Sunday, July 03, 2011

What is Time?

Happy Declaration of Independence Day everyone!  We attended a concert by the Louisville Chorus Friday evening, along with all the other senior citizens in St. Matthews, and I started thinking. (A dangerous pastime, I know.) My thoughts have been led along by a new television show I enjoy on the Science Channel called Through the Wormhole. Morgan Freeman is the narrator, and that's certainly reason enough to watch it- I love listening to his voice. After all, it is the voice of God, right? Given all the "reality" shows that have absolutely nothing to do with reality in my opinion, it's refreshing to watch a show dedicated to physics and cosmology, where even scientists with opposing theories about the universe can be respectful or even friends with each other.
Anyway, recent episodes have discussed whether the universe is infinite or not, and if time really exists. See why I love this?  Why waste your time thinking about doing laundry, when you can contemplate really big things? I've been a science fiction lover since college, so some of these theories about multiverses and parallel universes actually sound familiar to me. I admire fiction writers who learn about science and incorporate it in their stories.
I see the scientists on the show writing long equations on a board, using symbols and math that are way beyond my comprehension. Heck, I had trouble with geometry and algebra in high school.  That's why I didn't major in science. Although it always fascinated me I couldn't hack the math.

Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist, works with the science of black holes, despite having ALS which has decreased his ability to move his body over the years. When diagnosed at age 21, this genius was given two years to live, yet he overcame all odds, and is still alive today. He manages to communicate with the aid of a computer which vocalizes for him, and even gives speeches at scientific conferences.
But let's return to the discussion of time. Even my 27-year-old son notices that time seems to go faster now than it did when he was a child. At the concert (finally, she's getting back to the beginning of this blog...) we were entertained by a slide show of historic pictures to accompany the music. Many were patriotic, of course, showing the development of our country, wars, and people influential in America. I couldn't help but think about the ideals people have and how they can be deflected from the original intention. All men are created equal...except for slaves, even after emancipation, and women, of course, and child laborers, or immigrants who just arrived. And how about religious freedom?  As long as you agree with our religion, of course. How did anyone have the courage to leave everything familiar and move to a new country? How did those women cross the nation in covered wagons, knowing  if they got into trouble, they had to get out of it themselves or die. I don't think I would have made a very good pioneer. Sigh, things have gotten better, I hope, but there are still so many problems left to solve. Over the thousands of years people have existed as human beings, have we managed to make a positive effect in the world? discusses time in a thought provoking manner. Only "now" exists, yet "now" passes into the past, which only exists in memory while future only exists in imagination. Actually, time may be simply a way to measure motion.
The problem of time may be easy to solve if we go back to the original concept of sun moving across the sky. When we measure the speed of a car, we are just comparing its motion to the motion of the hands of the clock and also indirectly to the fractional motion of sun across the sky.We are not measuring speed with something abstract called time we are just comparing a known motion (of the sun) with an unknown motion of the car.
Time becomes evident through motion and is measured by comparison with other motions. Sunrise, sunsets, night and day, the changing seasons, the movement of the celestial bodies are all indicative of continuous change. The aging process is a reminder that molecular motion and interactions are also at work and are a part of time.
The best part of such thinking is that I don't have to do it very often. It doesn't wake me up a night like some things do. And it doesn't really affect my day to day life at all.  But it's nice to know that I can occasionally set my mind on something deep and esoteric. Just remember, the only constant in life is change.

1 comment:

dick said...

Very interesting, and well presented. I believe the important thing is to know that time passes, at least for humans, and we must make the most of every moment. Morgan Freeman, with his writers, is certainly worth some of our thought-and time.