Thoughts on Time

I havclocke been reading and watching documentaries on space and time over the past few months. I am very interested in some of the concepts that I am presented with. Tonight I have been expanding my understanding of Time and I will share with you some of my thoughts.

Spacetime can be thought of as the combination of space and time into what is called a continuum. We are all aware of the three dimensions within the world we occupy: length, width and depth. Within the realm of Spacetime, time is considered to be a fourth dimension,  accompanying the three we already established.

We are all travelling through time at a rate that we individually perceive, I will come to this shortly. However, we all seem to succumb to the illusion that we are all running to the same time. But what is time? When you break it down it becomes a very complex thing to define. Another interesting question is what is the time? Of course, that is a highly subjective question and is one that we tend to take for granted as meaning one thing, largely due to our exposure to it as a regular question within a fixed context. Ultimately, the question of ‘what is the time?’ boils down to what you are measuring time against. Are you measuring it against the rotation of the Earth about its axis? Against events in the lives of religious figures? Against the formation of the Earth? The most useful and universal point of reference for time would  be the Big Bang – the event that created all matter within our universe and is responsible for its constant expansion. The Big Bang is thought to have occurred 13.7 billion years ago.

There are  reasons for picking the Big Bang as a reference point.  It is a reference that is not shifting depending on your religious view – Christains say the year is 2009, Jews say it is 5769. It is agreed upon that the Big Bang was an event that took place 13.7 billion years ago. In addition to this, many argue that before the Big Bang, time did not exist at all. Therefore, the Big Bang created time, and so the start of time seems like to good point to start measuring time from, if you see what I mean.

However, it is not as stright forward as that. We understand what happened during the Big Bang right back to a few fractions of a second after it occured, but not all the way back the the very first few split seconds. The most crucial bits of information about what caused the creation of our universe still remain unknown. What caused the Big Bang? How did the singularity get there? What was there before the Big Bang? We, as yet, do not know the answers to these quiestions. This leaves open the possibility of time having existed before the Big Bang, and so we still may find it hard to define what the time is. What if time is – as Buddists believe – eternal, with no start and no end? Then again, what if it did have a start…does that mean it will have an end, too? As you can see, it is a tricky subject to handle.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

It was Albert Einstein who first linked space and time into a continuum. Spatial relativity is a theory that was introduced by Albert Einstein in 1905 in his paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”. In it he states that time is relative, and that it will differ according to the speed at which you are travelling. The faster you are travelling, the slower time will pass for you relative to someone observing you from a stationary viewpoint. When I say “the faster you travel” I am referring to travelling through the space that is all around us. Einstein also stated that we are travelling through time at the speed of light, a fairly daunting concept but one that seems accurate, as I will go on to explain.

This idea becomes very interesting when you imagine that for every time frame that passes, you are ‘alloted’ a given amount of energy. This energy is to carry you through space and time. I can best explain this idea if I say that you have the potential to travel at the speed of light through either space or time, but as soon as you move through space, you reduce the rate at which you will travel through time, and therefore time will pass slower for you than for someone who was stationary over the same time frame and was observing you. If you remain stationary over that time frame, you will have moved through time at the speed of light due to the fact that no energy was ‘spent’ on moving through space and so it is all used to travel through time.  If however, you were to travel through space at the speed of light, time for you would appear to stop from an observers point of view. You can think of this as being a case where all of the the ‘alloted’ energy was spent on travelling through space, and so none was left to travel through time, meaning time stops.

So to reiterate, if you move around within space over a time frame, then it is almost as though the energy used to move around in space is deducted from the total energy you have available for travelling through both space and time, leaving you with less energy to travel through time and so therefore a slower journey through time would occur (again, relative to someone who was stationary).

We cannot move through space at the speed of light, but as we get closer to it (albeit still a long way off) we start to travel through time at a slower rate. Further to this, time is affected by gravity. Large objects within space contort that fabric of time with their gravity and this can be seen the Shapiro Effect. So when asking the question of ‘what is the time’, the only real answer is that it depends on your point of reference,  how fast you are moving and what objects you are in close proximity with.

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