Long long ago, so long ago that only I know how long ago (of course)… the year is… n’t important but the TIME is… indeed. It was after failing at the entrance exam to the most prestegious engineering institutions in India at the Graduate Level (JEE) and before resorting to a state level college. I was just sobbing for the loss when my friend, out of the blue, asked me to define Time. I wasn’t sure why and tried replying with “it is… ” and got paused. A lot of thoughts have begun crossing my mind, of the references of the concept that I’ve been using until then, trying to figure out a simple definition. For the next two days, I was just wondering and finally ended up learning that I, perhaps, do not understand the concept. I confessed the same to my friend and he (with a grin) said…
_I’ll rather save that for the later part of this article, meanwhile, try defining it yourself. _
concept : A general idea or understanding of something. TheFreeDictionary
convention : A widely used and accepted device or technique TheFreeDictionary
One day at a college, a professor asks Alice to measure the perimeter of their college compound in centimeters (cm) and soon Alice leaves to find a scale to measure. A while later, noticing that Alice hasn’t returned yet, the professor asks Bob, if he can do it any sooner? Bob says “sure” and startles to the main gate of the campus and starts walking along the compound wall counting the number of steps he has been taking and answers the professor with the count of steps he took to cover the perimeter multiplied by a fair estimate of his foot length (in cms), long before Alice could do.
The difference between the approaches adopted by Alice and Bob, though both hold good, is that Alice just knew the conventions of measurement and so left for finding a scale that is calibrated with those conventions where Bob understood the concept of measurement and that all he needs to do is to gauge the length of the compound wall along it’s stretch against some units. He understands that units could be actually anything, as long as he could convert it to the units of the requirements.
In other words, Bob understands that any standards of measurements have become so because a group of people just agreed upon it. For example, if an Indian talks about distances in kilometers to someone in USA, they’d just ask you back “How long is that in miles?” and vice-versa as the standards of measurements vary. Miles and Kilometers are just two scales calibrated differently and one can adapt to either if one understands concept of length and distance.
I feel that, knowing the conventions alone without actually understanding the concept actually deceives us (happened to me with the concept of time) by giving an illusion that we understand the concept when we actually don’t and we seem to not even bother until we’re questioned by somebody who is important at least for that moment (interviewer). And this is what that is making us learn that the d(x2) / d(x) is 2x but if someone asks “why ?”, most of us are clueless and by the same principle the derivative of the area of a circle with respect to it’s radius is 2 π r. I would leave this for you ponder upon, intuitively.
At the end of the day, understanding one concept (in my case Time) can help understanding many others, appreciate the beauty of them and apply them literally, analogously and metaphorically which can hardly be attainable by just knowing the conventions.
… it is “the gap / duration between any two random events” and it got me pondered again for about the next 2 days, just trying to apply the definition for the events that I’ve come across and deduce the evolution of the concept of Time and its standards. Post which, I went through a couple of days of realisation past sobbing.