Elementary knowledge teaches us that time as constant, fluid, and linear. The metaphor of time as an arrow in flight concisely encapsulates the idea. On the other hand, personal reflection reveals that perception of time is irregular. The maxim, “time flies when you’re having fun” is a good example. After all, everybody has experienced the palpable deceleration of time during a monotonous lecture or its disappearance during a difficult test. To reconcile the difference, we correctly assume our perceptions are imperfect. But is our elementary knowledge correct in itself? Academically, the theory of special relativity posits that time is
inconstant, determined by one's relative speed (Einstein).
Empirical tests with atomic clocks have demonstrated that time passes slower in a frame of reference that is in motion as opposed to one that is stationary. We would like to assume that the world is the stationary point of for time’s reference, but clearly, that is not true. The Earth rotates around the sun at 100,000 km/h, which is in motion around the galaxy at 800,000 km/h, and so on (Hawking).
When say the universe has existed for thirteen billion years since the big bang,
are we justified in using an inconstant scale? The difficulty in finding an absolute measurement of time therefore lies in the problem of finding the one immutable and stationary point in the universe. Since all motion is relative, this task is impossible taking with it all hope of absolute time.
While this discussion of time is far from complete, it is sufficient in terms of the dialogue. It is now opportune to reverse question. Having
seen how we define time, we can now ask how time defines us.
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