JB: What did you think about the discussion of your ideas on Edge?
BARBOUR: The people who commented tended to be the people who know about the so called problem of time, that time seems to disappear altogether when you try to make a quantum universe in this particular approach. Basically they were fairly sympathetic to my viewpoint.
JB: What are you working on at the moment?
BARBOUR: First of all, I'm working on some ideas which try and take scale out of physics. This is analogous to the issue of duration: how can you say a second today is the same as a second tomorrow? You can also ask, how can you say that an inch here is the same as an inch on the Andromeda nebula? That's also a very deep question, and I think I've made some progress with an Irish colleague in working on that.
What I really hope for is to build up more and more evidence for my overall picture of what the universe is like. You never can tell whether you're on the right line, but I just can't stop thinking about these things. If you look in the history of physics, you very often see that before a definite breakthrough is made, there's some sort of qualitative idea appears, and then gets made more precise, more mathematical. I would hope that I'm making some contribution to such a development, not only with qualitative ideas like Platonia and time capsules but also in simplified models as in my work with Bertotti.
JB: Some have said if your theories are correct our perception of the world will change dramatically.
BARBOUR: Certainly if I, or other researchers, are on the right track, there's definitely got to be a different overall view of the world. But it's very hard to predict exactly how it would change things. How could Copernicus know what would come out of his proposal? What I feel for myself is that by concentrating on the things that we know are in the world, it makes one think about the actual world more, and I would say cherish it and value it more, and perhaps take a more relaxed attitude toward life and sit back and enjoy it more. This is actually happening to me personally maybe it's just because I'm getting older and don't want to miss things, but certainly I'm aware of savoring the moment more than I when I was young. And it's partly influenced by my idea that really the universe is static, and the only things that are real are Nows, in one of which we now are.
Some years ago, I heard Dame Janet Baker interviewed on radio. She was asked if she ever listened to her recordings and, if so, what were her favourites. She said she hardly ever listened to them. For her, every Now was so exciting and new, it was a great mistake to try to repeat one. In her singing, she made no attempt at all to recreate earlier performances and do the high points in the same way as the night before. Again and again she spoke with the deepest reverence of the Now and how it should be new and happen spontaneously. "The Now is what is real", she said. I thought it was the perfect artistic expression of how I see timeless quantum cosmology.