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.