Hubble Fellow Adam Frank (Astrophysics/Univ. of Rochester) delves into the complex relationship between time and culture and concludes that culture and cosmology—even the Big Bang—are linked inextricably together.
Time, writes the author, can be thought of as both “cosmic time” and "human time.” Material engagement with the physical world necessarily is affected by cultural invention; from ancient civilization to Microsoft Outlook, time is "entangled" with mankind. In addition, even as entanglement shifted from the day/night dichotomy of hunter-gatherers to the sophisticated atomic clocks we use today, our interaction with time relied on the cosmos—movements of the earth, sun and other stars remain the basic elements on which our notion of time is built. As human consciousness grew more sophisticated, so did our manipulation of time. Clocks, telescopes, radio, GPS and e-mail are all examples of how cultural invention and cosmic time are interwoven and mutually articulated. Maintaining a conversational and enthusiastic tone and accessible vocabulary, the author surveys the implications of this "braiding" of time and culture in terms of quantum physics, and introduces several alternatives to the Big Bang ex nihilo. String theory, multiverse models, brane cosmology and other fields may yield answers about the creation of the universe, and are also implicitly theories of (space)-time. Depleting reserves of oil and energy, too, indicates the need for a renewed approach toward resources and time. Ultimately, Frank argues that recognizing our place in the ongoing narrative of the creation of cultural time and cosmic time—moving beyond the cosmology of the Big Bang (of which "ours" may be one of many)—is what will allow mankind to enter a new, global era of time and culture.
A phenomenal blend of science and cultural history.