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What is time?

10 July 2012, 09:32
At some point in life we all had been asked: "Do you know what time it is please?" or we may have asked that same question to someone else. So what is TIME exactly and what time is it really when we look at our watches or at a clock?

Did TIME have a beginning, when was it and why does time tick? Does our future and what happens to us already exist and are we simply not there yet to experience it all? Like the road you driving on,you know how you need to get to where you need to be whilst you on that road,you just not as far into the road when driving along it. By telling time we humans can make sense of the world around us. It's past,present and future. But is it anywhere near as straightforward as that as to what time is?    

To most of us time is self-evident. An hour consist of a certain number of minutes,a day of so many hours and a year of so many days. Is it really all that simple? This beast called TIME has very seldom been accurately describe by the experts,and yet it rules our everyday life.     

Albert Einstein,in his special theory of RELATIVITY,disagrees with the scientist,Sir Isaac Newton,that the measurement of time is in a constant throughout the universe. The implications of Einstein's theory seems quite bizarre to some. To give you an example: You and a friend synchronizes your watches. He/she travels around the world whilst you stay put. When he/she returns,the time displayed by his/her watch lags a fraction behind the time shown on your watch. But why? From your point of view,time slowed down on your travelling friend's watch.   

 So when approaching the speed of light,not only does time become slower significantly,but objects also becomes very small and mass increases. In Einstein's theory the speed of light is constant across the universe,but not TIME. Einstein said time is a dimension in space and that you just move through it,that's all. We can't travel through space at the speed of light,but we can travel through time at the speed of light. This creates our sense of moving through the future. To Einstein space and time are not separate, but merged together and called space time. Basically your time is unique to you. Einstein's theory says that the past,present and future all exist and it ignores the quantum world mechanics and is therefore a classical theory.    

We have ways in which to measure the passing of time,but we don't know what happens when time passes. Knowing what time really is,is not so easy. Understanding what time is must be the ultimate illusion to some people. Others say that there is no universal clock in the universe that ticks away at the same rate for everybody on our planet no matter where they are and what they doing.    

Is the Earth slowing down significantly with time? Since our earliest civilizations,each and every culture has track the movement of time looking towards the sky. As our earth rotates,the Sun,Moon and stars moves across the sky giving us a daily rhythm and instinctive way of telling what time it is. So the regular rising and setting of the sun like clockwork told us what time it is each and every passing of the day. This regularity of the passing of a day is not as precise as one thinks neither is its actual length. Why is that?    

Well for the past 4billion years,the speed at which our planet spins had been gradually slowing down almost. The length of day has been steadily getting longer,made possible by the Moon. The moon pulls the water on our Earth towards it,which creates a tidal bulge,and the earth spins underneath that bulge which then gives you the tides you see in the oceans coming in and out. Then there is this friction,between the earth's surface and the water which means that the rate of spin of the earth slows down which causes the day to lengthen.About 600 million years ago a day was just under 22hours long.    

Scientist at the Westford observatory in Boston,Massachusetts,had been measuring the exact length of each passing day for over 30 years. These scientist don't rely on the sun to tract the spin of the earth but rather quasars or huge black holes which are the nucleus of galaxies. These black holes sucks in loads of dust and stars into them and then in return throws out radio waves which we use to tell the time it is on the earth.     

Arthur Neil,says they uses two different radio telescopes when radio waves comes into earth when making the measurement. He says that the length of the day is not necessarily 24hours in length.Earth's daily speed changes therefore is caused by the wind. As the wind speeds up or slows down by how it pushes up and against the mountains or because of frictions on the surface of the earth,then time speeds up or slows down on the solid part of the earth.    

To tell time you would need to start by thinking small by looking at the world of the atom. The US Naval observatory in Washington and their time measurement system that divides time from their use of atomic clocks. Time needed to be not just more accurate,but more accessible as well. How ell we tell time depends on which atom you using. So how can atoms give us the time? It's very tiny central core is called the nucleus which are surrounded by infinitesimally small electrons.    

These electrons sits in orbit around the nucleus,but only in specific places. So when they jump they emit light that has a certain frequency and its this light that enable scientist to tell time accurately and precisely. Inside the clocks is the atoms of a rare metal called cesium or atomic number 55 on the periodic table. The electrons of the cesium atoms are made to jump up and as they fall down they then give out light.    

These light waves then peaks over 9 billion times every second that effectively drives the clock that produces those 9 billion ticks to reach an atomic second. Also that number of 9 billion ticks never changes or alters and that's how it manages to stay so accurate. Atomic time is therefore the heartbeat of our modern life in synchronizing society in navigation,scheduling and global communication. A very fine definition of time wouldn't you agree? But this does not answer the question of what time is?    

To us this year is 2012 because of what some Pope decided upon 500 years ago. To Muslims their Islamic calendar says today the year is 1429,to the Jewish people their calendar says it's the year 5768.All very different dates and arbitrarily so for crying out loud. So what time is it really? The time that ticks on your watch or a clock is the time right now. The present time as it were. However mch of what we believe to be in the present are drawn from the past. In other words what we currently feeling as happening to us right now at this minute already happened to us in the past.    

How so? For example: The light that comes to us from distant sources takes time to get here. It takes light from the sun 8 minutes to reach our eyes. Which means by the time the sun light reaches our eyes,it's 8 minutes in the past for us human by not for the sun,which is 8 minutes ahead of us in that sense. The sun is 93 million miles away from us.So when you basically seeing and looking at the sun,then it is as it was 8 minutes ago not how it is at present.    

Professor Steve Beckwith,pointed the Hubble telescope at the tiniest piece in the night sky and took the deepest picture of the universe,known as ultra deepfield.He was able to look back in time in 3D and date every single galaxy.One galaxy emitted its light when the universe were 8.8 billion years old others did it when the universe were 3.3 billion years old and so on. He was able to travel back to the entire history of the universe. If time began with the "big bang" then there was no yesterday. The universe expands,but at what speeds and can knowing the speed tell us when time began by rewinding its expanding all the way back to its beginning?    

Professor Saul Permutter,astronomer at Berkeley Laboratory,uses Supernova explosions to calculate how it all began and measures how fast the universe expands."We know now that space and time started around 13.7 billion years ago,but that is not the beginning of everything just the period we can learn about",says Saul Permutter.    

Question is thought what or who triggered the beginning of the universe and time? What or who was there before the "big bang" or creation or something else when all began? Some theorize that time has no beginning and that it existed for eternity before creation or the "big bang" and that our little bit of space and time is all what we can see and understand.     Cosmologist like Neil Turok,from Cambridge university believes time began before the universe came into being by the "big bang" and that this "mysterious" event that happened 13.7 billion years in the universe we don't know as yet what that was or is. If something cause the "big bang" then there was something before that happened.Who or what is that "thing"? Time has therefore always been there and will always be there.    

Dividing time into Picoseconds; Nanoseconds; Microseconds; Milliseconds; Dopeseconds then we can began to see previously hidden details of time. This reveals our world in new light each time we divide it into smaller chunks. The time it takes light to travel its shortest possible distance is called the Fermat Principle that's what our current theories can handle and beyond this point our understanding of time just stops for us humans.    

Why does time past the way it does? Why are we getting older in life and don't stay in the present  and stand still in time or go back in time literally with our lives? Why do we go into the future and at the rate that we do? How do we define the timeline of our lives? Why does time tick along in the way that it does?    

What is time or is that just a tricky question?    

References:   3.BBC Horizon channel.
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