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Posts Tagged ‘time

“You are not stuck in traffic. You ARE traffic.”*…


We’ve used 2016 information on population. There are now at least 3.8 billion people living inside the highlighted circle, and that’s not even including the tally from countries that are partially in the circle like Pakistan or Russia.

The circle holds 22 of the world’s 37 megacities – massive cities that hold at least 10 million inhabitants. It also includes the five most populous cities on the planet: Tokyo, Jakarta, Seoul, Karachi, and Shanghai, which alone combine to hold 144.5 million people.

This geographical region also holds many of the emerging markets of the future, countries that the World Economic Forum expects will lead global growth in years to come. Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, and Bangladesh are in the area highlighted, and Pakistan is partially there as well.

As a website called BrilliantMaps explains, there are some other subtleties to the circle that are worth detailing. The circle contains a lot of people, but it also has:

The highest mountain (Everest)

The deepest ocean trench (Mariana)

More Muslims than outside of it.

More Hindus than outside of it.

More Buddhists than outside of it.

More communists than outside of it.

The least sparsely populated country on earth (Mongolia)…

See the infographic in its entirety at “The Majority of the World’s Population Lives in This Circle.”

* TomTom SATNAV Advertisement


As we contemplate concentration, we might recall that it was on this date in 1880 that Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)– the mean solar time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London–  was officially adopted by Parliament.  Originally set-up to aid naval navigation (in the calculation of longitude), Greenwich had been the national (and imperial) center for time since 1675.  In 1847, GMT became the standard for British Railroads, and quickly became the de facto standard for all other purposes.  The 1880 Act simply made de jure what had become de facto.

GMT became the international civil time standard, but was superseded in that function (in 1960) by Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).



Written by LW

August 2, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Time is the longest distance between two places”*…


In quantum mechanics, time is universal and absolute; its steady ticks dictate the evolving entanglements between particles. But in general relativity (Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity), time is relative and dynamical, a dimension that’s inextricably interwoven with directions x, y and z into a four-dimensional “space-time” fabric. The fabric warps under the weight of matter, causing nearby stuff to fall toward it (this is gravity), and slowing the passage of time relative to clocks far away. Or hop in a rocket and use fuel rather than gravity to accelerate through space, and time dilates; you age less than someone who stayed at home.

Unifying quantum mechanics and general relativity requires reconciling their absolute and relative notions of time. Recently, a promising burst of research on quantum gravity has provided an outline of what the reconciliation might look like — as well as insights on the true nature of time…

The effort to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity means reconciling totally different notions of time; catch up on the state of play at “Quantum Gravity’s Time Problem.”

* Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie


As we set our watches, we might send carefully-calculated birthday greetings to Gabrielle-Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du Châtelet, the French mathematician and physicist who is probably (if unfairly) better known as Voltaire’s mistress; she was born on this date in 1706.  Fascinated by the work of Newton and Leibniz, she dressed as a man to frequent the cafes where the scientific discussions of the time were held.  Her major work was a translation of Newton’s Principia, for which Voltaire wrote the preface; it was published a decade after her death, and was for many years the only translation of the Principia into French.

Judge me for my own merits, or lack of them, but do not look upon me as a mere appendage to this great general or that great scholar, this star that shines at the court of France or that famed author. I am in my own right a whole person, responsible to myself alone for all that I am, all that I say, all that I do. it may be that there are metaphysicians and philosophers whose learning is greater than mine, although I have not met them. Yet, they are but frail humans, too, and have their faults; so, when I add the sum total of my graces, I confess I am inferior to no one.
– Mme du Châtelet to Frederick the Great of Prussia


Written by LW

December 17, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Nothing puzzles me more than time and space; and yet nothing troubles me less”…


Time crystals– crystals that break both spacial and temporal symmetry– were first predicted by Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek in 2012… and were widely deemed amusing, but impossible (e.g., here).  Now researchers have created time crystals for the first time and say they could one day be used as quantum memories… and might help reconcile Quantum Mechanics with the Theory of Relativity.

Bend your mind at “Physicists Create World’s First Time Crystal,” also here and here (source of the photo above).

* Charles Lamb


As we ponder Einstein’s insistence that time is an illusion, we might send well-structured birthday greetings to Pierre-Gilles de Gennes; he was born on this date in 1932.  A French physicist, he was awarded the 1991 Nobel Prize for Physics for “discovering that methods developed for studying order phenomena in simple systems can be generalized to more complex forms of matter, in particular to liquid crystals and polymers.”  He described mathematically how, for example, magnetic dipoles, long molecules or molecule chains can under certain conditions form ordered states, and what happens when they pass from an ordered to a disordered state.  Such changes of order occur when, for example, a heated magnet changes from a state in which all the small atomic magnets are lined up in parallel to a disordered state in which the magnets are randomly oriented.  Later, he was concerned with the physical chemistry of adhesion.



Written by LW

October 24, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past”*…


Science has a habit of asking stupid questions. Stupid, that is, by the standards of common sense. But time and time again we have found that common sense is a poor guide to what really goes on in the world.

So if your response to the question “Why does time always go forwards, not backwards?” is that this is a daft thing to ask, just be patient…

In our experience the past is the past and the future is the future, but sometimes the two can cross over; and while the past seems set in stone, some scientists believe that the future can change it:  “The quantum origin of time.”

* William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun


As we head down the rabbit hole, we might spare a thought for Jules Henri Poincaré; he died on this date in 1912.  A mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and a philosopher of science, Poincaré is considered the “last Universalist” in math– the last mathematician to excel in all fields of the discipline as it existed during his lifetime.

Poincaré was a co-discoverer (with Einstein and Lorentz) of the special theory of relativity; he laid the foundations for the fields of topology and chaos theory; and he had a huge impact on cosmogony.  His famous “Conjecture” held that if any loop in a given three-dimensional space can be shrunk to a point, the space is equivalent to a sphere; it remained unsolved until Grigori Perelman completed a proof in 2003.


Written by LW

July 17, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana”*…



Just as the boundaries of a guitar string (how it is pinned at both ends) determine how it vibrates, the distant past and far future of the universe may govern what happens today.

… imposing old Newtonian Schema thinking on new quantum-scale phenomena has landed us in situations with no good explanations whatsoever. If these phenomena seem inexplicable, we may just be thinking about them in the wrong way. Much better explanations become available if we are willing to take the future into account as well as the past. But Newtonian-style thinking is inherently incapable of such time-neutral explanations. Computer programs run in only one direction, and trying to combine two programs running in opposite directions leads to the paradoxical morass of poorly plotted time-travel movies. In order to treat the future as seriously as we treat the past, we clearly need an alternative to the Newtonian Schema.

And we have one. Most physicists are well aware of a different framework, an alternative where space and time are analyzed in an even-handed manner. This so-called Lagrangian Schema also has old roots and has become an essential tool in every field of fundamental physics. But even physicists who regularly use this approach have resisted the last obvious step: thinking of the Lagrangian Schema not just as a mathematical trick, but as a way to explain the world. Perhaps we haven’t been taking our own theories seriously enough.

The Lagrangian Schema doesn’t just allow future-based explanations. It demands them. By treating the future and the past on the same footing, this framework avoids paradoxes and makes new explanatory opportunities available. And it just might be the viewpoint that physics needs for the next major breakthrough…

More at “To Understand Your Past, Look to Your Future.”

Anthony Oettinger (though often mis-attributed to Groucho Marx)


As we disentangle entanglement, we might spare a thought for Bede (or as he is more frequently remembered, Venerable Bede); he died on this date in 735.  An English monk, Bede studied and wrote widely on scientific, historical, and theological topics, ranging from music and metrics to exegetical Scripture commentaries.  He was an accomplished translator (Pliny the Elder, Virgil, Lucretius, Ovid, Horace, and other classical writers in both Greek and Hebrew).  And his  Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) has earned him the title “The Father of English History.”  Indeed, it was in this work that Bede established as common practice the use of “BC” and “AD” with dates.

Bede as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493


Written by LW

May 26, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Time is a game played beautifully by children”*…


A 15-year-old spends the day differently than an adult who works full-time (obviously). You’re not going to see much of the latter spending their time on education in the middle of the day. It’s the leading activity for the former. Similarly, as you get older and pass retirement age, it’s much more likely your working hours decrease, which leaves a lot more time to get your leisure on…

See how you compare to those in your age and gender cohort at Flowing Data‘s wonderful interactive visualization of the “Most Common Use of Time, By Age and Sex.”

* Heraclitus


As we listen to the ticking of the clock, we might recall that it was on this date in 1871 that Samuel L. Clemens received U.S. patent #121,992 for an “Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments,” an affordance primarily designed to tighten shirts at the waist, but also used for men’s underpants and women’s corsets.

Clemens– better known, of course, as Mark Twain– was an enthusiastic inventor who received a total of three patents: his second was for a self-pasting scrapbook (1873) which sold over 25,000 copies; his third, for a history trivia game (1885).




Written by LW

December 19, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want”*…


How do you spend your days?  Since 2003, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Time Use Survey have asked thousands of people this question.  See the answers– and use interactive charts to see where you fit– at “Counting the Hours.”

* Calvin (Bill Watterson)


As we consider a nap, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Baruch (or Benedict) de Spinoza, the Dutch philosopher whose rationalism and determinism put him in opposition to Descartes and helped lay the foundation for The Enlightenment, and whose pantheistic views led to his excommunication from the Jewish community in Amsterdam; he was born on this date in 1632.

As men’s habits of mind differ, so that some more readily embrace one form of faith, some another, for what moves one to pray may move another to scoff, I conclude … that everyone should be free to choose for himself the foundations of his creed, and that faith should be judged only by its fruits; each would then obey God freely with his whole heart, while nothing would be publicly honored save justice and charity.

Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670



Written by LW

November 24, 2015 at 1:01 am

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