Time – Is time really money?

Hourglass - time
By User:S Sepp – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2949887

Time – we all know what it is, or do we? Try to define time and you may find yourself struggling, yet it appears in our everyday conversations. Examine some of the sayings about time and you start to get an uneasy feeling that we don’t really have a grasp of it – not yet, anyway.

For instance, when we do things to save time, where are we actually putting that time we save? Is there some sort of time bank where we can keep it for a rainy day? Clearly, the phrase isn’t meant to convey that message, we are merely shortening a process to … well … spend less time doing it.

There we go again! Spending time, as though it is some sort of cosmic currency stored in the Universe equivalent of Fort Knox. On the other hand, humans are notorious for wasting time. When asked what he had done with all his money, George Best famously said, he’d spent it on drink and women – the rest he wasted. Is that what we do with time, squander it on trivialities?

Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech is trying to understand time. He points out, time has a direction, which is why we can remember the past, but not the future. But time doesn’t have a size. We might think it does because we divide our days up into little parcels. It makes it easier for us when we can point to a specific point in time and give it a name. However, time is not constant throughout the universe, or even on our own planet – something that is perhaps a little deep for a small blog post.

White Rabbit - never on time - Lewis CarrollComing back to humans, I think we all know people who never have enough time, for them there are just not enough of those convenient parcels in another arbitrary period. Then there are people, like Seumas Gallacher, who are able to manipulate time in such a way, they never run out of it and can achieve any amount of work in a given time period. I once worked out his timetable and came to the conclusion he has a thirty-six-hour day.

Or maybe he knows the whereabouts of the time bank and is making withdrawals. He was a banker after all, and you know what they say – time is money.


Situation Vacant: Waste Management Specialist – (Extra-terrestrial)

Photo Credit: NASA

Ever since I was a child, I have had an interest in space exploration. Growing up at the same time as the Apollo missions was a magical experience. I was immensely disappointed when the programme was cut short and I couldn’t understand why the average person could not see the benefits that space exploration brings, not only to life on earth, but for the future of humanity which ultimately will have to move off this planet.

As I write this wee blether, several projects are on the go with the idea of sending people to Mars. NASA intends to set up a kind of base camp to support future missions, while Elon Musk and SpaceX have an eye on colonising Mars in the future, but in the meantime, intend to have crews spend time on the planet before being rotated back to earth. A Dutch project, on the other hand, promotes the idea this should be a one-way mission, with people signing up to live permanently on the red planet.

Now, this got me thinking (run for cover!) There are individuals on earth whose sole interest is making money. They don’t care how they do it, what harm it does to the environment, who it hurts in the process, or they have reached the point where making any more personal wealth is pointless. Making money is the focus of their lives.

Then there are a number of politicians who only have an interest in furthering their careers, not serving the people they were elected to serve (did your careers officer ever mention to you that ‘politician’ could be considered a job? I know mine didn’t.) There are very few politicians who could say, no fellow humans were harmed in the making of this career.

Suggested use of first deep space mission

And what about the death and destruction caused by armed conflicts, still happening over one-hundred years since the start of the war to end all wars? We didn’t learn our lesson then and we are still not learning it. I saw a meme on the internet the other day, Once, weapons were manufactured to fight wars. Now we manufacture wars to sell weapons.

The world is in a dire state, so I have an idea. Space exploration is vital to the future of the species, but could we not make the first few extra-terrestrial missions a sort of garbage disposal run and send the politicians, arms manufacturers, unethical business men and anyone else who cares not a jot about his fellow man, on a one-way trip to another world? It would make this one a much better place.

Nominations on a postcard please, to the usual address.

Unity; the final frontier (Space is just another place to go)

I was listening to a radio programme this morning on the way to work, one broadcast to the world by a well-known news agency (yes, that’s the one, run by the Broken Biscuit Company.)

In Lifechangers, Dr Kevin Fong talks to people about their lives in science, and in this episode, former NASA administrator, Major General Charles Bolden talked about his life and career.

Image Credit: NASA

As soon as the term NASA, or the word space, is mentioned, my ears prick up. I grew up in the sixties when space exploration was at its boldest. The Apollo missions fired my imagination and I was devastated when I found I would be on holiday in Spain, when the first man was scheduled to walk on the moon.

However, I digress. You see it turns out Major General Bolden was the first African American to head NASA on a permanent basis. Now this may not be significant to some of you, but you must remember that Bolden grew up in the deep south and started his career when the United States still had segregation. He talked about the prejudice against black people at that time

and the obstacles put in his way, first of all in becoming a naval officer, then a pilot, and so on. At no point did he allow any of these barriers to deter him and he kept trying until he got what he wanted.

This got me thinking how lucky I have been in growing up without any of these

Image Credit: NASA

struggles that are cast on many people throughout their lives. My skin colour has caused me no problems nor has my perceived religion (for the record, I don’t practice one.) The only small issue I’ve encountered is my northern accent leads some people to believe I am lacking in the intelligence department. I am more than happy to allow people to continue their beliefs in that direction; I know my IQ and I really don’t care what others think.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to face such barriers as many do, and I can only marvel at the strength people have, to tackle these issues on a daily basis.

I long for a time when we accept people for who they are, not what physical attributes they have or notional groups they belong to. Sadly, I suspect I won’t see it in my lifetime.

Major General Bolden, I salute you for all you have achieved and if by some miracle, you do happen to read my blog, I would like to buy you a drink sometime and talk about the stars.

Say yes to what?

One of the things we first noticed when we moved to the middle east was the television. Unless you are willing to pay a subscription, the English channels available are extremely limited. To be fair, that is understandable, we don’t have too many Arabic speaking channels in the UK.

By USAF (Los Angeles AFB) – http://www.losangeles.af.mil/art/media_search.asp?q=aehf&btnG.x=0&btnG.y=0 [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3352085
So, we bit the bullet and took out a subscription to a local satellite provider and hey presto, we now have as many channels as we had in the UK. The number of English speaking channels has certainly increased, we now have Discovery, several movie channels, BBC First, ITV Choice and quite a few more, including the inevitable twenty-four-hour news channels that rarely have twenty-four hours’ worth of news with which to fill their air time.

Of course, we have the good old BBC and ITV to fall back on; a bit of home right here on our doorstep in Bahrain. Well, actually not as much as you would think.

It seems that someone at these illustrious channels has something of a distorted idea of what an expat might like to watch. Some of the programmes are relatively up to date, for instance, Coronation Street and East Enders are within twenty-four hours or so of the first UK broadcast; terrific if you like soaps. (My idea of a soap is confined to something you would use in the shower, but my wife likes some of them, so I am now up to date with what goes on in the streets of Weatherfield.) Most of the other offerings are at least a season out of date and repeated endlessly (no change on that score then.)

Now obviously, these cannot make up all our TV viewing time so my wife searches further afield and has come up with the TLC channel, an American cable network, showing a variety of programs, and here’s the important part, in English. (Yes, I know, American isn’t English, I hear you say, but to be fair, they do get most of the words right.) So, all is happy in our household when it comes to TV then, right?

Wrong! Her most popular programme on this channel is ‘Say Yes to The Dress,’ set in an upscale bridal boutique in New York. Before I came to Bahrain, I had no idea what a sweetheart neckline, A-line dress, raglan sleeve, mermaid or pick-up were (mermaids live in the sea as far as I’m aware, and the latter I always believed to be something you drove, or did in a bar.)

© Dm_Cherry/Shutterstock

Quite how this new-found knowledge will help me as an aircraft engineer, I’m not sure, but you can bet your bottom dollar if one of the victims in my books is a bride, there will be one hell of a description of what she is wearing.



When is a dome not a dome?

I was recently browsing a well-known news site (No, not the one run by the Broken Biscuit Company, that fooled you didn’t it?) I won’t name the newspaper, but is owned by a company called the Daily Mail. There may be a wee clue there, I wouldn’t like to say.

Anyway, I digress. One of the stories was about NASA’s discovery of Spurt1a ‘dome’ on mars. Now if this had been on the Sunday Sport or Fox News websites, I would not have been surprised to read the theories behind it. At least one of those would have suggested it was St Paul’s Cathedral, or the Capitol Building, but the actual story wasn’t far from it. It seems that the conspiracy theorists are now becoming a mainstream news source. According to them, it was clearly man-made, by aliens.

We need to examine that statement in detail. ‘Clearly’ is the first item to question. If you search for ‘dome on mars’ in your favourite search engine, or ‘Google’ it like the rest of us do, you will be presented with an image of this dome. Considering the picture has come from a chunk of rock around 140 million miles away (numbers that big are meaningless, I only know I can’t drive there in a weekend), then it is amazing it’s as clear as it is. That said, don’t be expecting to see the kind of detail you are used to on your 72in HDTV, you can see it’s a dome. The second question to ask is, how can it be man-made by aliens? It’s either man-made, or it’s alien made. To say it is man-made by aliens is like taking a donkey-ride on an elephant; it makes no sense.

Now, I would love us to find evidence of an alien civilisation (let’salien-face hope they understand that word better than humans, aggresivisation would be more appropriate for us), as much as anyone, but I think we have to step back and look carefully, rather than jump to conclusions and conspiracy theories that NASA is involved in a huge cover up.  The most likely explanation is that it’s a natural phenomenon, especially as these ‘irregularities’ have also been found on the moon, and are suspected to be from volcanic activity.

There is oneother explanation we haven’t touched on yet. NASA plans to have a manned mission to Mars in the 2030’s; the dome actually houses the latest additions to the Starbucks and McDonald’s franchises. This will allow the intrepid explorers to feel right at home as soon as they arrive. In the meantime they are doing a roaring trade selling skinless lattes and 99c McSpace burgers to the aliens. Mystery solved.

It isn’t hard being a rocket scientist.