On time or of time, or simply, time?

Of all the ideas and concepts that I have encountered, nothing confused and enthuses me more than time. It is a concept I have trouble understanding, so explaining my views will be difficult. I will try anyway.

For the day-to-day experience of life, it seems that time is an Inherent force like gravity or electromagnetism. For me at least it was somewhat unintuitive to find out that it is not. It is a man-made system to keep track of things that are important such as how long until it gets dark, and how long until it is winter, so we can stockpile a sufficient amount of food. I wonder what a world would look like where clocks or time were not invented?  If clocks were not invented or any other measure to standardise the processes that occur in the expanding universe, you would still age as ageing is just the sum of all the processes that occur within your body, but there would be nothing to compare it against.

It just so happens that these processes occur over a period which we have standardised as time, in the UK it is 30,660 rotations of the earth on average (84 years). The thing is, if the universe stopped moving and therefore, the standard by which we measure time stopped, we would still age, and ‘time’ would still tick by. If you’re anything like me, time is one of those subjects that you find hard to grasp. If you’re unlike me you’re either an expert when it comes to physics, or you do not think about time at all, and due to common sense, most people are in the latter group.

We, humans, change our standards of time depending on the seasons. We do not age a negative hour when the turn the clocks back, the results if that were true, would be very interesting. So the concept of time is quite fluid as it stands.

There are many phrases and quotes related to time, here are a few I like.

Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend – Theophrastus.

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is – C.S. Lewis.

Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them – Dion Boucicault.

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once – Albert Einstein.

 

Here is a thought of my own. If time = distance / speed. If you have no reference points to measure speed or distance by – say you’re in a void – does time pass? My answer would be that time doesn’t exist in this question, but you will still age…over ti…

It is this last quote by Einstein that both disturbs and enthrals me. I know from reading, not from understanding, that time is relative; meaning that it changes at different rates depending on the observer. Once you divorce the idea of time being absolute, which I find difficult, it is easier to understand how clocks travelling at different speeds can tick at different times relative to the observer; just as a ball will have different relative speeds when thrown at two different starting speeds. Imagine you’re standing next to a road you see a car drive past, and the kid sat in the back throws a ball to the front of the car and you measure the speed. The speed will be whatever the boy can throw it at, say five mph plus the speed of the car say 70 mph, so the speed of the ball will be 75 mph relative to you the outside observer. Whereas, inside the car, the boy will only see the ball travel at five mph as he and the ball are already travelling at 70 mph, so the ball will travel at five mph relative to the boy, which is much slower than you see it. Time works the same way in a relativistic universe, and therefore, two people can have different views of time.

 

Here is a cool video of an interesting time-related paradox.

Author: Louis

Spend less than you earn, Invest the surplus, avoid debt. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

22 thoughts on “On time or of time, or simply, time?”

  1. This is amazing. I also view time as a dimensional constant but since we as humans are unable to comprehend other than those things in a 3 dimensional lattice that somehow makes time a transient phenomenon of the 4th dimension. Consider time as checkpoints along a path but since we don’t see the path we can only comprehend the occurrences as random events and label them circumstance. In tenth grade or perhaps twelfth I read that time is a measure of the rate of two occurrences or was it the distance between two occurrences. It still is a complex idea, one that was enriched by Hermione’s necklace from the Harry Potter and of course Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.

    I’d really like to know your thoughts on ‘love’ though. How do you define it. What is it exactly. As much obscure time is, so is the concept of love a perplexing idea..

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    1. Ahh yes, the 4th dimension, now there is something really difficult to comprehend. The incorporation of space with time is fascinating. Love is an interesting concept, I think my view would be a biological/utilitarian view.

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  2. Time is *the* big mystery, I agree, both from a scientific and a personal point of view. I am not a physicist but I understand that there are fundamental disagreements between an Einsteinian view where you have a kind of block universe where everything just is, and other views where time (which really amounts to change) is central. Einstein once comforted the widow of a friend by assuring her that time was an illusion (can’t remember the exact words he used).

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  3. Time, much like numbers, for my understand at least, is a nothing more than a useful fiction. It’s not a wildly popular idea, and during my time as a philosophy student I was an outsider on the topic, but I see no real reason for the need of time to be a real and existing thing. If we understand the universe as being nothing more then bodily change, there is no need for time outside it of its use in allowing humans to better understand change. It allows us to order our lives and the world around us. It is highly beneficial for our understanding of the universe. It is sufficient for this understanding, but that does not mean it is necessarily for it. Just a thought.

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  4. From the OP: “The thing is, if the universe stopped moving and therefore, the standard by which we measure time stopped, we would still age, and ‘time’ would still tick by.”

    And then you said in a comment: “I wonder if there are examples of civilisation that had no formal understanding of time.”

    You seem to be focused on ways of *measuring* time. Given that all cultures experience day and night and changes in the moon etc. – as well as human and animal life cycles – it seems to me that all humans must have experienced time in a basically similar way. More or less formalized, of course, and calibrated in different ways and with different degrees of fineness.

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    1. I think it’s true that everyone experiences change. We experience the days, the changing of the seasons, but I don’t think we can say that means we experience, or observe, time.

      The idea of ‘time’ can be seen as a development of society. The more complex a society becomes the more complex development of ‘time’ is needed to order that society. So it isn’t so much that people experience time, it is rather that people order their world using a system of time.

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      1. I wouldn’t say that we observe time, or that it is a “real and existing thing” apart from change. But, as you say, we experience change and patterns of change. I am see a sense of time as being *implicit* in our awareness of the regular changes that occur in nature. The many systems for measuring and recording time are all built on this basic awareness.

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        1. I’ll grant you an implicitness. Time has become so tied up with observation that it is implied. That it is implied in our basic awareness is a reflection of its usefulness. But it is a big leap from usefulness to necessity. It is mind bending, but it is not outside the realm of possibilities that a people somewhere, perhaps with a different mode of perception, may have an understanding of the universe that does not include a measure of what we would see as time.

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  5. Very thought provoking. Here is one of my favorite quotes about time. “37 seconds. We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. 37 seconds well used is a lifetime.” – Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
    -Jill

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  6. Like you said, time is a man made thing.

    So if it were not created, would we actually have any use for it?

    For example, work: we start at a certain time and finish at a certain time. If time wasn’t created would we still have work? It could be argued that we’d just use the position of the sun to determine when work should begin and end, but then what are you measuring? The time you are at the job.

    If there was no time, we’d eat when we were hungry, drink when thirsty, sleep when tired, and ‘work’ would be like it was before. Hunting, gathering and only getting the essentials we’d need to survive.

    So then the question becomes: what is the purpose of time?

    Could it be a controlling mechanism? Or simply just a way to quantify?

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    1. I think it was the latter, but it certainly could be argued that the former is also true! I had never thought of it from that point of view before, very interesting.

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