Caveat emptor: the things that flow through my consciousness are not always pleasant, complete let alone right.
The Romans left quite a legacy. Is that because they took the time to chisel their notes in the stones they built with? Calendars were a great invention and the Roman version remains dominant in global diplomacy and business. And it’s fundamental in many administrative regions of the world. Taxes tend to be assessed on 365 day years despite domestic use of different systems such as lunations in Muslim and Mosaic households. The ‘ides’ notion probably lost appeal after Brutus backstabbed Julius Caesar in 44 BC. And besides, Shakespeare told the world to be wary of them.
Hard to avoid thinking about calendars in a leap year. And reflecting on calendars brings time into view. And view is the right word. We lived for a while in the coyote-barking foothills of the San Gabriel mountains. Our zip code was the unforgettable 91011 which I could never remember, near where the astronomer Edwin Hubble spent the late 1920’s. He developed a view of nebulae fleeing from his 100 inch telescope. We met many who worked in Nasa’s JPL and Caltech and all spoke with passion of their pursuits of galaxies, now that they knew what nebulae were.
And leap is another good word. Einstein had changed physics in 1916 with an intellectual leap. A Belgian priest summarised some implications in 1927 that even Einstein wouldn’t accept. Georges Lemaître said the maths meant the universe was expanding. Lemaître later built on Einstein’s maths to propose that the universe started like a burst of fireworks, that this event was the beginning of time, taking place on “a day without yesterday.” The Big Bang theory. Today is a still day without Lemaître. The leap from Einstein to Hubble wrote Lemaître out of the story. Hubble got all the credit despite being three years late and besides, Hubble did with red-shift observation what Lemaître did with maths. And the term Big Bang itself was a pejorative summary by Fred Hoyle in 1949 who died in 2001 refusing to accept it.
Understanding time takes time. Pseudoscience. As time is relative to gravity, perhaps we can argue that our perception of time is relative to our metabolic rate. Let’s face it, time speeds up as we get older and worse, the significant work of Einstein, Lemaître, Hubble and Hoyle were produced when they were young. So maybe understanding time takes youth.
Which reminds me, of mathematician William Rowan Hamilton. He had a flash of of insight while walking with his wife by the Royal Canal in Dublin. For years he’d tried to multiply points in three dimensions. His eureka moment came on Broom Bridge on 16th of October 1816. His insight was to use four dimensions. As you might, he pulled out a knife and wrote the formula in stone on Broom Bridge:
i2 = j2=k2=ijk=-1
Sadly for Hamilton, street mathematics didn’t catch-on. Perhaps today’s street artists should know that their electric toothbrushes only work because Hamilton’s wife insisted he take a Wednesday stroll.