Is time a feature of the world out there, or is it something somehow supplied by our minds? Contemporary physics has a tendency to banish many aspects of time from the world, especially temporal flow and the idea of a special Now. But some recent work takes our experience of time more seriously as a fundamental feature of the world, something that should be appearing in our basic physical theories. This clash of ideas finds itself at the root of the construction of the as yet undiscovered quantum theory of gravity. This talk will review some elements of this controversy in an elementary way.
Dean Rickles is Professor of History and Philosophy of Modern Physics at the University of Sydney, where he is a co-director of the Centre for Time. Specializing in quantum gravity, he has written A Brief History of String Theory: From Dual Models to M-Theory (Springer, 2016) and Covered in Deep Mist: The Development of Quantum Gravity, 1916-1956 (Oxford University Press, 2020). His current projects include a biography of physicist John Wheeler and an historical investigation of the problem of why there is something rather than nothing.