What About Time?


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We think in terms of past, present and future like a movie on a reel with our lives going by like frames.  It may surprise you that time is the subject of some controversy by scientists.  How so?

The world of Newton changed forever with Einstein's 1905 work on Special Relativity.  He found that time is not an immutable tick tock of a clock, but far more elusive.  It changes with our velocity.  The speed of light is constant theorized Einstein, but when we travel fast our time is not the same as an observer in a different frame of reference.

For example, the satellites that circle the earth require a synchronization to make sure that their time is our time.  If they do not correct it, then we lose our GPS positioning ability.

This seems strange to us.  Stranger still is the controversy about time in general.  There are some scientists who theorize that time is not necessary and is a construct of our perception of the world.  How can this be true?

They give by way of example the hardness of a table.  To us a table is stable, obvious and hard.  Looking deeper, we see that hardness is  just an artifact of the table which is held together by forces  unseen. We cannot see them, but they are there. Looking deeper, we see that the table is mostly open space with the atoms distributed sparsely

We all speak in terms of the age of things.  For example, the age of the universe from Big Bang to now is supposed to be about 13.7 billion years, but what happened before the Bang?  Was our time right after the Big Bang, the same as now.

It appears that we cannot peer back before the Bang.  Our concept of time seems to take its meaning from the 'time' of the Big Bang.  There is no time before it.  So could time be just an illusion?

There are major disagreements about this in scientific circles.  We are so confident of time that we build Sci-Fi around time travel both back and forward.  It's not so simple.

.Strangely Quantum Physics likes time and plays with it effectively.  Scientists like things they can depend upon.  For example they don't like weight measurements like pounds or  kilograms because they are not constant, but very with gravity.  Therefore, they like mass much better.

The speed of light is something they like, because it is thought to be constant everywhere.  It contains time, however, in that it is measure in units of time.  So theorists tend to try to wring out of their work time, while others just accept it with trepidation.

Like the Dali painting, time may be slippery and ephemeral

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Thursday, June 10, 2010