What is Time? – Timestamps
00:00 – Intro
00:48 – Factoids
05:08 – The history of time
08:23 – Defining time
13:12 – Do only humans perceive time?
18:33 – Your language affects how you perceive time
24:40 – Concepts of time
28:52 – Fixed points in time
32:44 – Time as a dimension
35:00 – Time dilation
41:04 – The theory of everything
45:07 – Time Travel
51:39 – The future of our planet
55:33 – Outro
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In this episode, we discuss all things time! We dive down the rabbit hole discussing everything from how to define time to whether only humans perceive it and gravitational time dilation to time travel. Tom and Mitch embark on the adventure through time covering the history of time for humans as a species all the way up to the latest theories of the universe and if time is actually real or not. Buckle up and get ready for this mind-bending episode that will make you question everything.
Music by: Joakim Karud – https://soundcloud.com/joakimkarud.
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What is Time? – Transcript
Tom: Hello and welcome to the conduct science podcast where we separate the madness from the methodologies and the brains from the brawn. You can check out all the latest goings on at conductscience.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter by searching @conductscience. Remember to use the Hashtag #askconductscience and we’d be more than happy to help you answer those questions on this show. I am your host Tom Jenks, once again joined by the pop culture machine. That is Mitchell Gatting.
Mitch: Hello there.
Tom: And today’s topic is Time. So, hello Mitchell, how are you during this week?
Mitch: I’m doing, I’m doing pretty good actually. Thanks. Thanks for asking.
Tom: Good, good, good. So once again, I’ve done some research and little factoids for everyone listening, so I thought we’d just kick it off with that. See how many, you know again and uh, yeah, take it from there really.
Mitch: All right, sounds good.
Tom: So technically we always live in the past because our brain has about an 80 millisecond delay in, you know, in-taking all the information from our eyes, from my, from our ears. And stuff like that.
Tom: So technically we are 80 milliseconds in the past of what we are seeing and taking in.
Mitch: Hmm. Well, it’s a little bit more than though, isn’t it? Because it’s a light doesn’t travel infinitely fast, does it? It doesn’t get there as soon as it gets admitted.
Tom: That’s true. So I guess it’s 80 milliseconds plus the speed of light from the distance of the object you are taking in.
Mitch: Yeah which we’ll be like. Yeah. You’ll never, you’ll never be able to work it out easily, but yeah.
Tom: No. Well that’s both terrifying and intriguing. Um, have you ever had the feeling that time speeds up as we’re getting older?
Mitch: Um, not yet. I haven’t had it yet. No.
Tom: Uh, I have. Um, it definitely seems to get a bit faster. I mean, especially when I remember back to school. I mean, it wasn’t even that long ago to be honest, but definitely older people definitely seem to have this sensation. And scientists have looked into this and they say, the reason for this happening is your brain develops deeper memories of new and interesting experiences. This obviously happens more when you’re younger. You know, first day at school, your first kiss, first holiday, all of these kinds of things. And if you couple that with the fact that say when you get to your first birthday, that year has been 100% of your life. When you get to your second birthday, that year’s been 50% of your life quite big proportions by the time you get to your 70th birthday that year’s only been 1.43% of your life. So proportionally it’s a lot smaller percentage of your life. And so coupling of these two things together, this is why they think that time speeds up or has the illusion of speeding up as we get older.
Mitch: Yeah. Uh, saying that it speeds up would be, it would be a bit dubious because time is constant in the in one location.
Tom: It is…or is it
Mitch: Well. It’s the difference between perceived Time, I would say, and like scientific time and I would, I would agree that that is the case. Uh, I did some research as well. Into it and it’s to do with how the brain compiles information. It’s like, um, what’s a good analogy for this? Well, as the brain takes in the information cause it’s making new things that it hasn’t done before, it kind of slows the process down because it actually has to go through each individual activity, everything you’ve learned, everything you’ve experienced and store it in a new manner. So that’s why when you’re younger you, everything felt like it took longer and summers lasted forever and that sort of kind of thing because everything was new. Everything was you’re experiencing for the first time and that sort of stuff. And now compare it to someone that’s older who potentially is more mathematical in their routines. They know where they’re doing, they have set things, they know what they like. They’re not experiencing things like for the first time and new things for the first time as often. So it gives, it gives them the perceived time because their brain isn’t having to make new memories and new routines. It’s just going through old ones. It processes it faster. Yeah. So that’s why they perceive it faster.
Tom: Well, that makes sense. That’s something I hadn’t come across.
Mitch: Yeah. So is there like, yeah, it’s a very big time is a very big spectrum of different aspects and you’ve got things like perceived time and actual time and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, like there’s a whole philosophy of time as well. There’s like there’s, there’s so many subsets.
Tom: Philosophy of time?
Mitch: Yeah, the philosophy of time.
Tom: That was something I had come across in a couple of my research. I’ve been looking at different sources over the past week, and I was looking, I think a Ted talk by Andrew Zimmerman I think is his name and he talks about the philosophy of time. It’s kind of his subject area and God it blew my mind. I couldn’t really keep up with it to be honest. It was incredible. So philosophy and psychology he went into, but I think before we delve down the rabbit hole any deeper, because I think this is going to be a rabbit hole of time. I think we should just cover a little bit the history of time and what it means for us as a species. So we have been measuring time for thousands of years as a, as a species. Obviously it started with just the Sun rising, Sun setting, that kind of thing. But I don’t know if you’ve watched wonders of the universe with Brian Cox on BBC, he visited a two and a half thousand year old solar calendar that was built in the Peruvian desert in a place called Chankillo and it just made of 13 towers. And at different times of the year, the sun rises between the towers at different points. And within about two or three day accuracy, they could tell the date. It probably wasn’t the same date as ours, but they could tell the day of the year. And I mean that was two and a half thousand years ago. That was as incredible. Really, it’s something I didn’t think, you know, we had, uh, the ability to do until a lot of, a lot far recently.
Mitch: Yeah. It’s very interesting to try mark out how they would have done that and if they just mapped it as it went. So if you imagine that you took them a whole year to map it themselves, like if they wouldn’t have been able to work it out while they may have to, um, speaking of having no knowledge of it, but I would presume that they would experience it, then would rise I and take the time to do it. [Laughter]. Is that the series that he just went around different places making like a miniature universes out of anything he could find because…
Tom: Um, well he did two series, he did wonders of the solar system, which was the first one where he just explored our solar system. And then he did wonders of the universe. And in both of them he went around the world making like piles of sand and yeah, looking at solar eclipses in India and stuff like that.
Mitch: I think it must’ve been the first one, yeah. Oh cause uh, it was one of them, the main videos, a series that you watched during physics in school. That was one of the things we’ve got told to watch and all I remember it for from that is like him using different random objects to like show how big our solar system was and draw it out with like a stick that was like half burned and then drawing it into like a a pavement and stuff. It was great.
Tom: Yeah. Using desert essentials, as a top Physicist would do painting a good picture of reality there for us, Brian, well done! Um, so after this, you know, sundials came in and then watches as a far more recent invention. But the problem is originally each town had their time because say Bristol to London, they had a 10 minute time difference because of the, the angle that they are on the earth compared to the Sun. They experienced sunset or midday, 10 minutes apart. And then with the introduction of trains as a common mode of transport, people started to realize that we needed a common time. So Greenwich Meantime was adopted on the 1st of December, 1847…
Mitch: Just in time for Christmas.
Tom: Boom, factoid. That’s it. The writing goes downhill from here. I’m sure…
Mitch: Yeh that was, the facts where all we prepared. The rest is going to be off cuff what we, we just remembered. [Laughter].
Tom: All right, so time to jump down this rabbit hole. I think if you could define time, what would be your definition, Mitch?
Mitch: Is that how we were going to start off each? Uh, each section of each week is asking me.
Tom: Oh yeah.
Mitch: How I would personally define it.
Mitch: I’ve got a good one for this. You Ready?
Tom: Yeah, I’m interested. I’m, I’m listening.
Mitch: Distance over speed. Now that’s a maths pan for you.
Tom: You got your little triangle sketched out there.
Mitch: Oh, you know, I had two little first triangle. Yeah. Distance equals speed times. Time. And I don’t like, you know, put it up on the other side and work it out and did some maths.
Tom: Yeah, I feel like I’m back in GCSE Physics Class here.
Mitch: Oh yeah. Yeah.
Tom: All right. On a more philosophical level.
Mitch: On a more philosophical level… To be honest. It’s one of those things I feel like I need to sit and think about for longer than just how would you define it? Because it is so hard and such a big concept to wrap your brain around about writing things down and trying to get like things in order.
Tom: Yeah. 100%. Yeah. Um, last week you mentioned about it being a measure of change.
Tom: I think that was a very good definition and one that stems from Aristotle, I believe.
Mitch: Yeah. Because it, yeah, I would, I would have to go with that cause it’s without change there would be no need for time, if that makes sense.
Mitch: So you can’t have one without the other. So it would be being able to experience change. I don’t know. It is. It is one of those things where it’s such a large concept to try and wrap your head around.
Tom: Yeah, 100%.
Mitch: I did find a perfect quote for that. I was like, this I agree with and this is quite good, it’s: what prevents everything from happening at once. That is time.
Tom: That is time. I think, you know, there are so many definitions out there and people you know, as a community, as a race, as a species, we haven’t settled on one answer. So it would be impossible for you to maybe come up with the answer right here. That would be incredible, wouldn’t it?
Mitch: Yeah, that would, yeah.
Tom: Aristotle did define it as how we measure change, change of states over time. It’s weird. We only have one word for time in our language, but I guess the more physical definition would be including the second law of thermodynamics and entropy. So for those who are not well accustomed to the term entropy or know, what it means is basically the measure of order. So to steal Brian Cox’s example from wonders of the universe, he takes a pile of sand, which has very high entropy because you can take a pile of sand and you can move it around and rearrange it in lots of different ways to keep the same pile of sand. But if you make a sand castle out the same amount of sand, you can only order it in a certain number of ways to get that castle shape. Meaning it has a low entropy. If you were just to leave that sandcastle there, over time it would gain disorder. It would gain entropy to become a pile of sand again. The universe is forever trying to gain entropy. It causes what we know as the Arrow of time, time can only move from the past into the future.
Mitch: So far.
Tom: So far as we know.
Mitch: As we know so far.
Tom: As we know so far, there is theory to think that we can definitely travel forward in time, but we’re not so sure about backwards. But
Mitch: Yeah. So, the argument is that um, was it Stephen Hawking that held a time travellers party.
Tom: It was, yeah.
Mitch: Yeah. To prove that if there if time travel that exists, that event at some point in the future, if someone did invent time travel that we could go back and that was him proving that it, that’d be, it is not possible. But the traveling forward through time, um, yeah. That, that is a mathematical thing that we can do. Well, not that we can do currently, but we will be able to do in the future at some point.
Tom: Well, it’s very interesting about that Stephen Hawking time travellers party is for those of you who haven’t heard, he held a party and then the next day announced it. So it wasn’t like people could just turn up. That’s correct, isn’t it?
Mitch: Yeah, I think so.
Tom: So, um, and that’s hilarious. So just coming back onto the end of the entropy section, the reason why time can only move in one direction is because the probability of disorder is so much greater than order. If I just threw sand on the ground, whilst it is technically possible for it to land in the exact shape of a sandcastle, it is highly unlikely. So this is why time proceeds in one direction as far as we know so far.
Mitch: Yes, I never thought of it like that very, very clever.
Tom: Oh, I’d like to say I came up with it myself, but I didn’t know
Mitch: You were saying it with such clarity in certainty, I thought you were inventing it right now.
Tom: One could hope that my, uh, speech level would get that high! So one of the questions I had was, is it only humans that perceived time? I think it’s only humans that have the concept of time. Definitely. But we know that other animals, higher vertebrates, stuff like rats, bird mice, apes, monkeys, they can perceive the passing of time. They can perceive time durations even if they don’t have the concept of what time is.
Mitch: Hmm. Yes, kind of. I would agree with some of those stems that you just made. Yeah. So I would say humans, you said we can perceive time. I would disagree because that would be like us being able to perceive water as a physical manifestation or sense it.
Mitch: And I would, I would disagree. I would challenge you to sit in a chair and then tell me what time feels like.
Tom: Well, I can try that right now and I can tell you I come up empty handed.
Mitch: Yeah. So it, yeah. So rather you can, the only way that you could explain it is explain it using the effects of the changes that occur due to the passage of time.
Mitch: So it’d be like, um, if I asked you to describe red to me, how would you do it?
Mitch: Okay. Yeah. But thats
Tom: I think, yeah. Um, yeah, I, I get what you mean you can’t describe the color,
Mitch: You can’t describe itself. You have to use other frame of references to describe it. Um, yeah, at least fully. So I would say that even humans can’t perceive time, but going to the animals as well. I would say that humans are also the only animals that are consciously aware of the passage of time as well. Like sure, um, like other animals have the ability to sort of, have the, like that behavioral and conditioned knowledge to know when to go to sleep when it’s dark, cause that that’s conditioned. They don’t choose to do that. Um, and…
Tom: The circadian rhythm!
Mitch: Yeah. So like they have internal clocks, which, you know, I don’t know you use like dopamine and neoephrene. I think it is, um, that sort of regulate when they, when they know and they don’t pass history down to each other like we do.
Tom: Okay. For sure.
Mitch: So there, there, there’s, there’s, there’s obviously learned evolution and learned behaviors that are passed down generation to generation, but the history of it themselves isn’t passed down.
Tom: Yeah. The past, the knowledge of the past isn’t passed down.
Mitch: Yeah. Yeah. There’s certain characteristics and behaviors that are through learnt, but the history itself isn’t, so that’s why I would say that like other animals apart from humans don’t and can’t perceive time.
Tom: I think that is right. To some extent that would be the concept of time. We have this concept of the past and history and the future, which as far as we know, as you say, I think you’re right. Animals other than us don’t have this. But there have been many experiments testing whether animals can perceive durations of time and it has been proven that they can. Uh, so one experiment for example, was done in 2001 by a D. Crystal. So what they did is they had rats in a, in a box and they played say white noise for a short duration. And the rats had to press the left lever to get a reward. They played the white noise for a long duration and the rats had to press the right lever and then they train them on this for a bit until they get the idea short noise left, long noise right. Then they expose these rats to durations of the white noise that they’d never experienced before and they had to make a guess or decide whether it was a long or a short duration, whether it was the left or right lever and they managed to do this with significant accuracy.
Mitch: Hmm. No I agree with that. But during the thing I said before it’s, we have a conscience over the past that is more than pure instincts or behavioral conditioning and that’s why I was saying like I, I believe that humans are the only one’s that truly can perceive it and have like a consciousness of it because that’s just conditioning.
Mitch: Cause I’m wouldn’t to say that your, your, your proving that the rats has a consciousness of time, you’re proving that a rat can learn a duration of time.
Tom: Yeah. No, that’s all the experiment was, it wasn’t a test whether they have a perception of time or the concept of time that I definitely do not think they do, but they can definitely tell the passage of time with a certain degree of accuracy.
Mitch: Yeah. But yeah, I would agree with that. But there’s, there’s, there’ll be, there’d be many examples in the animal kingdom of certain animals using specific amount of times to do a certain task. Yeah. If you see what I mean. So you could think that could also be used, I’ll try to think of an example on the top of my head, but like
Tom: Well it was used in hunting is used in mating. It’s used in traveling, you know, times of year. Yeah.
Mitch: Yeah. Um, I would say to a certain extent, holding breath, maybe some, a lot of aquatic animals have an inherent knowledge of how long they can hold their breath.
Tom: Marine mammals and yeah. But no I think I agree with you. I don’t think that animals have the concept of time at all, but I think they can perceive duration. You know, they’re not going to start coming up with the theories of relativity anytime soon. All right, so moving from that, I think we can talk maybe a bit about the concepts of time. That’s where it starts to get even deeper.
Mitch: Or before we delve into that, I would like to go back to something you said earlier, which was very specific and you spoke about language.
Tom: Oh yeah.
Mitch: Which is the bit which I did my research on, cause I find it very, very interesting is to do with languages spoken and their relationship with time.
Mitch: So what sparked this, which is going to sound very nerdy, and I promise I won’t go off on a tangent, is the movie Arrival.
Tom: Great movie.
Mitch: It’s a, it is a fantastic movie. One of my favorites, um, is about humans being taught time by Aliens via language. And it is very, very good. And I’m not gonna spoil too much apart from what I just said. But then it got me thinking, I did some research to do with, um, online about if anyone had done any studies into human language. And if different languages perceive time differently. And it turns out that, I think a couple of years ago, Lancaster University, yeah, university, excuse me, did a study of bilinguals and this, the study was that they sort of got a someone Swedish and Spanish speaking individuals. So they, what they did is they had a two situations in front of them. One was a vase being filled of water and then lines going across a screen I think.
Mitch: And what they did is they started the experiment using different words. So either the Spanish word or the Swedish word. So it would have been, what’s the Spanish, I’m not too good at Spanish, but it was pretty much start for both. But the main point is that the Swedish prompt and the Spanish prompt would use the different references and describe the time differently because they’re experiencing it and the way that their language is built would be completely different from one another. So I think the Swedish used the lime prompt to describe how much time had passed and the Spanish used the volume of how much time had passed.
Tom: Okay. And it led to them believing that one language experienced times slower.
Mitch: Ummm not experienced time slower, but they experience it differently. So, uh, the Spanish would tend to describe, uh, like an event as big or small. So it was like, it was, it was large event, it was a big event and then like an English speaker would tend to say it was a short event or a small, like a long event.
Tom: Okay. Yeah, yeah.
Mitch: Um, and it’s in that way that they speak and the way that they like craft their sentences means that they have different references for time. And I just, I find it very, very interesting because it would imply that every language itself has, like if you said, oh, can you pop to the shops? That’s a very British phrase to start off with. But in the equivalent, in all the different, different parts of the world, that would be a different time period.
Mitch: So yeah, I just, it’s just
Tom: You’re implying with pop.
Tom: It’d be a very quick journey.
Mitch: Yeah. Like a short trip, big trip. It’s just, yeah, that’s more to do with like the psychological aspect of it, which I find quite interesting.
Tom: I think that’s very good point to bring up because we are, okay, I’m going off on a tangent now. We are depending on our language limited to how we can express our opinions and our views. And if you think about it, our brains don’t think in languages. You just think and you know what you mean. You might speak to yourself in your language. I definitely speak to myself in English in my head, but I know my brain doesn’t think in English. I just express it in English. So the way we perceive the world is very limited by our language.
Tom: In the way we think. And we can express ourselves.
Mitch: Yeah, at the end of this, um, this study there’s obviously a conclusion and one of the sort of the final takeaways from it was that if you’re bilingual you can experience day to day events and you can learn, I think it’s like better and faster because you have, if you switch between the languages when you’re doing it, you can grasp a greater spectrum. Let’s say that one language didn’t have a way of like adequately putting like a theory. If you then switch to the other language and started like talking about it and working it through like that, you would be able to have the advantage of being able to break it down, then switch over and then break it down and switch over.
Tom: I noticed that actually I’m trying to learn a bit of, Italian. Italian is much more specific than English. They have words for specific really specific moments that in English we are a bit lot more general. So when you’re talking about things in Italian, you know exactly what the other person means. Whereas an English, it can be taken a few different ways and you might think you’re understanding the other person, but you’re not to the level that you, that they are conveying. Hmm.
Tom: So that definitely can apply I think to our perception, bringing it back to time and how we perceive the world around us.
Mitch: And in Italian, your grandmother’s a bike.
Tom: She is indeed, that comes from an Italian saying where they say, yes, you can say, you know, I’m a football star. Um, which if anyone saw me, they’d know I’m not. Um, and they say, well yes, but if your grandmother had wheels, she’d be a bike is saying yes, you can call anything what it is, but you’re not what you are.
Mitch: Yeah. That’s quite well known. One cause it was on a TV show and it was a chef speaking.
Tom: Yeah. It was Gino DiCampo on the morning show this morning with Holly Willoughby. And what’s his name?
Mitch: Yeah. So she was pretty much just said, well if you put this in there and this in there and this in there, it would be this. And he just turned around and said, yeah, and if your grandma had wheels, she’d be a bike. So like, yeah, if
Tom: That’s the great thing with speaking with non natives is sometimes you know that they say these sayings and you’re just there. Like what? But it’s absolutely hilarious.
Mitch: Right. tangent enough. Bring it back in.
Tom: Okay. Bring it back in. So something I want to talk about is the different concepts of time. So before Einstein, we thought time was very linear, you know, one second for you was one second for me. It moved at the same rate in all of space and that was it. But then Einstein’s theory of general relativity made this a bit more tricky. He agreed that yes, everyone experiences time, but it’s not at the same rate. It depends on the conditions of the observer and someone in motion. If you move closer to the speed of light or towards something with large gravitational force, like a black hole, you experienced time slower. This created what we now know as space time where we think of a space and time are both woven into the fabric of the universe.
Tom: But it poses a problem because we can move in any direction in space. I can move forward, back, left, right up, down. But we can only move forward in time. And that for some people is quite tricky to understand. And it, the, the theory states that there are lots of parallel streams of time running next to each other. You can think of it like a river. If you go to a river, there are lots of rocks in it. For example, it would be slowing the river down in that section where the rocks are, but right next to it it might be deep and the river might be flowing fast. This is the exact same thing that can happen to time.
Mitch: That is a very, very eloquent way of describing, um, Time dilation. Just realised that you’ve, uh, you’ve done that. I’ve never come across that example before, but if someone described to me what time dilation would be, that would be perfect
Tom: Apologies for stealing your thunder there. I didn’t realize that was what I was doing.
Mitch: No, no, not steakling my thunder that was, that was a perfect segway into time. Dilation. Yeah. So theory of relativity obviously is, is it’s the relative that it is the crux. So depending on where you are observing something from will depend on what it, what you, what you’d be experiencing, which is one of the simplifying it down to a grain of sand there.
Tom: I think we need to, to be honest, it’s a very complex topic.
Mitch: Yeah. Very hard to research without getting into large mathematical and very big formulas and ideas. But yeah, so space time is one of those things that helps map sort of. It helps in mathematical models where you, it fused space and time together is where it, where it came from. They, they needed a way and needed a way of being able to solve over such large distances in space. How will we could remodel it? And Einstein’s theory of relativity I think is one of the, was built off of another person’s theory, which I can’t remember currently. And it’s going to bug me if I can’t find his name. I had it here. Oh. Minkowski so, um, it was Minkowski space time was the underlying theory that helped, um, Einstein create his. Have I got that right? Is that right? Or I’ve got the wrong around and it was vice versa. It doesn’t matter. Yeah. And yeah,
Tom: Well Einstein is credited with the theory of general relativity. So I’d imagine it would be the way round you said.
Mitch: Yeah. So the way that, uh, I think like to paraphrase a quote was that he said that he, him coming up with a theory, it was built on like an opportune moment in time because there was so much work done before him that helped him get to that point that it would have been found regardless of who was like being the physicist at the moment.
Tom: Yeah. I think that is a lot of science to be honest. You know, we, we, we advanced so much in certain fields that it just, the next discoveries will be made.
Mitch: Yeah. You know, it’s like, getting to a singularity, there’s always going to be a point where it’s just going to get to and at some point it will eventually get there. Yeah. So going back to…
Tom: I was uh… sorry carry on
Mitch: No, no, no. You are, you are going to go tangent.
Tom: No, I was tangenting. I was tan—. Okay I was watching a talk from Neil deGrasse Tyson and something he says, he always gets asked about in time is, you know, if people travel back and change something like killing Hitler for example, to stop World War Two or uh, you know, Fleming and never discovering penicillin for example. Um, but he was saying, well, you know, some things are just so primed to happen that if those people didn’t, someone else would’ve, yeah. In a very similar timeframe, for example Germany was primed to be governed by a fascist right wing party and that would have giaven, Given rise to a leader of a similar nature probably. And if Fleming didn’t discover penicillin then someone else have in the very near future.
Mitch: Yeah. It’s very, there’s, there’s lots of theories about what happened, what would happen if someone back in time, the universe healing itself or mending itself is one of them. And I’m a big fan of because it supports that theory that if that if that person gets killed, another person, we just replace them or, yeah, because it would, there would, there would be enough situations around it that, that that position would be filled. So no matter what you did that would do certain points would always happen.
Tom: Yeah. I think that’s the, as a, as a common theme in sci fi movies and everything like that where there are fixed points. Uh, no matter what you do, those things are still going to happen. And even if you were to go back and change something, it might trigger that event. So this is what’s called a Jin Particle. Um, so if you know, terminator the first one?
Mitch: Um, [some sort of zombie noise]
Tom: All right. Arnold Schwarzenegger, good old Arny. He goes back in time to kill the leader of the resistance’s mother, Sarah Connor.
Tom: Um, just by going back in time to kill her, he sets in motion the events by which she trains really hard and trains. His son was growing up, um, to become the resistance leader that he does become. So the fact that he went back in time, started the events for the reason why he went back in time and he’s caught in this infinite loop.
Tom: Where he’s going back and forth. And that’s known as a Jin Particle to uh, cause it never escapes that loop.
Mitch: Umm to quote Doctor Who which is very “wibbly wobbly, timey wimey” It’s about the time traveling musician.
Mitch: Are you aware of the episode I’m talking about?
Tom: Uh, yeah, I think so. Yeah. It’s been awhile. So fill me in.
Mitch: So the time traveler, um, who is very much into his classical music goes back in time to experience Mozart live cause he, during his time travels, he’s come across the music and he loves it. So he time travels back and goes to the time period, which Mozart is supposed to have been around and he can’t, we can’t find him. He doesn’t exist anywhere. None of his music has been written yet. And so the time travel, he panics and in, in, in panicking, he writes the music himself and publisesh it and gets it made. Now the argument is who wrote the music because surely he heard it first and then wrote it after hearing yet or did he hear himself play it? But then if he heard himself, he would have known.
Tom: Yeah, that’s a tricky one.
Mitch: Yeah. Is to do a time loops and who creates what first and all that sort of jazz.
Tom: And that comes into the whole realm of paradoxes and time paradoxes, and as I think I said in the, just before we started the show, that would be worth an episode on it’s by itself.
Mitch: Yeah, there may be like a quantum paradox, multi dimension episode coming up.
Tom: Yeah. So putting us back on track slightly. Um, so something that is, you know, if we are constantly to take a quote from Neil degrasse Tyson, we are prisoners of the present forever transitioning from our past to our future. So that is kind of terrifying. [Laughter].
Mitch: [Laughter]. That in itself is terrifying.
Tom: However, you know, if time, if we, you have to think of time as a dimension in this case, this is what Einstein, I think was trying to say with his general theory of relativity. If we could move around freely, it would then give the assumption that your life isn’t happening in a linear time as we perceive, but every part of your life is always happening. You are always being born. You are always having this conversation right now. You are always dying and opens up the possibility of the infinite parallel universe, which I think is accepted by quite a few high level scientists. However, you know, everyone has their own versions of what they think might lie out there. But this tells us if we were to accept this parallel universe theory where say, I, you know, I pick up this glass in front of me and I put it back down. There’s a parallel universe where I didn’t pick it up at all or I did pick it up and I spilled all over my computer and killed it.
Mitch: Yeah. Um, infinite, infinite universes with infinite choices.
Tom: Yeah. Which would make us assume that our timeline, our universe is then fated. It is fated that we are to make the decisions that we will make in this universe. But I think again, that goes slightly off topic from time. [Laughter]
Mitch: [Laughter] Yes, it’s hard to not cause cause it time is woven into so many different things and enables so many different things. It’s hard to stay to one just talking about time itself.
Tom: Exactly I think as you say direct completely. It’s, I think that the right word was woven into everything.
Tom: As whether we perceive it or whether it is real or whatever is there and opens up the doors and the possibilities to everything in a way.
Mitch: Yeah. Going, going, going all the way back to what kicked this off. Time dilation and gravitational time dilation. Now these, uh, two which came off Einstein’s theory. Two very interesting. Um, perceivable and have been measured. Uh, things. Theories. Theories, yeah. Theories. So time dilation according to the theory of relativity time dilation is a difference in the lapse time measured between two observers, either due to the velocity difference relative to each other or being differently situated relative to a gravitational field. Alright?
Tom: Okay. Yeah. Following.
Mitch: And as a result of the nature of space time, a clocked that is moving relative to an observer will be measured a tick slower than a clock that is at rest in the observers own frame of reference of time frame of reference, not reference of time. Um, to put that like in Layman’s terms
Tom: Put that in easy speak for me.
Mitch: So if you’ve got a clock that is at the highest mountain in the world.
Mitch: And then you’ve got a clock, which is at the deepest sea trench in the world and you left them ticking over a period of time, say a million years. When you bring those clocks back together again, they will be different due to the gravitational effect on the two reference points. They will be ticking it at a different time. Yeah. Yeah. So the idea is that a clock under a stronger gravitational field than the observers will tick slower than the observer’s own clock.
Tom: Yeah. I think the reason why it takes so long and your example is because the gravitational difference here on earth is not strong enough to create that influence. Well in a shorter period of time.
Mitch: You say that, but it, uh, due to gps satellites being so high in the atmosphere, they actually have to program them to offset this by, I think it’s per year. It lags by by 0.007 seconds. Oh No. Every six months. So they have to, I’m not sure if they do it like they just every six months they hop it forwards or they have it, I’m ticking slightly faster.
Tom: Yeah. I had um, a similar fact is the, the astronauts on the ISS, the international space station every six months, age 0.005 seconds less than us down here on Earth. So are technically,
Mitch: Should that be done? I think that should be quicker. Wait have I got that wrong?
Tom: No, because we are
Mitch: Yeah, they age slower!
Tom: Near the gravity. Yeah. They age slower.
Mitch: Yes that is my bad. Yeah.
Tom: Yeah, no worries. Um, so yeah, no, it’s very interesting isn’t it? And things that we don’t think they have to worry about, even in our example,
Mitch: Trying to work out my own reference. They age slower. So to me there will be aging quicker.
Tom: It says an mental gymnastics. Trying to wrap your head around this.
Tom: Um, I think a clear example that you mentioned either in last week’s episode or to me was the film Gravity. Oh wait, do you want to head into that
Mitch: No not Gravity. Interstellar,
Tom: Interstellar, yep, my bad Interstellar.
Mitch: Interstellar, favorite film of all the time. Great. Great production, great cast. Hans Zimmer, at the wheel when it comes to music is just perfect. And yeah, that has a very interesting, uh, scene with gravitational dilation to a very excessive extent.
Tom: Yeah. Would you like to explain?
Mitch: Sure. So what happens in the movie is they are looking for planets which are habitable for the human race to go. And Exodus to, because the, the Earth is dying. Um, and they go off in, uh, this spaceship, they go through a wormhole, they go to a different solar system and what happens is a one member of crew stays aboard the ship in the atmosphere, in a safe space away from this planet, which is circling a black hole. And three of the crew members go down to this planet and they do some testing and events unfold and which causes them to them to be longer on the planet. And they go back to the ship thinking, Oh, we’ve been, we’ve been gone for 15 minutes longer than we were supposed to. But when they get back to the ship, the guy that was left manning the ship and doing experiments on the ship had aged by about 10 years because the difference in the gravitational reference in this situation was so large that they had just skipped forwards an hour. But he had been there for years. And was, is a very good, if you want to explain to someone gravitational time dilation and the effects of it because it just, yeah, it was very plainly, kip cuts out into there weren’t gone for that long. You get their experience and they come back and he is old.
Tom: Yeah. And I think it’s important to know for, you know, people watching this as just a Scifi film maybe, uh, you know, this, that is done to the best of our knowledge on current scientific theories.
Mitch: MMM. Yeah. Yeah. It’s one of those they’ve picked and chose correct theories, but obviously there’s some theories that are kind of outlandish just to make it interesting. Like they go through a wormhole and the end is, uh, yeah, the end is the end. Yeah.
Tom: Oh yeah. I understand exactly what you mean.
Mitch: Yeah. It takes a hard left somewhere, but it’s, it’s good. And that also explains the multiuniverse theory in, in that same film. So if you want to get a good film and also get your head around some of these really obscure concepts that you may not be able to visualize, it does a very good job with that.
Tom: Yeah. Interstellar, a very good film. Um, one of the next things I wanted to talk about was time being an emergent property of the universe. So we’ve talked a lot about the general theory of relativity, which is the laws of physics that apply to big objects, the planets, to solar systems, to galaxies to us. Um, there is the other side of physics which deals with the microscopic, the atom size, the below atom size objects, which is quantum mechanics, quantum physics. Now they have two different sets of equations that define each other. And at the moment there is no equation that combines the two successfully. This is what’s called the theory of everything. This is what this is the holy grail of physics to find a set of equations that combines both the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. The very small things. And some of the proposed theories do you not include time in their equations, which we’d assume that time is not a fundamental characteristic of the universe. Because when we go to the very small, the microscopic, the below the sub atem level in quantum mechanics and we observe atoms and things like this, time doesn’t make sense. We don’t really know what happens to time. Time seems to break down here. For example, if you take one molecule of water, looking at it by itself doesn’t make sense, but millions of molecules of water together make an ocean. So they think that having a single atom time is not a thing, but having millions of atoms together, time emerges as an emergent property.
Mitch: Okay. Would be very difficult though to I guess write a theory, because you would write a theory for the atom as the theory of everything, but then if you try to use it for bigger things, it could fall down. Is that?
Tom: Yeah. So we have the theories for quantum. We have the, the equations that work, very small things.
Tom: And which is quantum mechanics. We have the equations that worked for very big things, which Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
Mitch: I see what you mean.
Tom: We cannot combine them. Yeah. There is no equation. Yeah. Um, so that is the holy grail. That’s what we, I guess physicists. I’m not one [Laughter].
Mitch: [Laughter] You made it sound like “us the physicists”. [Laughter].
Tom: [Laughter] Like I count myself as a physicist now. I’ve talked about time for nearly an hour. I am one. Yeah. No, uh, I do not have the mathematical or physical understanding of any of the equations I have come across and thus have not noted them down. [Laughter].
Mitch: [Laughter] Um, well, I did speed equals distance over time. Check me out. [Laughter].
Tom: Um, but yeah, so that is what physicists are trying to do at the minute and we are unsure of whether time is a fundamental property of the universe or whether it is an emergent property of matter. So that I think is very interesting and hopefully something that comes about in our lifetime but I don’t know. Um, I’m in the dark on that one as the rest of the world is at the minute. I’m definitely not going to be coming out with it.
Mitch: No, me neither.
Tom: There are very interesting ted talks and stuff on this one is by Andrew Zimmerman who I mentioned earlier. He talks about the philosophy and the psychology of time. Um, that’s where I got that example of water from. Uh, yeah, very incredible, interesting topic. But I think now we go off the wall a little bit.
Mitch: Is it of a wall section?
Tom: Off the wall! The wall section. Um, I would like to talk about time travel. I know we’ve talked about it a little bit. Um, so we know into the future as possible. Time travel into the future.
Mitch: Well technically it’s
Tom: Maybe not yet, but it will be.
Mitch: Yeah, no, I agree that it will be, but it’s, it’s how it’d be phrased when it happens. So using this theory of, uh, that was in Interstellar, you could put yourself in a capsule and get very, very close to a, uh, an interstellar object that has a very big gravitational well, and you could sit there for a day and then you could come back out. Via means that we currently don’t have and go back to a civilization that has its own reference and you could be thousands of years in the future for them because that their gravity reference is different. So it’s definitely a possibility. So that, that’s the thing. Yeah, it was, whether it would be, it’d be called like time travel or
Tom: Yeah, probably not. It’s not as we think as an instantaneous. That would be time travel, wouldn’t it?
Mitch: Yeah. So when, yeah, when you think of it, it’s like getting a big, getting a blue box, flick a few switches and you can go forward.
Tom: Um, but that kind of time travel comes at a great cost to the person traveling. So for example, if you were sent out, if you had sent out in a capsule for 10 years, um, you know, you have to spend 10 years in space by yourself. Do you, do you cryogenically freeze yourself? Do you, I mean, not that we have the technology to unfreeze people in the minute.
Mitch: Yeah. So yeah, there’s, there’s a few good, um, series. Is it like love sex robots? The, the Netflix one?
Tom: Yeah. That’s really good animation, montage, mini series
Mitch: Yeah, very strong, uh, animation that series. But there’s one where they’re in a spaceship that malfunctions and they get stuck in a cryogenically frozen, um, pod and it keeps going into the future. Well, not the future keeps going to the distance because it’s FTE, faster than light travel. It costs them a lot of time so they can’t get it back because there’s a huge, like there’s a huge impact on one’s life. Like if were like a space hauler in the future and you were travelling between point A and point B and you’re going the speed of light, it would, you would be losing so much time at your first point of reference to your second point of hours to get back. You’d be years in the future just for one trip. So it’s a very interesting problem to come across for future space haulers is that you have to sacrifice your life or would you be visiting the future for each destination you went on a round trip.
Tom: That’s true. And like they’d have to, um, something else to consider with that is, you know, your bank account, the interest you’d accrue over that time would be incredible. And the pay, you know, the conversion rates of the economy if they’ve gone favorably. It’d put you in a decent amount of pocket. I presume they would, uh, account for that now. Got, you know, they’ve got smart legal people and things like that. [Laughter].
Mitch: [Laughter]If you go into a cryogenic genetically slowed state to gain interest, we will cap you at 0.000001% interest.
Tom: I can see it now advertised on my, on my way to the shop.
Mitch: Yeah. But that, I think they would do it. With not the point of reference that they’re in. It would be the age of the person would be what the interest is on, if you see what I mean.
Tom: Yeah, that’s fair. And for the people doing it, would they, would it be like a family business with the whole family go because otherwise you’re leaving everyone behind. You’re like, you wouldn’t be able to have wife and kids because well, you’d start a family, you leave and by the time you arrived they’d be 50 or even later, they might have already passed on.
Mitch: So like the bit in Interstellar, not to reference Interstellar again.
Tom: Yeah, like the bit in Interstellar. I have a question for you then. If you could go forward or backward in time, which, and you couldn’t come back and you had to go. So there’s no cop out answers. [Laughter]
Tom: Which way would you go, how far and why?
Mitch: I probably would go into the future. Okay. Because I’m such a techie and I love Sci-fi and that sort of thing. I would prefer to go into the future to experience the advancements in technology and hopefully see the stars. That’d be the reason that I would want to do is space travel. The ability to go far enough in time to get to a point where I could fly around in space and experience different planets and that sort of thing. I get, there’s a certain romanticism with going into the past to experience events, but you’d be stuck in one period and if you went back to see an event, you’d be stuck in that time period until you die because what you said, you can’t move around after you’ve got there, you’re like, okay, I want to go back and see the Second World War. Like that’s great and all but you second is stuck in a very hard period in time in, in, in like the history of humanity. So it may not be the best idea.
Tom: No, that’s true. I agree with you. I’m very conflicted
Mitch: [Laughter] Or you know, sorry to interrupt. Go back two years and invest in Bitcoin. Simple but deceptively good.
Tom: [Laughter] Um, I’m conflicted I’d love to go back and see ancient Greece, the Romans.
Mitch: Yeah, that’d be good.
Tom: Do you know what I mean? Live in that time period and just experience it, but I’m worried that, okay, I get back there, I can’t speak Latin. How do I establish myself in that community without being made a slave and gladiator immediately where I die within a week.
Mitch: Yeah but, maths, mate. We’ve, you’ve gotta think that you’re going back in time with a better understanding of like maths and things. So you, so you could potentially just be like, oh yeah, there’s this theory. I call it the theory of relativity. Let me just break it down for you boys. [Laughter].
Tom: [Laughter] Yeah. Gravitational time. Dilation.
Mitch: Yeah. [Laughter].
Tom: If I were to put you on the top of the Colosseum and I was to leave this boy at the bottom of the Colosseum. Um, however, I think I agree with you. I would love to go into the future, but I don’t know if as a species we will make it there. So yeah, I’d love to say, oh, I’ll a thousand years into the future, but I don’t want that to happen, and I arrive on a scorched planet where the Sahara is like 90% of the planet. Um, I’d like, I’m very optimistic and I think that humans can make it, we have the power to make it. However, I just don’t know if we will be honest.
Mitch: It’s either, um, we have the knowledge and the power to make it or we can develop an AI (artificial intelligence) going throw back to the last week, we can develop, uh, an AI that will be able to do it for us, if you see what I mean.
Mitch: It’ll run the simulations and we can plug in a bunch of things and be like, okay, we want this to happen. Try and work it out.
Tom: Yeah. That would require advanced models and stuff. I was reading an article, sorry to cut you off. I was reading an article where they have made recent per predictions about what’s going to happen by 2050. Um, because if we carry on the way we are, there’s going to be up to a three degree change, uh, by the end of the century and the implications that has for the planet. However, I would like to do a whole episode on climate change, so I will stop there. Um, cause it’s incredibly interesting topic and yeah, it just annoys me that sometimes people are like, oh, climate change isn’t real.
Mitch: But yeah Tom Who’re you, what are you talking about it. That’s not real.
Tom: Oh yeah. That’s not really, not at all.
Mitch: Fake news.
Tom: It’s July and there was bloody hailstones the size of marbles here yesterday. Yeah. And uh, I know as global warming, but I think climate change is the more accurate term.
Mitch: Aren’t they changing it from climate to it’s now a climate emergency.
Tom: I hope so. I hope they do
Mitch: Yeah, is they’re changing what it’s called because the climate is not just to change. It is now, uh, an extinction event. I think that they’re reclassifying it because it’s the start of an extinction event.
Tom: Oh, fair enough. Well I think that that needs to be done to be honest. And everyone, not just governments but also down to the personal level. We need to try and make a change if we can, however, wildly off topic. We took, we took a hard tangent there. Um, yeah, so I think I would go forward in the hope that humanity has explored the stars we have extended beyond our solar system or we have figured out a way to terraform or we have discovered additional life or something and yeah. That’s my hope for humanity and very Sci-fi non dystopian future. Or even a dystopian future would be quite cool. Rather saddening. But like, you know, you go into the future and it is like Judge Dredd and you’re in Metropolis. In a city that covers half the world. It’s a, yeah. I think I would go forward however.
Mitch: Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s either that or, or it goes the whole destiny kind of route of an alien race comes and helps us out.
Tom: Well we could do with it. I mean, if they want to come in the next five years that’d be great. [Laughter]
Mitch: [Laughter] So yeah, if they’re not coming to destroy us, that’d be fantastic. Just come and help us out, that’d be fantastic
Tom: That’d be swell.
Mitch: Just come help us out, we can deal with it. Just give us something to unite against. Maybe if you want to play the bad guy to unite us against you. So we come together as a world just like, um, the Watchman. Perfect. Do that. But please do it soon.
Tom: Yeah, the sooner the better. Um, well knowing our luck it’d be more like district nine and they drop off a bunch of prawns, um, you know, and then we’d be stuck with slums. So I don’t know. I mean I have hope for humanity in the future. I really do. I think it is 50, 50 especially with the way things going at the minute. Yeah. I think we are coming up to the hour now, so that is possibly a good time to end it unless you have anything else to add, Mitchell.
Mitch: Um, no thought that covers all my points.
Tom: All right, good. So guys, once again, thank you for joining us. This has been the conduct science podcast. You can check out all the latest goings on conductscience.com and you can find us on Facebook and Twitter by searching for @conductscience. And if you guys have any questions, please use the Hashtag #askconductscience. We’d love to answer your questions on this show. Next week we’ll be talking about senses and our limited perception of reality. I’ve been your host, Tom Jenks, with Mitchell Gatting.
Mitch: Hello and goodbye
Tom: And we’ll see you…. next time.