What is Time? Concept and Acceptions

What is Time?

We explain to you what time is and what its different meanings are according to each discipline. Plus, time in philosophy and physics.

What is Time

The second (S) is the basic unit of time measurement.

The term time comes from the Latin tempus, and is defined as the duration of things that are subject to change. However, its meaning varies according to the discipline that addresses it.

Time in physics

  1. The second (S) has been determined as the basic unit of time.  
  2. From Physics it is possible to define time as the separation of events that are subject to change. It is also understood as a flow of events. In this way the events are organized in sequences, allowing to determine the future, the present and the past. The International System of Units determined the second (S) as the basic unit of time.
  3. In relativistic mechanics, the concept of time acquires greater complexity when it comes to being defined. This notion arises in opposition to the classical school, where it was understood that time was something absolute, that is to say that it is an exactly equal magnitude for all those who observe it. In relativistic mechanics it is understood that time values can vary according to the observer, the reference system used and the point at which the observer is located.

In physics, time is a magnitude used to measure the duration or separation of one or more events. This allows you to sort them in a sequence (past, present, future) and determine whether or not they occur simultaneously.

Time is represented by the variable t, its unit of measurement in the International System is the second (s), in a sexagesimal frame (60 units constitute a major) and the device with which it is measured is the clock.

Time can be thought of as the duration of things that are subject to change, and is one of the most important physical magnitudes.

Within the physical considerations, it is considered a variable that, combined with others, allows to determine the position, movement, speed and many other magnitudes of an object or system.

Formulas for calculating time

The speed is calculated from the formula V = d.t.

Time is involved in numerous physical calculations, therefore there will be many possible formulas to calculate it, depending on the other variables we have at hand. To cite a few examples:

  • Speed. The velocity is calculated from the formula V = d.t (velocity is equal to distance by time). It is measured in units of distance by units of time: Km/h, m/s, etc. If we clear the time in this formula, it would be t = d/v.
  • Acceleration. Acceleration (a) is the change in time between two speeds and is calculated with the formula: a = Δv/Δt, where Δv is vinicial – vfinal and Δt is tinicial – tfinal, i.e. clearing, that: t = (Vf – Vi) / 2a.
  • Time dilation. The formula for calculating, in quantum mechanics, the time dilation of an event measured at rest with respect to itself is determined by the following formula: Δt’ = Δti / √1-v2/c2.

Time in classical mechanics

In classical physics time is considered an absolute value, which occurs equally for all phenomena studied.

This means that two different observers will always agree on the order of events (past, future and simultaneous present).

Time in relativistic mechanics

In the relativistic mechanics of physics, time is a more complex concept, since it is linked to the position of the observer of the event, that is, it is relative.

Two observers who differ in their position and movement will differ in their measurement of the time of an event, so this magnitude will always be linked to a reference point.

This distinction arose after the formulation of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and its profound impact in the field of physics. According to her, there is no single time and the perception of it can be expanded under certain physical conditions.

Time in philosophy

Weather can also be an atmospheric state at a given time and place.

Since Philosophy time can also be defined in different ways. This is a concept that has been addressed since the ancient Greeks and remains so today.

  • From an Aristotelian conception this notion is related to movement, as in physics.  That is why time was defined as that measure of movement in relation to what preceded and what happened.
  • Other philosophers such as St. Augustine relate time to the soul. This relationship is due to the fact that the past is something that no longer exists, the future something that will come and the present slips away, transforming itself into a memory, that is to say, into the past.
  • From Kantian theory, time is understood as a way of intuiting what has happened, a virtue that belongs exclusively to man. Within this conception, time is not related to movement nor to what is external to people, but as something internal and personal, which allows us to organize intimate experiences.
  • Nowadays, there are different positions in philosophy when defining time, and various currents are used for this purpose, such as existentialism, historicism, etc. For example, there are philosophers who define time as a conformation of two temporalities, one external and the other internal. Other scholars define time as the human essence.

Finally, we can mention another meaning of time, that referred to atmospheric time. In this case, it is defined as an atmospheric state at a given time and place.

In other words, it depends on factors such as atmospheric pressure, temperature, cloudiness or the absence thereof, wind and its particularities, humidity, among others, always within a certain space.

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