What Is Time? One Physicist Hunts for the Ultimate Theory
By ERIN BIBA - WIRED SCIENCE
Added: Sun, 28 Feb 2010 00:00:00 UTC
Thanks to SPS for the link.
SAN DIEGO — One way to get noticed as a scientist is to tackle a really difficult problem. Physicist Sean Carroll has become a bit of a rock star in geek circles by attempting to answer an age-old question no scientist has been able to fully explain: What is time?
Here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where he gave a presentation on the arrow of time, scientists stopped him in the hallway to tell him what big fans they were of his work.
Carroll sat down with Wired.com on Feb. 19 at AAAS to explain his theories and why Marty McFlyâs adventure could never exist in the real world, where time only goes forward and never back.
Wired.com: Can you explain your theory of time in laymanâs terms?
Sean Carroll: Iâm trying to understand how time works. And thatâs a huge question that has lots of different aspects to it. A lot of them go back to Einstein and spacetime and how we measure time using clocks. But the particular aspect of time that Iâm interested in is the arrow of time: the fact that the past is different from the future. We remember the past but we donât remember the future. There are irreversible processes. There are things that happen, like you turn an egg into an omelet, but you canât turn an omelet into an egg.
And we sort of understand that halfway. The arrow of time is based on ideas that go back to Ludwig Boltzmann, an Austrian physicist in the 1870s. He figured out this thing called entropy. Entropy is just a measure of how disorderly things are. And it tends to grow. Thatâs the second law of thermodynamics: Entropy goes up with time, things become more disorderly. So, if you neatly stack papers on your desk, and you walk away, youâre not surprised they turn into a mess. Youâd be very surprised if a mess turned into neatly stacked papers. Thatâs entropy and the arrow of time. Entropy goes up as it becomes messier.
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Chris Wickham - Reuters 0 Comments
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