Daily Archives: March 25th, 2011

What is time?

...Time...Sometimes you gotta think the big thoughts. Like, “What is time?”

That’s easy. It’s an excellent song on the new Elephant Revival album, Break In The Clouds. 🙂 Hint: Go to their web site. They let you listen to three wonderful songs for free. (But not “What Is Time.” I couldn’t find that online. Buy the album.)

It’s also something you sometimes wish you could keep in a bottle. Or so I’ve heard.

For me, I often wish it is something I could speed up and slow down as needed. Gimme a time throttle.

But yeah, those sorts of answer are too glib. Really, what is time?

If you want to know what Wired Magazine had to say about it, clicky the link and take a look. I tried and it made my head feel funny.

I guess I’ll take my own shot at it. With my own humble spin, of course.

Let us start by looking at a unit of time known as the second:

Early definitions of the second were based on the apparent motion of the sun around the earth. The solar day was divided into 24 hours, each of which contained 60 minutes of 60 seconds each, so the second was 1/86400 of the mean solar day.

Wow. There are 86,400 seconds per day.

As science caught up, and figured out things like the sun didn’t rotate around the earth, the definition of second was slightly updated:

Since 1967, the second has been defined to be the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom.

We needed this updated definition since the second calculated the original way was actually getting longer. This is due to the fact that the earth is slowing down.

Another unit of time is known as the work day. This measurement defines an impossibly large span of time that is usually sufficient to melt the souls of men.

A typical work day contains 8 hours, each of which are comprised of 60 minutes, each of which are comprised of 60 seconds. Therefore, 60 * 60 * 8 equals the number of seconds in a work day. That’s a whopping 28,880 seconds of time spent working by the average full-time American per day. In some European countries the work day is shorter. Yeah, we’re #1!

28,880 seconds per work day.

Let that sink in.

Oh God.

Or, put another way, that’s 144,000 seconds in a five-day full-time work week.

So if anyone ever asks you to name something you do 144 thousand times per week, you can safely answer, “my job.”

“My job.” What else, if anything, defines who we are? By one definition, pure quantity, what else compares? The only other thing that might even come close in our existence is sleep. And that’s only if you sleep more than 5.7 hours a night.

Let’s assume that the average person is getting six hours of sleep per day, seven days a week. That’s 42 hours. So sleep barely edges out “work” as the #1 thing we do with our lives.

#1 – Sleep
#2 – Work

I submit, however, that work, no matter what, is the real winner. Because you have to factor in things like time spent getting ready for work, and time spent commuting to and from work. For most of us, that’s probably another 10 hours a week right there.

As human beings in the modern American reality, our primary functions are to work and sleep. Everything else in our little lives is secondary to those two concerns. Love, family, food, recreation, reading, education, pleasure, and health all take a back seat.

Work and sleep is who we are.

Now excuse me, I have to go to work, where I’m going to start at “1” and count all the way up to “28,800.” It’s guaranteed to make you go mad.

28,800 seconds is a very long, long, long time indeed.