January 27, 2006

Atomic or Astrological time keeping. Nerds everywhere disagree. This raises all sorts of questions about the nature of time or if it can be accurately measured? Should time be measured by terrestial means (the decay of a radioactive isotope) or by astrological means (X-ray emmissons from pulsars)

A wish I had more to offer in this discussion but it has been about four years since my last philosophy class and about three years since I read A Brief History of Time.

  • End the tyranny of the leap second!
  • Without leap seconds, the sun would be overhead at midnight instead of noon by the year 5000. Oh no!
  • It can be measured with teaspoons.
  • Have ye cast peepers on the tidal powered moon clock?
  • This is the only clock I trust, boyeeeeeeeee!!!
  • I love that motherfucker.
  • Time doesn't exist, although it's a handy benchmark for comparing change. Just pick one and go with it. (Hope this helps.)
  • Viva the 100 minute hour!
  • I was gonna barge in here and be irrelevant, but actually that was an interesting article that has got me thinking, & is useful to me right now. Cheers.
  • There probably is a ' quanta ' of time. { Just like there's a minimal distance, a ' quanta ' of distance, that can't be reduced any farther, to say that something has moved } This hasn't been proven yet, but it's very likely. Like there's a " Planck length " , there's a probably a " Planck instant ". It's just so small that it's not useful to do much with, at the moment ( ha ! )
  • I thought there was Cardenio - the time it takes light to travel a distance = event horizon of a black hole with Planck mass. I'll have to look it up....
  • thank you wikipedia here it is. and another
  • One needs both. We need to ensure that the sun is overhead at midday, but we also need to deal with time with a resolution in the nano and picosecond ranges and beyond. Useful in biology, physicis etc. There is really no great conflict, as 1 second = 1000000000000000000 attoseconds. The scales are vastly different. Smallest unit of time.
  • I was about to mention the Planck time, but it's already linked. As for ground-based time, so long as people only live on earth, it makes no sense to abandon the Sun's time in favor of a more "universal" atomic time. Once people are living on multiple worlds, or we come across a civilization on multiple worlds, it will be clear that such a standard would be needed. In the long term, "Mean Solar Time" and proper atomic time will have to be allowed to be independent time systems, and just like time zones, everyone will have to keep track of both if what you do in your daily life is affected by both.
  • To clarify my stance: I don't see a compelling reason NOT to have leap-seconds as appropriate to keep atomic time in line with Solar time.
  • "Once people are living on multiple worlds..." Within our lifetimes. Russia wants to mine the moon for helium 3 isotope, and have a permanent base there by 2015. I don't doubt they will be able to do it, their achievements in space are on record, and helium 3 is a valuable commodity, making the endeavour worth while. I'm sure this will herald a lot of enterprises (pun not intended) into space, mining asteroids perhaps, and certainly Mars. I expect to see a Mars base before I am an old man. So we will need to prepare these alternate time keeping standards.
  • I agree, Chyren, that we should be prepared for independent standards. But in the meantime, I feel that leap seconds are a minor concession to the reality of orbital dynamics. Also, as far as the Moon goes, leap seconds shouldn't cause problems. I was actually thinking of Mars time, which is likely in our lifetimes but not in the next couple decades.
  • Thanks for those Polychrome, very cool links. The leap seconds do not really seem to be a big deal but it just raised questions about humans abilities to comprehend let alone measure such complex idea like time. If we are always going to be off what is the resonable amount of descrepency allowed? Does it slow down, bend, stop? How are such tangable attributes given to such and intangable idea? The nature of time is also directly tied to our ability to traverse great distances in space (I am a sci-fi nerd, these things are important to me) I like everyone's optimism in regards to colonialization of other worlds in our lifetime, but I just don't share it. Scientific progress tends to work at a snails pace and no one wants to run the risk of losing anyone in space or on another planet so I think government agencies will err on the side of caution and slow the process up untill all technology is perfected and triple tested.
  • The Planck Time hasn't been proven yet. It's there theoretically and mathmatically, but we haven't been set up an expirement to prove it yet, and that's hard as we can't just walk up to black holes say and start fucking with them ... yet. ( We might be able to start making our own in the new colliders )
  • Yes, but how will we accomodate Coordinated Universal Peanut Butter Jelly Time?
  • CUPBJT? see, there we are with the US - centric universe again. Vegemite sandwich time, all the way!
  • "..and no one wants to run the risk of losing anyone in space or on another planet so I think government agencies will err on the side of caution and slow the process up until all technology is perfected and triple tested." Well, I think it's been tested pretty well! We have perfected orbital space travel, we have adequate technology to put a base on the moon safely & securely; we had adequate tech 20 years ago, but just no reason to do it. The shuttle is a piece of badly conceived, flawed design, I grant you, but the Russians have been hugely successful over the last 3 decades with their spacecraft. I don't think they've lost anyone since the late 60s, IIRC. And they are indeed planning to put a permanent base on the moon by 2015. Whether they will achieve this is another matter, but they certainly have the skill sets to do it. I mean, at first we are only talking about small numbers of highly trained people, with presumably a lot of automated machinery. Everyone in the current Earth space programs are from the military anyway, prepared for possible death in the line of duty. I think you'll see a marked change in attitude once resources are shown to be available on other worlds. Commerce will drive the expansion to the Moon and Mars. Once they found water and helium 3 on the Moon, going back there and setting up permanent bases became a certainty. How long it will actually take is another matter, of course.
  • 1971 according to this
  • Eh... "astrological" timekeeping? I'm a Taurus.
  • Russian moonbase? Helium 3? Bring it on! I look forward to a solid push into space, though, what with the commercial motivation that it will take to get us there, I'm sure they'll be some nasty side effects of it all. As for the time debate, I have my watch set to twenty minutes into the future...
  • Any Russian moon mission will just be to verify if, in fact, there is any Helium 3 on the moon, and if it can be easily mined. That's the easy part. Actually setting up a mining and transport infrastructure is a task for future generations. All of that is *if*, and it's a big if, Helium 3 fusion is desirable, or even possible. The temperatures required for Helium 3 fusion are far beyond those required for Deuterium-Tritium fusion, and even that is beyond our capabilities. I don't expect moon bases in my lifetime. Poosibly a single Mars mission just to prove it can be done, but nothing more.
  • TUMonster: that article is nice fantastic. I want my mars time watch with 35 mins and 39 seconds extra. I'd feel cheated otherwise.