Brian Greene‘s excellent 2011 adaptation of his book, the Fabric of the Cosmos, resulted in a 4-part series for PBS Nova. In this episode he explores the mysteries and paradoxes of time. Atomic clocks are now so accurate they won’t lose a second in more than 100 million years, but while clocks can tell us what time it is, they haven’t been able to tell us what time itself is. What is it we are actually measuring?
The experience of the passing of time is so fundamental to our lives that we tend to take our concepts of what time is for granted – remembering the past, acting in the moment, making plans for the future. Perhaps that’s because as soon as we begin to analyse time we very quickly run into weird paradoxes and an explanation always seems to be just out of reach – Does it only flow in one direction? Does it even ‘flow’? Does it exist at all?
Sir Isaac Newton saw time as universal, that is, ticking along the same for everyone, everywhere. This picture of time dominated western thinking almost unchallenged for hundreds of years until the start of the 20th Century when Albert Einstein re-imagined our whole universe with his theory of relativity. There is, he said, a profound link between motion through space and the passage of time. Space and time are intrinsically linked, inseparable and bound together in a new dimension of Space-Time – thus allowing for relative experiences of time.
Mind bending, entertaining and featuring great graphics, this programme sees Greene bringing us up to speed on the very latest ideas on relativity, time travel, entropy, the beginning, the end, and the subjective experience of time.
The Illusion of Time