Monday, October 26, 2009

Time- Human Invention, or Part of Reality?

I was listening to another perspective on KQED today. A rather artsy hippy type talking about time, and specifically how it is a human construct built upon an agreement of the concept of time. This lead me to wondering, is time a purely human construct?

This wouldn't be too suprising, as so many things are human constructs (in my humble opinion). For example, color distinction (there's really a spectrum, discrete colors are human), God and religion, money and economy (sorta- interesting work has been done on primates, but hey they are like our retarded cousins), and fashion. Some of these things extend into the animal world, but typically they don't go very far (like I've never seen a croc with a hat, or banana slug accounting). Even our political system is a hierarchy that extends from the same alpha/beta/gamma/delta system you see in social species like the great apes troops, prides of lions, etc- but clearly the political construct is a reflection of our humanity.

So, why not time?

In some ways I agree with the lady. Take the international date line. Is it really a different day on one side of the line vs the other? No. Obviously you can't have half of your body in one time/space point, and the other half one day later but same time/space just doesn't make sense. That line is a human construct that helps to mesh the human perspective (living on a rotating sphere with a big bright sun in the center of our solar system) with the very non-human ticking of the atoms that make us up. Hell, I'd go so far as to say that the second is a purely human construct. Think about it, a second is 1/3600th of an hour, and an hour is 1/24 of a day, and a day is 1/365th of a revolution around our sun...OUR SUN. That's the human bit. A space invader from alpha-centuri isn't going to know what the hell a second is, they'll know what a falkinboo is- that's 1/4598th of a bookinva, which is 1/45 of a revolution around alpha-centuri. Or it's how many times their baby farts in an hour, whatever. The point is that clearly there are some things wrt time that really are human.

But that about time?

Personally, as a scientist, I think that time is one of the few things that is not simply human. We have a time t=0 - um the Big Bang; and we have an absolute metronome- the cesium atom. There was a gun that started the race 13.7 billion years ago, and every time an electron zips around a cesium atom, there is a steady ticking to count off the time between the bang of the gun and where we are now. This is pretty much all that you need to account for time.

It all gets screwed when you throw in the beautiful wrench that is Relativity. Basically time is not constant and depends on the frame of reference. If the frame of reference is moving or is in a gravitational field (eg Earth/Sun), then atomic clocks will tick differently. This has been proven with GPS satellites. They cruise around in an orbit around the Earth, in a smaller gravitational field than we do down here on Earth's surface, and their on board clocks slowly go out of sync with the ones on Earth. Now consider the Big Bang itself. Imagine the crazy gravity fields and energies and velocities and crazy shit that must have happened in those first few thousand ticks. Who knows what time was doing in those quantum moments.

Perhaps 13.7 billion years isn't so black and white. Perhaps that atomic clock isn't so tick-tock.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Women Employed Than Men

In the next year or so women's employment numbers should surpass men's for the first time in US history.

That's big news.

On KQED they have a program called "Perspectives". It showcases different essays from people in the Bay Area. Yesterday, they had a labor guy on called Dick Meister who commented on some new statistics to come out of the Recession. Here's an article he wrote and some quotes from it.

"The number of women workers has been growing steadily for decades, but the number has boomed during the recession. That's partly because the greatest job losses have been in male-dominated fields such as construction and manufacturing. Men have lost more than three million jobs in those areas alone since the recession began in late 2007. Three-quarters of all jobs lost - a total of 4.75 million - were held by men. Women lost three million fewer jobs."

This translates into the fact that women have or are about to become the dominate gender in the workforce. One sad part is that some of this is due to the fact that women make less, and so were hired in greater numbers during the recession. That still needs to change because the quality of your work doesn't really depend on having a vagina or a penis (unless you are talking about certain heavy lifting jobs like fireman- I mean watch Rescue Me for a couple of seasons if you really want to debate this subject, in which case an over abundance of testosterone is an asset). Here is how Dick Meister put it.

"The figures are downright spectacular. Local governments, for instance, have laid off 86,000 men during the recession, but they have hired 167,000 women. That's largely because women generally are paid less than men and are hired mainly for office jobs, which typically are better funded than other government positions."

I am encouraged and frightened by all of this, which I think anyone in the position of "majority" going to "minority" might feel. I am encouraged to see that minorities status groups are capable of gaining equality. I suppose surprised wouldn't be the right word, as I've been mentioning the higher graduation rates of women for a few years now, but I am excited to see what will happen. I am frightened by what they may decide to do with that majority. So often in history the oppressed become the oppressors, and I just hope that this time will history will not repeat itself. Personally, I don't see how women could possibly fuck things up as bad as their male counterparts. Not to mention that most (if not all) matriarchal societies that I have read about are much more peaceful and prosperous than many patriarchal societies. I figure we've had our chance, time to move over and see what the ladies can do.

So I for one welcome our new overlords, and hope they are kind to their new minions.

Sorry for the recent drought. I've got a couple things on deck, but work has been busy, and these blogs get wearing. Photoblog is still going!