Understand the concept of Time

Understand the concept of Time

First of all, I must admit that ‘Time’ is an extremely hard concept to be understood.It is said that the word time is one of the most used word in human conversations.Some people believe that it’s an illusion, some consider it real and some believe you cannot trust it, some would say Time heals everything, some see it as past, present and future, some people call it fourth dimension, some would say it’s eternal and some would say it’s not, and some would say time is good sometime and sometime it’s bad.


Lets begin by creating some clarity about these commonly used aforesaid notions of time.

  • Time is neither good nor bad, the way you relate with time may be good or bad.Time is just time, we humans can ascribe idea of good or bad to anything in accordance with the state or condition of life.
  • Time doesn’t heal, It’s the intelligence of your own body that heals whether the wound is physical or emotional.
  • Past, present and future are description of time but the truth of time is ‘Now ‘ which contains all three descriptions.What our consciousness is focusing right now become the present moment, what has passed through its focus is memory or past and what is about to come in its focus is future.In fact our brain uses the idea of past present and future to grasp the flow of changes that is occurring through flow of various events.
  • Time can’t be precisely called fourth dimension as time can exist in one, two three or any number of dimension system.
  • Time is not eternal as assumed by Newton, we can confidently say it had a beginning at big-bang and it’s relative in nature.

Lets try to explore Time and its various aspects:

Measurement of Time

Firstly, we should understand that what clocks or watches show is a measurement of time, they tell nothing about the qualities and nature of time or they tell nothing about what ‘Time’ is. For example, a vessel containing Milk shows 2 litre on scale.Does this measurement tells you anything about the nature of milk or what it is(apart from the fact that it’s a liquid).So, many times we misunderstand time with its measurement.

Ancient time

We have been using many natural ways to measure time since antiquity; anything showing periodic motion or vibration or oscillation were used to measure time like sand cones or shadow of Sundial.Earth’s rotation about its axis defines the cycle of day and night, moon’s rotation around earth is month and the earth’s rotation about the sun is year.One second can be defined as the time taken by light to travel 3*108 m.The measurement of time is a concept developed by us so that we can synchronizes various events, meetings, transportation etc..It’s extremely helpful and useful but it’s not real or doesn’t exist without human observer, it’s a generally accepted convention.

Experience of time

The standard duration for which 1 second lasts is same for all the clocks. A watch in America would take same duration for 1 sec as that of a watch in India.So, the standard duration of 1 sec is same everywhere. But, we all experience duration of time in a different way depending on the kind of mental state we are in. If we are in an immensely pleasant experience, time seems to contract and it passes very swiftly, on the other hand if you are waiting for someone or you are in an unpleasant state of experience time seems to dilate and each minute or hour seems like an year. It’s very clear that In our brain the time is behaving differently than what is being measured by clock.

Time as a direction in space-time

Lets understand it with an example, suppose you are moving in east direction, all your motion is in the east direction.You decide to change the direction of your motion(Keeping the speed constant) to north-east, say making 30′ angle with the east.You are moving with the same speed but now your motion in east direction has slowed down and you are covering less distance in east direction.Now imagine space-time coordinate where Y-axis is space and X-axis is time.

When you are not moving in Space all your motion is in the direction of time. But as soon as you begin to move in space you slow down in the direction of time.Einstein explained it in the general theory of relativity that time slows down for objects moving in space.But we can’t measure the change in daily life as the motion is not very quick, measurable change happens at higher velocities.Time can be think of as another direction in space-time.


Time is real or illusion

It’s clearly explained in general theory of relativity by Albert Einstein that Time is as real as space.In fact he coined the term space-time, where he combines space and time together instead of considering them separate from each other. When few people say that time is an illusion, they are actually referring to the passage or flow or arrow of time.We intuitively experience that time is flowing and arrow of time seems to be directed towards future or in forward direction.

This flow of time is an illusion and it’s a consequence of very well known second Law of thermodynamics that entropy of the universe tend to increase with time.Lets design a thought experiment to verify if it’s real or illusion or just a concept created by human brain. Imagine that all the devices, clocks, watches have disappeared and we don’t even know of any natural way to measure time.Would you experience time? I think yes, we will experience time through our memory of events. We can describe it as past, present and future. But, past, present and future are just description of time not the truth of time. Therefore, Time is real but its passage or flow or experience as past, present and future is an illusion.


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