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The Hare and the Tortoise: The race is not to speedy (VI). Watch your clock!

“I’ll run you a race and prove it” said the tortoise to the Hare.

The Hare and the Tortoise, by Aesop.

Have a beautiful first week of the month of May. Thousands of flowers have begun to flourish in places where the eruption of spring season, broke the silence of the waiting time apres winter. Time is always around us, as a compass that even with the advent of the atomic clocks of our days, we wrongly believe in its accuracy … but that is not the case. If something has been an object of vast research, that is the variable time. But still to our days, even with the most plus-que-parfait timekeeping struggles to measure it, we still are a work in progress in our quest for it. Believe it or not… we are just beginning to open our eyes to the extensiveness of our past theories limitations. Scientists postulations, regardless our top technological advancement, have not been able to still provide a uniform time measure, because every day, we discover something new that improves what our ancestors did.

 The lutetium-based atomic clock at the National University of Singapore. Source

Only God has the exact time measure and timekeeping answers. There are certain things that not even science has been able to explain. My personal idea of God creator of everything is a combination of a cyclical and one-view dynamic process time keeping. Whatever our ancestors and current thoughtful people have been doing are merely approximations when it comes to timekeeping. Some could be almost accurate, as the atomic clocks, but still no one of us has reached the perfection of knowledge to explain time.


If physicists are not able to define “time” in all its splendor, is not their fault either. Our humanity is simply trying. However, physicists are not God either. And they are also not philosophers of time, that is why we still have unintelligible theories of time. The fact that we still patch time, tells us that even with the atomic clocks, we always have to calibrate them. Usually this calibration is done automatically, through the  National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) ( through the Internet, in your computers, laptops and Smartphones, but still a synchronization is required. This mere fact tells us that we can’t use the time to our benefits, because time has its own paradigms, that several erudite philosophers are still trying to understand.  

Physicists working independently of philosophers of time? In the past, in order to become an excellent scientist, studious people were meant to become philosophers first. The integrality of a physicist depend on its capacity to be a thinker of time, beyond the astronomy timekeeping and math calculations. The separation of both disciplines is now evident, probably, it is time for physicists to become philosophers of time…. and it is time for philosophers of time to try to understand the physicists.

On my last publication we started to write about the atomic clock (with its different prototypes), that suggest to be the most accurate scale clock to fulfill the goal of timekeeping. But still it just complies with a very high accuracy, that may not be the correct one, if we continue searching for the ultimate punctuality.

From where did we land into a physics atomic timekeeping that we have not been able to define philosophically yet? The answer started with the Isaac Newton’s attempt to distinguish absolute time from relative time. Then, Max Planck, the German physicist that postulated in 1900 that the energy of an atomic oscillator is quantized.  Five years later, Albert Einstein extended this idea by explaining that electromagnetic radiation is built in sachets or containers, referred to as photons. Then in 1913, the Danish Niels Bohr postulated that atoms exist in different states of energy, and when atoms transit from one type of energy to a next one, the absorption or emission of a photon has a specific frequency.  These three physicists of the beginning of the 20th century kicked off the era of electromagnetic radiation, radioactivity and quantum mechanics (quantum  transitions between internal energy states of atoms).

Before the World War II, through resonance technique, researchers manipulated atoms through molecular transitions, with the hope of regulating their frequency of oscillation.  Several methods of generating frequencies in the atoms were developed. Furthermore, in 1957 the first oscillator controlled by a quantum transition of the ammonia molecule was constructed, at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington D.C.  In 1955, another atomic clock built from a beam of cesium-133 vapour ascended to genuineness, in terms of Ephemeris time.

What is ephemeris time or ET? Ephemeris time is the first true dynamical scale of time. It took more than 400 years to consolidate the theory behind ET.  Ephemeris time is nothing else than an alternative system to the classical astrometric timescales. It was conceived for the dynamic measuring of time based on the orbital positions of the Moon, Mercury and the Earth’s rotation variations. Observations made since 1621 after the introduction of the telescope were registered, and uncovered variations that the earth doesn’t rotate with perfect uniformity. Once astronomers understood that the earth rotation is irregular, and it is affected by tidal friction and seasonal meteorological phenomena, then it was clear that there exist fluctuations in the earth’s rotational speed. Names of astronomers involved in the process to define the Ephemeris time since the 1800s, were the American Simon Newcomb, the Scottish Robert Innes, the Dutch Willem de Sitter, the British Harold Spencer and the American Gerald Clemence.  It wasn’t until 1952 that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) adopted the dynamical scale of time and called it Ephemeris Time (ET).

Since then, other definitions have gotten up in relation to dynamical time, as the Barycentric Dynamical Time (TDB), the Terrestrial Dynamical Time (TDT) and the International Atomic Time (TAI). These are more accurate than Ephemeris Time, because they take relativity into account.

The Coordinated Universal Time or UTC Scale. The quartz clock was based in the discovery of Pierre Curie in 1880.  Curie noticed that when a pressure is applied to certain crystals (the quartz, for example) they vibrate at a certain, highly constant frequency. With this phenomenon, the design of radios as we know them today. Then, in 1928 the quartz clock entered into scene. By 1939, the quartz clock replaced the mechanically regulated clocks everywhere, included those in the Observatory of Greenwich.

With the new quartz clocks, these devices were capable of measuring up to a millionth of a second, and it was possible to measure the small discrepancies in the earth’s rotation from day to day. This astronomical time is called the UTC.


Why do we need to understand the different measures of time? It is not my aim to explain all the details of timekeeping history. We simply need to at least know that in order to measure the second (SI) as defined in the International System of Units, the atomic clocks serve as the basis of scientific and legal clock times.  A single clock, atomic in quartz-crystal, is synchronized with either UTC, TAI, UTC, TDT and it provides the SI second with high accuracy but not perfectly, yet.  Every time you read your Smartphone watch, be aware that SI second that you are able to perceive, took more than 5,000 years to be measured, and during the last 200 years, the majority of discoveries were established. But still it is a work in progress.

In the United States, the U.S. Naval Observatory (USNO) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have the responsibility for measuring and disseminating time.  Worldwide there are at least more than 18 locations where other atomic clocks are positioned (Japan, Korea, Germany, Poland, UK, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, China, India, Switzerland, etc). Nowadays, the optical atomic clock is being under development.

The contemporary philosophies of time. As I explained to you on my last publication, we come from a legacy of two types of thinkers of time. Those past civilizations who thought that time may be interpreted from the point of view of a cyclic assessment, and those who think that time has to be analyzed from the perspective of a one-way view.

Nevertheless, since the beginning of the 20th century, there are some main topics in the philosophers agenda that we can’t dismiss to unmask. I would like to at least list them today, and we will at least provide a brief summary of each of them on my next publication.
1. Fatalism
2. Reductionism and Platonism with Respect to Time
3. The topology of Time
4. Mc Taggart’s Argument of time
5.The A-Theory and the B-Theory
6. Presentism, Eternalism, and the Growing Block Theory
7. Three Dimensionalism and Four Dimensionalism
8. The Dynamic and the Static Theory
9. The Moving Spotlight Theory
10, Time Travel
11. Time and Physics
12. Time and Rationality

To be continued…

Bibliography utilized to get some ideas when writing today.

Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY. Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

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