Spinning the Arrow

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“Can I have your I-Pad when you pass away Grandpa?” For a seven year-old, Maddy’s got a remarkably long view, or maybe she thinks I might just drop dead at any moment.  “By the time I’m gone they’ll have something so much better you won’t want the I-Pad.” “No, this is the best thing ever!” “Hold out for your neural implant, you won’t even need hardware. When I was your age, we had books and libraries, telephones you just talked on, tape recorders and black and white tv with three channels.  That was high tech.”   She’s skeptical, “How old are you?” “Fifty seven.” She’s thinking “Any moment now. . .”
“You don’t understand time yet, Maddy. Back then, Star Trek had I-Pads and doors that opened when you just walked up to them. Dick Tracy had two way wrist tv’s. Now, I’m living in that future. It took fifty years but I made it. Now they even have those doors at the grocery store.”
She makes an “Oh Brother” face she must have seen in a cartoon. She says: “We are not living in the future.” I counter: “You just don’t remember enough of the past to imagine much of the future, but I remember fifty years.  I can imagine more.  She makes another cartoon face.
“The same part of your brain that makes memories, imagines the future.  Remembering only the past makes you think time only goes in one direction, that effects always follow causes. But, tiny parts of you, of everything, don’t act like time has a direction.” “What parts?”
“Did they teach you about atoms yet in science?” “No.” “You, and everything, are made of atoms. But if you tear atoms apart, their smallest parts are particles.  And particles don’t care much about the direction of time either.” “How do you tear them apart?” “In a bomb, or in a giant machine, or maybe with a butter knife. I mean, what’s happening to atoms when you cut a piece of cake, or use scissors on paper?” Now she’s thinking about cake.
She’s about to switch back to Casper the Friendly Ghost. “You go to church, right?” “Yes, and Sunday School.” “They told you that God knows everything, right?” “OK” “So how does God know the past and also the future before it happens?” “He’s God!” “Well, if God and the smallest particles both ignore the direction of time, why don’t we?”   “Make me some tea, Grandpa.”
Ten minutes in the future, she’s talking about boys. She’s sitting on the couch upside down with her feet in the air, like the teenagers in the telephone song in Bye Bye Birdie. She’s channeling the past.  The boy she likes is the one that makes all the girls swoon in third grade. Maddy watches the other girls, brazen hussies, punching him to show their love while she looks on adoringly. Soon the boy will imagine the girl trouble in his future and head straight for it.
In the past, in the 2nd grade, Maddy’s “boyfriend” was a different boy.  She told Grandma: “Him’s so smart. Him knows him’s ABC’s.” She still imagines him as her boyfriend though she hasn’t seen him in a year and a half. Her brain is constructing memories and imagination from the small bits of the Universe her senses can perceive. Neither one is absolute. So, which points the arrow of time?
In the now, she’s annoyed because her 10 year-old brother has run off down the block with her 9 year-old friend Gabrielle. She says: “He already has a girlfriend. He’s cheating on her.” “Who’s his girlfriend?” “I don’t know her, the fourth grade is upstairs.” “What does he do with this girlfriend?” “Go on dates!” “What’s a date, hanging out at recess?” She glowers.
“Look, in the future, before you get my I-Pad, you will be a teenager and then a young woman and you’ll have boyfriends but Isaac will always be your best friend.  Right now you’re mad at Gabrielle as much as him, because they both cheated on you. It’s because he’s been your constant companion since you were born.” “He’s not my friend.”
She’s been creating the past and the future, just like the rest of us, barely noticing the present moment. She imagines where she will be when I’m gone: Probably still sitting on my couch, playing with her inheritance. She takes a germ of the past and imagines a boyfriend. She will probably catapult him into the future so that all presently momentary boys will be measured against the imaginary Him. They  better know them’s ABC’s.
Some callous youth will make her cry and Isaac will beat him up.  Off to college in different cities maybe, love and marriage and then making more new humans that didn’t exist, that no one imagined, cousins now hearing stories about long gone great Grandpa.
Clearly, even on the macro scale, the effect precedes the cause.  Maddy imagines and remembers the future effect and then whittles away on each moment so that the matching cause magically appears. Time’s arrow is nowhere limiting because she can remember the future she’s imagined.  It’s all so normal, but still, we constrain time with clocks and metronomes, atoms decaying and vibrating crystal tuning forks as if we could actually tame and control it.  When eternity and non-linear time poke into that artificial order, we are surprised, confused, fearful, or we talk to God. 
Eternity, after all, is not living forever, it is the experience of all moments as one present moment, spinning the arrow of time.  If, in the past, I didn’t remember my granddaughter in the future, it was only because of the distraction of her misbehaving mother. Grandma, even then, imagined a graceful, grateful, compliant Maddy. But just you wait. Maddy will be 13 soon enough, remembering her own future with a vengeance.
“I have to go to bed Maddy. I need my I-Pad now.” She asks: “Tuck me in?”
Yes, Maddy, forever.

About the Author: 
The author is an attorney and with interests in linguistics, comparative religion, literature, science and having tea with Maddy

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Quantum Theories

A is for ... Atom

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Y is for ... Young's Double Slit Experiment

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K is for ... Kaon

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I is for ... Information

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M is for ... Many Worlds Theory

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G is for ... Gravity

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B is for ... Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC)

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R is for ... Radioactivity

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B is for ... Bell's Theorem

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P is for ... Probability

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A is for ... Alice and Bob

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Z is for ... Zero-point energy

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C is for ... Computing

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H is for ... Hawking Radiation

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J is for ... Josephson Junction

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E is for ... Entanglement

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U is for ... Uncertainty Principle

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W is for ... Wavefunction

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L is for ... Light

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T is for ... Tunnelling

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S is for ... Schrödinger’s Cat

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D is for ... Decoherence

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M is for ... Multiverse

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D is for ... Dice

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V is for ... Virtual particles

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R is for ... Randomness

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U is for ... Universe

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H is for ... Hidden Variables

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W is for ... Wave-particle duality

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X is for ... X-ray

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S is for ... Superposition

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L is for ... Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

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