It’s Time..

20070928-overspending-time.jpg“Time present and time pastAre Both perhaps present in time future,And time future contained in time past.If all time is eternally present…” T.S. Eliot Our future first becomes the present and then this present becomes the past. Time present and time past are therefore present in time future. And time present was our future when we were in the time past. The seamless transition from the past to the present and on to the future seems surreal. Though, as per our current “understanding” of time, time was “created” at the big bang – the explosion that was arguably the beginning of the Universe (from a point or singularity of infinite density) and all its properties, with time being one of those “properties”. Stephen Hawking in “A Brief History of Time” says that “time had a beginning at the Big Bang” because earlier times would simply have no bearing on the present observable Universe for the Laws of Nature had an origin in the Big Bang and these laws, as we know them, may not be applicable to what “existed” prior to the Big Bang. That is, time is not an entity imposed by an external agent, distinct from our Universe: it is intrinsically woven into the structure of space-time.Once upon a timeThere was a timeWhen there was no timeTo speak of timeFor time was an entityOf an unknown clime… What is time? Oh how so very commonsensical a question! You ‘know’ it, I ‘know’ it, we all ‘know’ it. You have a sense of time, so do I and so does everyone else. Let’s then make some sense out of this ‘sense’. I invite you, dear reader, to make an effort and define (concisely, that is) time. To be very brief and to the point (and very rudimentary in approach), time equals distance divided by speed. Speed, however, is essentially a mathematical correlation between a dimension in space (distance) and the other in time (being time itself). This definition is therefore incomplete or rather a circular proposition. The understanding of time requires an understanding of speed and vice versa. If time is fundamental, speed is derived. If speed is fundamental, time is derived. Each one defines the other leaving each other essentially undefined. For one to be defined in terms of the other it must have a meaning independent (conceptually, if not physically) of the other’s. You can’t specify your location by saying you stay opposite your friend’s house and your friend stays opposite yours. I don’t get any information out of this unless I ‘know’ (with respect, of course, to some other landmark, say, a water tank) at least your location or your friend’s. A very happy new year awaits you on the midnight of the 31st of December. Wait! Is the New Year awaiting you or is it approaching you. I think it is awaiting you. Why? Well, the answer lies in an answer to the question: “Is time an effect or a cause?” To me it appears time (or if not time per se, at least our perception of time) is an effect, not a cause. An event is the cause and time is the effect. If there were no events we wouldn’t have any sense of time. When you stare at a still picture for long you cannot find any indication, whatsoever (by merely staring at the picture), of the difference between the time you put your eyes on it and the moment you take your eyes off it. This is because there is no event occurring on the still picture. While you can distinguish between the moment you start watching a movie and the moment you stop watching it. There are events occurring on-screen by virtue of which we can sense time. One argument in support of time being an effect is the existence of different time zones in the world. India will celebrate New Year before the US because the New Year’s sun will first appear in India on account of the West-East rotation of the earth (note that this rotation is the event which tells us that time is passing and which is therefore the cause of the effect that is time). Back to square one: what is time? Time Is a Measure of Existence… (Is that it???) Ravi Kunjwal