not as a separately existing dimension.
In a series of interviews, using nothing more than a Polaroid instant camera to snap random pictures, Barbour illustrates the development of his radical theory. He explains that physics has always been grounded in Newton’s conception of time as an invisible river that exists and flows independently of the objects in the world.
However, through his work with collaborator Bruno Bertotti, and his own attempts to reconcile the conflict between quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of relativity, Barbour came to the conclusion that Newton was wrong.
Barbour posits that time is, in fact, an illusion – a measure imposed on the world by humanity. He explains this with the concept of a ‘now’, which he describes as a snapshot in time – a completely frozen, self-contained instant (much like a Polaroid photograph). Time is simply the measure of the space between two separate and unrelated ‘nows.’
Barbour concludes by constructing a 3-dimensional model of eternity, using it to show how the past, the future (in the traditional linear sense), and countless other possibilities, are all present and occurring at once.
Fascinating and thought-provoking, Killing Time is an elucidation of Barbour’s controversial theories on time, and a radical rethinking of our accepted notion of the world in which we live.
You can watch Killing Time directly on YouTube at: