The Speed of Time, Part 1
Let’s start with a more basic question. What is speed? In physics, the speed of an object is the magnitude of its velocity. Speed is measured, like velocity, in units of meters per second (m/s). Meters are easy to visualize in three dimensional space (3-space, or R3). Each tick on the XYZ axes is one meter, or negative one meter for objects traveling “backwards.” We can measure position by simply observing where the object is in 3-space. Time however is a bit trickier.
Classically, time (or Newtonian time) was thought of as a fourth dimension, independent from the three spacial dimensions, which defined a platform for the sequencing of events. According to the Newtonian notion time, seconds are universally measurable with a clock; and all correctly synchronized clocks progress equivocally. However, Einstein shook this understanding with his Theory of Special Relativity (TSR).
According to TSR, the 3 axes of 3-space and time unite to form the 4 axes of spacetime (4-space). Consequently, temporal measurements of an object or event are intrinsically related to the observer’s velocity through spacetime. In other words, two clocks moving relative to one another will (correctly) produce different measurements of time and simultaneity. Events that occur simultaneously in one reference frame may happen in sequence according to another. Furthermore, velocity through spacetime is governed by a universal speed limit, the speed of light (c), or 300,000,000 m/s. These measurement differences are not observable in our day-to-day lives, since they only become substantial at very high velocities (significant fractions of the speed of light). As a clock approaches the speed of light, it’s tick-rate approaches zero, according to a synchronized, stationary clock.
This is where science and philosophy begin to blur together. It’s possible, maybe even probable, that the speed of light is not just a limit, but is in fact the only possible speed. That is to say that everything moves at the speed of light through spacetime; and our notion of time is derivative of the fact that we are traveling at a very slow rate through 3-space (and consequently a very high rate through the 4th axis, time). This brings us to our initial conclusion:
Speed of (perceived) time (in m/s) = c - |v|
Where c is the speed of light, and |v| is the speed of the observer.
An astute reader will notice a plethora of unanswered problems with this formulation however. Firstly, the units of meters per second when measuring the speed of time are nonsensical. It might make more sense to define the speed of time in seconds/meter, as spacial speed is defined in meters/second. In a second attempt:
Speed of (perceived) time (in s/m) = (c - |v|) * X
Where X is in (seconds squared / meters squared)
Another question is whether the entropy of a system traveling at the speed of light increases or remains static, according to an observer traveling with the system. An outside observer would likely observe the system to be completely “frozen in time.” But could consciousness be possible for a sentient being traveling at the speed of light, or do all particles traveling at light speed simply become light, immortal and unchanging until they slow down? If forward entropy does exist at light speed, we might have to entertain the notion of recursive spacetime coordinate systems. Further exploration of these questions and many more to come.
An honest Valentine’s morning.
I was hungover and I poured myself a glass of orange juice. She was watching me from the couch in front of the television. For someone who said it was for idiots, she watched a lot of it and always had to have one. She spoke from her lazy couch:
“You need to ask me if I would like some orange juice as well. You need to work on not thinking about yourself all the time.”
I poured her a glass, walked over and poured it over her head, then I threw the glass against the wall and shattered it. I took my glass and sat behind my computer. She knocked me over in my chair and slid my pants down and got on top. To get off, I thought about the girl who worked the coffee shop on the main drag.
Dog, window, freeway, boiling blood.
Pets weren’t allowed at the motel. I didn’t want to share a room anyway, so I offered to let the pup sleep with me in the van.
I gambled dollars on video poker and broke even. Nick wouldn’t let them gamble. I drank a few free whiskey sours while I played and went back to the van. The pup was on my bed. He was small and brown with a big head. I picked him up and held him in front of my face. Some little creature. Without her he would die. He clamped his gums around my finger. I liked his puppy breath. His little eyes were barely opening and they were dark blue. He was a feisty little shit. We wrestled a bit and he fell asleep on my chest, his head buried under my chin. I didn’t mind at all. During the night he would whimper so I stuck my finger in his mouth and he sucked on it until he bonked out again.
In the morning I heard the van door slide open. I had forgotten to lock up before I went to bed. I looked down. I had my hand over the pup. Lana looked in.
“Are you decent?”
She climbed in and saw the pup on top of me.
“Oohhh, there he is.”
He woke up and smeared his nose across my neck. She put her hands out.
“Let me hold the baby.”
I didn’t want to. I patted his back.
“What’s his name?”
She picked him up and nuzzled him.
“His name’s Bubba. ’Cause he’s going to be big and strong when he grows up and he’ll protect his mama.”
The guys piled in. They smelled better. I was glad we’d stopped there. We drove through Nevada all day. The plan was to cut left at Flagstaff and go down through New Mexico. It was dark when we hit Vegas. I pulled over and called Greg. His machine said that he and Stephanie were in San Diego. We passed the big dam and made Kingman. I saw the hotel where I had met Julie and her boyfriend. Nick offered to drive. I told him to wake me up when we hit Albuquerque because the van had loose steering and the weather was getting worse. I bumped Lana to the floor but kept Bubba with me. Craig was bitching about the dog holding them back. He had a real problem with her. He was bitching a lot about everything, the gas station food, my music not being “punk” enough for him, the length of the trip and the money it took. He was getting on my nerves. Nick was quiet because they were buddies, but I knew they wouldn’t be buddies when they got back home. Traveling together will make or break people.
I woke up to the sunlight. We were far out of the mountains. Nick said he didn’t want to wake me. I sat up and gave Lana the bed. I handed Bubba over. I told Craig he could have the floor. He took on a pissy air.
I was ready to pop him one. I couldn’t stand whiny, precious assholes. We stopped at a gas station and I drove from there. We made Texas by late afternoon. Craig wanted the bed. Lana said she was having cramps and that she needed to lay down on something soft. Craig then told her that they wouldn’t be in this mess if she hadn’t taken the dog. They were arguing again. He wrestled the dog from her and threatened to snap its neck. I couldn’t slow down because a trucker was tailgating me. I finally got over to the right lane. Craig held the pup to the side window and threatened to toss it. I told him to give the pup back to her. Nick didn’t say anything. Craig told me I could go fuck myself. My blood boiled. There was someone like him everywhere I went. We were eight hours from Austin. Lana reached out for her pup but he tossed it. I heard him yelp, and in my side mirror I watched him hit the freeway and tumble and break until he was stiff. My heart sank to my stomach. Lana buried her head into the pillow and sobbed. I pulled onto the shoulder and stopped. In the rearview Craig asked me if I wanted a piece of him. I jumped out of my seat and grabbed the back of his hair and punched him right in the mouth. Blood sprayed into my eye and he went down against the door. I hit him hard across his body. He curled up into a ball and swore at me. Nick did nothing. Lana was still sobbing over her pup. I jumped out of the driver side and walked around to the sliding door. When I opened it, Craig almost fell out but he caught himself. I grabbed his bags and threw them as far as I could into traffic. Then I pulled him out by his belt and the back of his shirt and swung him to the ground. After he hit I got a running start and kicked him in the back. And then, just for myself, I rabbit punched him in the back of the head. He wasn’t swearing anymore. Nick got out and stood by his door, eyeballing me. I walked up on him.
“You got a problem with this, Nick? Fucking silent partner.”
He put his hands up. I told him I would still get Lana to Austin, and him, unless he wanted to stay with his buddy, that I didn’t care either way. He did what I thought he would. As we pulled away I saw Craig’s body struggling in the rearview, getting smaller and smaller. I wanted to turn around and run him over. Lana dug into her backpack and licked a clean sock and dabbed the blood from my eye. Nick stared at the road.
“I fucking knew this day would come. I always told him he was going to say the wrong thing to the wrong person and he would pay for his mouth. But he always said that everyone was a pussy. Man.”
“If I see him again I’ll kill him,” I said. Nick told me that he knew Craig had warrants in Texas, and that he knew a cop would stop him on the highway and that he would go to jail. He also told me that he hadn’t seen him in a few years before they set out to Alaska. I considered Nick to be smarter than I had thought. He was simply watching Craig get his. He was having a fair time with it. I spoke to Lana’s reflection in the windshield.
“I’m sorry about Bubba. He was a good one. I don’t think he felt any pain.”
Nick shook his head, “Nah. He didn’t feel a thing.”
We both kind of looked at each other. Lana cried. After awhile we were quiet. I kept thinking about the pup, picturing his big head and little face. It was horrible. Something so beautiful and innocent and undamaged, destroyed like that. If the trip had been any longer than it was and if he hadn’t been killed, I would have fallen in love with him.
The scent of happiness
Cookies baking in the oven
Cinnamon and apple pie
Pumpkin and nutmeg
Home cooked meals of any kind
Pine needles and cold skin
All reminiscent of days gone by
When we were small
Holidays filled with excitement
And families were together
And we were ignorant to stress of the world
Nothing but giggles and sunshine
Oh to be that carefree again