I started thinking about time this morning when I was driving Bob’s son to work. “Man, it is too early,” he groaned. (“If you were working an 11 to 7 shift at the hospital, you’d think it was too late.”) He gave me that look those under 25 give those of us far north of 50 when they think we are talking dumb.
Too early. Too late. Time is relative which is what Einstein was talking about; it can’t operate without space. John Archibald Wheeler a scary-crazy-smart physicist who came up with the terms wormhole, black hole, and quantum foam, says that “Time is what prevents everything from happening at once.”
When I looked up a definition of time, I got as many definitions as there were professional dictionaries to define it. Lawyers define it as “A nonspatial continuum in which events occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future.” (West’s Encyclopedia of American Law) No wonder juries get confused.
Physicists define time as “One of the fundamental dimensions of the universe, intimately connected with space to form a four-dimensional space-time continuum.” There is a Quantum Physics for Dummies; I suspect I may have to be smarter than I am to be able to understand.
Measuring time has been a challenge. The sundial was the first attempt to figure time and by its very name it wasn’t effective after the sun set. Amenhotep, a pharaoh who died in 1,504 B.C., had a water-clock in his tomb. That was a more sophisticated way to measure time but it had to be continually filled with water.
The hourglass used sand to measure the flow of time. The first mechanical clock was built in the 14th century A.D. by an English abbot at St. Alban’s. Today time is measured using an atomic clock, units broken down into attoseconds (1/1,000,000,000,000,000,000th of a second) which is the smallest measurable unit of time.
I always used cigarettes to measure time in my smoking years. (“I’ll wait until I’ve smoked 2 cigarettes and then I’m leaving.”) It took years after I quit smoking to be able to gauge time passage.
Our subconscious mind can measure time more accurately than our conscious mind. Psychologists have hypnotized subjects and asked them to make a cross every 12 minutes. Hypnotized subjects were correct on an average of 45 out of 55 times; awake/aware subjects were correct on an average of 25 out of 55 times.
So maybe if I’d watched the watch….