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Once Upon A Time

  1. Dec 18, 2005 #1
    Once Upon A Time

    Long, long ago, I took a course in physics at Oklahoma Agriculture and Mechanical College now called Oklahoma State University. That physics course defined speed to be equal to the distance traversed by an object in a unit of time. For the initiated that is s=d/t. It was assumed that distance and time were more primitive concepts than was motion.

    I live in the mountains and often go hiking. On occasion some motion among all the other fluttering motions going on within my perception halts all activity, my pulse races, chills run down my back, and all my attention is focused upon a particular motion. Later I consciously analyze the situation and discover that that motion was similar to a dangerous motion as defined by my genes. We are hard-wired to respond to motion. I discover every time such an incident occurs that motion is number one and time is not supreme.

    “What we call the domain of time appears to be a conceptual domain that we use for asking certain questions about events through our comparison to other events: where they are “located” relative to other events, how can they be measured relative to other events, and so on. What is literal and inherent about the conceptual domain of time is that it is characterized by the comparison of events.”

    “This does not mean that we do not have an experience of time…What it means is that our real experience of time is dependent, is always relative to our real experience of events. It also means that our experience of time is dependent on or embodied conceptualization of time in terms of events. This is a major point: Experience does not always come prior to conceptualization, because conceptualization is itself embodied. Furthermore, it means that our experience of time is grounded in other experiences, the experience of events.”

    What, if anything, is time ‘in itself’? I suspect no one can answer that question because such a thing, I guess, does not exist. We are able to talk of time only with metaphors.

    Common linguistic expressions: “That’s all behind us now. Let’s put that in back of us now. We’re looking ahead to the future. He has a great future in front of of him.”

    A Moving Time Metaphor: “There is a lone, stationary observer facing in a fixed direction. There is an indefinitely long sequence of objects moving past the observer from front to back. The moving objects are conceptualized as having fronts in their direction of motion.”

    Common linguistic expressions: “There’s going to be trouble down the road. Will you be staying a long time or a short time. Let’s spread the conference over two weeks. We passed the deadline. I’ll be there in a minute.”

    A Moving Observer Metaphor: “What we will encounter in the future is what we are moving towards. What we are encountering now is what we are moving by. What we encounter in the past is what we moved past.

    We see in these time metaphors a duality of figure and background reversals. In one metaphor time moves and the observer is stationary while in the other the observer moves and time is stationary. Such duality of figure-ground reversals is apparently common in human perception. “Object-location duality occurs for a simple reason: Many metaphorical mappings take a motion in space as a source domain. With motion in space, there is the possibility of reversing figure and ground.”

    The quotes are from “Philosophy in the Flesh”.
  2. jcsd
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