ANYBODY got the time? I don’t think so, because “time” is a word we are all familiar with but only the artifact “time,” not the reality. Time is interlaced with the fabric of the universe to comprise the indivisible space-time lattice where the time depends on where you are. Simultaneous observers, in different places, see the same event at different times (brother Albert). Moreover, time slows down with increased velocity and increased gravity. At the speed of light, time stops, as it does in a super-massive black hole. Time does not fly, flow or flee. Those are metaphors. Time is a medium in which we exist.

In the past, time was closer to the real thing. We knew the time by the apparent position of the sun and our tummies. We got along just fine too. Then, a Roman legion brought home a sundial and the race was on. That ancient instrument divided our days into observable segments by which we could a bit more accurately determine where we should be or when something should occur. Three-day eggs anyone?

Around 1300 the mechanical clock in its many variations appeared. Soon we had railroad clocks, pocket watches, pendulum clocks and so on, ad infinitum. Presently, we are surrounded by devices which fracture time into smaller and smaller bits which places us in a position of being dominated by a mere thing. Now some guys at MIT have invented a new iteration of the atomic clock which over hundreds of billions of years is “off” by just 100 millionths of a millisecond. Why?

In a word, our obsession with planning which involves the expectation that we can divine a future time when something is either going to occur or we expect to make something happen. Our compulsion to explore also generated the necessity of always knowing where we are which involves a clock which can keep time at sea. Wanting that, seafarers could not determine their longitude when out of sight of land. In 1761, an English carpenter devised a maritime chronometer which opened the world for seaborn navigators.

The evolution of our time keeping devices meets the increasing demands of our universal warden — technology. GPS is impossible, absent timekeeping to exquisite degrees. Increasingly, various segments of technology have demanded the development of ever more precise clocks. We pay a price for this, though, in the incessant demands for cramming relentless time-centered events into increasingly stressful lives where the finer granulations of human civilization and culture are crowded out by time-urgent events.

“Time is an abyss the edge of which we are all teetering upon together”. Me. Y’all be careful now, y’heuh!

Ron Zimmerman,



(5) comments

che guevara

Ron ; I may not always agree with you , however you never disappoint . Without scrolling to the bottom of the letter , I was easily able to detect who wrote it based squarely upon your linguistic forensics . Time is indeed a paradox which despite our best advances in technology still remains an enigma . From Copernicus to Einstein and their studies on the relationships of time , space and motion , we still have little understanding of this concept of time much beyond our temporal realm .

I might suggest that we journey back in time ( pun intended ) to ancient Sumeria , around 6000 BC , for some possible explanations . We base time in terms of how it is measured for our purposes upon the ancient Sumerian Sexagesimal System , a Base 60 mathematical table , whereby measurements are performed in increments of six . Thus we have sixty seconds in a minute , and sixty minutes in an hour , which corresponds to 24 hours in a daily cycle , thirty days in a monthly / moonthly lunar cycle , 12 months in a year , 12 signs of the Zodiac , and 360 days in an annual cycle ( with the 5 added Holy Days / Holidays making it an observed 365 day annual cycle of Earth's journey around the Sun ) . This also accounts for a circle having 360 degrees , and the face of a watch or clock being round , with the 90 degree quarters breaking the 12 hour time frame schedule into increments which correspond to human activity , and whose intersecting lines from 12 to 6 o'clock / North to South ; and from 3 to 9 o'clock / East to West , represent the Summer and Winter Solstices , and the Autumnal and Vernal Equinoxes - and the sign of the crucifix , as well . This is not coincidence .

Moreover , we derive the word " Hours " from the ancient Egyptian Solar Deity of Horus ( from which the Christian Solar Deity of Jesus Christ originates ) . If you switch the " r " and the " u " in Hours you get Horus ( also the origin of the word Horse ) . Horus was believed to have taken his daily 12 - step / 12 hours journey across the sky during the sunlight hours ( the 12 Horus / Hours on your watch or clock ) , whereby at dusk the Egyptian Deity of Darkness , Set / Seth , then took over and made his 12 - step journey across the night sky . Hence we derive the term of Sun - Set / Sunset for dusk , and the concept of a 12 - Step Program , such as in rehabilitation and counseling , or what have you . This also accounts for why we have grades K thru 12 , a Jury of 12 , and the concept of a Dozen .... to name but a few examples of how our society still adheres to the ancient Sumerian Sexagismal System of time measurement .

So , like all things we humans tend to cling to , which are for the most part constructs steeped in superstition and tradition , and often ignorance as well , there is nothing new under the Sun . I myself prefer Albert Einstein's simple and quite succinct explanation of time as related to his Theory of Relativity ; " When you are talking to a pretty girl for an hour it seems like a minute - when you have your hand on a hot stove for a minute it seems like and hour . That is time . " Like most things , it's all in our heads . Thanks for snapping me out of my morning blues with this exercise Ron .

che guevara

typo correction ; " - when you have your hand on a hot stove for a minute it seems like AN hour .... "


He did get the pretty girl part right.


A little clarification, " . . . seafarers could not determine their longitude when out of sight of land. In 1761, an English carpenter devised a maritime chronometer which opened the world for seaborn navigators.". Actually this is an old myth. Ocean navigation was possible the Lunar distance calculation in order to determine the longitude. Clocks just made the operation immensely easier. In fact a good clock and decent sextant in the north hemisphere is all you need to navigate the open ocean using Polaris and a Noon Sight without sight reduction tables.


Stan: Thank you for the comment. Finding longitude on the open ocean requires an accurate determination of an absolute time (Greenwich Mean Time for example). While it is true that the lunar distance calculation provides one means of doing this, the advanced mathematics and algorithms involved had always placed that beyond the reach of most seaborne navigators (without computers or modern calculators). The 1761-62 demonstration of high accuracy on Harrison’s fourth try (H-4) which, on a voyage from England to Jamaica lost just five seconds in over two months at sea solved the problem. A navigator could thereby determine local time by measuring high noon, and comparing this to the absolute time, which had been set on an accurate chronometer at the start of the voyage. He could then determine the number of degrees of longitude that he’d traversed during his journey.

Open University, “In 1714, the English Parliament offered a prize of £20 000 to anyone who could determine longitude at sea to within a half a degree. Many eminent scientists tried, but it was an unknown amateur clockmaker from Yorkshire, John Harrison, who rose to the challenge.” This is just history, not myth.

From the Sea Museum, “The quest for determining longitude developed a number of possible methods, three of which were potentially quite accurate. Observations of Jupiter’s moons could be used and worked well on land, and observations of the moon through the lunar distance method presented a very precise answer, too. Also, the concept of using the difference in time between a known location and your location as a means of calculating your longitude was also widely known. However, all of these needed very precise observations of the different celestial bodies, and in the case of the first two, very detailed recordings of their patterns of movement, and tedious calculations to arrive at an answer. The time of day was also needed and needed very accurately.

The instruments required – telescopes, sextants, timepieces and so forth – were gradually improving in accuracy but did not begin to meet the requirements needed until the 1700s and into the 1800s. It was one of these midpoints, along with Harrison solving the technical problem of creating a clock that kept time accurately at sea for days on end, which helped provide a practical solution to the longitude problem.”

From Quora, “For longitude, you have to know "what is the exact time of day right now at (some reference point)". The only way to know that was to have a clock on board your ship that was set, say, to "Greenwich Mean Time". You set the clock before your ship set out to sea, and from then on you always knew the reference time.”

I thought it unnecessary to belabour this so much as I was only giving one example of how technology captures us with ever-increasing time constraints. I should have said no “practical” means.

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