The answer to the question of time is a matter of perspective. For most of us we look at the clock or our cell phone and know what time it is. That makes it real.
That clock however in all of its multitude of forms measures what we as humans have defined as time. This then leaves open the question, Is time real or is it nothing more than a measuring system developed by humans to measure our own existence?
Oh boy, what a question!
In the world of science it seems to be real, but it is used there just as it is used anywhere else, it measures existence or accumulation. In the medical profession both of these varieties are used daily with no definitive between them. A person in the critical care unit is said to have a “short amount of time left.” This is the measure of existence. Whereas when a patient is prescribed a medication they are told, “it will take time to work so don’t stop taking it until it runs out.” This is accumulation. The chemicals in the medication need to reach a certain level in the blood stream before they have any effect, or they accumulate over time.
Now which is the definition of time? According to Webster’s Dictionary it is. “A continuous measurable quantity in which events occur in apparently irreversible order.” That covers both aspects of what we have observed above. It however does answer our question.
The dictionary calls it a “… measurable quantity …” meaning that someone somewhere defined that quantity.
A year is a measurable quantity. It measures differently if you are on Mars instead of Earth. So then time would seem to be subjective. How does that help us make it real or unreal?
“Did you know that an astronaut took a watch into space with him? No I will not name the offender even though he has both retired and is no longer with NASA. Yes I say offender because the watch was not allowed in the vehicle due to the possibility of the band puncturing his suit and by default killing him. The point here is that when that astronaut returned to earth the time on the watch did not match the time in the NASA office where he had synchronized it!
Why not? If time is real then it is immutable, it passes without consideration of where you are at the same rate. It does not correspond to that property. The official explanation is that his speed while in space was greater than the speed of the clock (duh, the clock was in the same spot and never moved). According to Einstein the closer we get to the speed of light the slower time moves, relativity is here to stay.
This tells us that time is not a real thing. How is that possible you ask?
Okay, if time was something real it would behave the same way regardless of where it is. A marble is real, you can pick it up. Now drop it. It hit the floor. Go to another place as far away as you can from where you are and drop the marble again. It hit the ground again. It behaves the same way no matter where it is. If you took that same marble into space it would not fall because gravity has less of an effect there but, if you push it in the direction of the floor with enough force it will bounce back up. It follows the same behavior it does here on earth. The marble is most certainly real.
This then in turn tells us that time is not real because it does not behave the same way in all circumstances and in all places.
So we have answered our question. We as humans invented something so we could keep track of our existence. If you want to test this with perfect clarity take a piece of tape and write the word “NOW” on it. Then attach a similar piece of tape to your clock over each of the numbers. No matter where the hands point the time will always be, now. That gives time a good level of reality you can take your watch into space and when you get back it still has the right time on it. Amazing isn’t it!