Yes, time flies. But, that is not the only thing it does. Time escapes is just as valid a translation of this Latin proverb. And escape it does. But where is it going? Not the slightest idea. If I did, it wouldn’t be escaping me now, would it?
It’s not only me who is eluded by the nature of time, but all of humanity. There are some good theories out there, some helpful ideas and fantasies, but ultimately, time defies our attempts of comprehension.
For centuries, time was a fundamental dimension for physicists. Not even a century ago, Einstein punched a big hole in that: He said, time is relative. So, every object experiences time differently. Mostly the same on Earth, pretty similarly in the solar system; when we approach galactic scales, we’re getting a little iffy, especially when we get close to our super-massive black hole of a center. We can be quite sure of some serious time dilation when we think of two galaxies drifting apart at speeds that shift the light spectrum. Now, if you want some comparison to the Doppler-sound effect we very well know from vehicles, imagine the ambulance is so fast that it was a blue police van when it approached, and a firetruck when it leaves. You can only hear the siren, very shortly, for that moment when it is closest to you and it goes from approaching to leaving, because it was ultrasound before and infra-sound later. Oh, yeah, it is also so fast and massive that your innards are torn apart by gravity waves. I digress.
So, Einstein took the first bash at absolute, fundamental time. Today, physicists are debating whether time is fundamental, or, in fact, emergent. Sure, we use time for everything. We can measure time down to a precision of an atosecond. That’s like a nano-nano second. It’s still not close to what Planck predicted would be the limit of measurement precision, the infamous Planck-time. But seriously, the only fundamental rule that physicist have that directly involves time is the second law of thermodynamics: That entropy always increases with time. And, it’s more like it’s the entropy that governs time, not the other way around.
But, there’s still no sense in just giving up on time. It is the way our conscious mind makes sense of the world, by imposing a sense of the presence, and committing the past to memory. Why don’t we remember the future? Because we are in the process of becoming the future, forever.
Maybe time eludes us, because it is much simpler than we think. Wouldn’t be news if we made up a lot of nonsense because we didn’t recognize the significance of the simple. But, alas, if it’s under my nose, I’m not smelling it, either…