Adam Frank is an astrophysicist who focuses on the cosmos. His book is a fascinating story of how humankind has experienced time looking back over 40,000 years of history. It is an ambitious project that sent my mind traveling in countless directions. He relates our everyday experience of time over the ages to our continuous drive to understand ourselves in relation to the universe. It made me think about how the experience of time has changed dramatically over my lifetime. About a year ago, I performed a wedding for a super organized bride. She showed me the schedule for the wedding and the days leading up to it. For example, her friend was doing a blessing at the reception at exactly 3:17-3:22 p.m. As you might imagine, things didn’t work out quite that precisely. What struck me was that planning a day down to the minute is a very new phenomenon which is very different from our beginnings when we used nature to guide daily life–survival depended upon it. There is so much to think about in this book that relates time, culture and science. Here are some of the things I learned: why we needed clocks and how they have changed over the years, what necessitated coordinating time across the globe and how it was done, and how the interaction of time with culture and science continues to have influence over us whether we are conscious of the interplay or not. Frank, the astrophysicist, constantly brings this all back to how our understanding of time impacts the scientific search for our place in the universe and vice versa. The ways we understand time gives way to very different values and lifestyles. For example, seeing time as located in nature as opposed to “Time is money” results in very different world views. So, I’ve been asking myself what “Time’s running out,” “Time is eternal,” “Time slowed down,” “Time went by so fast….” really mean to me. Cosmologists are exploring these very ideas as they tackle cosmology’s most elusive mysteries.
2 comments on “About Time by Adam Frank”
We talked about this book during our visit and I’m glad to see you posting about it here! I love thinking about the concept of time it is very mysterious and paradoxical.
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Oh, Barbara! I am so intrigued by this. What a review! Definitely going on my “for later” shelf at the library. Time – especially how we preceive it today – is such a construct and I am intrigued to consider pondering how our perception of it, and our ways of talking about, of being inside time, have changed over the millenia. I have got to get on this!
Last night we had the scope out after dinner and were showing my cousin and her husband some objects in the dark sky. We looked at Jupiter, with three of its moons visibile across its midsection. We looked at Saturn, rings visible in a picturesque tilt. Now, that is a way to place onself in time. That is a way to place onself in the universe. Hard to imagine trying to pin anything down on a scale less than that…
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