The physics of time

Course Dates: 18/07/20
Time: 10:30 - 16:30
Location: KS - Keeley Street
Gary Retallick

We will explore the various different conceptions of time within modern physics. The absolute time of Newtonian mechanics is contrasted with the relativistic time of Einsteinian gravity. The possibility that time is quantized, made up of discrete moments, is seen to emerge in some of the most cutting edge theories of physics, such as loop quantum gravity and string theory. The emergence of time in the big bang, the direction of time, and the possibility of time travel are all explored.


What is the course about?

In this course, we explore the various different conceptions of time within modern physics. We examine the concept of absolute time proposed by Newton, and see how this contrasts with the relativistic picture required by Einstein’s theories. We consider how time might be quantised, rather than continuous, as implied by some versions of loop quantum gravity and string theory. We see how the arrow of time appears to emerge from thermodynamics, whilst considering to what extent this arrow might in fact be illusory. We consider the origins of time in the big bang. Finally we overview the possibility of time travel, and what limitations exist on such a possibility.

What will we cover?

• Absolute versus relativistic time
• Quantum time
• The arrow of time
• Time and the big bang
• Time travel.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

state and explain the distinctions between absolute and relativistic time
• describe the ways in which time might be quantised
• describe the emergence of the arrow of time from thermodynamics
• explain the origins of time in the birth of the universe
• describe the ways in which time travel might be possible
• state the theoretical and physical limitations on the possibility of time travel.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

No previous knowledge of physics is required. However an enthusiasm for learning and an open and critical mind will
enhance your enjoyment and benefit from this course.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

Interactive lecture - all information will be supplied via Powerpoint slides which will be made available for download.
Students should be prepared to contribute to class discussion and group work.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

No other costs. Students who wish to take notes will need pen and paper.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look our for our science lectures and courses in the 2020-21 programme.


Customer Reviews 9 item(s)

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Reviews below are by students who have attended this course, regardless of the course teacher. Please be aware you may not be booking onto a course with the same teacher.

This course has fascinating content and is entertainingly and informatively presented by an excellent tutor who has a talent for conveying difficult concepts in a way the layperson can relate to
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Review by Anonymous / (Posted on 02/12/2019)
Very interesting and well presented
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Review by Anonymous / (Posted on 01/12/2019)
A long day but interesting
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Review by Anonymous / (Posted on 26/07/2019)
Go for it. Covers a great deal of ground yet keeps it simple.
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Review by Anonymous / (Posted on 22/07/2019)
Reading about the topic to some extent will help you get more out of it but the quality of teaching means this isn't necessary. Interesting and thought provoking.
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Review by Anonymous / (Posted on 20/07/2019)
Educational course helping to explain the basics of time and relativity.
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Review by Anoop Sharma / (Posted on 06/12/2018)
If you're fascinated by space and time this course is great, whatever your level of scientific knowledge.
Course Rating
Review by Anonymous / (Posted on 06/12/2018)
This is an excellent course which would suit anyone but which those with a basic understanding of physics would get the most from
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Review by Anonymous / (Posted on 03/12/2018)
A good overview of the nature of time
Course Rating
Review by Anonymous / (Posted on 02/12/2018)
Tutor Biographies
We’re sorry. We don’t have a bio ready for the tutor of this class at the moment, but we’re working on it! Watch this space.

Book your place

Course Code: HS181

Sat, day, 18 Jul - 18 Jul '20

Duration: 1 session

Full fee: £59.00
Senior fee: £47.00
Concession: £30.00

Or call to enrol: 020 7831 7831

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Any questions?
or call 020 7492 2652

Please note: we offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. For more information visit our online Help Center. You can also visit the Information, Advice and Guidance drop-in service, open from 12 – 6.45, Monday to Friday.