Elusive Treasure

Time drives every second of our lives in ways we can scarcely imagine, but what is time? And where do we fit in it? The more we understand time, we come to the conclusion that its time that makes us uniquely human.

Time is the greatest force in a human’s life, it drives every single one of us, and we can never get enough of it, its invisible, untouchable and yet time rules every aspect of our lives. Time is the greatest mysteries in all of nature, yet none of us understand how it affects us, individually or as a society.

Many species on the earth are driven by time, whether it is the need to mate or any other biological mechanism, all the species on the earth are run by time, so are humans different from them? Are we run by time through instinct or by choice?

A series of experiments were conducted to determine this, when a person is cut-off from society, and time and even light, they start to follow a distinct 24 hour pattern, waking up in the morning, sleeping at night, and eating a roughly the correct times of day. This was the discovery of the biological clock, and in fact even when there are no external factors of time a human follows a regular 24 hour day. So in fact, humans are no different to every other animal. Within each of us is a built in clock ticking away, synchronizing each and every one of us to our 24 hour day.

Almost all or our body processes follow a predictable pattern; from hormone levels to pain thresh hold, from strength levels to levels of stamina. They’re all controlled by a part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei. A region of the brain, consisting of only 20 000 cells no larger than a pea. An organ of time that synchronizes every life process.

The biological clock ticking away is built into our genes, and is shared by all species and organisms. The clock that’s ticking away in me and you are the same as they are in a fish, a bird, bacteria and plants. We all share the same biological mechanism for time. But the way human beings perceive time nowadays is very different to out biological ancestry, time in the modern age has become an external force, a pressure on our lives, born out of the demand for speed and punctuality. People’s lives become more punctual and much more temporally regimented. This dominance of time in our lives was spawned by the industrial revolution and  the advent of capitalism, all of a sudden time was money, and the need for punctuality was a requirement for economic prosperity.

But there was one instance in human history which cemented the need for punctuality and synchronicity, World War 1, the enormous number of people required a huge coordination not just in space but also in time. WWI was denoted by trench war fare, and gaining ground, if a platoon was out of synch and charged at the wrong time they would be damned to pages and tablets of memorials, so time was at the up most importance, it had to be coordinated very precisely within time. To do so, headquarters sent out wrist watches, all synchronized at head quarters, so everyone was running at the same time. Before this war, wearing a wrist watch was considered feminine, during the war it was a matter of life and death, and the watch had become essential to the soldiers, almost becoming a weapon in a sense.

But maybe the sense of the march of time ultimately originates within us and not at the end of our arms.  A human beings ability to sense time passing is extraordinary, we do it all the time and aren’t even aware, from, boiling the kettle, to waiting at a traffic light. We all have a sense of time passing, even in an environment in the absence of information, a human being is aware of time passing. This is called the biological stopwatch, the sense of the march of time is embedded in the neurochemistry of the brain, at the base of the brain lies a cluster of cells which release a neurochemical which act as a start signal that cause neurons in the frontal lobe of the brain to start firing, but each to a different beat and it’s this rhythmical pattern of beats which signals how much time has elapsed. This process is happening constantly, humans are continuously calculating elapsed time. You, yourself are doing it right now as you read this.

So the question is raised, can this mechanism for calculating elapsed time slow down, or speed up?

People say in life and death situations time slows down, to a degree that they could see every detail. Does time itself slow down or is it imagined? It was found that in high adrenaline situations time [for the person] does in fact slow down. Various mind altering drugs also have the same effect, most notably cocaine and marijuana. Cocaine speeds up our perception of time and marijuana having the opposite. So chemicals have a direct influence on our perception of time, by interrupting the chemical pathways of the “biological stopwatch”

But not all of our sense of time comes from within, one  has to realize that time isn’t just internal, it’s external, the external world dictates the way time flows, and this influences the way we experience it. All human beings are prisoners, prisoners of time, we can’t escape it, can’t jump out of it, stop it or reverse it, and we are forever slaves to it.

Then the question has to be asked; what is it? What is time? We all know that time marches forward, never freezes. These laws seem obvious, but we don’t know how or why they come about.  When one delves into physics and the realm of theoretical strings and quantum mechanics, the laws, astoundingly, allow you to travel backwards in time. There are no laws in physics that dictate that you can’t go back in time, there are no rules that say time has to travel forward. So why does time run forward? It is possible according to the laws of physics that everything could be run backwards. We never see time reverse in real life, isn’t because the impossibility of it, it’s the improbability of it. So improbable that it’ll never happen in your life time, or in fact the life time of the universe, but given a long enough time period it will at some point happen.  There’s a profound consequence to this realization, the past will always be fixed and our future will always be yet to come, and it’s these insights into our reality of time which creates a humans awareness to the arrow of time, of past, present and future.

Everything we do, every action is the ability to understand what’s just happened and anticipate what’s going to happen next. And it’s this understanding which is one our greatest abilities and we use it continually; all humans know that we live in one time, the present. But what is the present? How long does it last? Perhaps only a millionth, a billionth or even a trillionth of second. There is no present only near future and a distant past.

We all think that time is mechanical; it beats at the same rate throughout the universe. But in the end as a human being, as a person, time is also intimate, our perception and comprehension of time can change, it can speed up or slow down. Time is very personal, it comes from within, giving us the realisation that we all are here for a limited amount of time and that each and every one of shouldn’t waste, what we have a so very limited amount of, time. It is truly the most precious commodity in our lives.

I want to live forever

I along with every human on earth is aware that 1 day [don’t know when] that my time will run out, no matter how well I eat or exercise, I know that one day, my body will fail and that one day I’ll die. Of all the affect time has on us, the most profound is that one day our time will end. Our time is limited, so our time is precious. What does that mean to us? How the knowledge that our time is limited has has shaped us as human beings?  You may not feel the effects of time changing you day by day, minute by minute. But we’re aware of it. The progression of time is more than just the physical aging of our body, as we grow older the perception of time changes, it speeds up. Many older people get the feeling that time is speeding up, like there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done. As we grow older the clock inside each and every one of our minds begins to slow down, and as it slows, we perceive everything to be speeding up.

But why does our time have to run out at all? Some organisms seem to have an endless lifetime. In the sierra-Nevada desert there is the oldest inhabitant on earth, named Methuselah. A bristle coned pine tree, so ancient it has outlived nations and civilizations, it has seen the rise and fall of empires and emperors, and it is 4781 years old. It’s older than recorded history itself and still going, still fertile producing cones to carry on the species. So what’s stopping us from living as Methuselah? What determines how much time we have?

It is evident when looking at eth animal kingdom; each animal is given a pretty much fixed lifespan. From mayflies who only have one day to enjoy all the pleasures of life, to elephants who often have 70+ years

Life and death seems to follow a pattern, so it would appear that time is a precious commodity that is strictly limited by biology, and humans are no different. Humans among every other living thing have a fixed time on this planet, but unlike every other living organism, humans are aware of this limited amount of time. It is this knowledge which shapes us as human beings the feeling for the poignancy and transience of our lives have been at the roots of so much of what we value as human culture, within art, literature and music, we’re surrounded by it in our monuments, buildings, histories and religions. Knowing that our time is limited helps to shape the way we look at ourselves and each other.

Through psychological experimentation, it was found that as one gets older, a person begins to take account of how much time they have left and by doing so they begin to realize what’s most important in life and what’s not important in life. Older people are happy to know that they only have 5 years left; it’s the 5 years that’s telling them to let their guard down and to truly enjoy life, the ability to stop and really experience the day and to just live in the moment. It is the awareness of time passing that is embedded deep in all aspects of human culture; it shapes how we see the world and how we see ourselves.

Mementos mori are paintings that place mortality as the dominant, yet elusive theme. It could be anything in a painting that reminds one of passing time, whether that be a skull in the painting or an hour glass, or a candle, or even fruit, all are reminders of our own transience and death. In the modern age we have our own form or memento mori – family portraits.

Old photos bring up an astounding mixture of emotions; they are moments in time captured, moments of joy happiness and content preserved forever. But with the viewing of old photos, can stir up negative emotions, feelings of sadness, regret and guilt can arise. Your past running away, your memories accumulating as so much lost time, and so many things left unsaid. Do we have to accept that those lost moments, and precious memories have to fade away?  Or lost time is [unfortunately] lost forever; it is the decisions that will shape your future and memories, so choose carefully.

The knowledge that our time is limited, shapes the way we live our lives, every second is vital and every minute precious.

It is the awareness that our time is limited, has driven us in the search for a wait out, a way to live eternally. It has been religion that has provided this, almost preying on the humans weakness, at the heart of all religions is the promise of eternal life, time without end. So the promise of eternal life is a powerful incentive to worship god, through whatever religion you choose, or don’t choose. But, to get everlasting life in heaven, one has to trust that heaven exists. Remarkable claims require remarkable proof.

Humans have spent millennia in search for more time, but amazingly, biologically, culturally and even psychologically humans are prepared for death, prepared for our time to end.

But is our inevitable demise indeed inevitable, are we programmed to die? All or at least most organisms have a set amount of time on this earth, so there must be a program working inside us that tells us when to die…….no, no there is no program for death, the only program in our genes is for life, the same can said for aging, there are genes that build us to maturity but no genes that directly age us. So why do we age?….it’s the accumulation of damage afflicted  to our cells which age us, whether the halt of pigment for hair or the misproduction of collagen in our skin, these are all signifiers of aging. Humans hold extraordinary repair mechanisms, but as the passage of time the amount of damage done is simply overwhelming.

In nature it’s a given, the smaller you are the less time you live. But there is one group of animals that defy this untold law, birds, birds can live longer than most animals relative to their size. Some birds the size of mice life up 28 years whereas mice only live 2. Birds have one biological component that is amazingly efficient, more efficient than most other animals. Their mitochondria, all animal cells have them, they are the power stations of the cell [I’m not going to go into the biomechanics of the mitochondria], and they provide energy for all of the cells and thus life’s processes. But harmful particles flow out of the structure causing damage to anything they collide with.  But birds leak out 10 times less free radicals than mice. Humans have incredibly efficient mitochondria, more efficient than that of mice and even birds, but not all the damage done by these free radicals are cleared away and repaired, and it’s that simple, that is aging.

So are any organisms on the face of the earth not ruled by the clock?

Sea urchins are one of the only animals that don’t age; sea urchins, many of don’t realize can live 250+ years with no indications of aging. Scientist doesn’t know how the sea urchin does it but at least we know living outside of time is possible. Research is being carried out, to increase the life span of organisms, and to great success, some organisms have been given 6 times their normal lifespan, but if it is possible to increase a human’s life span, how much time do we need?

What would happen if technology progressed enough to make a human live 200-300 years of age, maybe more, the social and psychological effects would be profound. Life would become mundane, meaningless, human emotions would suffer profoundly, I think it would be great if everyone had to live with the consequences of their actions, humans may indeed die too soon, losing accountability.

It’s ironic that death itself is what makes life so extraordinary, so worth living, knowing the fact that we will all die is what gives our lives meaning.

The beginning and the end

How far back does time go? And how far forward? And even, where do humans fit in this enormous time scale? Humans have a unique sense of time, which allows us to imagine a future beyond our own lives, this is evident in human carvings, the pyramids, sphinx, Mayan temples, these are all monuments to the very human ability to imagine and have faith in the future. Our knowledge of time lies at the very heart of our humanity, we learn from the past and pass on that knowledge to the future, that’s the very foundation of the human civilization.

The archbishop, James Ussher, went on a quest to determine the beginning of time itself, from a biblical point of view, by adding up all the ages’ patriarchs, he reached the conclusion that the earth was 6000 years old and that the earth was the centre of the universe. He invariably was wrong, his conclusion was way off, the earth isn’t the centre of the universe and the earth is over 4.6 billion years old.

Time has been crucial to another unique and truly extraordinary journey, life.  You are part of the most extraordinary story of all, life on this planet. Your journey through time is evident when you look in the mirror, your face, your legs, eyes arms all are results of evolution, and we all bare un-needed results of evolution, from the appendix, to the coxis.

It was the earth itself that gave us clues to humans and all organisms living on the planet today magnificent journey through time. Through fossils, scientists were able to chart; to map out life’s journey that lead by pure chance to us. Life began on earth 3.5 billion years ago, and it took another 2.5 billion years for there to be any signs of change, and suddenly in the world’s oceans was an explosion of life, these were the ancestors of all living animals, birds fish, monkeys. But it’s not until 5 million years ago that ape men appear in the evolutionary stage, the ape men moved from the forests of Africa to savannahs and began to stand on their feet, which freed up the hand. The thumb which had been previously used to swing from the trees can now be used to make and use tools that are when we begin to separate ourselves from the apes, the existence of humans on the earth in evolutionary terms is miniscule, and humans are just one tiny part of life’s 3.5 billion year journey through time.

The fact that we have only had such a small part in evolutionary time, should make us feel very insignificant so small, but it’s also astounding that human life is here at all, through all the ages and against all the odds, human life is here at all, able to ponder about our place in time. And it’s this which realization that should raise us to the awareness that human life is so special. To realize that one day, humanity, all our achievements and glories will be gone too, time erodes everything, 99.9% of all the species that have ever been on this earth have all disappeared, and one day we too will be banished to the pages of eternity. Evolution teaches us that life is transient and that human life will end, when and how we don’t know, and we may never know just how long the human race will last into the future.

To understand how much time the earth and thus life on has left, one has to gaze upwards, at the sun.  The source of our light, heat and security, the sun powers all of life on earth, and the sun only has 5billion years left, and thus the earth has only this amount of time left. The earth is halfway through its life, humans have at last truly found our place in time, just a tiny fragment in our planets magnificent story a transient moment doomed to pass, but maybe we can escape.

The human creative spirit is limitless, this is evident in the technologies present in our lives right now, from space travel, to communication, all of these technologies would’ve been unimaginable 100 years ago, so we one can only imagine the progression and development of new technologies in the future, the possibilities endless and the consequences truly magical. Perhaps our technology may insulate and protect us from extinction and facilitate us to enter a new era of time in which the human race could continue its remarkable journey.

The science of time.

In the last part of this paper, I’ll be exploring the question of, what is time itself.

Of all the assumptions about time, one is that time is regular, that 1 minute will always be a minute for everyone, everywhere. This, in fact isn’t true, a muon is a sub atomic particle, formed from when cosmic rays collide with the upper atmosphere of the earth, they’re extremely short lived a lifespan of only about 2 millionth of a second, muons only should live long enough to travel a couple of hundred meters, but muons can be detected on most mountain summits, travelling miles to the earth. So how, does this particle that should theoretically travel a few hundred meters end up on earth several miles down. Something that shouldn’t be possible.

What was proposed was so extraordinary, special relativity was a theory Einstein drew up and it proposed that time isn’t always regular; the faster you travel to the speed of light the slower time passes. Time itself travels at the speed of light and by physically travelling faster you take up your share of the speed of time, so theoretically if you travelled at the speed of light, you would eat into your share of the speed of time so much, time would stand still.  And muons travelling close to the speed of light lived longer than they should have.

When one looks at the world at the miniscule level, at the level of atoms and sub atomic particles, time behaves very different indeed, it becomes chaotic.

Light is made of individual particles called photons, they’re known for their wave like properties. Waves have a phenomenon called wave interference, when 2 waves come together they can add together and reinforce each other or cancel each other out. By studying these light waves we can prove that time isn’t always ordered. An experiment was carried out to determine the wave properties of photons, to see what patterns would be produced if a single photon was shot down a tube toward a detector through a slit in a piece of glass. The pattern produced like a single line, the photon was going through a single slit. Now the experiment repeated but instead of the photon being shot through a single slit in the glass 2 slits would be on the glass, so the pattern the light produced had to be the same, the photon had to choose only one slit to pass through, this was not so, the pattern produced was an interference pattern, the findings of the experiment were profound, the results should have been impossible. The results shown implies that the single photon that should’ve passed through only one slit is actually passing through both slits at the same time, in other words the photon doesn’t just exist not just in 2 places but in 2 times.

Another assumption people make about time is that it never stands still, what makes us human is the realization is that time waits for no man. This assumption is also not entirely true. Black holes are so dense their gravity approaches infinity, and according to Einstein’s 2nd theory, the theory of general relativity, that gravity slows time in a very similar way to speed does, the immense gravity of the black hole can literally stop time. Humans never see these effects on time, we live a small uniform, sheltered corner of the galaxy, but outside of our environment, time is irregular and even chaotic it can even halt all together. But for all the amazing things time can do it never runs backwards.

Time travel has long been science fiction, but now, with all our understanding of science, it may be indeed possible. The laws of physics has no problems in time moving backwards, the mathematical basis is there, so if the math’s add up and math’s being irrefutable time moving in reverse is possible. Scientists believe that building a time machine is possible the problem isn’t that of science it’s of engineering.  The theoretical blueprint for a time machine already exists, a machine that’s secret lies with our sub atomic universe, at this level the fabric of space-time becomes so unstable and chaotic that it behaves like a foam, its surface made of tiny bubbles momentarily popping in and out of existence, this quantum state is called the space-time foam. It’s thought that within the foam contain wormholes, small passages to other points in space and time, the secret to the time machine is to stabilize the foam long enough to make one of these wormholes permanent.

In a particle accelerator, when 2 particles are smashed together, the energy produced is equivalent to half a nuclear explosion, but even that isn’t enough energy to stabilize the space-time foam. To produce enough energy to stabilize the foam, we would need an accelerator on truly enormous proportions, so large it will have to be built in space. If particles are smashed together at great enough speed a quark-gluon plasma is produced, a plasma of such enormous heat and energy, by blasting the plasma with lasers injecting even more energy we can finally stabilize the space time foam long enough to pluck out a wormhole.

The second step is to enlarge it, and astoundingly this is also scientifically possible, through negative energy.

Negative energy has anti-gravitational properties, this day only minute quantities of negative energy can be produced in a lab, but maybe one day we will be able to produce enough to expand a wormhole, and by subjecting one end of the wormhole to unimaginable amounts of gravity we can bring it clock to a stop, and thus producing a time machine, 2 points in space but at different times. The ability to make such a time machine isn’t possible for the moment but the science and math’s is there, it’s only the engineering that’s missing.

Time may be only an illusion, the time that we feel passing, that we know and trust, an illusion that allows us to make sense in this tiny corner of the universe we call earth. Time is truly the most intimate and maybe the only true gift one could give to another, it is the most important commodity in all of our lives; spend it wisely for you will never get it back

One Response to “Elusive Treasure”
  1. azzikodabass says:

    Biar betul robert?

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