Time

Curious asked:

I am thinking about time and time topics all my free time. But I don’t know what is time correctly. Can anybody help me?

Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz

I would want to ask you what you get out of thinking and reading on this subject matter ‘in all your free time’. You should know more about it than any of us! So I’m really puzzled: What do you expect to be told? I ask this because no-one could possibly give a definitive answer, let alone in a few short paragraphs — most of all because the question needs a background.

Thus a philosopher’s angle on it would conflict with the scientific; the religious angle with the agrarian; the cosmological angle with quantum mechanics; and on the business angle, time is money. One among these many notions seems conclusive to me; but I’m in no position to be definitive about it. It goes like this:

If we assume the universe to be spatially infinite, then it must be temporally infinite as well. Then any conception of time-per-se is automatically nullified, because every segment of time can only apply to whatever our object of study happens to be. On the largest perceivable scale, i.e. far away galaxies, we have a spatiotemporal ‘window’ to which we can arbitrarily attach the vocable ‘now’ because it lasts so long, and then subdivide it at our pleasure. On the smallest perceivable scale there is no ‘now’, because these events occur at speeds that are beyond our imagination, packing billions upon billions of our subdivisions into a single second on our conventional time scales. Somewhere in between these two, are the periodicities which affect us directly, from biorhythms to the patterns of seasons. These rhythms gave birth to our concepts of time in the first place. So time is nothing other than the enumeration on a clock face, of the rhythms of nature by which we are affected.

But this is arbitrary too, as shown by the conflict between the length of a second on our standard clocks and the definition of a second that has recourse to the steady vibrations of a caesium atom. This definition is so accurate, that our clock time has constantly to be re-adjusted, as they move out of synch with each other at alarming speeds!

In a word: ‘Time’ is not an independently existing ‘something’ or ‘process’. It’s a word that means whatever any group of humans using it, define it to be. As such it has utility; but we can hardly extrapolate from here to the universe in the expectation that it will nod obligingly in our direction.

2 thoughts on “Time

  1. It’s about time we get it right!
    I agree with you that “no-one could possibly give a definitive answer, let alone in a few short paragraphs — most of all because the question needs a background.”
    However, disagree that “every segment of time can only apply to whatever our object of study happens to be.”
    If we define time for what it is in the Universe,” it will have the same meaning for everybody, after a Universal background would be given…
    And since it is not defined yet but still “everything we, as humans, experience […] will be imposed within the a priori framework of the intuitions space and time”( Tony Fahey, in Understanding Kant, AaP) and since we are the only species aware of this essential-to-our-“understanding” concepts it happens that the “scientific” method made us evolved into “Homo ignorens” creating all this mess in the world for our benefit alone, since our wrong intuitions about space and time are still biasing our knowledge:
    “…we are continuously evolving through history while “objectifying” anew our living environment on false assumptions about “space and time,” thus giving us the ability to build artificial environments, in which we don’t have any competition, thus becoming the ultimate destructive “monopoly” of evolution.” (Me in
    : https://medium.com/@andregaudreault/the-problem-with-this-comparison-is-that-we-have-evolved-into-human-beings-while-objectifying-our-339f8f19ad91
    for more information about Homo ignorens)

  2. I agree with the beginning of your post. Time is a puzzle that will possibly never be put together, but I disagree with the idea that time is what a group of humans make it be. I would say that like Einstein’s theory of Relativity, which states time is relative to where you’re at depending on the gravity of the location, time is also relative to each individual person.

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