At an interdisciplinary gathering of academics discussing the concept of time, I once heard a scientist tell the assembled humanities scholars that physics can now replace all their woolly notions of time with one that is unique, precise and true. Such scientism is rightly undermined by theoretical physicist Lee Smolin in “Time Reborn,” which shows that the scientific view of time is up for grabs more than ever before.

The source of the disagreement could hardly be more fundamental: is time real or illusory? Until recently, physics has drifted toward the latter view, but Smolin insists that many of the deepest puzzles about the universe might be solved by realigning physics with our everyday intuition that the passage of time is very real indeed.

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