Objective images of time


Any discussion about time will be influenced by numerous factors such as our familial and national cultures, our personal experiences, the people we regularly talk to, our mental outlook, and our senses. Even the language we think in will play a role, for in some languages there is not the same richness of tense, that is, expression of past, present, and future, as in others. All of these factors play a role in how our brains are conditioned to interpret the information that we receive from our immediate environment. In this chapter we review those factors that are dictated by the laws of physics, starting with light.


Humans are primarily visual creatures: our eyes are superb detectors of the optical frequency regime of the electromagnetic radiation spectrum, commonly referred to as light. Vision provides the brain with sufficient information to create the illusion that the world around us is a three-dimensional geometrical space in which objects exist and move about in a continuous way. This illusion comes at a cost: we become conditioned to believe this geometrical model is reality, whereas the model may be no closer to reality than a map is to the country it represents. Therefore if we wish to understand time we should keep the following scientific facts about light in mind.

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