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  • Cynthia

What is time?

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

When I can’t sleep at night, it’s usually because interesting questions and thoughts flood my head. Recently, most of them have been about “time”. When I have nothing to do, I look for patterns in the clock such as 10:10, 12:34 and 22:22. Sometimes, the date can also contribute to this occurrence - for example, February 2nd 2020 (02.02.20) was one of these moments, and it felt very special because I knew that this pattern was never going to come again in my life. However, when I thought about it carefully, every single moment in my life was “special” because that specific moment was never going to come again. I like to think of time as a flip book - it’s going so fast that by the time you process a moment, it’s already hundreds of pages away. So if you think about “now”, you are technically thinking about the past. There’s no such thing as “now”.

As time isn’t complicated enough, time in Space can also feel different to time on earth. Let’s say there are two twins: Twin A stays on earth while Twin B flies in a high-speed rocket to a star and back. Every year, Twin A will send a pulse of light from earth to Twin B’s spaceship. Because Twin B is moving away from earth, it takes some time for the pulse of light to reach Twin B so the first few years on earth will seem very slow on Twin B’s spaceship. However, when Twin B starts to travel back to earth, they are flying towards the light beam and when Twin A sends a light beam, Twin B will think that time is passing very fast on earth. So for each twin time seems to be passing at different speeds in various parts of Twin B’s journey. When the twins reunite again, Twin B will be younger than Twin A - this phenomenon is called the twin paradox, and it is a thought experiment about special relativity.

Nobody knows exactly what “time” is and, after years of work, many scientists still can’t figure it out. I am very interested in this baffling concept, and would like to look further into it. I hope that time travel will become possible in the future, and I am intrigued to see the power that it possesses. Maybe I would be at a different place right now; maybe we wouldn’t be learning about significant parts of history - anything could happen. “What is time?” One day, I would love to answer that question.

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