The Vagaries of Time

The Current Doctrine

Modern physics treats time as a mathematical dimension — equivalent in most ways to length, breadth and height; it is viewed as something that can be measured in respect of an event or series of events.

Albert Einstein’s special relativity and general relativity complicate the situation by viewing space-time as a four dimensional framework. This has some consequences in respect of the way that physicists speculate about the nature of the cosmos.

Physics has proven experimentally that time does not flow exactly at the same rate everywhere, but that its rate of flow depends on its local context. Specifically, the flow of time as measured by accurate clocks depends on the spatial reference frame of the observer (and his clock). The variance that can occur in time are:

  1. Time flows at a different rate for two observers, who are in relative motion to each other. The difference becomes large if the relative motion between the two observers is great – for example, when the relative motion becomes a significant fraction of the speed of light. This is referred to in physics as “time dilation.” This difference in the rate of flow of time has been proven experimentally in small degree using two atomic clocks, one on earth and one taken aboard a space shuttle.
  2.  Additionally, time varies according to strength of the local gravitational field. This is referred to as gravitational time dilation. An atomic clock at the top of Mt Everest will differ slightly (by nanoseconds) in its measurement of time to one at sea level. This has also been proved experimentally. The local gravitational field at the top of a mountain is less powerful than at sea level. 

The GPS system that is now generally used by many people around the world for determining their exact location works by means of triangulating the signal from the GPS device between three satellites. In order to calculate an accurate location it needs to take into account the movement of the satellites and the timings of their positions when they received the signal. In order to do this, each satellite contains within it a highly accurate atomic clock. But these clocks do not run at the rate an atomic clock runs on the surface of the planet. They have been deliberately slowed down (by nanoseconds per hour) so that the time dilation the satellites experience is compensated for exactly by having slower clocks.

Time dilation is a real phenomenon, not a theoretical thing.

Passing The Ball to Albert

Einstein regarded these two of contexts of time dilation described above (time dilation due to gravitation and time dilation due to relative speed) as one and the same, in the following sense:

A body of matter has inertia. This means that it resists any change to its velocity, whether it is moving or not. We encounter inertia, for example, when we attempt to stop a moving object. We encounter inertia when we try to move a stationary object. Einstein thus suggested that an object allowed to fall freely under the force of Earth’s gravity has exactly the same inertia an identical object at exactly the same distance from Earth that is prevented from falling. 

Thus time dilation can be viewed as a consequence of inertia rather than velocity. The velocity of the object that was allowed to fall freely increases as it falls, and so does its inertia. As it approaches closer to Earth, the force of gravity acting on it increases and the flow of time (for the object) slows down. 

Consider an asteroid moving in a straight line past a planet. Because the asteroid has mass it will be attracted towards the planet by the gravitational force between the asteroid and the planet. So it will bend in towards planet as it goes past.

However, confusing though it may be, we could also represent this as space-time being curved by the gravitational mass of the planet. So we could also say that the asteroid did not bend in towards the plant, it traveled in a straight line, but as space-time was curved the bending was caused by space-time’s curvature rather than gravitational force. The two explanations are equivalent mathematically and hence both can be regraded as valid. 

It is because of this experimentally proven effect that there has been much speculation about the curvature of space. Mathematically space-time (as a 4 dimensional framework) is curved and thus it is possible, mathematically, that all the four dimensions of space-time contribute to the curvature. It is equally plausible that only one of those dimensions, time, creates the curvature. In Beelzebub’s Tales, only time is said to be “subjective” in this sense.

The View from The Tales

In The Tales, the three dimensions of space are described as infinite, rather than curved – and hence bounded.

Time, the Unique Subjective, is not just subjective in the sense of our experience of it (i.e. psychologically subjective). It is also subjective in the sense of its position in respect of large cosmic concentrations (suns, planets, moons, etc.)

Or as Beelzebub declares:

“It is possible to judge Time only if one compares real cosmic phenomena which proceed in the same place and under the same conditions, where Time is being constated and considered.”

This accords with Einstein’s relativity. Nevertheless…


… the observer introduces subjectivity, whatever the experiment being done is and whatever the circumstances. So the supposed “objective time” discussed in the experiments above, is actually subjective within the context of the experimenters.

The view of the Work is that there is no objective measure of time possible. I will discuss this issue in the next issue of The Lost Herald.