10 Fascinating Attempts At Explaining Time

When asked what time was, Einstein replied, “Time is what a clock reads.” That is pretty much any definition of time we have. We may not have been able to exactly define it, but there are many theories that tried to explain it. Here are the most thought provoking 10.

10. St. Augustine’s Theory Of Mind-Time

(Source: The Collaterals)

St. Augustine was a Christian philosopher and believed that God created time. He also said that since it is impossible to create something infinite, time is also finite. Another thing he said is that time has everything to do with our perception of it. We remember that something happened a long time ago but that is only because that is how it is imprinted in our memories. While actually, that particular event doesn’t exist anymore. Similarly, the future doesn’t exist yet. The way we measure and comprehend time is only in our heads.

9. Topology of Time

(Source: Scott Cartwright)

Try to imagine what time must look like. Did a giant clock come to your mind? Or numbers falling down a never ending spiral? We don’t know what time looks like, but thanks to Aristotle, we do know that it doesn’t look like. Aristotle claimed that time could not exist as a line, at least not one that has a beginning or an end. Doesn’t make sense? Try this. To mark the beginning of time (if it was a line), there would have to be something before it. Same goes for the end of time. Since there was no way to note the ‘time’ of anything that existed or happened before the starting of ‘time,’ it is impossible.

8. The Specious present

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You’re mid breakfast. The event of you beginning your breakfast has already ended, which means it isn’t the present anymore but you are still in the process of eating. This is a concept by E.R. Clay and William James in order to explain how long the present is. Try explaining present. Got anything except ‘now?’ Neither did we. Determining how long or what the ‘present’ is, entirely depends on upon our short term memory. The better the short term memory the longer the present. This is in agreement with St. Augustine’s theory that time is all about perception. The present actually has no light but if it did, a part of it would lie in the past and a part of it in the future, and it would contradict its own self.

7. Shorter People Experience ‘Now’ Sooner

(Source: The Journal)

According to neurobiologist David Eagleman, shorter people have a more accurate sense of ‘now’ and this theory is known as temporal binding. It is based on the fact that we experience the world in the form of packets of information. Different senses collect different packets and deliver them to our brain. If you stub your toe and hit you head on a pole, your brain would first process the head injury later the stubbing. All this is generally so fast that we do not sense any delay. However, this delay is even less in shorter people so they have a better and accurate sense of ‘now.’

6. Time is Visibly Slowing Down

(Source: Gizmodo)

Take the example of the astronomical phenomenon ‘The Red Shift.’ When we notice the color red in the universe, it is because of the wavelength of ‘accelerating’ stars. But in reality, the velocity of these star has slowed down by the time it reaches our eyes, which is why it appears to us that everything is accelerating away. So the red shift is just an illusion caused by time slowing down. A point will come when it will become extremely slow, and after that, the universe will freeze in that very time frame for eternity. But the earth will be long gone by then.

5. Time doesn’t Exist

(Source: io9)

Consider that your 25th birthday is yet to come. But at some point, it would have already gone and at some point, you’ll be celebrating it. This means that a ‘moment’ exists simultaneously in the past, present and the future. Which means that events cannot be organized on the basis of time and it’s up to us how we process the packets of information. This was a theory by a philosopher named J.M.E. McTaggart. It had two parts A and B. Part A said that it is possible to organize things as they happen. There’s a progression of events from the past to the present to the future. However, part B (the example above) contradicted it which, according to Taggart, rules out the very existence of time.

4. Four-Dimensionalism And Block Universe Theory

(Source: The Collaterals)

It is a theory that our universe is four-dimensional instead of three. And the fourth dimension is time. The Block universe theory and Four Dimensional theory are interconnected. The latter says that universe is a block of events in the past, present and the future and everything exists in simultaneity. The exact ‘time’ of an event can be explained only relative to some other part of the block. However, the theory rules out that future can change. Because the block is already in existence in its entirety, so everything has already happened and cannot be changed.

3. The Oddball Effect

(Source: HuffPost)

People claim that time slows down when something unexpected happens like a car crash. They remember each detail distinctly. Now if time actually slowed down for us we’d be able to see things in greater quality, and we’d be able to pick out greater details as images flashed by us. The brain tends to blend stimuli together into one event, as long as that information is received less than 80 milliseconds apart. So if time slows, we should recognize stimuli as separate events. But it doesn’t happen like that. People were asked to time their falls from a 150 feet tower. The time they had calculated was 36% longer than what it seemed to the observers and what it actually was. This is yet another concept of time that exists just in our heads.

2. Father Time

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It’s a Greek concept so of course, it had to involve Gods. In Greek mythology, Father Time is actually a God named Chronos. He is known to be part man, part lion, and part bull. He ruled the cosmos during the Golden Age. According to the Greeks, the life cycle of man wasn’t the domain of time, but of the Moirai. Klotho spun the thread of life, beginning the cycle for everyone. Lachesis measured how long the thread would be, while Atropos cut the thread. The Moirai would foretell future events as well, suggesting that destiny has already been written.

1. We’re Not Good At Telling Time

(Source: Natural History)

We tracked time on the basis of a solar day. Another way is noting the interval the earth takes to revolve around its axis. But in 1979 it was concluded that earth’s rotation is slowing down so that measure was ruled out. Then there was Terrestrial Dynamical Time, which was more precise and was based on International Atomic Time. In the present day, we have different time zones, keeping track of which is quite a task. But even when we are managing to do that, the rest of the universe’s time intervals are measured by Terrestrial Dynamic Time. To make a factor that combined the two, we came up with Delta T, which was quite accurate. The conclusion of all this is that we have no idea about what source to rely upon.