This book is about nature – specifically on the impact of time on nature’s various aspects. A novel approach is attempted to present new ideas through the medium of imaginary discussions principally between two animal characters – a hare and a tortoise. These characters have been accorded certain human characteristics – language, basic education and knowledge of scientific concepts as put forward through quotations from scientists, scholars and philosophers.
The ideas and concepts about time and natural phenomena are exemplified through a series of meetings between the two animal characters who sort out their own ideas and beliefs about the mysteries of time.
Sanjar Ali Khan, who was born on 12th April, 1931 in Hyderabad, India, has enjoyed a lengthy career in the field of science and technology. As the Director of the Hyderabad Science Society, which he founded in 1948, he has been involved in many significant activities. Through the Society he was responsible for establishing a Radioisotope Center with funding from the Department of Atomic Energy (1968), as well as a Digital Electronics and Microprocessor Techniques Training Centre (1981), funded by the Department of Electronics, Government of India. He was appointed a part-time Adviser to the Government undertaking Semiconductor Complex Limited, Punjab, in connection with its development of silicon sensors.
He has developed ‘Visual Teaching Aids’ in science incorporating interactive, opto-electronic displays with cartoon characters for children (patented), for Vigyan Prasar.
On behalf of the Department of Science and Technology, Mr. Khan authored the ‘Report on Sensors’ and was Editor of the quarterly Newsletter ‘Sensing Devices’, sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology.
1. The Encounter
2. Discontinuity of Time and Views of Scholars
3. Attributes of Time and Interaction with Plants
4. Of Dimensions and Forms
5. Space, Time and Dimensions
6. Time is Up
Attributes of Time and Interactions With Plants
“The Moving Finger writes and having Writ
Moves on; nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back, to cancel half a line
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
— Omar Khayyam
The hare had a disturbed sleep. He realised that since he started having serious discussions with the tortoise, he hadn’t slept peacefully. This change, he thought, would leave him restless forever. Adam, he thought, was blissful in heaven till he met the serpent and ate the apple which, although imparted knowledge to him, was the source of all trouble for humanity. Well, he thought, rabbits were blissfully happy. They would continue to be, unless he, the hare, spoilt this by sharing the thoughts imbibed from the tortoise. “No,” he decided, “I should not let the innocent ones lose their sleep over matters that do not concern them at all.” So he decided to consult his old friend, the wise owl.
The owl, in spite of his acknowledged wisdom, was not as informative or thought-provoking as the tortoise. Nevertheless, he was the best alternative and so the hare went in search of the wise one.
He found the owl perched on a branch of a tall tree. Looking at him, the owl realised that the hare was troubled and subject to inner turmoil. He knew that the hare was spending a good deal of his time with the tortoise, for his fellow birds were constantly feeding him with this information. He concluded that the restlessness in the hare was due to his recent association with the tortoise.
The owl, however, admitted to himself that the tortoise had a wealth of knowledge. It was generally admitted by the birds and beasts that the tortoise was at least one hundred years old. During this period, the tortoise must have accumulated a lot of information from his constant interaction with the humans.
It was also well-known – the birds could easily observe this – that the tortoise would attend every discourse – religious or otherwise – that was held in the vicinity. He would listen to the speakers and draw his own conclusions from that.
As the hare approached the owl thoughtfully, he looked around to see if any other creature was observing this meeting. The hare was obviously a shy one and liked to keep his movements as unseen as possible. But of course, he could not keep his meetings with the tortoise hidden from the prying eyes of the eagles – the wise owl’s informants.
“Come, my friend,” said the owl, “what news do you have for me? Or do you come to discuss your recent discourse with your new friend – the tortoise?
Well,” said the hare, “there is hardly any news which I can give you. You are well-informed, thanks to the well-trained army of birds at your disposal. Your species has a major advantage over us, since you can fly to great heights and observe the goings-on in the world below.”
“Alright, alright,” said the owl, “now tell me what’s in your mind?” “It’s this,” said the hare, “the tortoise made a statement which implies that time has mass. Is it possible? Can it be proved or disproved?” “Well,” said the owl, “if anything has mass, then it is a simple matter to measure it. Even the mass of atoms has been determined. So why don’t you ask your friend, the tortoise, whether anyone has weighed time and with what result? However, you are well advised to ponder on what James Jeans, the famous astronomer remarked. He stated, ‘When we pass to extremes of size in either direction – whether to the cosmos as a whole or the inner recesses of the atom, the mechanical interpretation of nature fails. We come to entities and phenomena which are in no sense mechanical. To me they seem less suggestive of mechanical than mental processes; the universe seems to be nearer to a great thought than to a great machine’. Keeping this in mind, assessing the weight or mass of time is not going to be a straightforward matter. How can you weigh something which you cannot see, something which is not material? However, the tortoise may have a solution to this problem.”
“One last word of advice. Why are you getting worked up about these philosophical questions? Leave this to the scholars and philosophers and be happy. It is not for us to delve into the intricate workings of nature.”
The owl continued, “Recently I was listening to a lecture in which the speaker quoted Richard Taylor, who wrote in the Journal of Philosophy, ‘Few things have engendered more philosophical puzzlement than time. Time has always been regarded by a great many philosophers and theologians as a dark subject of speculation; fundamentally enigmatic, even incomprehensible.’”
With this final statement, the owl flew away, leaving the hare to ponder over his remarks and face the tortoise with a barrage of questions.
There must be some way to measure the mass of time, he thought. I must find out how it could be done, instead of asking the tortoise all the time. In fact, if I can tell him how to do it, then I will be one up on him. The library is a good place to start, so I will head that way.
With his new-found confidence, the hare found his way to the library. When he entered the vast complex of reading rooms and bookshelves, he was not sure how to proceed. Then he noticed a counter marked ‘Information’. When he reached the desk, he was surprised to find a small boy, about ten years old, managing the desk. The boy looked up at the hare and enquired, “May I help you?” The hare said, “Don’t tell me you are employed as the Information Officer here. You look too young for that.” The boy replied, “Actually this is my mother’s post. She has gone for a cup of coffee so I am deputising for her. However, I am well acquainted with the material here so I will do my best to assist you.”