It’s about Time

Issue 43 July 2018

Physical Time in Perspective

Most people would probably agree that the obvious feature about time is that it progresses (or flows). However, our everyday experience of the apparent ‘dynamic’ nature of time conflicts with the basic laws of physics which do not posit any passage of time. This clash between experience and fundamental physics has led a few physicists to develop theories of the universe in which time’s passage is an explicit feature. Two such theories are discussed along with a possible non-‘dynamic’ alternative.

Dr. Peter J. Riggs is a physicist and philosopher of science in the Department of Quantum Science at the Australian National University.

The fragility of human existence

“My work mainly depends on – and is influenced by – everyday life: the political, social and cultural events that occur and change our ideas and perception of the world around us. Wars, social injustice, natural catastrophes have marked people, reshaped regions – the fragility of human existence.”

Alexandra Dementieva main interests focus on social psychology and perception and their application in multimedia interactive installations. Her videowork integrates different elements including behavioral psychology, developing narrative using a ‘subjective camera’.

Felt Time

“One could say that the study of time consciousness overlaps with the study of phenomenal consciousness. Conscious awareness is extended awareness of duration, temporal order, the present-moment, and the passage of time.”

Marc Wittmann is currently employed at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Freiburg, Germany. He has written two books on the topic of time perception. ‘Felt Time’ has been published in 2016 by MIT Press and ‘Altered States of Consciousness’ is going to appear in August 2018, also published by MIT Press.

The Brain as a Time Machine

“In many ways the brain is a time machine, we remember the past to predict the future and we engage in mental time travel (we can mentally project ourselves into the past and future). Additionally, we are pretty good at telling time, whether demonstrated by catching a ball, playing the piano, or anticipating when the red light will change to green. But how does Mother Nature build clocks using neurons?”

Dean Buonomano is a professor in the Departments of Neurobiology and Psychology, and a member of the Brain Research Institute, and the Integrative Center for Learning and Memory at UCLA. He is a leading researcher on how the brain tells time. His new book is is titled ‘Your Brain is a Time Machine: The Neuroscience and Physics of Time.’

Anthropocene

Richelle Gribble’s exhibition, ‘Anthropocene’, took place at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (New Orleans, LA) between May and July 2018. With a strong interest in environmentalism, the artist examines human impact on nature and the biological consequences of human influence. Gribble’s highly conceptual work includes painting, drawing and sculpture.

Trace Narratives over Vast Stretches of Time

Margaret Inga Urías is a multidisciplinary artist primarily using the medium of drawing to create engraved sculptures, site-specific installations, large-scale murals, constructed photographs and works on paper. Drawn to lost histories, concealed origins and imperceptible, forgotten connections, she is interested in conditions that entangle the past, the present, and the future–re-examining how we orient ourselves, not only in the immediacy of places around us, but also in the universe that maintains us. With a specific interest in the physical laws and circumstances that brought space, time, matter and beings into existence, she creates works that often function as trace narratives– following the story of the small, the coincidental, and the invisible, over vast stretches of time.

Language alters our experience of time

“My new study – which I worked on with linguist Emanuel Bylund – shows that bilinguals do indeed think about time differently, depending on the language context in which they are estimating the duration of events. But unlike Hollywood, bilinguals sadly can’t see into the future. However, this study does show that learning a new way to talk about time really does rewire the brain. Our findings are the first psycho-physical evidence of cognitive flexibility in bilinguals.”

Panos Athanasopoulos is Professor of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University. He works in the areas of experimental psycholinguistics, experimental cognitive linguistics, bilingual cognition, linguistic and cultural relativity, first, second and additional language learning.

You thought quantum mechanics was weird: check out entangled time

“Up to today, most experiments have tested entanglement over spatial gaps. The assumption is that the ‘nonlocal’ part of quantum nonlocality refers to the entanglement of properties across space. But what if entanglement also occurs across time? Is there such a thing as temporal nonlocality?”

Elise Crull is assistant professor in history and philosophy of science at the City College of New York. She is the author, together with Guido Bacciagaluppi, of the book The ‘Einstein Paradox’: Debates on Nonlocality and Incompleteness in 1935 (forthcoming).

Deep time’s uncanny future is full of ghostly human traces

“Deep time represents a certain displacement of the human and the divine from the story of creation. Yet in the Anthropocene, ironically we humans have become that sublime force, the agents of a fearful something that is greater than ourselves.”

David Farrier is a senior lecturer in English literature at the University of Edinburgh, where his research interests include eco-criticism, postcolonial studies, and asylum and refugee contexts. He is currently working on a book about deep time in contemporary poetry

What is time – and why does it move forward?

“Einstein’s special theory of relativity, shows that time is … relative: the faster you move relative to me, the slower time will pass for you relative to my perception of time. So in our universe of expanding galaxies, spinning stars and swirling planets, experiences of time vary: everything’s past, present and future is relative.

So is there a universal time that we could all agree on?”

Thomas Kitching is a cosmologist, Reader in astrophysics, and Royal Society University Research Fellow working at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at UCL. His interests are in dark energy, dark matter, statistics, and computer science. He is a manager in one of the worlds largest cosmology experiments, a European Space Agency mission called Euclid.