For most of us time is a simple matter of days, hours and seconds. It determines the pattern of our lives and is taken as a matter of objective reality. For writers, movie makers and fantasy artists time is a magical notion, subtle and shifting, a fugitive spell that washes over everything and everybody. Cosmologists, poets, and geologists all appear in this latter category.
There’ve been a many of attempts to popularize the complexity of time, from scientist-sage Carl Sagan to the superhuman Stephen Hawking. The apparent success of Hawking’s A Brief History of Time confirms our instinctive fascination with the subject, even if many of us buy such books to dress our coffee tables. However, by engaging with the subject at any level we challenge the creeping domination of time, and empower our lives within it, subtly enquiring about our place in the grand scheme of things.
Of course, business books are busy with endless time-management schemes, designed to increase effectiveness at work, delegate and generally squeeze an extra minute or so from each hour. And there are hundreds of blogs with helpful suggestions for optimizing the process of writing, organizing and living. However, there’s more to time than merely gaming the system; although it enslaves us it can do so only because historically and collectively we agree that this it should.
Over the next series of posts, alternating between micro-fiction podcasts, These Fantastic Worlds will explore the codification of time through calendars, clocks, investigate our behavioural responses, our ability to survive against time, and our attempts to capture the phenomenon in art, music and fiction.
The Big Questions
We’ll also take a look at time as a fourth dimension, at hyperspherical space-time, and concepts of infinity, where we’ll find that physicists speak with as much enthusiasm and humanity as the best of any literature.
Science is constant search for definition, and as such it’s in direct opposition to faith: while some religions revel in the mystery of their God, science always – and simply – wants to find out more. Over the next few months our What is Time? thread will discuss the nature of the existence and manifestations of an all-powerful entity as described by the Abrahamic religions, and eastern philosophies such as Taoism and Buddhism. Is a God central, implicit, or beyond our scope? Does the presence of a monotheistic God confirm or undermine the motion of time.
So here’s the plan for the next few months:
What is Time? Introduction
Part One: Time and the Calendar
The Beginnings of our Time • The Astronomical Year • The Use of Different Calendars • Ancient Calendars • The Julian Calendar • The Dark Ages of the West • The Gregorian Calendar • A Summary of Calendars
Part Two: A Short History of Clocks
Introduction to Clocks • Sun Clocks • Waterclocks • Other Simple Clocks • Mechanical Clocks Spring Clocks and Watches • The Pendulum Clock • The Race for Accuracy • The Standardisation of Time
Part Three: Time and Navigation
The Need for Accurate Time • Harrison and the H Clocks.
Part Four: How We Live our Time
Inner Time and Social Time • Controlling Time • Time and Behaviour • Time in the City, Time in the Country • Liturgical Time • Time, Power and Institution • Sport, Speed and Time.
Part Five: Time and the Arts
Fine and Graphic Art • Time and Music • Time and Film • Time and Literature • Science Fiction.
Part Six: Time and Space
A Short History of the Universe • The Big Bang • Key Discoveries: Time and Gravity • Key Discoveries: Quantum Mechanics • Key Discoveries: The Expanding Universe • Key Discoveries: Background Radiation • Light and Time • Arrows of Time.
Part Seven: Philosophies & Observations
Can Time Begin? • God and the State of Being • Infinity • Taoism • Sufism • Hinduism • Buddhism • Fibonacci.