What is time anyway?

Here’s a thing. This is a novel about the evidence of time travel.

By its very nature, this implies that ‘Time’ is a dimension by which you can traverse. It is often referred to as the Fourth Dimension. And that seems rather silly to me for a number of reasons:

  • We have three dimensions that we move about in as a matter of course and they are all measured in feet, inches, metres, miles, whatever
  • Why would a fourth dimension be measured in anything else – such as seconds?
  • And how is it at right angles to the current three dimensions we used to build houses?

Physicists get rather exercised by time. It’s a quantity that pops up regularly in all sorts of calculations and equations and yet, when you want to pick it up or look at it from round the back, it’s not actually there.

We measure the passage of time as it gives context to our lives. If we didn’t, how would we know when to celebrate our next birthday? The movements of the planets mark out our days, nights, seasons and these all give rhythm to what we eat, where we go, whether we are more likely to get depressed, etc.

There’s lots of research that is presented by tabloid journalists as time travel (e.g. worm-holes, near-light speed travel) but it’s not actually breaking the time-space continuum. And anyway, this is all about going forwards in time at a different rate to everyone else. For a general overview of this you could do worse than read Paul Sutter’s excellent blog here.


As for going back in time, my philosophical position is that it makes more sense as there is a Past to go and visit whereas there isn’t a Future one can go to and come back from. (I should add that I’m not a physicist; I studied chemistry at university but I’ve had a few drinks down the pub so I feel amply qualified to expound generously on this subject.)

Nonetheless, I shall leave the last word on this matter to Professor Stephen Hawking who devoted a fair bit of his excellent book ‘A Brief History of Time’ to Time Cones and backwards and forward travel as it related to the expansion of the universe. You might need a stiff gin to get through this, but it’s a beautifully written and argued piece on space and time and general relativity. So, go on, dip your toe in some Quantum Physics and be entertained!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *