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Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future. Time is a component quantity of many measurements used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change of quantities in material reality or in the conscious experience. The temporal position of events with respect to the transitory present is continually changing; events happen, then are located further and further in the past. Time has been a major subject of religion, philosophy, and science, but defining it in a manner applicable to all fields of study without circularity has consistently eluded scholars. A simple definition states that "time is what clocks measure".
Temporal measurement, or chronometry, takes two distinct period forms: the calendar, a mathematical abstraction for calculating extensive periods of time, and the clock, a physical mechanism that counts the ongoing passage of time. In day-to-day life, the clock is consulted for periods less than a day, the calendar, for periods longer than a day. Increasingly, personal electronic devices display both calendars and clocks simultaneously. The number (as on a clock dial or calendar) that marks the occurrence of a specified event as to hour or date is obtained by counting from a fiducial epoch — a central reference point.
History of the calendar
Artifacts from the Palaeolithic suggest that the moon was used to reckon time as early as 6,000 years ago. Lunar calendars were among the first to appear, either 12 or 13 lunar months (either 354 or 384 days). Without intercalation to add days or months to some years, seasons quickly drift in a calendar based solely on twelve lunar months. Lunisolar calendars have a thirteenth month added to some years to make up for the difference between a full year (now known to be about 365.24 days) and a year of just twelve lunar months. The numbers twelve and thirteen came to feature prominently in many cultures, at least partly due to this relationship of months to years.
Definitions and standards
The SI base unit for time is the SI second. From the second, larger units such as the minute, hour and day are defined, though they are "non-SI" units because they do not use the decimal system, and also because of the occasional need for a leap second. They are, however, officially accepted for use with the International System. There are no fixed ratios between seconds and months or years as months and years have significant variations in length.
Sidereal time is the measurement of time relative to a distant star (instead of solar time that is relative to the sun). It is used in astronomy to predict when a star will be overhead. Due to the orbit of the earth around the sun a sidereal day is 4 minutes (1/366th) less than a solar day.
Another form of time measurement consists of studying the past. Events in the past can be ordered in a sequence (creating a chronology), and can be put into chronological groups (periodization). One of the most important systems of periodization is geologic time, which is a system of periodizing the events that shaped the Earth and its life. Chronology, periodization, and interpretation of the past are together known as the study of history.
Time in Greek mythology
The Greek language denotes two distinct principles, Chronos and Kairos. The former refers to numeric, or chronological, time. The latter, literally "the right or opportune moment", relates specifically to metaphysical or Divine time. In theology, Kairos is qualitative, as opposed to quantitative. In Greek mythology, Chronos (Ancient Greek: ??????) is identified as the Personification of Time. His name in Greek means "time" and is alternatively spelled Chronus (Latin spelling) or Khronos. Chronos is usually portrayed as an old, wise man with a long, gray beard, such as "Father Time". Some English words whose etymological root is khronos/chronos include chronology, chronometer, chronic, anachronism, synchronize, and chronicle.
Two distinct viewpoints on time divide many prominent philosophers. One view is that time is part of the fundamental structure of the universe, a dimension in which events occur in sequence. Sir Isaac Newton subscribed to this realist view, and hence it is sometimes referred to as Newtonian time. An opposing view is that time does not refer to any kind of actually existing dimension that events and objects "move through", nor to any entity that "flows", but that it is instead an intellectual concept (together with space and number) that enables humans to sequence and compare events (such as, 'change of conditions within an ever-present') This second view, in the tradition of Gottfried Leibniz and Immanuel Kant, holds that space and time "do not exist in and of themselves, but ... are the product of the way we represent things", because we can know objects only as they appear to us.
Time has historically been closely related with space, the two together comprising spacetime in Einstein's special relativity and general relativity. According to these theories, the concept of time depends on the spatial reference frame of the observer, and the human perception as well as the measurement by instruments such as clocks are different for observers in relative motion. The past is the set of events that can send light signals to the observer; the future is the set of events to which the observer can send light signals.
Relativistic time versus Newtonian time
The animations visualise the different treatments of time in the Newtonian and the relativistic descriptions. At the heart of these differences are the Galilean and Lorentz transformations applicable in the Newtonian and relativistic theories, respectively. In the figures, the vertical direction indicates time. The horizontal direction indicates distance (only one spatial dimension is taken into account), and the thick dashed curve is the spacetime trajectory ("world line") of the observer. The small dots indicate specific (past and future) events in spacetime.
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"Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy". 2010. Retrieved 2011-04-09. "Time is what clocks measure. We use time to place events in sequence one after the other, and we use time to compare how long events last... Among philosophers of physics, the most popular short answer to the question "What is physical time?" is that it is not a substance or object but rather a special system of relations among instantaneous events. This working definition is offered by Adolf Grünbaum who applies the contemporary mathematical theory of continuity to physical processes, and he says time is a linear continuum of instants and is a distinguished one-dimensional sub-space of four-dimensional spacetime."
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "Time", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.