Time: A Simple Understanding, and a Deep Question

by blackspanielgallery

Time is a dimension. But it is unlike the other dimensions.

Recently I read a suggestion of time travel, a notion popularized by science fiction. In reality, time travel is not something I expect to ever exist.

So, what exactly is time? Einstein proclaimed time as a dimension. But it has no similarity to the three dimensions we are so familiar with, or does it? Having taught physics for years I am often confronted with making some sense of a four-dimensional world to college freshmen in a simple manner, a way they can understand the explanation.

What I Was Not Told

One thing we must remember is that anyone who teaches was once a student.  I recall those days, sitting in a classroom and being told time is a dimension.  I pondered why time?  Then I would ask questions such as could there be a fifth dimension?  At that point in my studies no professor had explained why time is a dimension, other than Einstein said it is.  I would try without success to offer other things, such as momentum, electrical charge, and so on.  The answer was always the same, no!  Why not?  That question would go unanswered.

The Simple Understanding

When one teaches one has to explain.  I wanted to make things clear to my students.  So, I would make simple examples to explain a complex idea.  We are located in this universe by a coordinate system, and my students were aware of placing things in three-dimensions.  Then I would say that time also locates us in the universe.  It is not simply where you are, but when you are there.  One example I give is a student can show up an hour after class each time we meet, and will learn nothing, since class would be over.  A more emphatic example is one can cross a highway, and a truck can pass on the highway.  Where the two paths cross it is fine for either the person or the truck to be at that point, but not at the same time. 


So, to make things as simple as possible, a dimension helps locate things in the universe, both spatially and in time.  Nothing else does this, so there will be no fifth dimension, ever.

A Brief Understanding of Time

A Brief History of Time

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERA landmark volume in science writing by one of the great minds of our time, Stephen Hawking’s book explores such profound questions as: How did the u...

View on Amazon

The Illustrated Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Edition

In the years since its publication in 1988, Stephen Hawking's A Brief History Of Time has established itself as a landmark volume in scientific writing. It has become an interna...

View on Amazon

A Briefer History of Time: The Science Classic Made More Accessible


View on Amazon

The Illustrated "A Brief History of Time" and "The Universe in a Nutshell"

The Illustrated: A Brief History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell (2010). Two books in one. ISBN: 9780307291226

View on Amazon

Time Is Unique Among the Dimensions

Time differs from the other dimensions.  As a simple example I mention that a student can leave class, remember leaving a pencil, and retrace the path taken.  It is likely the pencil will be recovered.  However, if the student leaves a hundred-dollar bill behind, retracing a path may not lead to a happy reunion.  Too many people would take the money, even though the right thing to do is to find the owner.  The way this could be prevented is to retrace all four dimensions, but this is not possible.  Time is not reversible.  Nor can it be stopped.  It always moves forward.  I am aware of time dilation, but that is relative to a reference frame. 

Space and Time Are a Property of Matter

If there were no matter, space and time would not have meaning.  At least current theory contends this is so.  Somehow, matter is needed to have space and time according to theory. 


What about the Spirit World?

Does time exist for spirits?  Well, it appears sequencing of events does, so in that sense time probably does exist, although possibly not quite as we know it.  But we know very little about the spirit world.


Perhaps a better question would be does time exist for God?  When Moses encountered the burning bush, God described Himself as “I am.”  This phrase implies an existence that simply is, where past, present, and future have no meaning as we understand these concepts.  But, even if time has no meaning when pertaining to God, such a concept of a timeless existence may not pertain to other spirits such an angels and saints, at least not in the same way.  Here we can just speculate, for we have no way to know.


If you find understanding time as a dimension challenging, trying to understand time for God and spirits is even more challenging, perhaps well beyond our ability to grasp.


When we attempt to understand time, we first must ask whether it is in the physical universe, or a spirit realm.  Like so many things, the word may take on different meanings. 


I hope I made time as a dimension more understandable, and that I did not confuse too much with time in a spirit world into which we have little insight.


This article contains links to affiliate programs and Adsense advertising.  These must use cookies to allow for proper crediting. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Updated: 03/04/2020, blackspanielgallery
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login
blackspanielgallery on 03/06/2020

Thanks for the update.

frankbeswick on 03/06/2020

Science values fulfilled predictions and publicly observable phenomena. Our Lady predicted/promised that a miracle would happen at a specific date, and it did. Secondly, it was seen by many people simultaneously, including some in places in the area around Fatima. So the miracle happened. But here is the strange thing. No astronomical calculations have had to be changed because of the occurrence, and the event was invisible in most of the world outside Portugal.What happened must be accounted a miracle and a mystery totally beyond our comprehension..

blackspanielgallery on 03/05/2020

Veronica, yes the reference Big Ben is off, but it is what Amazon names the products. i believe the intro image is also called Big Ben, as per the Royal Mint's title for the coin. Thanks for the comment.

blackspanielgallery on 03/05/2020

Derdriu, thanks for the addition. The spirit realm is such a mystery.

DerdriuMarriner on 03/05/2020

blackspanielgallery, Thank you for the practical informations and product lines.
It's possible that the miracle of the sun at Fátima can be related to time in human and spirit worlds. It rained. The rain stopped. The sun trekked forward, then backward. The soaked ground and people were completely, suddenly dry.

Veronica on 03/05/2020

Perfect article. Your teaching style is exemplary. Ty

( But of course that is not Big Ben as tourists seem to think . It is the Elizabeth tower )

You might also like

NASA's Shuttle Space Suit Colors

The colors of NASA shuttle suits were principally orange, blue, and white. W...

Is Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life Probable?

The universe is so vast there is always a speculation that other planets may ...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...