Time’s up for my alarm clock!

My alarm clock has marked the passage of time for me but its time is finally up. Alarm bells have been ringing and alerting me of its imminent demise with limp hands, no glow and yes – a dead alarm feature. Farewell, my ex-trusty alarm clock. May you snooze in peace…

Let me introduce you to my alarm clock. I bought it at the start of my university studies and it has faithfully provided me with the time every day ever since. It has woken me from timeless slumber and ticked on through my waking hours.

An amazing 26 years later it’s sadly time for me to let it go.

Alarm clock - been with me through thick and thin but times up!
Time’s up for my alarm clock πŸ™

Yeah, it’s a clock, and arguably there’s not much that’s special about it. It’s certainly not in the class of time pieces in this post but it has been special to me, and has reliably marked the passage of much time during which much has happened.

Everything was fine when I bought it, which is quite some time ago. And in this instance, “quite” means 26 years. Why so long? Yes, I hoard, but at the same time, why throw something away when it works perfectly?

Ah. In this case, “perfectly” means “not quite right”, though the hoarding part of me wants to clarify by saying, “not completely broken” either.

Let’s start at the beginning.

No cap on power

Although my clock is analogue it runs with a battery. A battery powered clock – and a ticker.

I wrote an article a few years ago about the horrors of analogue clocks and the terrible monotony of the tick-tock. Grandfather clocks are the worst with their sonorous din. Aaarrghh! They don’t even tock! Some sort of deep throated lazy C-U-L-L-O-C-K. Then that incessant striking every 15 minutes, worse each half hour – then on the hour it bangs out a chime for each hour we’ve endured its annoying operation.

The misnomer of digital clocks (clocks with no hands – or fingers) are beautifully silent. But my battery powered clock wasn’t silent; it ticked. Not uncomfortably so, but the tick was there, and if it was self aware it would have felt some shame of the noise it made, like a cheap electrical appliance would do when it makes that irritating high pitched whine.

And I think this is why it openly displays its energy source as a reminder that it is in fact battery powered, and is doing its best to be silent.

Alarm clock - missing battery cover

It’s nothing to do with me using it during my studies in Plymouth where it was on a shelf on the opposite side of the room to my bed, forcing me to get up and out of bed to put it on snooze when the alarm clock sounded) and falling off the shelf when I…got out of bed to put it on snooze, and the battery cover came off and somehow was never found again.

Too hot to handle

With age comes signs of wear. (Please recall that although this is a personal blog I’m talking here about my clock!)

Alarm clock - snooze button and melt mark
How many times has the snooze button been smashed in its life time? Note the melt mark in the top left and the fading luminous paint by the numbers on the clock face.

You might notice that there’s a part which has been melted away in the top left. Not in an El Salvador Dhali kind of way, but in an ironing kind of way – the kind of way that the neighbours of my in-laws came over to make and fit some curtains for us and somehow ended up ironing my alarm clock instead of the curtain. Was she removing a wrinkle in time? Making a stitch in time?

Who knows what goes on in the minds and on the faces of those who have traversed many years of time.


A missing battery cover didn’t stop the clock’s operation, as a further 23 years will testify.

Its operational demise started with the alarm – which ironically should have been an alarm signal for me, but wasn’t. This is the old fashioned alarm which is set with only an alarm hand which equates (in theory) to the hour hand. The idea is that when the hour hand crosses over the alarm hand, the alarm rings.

And I press snooze.

I don’t know for how long I snooze, but it’s never long enough, so after an amount of time that someone who was fully awake would be able to tell you, when the alarm clangs its ringers again, my arm crashes again to the black button on the top. Snooze.


And I must admit that the process is repeated a number of times. A number which someone who was fully awake might be able to count and tell you.

The point is that the alarm clock isn’t a person, and doesn’t count out that number. And as time marches on and the hour hand slowly moves away from the alarm hand, the snooze feature isn’t reactivated. And correspondingly, my sleep isn’t de-activated and I remain in permanent snooze.

Permanent, that is, until someone who’s awake comes crashing into my room, or pounds on the door and startles me into the land of conciousness.

Snoozing. There’s no such thing really permitted. But I can’t even give it the chance now that the alarm no longer works.

A loose sense of time

So the alarm clock became just a clock – one which projected the circular motion of the hands onto a square clock face. A square peg into a round hole. But now it’s fumbling.

The hour hand has come loose of the central spindle so it hangs limply at or around the 6. Sometimes, like a spider in the bathtub trying to climb up the side, the hand will gain some energy and get itself to the 7 or even the 8. Perpendicularity to gravitational forces at the 9 are always too much; the hour hand drops back down.

You’d think that setting the alarm for six o’clock would mean either a continuous alarm, or a snooze of anywhere between 0 – 15 minutes. But who wants to get up at 6 in the morning?

The lights are on but no-one’s home

So to be clear, the internal time-telling mechanism works fine; it’s just the hands which struggle to keep a grip. So whilst the hands don’t run, the clock turns the expression on its head.

Shining for all to see

Time works in the dark, but where this clock has no back light, it has a glow in the dark capability – except the luminous paint is wearing off…or something. The glow has faded, like a red hot poker which has been out of the fires of time for too long.

The time has come

So finally the time has come. A clock which doesn’t work is right only twice a day, and I need it to be right more often than that. Or at least, for the number of times that I look at it, and by extension (or more accurately, interpolation) for all those times in between.

And when I look at my clock, I have memories of the times it has shared with me – but I don’t have any sense of time.

It cannot serve the purpose of its existence. It’s time has come. Goodbye dear clock, you have served me well.

May you snooze forever in peace…


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Strapped For Time

It seems to me that we’re obsessed with time enough as it is, and by putting on watches we’re strapping ourselves to time even more literally! We want more degrees of temporal freedom – but there’s a paradox…

As time travel fans we often feel the need to understand the nature of time so that we can have an idea of how we can travel through it. Or scramble out of the River of Time and splash back into it at another time / location. Or some other way of bypassing time’s normal flow or passage.

However, the precise nature of time seems to elude us. Qualitatively, it’s unclear, but in some ways time travel is more concerned with its quantitative nature – how much of it there is. Indeed, it seems a logical prerequisite that in order to verify time travel we need a means of its measurement.

But why the clock?

Are we as time travel enthusiasts different from others when we obsess about one of the 4 dimensions? I don’t think so, especially when we consider that often we look more at the measurement of time rather than at time itself – how many time travel sites and authors use the image of a clock as an icon (ahem…look at the favicon of this site! πŸ˜‰ )

Other sites obsess over other dimensions and units of measure: health and fitness, weight loss (mass). Holidays and travel (temperature, distance), 18+ sites (size, proportions, not just linear, but their differentials (curves…)).

Of course – I’d argue that the dimension of time trumps the lot – it’s intrinsic to our state of being; when we talk about the meaning of life (love) we talk (and sing) about our hearts beating as one. Our heart defines our natural rhythm, “the old ticker”.

An obsession with clocks and watches

It seems to me that we’re obsessed with time enough as it is. From the moment the alarm clock goes off in the morning to when our body clocks alert us through some biological means that we’re tired and that we’ve had enough awake time, we depend on time.

By putting on watches we’re strapping ourselves to time. We catch the commuter train at a specific time (allegedly – bar delays and cancellations) to take us to work which begins (note: not ends…) at a set time. Meetings are scheduled to start at a set time – and we righteously become aggrieved when those meetings demand more time from us than originally allocated.

Everything is run by time. Einstein is quoted as saying that “the only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once”. Makes sense.

One handed watch
Would it make a difference if it was 3:41 or 3:42? Image courtesy: https://www.slow-watches.com/

I have a friend who showed me a watch he’d received as a gift from his wife – a special watch which at first I thought was faulty because it only had one hand! It turns out that’s its special feature!

Having only an hour hand means that he’s not tied to time – always watching the minutes and seconds and using them to dictate his life. He’s got a greater degree of freedom by vanquishing such precision – more room, more time for movement. He knows it’s around 2 pm, or somewhere between 2 and 3 pm.

Whilst such a watch won’t help me catch my train (though I suspect I’m sure that many train drivers use such a watch) I love the idea! Not being tied to time, not literally strapping ourselves to it and enjoying a certain kind of freedom! Surely it’s a better way to truly live in the present and to seize the day!

And when the day’s over? We turn to bed and sleep; our minds are untangled from time and we enter a place – the land of nod – where as the movie “Inception” reminds us, time flows at a different rate, or indeed, exhibits an entirely different behaviour than in our normal waking hours.

The paradox

Seems to be a paradox that we wish to free ourselves of time in some way, and perhaps this is one of the key drivers for a desire to time travel. Yet at the same time, in order to time travel we need to be keenly aware of time…


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Time’s Arrow

“The Arrow Paradox” and “Time’s Arrow” work in space and time respectively and each have limitations. Can they be reconciled to allow time travel?

Seen the movie?

When I watched “Clock Anti-clock” by Deepak Sharma (Paragravity Films) it made me think about an altered state of physics.

Just last week I stumbled upon a description of the “Arrow Paradox” (sometimes called “Fletcher’s Paradox”) which is a much more succinct way of putting what I think I was trying to get over!

In my earlier post there was a snapshot of a plane in flight. A photo, or snap shot, is independent of time because time is essentially reduced to zero duration. I made the point that physics must be behaving differently if there’s no time; the plane which we see in the photo is stationary in the air. Velocity is a function of time (and there’s no time in a snap shot), and with no speed there can be no lift.

Plane doesn't fall
Plane remains in air with no lift

With no lift the plane must fall (OK, admittedly this would be a velocity, or a reaction to the force of gravity (acceleration – another function of time)), but we don’t see that happening (or expect it). We assume that the plane will continue to carry on its original flight path.

Now read the theory

The Arrow paradox follows a similar argument, using an arrow in flight as an example, and ultimately concludes that motion is impossible. It’s a clever argument – but flawed because we know that motion through space is possible.

Mix and retreat

You’ve probably seen the link coming a mile off – The Arrow of Time and the Arrow Paradox.

The Arrow of Time is a basic model of time which says that time can ‘move’ only in one direction. There’s a brilliant video describing it here:

But does having a limitation on (the direction of) motion sound familiar? πŸ˜‰

I’ve noticed that many authors play the H.G.Wells ‘trick’ and twist the space and time dimensions around when it comes to conjuring up a method for time travel. And I must admit that I have also played around with a few ideas in the past wondering that if space and time can be considered equal in terms of dimension then by space’s analogy we can think up some interesting temporal counterparts.

But I was interested to read a statement by Arthur Stanley Eddington (this is the astronomer who came up with the concept of Time’s Arrow):

“I shall use the phrase β€˜time’s arrow’ to express this one-way property of time which has no analogue in space.” – Arthur Stanley Eddington

What does this mean for us then? That time is bound to a single direction whereas this isn’t true in space? I suppose this is nothing new – it’s our base position because it fits in with our everyday experience in life. We can walk to the bar, have a drink, and walk back home again. But we can’t go back in time and wish we hadn’t got into that bar fight.

Maybe the clue isn’t in the direction of travel within a dimension, but in exploring the number of dimensions. Space has 3 (“length”, “width” and “height” – which I’ll label here as “X”,”Y” and “Z” respectively) and Time has one (“time” – let’s call it “T”.)

Even if we move along only the X axis in space, we know that movement along Y and Z is also possible. These are at right angles to X and effectively constitute a move into imaginary space. And if that’s possible then moving in a negative direction is child’s play.

With time it’s different. Having only one temporal dimension means that we’re restricted to movement only within that dimension along that one axis (and apparently, only along one direction).

Given that string theory is able to come up with as many as 26 dimensions this seems a little unfair! How come time only has one?

According to superstringtheory.com time was introduced by Einstein as a dimension “…to describe an event in spacetime” – in other words, so that things can move (in space) and happen at a given time. Or in Einstein’s own words (possibly…) “…the reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”

Of course, I’m not one to argue with Einstein (because that would require a working time machine… πŸ˜‰ ) but I’d like to question his empirical approach where he’s constructed a set of parameters which describe what we have. Is there space (or time, *giggle*) to keep searching within string theory to find another temporal dimension?

Being at the back of the list, number 27, I expect it’s going to be tricky one to find. But that’s the thing when it comes to finding the secret of time travel, isn’t it? πŸ˜‰

A (Re)call to View

Time’s Arrow dictates that we cannot go backwards in time the same way that we can in space. This of course assumes that we can go backwards in space – though I’m sure that physics would take a funny turn…

Meanwhile, here’s the link to “Clock Anti-Clock”. If you recall, I mentioned this movie at the start of this post. Memory? Isn’t that the only way we can currently go back in time? πŸ˜‰ (see header image!)

Enjoy! πŸ™‚


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The Paradox of the Winter Solstice and Daylight Saving Time

As we approach the winter solstice on 21 December 2016) a paradox looms ahead of us. And it’s in cahoots with the daylight saving time.

A few months ago we switched off Daylight Saving Time (“DST”) and re-entered the normal time pertaining to our timezone on planet Earth. In this article I commented how the adjustment of an hour actually exacerbates the (perceived) problem of darkness and uses up daylight hours in the summer.

As we approach the winter solstice (21 December 2016) I see the same thing happening again, but now on a natural footing.

Days get longer after the winter solstice.
Days get longer after the winter solstice.

After the winter solstice the days begin to get longer because the angle of the Earth’s axis of rotation with respect to the sun decreases (i.e. increasingly points towards it). The trouble is that Winter begins on the winter solstice, and as a meteorologist will tell you…this is when it gets cold.

(Note that I’m ignoring here the meteorological definition of Winter which is defined as starting from 1 December. I have no problem here; we ignore the weather forecast due to inaccuracies so I’m happy to do the same here with their unastronomical definition of the seasons! πŸ˜‰ )

The bottom line is that this means we have increasingly longer days in which to be miserable about the cold weather.

At this point I should note that our friends the meteorologists will tell us that the reduced temperatures continue reducing after the winter solstice because of a thermal lag (“lag” here as in “behind”, not thermal lagging as in “padding around a hot water cylinder”). Lag doesn’t explain a reduction of temperature prior to the winter solstice!

So what is it with daylight saving time then? Should we use the model as a basis to implement a temperature saving time? Or do we use DST in an effort to emulate nature’s natural clock which appears to be playing a joke on us?


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Punished for Punctuality?

Punctuality seems to be a rare commodity, yet it’s presence isn’t recognised. I’d like to think that punctuality to time is a matter of temporal precision and should be rewarded!

The doctor appointment was set for 14:20, and I was requested to ensure that I turn up on time. No need to tell me – I say it myself but punctuality is one of my strong points!

Doctor's receptionist misses the point of coming in a little early

So I did. I was still waiting at 14:35 when the doc came out – but he wasn’t looking in my direction.

“Miss Jones?”

The lady next to me stood up and started straightening her dress. “Finally!” she muttered. “Late as usual…” She gathered her bags and followed the doc.

The door closed behind them, but another opened on the other side of the waiting room. A smartly dressed gentleman walked through and reported at the front desk.

“Jeff Smith. I’m here for my 14:40.”

The receptionist covered the mouthpiece of her phone and looked up.

“You were requested to be here 10 minutes early to avoid being late” she barked, and went back to her phone call. “Sorry about that – you were saying something about satin?”

Aside from the personal phone call, the receptionist had a fair point – people often do turn up late and really mess things up for others. Building in a time buffer zone helps to reduce the likelihood of this problem; pseudo punctuality.

Waiting for the plane which is already there.
Waiting for the plane which is already there.

It’s like when we’re asked to turn up 2 hours early before a flight. How people can look forward to a holiday for months ahead, and then still not factor in delays and still turn up late is beyond me. At Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, the automated announcement on the loudspeaker is classic Dutch directness when a poor soul hasn’t been punctual and able to check in on time: “John Smith you’re holding up the flight. Please check in immediately”. Yep – nothing wrong in a bit of public naming and shaming when you’re causing hundreds of other people to be late because you can’t tell the time!

Anyway. In the doctor’s waiting room it was a different story because the receptionist had completely missed the point – Jeff was actually in time for his 14:40 appointment (which was itself running late).

Still thinking about Miss Jones and her late appointment, I started to question how it is that it’s acceptable for doctors and dentists to keep patients waiting, but seemingly never the other way around.

This is crazy! If we’re late, we miss our appointment, or the plane leaves and takes off without us or whatever. It’s our fault and we suffer the consequences. But if a doctor is late by 5 minutes it doesn’t affect him; not because he’s salaried but because the consequences are carried on to the next patient…and the one after that and so on until it’s closing time.

In other words, there’s a knock-on effect. Doc is late by 5 minutes, and the following 20 patients are also late by 5 minutes – a cumulative value of just over an hour and a half. It’s getting on for the butterfly effect where a small change leads to much bigger ones. Maybe it does here too – a patient is late for his job interview and doesn’t get his job.

Or someone misses his plane… πŸ˜‰

From planes to trains

Ah yes, back to our airport scenario where we’re called to arrive early to ensure that we’re not late for the plane. But isn’t it more common that it’s the plane or the airport staff which keeps us waiting? And if that plane takes off 5 minutes late, the total man hours of delay accumulates very quickly. Butterfly effect? You’d think that aircraft staff would be especially keen to avoid hurricanes! πŸ˜‰

Surely punctuality should be rewarded – but it seems that the opposite is true; being punctual doesn’t count for anything, even penalised.

Take for instance, the train conductor on my morning commute. He walks along the carriage asking for tickets to inspect. Although people see and hear him coming they wait until he’s standing over them and asking for their ticket before they start rummaging around in handbags and wallets to pull out their ticket ready for inspection.

Personally, I like to be ready in advance (besides, knowing I’m going to be interrupted from reading my book isn’t handy!). He walks towards me, he sees me, my arm is holding out my ticket ready for his cursory glance, and…he asks the person on the other side of the aisle for their ticket(!). Said passenger bends down to pick up her handbag. She rummages through it and pulls out a purse. Flips it open and fumbles to find her ticket.

And me? Forgotten, and kept waiting. *growl* πŸ™

It seems that good time keepers just aren’t recognised.

Problems at the roots?

Anyway. That’s planes and trains – infamous for tardy time keeping. (Begin sarcasm tag) It’s not like they need to run on a timetable or anything…(end sarcasm tag).

Some time ago I wrote a post about how being late is sometimes unavoidable, but measures can be taken to alleviate some of the problems that being late can cause.

Sometimes though, being late really can’t be helped, and I’ve learned to try to get morning appointments so that accumulated lateness is minimal. Like today though, it’s not always possible and I’ll need to literally join the queue of other patients.

But – sometimes being late is inevitable, or even avoidable. The power hungry doc receptionist who’ll spend 5 minutes tapping away at a screen before checking someone in, or chatting away “Oh doctor, giggle giggle, yes, what? Oh this. Yes, I just threw it on. Do you like it? It’s made of satin.”


Admittedly I don’t have patience for these kinds of people. These are the people who have turned being punctual into a sop for other people who can’t keep time.

Lateness ripples through the waiting patients downstream in the river of time. As the cause of lateness, perhaps this explains why Public Service Agent Miss Blond 00:07 is so keen on holding a tight rein on the appointment schedule.

Psychological problems

All that said, I should mention that in fairness it’s not always the fault of the receptionist – or the doc. It’s the patient.

A German flatmate once told me about some research she’d read where it was found that if someone talking in a public phone box (which, incidentally, dates the research!) knew that someone was waiting for them then they would spend longer on that phone call than otherwise.

Whether this is a psychological phenomenon (“Look at how popular I am – people want to talk to me for so long“) or that they were made to wait so they’ll do the same I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s perceived time dilation by those waiting for their turn. I mostly suspect that they realise the importance of time on the phone so they make the most of it.

I think the last comes into play with patients who are called in late for their appointment.

Having invested so long in waiting for their appointment and their time with the doc, some people wish to make the most of it whilst they’re there, or even spend 10 minutes complaining about being late – making the problem even worse!

Time’s up!

It’s 14:50. I’m late, I suppose as I always knew I would be. The doc walks in and calls me through.

“I’m running late, so I’m going to have to rush you.”

“That’s fine. I understand.” Yeah, I understand you can’t tell the time and can’t apologise for it.

He leads me to his room and spends a few minutes staring at his monitor, then asks me what my problem is. Funny – I was hoping he was going to tell me. Anyway, we have a discussion at the end of which he looks away from the monitor and for the first time looks at me.

“Mr Wandason, this is very serious. You should have come in earlier!”

It would have made no difference doc – you can’t even handle it when I’m on time.

He writes out the prescription and I leave, walking through the waiting room which has evidently fills up faster than the rate the patients are being seen.

Jeff is visibly narked off for being kept waiting. I understand how he feels.

I walk into the pharmacy to pick up my prescription. There’s a customer ticket machine there which dispenses numbers so people know who got there first and who’s turn is next, so I take my ticket. It turns out I’m next but I can see the assistant pharmacist is stirring her coffee and facing the opposite direction.

I sit down and wait, presumably, for her coffee to cool, till she’s had a sip and feels that she’s ready to see me.

Ah well. Being punctual doesn’t just mean turning up on time – it means we need to be flexible enough to accommodate for those around us who can’t be πŸ™


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Complex 3D Time

Can complex number theory be applied to time? Would a “complex time” component would effectively turn a time line into a time plane (or time volume?) possibly allowing for multitasking?

complex wall clock

Here’s my wall clock. Again. I ‘introduced’ it and its angle on warped space time in this post back in October 2013. That’s not really that long ago, but the clock’s given up the ghost now and moved on to places and times beyond the ken of humankind.

I admit it – I’m playing with your perspective here! Naturally the wall clock’s off the wall, but it’s also been in the hands of my young daughter (after the time of death! πŸ˜‰ )

Do you ever have time on your hands? My daughter did – and this is how my clock looks from another angle after she’d finished with it.

My old knackered clock

Her child’s play got me thinking about the ‘normal’ movement of hands around a clock. What if they could move not only clockwise on the plane of the clock face, but also in the third dimension?

It sounds like it might be complex…

Complex time

Time moves linearly – usually forwards – hence we have a time line. We also have number lines (also linear) which range from lower integer values, through real numbers to the next highest integer, and so on. Or in reverse if we count backwards.

Linear number line
Linear number line (image credit: www.math.tutorvista.com)

But perpendicular movement is possible on the number line – “complex numbers” (multiples of the square root of minus 1, often denoted by i or j) explain a deviation away from the time line along the “imaginary axis”.

Complex numbers provide perpendicular movement
Imaginary numbers (denoted j) provide a way for perpendicular movement away from the number line (real axis) (Image credit: http://cnx.org)

So can complex number theory allow for a similar methodology to be applied to time? Can there be a “complex time” component which effectively turns a time line into a time plane? Or a time volume?

complex time is similar to a sundial

Admittedly, this might look a little like a sundial with pturned hands casting time shadows across the clock face area.

I remember watching a lunar eclipse and someone nearby mentioned that this was the largest shadow that there was. Being keen on astronomy (and a nerd with no social skills) I was compelled to mention that actually the shadow on the moon was just a 2D image of the 3D shadow of the Earth which projected into space and struck the moon.

Perhaps as sundials signaled the advent of clocks and telling the time, they may also signal the beginning of an understanding multi-dimensional time.

Now, I’m not a mathematician but is this idea of complex time something which can be worked out further?

is complex time the solution for multitasking?
Is complex time the solution for multitasking? (Image credit: www.moebiusnoodles.com)

Practically speaking I’m guessing the realisation of complex time into the real everyday world would be something similar to multitasking (something my wife’s good at).

Worth a try, surely? Is 3D time so complex? Or is it just child’s play? πŸ˜‰

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Time marches on with football

Gary Lineker is best known in football, but for me he’s the front man for crisps and the occasional quiz show. 21 years later we see the effects of the march time.

A few nights ago I had the TV on and was watching a UK satirical quiz program. The question master this week was Gary Lineker, ex footballer and present sports commentator.

I’m not a sports fan, but I know his name, and would recognise his face. He’s been on a few commercials for crisps, and that’s admittedly how I recognise him. Except those commercials ran from 1995 – when his hair was still dark brown. Now, over 21 years later, his hair is grey, he’s grown a beard, and his voice is older.

The quiz program I was watching is based on UK news and politics. Having emigrated some 7 years ago I’m quite out of touch (and date) with many of the developments, so coupled with this old quizmaster I was feeling very much out of both my time and country.

When the program ended I came round to watching a chat show hosted by Clare Baldwin. Yep – she was another sports commentator, but now hosting a chat show. I was quite surprised because she looked younger than I remembered her. Maybe make-up and hair-do’s and things, I don’t know, but I suppose that’s besides the point.

The point being that she was interviewing Glen Hoddle who I remember as a footballer, but who is now apparently a football manager or something. Well, he certainly looked too old to be a professional player.

I got round to thinking back to my youth when he sang a song with a fellow footballer (someone Waddle). Yes, the Hoddle and Waddle duo. Sounds like a joke, but from memory their song wasn’t too bad. I went over to youtube as a portal to memory lane.

Let’s ignore Steve Wright’s stupid comment at the end of the clip. But here we have a younger version of Glen Hoddle looking a little awkward literally out of his field, singing a decent song.

And yet, there’s a certain haunting feel to it. The march of time.


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A late time keeper

When people are late it’s a sign that they disregard your own time. Sometimes though, lateness can’t be helped. Indeed, other people may cause it, or even make alleviating the problems being late causes, worse.

The ability to avoid being late and to keep good time is a highly valued attribute in a personality. It shows that you value not only your own time, but also the time of those with whom you choose to spend it.

When people are late it’s a sign that they disregard your own time. I hate it when people are late, and likewise, I hate being late myself because I assume that other people would place me in a lower regard as I would them if they were late.

Sometimes though, lateness can’t be helped. Indeed, other people may cause it, or even make alleviating the problems being late causes, worse.

The pupil silently cracked the door open at the back of the classroom, spotted his seat, sidled his way into it and laid out his books.

Late for class?
Image credit: Terri Heisele

A silence filled the room as the teacher glared over the top of her glasses.

“You’re 3 minutes late!” she snapped.

“Sorry miss. I -”

“The clock over there”, the crooked finger waggled, “is there for all of us to see so that we all know what time we begin.” she barked. “And that’s 9 oclock. What time is it now?”

The pupil bit his lip. He summoned his courage and opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted.

“Don’t mumble in my class! I asked you what time is it. Well then?”

“A bit after 9 o’clock miss”

“A BIT AFTER. Yes. Now go back outside and come in properly.”

The young boy walked outside and closed the door softly behind him which he then knocked on. His teacher’s voice came through.

“Who is it?” she screeched.

The boy called out his name through the closed door. The children in the class giggled; other children in other classes heard the noise and looked up.

“Settle down!” barked every teacher in every class room.

The voice though the door continued. “Well come in then. You’re late and you’ve disrupted the whole class. Now get your books out.”

“I’ve got them out already miss!”, said the boy, hoping that he’d be appeasing the wrath.

“Don’t answer me back! Now we were talking about [some crap or the other] before we you interrupted us.”

“Sorry miss.”

“Well for your benefit, I’ll say it all again.”

“Thank you miss.”

Paul picked up his pencil and wrote the date in the top left corner and underlined it. He remembered the date well, for it was the date that he’d both been dreading and looking forward to for the past two weeks. It was the date of his early morning dental appointment which was needed after a football had been kicked in his face in the playground by an over zealous PE teacher. The anaesthetic was beginning to wear off now and his mouth was feeling sore.

Well, that. And it was also his birthday.

From memory, this kind of thing happened very frequently at the school I went to. I’m not excusing being late, but sometimes it does just happen. My question is this: Why spend a minute complaining about 3 minutes, then spend a further 3 minutes repeating what’s already been said to the majority of the class?

Or alternatively, why after 30 years would my stupid brain still think to remember Miss Glazard? It’s ironic that out of all the history that Miss Glazard tried to drill into me this is the bit that remains in my head.

Some people and some experiences are best forgotten.


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Beginning of time

It seems that time begins when we’re born, even for other people. Perhaps we should celebrate the beginning of time with…a birthday! πŸ˜‰

A conversation with my daughter yet again taught me a thing or two about the nature of time.

Daughter: “Daddy, my little sister has had 2 birthdays and I’ve had 5”

She smiled for ‘winning’ the “who’s had the most birthdays” competition. So I joined in.

Me: “Yes, and I’ve had 44”

Nailed it.

Daughter: “I don’t think so Daddy.”

Me: “Why not? Don’t you think I’m that old?”

Daughter: “No, I just that I don’t remember you having that many.”

So there we are – time begins when we’re born, even for other people. Perhaps we should celebrate the beginning of time with…a birthday! πŸ˜‰


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Dealing with Earth Time

It’s seems to me that children and animals have it right when it comes to dealing with Earth time. They pretty much ignore it. But for the rest of us we’re pretty useless with dealing with our own manual manipulation of time.

Earth is out of sync with itself. Seasons are defined with respect to the (maximum / minimum / midpoint) tilt of Earth’s rotational axis towards or away from the sun, but in reality they tend to run a day or two either side of this. (Or maybe more?)

Earth time split

We already know about the addition of leap seconds and days at various times to keep time in sync, and we manually adjust our clocks around the Earth, roughly into time zones so that we ourselves can be in sync with the Earth’s rotation. (Perhaps we could argue that there’s not enough time for all of us so we need to divide it into 24 time zones to spread things out, just as the Dutch spread it’s population out over the summer holiday and define it in 3 sections of overlapping 3 week periods).

And then there’s the further manual adjustment of time, sometimes controversial, often discussed, but necessarily adhered to – the advancement or retreat of our clocks by an hour to maximise sunlight hours (assuming that we live in a country with a local climate allowing sunlight…).

This year I noticed it for the first time – the Earth’s hemispheres are not in sync with each other. Whilst Europe does away with ‘summer time’ tonight (24th October), the southern hemisphere has already entered into it’s summer 3 weeks ago.

What? Is the differential hemispheric rotation going to cause a shear across the Equator and split our world apart?

Oh wait. Southern summer starts on “World animal day”. Animals are more in tune with nature than we are. They wake up when the sun goes up and sleep when it goes down (apart from the inverse solar (nocturnal) creatures.

It happens every year, twice a year. The clocks change by an hour and people wake up and go to sleep at the wrong time. Some are too tired, others too energetic. (This is sounding like my kids…).

More seriously, you get those cretins who think they still don’t need their car headlights on in winter and plough into pedestrians they didn’t see, or into wildlife who have become confused with the advance or retreat of rush hour by an hour.

It’s seems to me that children and animals have got it right when it comes to dealing with time. They pretty much ignore it. But for the rest of us we’re pretty useless with dealing with our own manual manipulation of time. Actually, we’re even pretty useless when it comes to dealing with time when we leave it well alone. We run out of it, we lose it, we chase it, we don’t spend it wisely.

So how on Earth can we think of time travel when we can hardly deal with daylight saving time?


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Guest post: God and Time

This is a post from guest blogger Mihir Kansara who examines here how the concept of time may explain whether God governs our universe. Are you prepared?

God and Time

Mihir Kansara

This is a post from guest blogger Mihir Kansara. Mihir writes for Theory of Space Time which covers many aspects of the nature of time. Here, Mihir examines how the concept of time may explain whether God governs our universe.

God and Time

Science is simply a word we use to organise our curiosity. This curiosity is necessary. Without the curiosity of why apple fell downwards we could have never discovered the reason for it. Ever thought why did the apple fall on the first place? Did God do that? The real question would be: Is God governing our universe? The answer to this is with the only unaltered phenomenon – Time.

Let me tell you whatever conclusion that comes out from this, my faith in God is not gonna change. So here it goes.

Everyone loves the fascination and try to find whether GOD exists or not? Let me tell you, He surely does. But does it mean He controls us? Not necessarily!!

The Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project was a research and development project that produced the first nuclear weapons during World War II. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada. Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer was the director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory that designed the actual bombs.

Robert Oppenheimer is called the father of that mighty and terrible progeny known as the nuclear bomb. When the first bomb successfully detonated and its mushroom cloud cast its shadow into history, it was not joy that filled the mind of Robert Oppenheimer. As he watched the room around him “some smiled, others cried, most remained pensive” his mind rested on a passage from the Gita. Even with something designed to bring about the end, there was a beginning.

He gave the entire credit to Bhagavad- Gita.

Our ancestors were certainly not mad. Probably much more advanced than us! For those who understand, dhrona means test tube! It was impossible to withstand the power of bhramastra. All this was real and is still.

Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad- Gita is considered by eastern and western scholars alike to be among the greatest spiritual books the world has ever known. In a very clear and wonderful way the Krishna describes the science of self-realization and the exact process by which a human being can establish their eternal relationship with God. In terms of pure, spiritual knowledge the Bhagavad- Gita is incomparable.

Examples show that modern physics allows for remarkable transformations of space and time. And apparently, similar ideas are found in Vedic literature.

We find an example in the story of a king named Kakudmi, who was able to travel to the world of Brahma and experience Brahma’s scale of time. Here is the story, as related in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:

Taking his own daughter, Revati, Kakudmi went to Lord Brahma in Brahmaloka, which is transcendental to the three modes of material nature, and inquired about a husband for her. When Kakudmi arrived there, Lord Brahma was engaged in hearing musical performances by the Gandharvas and had not a moment to talk with him. Therefore Kakudmi waited, and at the end of the musical performances he offered his obeisances to Lord Brahma and thus submitted his long-standing desire.

After hearing his words, Lord Brahma, who is most powerful, laughed loudly and said to Kakudmi, “O King, all those whom you may have decided within the core of your heart to accept as your son-in-law have passed away in the course of time. Twenty-seven catur-yugas have already passed. Those upon whom you may have decided are now gone, and so are their sons, grandsons, and other descendants. You cannot even hear about their names.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 9.3.28-32)

One catur-yuga lasts 4,320,000 years.

Another example from Gita is the story of the brahma-vimohana-lila, or the bewilderment of Brahma by Krishna. Several thousand years ago, Krishna descended to the earth as an avatara and was playing as a young cowherd boy, tending calves in the forest of Vrindavana (south of present-day New Delhi). To test Krishna’s potency, Brahma used mystic power to steal Krishna’s calves and cowherd friends and hide them in suspended animation in a secluded place. He then went away for a year of earthly time to see what would happen.

Krishna responded to Brahma’s trick by expanding Himself into identical copies of the calves and boys. So, when Brahma returned, he saw Krishna playing with the boys and calves just as before. Brahma became bewildered. Checking the boys and calves he had hidden, he found they were indistinguishable from the ones playing with Krishna, and he couldn’t understand how this was possible. Finally Krishna revealed to Brahma that these latter boys and calves were identical with Himself, and He allowed Brahma to have a direct vision of the spiritual world.

Now, it turns out that even though Brahma was absent for one earth year, on his time scale only a moment had passed. The Sanskrit word used here for a moment of time is truti (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.13.40). There are various definitions of a truti, but the Vedic astronomy text called the Surya-siddhanta defines a truti to be one of a second. If we accept this figure, then one year on earth corresponds to 13,750 of a second in the time of Brahma.

These examples are out of many which state similar results. They say the answer to all the questions are in the Gita.

Let’s take this concept to our main concern – TIME.

Relation with time

So according to this, one year on earth corresponds to 13,750 of a second in the time of Brahma. Why does this happen?

Because he surely doesn’t live in our surrounding space. There is a huge difference in time flow where God lives and where we live. Time flows at different speed in different parts of universe depending on the mass of the surrounding space. The speed with which time is flowing in God’s part of universe is much slower than ours.

Before we understand that why God doesn’t / cannot control us, let us figure out why is God immortal?

God – Relatively immortal

It is now understood that time flows differently in different parts of universe. According to the theory above, our generations might come and go but only a day or so might have passed for God.

Considering the average life span of a human or human type entity to be 80 years, knowing the time difference and its flow in the space, we can understand that the time taken for God to turn 1 year old will be equivalent for our great great great great, probably one more great grand child to even born. If you are reading this and understanding it might not be tough for you to understand about his 80 years then. So frankly speaking he is not immortal. He is living his life in another part of the universe. He will still be alive after probably 100000 years on earth. Well that doesn’t make him immortal. We can say that he is relatively immortal with respect to us.

Does He control us?

Well probably now everything is explained and it is easy to judge that he cannot control us. He doesn’t have time to control us. If our years take only a part of second for him, he certainly cannot tick our wishlist. There is no processing time left where he can work on our prayers. Well that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t exists. We just proved that he is immortal.

There are like a billion questions unanswered like how did God who once lived on earth (as the stories say) and then travelled to a part of universe with such a time flow difference. Well, we will surely together find these answers.

Probably that will be the day when we could finally encounter him. But folks meeting him by going to his place is like forgetting our earth’s time for centuries. Are you prepared?

Article by Mihir Kansara.
Visit Mihir on Theory of Space Time.

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No Chime to Sit Still

With the help from an hourly chime and a little green man, I have no time to sit still.

I think like a lot of Dads I believe that time stands still when it comes to my daughters. Not that it takes just short of an eternity to get their coat on and out of the front door, but in that despite their age and their size, in my mind they are still small babies.

That idea came and bit me in the…back a few years ago when I was lowering my eldest into her cot. Thinking she was still only a few kilos in weight (sorry, mass) I forgot about my own age and completely did my back in whilst doing it. I could hardly move and blah blah yeah I’m an old man with back problems – and yes, I’ve been asked whether I could run faster than dinosaurs and is that why I’m still alive, Daddy?

So frequent trips to the chiropractor are still on-going. Another sign of my age, that it’s taking blimming yonks for my lower back to get back to the young agile state it was in when I was running circles around those pesky dinosaurs. Sadly, a sign of our present (geological) era is that many of us – and that includes myself – sit still in cars, trains and behind computer monitors instead of moving about around catching, skinning and barbecuing woolly mammoths. And that’s not good for our backs (though admittedly it’s probably good for the woolly mammoths).

Don't stand still
No time to stand still. Image credit: http://xkcd.com/1329/

When I first sought help for my back, the physiotherapist had no idea what was wrong with me (admittedly, many psychologists might not know what’s wrong with me either) – but her solution was to drink lots of water. It’s healthy stuff, and it makes you stand up to go to the toilet (or stand up to walk to the toilet – whether you sit or stand is up (or down) to you). It’s a good idea, but it wasn’t getting to the core of the problem which is why I’m now going to the chiropractor (actually, this one – so visit it, like it, share it etc. – though be warned it’s not only in Dutch, it is actually in Holland πŸ˜‰ )

And it’s going very well, and on the last visit I was encouraged to entertain a visit from a little green man…

The little green man.

The idea is that we set the hourly chime so that we’re reminded every hour that we should stand up and take a break from sitting down. Give our back a rest. I commented that hearing a beep every hour on the hour would probably annoy my office-mates, so needless to say I was well up for the idea!

ready to chime

Here he is in situ on my keyboard. Notice timeless juxta-positioning of old-fashioned pens and pencils under the monitor, as well as a princess doll thing my daughter (aka back-cruncher) gave me to take to work to keep me company.

So. Against a few principles I set the chime, and for the 10 minutes before it was due to sound I sat glued to the LCD screen waiting for it to show :00, then I could stand up and move around. You may have spotted the irony that in trying the heal / prevent the inflexibility in my back I was displaying a ludicrous display of inflexibility in my timing…

A relaxing stroll to the coffee machine.

Anyway. The beep sounded, my room-mate gave me a growl and a disparaging look of contempt so I duly stood up and fled. (A note to save my dignity; he’s a big chap with big muscles, a rotweiler for a cuddly toy and an automatic machine gun under his desk. Fleeing the scene is the only way to ensure that my time doesn’t come prematurely.)

After the first few hundred meters I slowed down and stole a look behind me. Despite a slight graze to my left earlobe, most knives were now missing me by a large enough margin that I could steal a quick breather. My back might be getting better, but my heart was clapping in my ears and my lungs were burning. No wait. That would be the flame balls whizzing past me. Douglas Adams’ deadlines would have much more preferable, but by a startling coincidence and against all (OK, most) odds, I was rescued by a certain Heart of Gold and delivered panting in a pool of my own perspiration by the coffee machine where I seemed to be safe.

I chatted and gossiped with fellow colleagues there about anything interesting that may have happened to us recently (one lady had had a new haircut) and I returned a little sheepishly and cautiously to my desk.

And found this:

running out of chime

I’m afraid – very afraid – of what will happen the next time the hourly chime sounds, but the chances are that I won’t be sitting around…


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Is time anti-hereditary?

Insanity is hereditary because you get it from your children. But I wonder if the opposite is true regarding time; without children we have more time, and in which case…is there a further step till we achieve time travel?

A few weeks ago I was on a conference out of the country. It was 4 nights away from home, away from my family. It might not sound like much, but to me it seemed like an eternity; it was the longest I’ve been without them. (Yes, I need them probably a lot more than they need me!)

time is anti-hereditary
Image credit: Daniel Cruz

On Monday morning I was anxious – the opening talk was starting at 10 am, and at 9:15 I was still lying in bed (recall…I was without my children, so I was taking the advantage of a lie in!)

But 45 mins to get up, dressed, washed, breakfasted and get my notes and stuff in order, let alone find my way to the conference centre? No way that was possible!

As I was lying in bed having a slight panic about my lack of time, it hit me.

I had loads of it! I only had to wash myself, dress myself, feed myself, and get myself out of the door. There was no need to repeatedly test my patience (ironically…) in hurrying other people along.

There’s a saying that insanity is hereditary because you get it from your children. But I wonder if the opposite is true regarding time; without children we have more time.

Of course, I never want to be without my girls (or my wife who can equally take up lots of time with make-up and clothes and shoes and matching handbags and… and…but I still love her for it!), even though some of my idiot single and / or childless friends try to convince me of the benefits of being without love in your life

But if being without wife and kids means a greater efficiency in time, it seems to me that there’s only one step further to actually traveling in time – but to be honest, I don’t think I’d want to take it.


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A unique signature of time

In the same way as Plato’s prisoners or Hawkins’ goldfish, are each of us seeing shadows of time, or a distorted view of it? How is it that each of us judge the duration of a second differently, just as each of us reproduce a uniquely shaped “0” when we hand write?

My teachers at school were always harping on about my poor level of handwriting as it clearly fell outside the margins of what was considered to be acceptable (to them).

It’s a fair point – we all try to write a “0”, for example, but each of us draws it differently – our handwriting is unique, despite each of us trying to replicate an identical shape. And if we are ‘too unique’, we call it “bad handwriting”.

Sure, there are some general patterns (bubbly, scrawly, etc.) but the point is that we all have our own personally unique interpretation of a common number or letter. Perhaps the same can be said too of art – that each of us would draw or paint a different picture even if we are given an identical object to reproduce.

Is it the same with personal time?

Not that we judge time differently. If a group of friends decide to meet outside a bar at 8 pm, it’s likely that there’ll be a spread of times of arrival, probably centered on 8 pm but perhaps with a spread of some +/- 10 minutes.

But whose version of the time is correct?

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave he postulates the idea of prisoners who are only able to see projections of shadows on a wall in front of them – they have no idea of the ‘real’ objects making the shadows, the light behind them, or the source of any sounds that the puppeteers may make and which echo off the cave walls. For them, the echoes and the shadows are the real world.

Image courtesy: http://theglobalelite.org/
Plato’s Cave. Image courtesy: http://theglobalelite.org/

Stephen Hawkins reproduced this idea with a fish who looks out of a goldfish bowl and sees a distorted view of things outside the bowl as the light travels through the glass. On a similar footing, that distorted view is the real world as it really is…for the fish.

In the same way as the prisoners and the goldfish, are each of us seeing shadows of time, or a distorted view of it? How is it that each of us judge the duration of a second differently, just as each of us reproduce a uniquely shaped “0” when we handwrite? Surely a 0 is a 0? There’s even a mathematical formula for a circle! Surely time is time?

Perhaps we’ll never know. Plato’s prisoners, once taken to the surface and shown how things really stand, were unable to accept the truth. And we all know that a fish out of water can’t survive. Could we?

A sundial never lies.
A sundial never lies.

In days old it was said that the camera never lies, but in modern times with digital photography, sophisticated editing software, or even basic filters, the final photo can often look very different from the image which first appeared in the view finder.

Some clocks and watches can [be made to] ‘lie’ too – a readjustment of a setting, or through mechanical fault. Except for a sundial. It’s much harder to tamper with the position of the sun…but isn’t it ironic that a sundial points the time…with a shadow? πŸ˜‰


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Bed time

Children never like going to bed, so the hands of the clock spelling bed time seem like the finger of doom for them. But who really makes the decision for bed time?

When I look back to my time at primary school, I never really enjoyed it. I remember that it finished at 3:30 pm and I couldn’t wait to go home. I used to watch the clock, not necessarily knowing how to read it, but knowing where the hands needed to be to signify that the teacher was going to allow me to go back home where I could do what I wanted and when I wanted.

After a while I realised other school ‘inmates’ felt the same way, and we devised a plan: during the lunch break we set the clock to read 3:30 and pointed it out to the teacher so that she was fooled into thinking it was home time.

We couldn’t time travel; so given the inability to travel through time we tried getting time to move.

Somehow this super intelligent ruse didn’t work πŸ™

Much more recently my daughter tried a similar trick but from the other side. We’d arranged that one of her friends was going to come over for a play date at 11:00 am. She could hardly wait and was brimming with excitement, her eyes alternating between the door and the clock to see when the big hand was going to point straight up and signify the arrival of her friend.

“Daddy, can you just move the big hand so it’s eleven o’clock and my friend will come?”

I could move the hand up, but sadly her friend didn’t show until the appointed time which is when, of course, chaos reigned supreme in the Time2timetavel HQ. My little girl had lots of fun though, and for her time passed quickly.

The day ended up being a long one for me though, and the sprog finally went home (her mum turned up late to pick her up *growl*). We had our family dinner and bedtime approached, 7:00 pm. I let my daughters know and we made our way upstairs.

I got round to thinking that whereas 7 pm is effectively an arbitrary time for bed, 3:30 pm or 11:00 am were absolute times for specific events – no matter what the clock said, the event will happen at it’s pre-appointed time (notice I missed out “sprog collection”…).

I wish I could say the same about the girls’ bed time. Do I make the decision when bed time is? Or Time?

Come to think of it, I think it’s my daughters – who make sure it’s usually closer to 8 pm!


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Missing meters, missing time

A spacious office leads to an analogy where a section of time goes missing, or a time stasis is set up.

A new spacious office leads to an analogy where a section of time goes missing, or a time stasis is set up. But first…money, time and space. What’s the connection?


People say that money isn’t everything, yet most people want it. Lots of it. Having money often means that we can spend less time working – consider how many times we pay someone to do a job for us that actually we could do perfectly well ourselves. Cleaners for the house, painting and decorating, day care for our children, and so on.


Perhaps we want time more than we want money. After all, in theory we can earn more money but we can’t always gain more time. Then again, if we don’t enjoy our work we can be in for a store of trouble. Cue the lottery, where without work (or at least, with minimal effort) we can attain vast amounts of cash.

Oh. Back to cash.

There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But there are those who would like to scoff and gorge themselves on the backs and work of others; lottery winners often complain of vultures and scavengers who want some (or all) of the winnings for themselves and will plague the cash recipient with various begging petitions of one kind or another.

(Missing) Space

It’s been a little bit similar since our recent office move. Now I’m in a new office (on a lower level, and strangely, with a new department coffee mug).

When it came to dishing out the new offices we could give preferences but finally who got what, with whom and where was pretty much a lottery. I (and my office mates) came out a winner!

My new office is excellent! It’s in a corner with windows on two sides and a nice view over Holland. Holland is famous for being flat, so I can see quite far. OK, head should be down when I work, but I do look outside for my inspirational moments!

Another nice feature of the office is its size. Size may not be everything, but it is a nice feature, and the square meterage I and my two office mates share is a cause of envy of many of our other colleagues.

Quite often people walk by and make comments that the space is underutilised, or give snarky comments that the 3 of us have more space than the discussion rooms which can at times hold 6 or more.

And so, like lottery winners, we live in fear of person or persons finding ways to take our space. To store various bits of crap (like a spare filing cabinet), to house a student on placement or some other part-time member of staff.

Or, as we’ve latterly been thinking…pure theft of square meterage.

What would happen if one day we came in and the wall had shuffled over by a meter? Could happen, but that would only benefit the office next to us.

missing area

So then we got close to a panic about a theft of an actual square meter. We’d come back from a tea break research focus meeting, and in the middle of the office is a shimmering square of non-space. We can’t focus on it because it’s missing. Simply not there. We can’t put things there, because there doesn’t exist. And we can’t step onto it, because…it’s missing.

But we’d be able to step over it. Actually, we’d touch one side with a foot and the foot immediately reappears a meter away on the other side. It’s like a worm hole, or a portal. Warp drive, except there’s no bending of space…it’s just not there. It’s missing. It’s been stolen.

(Come to think of it, it would be a volume theft not an area theft, much as smoking areas are really smoking volumes. Smoke doesn’t stay flat against the floor!)

All this might sound far-fetched or impossible, but the same already happens with time. For example, how often is it that you’re driving somewhere and suddenly think “I really don’t remember driving the last mile…”?

Maybe we were on autopilot of sorts…or that there was a time stasis allowing us to perform actions (such as driving) during that period when time doesn’t move with is. Or possibly it was a spatial jump.

Who knows?

Yes, the unknown can be a fearful thing.

And my profession? I work in research! πŸ˜‰

Paul the brave!

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Time creation from angular momentum

Can the laws of conservation of angular momentum be manipulated such that we can create time? Here’s a graphic from www.xkcd.com which suggests so!

Not quite the creation of time…but one way of apparently getting more of it!

angular momentum and time creation
Image credit: www.XKCD.com


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Not enough time

Whatever I do, I always seem to have too little time to do it in. Even if it’s simply getting out of the house in the morning. I think I have an excuse, but this guy…?

Whatever I do, I always seem to have too little time to do it in. There’s just never enough time, even for simply getting out of the house in the morning.

All we have to do, is wake up, get dressed, have breakfast, brush our teeth, and leave the house. 2 hours should be enough, right?

The alarm is set to early. My daughters’ clothes are pre-chosen last night and are lying at the bottom of the bed ready for them or for me to help them put on. Breakfast things are laid out on the table from the night before in preparation. School bags are already loaded in the car.

But it’s still all rushed and frantic. My two and a half and my 5 year old are getting distracted by…anything and everything. Hair clips, toys, walls…and before I know it the 2 hours I’ve planned in just isn’t enough. The time that was earmarked for a few simple basic activities has been lost to untangling and brushing hair, finding and fixing hair clips, deciding what things to do next and in what order…and doing these same activities for my girls instead of their dolls.


If I don’t get them sorted and dropped off to the nursery and school in time I’m going to have misunderstanding child-carers and teachers having a go at me (or worse…my girls) and I’ll also miss my train.

I barely make it in time, but I do. I’m on the train and reading the free newspaper. I can’t read Dutch, so I look at the pictures.

Never enough time!
“Snippers” cartoon from Dutch newspaper Metro (Thursday 8 January 2015)

I think I have an excuse, but this guy?!!


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Year: A name or a number?

When we look at other units of time, there are a whole mix of names and counting systems. So is assigning a number to a year the best methodology for defining or specifying a year?

Much as I dislike astrology and have no time for it, I like the Chinese way of naming the year (as we do with days and months) instead of numbering them…

Time: What’s in a name?

So the new year is upon us. 2015! That’s 2015 years since the birth of Jesus Christ (or at least 2015 years since when people first thought he was born).

But is assigning a number to a year the best methodology for defining or specifying a year? When we look at other units of time, there are a whole mix of names and counting systems.

The year number is a continuous counter. It’s unlike the time of the day which counts seconds minutes and hours from the start of the sidereal day arbitrarily defined as midnight…the time when the sun is 180 degrees from zenith. And the time itself (here as the clock sees it) repeats each day.

Different lengths of time – different systems. Let’s take a stroll through!


Numbers are not normally given to days. Days are given a names which are largely derived from gods of some ilk or the other. And every 7 days the naming cycle repeats with a weekly frequency.


Weeks are numbered from 1 to 52 denoting their position within the year…though ironically week numbers are not commonly used except in accounting and tax circles were the year starts and ends in April and not January from which the weeks are numbered!

Months, years, and beyond…

But between weeks and years in terms of length are months where we go back to a naming rather than numbering convention. This repeats every 12 months that are in the year which as we’ve already discussed is numbered…as is the century or even the millennium it’s within.

Breaks from the norm

But there are some exceptions within the above general conventions.

Muslims begin their year count from 622 AD.

Within the geophysical sciences (and possibly within other disciplines) the Julian Day Number (JDN) is often used. These real numbers which refer to the number (and fraction) of a day since midday on 1 January 4713 BC (reference Wikipedia).

A similar system is used in computer programming languages and file formats such as netcdf.

These are still continuous counters, and ‘suffer’ the problem of negativity. For example, positive number are denoted AD (Anno Domini – year of our Lord). Preceding these numbers are the years before Christ, thoughtfully names, BC. But I defy you to find a coin or a letter or something with a date stamp of 200 BC, for example! The year counting system only works from the positive, or latter side, of the count start point. Despite the prophecies of the coming of Christ!

But there are other methods of identifying years. For example, car registration plates on the UK have a sequence of numbers and letters from which the year of registration can be derived if you’re familiar with the system.

My first motorbike had an “E” plate. It was registered in 1989. One of my previous cars had “02” plates (registered in 2002 simple enough) but my last car, registered in (August) 2005 had “55” plates.

It makes sense if you know the UK car registration system!

A personal preference: 12 hours, 12 months and 12 years

And here’s where I return from my apparent digression.

I like the idea of the Chinese year where years are named rather than counted.

Chinese years
Image courtesy: globerove.com/china/chinese-zodiac-sheep/1703#lightbox/0/

Granted, the Chinese year doesn’t start in January and end in December and it also seems to be based on 12 Chinese signs of the zodiac (as a scientist and an amateur observational astronomer I have no time for astrology) but naming years gives me a better sense of time’s passage and where I am in it.

A naming convention, be it on a weekly or a yearly cycle, is circular whereas a continuous count is linear. There’s an extension into the future; numbers are infinite and so is time. And that makes me feel pretty insignificant!

Yeah… Maybe I just want to feel a little more important and that I have my place in time.!

I mentioned that I don’t like astrology. Doesn’t stop me from skimming the [nonsensical] astrology page in the paper (if only to scrawl “you think this is the future? See for yourself with time travel!” and jot a link to time2timetravel and leave the free paper on the train!). But I might look at “my” sign. It’s (apparently) an identity. There’s some sort of connection.

OK. That’s fluffy talk. Especially when some may consider that according to my zodiacal signage, I’d be a virgin pig! And it’s true enough that I can just as easily have my place to the n-th decimal point on a time line (you know, like my birthday! πŸ˜‰ ) …but…well…there’s no accounting for the sentience of the human spirit!

So however you call or mark or treat the new year, I wish you all a very very happy one!


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The Dutch Masters of Time

Holland. Well known for being flat, tulips, clogs, windmills and bicycles. Now add hideous table clothes and a strange idea of the English calendar!

We know and love Holland (or “the Netherlands” as the locals would have you call it) for its tulips, clogs, windmills and bicycles. And for being flat.

In an earlier post I asked What is it with Holland and time travel? Indeed, I have even witnessed time travel here, to a certain extent. Perhaps!

Holland now presents to us a new view on time, or at least our marking of its passage. A couple of days ago I saw this rack of table cloths outside a shop called “Marskramer” (“Peddlar”). It’s basically a bric-a-brac kind of a shop which sells…well. Table clothes for one thing.

"June 31" :  The Dutch idea of the English calendar?
“31 June” : The Dutch idea of the English calendar?

Much as I hate this mnemonic, it does come to mind…

“Thirty days hath September, April, June…”

Well maybe we can forgive our Dutch friends for their strange idea of the English calendar (if not for their hideous taste in table cloths). The author of the novel The Go Between, L. P. Hartley, noted the following:

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” – L. P. Hartley.

I think the same applies for Holland; Holland is a foreign country, and they do things very differently here.

Take counting. You know, like you might count the days in the month, for example πŸ˜‰ Cavemen counted with stones, my 2 year old can manage up to 8 (she must be a computer!), so counting can’t be that tough can it?

Let’s take 123

English: “One hundred and twenty three.”
Hundreds, tens, units. Simple and logical. Easy as, literally, 1, 2, 3.

Dutch: “One hundred, three and twenty.”
Hundreds, units then back in the middle to tens. It’s all over the place. Easy as…1, 3, 2?

Then take 123,456

English: “one hundred and twenty three thousand, four hundred and fifty six.”

Dutch: “one hundred, three and twenty thousand, four hundred six and fifty.”
1, 3, 2, 4, 6, 5

(Oh yes. And there’s the use of a comma in place of a decimal point!)

And telling the time. This was possible as early as 1500 BC with sundials (source: Wikipedia.) So it shouldn’t be complicated, right?

Ha! In Dutch, “Half two” means “half one”. It’s an optimistic outlook where the Dutch look forward ‘two’ the hour rather than back to the ‘one’ that’s passed. (See what I did there?! πŸ˜‰ )

It’s really tricky to remember 10 minutes later when it’s embedded in a string:

English: “twenty to two”

Dutch: “ten past half two”

Are we going backwards or forwards here? Is the big hand going 10 minutes past the 6, or forward to the 2? Who knows?

I think the Dutch are surely they are the true masters of time – they’ve even come up with an extra day in June!


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A relatively simple lunch

People say that we are all time travellers because we move through time at a rate of 1 second / second.

I pointed out in my definition on what is time travel that this is not the case…if time is like a river and we sit on a boat floating on that river, we have an analogous case – we flow down-stream but we’re not in control. We drift; we don’t travel (except relative to the river bed).

A friend pointed out that maybe describing time as a river isn’t strictly correct. According to the general theory of relativity (GR) time is relative and should be viewed on a local scale, whereas the picture of a flowing river is holistic (and therefore not covered by GR).

However, the counter argument is that the river of time can be viewed – or indeed changed – on a local scale. A sand bank, or a large fish can locally affect the flow of water.

And as a colleague pointed out – as in GR, a moving fish can eat a smaller fish and gain mass.

“It makes sense” he added. “When I’ve eaten a large lunch my perception of time definitely changes.”

I don’t think much more can be said on that subject!


Some time in Holland

What is it with Holland and time travel?

A lot of people think that the first time travel novel is The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, published in 1895.

Aside from the fuzzy logistics of what “being first” really means in time travel, the above statement is incorrect. Indeed, H.G. Wells had already published a short story called The Chronic Argonauts in 1888, thus scoring an own-goal in beating himself to the title of First Time Travel Author.

A little less self-plagiaristic is The Clock That Went Backward, a short story by Edward Page Mitchell which was published in 1881, and as far as I can tell, the ‘first’ piece of fiction involving time travel.

I’ll get round to reviewing it later, but the point I wanted to make is that the story is set in Holland; a small country with a complicated language. I can’t help but wonder why Holland was chosen as the setting for this ground-breaking piece of work!

Yes it’s true…the time2timetravel HQ is situated in Holland too, where if you search hard, you can end up in some pretty quirky places!

Dutch Clock
“Dutch Clock”. Fancy one on your wall? Image courtesy: clockmasterinc.com

And there is the “Dutch clock”. I wasn’t even aware there was such a thing until they kept popping in in various novels I’ve been reading, and here was a surprise…that the picture of a clock face used as a header on this site is actually of a Dutch clock…although I hadn’t realised it when I took the picture!

(Rather ironic…I live in Holland, and took this picture of a Dutch clock during a holiday in France!)

I don’t have a picture of the above clock in all of it’s full Dutch chronological glory (…in France πŸ˜‰ ) but descriptively it could be described as a short and stumpy wall mounted grandfather clock. Or at least, one with its legs cut off (see image, right).

Given the story line of The Clock that went Backward irony again hits us in the face, in that there is a Dutch saying that the Dutch people are tall so that if the sea dikes break then they can keep their heads above the water.

Tall people, short clocks. But I guess they are not the only ones short on time!


Time travel train: moment of proof!

So here it is!

All of my seemingly endless journeys and musings about time travel on my daily train commute – has it all pointed towards this moment of proof?

The moment

I’m on the train which is slowing down for the next stop. I glance at the information monitor on the wall in front of me…

The proof

proof for a time travel train?
Current time 18:03…expected arrival 18:02

The irony

The train was delayed! I’m confused though…was time lost, or made up?


Spring forward

So tonight’s the night. (Or is it tomorrow morning’s the morning). At 2 am we put our clocks forward to 3 am, and await the semi annual discussion of whether it’s a good idea or not, and whether we should just keep summer time in place in winter, and in summer put the clock forward an additional hour.

Spotted it?

Actually there are two things to spot…firstly that it would be summer time in winter, and secondly, we “spring forward” an hour in spring…and call it “summer time”.

Ah well. Us humans can be a little bit crazy like that, but I suppose we have to live with it.

Anyway. I’ve got into the habit of changing the clocks in my house the evening before. I’m not at my best in the morning, and looking at the clock on the bedside cabinet and then trying to remember that I need to add an hour and then remember I should have woken up an hour earlier is just never going to happen. (Who is awake at 2 am to change clocks??)

So I started downstairs at 18:50, and moved the clocks to 19:50. At 19:00 (i.e. 20:00 according to the downstairs clocks) it’s time for my girls to hit the sack. Cue the tooth brushing, bed time stories etc. and 45 minute later they’re both down. But before I head back downstairs, it’s time to set the upstairs clocks.

From 19:50 to 20:50.

Now I know it’s an hour since I was downstairs doing the same thing, but there’s a certain part of me which thinks I’ve just put the clocks forward 2 hours.

Yeah, I know. That would be crazy!