Too busy to gripe….

Oh man I’m so busy, where does all the time go?

Well Professor Brian Cox has some idea, or no idea, depending on which physicist you ask. Time was the subject of a recent Horizon episode you see.

Did you see what I did there? It’s called a link; subtle, wasn’t it?

Actually, I’m unbelievably busy at the moment, trying to get material together for a paper, prepare presentations, plan holidays and book flights; it’s all go over here!

But speaking of flights and going (you see that? Another link, woo!), one concept that particularly interested me about Brian Cox’s Horizon episode was that if time was thought of as a dimension, i.e. one dimension of perception, in the same manner that physical space around you represents such a dimension, then the speed at which we are moving through this time dimension is staggering; in fact, we are moving through it at the speed of light!

Ah, but we all remember our lessons in Relativity from school physics don’t we? Erm….don’t we? Anyway, wasn’t one of those iron-clad laws of physics something about not being able to move at the speed of light? This is true, says Brian Cox, except it is only true that you cannot move through space at the speed of light.

There is apparently no problem with moving through time at the speed of light. Furthermore, time travels at different speeds at different places in the universe; time is marginally slower for us on the Earth, as the gravitational force acting on the Earth warps time (remember Einstein, space and time, they’re linked: space-time); elsewhere, near stars, time is moving at a rather slovenly rate, and not at all in the vicinity of black holes.

The other thing that Brian managed to “make bitesize” is this idea of time slowing down as you speed up, such that it would appear to stop when moving though space (all be it impossibly) at the speed of light. You see, when you’re stood still, well, as stood still as you can be anywhere in the universe*, then you can move through time at the speed of light. However, as we are talking space-time, in trying and move through space, such as riding a bike, you are slowing your passage through time; the energy cost of moving through space is compensated for by a loss of energy from the time component, thus time slows. The faster you move, the more time slows, all be it imperceptibly; unless you are late for work and rush around, then time seems to move really quickly.

Which links me onto another point (yes, good isn’t it), perception. Time is as much perception as it is a universal inconstant. What time is it? Universal time? Earth time? Greenwich Mean Time? My time? Your time? They’re all different. In fact, Einstein once said that the only real way that you can share the same perception of time, is by sitting next to each other. This of course was almost certainly one of his outlandish ruses to chat-up women.

For which we forgive him.

* Earth rotates on its own axis, and orbits the Sun; the solar system orbits within the galaxy; and the galaxy orbits who knows what – we’re moving in lots of directions, and at great speed


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