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The Nature of Time

Salvador Dali's, The Persistence of Memory 1931

Nature, its temporal landscape free of limiting features lives independently outside of time, with its numberless years repeating itself in an endless cycle of seasons flowing naturally and seamlessly into one another. The seasons meld into a constant dateless present. The space where no clocks tick, no calendars turn, and the ever calm present, beckons to a stress free zone, is a welcome respite.

Einstein wrote that physicists believe that the distinction between past, present and future is a persistent illusion. There is as yet no explanation why humans experience a flow of time. In physics, past and present are eternally existent with no particular significance attached to the present. Time does not flow, it just is.

In a universe that is large or infinite in space or time, the conditions for intelligent life will be met in only specific regions that are limited in space and time with those resultant, intelligent anthropomorphic beings acutely observing that their own locale in the universe specifically satisfies the conditions that are necessary for their own existence.

During the early twentieth century people believed in absolute time with all clocks agreeing on the time interval between two events this was disputed by Einstein who proposed that time was a different experience for each and every independent observer. Citing loop quantum gravitation theory, according to which both space and time are both granular. Space-time may be built from specks of space-time dust. Time may consist of quanta termed chronons, just as light quanta are called photons, and space, although it appears continuous it may in fact be a flickering film.These theories are impossible for ordinary mortals to comprehend.

Time means something different to every individual, and it is this variable illusory, very human meaning of time that is increasingly intriguing. Humans are earthlings, created and sustained by our planet's alternation of day and night. Time relies on numbers, so, have numbers always existed or were numbers waiting for humans to discover them? Are numbers a human invention and have no independent reality or did we discover them?

Does time exist in outer space? Newton stated time was absolute, for Einstein time is not absolute but relative to the observer. No observer in outer space ensures no time in outer space. Time was measured initially with sundials, water clocks measured time at night, early mechanical clocks had one hand, minute hands came about with the industrial revolution the idea of punctual arrival at factories was paramount. Weekends, irrelevant to agricultural workers, was an urban phenomenon.

Much of human life is wasted in waiting. Waiting for Godot, where interminable waiting, ensures nothing happens twice, by Samuel Becket confirms our exasperation with expectation and disappointment. Tempus fugit - time flies. Time is short, human life is short, the man who made time made plenty of it!

Source: The Clock Mirage, Our Myth of Measured Time, J Mazur. Yale, 2020


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