The Weirdness of Time
©2021 by Vernon Miles Kerr, VernonMilesKerr.com Previously posted to Twitter as a rough draft Oct. 4, 2021
#FirstCuppaJoe #MorningMeditations for Mon. 10/4/21 (thread)
Today’s “inspiration” was #Time, and the weirdness of time. As I rolled out of bed and made my way to the bathroom—on arrival—I thought, “That simple sequence of events no longer exists.” Without leaving some trace, in the form of artifacts, the fact that it ever did exist cannot be proven. Yes, I can briefly remember it, but—because it lacks significance—the neurons in my brain will probably make room for more important stuff by recording over it. But, now that I’ve written it down and put it on the Internet, I’ve created an artifact that, for all its triviality, will probably be around as long as the Internet, or some future version of it, exists.
This is the revolutionary thing about the advent of Writing: transient memories of events could be converted into physical artifacts, that served to prove that they happened.
So, this has given us a mental concept of Time being somehow “real,” or repeatable. In the REAL reality though, Time is fleeting. It’s a train moving down an infinite track, never returning to the same point again. The events of the train’s past position, looking backwards down the empty track can never be repeated—cannot even be proven—without some kind of physical evidence, like a photograph, or a capture of molecules left by its exhaust.
Before the art of writing, human history was oral and dependent upon the memories of those who were charged with remembering and repeating its sagas, and genealogies. Without any substance, other than human brain activity, one can imagine how susceptible to “evolution” histories and religious beliefs were.
The advent of photography provided an even more reliable way of creating physical artifacts in real-time, as events occurred.
The subsequent invention of cinema, where multiple, rapid photographs could be taken in sequence then viewed one-at-a-time, allowed us to delve into a realm previously hidden to our knowledge, the moments between moments. Very early on, in the 19th Century, an ages-long controversy was solved: Yes, at one split-second, a horse’s hooves are, indeed, all off the ground at the same time. During the early 20th century, ever-faster camera shutters and light-sensitive film allowed on-going events to be split into even tinier photographic artifacts. Then, computerized shutters and Digital light-sensors were later able to create tens-of-thousands, even millions of images per second. Things like a projectile going 10,000 mph striking an iron plate could now be viewed in slow motion, in order to predict how meteor impacts might effect the Earth.
The reasonable conclusion from this temporal hair-splitting is that time is infinitely divisible, and yet — this is where the weirdness comes in — it cannot be stopped or reversed. What’s done is done. How could we “travel” back in time, when it’s made up of millions, even trillions of events in every one of its minutes or seconds? Worse, the petty events within our view are combined with ongoing events across a vast, almost unknowable Universe.
Compounding this complexity is Einstein’s description of time being relative to a hunk of local matter’s speed and how close it’s path is to massive objects like stars and black holes. My time might appear to be slower than your time if we are going at different velocities. So time is bendable, stretchy, but not reversible. Its progress is inevitable. We are trapped in its flow. Thanks to Writing and the Science of photography, we can be aware of how weird Time is.