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Sunday, November 20, 2005

A short addition on the nature of time

SBS had another program on tonight dealing with Einstein's theories - in particular, his unfinished "theory of everything". It reminded me of a thought I had when writing this post, but didn't include.

If time is relative to the speed you are moving, then is it perhaps possible that we only experience time as we do due to the sum of our movement within the universe? For example, the world is turning at a prescribed speed + the earth is moving around the sun + the solar system is moving around the central point of our galaxy. Assume also that our galaxy is part of a cluster of galaxies that are also moving at a prescribed speed. Could it also be possible that at least one element of this sum of momentum is decelerating, which is what gives us the perception that time speeds up as we get older (ie: it's not an alteration of perception due to age, but rather an actual time-space phenomenon)? With the original thought, would that then mean if you could stand truly still (at "absolute zero momentum" so to speak) that time would cease completely? Or perhaps momentum is ultimately circular - so that standing "absolutely" still and traveling at the speed of light are ultimately the same. That would be a weird one - not that I have any basis for that last suggestion. Just completely random thought.

OK, I'm done. Bed time. Just some musings I wanted to jot down.

2 comments:

Nathan Zamprogno said...

I love Gedankenexperiments like this (Einstein's term for "thought experiment"). For each individual in their own frame of reference I think time passes at the "same rate", meaning that each person perceives time passing the same way. Relative motion between individuals changes the rate at which time passes, yes. Hmmm. Actually your thought has a intriguing appeal. If you factor out the motion of the planets, galaxies and so on there is a kind of "maximised rest frame" that minimises the relativistic effects between yourself and all other moving objects in the Universe. It wouldn't even be in a certain place. All you'd need to do is work out how fast and in what direction you would need to move away from your Solar System to acheive this averaged rest frame with the rest of the Universe. That's not the same as your conjecture that time would stand still- merely that the relativistic differences between you and anyone else are on average likely to be less. This direction and speed ought to be able to be calculated with known data from astronomy.

Joel Baltaks said...

As for the "time slows down as you get older", my theory on this is that it's partially biological (children's brains simply work faster) and partly environmental. By this I mean that when a lot is happening in your brain, a few minutes can seem like a very long time. But when your brain is inactive, hours can fly past quickly and you can't remember anything significant that happened. (although, for both, the objective time measurement by a watch would state the same rate of time passing). So it's because children's brains have to learn faster that so much more seems to be happening around them. In contrast, when we're adults we've learned what to expect about what's around us and we get lazy with our brain activity (this is not a bad thing necessarily). But I bet that even if you're an adult, if you placed yourself in a very alien environment that was a bit stressful and required thought (say you were teleported into the amazon river or something) you'd remember alot about what happened.

This kind of flows against the grain of the saying "time flies when you're having fun" (and conversely time seems to drag on when you're not) but it still fits together - when you're really bored, you're remembering lots and lots of frustration type brain activity, and when you're having fun you're not really conscious of the time because you're enjoying yourself.

This isn't about physical time, more about social science time.