Mr Swiatecki Science 90
June 14th 2016
What is Time?
What is time? For most people, the answer to this may be a clock or the thing that organizes our lives. Contrary to this, scientists have found that time is a lot more than a tool with numbers, but is actually just an illusion. Time can be understood as the movements that happen in an irreversible progression from the past, present and the future. This simply means that there is no individual past, present or future, but they all exist together.
Einstein was the first physicist to believe that our conception of time was an illusion. Opposing this belief, Isaac Newton had previously believed that time just simply went by and did not vary between individuals. Through his studies, Einstein concluded that although a very convincing illusion, most of the things we had formerly believed about time were false. This theory stated that there was no separation of the past, present or future, but that they all existed at the same time together and that time went by differently for individuals, depending on placement and situation. Albert Einstein believed that if we positioned one clock closer to a planet, we would also increase the gravitational pull meaning time would actually run slower for a clock positioned higher as compared to the same clock positioned lower or closer to sea level. An experiment to test this theory was performed in the 1970s with one atomic clock in an airplane and one placed on the ground. The results showed that time went by slower by a fraction of a second for the clock in the airplane which was in motion compared to the clock on the ground. These results further proved that Einstein’s theory of the passing of time and how it could be affected was correct.
Though there is no theoretical reason it couldn’t travel backwards, time is simply one directional. For example, if someone was to drop a wine glass, they would be unable to reverse the action and reform the glass into one piece again. Similar to this, if someone was to rip out all the pages of a book and throw them in the air, the pages would not land in correct order. Both of these representations show that our lives go irreversibly in one specific direction. This leads us to the question of what causes the arrow of time. The answer to this question is entropy. Entropy means disorder or randomness and how generally, everything has a tendency to become disordered. This means that though there is one possible way all the ripped pages of the book could land in order, there are thousands of ways they could land disordered creating the most probable outcome. The origin of the arrow of time dates back to the Big Bang. In the sudden moment of the Big Bang, the universe exploded and expanded in one specific direction, which is why our life continues to progress in one direction and has not been reversed.
If you were to ask someone what they thought time was they may think the answer was simple, however ask a physicist, and your response would be very different. We know many things about time, but there are still many intricate questions scientists are trying to answer. Time to us is nothing but an idea of measurement. There is no such thing as past, present or future as they all are present together. These three aspects give us an illusion of the passage and time as well as something to organize our lives around. Time is a very complex idea to get our head around, but hopefully one day we will be able to know precisely what time is and how it affects our lives.