Quantum time: the moment is eternity

The exhibition in me Collectors Room/Stiftung Olbricht features three hundred objects under the title – “The moment is eternity”. The presented pieces of art deal, capture or remind in a static way about passing of time and human struggle to capture, to stop or to prolong it. After the description of the exhibition this publication will discuss the nature of time, its perception and importance, as well as the last scientific findings, including the quantum time.


26.09.2018 to 01.04.2019






Coincidentally among other pieces an image of a horse from the exhibition of Agnieska Polska: The Demons brain is exhibited in me Collectors Room. Agnieska Polska thematises the concept of a thought experiment and a time travel, here the time itself is a topic.

“The moment is eternity” features 300 art pieces and objects by over 60 artists, which picture the passing of time, the end of it (death) and humans attempt to stop it. The photographs are part of the private collection by Dr. Thomas Olbricht. A photo is a perfect depiction of the moment as it is a snapshot of time, which nowadays only need a millisecond to be done. This snapshot is made with the intention of saving a particular moment forever – to keep as a reminder for an eternity.

But this exhibition also creates a dialog, a dialog with other mediums of art – paintings and ancient pieces from the Wunderkammer. Not only a dialog is created, but also a timeline or maybe a web of timelines. A part of exhibition shows photos from a family and how they changed with time, as another shows a change of the perception of a naked body with time. There are pieces, which connect photography through different styles – from gelatine printing to the modern digital prints, and there is a connection between perfectly still moments and dynamic moments, where the whirlwind of motion is stopped for eternity. And you have a chance to make a historical connection by yourself, watching your reflection appear in the antique mirrors.

Generally almost each piece of art would fit to the theme of the exhibition. However the curator Annette Kicken managed to give a visitor lot of space and perspectives to get entangled in the web of time from his own perspective.


Talking about time and history we have to determine that a moment and an eternity are time units – both static and imperceptible. These both units are also infinite (infinitesimal and infinite). Human mind cannot conceive infinity, but even the nature of time between these two units, which humans feel as a flowing entity, is probably just made up.

The concept of time is not straightforward or even logical. Human beings measure time by repeating cosmological events (Peters, 2013) or nowadays by atomic frequency (PNAS, 2018). But does the time exist in a completely isolated place? If an ice planet is circling around a burning sun, does time have an impact on it? That would be the case only if the time is a physical dimension, completely separated from the human subjective perception.

And there is no reason for time to exist, except for our desire to record the changes around us. This can be called entropic time. The entropy describes the amount of disorder in the universe. And by definition it grows. This makes sense as ordered systems are less probable than disordered ones – you cannot unmix a cocktail. However, it is only valid for closed systems and there is no evidence that universe is a closed system (like a box with walls) or that it’s definition is valid globally (History and Philosophy of Physics, 2015).

View of universe captured by Hubble space telescope (c) NASA. Entropy of the universe grows after the Big Bang.

The general theory of relativity by Einstein says that the time is relative. Objects moving with different speeds would measure different times and therefore nothing could be declared to happen simultaneously. For the photons the time stops essentially, as they are moving at speed of light (University of Pittsburgh, 2018). And for fundamental particles from Standard Model of particle physics the direction of time is reversible – basically a proton is an antiproton running backwards in time (Perspectives on Science, 2018). So again it might be the product of our psychology only. Because human beings think of themselves as one identity, which exists over time, but in relativity all identities exist simultaneously.

There is another candidate, which is most promising right now – quantum time. In quantum theory the process of the measurement determines the state irreversibly, which would ultimately lead to our understanding of time and support the growth of the entropy. This sounds like probable proof for existence of time, but it is not. As the outcomes of the measurements are probabilistic and in quantum theory, precise knowledge of one dimension means no knowledge at all about the other (like position and momentum or energy and time) (Science, 2010). Therefore in this interpretation the time would be only human perception of the irreversible change of quantum phenomena into observable classical events, based on the limited knowledge.

It looks in the moment as time would be beyond saving, except for one small hope. The so-called “entanglement”. It’s the process, where the particles change their state simultaneously despite being separated by a huge distance and therefore faster than speed of light. Indeed what we perceive as simultaneous, might be an act of creation of time, where the time is created as result of mixed states entanglement between the pure states of a freely chosen clock system and the rest system. Simulations, which used this notion, led ultimately back to entropy, but they resulted in different overlapping entropy states. This entropy states might create local growth of entropy, which results into what we understand as a local flow of time. However, on the global scale every state is coexisting and therefore no time exists, as the entropy doesn’t change (Physical Review D, 2017). So time is not dead yet, but it is not a straight line, but more like local pools of water after rain, where some pools are connected and some not. Even if water flows locally from one pool to another, it is the same amount of water if you zoom out.

Particles of an entangled pair “feel” each other over large distances like twins also supposedly do. If a state of one particle is measured or changed it immediately changes the state of the second particle, no matter the distance between them (“spooky action over distance”, as called by A. Einstein).


The exhibition “The moment is eternity” in me Collectors Room in Berlin deals with time and history. However the nature of time is evasive and for now no physical foundation is given that time is not a human construct only. In fact the most probable answer it that the time doesn’t exist or in other words, if time does exist then we are the time.


  1. Talk of Carlo Rovelli “The nature of time”: https://www.newscientist.com/video/2186684-carlo-rovelli-the-nature-of-time/
  2. Article by New Scientist: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23831740-200-quantum-time-is-this-where-the-flow-of-existence-comes-from/
  3. Article by Symmetry Magazine: https://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/january-2014/quantum-entanglement
  4. A website about time: http://www.exactlywhatistime.com/
  5. J. D. Peters. Calender, Clock, Tower. (2013)
  6. A. Mann. Core Concept: Amazingly precise optical atomic clocks are more than time-keeper. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 115, 29: 7449 – 7451 (2018)
  7. C. Rovelli. Is Time’s Arrow Perspectival? History and Philosophy of Physics (2015)
  8. J. D. Norton. Einstein’s Conflicting Heuristics: The Discovery of General Relativity. University of Pittsburgh (2018)
  9. J. R. Brown. How Do Feynman Diagrams Work? Perspectives on Science, 26, 4: 423-442 (2018)
  10. J. Oppenheim, S. Wehner. The Uncertainty Principle Determines the Nonlocality of Quantum Mechanics, Science, 330, 6007: 1072-1074 (2010)
  11. C. Varletto, V. Vidral. Evolution without evolution, and without ambiguities. Physical Review D, 95: 043510 (2017)

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