3 October 2010

Big Ideas on time

A week packed with brain stimulating evening events got of to an unexpectedly good start with Big Idea's exploration of time.

I was not that attracted by the subject but it was a Big Ideas event, it was held in a decent pub and the timing and location fitted in well with my long days slaving over two laptops in Victoria. Or, to be brutally short, I had nothing better to do.

I lingered downstairs in the bar for a while with just a pint of Brakespear, a bowl of cheesy chips and an iPhone for company. Refreshed and relaxed I headed up stairs in good time for the 8pm start.

I should have relaxed less and gone up earlier as the room was already packed. I was lucky to get a chair (I was far too late to get a chair at a table) and the later entrants at to squeeze themselves in to standing positions behind the bar. Around fifty of us made it into the room eventually.

The discussion that followed took us in all sort of directions through quantum mechanics, Marxism, slavery, time-travel, perceptions of mortality and several other topics that escaped my notebook.

Some of the random thoughts that did make it into my book are these:
  • "Now" is a paradox, it is both unreal and the only reality there is.
  • We complain about the speed of life but this is a good thing, in the same way that a fast car is a good thing. It shows that we are achieving (or at least doing) lots.
  • Scientific time (i.e. the various ways we measure the passing of time) is rich with tempo but has no history.
  • Our understanding of things like evolution and plate tectonics requires that we also understand the time periods that they operate over.
  • Time keeping has become one of our most important tools enabling us to do so much, like arrange Big Ideas meetings. We choose to wear watches and have clocks because we can now manage time to our advantage.
It's because I am forced to think along these unexpected lines that I go to Big Ideas.

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