The new year is here yet again and the first thing I would like to do is to wish all my readers a happy, prosperous and wonderful year ahead. May the coming year prove to be wonderful for people all around the globe and may it bring peace to a world that is torn by strife, anarchy and religious dogma.
Having said that, I would like to embark on the topic of my post which is the passage of time. Well, in this context the first thing I am reminded of is a dialogue I heard in a movie I was watching in the television called ‘Deep Blue Sea’. The story is about how a research project goes horribly wrong and a shark on which research experiments were being carried out develops a very high IQ because of some inaccuracies of judgement by the chief scientist. The shark becomes capable of thinking like human beings.
The movie is about how the researchers try to escape from the clutches of the shark. But the story is besides the point. The dialogue of interest is spoken by a preacher to another person. Here is the dialog.
Preacher : Einstein’s theory of relativity. Grab hold of a hot pan, second can seem like an hour. Put your hands on a hot woman, an hour can seem like a second. It’s all relative.
Tom Scoggins : I spent four years at CalTech, and that’s the best physics explanation I’ve ever heard.
Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that I am objectifying women because I am a militant feminist and do not approve of demeaning women. But the logic behind the above dialog is so profound that I could not help mentioning it in an article that relates to the passage of time.
Every now and then we realize with a pang of Deja vu that months and years are flying by. We tell ourselves ‘Oh my God, time is flying’. When you look at your grown up son or daughter, when you are about to retire having put in 40 to 50 years of service, when you fondly look at your grandchildren playing around your knees you reflect on your own past. And the thought floats through your mind ‘How quickly time has flown by’.
On the other hand time can also pass very slowly. All you have to do is to try spending ten minutes on the tread mill (which I once did) trying to bring down your weight. Believe me, every second feels like an hour. Months and years are actually artificial concepts. In the vastness of the universe there is nothing like a new year or month. Time moves on relentlessly, never waiting for anyone and time is also not demarcated by boundaries.
In this context I am reminded of a Tamil movie on mythology called ‘Thiruvilayadal’. In this movie, the director, in order to portray time as standing still, simply freezes the screen for 15 seconds. Makes one wonder about time doesn’t it? If every object, the wind, the sun, the moon, the stars, the different galaxies in the entire universe and in fact the entire universe comes to a standstill, will that stop time? Is time a concept based on motion?
It is definitely not so because one can conceive of time even if everything comes to a stand still. Time will still flow on. Einstein talks of the space time continuum. As per that theory, time flows at different rates in different reference frames. This means time flows faster or slower based on the speed of the reference frame.
I am also reminded of Bertrand Russel who said that if all of us where to be suddenly created this instant with our memories storing the information they do this instant, the universe could be brand new and we would not realize it.
Oh, sorry I am getting too philosophical and scientific in an article that is meant to wish people a happy new year. Enough of that. Let us get back to what time means to us in general. The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, Thirty days pass and it is a new month and January becomes February and so on till we reach December and then we welcome a new year and celebrate. We celebrate birthdays, festivals and each year of our life is marked by several events.
Decades pass and we welcome new centuries. We write History so that future generations would be able to understand the deeds of their ancestors. We welcome new millenniums. We teach our children History in schools. We make careers out of History. Man has only a lease on life and cannot go on living forever. All these things are happening and we are able to lead our lives the way we do because thankfully our perception of time has the limitations it does. Mother nature realized that man’s perception of time should be just the way it is if he has to live and die.
The passage of time is constantly marked by trillions and trillions of events that occur as the years progress and which we can perceive with our senses. So for laymen like us time is a product of change. Once more I would like to wish all my readers a prosperous and happy new year and let us leave time dilation to the likes of Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein.
Wishing everyone a prosperous and happy new year 2018…