A New Theory of Time, Life and Memory, Part 1

Gerald R. Baron
12 min readJan 4, 2024
A model of the Taj Mahal using 5,923 Lego blocks. For scale see the person on far right. The authors of the Assembly Theory use this model to help explain how random interactions cannot produce complex objects and combinations of complex objects needed for life.

We explore a new concept of time as a physical feature of the universe, a key element of what is called the Assembly Theory. In the process we look at what we know and don’t know about the nature of life and how it emerged.

Sara Imari Walker is one of the leading researchers working on the cutting edge of the origins of life and life outside our planet. She is an astrobiologist, theoretical physicist, and deputy director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University. She, with chemistry professor Lee Cronin, is proposing a new concept of time which she believes is necessary to explain the origin and history of life. In her view, time is physical — an intrinsic property of all there is.

But, in this new concept called “assembly theory,” it is more than time that is physical:

“Thus, in assembly theory, time is essentially the same thing as information, memory, causation and selection. They are all made physical because we assume they are features of the objects described in the theory, not the laws of how these objects behave.”

This is remarkable. If true, it would fundamentally change our idea of nature as quantum physics did a hundred years ago. We used to think of things like light, heat, and magnetism as some kind of invisible force, something that affected something else without being visible or tangible in the way we think of stones and birds. Now we know that what we call electromagnetic force is really about particles, waves and fields. A photon is considered a particle or field with certain levels of energy. The Standard Model comes closest to describing everything we consider fundamental. It includes bosons, the force carrying particles, along with three generations of fermions, the ones we associate with matter.

Will the Walker-Cronin theory mean that we will add time to the Standard Model? What might it be called, a “chronon”? And information will be identified as some kind of particle, maybe an “informon”? Causation — a “causon”? Selection — a “selecton”? (Why should physicists have all the fun of naming things? I mean Frank Wilczek named a proposed new particle “axion” after a laundry detergent because it “cleaned up” some messy math.)

Why this research is so…

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Gerald R. Baron

Dawdling at the intersection of faith, science, philosophy and theology.