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The Discovery of Time

Twenty-five years after the publication of H. G. Wells’s first book, The Time Machine, the “new realist” philosopher Samuel Alexander said this:

If I were asked to name the most characteristic feature of the thought of the last twenty-five years I should answer: the discovery of Time.

That’s the the “new realist” philosopher Samuel Alexander, twenty-five years after the publication of H. G. Wells’s first book, The Time Machine

I do not mean that we have waited till to-day to become familiar with Time. I mean that we have only just begun in our speculation to take Time seriously and to realize that in some way or other Time is an essential ingredient in the constitution of things.

More about the discovery of time in my new book, Time Travel.)

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  1. Dan Campbell says

    Time is meaningless, when we die It’s over, however if your a believer which MOST of You are NOT !!! Believing in GOD is what matters, Going to heaven is Where it’s at, then it’s not about Time, because you have ETERNITY, but you non-believers…..you get your 80, or 100 years or so, so live it up, try to time travel….. I know when I die I’ll be able to time travel ANYWHERE IN THE UNIVERSE. Good luck, God Bless, and Amen !

  2. Chris says

    It is all relative to the Observer. If you believe in Quantum Physics then you start to believing in different selves in different times, or planes of existence. For inward work.

  3. Peter Grudin says

    Perhaps the term “travel” is a trap here. If time is nothing more than the way in which we keep track of events, then I have to agree that travel on it, into it, through it, would be beyond my imagination. I admit, by the way, that my imagination is limited, but it is the only one I have.

    On the other hand traveling back in time, or, rather, being able to see the past is not only possible it is ineluctable. If someone asks me how I can make so extravagant a statement and especially since I have only a superficial knowledge of science, I will reply: “Look up.”

    “‘Look up?’ Look up what?”

    ” I am not using the transitive sense of the verb here. I am using the intransitive. Look up. Oh, yes, and do it on a clear night.”

    Since what we see is conveyed by light, and since light has a limited speed, everything we see is already in the past. Of course with nearby objects or even relatively distant ones like the moon, the passage of time between event and our perception of it is infinitesimal. When we look up at a star however, even a relatively nearby star like Alpha Centuri, which is 4.37 light years away, we see that star in the past. We see it as it was 4.37 years ago.

    Now let’s imagine that “aliens” are sending us video. They are sending the video from a star that is 10 billion light years away. What will we see when we watch the video? We will be seeing the past, a past much more profound than the past most of us normally imagine. We will see actions that occurred 10 billion years earlier. And there is no escaping this fact if we want to see what is–was–going on on that star.

    (I am a writer of fiction, but it is science that fuels my writing.)

  4. Dear Mr. Gleick,

    You wrote in your excellent book ‘Time Travel,’ “How strange, then, to realize that time travel, the concept, is barely a century old.” (page 23, hard copy)

    One notable exception appears in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ‘Discourse on the Origins and the Foundations of Inequality Among Men,’ dating from the year 1754, in which Rousseau writes: “Discontent with your present condition for reasons which presage for your unfortunate posterity even greater discontent, YOU WILL WISH PERHAPS THAT YOU COULD GO BACKWARDS IN TIME — and this feeling must utter the eulogy of your first ancestors, the indictment of your contemporaries, and the terror of those who have the misfortune to live after you.” (emphasis added), (page 79 of the Penguin Classics paperback edition)

    Best Regards,
    J. C. N. Smith

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