The Order of Time
How much do I want to read more? 8/10
A fascinating book. Everyone has its own time, every point in the universe. The mass of the Earth makes time slow down, and objects fall down at the same time.
I don't know why but even though this book was written by a physist, it got this mystical vibe. Like pondering to those everlasting questions. It's become philosophical and beyond.
A must raed to reflect upon.
PERHAPS TIME IS THE GREATEST MYSTERY
Even the words that we are speaking now
has stolen away,
and nothing can return. (I, 11)
I stop and do nothing. Nothing happens. I am thinking about nothing. I listen to the passing of time.
The rush of seconds, hours, years that hurls us toward life then drags us toward nothingness.
We inhabit time as fish live in water. Our being is being in time. Its solemn music nurtures us, opens the world to us, troubles us, frightens and lulls us. The universe unfolds into the future, dragged by time, and exists according to the order of time.
In Hindu mythology, the river of the cosmos is portrayed with the sacred image of Shiva dancing: his dance supports the coursing of the universe; it is itself the flowing of time.
The nature of time is perhaps the greatest remaining mystery. Curious threads connect it to those other great open mysteries: the nature of mind, the origin of the universe, the fate of black holes, the very functioning of life on Earth. Something essential continues to draw us back to the nature of time.
Wonder is the source of our desire for knowledge.
Why do we remember the past and not the future? Do we exist in time, or does time exist in us? What does it really mean to say that time “passes”?
I summarize what modern physics has understood about time. It is like holding a snowflake in your hands: gradually, as you study it, it melts between your fingers and vanishes. We conventionally think of time as something simple and fundamental that flows uniformly, independently from everything else, from the past to the future, measured by clocks and watches. In the course of time, the events of the universe succeed each other in an orderly way: pasts, presents, futures. The past is fixed, the future open. . . . And yet all of this has turned out to be false.
what we have been left with: an empty, windswept landscape almost devoid of all trace of temporality. A strange, alien world that is nevertheless still the one to which we belong. It is like arriving in the high mountains, where there is nothing but snow, rocks, and sky.
A world stripped to its essence, glittering with an arid and troubling beauty.
an attempt to understand and lend coherent meaning to this extreme and beautiful landscape. To the world without time.
the most difficult, but also the most vital and the one that most closely involves us. In a world without time, there must still be something that gives rise to the time that we are accustomed to. Somehow, our time must emerge around us.
the mystery of time is ultimately, perhaps, more about ourselves than about the cosmos.
the culprit turns out to be the detective.
PART 1 - THE CRUMBLING OF TIME
LOSS OF UNITY
THE SLOWING DOWN OF TIME
Let’s begin with a simple fact: time passes faster in the mountains than it does at sea level.
a clock placed on the floor runs a little more slowly than one on a table. all processes are slower.
Is this surprising? Perhaps it is. But this is how the world works. Time passes more slowly in some places, more rapidly in others.
The surprising thing, perhaps, is that someone understood this slowing down of time a century before we had clocks precise enough to measure it. His name, of course, was Albert Einstein.
Einstein understood that time does not pass uniformly everywhere.
It seemed obvious that the sky was above us and not below; otherwise, the Earth would fall down.
Einstein asked himself a question that has perhaps puzzled many of us when studying the force of gravity: how can the sun and the Earth “attract” each other without touching and without utilizing anything between them?
He looked for a plausible explanation and found one by imagining that the sun and the Earth do not attract each other directly but that each of the two gradually acts on that which is between them. And since what lies between them is only space and time, he imagined that the sun and the Earth each modified the space and time that surrounded them, just as a body immersed in water displaces the water around it. This modification of the structure of time influences in turn the movement of bodies, causing them to “fall” toward each other.
a mass slows down time around itself. The Earth is a large mass and slows down time in its vicinity.
If things fall, it is due to this slowing down of time. Where time passes uniformly, in interplanetary space, things do not fall.
Here on the surface of our planet, the movement of things inclines naturally toward where time passes more slowly, as when we run down the beach into the sea and the resistance of the water on our legs makes us fall headfirst into the waves.
Things fall downward because, down there, time is slowed by the Earth.
Hence, even though we cannot easily observe it, the slowing down of time nevertheless has crucial effects: things fall because of it, and it allows us to keep our feet firmly on the ground. If our feet adhere to the pavement, it is because our whole body inclines naturally to where time runs more slowly—and time passes more slowly for your feet than it does for your head.
TEN THOUSAND DANCING SHIVAS
Anaximander, the Greek philosopher understood that the Earth floats in space:
"Things are transformed one into another according to necessity, and render justice to one another according to the order of time."
From the equations of Newton, which establish the foundations of mechanics, to those of Maxwell for electromagnetic phenomena; from Schrödinger’s equation describing how quantum phenomena evolve, to those of quantum field theory for the dynamics of subatomic particles: the whole of our physics, and science in general, is about how things develop “according to the order of time.”
It has long been the convention to indicate this time in equations with the letter t. What does this t stand for? It stands for the number measured by a clock. The equations tell us how things change as the time measured by a clock passes.
But if different clocks mark different times, what does t indicate?
there are not just two times. Times are legion: a different one for every point in space. There is not one single time; there is a vast multitude of them.
The time indicated by a particular clock measuring a particular phenomenon is called “proper time” in physics. Every clock has its proper time. Every phenomenon that occurs has its proper time, its own rhythm.
Einstein has given us the equations that describe how proper times develop relative to each other. He has shown us how to calculate the difference between two times.
We do not describe how the world evolves in time: we describe how things evolve in local time, and how local times evolve relative to each other. The world is not like a platoon advancing at the pace of a single commander. It’s a network of events affecting each other.
Time has lost its first aspect or layer: its unity. It has a different rhythm in every different place and passes here differently from there.
If the world is upheld by the dancing Shiva, there must be ten thousand such dancing Shivas, like the dancing figures painted by Matisse…