Introduction: Conceptual Outline of Time

  • Edward Anderson
Part of the Fundamental Theories of Physics book series (FTPH, volume 190)


This is a conceptual introduction to the subject of time. Unlike the rest of this book, this first chapter is largely free from mathematics or from detailed reference to particular laws of physics. It is, rather, an interdisciplinary account suitable for a very wide and diverse audience: for those who did major in, or are (considering) majoring in, whichever of science, mathematics, engineering or philosophy—or indeed anybody else with an interest in time—to enjoy.

We contemplate a wide range of time-related concepts, from past, present and future to simultaneity, causation, dating and duration. We also consider which properties one would, at least intuitively, expect a notion of time to possess, and likewise for clocks, illustrated with historical examples from early clocks to accurate astronomical timestandards. We also discuss supporting concepts of space, and of rods and other length-measuring devices. This is partly for contrast with time and clocks, and partly because much subsequent physical modelling treats time and space together in the form of spacetime.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward Anderson
    • 1
  1. 1.DAMTPCentre for Mathematical SciencesCambridgeUK

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