About Time

This Syllabus can be found at: http://is.gd/Abouttime or via QR Code to the right

QR code

Course to be offered 2015 Oct 19 to Nov 16th, RISE Nashua, 12:30-2PM, Mondays

Nov 10 to Dec 8, OLLI/GSC Manchester 10-11:30AM

In the beginning, before the Internet, TV, Radio, Candles ... folks had nothing better to do in their evenings than stare at the sky (Ok, maybe a few better things.) Days were easy to figure out- big orange thing that comes and goes.

Where did we get Hours, eons, geological time, cosmological time? What do trains have to do with time zones and relativity, or vermilion pens with astrology, or Pope Gregory with leap years?

Week 1: Think like a caveman (shaman)

  • The observable - day/night, moon cycles, years
  • But also your local necessities - ocean tides, animal migration, flooding/storm cycles
  • put a stick in the ground and watch the shadows
  • watch the stars -- the bear (big dipper) rises in the spring, runs from hunters in the summer, dies in fall
  • The human metric

Things to consider

  • The obvious: day, year, maybe month (at least Lunar cycles)
  • The need: planting crops, measuring travel, arranging meetings,
  • What else is there to do? -- watching the stars, observatories, ...

Time in history -- different cultures, different models

  • Zodiac, astrology - Clocks in China, India, Americas, etc.
  • Babylonians - base 60 (360 days, 360 degrees, 60 minutes, 60 seconds -- subdivisions of degrees not hours)
  • leap years - Pope Gregory
  • time zones & trains
  • Longitude and chronometers

Big Time:

  • Geographical Time -- Earth Span
  • Stephen Hawking book, A Brief History of Time -- Universe Span
  • Train synchronization and the Theory of Relativity
  • Causality, the arrow of time, quantum stuff?

Modern Time

  • GPS and other clocks
  • Cultural Time (invited for dinner in Germany, Spain, ...)
  • Personal Time
  • Generations - life span "No present like time"
  • Zimbardo;s - Time Paradox (Past, Present, Future oriented)
  • The Future of Time


  • NIST "A Walk Though Time" -
  • Lippincott, et al; The Story of Time -- a multi-cultural and disciplinary view of time with delightful art, images and history created for the millennium and an exhibit at the National Maritime Museum (UK) (cheap in used form, even hard cover)
  • Dale, Rodney, Timekeeping - Discoveries and Inventions -- a short (in paperback) discussion and display of the history of devices, methods and motives
  • Sobel, David; Longitude - A classic ... the story of the creation of the chronometer -- an essential navigational device.
  • Blaise, Clark; Time Lord; 2000 -- Bio of Sanford Fleming, Canadian champion of standardized time
  • Dale, Rodney; Timekeeping; 1992
  • Zimbardo, Philip; The Time Paradox -- The New Psychology of Time that Will Change Your Life;
  • and TED Talk (6:23) or cultural comparisons in RSA sketch talk
  • Levine, Robert; Geography of Time - cultural comparison of pace of life
  • Hawking, Stephen; A Brief History of Time -- cosmological time (a different view from Zimbardo)
  • Boorstin, Daniel; The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself; Book 1: Time
  • Rohr, Rene RJ; Sundials - History, Theory and Practice, 1965/1970 (translation)
  • Waugh, Albert; Sundials- Their Theory and Construction, 1978
  • Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh Hi II; Observatory of Jaipur; 1999 (India) [Observatory created in 1724-43 )
  • Priestley, JB; Man & Time; 1964(a multidisciplinary exploration of time)
  • Hoyle, Fred; On Stonehenge, 1977
  • Royal Astronomical Society info on Stonehenge alignments
  • Smoot, George; Wrinkles in Time; 1993 [Mapping Cosmic Background Radiation\ - won Nobel prize for this]
  • Sullivan, William; The Secret of the Incas - Myth, Astronomy and the War Against Time ; 1996
  • Aveni, Anthony; Stairway to the Stars - Skywatching in Three Great Ancient Cultures; 1997 [Stonehenge, Maya, Inca]
  • MacDonald, John; The Arctic Sky - Inuit Astronomy, Star Lore and Legend; 2000
  • Lieber, Lillian; The Einstein Theory of Relativity - a Trip to the Forth Dimension; 1936
  • Einstein, Albert; Relativity - the Special and General Theory - A Clear Explanation that Anyone Can Understand; 1916/1952