It's About Time

May 17, 2013
By J.E.F. GOLD, Acton, Massachusetts
J.E.F. GOLD, Acton, Massachusetts
14 articles 0 photos 2 comments

The End.

This is the End.

Or is it the Beginning? Or the Middle? Is there always a Beginning, Middle, and End? Or perhaps it’s more complicated than that, more like a big bowl of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey... stuff.

What is time, anyway? Simple enough question, but six thousands years of human history and the best definition of time we have is “What a clock measures.” This is completely unacceptable. This needs to change. And for a bored high school student, what’s a better challenge than the nature of time itself?

So I began to jot things down, one by one, in my little notebook. First was the velocity of time. We often talk about how fast time travels, but wait, speed cannot exist without time, and using speed to describe time is a rather recursive. In the style of Kaluza-Klein, I imagined a dance between two dimensions of time instead of just one. This was not a new idea—Ancient Greeks have imagined two dimensions of time—a flexible, measurable time called Chronos, referring to the classical time as we know it, and another, more incomprehensible, divine time Kairos, often referring to “fate” or “opportune moment.”

Soon a noble idea struck a chord within me: Richard Feynman’s One Electron Universe Theory. Upon noting striking similarities between an electron and a positron and a beautiful temporal symmetry, he theorised that antimatter is simply matter moving backwards in time. There is only one electron in the Universe, then, zipping back and forth in time to create billions of identical electrons we observe today.

What an elegant theory! I had to investigate. Using my ideas of temporal velocity, I performed some simple calculations, and an equation popped out. It described the energy required for an electron to flip its direction in time, which I dubbed “Temporal Potential Energy.” But what did it mean? Where did that energy come from? In trying to find some sort of “Temporal Force” to describe this concept mathematically, I failed miserably. I could not possibly imagine a “ground state” in time.

Perhaps that’s the fault of our race. However hard we try, we cannot break free of old perceptions that have been pounded into our DNA. Time is so prevalent in our lives that we cannot think objectively about it anymore.

I refuse to believe that.

So that’s me, in denial. I refuse to believe that time is too mind-boggling. I refuse to believe in an unsolvable mystery. I refuse to believe that I will never succeed. No, there is always a solution, a chain of events that makes everything make sense. I only need to find it.

So that’s me, bent over my little notebook, scribbling unintelligible diagrams of arrows and wiggly things in an attempt to discover how an electron becomes a positron, a process I call “Feynman Mechanism.” And while I racked my brains, chewing on a pencil, I realised this is what I love to do—think, think, and think.

But time is more than the representation of my inner geek and passion for physics. It is the culmination of my love of philosophy, writing, history, math, nature... It is my life, as it is everyone else’s. At one point or another, all of us will grapple with the idea of time and its mysterious nature. I just thought I’d get a head start.

Thus time became my obsession. It is, to me, the Final Challenge, the Hardest Challenge, the Wibbliest-Wobbliest Challenge. It gives me confidence to keep learning and never stop thinking, but it also humbles me into a mere baby, staring up in wonder at the grandeur of our elegant Universe.

I know what you’re thinking: Am I a mad scientist? Will I ever become one?

My answer: Quite possibly.

This is the Beginning.

The Beginning.

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