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The Future of Time

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If you went and ask Albert Einstein what he thought time was... ...he would say it what clocks measure. But if you ask, I don't know, Flavor Flav, he might tell you you the time is something necklaces measure... The point I'm trying to make here is that time is really tricky to define... ... in a way that it's not circular. But I'm going to give it a shot. Time is not a thing. Instead, it's an individual experience. So, my time is not your time. Which, if you think about it, is a pretty good line for someone who is paid hourly. But this is fundamental physics. But you might ask 'Well, how is this possible?' I mean, aren't days based on the fixed rotation of the Earth? And, well, how can something so physically crucial as time be subjective? Let's take a little historical detour to observe a peculiar time-keeping convention we have had for a while - - daylight-saving time. There is a misconception that this has something to do with farmers. It doesn't. It has to do with coal and World War I. Coal was used to light lamps late at night. And they were using an awful lot of it. In World War I that's a necessary resource. So, how do you stop people from using coal? Simple. You steal an hour of daylight in the morning and just plop it on at night. The UK did it, Germany did it. Everyone else followed. Farmers are not so crazy about the idea. It means they have to get up an hour before sunrise to stay on schedule. Now it might be we get an extra hour sleep every now and then. But the question is CAN YOU REALLY MESS WITH TIME? And the answer is YEA! It turns out we have a very long history of trying to standardize time. You see, when railroads were built it became really important that your time and a railroad time matched up... ...because if you wanted to catch the 5:19 to Paris you had to make sure you're at the station at 5:19. So, in other words, in order to make the trains run on time we had to make time run on time. The railroads synchronized their clocks, and every one else followed soon, and standard time is born. So, does that mean universal time is a real thing that we can all set our watches to? No. Universal time is just one big fat illusion. Time-keeping tag is being on a long slow incline toward greater precision... ... and the next generation time-piece is the quantum logic clock. Now, this is not going to lose a second per 3.7 billion years. We got really good at keeping local time. But remember MY TIME IS NOT YOUR TIME. So, what happens if I want to synchronize a clock, say, on Earth and one on an outpost that's on a planet light-years away? That's when we run to some real problems... ...because even if you could synchronize those clocks they wouldn't stay in sync for very long. Now, keep in mind [that] ever since Einstein's days we have known that mass of the planet you're on and the speed at which it travels through space... ...determines your experience of time! Let's not get too deep into Relativity. That's a whole other show. The point is - the further we venture out into space the harder it is going to be to make sure all of the clocks are running in sync with one another. It is going to be more difficult to make sure the clock on Earth is matching the clock on the spaceship or the other planet or whatever. If we get faster-than-light drive or warp drive somehow down the road, that's really going to wreak havoc with the archaic ways that we keep time. And even if we never make it off this planet, we're still going to have some issues... ...because that fixed rotation is not so fixed. Since 1972 time sergeants have had inserts of several leap seconds. It does make sure that our clock stay align with the earth rotation... ... because they are not quite synchronized. And that rotation is very gradually slowing over time. So, in a few hundred million years ... ... the day-night cycle of Earth is going to look as alien to us today as, I don't know, a planet 400 light-years away from us. The point is that in the future we're just going to completely rethink the way we approach time. There is no standard, there is no universal. It's all a subjective experience. But...here is the bright side. Your consciousnesses is quite literally a time machine.

Video Details

Duration: 4 minutes and 41 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 32
Posted by: leyaku on Feb 10, 2014

Universal Time, Standard Time, clock synchronization - it's all just an illusion! As far as we can tell, time is a subjective experience and timekeeping was just invented to keep people from missing trains. Jonathan Strickland explores the future of time in this episode of Fw:Thinking. (for Howstuffworks.com)

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