jeudi, juin 23, 2005

Where Does The Time Go? (Part Deux of My String Theory Prayer Backstory)

Which reminds me of Ingrid Bergman asking where the noses go, but that's another topic for another day. And hopefully you've all figured that out already anyway. (Start with a digression, I always say.) Anyhoo, the science forthwith:

So, I've been thinking about time lately, and by lately, I mean for the last I-don't-know-how-many years, I guess. See, every time I have a long drive, I listen to books on CD. Usually non-fiction for some reason. Politics, comedy, business and science. The first two are funny, the last two are not. Stephen Hawking was where I started, I think- and no he doesn't read his own book which may be a grave disappointment to you. But I did listen to A Brief History of Time (was it abridged, I wonder now?) And of course, this gets me thinking that I need to go back and scoop up all of his other stuff. Memo to me. So, yes, Hawking, and I guess actually there were some bits of Einstein and Heisenberg before that. I'm uncertain which came when or showed up where in my reading and whatnot. I'd have to really look to pin that down. ;-)

Back to time- so, yeah, we generally run around with the idea of linear time. And, yes, any of us who've chanced upon a Discover/ Popular Science/ The Physics of Star Trek or something else fluffy of a science sort know that time is not linear. But I have noticed that even when presented with the fact that time is not actually linear, everybody still behaves as if it were.
As if, you know, beyond here lie monsters, or something.

Quick review (feel free to add or correct if I get crazy):

Linear time is the idea of time flowing in one direction with one event occuring after another and all events being placed immovably, well, in their original places. Imagine one olympic sized swimming pool after another laid end to end as far as the eye can see, and beyond that even, in a straight line. Everybody swims in one direction from the time they're born until the time they die. At which point they're cleared out of the water (time) by the lifeguards, we hope, because bumping into all those dead bodies would get quite freaky. (You see? I have a pragmatic/ scientific mind. Ha!) Not really about the bodies, but you get the idea about the one direction.

EXCEPT that physicists have found that time doesn't flow in a one directional line. And it's not as simple as lanes in those end to end olympic pools with some people swimming one way and some people swimming the other. No, indeed, it's more like a circular swimming pool with time (and if we're going to be complicated, which we very definitely will be very soon, more dimensional thingeys than time) swishing around. Or maybe even more like a spherical pool in which time does some very, very weird things. But I think the truth is that "time as a swimming pool" is actually in a more complete shape, if you will, than a sphere even, but I can't imagine that shape because my brain is flat. I intuit it, though, and say esto es por mi.* I must design a flag. It's a brave new swimming pool, yo. Pee in it if you dare.**

*Like all good explorers, I blithely and bravely ignore the fact that this has been "technically" discovered by someone else before me. What is "time"?, I ask. What's "before"? Look over there! (That last is so I can run away before you turn back around. But I'll come back. I always do.)

** Penrose (Sir Roger Penrose if you're nasty) already has peed in this pool or at least has stated his intention to jump in and try. I will chide him in the next, fascinating installment of String Theory Backstory. I do a really good chide. Even if I may have to finally concede a point to the chidee. You'll love it.

7 commentaires:

  1. Good book. Can't imagine it without the nice drawings, but then I felt I was missing something with "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" on CD.

    I don't think they ever published an abridged audiobook (could they? it seemed condensed as it was).

  2. a brief history of time is a condensed version of S.J.H. Universe. where he goes into great detail in a couple thousand pages.

    but for some fictional insight into said hypotheseeees .... read michael chrichton's Timeline...i know..the movie sucked ass, but the book is fantastic...and full of neato facts.

  3. Read Timeline. Didn't read the other. Am afraid I've moved on toward Sphere, however.

    (And no, I haven't stuffed my bra with crystals in preparation for a dive into a vat of henna.)

  4. Sweet, my library has 3 copies of Timeline on CD. I'm #6 in the queue, so it'll be a month or two until I get it (in the middle of a nice spy novel on my commute anyway).

    They also have Hawking's "The Universe in a Nutshell", which I hadn't heard of but added to my list. They have Universe on DVD, which is likely an entertaining compromise to the book (I just can't justify taking on another physical book until I'm done with Isaac's Storm) but there are 68 holds (ouch) - at least there are 6 copies.

  5. Huh. Interesting. I have a similar view of time. I believe (no really I do) that we are all inside of and outside of time. We DO flow in it like a river, inexoribly moving forward in a "linear" fashion, but that is only one half of the picture. We don't know that we also stand outside of time looking at it watching it go by like a river and we can run up and down the riverbank looking in at any particular time we choose. Or like a scroll that you can open up or close to various points. And the only reason we don't is because we don't know how.

    That's as far as I've gotten and I'm afraid I have done no learned reading on the matter. I'm an ignorant with a cause. I can't wait for your next installment!

  6. Just thought of a book I think you'll really like (I loved it). I think it's the book I've most recommended to anyone that has an interest in science (yay!). The Quark and the Jaguar, by Murray Gell-Mann.

    I doubt there is an audiobook version, but it's really worth the time to read.

  7. I just finished Quark and Jaguar (well, almost, I skipped the last 2 chapters because I got sick of his Save the trees! soap box). I really appreciated this book for a number of reasons, though.

    The modern view of quantum mechanics was well stated. I've been waiting for someone to give this topic such a reasonable treatment. Also, I enjoyed his touches on complexity theory, even if they were only surface level. It's nice to get a good look from this sort of perspective.

    Anyway, I also recommend this one [h+p]. I've read too many pop renditions of fundamental physics that overstretch the facts in order to push some particularly far-fetched, often paradoxical, interpretation. Gell-Mann handles these topics very gracefully.