The Labyrinth of Time: Introducing the Universe

The Labyrinth of Time: Introducing the Universe

The Labyrinth of Time: Introducing the Universe

The Labyrinth of Time: Introducing the Universe

Synopsis

Modern physics has revealed the universe as a much stranger place than we could have imagined. The puzzle at the centre of our knowledge of the universe is time. Michael Lockwood takes the reader on a fascinating journey into the nature of things. He investigates philosophical questions about past, present, and future, our experience of time, and the possibility of time travel. And he provides the most careful, lively, and up-to-date introduction to the physics of time and the structure of the universe.He guides us step by step through relativity theory and quantum physics, introducing and explaining the ground-breaking ideas of Newton and Boltzmann, Einstein and Schroedinger, Penrose and Hawking. We zoom in on the behaviour of molecules and atoms, and pull back to survey the expansion of the universe. We learn about entropy and gravity, black holes and wormholes, about how it all began and where we are all headed. Lockwood's aim is not just to boggle the mind but to lead us towards an understanding of the science and philosophy. Things will never seem the same again after a voyage through The Labyrinth of Time.

Excerpt

Time is central to our being in a way that space is not. We can envisage an afterlife in which we no longer find ourselves located in space. But we cannot envisage an afterlife in which we are no longer in time. Correspondingly, time lies at the core of our strongest emotions—as is reflected in those popular songs that most effectively tug at the heartstrings: Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’, for example, or the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’. the past can be the focus of nostalgia, relief, pride or shame, an aching sense of loss, or the bitter regret associated with missed opportunities. and the future, though less poignantly, can be the focus of longing, dread, eager anticipation, intense impatience, unbearable suspense, paralysing fear or nail-biting anxiety.

Indeed, our sense of ourselves as enduring through time pervades our entire conception of the human predicament. But in attempting to articulate this crucial temporal aspect of our being, we find ourselves resorting to metaphor in a way that seems unnecessary when it comes to space. Accordingly, we speak of the ‘march’ or ‘flow’ of time, while in our finest literature we find such images as Marvell’s ‘time’s winged chariot’ or Shakespeare’s ‘womb of time’. Space, by contrast, does not need such metaphors. the prosaic language of Euclid, or of the surveyor, seems more appropriate to its object than that of the poet. Time strikes us as elusive, in a way that space does not.

But, however distinct in character space and time may seem from a common-sense perspective, modern physics tells us that space and time are intimately intertwined, in a way that is held to justify talk of time as a ‘fourth dimension’. Just what are we to make of this dissonance between our common-sense notions and those that emerge from fundamental science will be the subject of extensive discussion in the chapters that follow. and the upshot of our discussion is that, in all probability, the fundamental nature of time is very far from what common sense would lead us to believe. I would endorse, therefore, the sentiments of another author—J. T. Fraser—as expressed by the title of his book, Time the Familiar Stranger. Time, in the light of modern physics, appears not to . . .

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