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'a man cannot step in the same river twice,' said the greek mystic heraclitus, and the secret of life, the universe, and everything is contained in that simple statement.
does time exist? scientists, and physicists of all types claim that 'time' exists. exist, meaning that there is a 'physical' factor called 'time', and that it plays an integral part in the happenings within the universe. do you think that 'time' is actually a 'real force' or that we simply invented time to put a reference on the passage of events? it is our hope that the concept of time advanced in this lesson will provide the germ for additional thinking on this topic. time is part of our coordinate system time it appears in equations just like position does - the geometry of physical reality is three-dimensional in its essence, but time is a dimension in space-time geometry, just as X, Y, Z / height, length, width. the common view of 'time' is that of an observed one way flow providing, together with space, the matrix of events. it can be measured as an epoch, (the moment of an instantaneous event as marked by a clock) or as the interval of duration of a continuous event, and by reference to either moving bodies or electromagnetic phenomena (atomic time). its flow has been found, in contemporary physics, to be relative to the observers velocity and acceleration perspectives and by gravity. in biology to be affected by such factors as environmental rhythms, temperature, drugs and (perhaps) brain rhythms. we commonly use the word 'time' to refer to what are, in reality, two somewhat different, albeit closely related,
notions: the notion of 'a particular time', and the notion of 'a measure of elapsed time'. let us examine each of these and the relationship between them. a particular time search your memory until you come across a vivid recollection of some particular time in the past that has a special significance for you, preferably some pleasant occasion, a birthday perhaps, or some other noteworthy event. now ask yourself what it is about that particular time that 'defines' it. in other words, what is it, exactly, that sets that particular time apart from all other particular times and makes it uniquely identifiable? our existence or consciousness is actually a point or intersect of space and time. we understand our place in space as it is easily observable and as we move from one area of space to another, we can easily see where we are going. we cannot see our progress through time and must rely on memory to know where we have been, and on faith that the past will extend into a future. a key point here is the idea that what really 'defines' a particular time is not so much a date written on a calendar or the reading of a clock, but rather a configuration, regardless of how loosely defined, of some known portion of the universe.
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various LED wall clocks calendar and clocks before calendars and clocks, humans’ awareness of particular times necessarily was based simply on their observations, whether recorded or not, about the evolving configurations of the universe. despite being relative newcomers on the historical scene, calendars and clocks rapidly have assumed an extremely important role in our lives, and this is true precisely because they serve the
powerful and useful function of providing a concise shorthand for communicating information about configurations of the universe. simply by saying that I plan to talk about the 1st century BC, for example, I avoid the tedious necessity of having to explain that I plan to talk about the time long after dinosaurs disappeared from the earth, and after the time of cavemen but before the advent of steam locomotives and laptop computers. it was about the time when the roman legions were under the command of julius caesar. knowing even an approximate date allows us to make some important inferences about the corresponding configuration, albeit perhaps somewhat loosely defined, of at least some relatively small portion of the universe. clocks perform a function analogous to that of calendars, but on a finer scale. knowing the time of day can provide a great deal of information about the rough configuration of several portions of the universe. at 6:00 AM the sun will be rising on the eastern horizon and a flight should be departing XX airport headed for YY, at 3:00 PM a movie will begin at the local cinema... we joke ruefully about needing a calendar rather than a clock to measure and describe our wait in traffic. the power of calendars, and perhaps even more so of clocks, to simplify and organize our lives has proven to be so great that it has tended to blind us to the underlying fact that the fundamental role of these devices is to provide a shorthand way of communicating information about configurations of the universe. clocks, in particular, have taken on an importance that would be difficult to overestimate, often bordering on a form of tyranny over our lives. we have come to think and to say and to believe that clocks somehow 'measure' the passage of some intangible, mysterious thing that we call 'time'. we are driven to create clocks that are ever more precise and accurate, and not without good reason; precise, accurate clocks serve as far more powerful tools than imprecise, inaccurate clocks. we have even gone so far as to elevate the 'product' of our clocks, this thing we have named time, to the status of an independent, fundamental unit of the physical universe. time and space '... nature is telling us that time and space are equivalent; time becomes space; they should be measured in the same units.' the late nobel laureate richard feynman was fond of using what he called the 'trick' of substituting units of length in place of units of time as a way to simplify his equations. I am not suggesting, of course, that as a result of these brief discussions we should all rush out immediately to our nearest hardware stores to exchange our clocks and wristwatches for tape measures. units of time will long continue to serve a valuable practical purpose, but it is also important at the outset to recognize and, insofar as possible, to 'internalize' the notion that the configuration of the universe does not change as a result of time advancing; rather, time changes because the configuration of the universe changes. 'a man cannot step in the same river twice' - the importance of grasping this subtle, admittedly perhaps counterintuitive, distinction can hardly be overstated in terms of furthering our understanding of time.
design a wall clock. people from different countries may perceive time differently. many high tech countries live fast, 'time is money', while other countries have a slower rhythm... the design should express your personal notion of time, your critical view, your fun perception... so be creative with it. deadline 30 october 2010 please include a written description of your submission, and include this text in the body of your email. NOT AS A SEPARATE ATTACHMENT. do not send your files in any of the following formats: • microsoft word • microsoft powerpoint • PDF please send your work by email to: email@example.com subject line: ‘WALL CLOCK homework’
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