LAKIN@LARGE - If the universe is expanding, why can I never find a parking place?

February 2012

Reflections on Time or: If the universe is expanding, why can I never find a parking place?

You remember the joke about how we all live by time don’t you? It’s time to get up, time for breakfast, time to go to work, time for lunch, time for a meeting, time to leave work, time to have dinner, time to go to bed, time to go on holiday, and after forty years of work it’s time to retire. And what do they give you? A bloody clock!

Well our lives are a little like that aren’t they? We, that’s all of you brilliantly creative people out there designing and building those unbelievably intricate machines that show the passing of time on what we call wristwatches, along with a few of us who write about them (and a few who worry about that all-important profit factor like generating sales of some 7.143 billion Swiss francs), are so occupied in our daily involvement with indicating time that we don’t think about the philosophical side of time.

Do you ever actually think about the passing of time? I don’t mean looking in the mirror at the wrinkles that are becoming more perceptible around your eyes, I mean do you get up in the morning and ask yourself is time a perpetual and continuous motion like a Patek Philippe mechanical watch or does it pass in small invisible hops like a Swatch quartz watch? Are you concerned whether time flows in one direction or is bi-directional? Are you troubled about how small a femtosecond is (one thousandth of one trillionth of a second in case you’re interested) or whether or not your twin brother who’s an astronaut returns from a space station after a year and is now 0.0085 seconds younger than you are because you misguidedly stayed on Earth?

No, I thought not. Most of us are relatively happy living by the constraints of time established by our forefathers and foremothers, but there are some people out there who want to mess about with the status quo where time is concerned. If you are a regular reader of this page, you may recall that in the last issue of Europa Star I went on a bit about the problems and repercussions of the leap second, but all that pales by comparison to the recent happening in Samoa.

Samoans lived for more than a century on the international dateline five hours behind New York, ten hours behind London and a day behind Sydney and, one assumes, managed to live their life without losing any sleep. Then some time last year Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, whom we all know is the prime minister of Samoa, decided he wanted his country to be in the same time zone as Australia and New Zealand and theoretically moved the international dateline west of the Samoan archipelago. And how did he do that? He simply eliminated a Friday so that on Thursday, December 29th Samoans went to bed and woke up the next morning at their usual time and lo and behold it was Saturday the 31st of December, one night’s sleep, two days older. Not quite Brigadoon, where the population went to bed at night and woke one hundred years later without having aged more than a day, but as much fun and just as absurd.

I digress, but can you imagine the chaos at say Apia Airport as holidaymakers who had booked to go home on Friday the 30th of December were told on their arrival at the airport that they were a day late since it was Saturday the 31st and that day’s flight was fully booked? What do you do when you’re stuck in the middle of the Pacific Ocean somewhere twixt the Solomon and Cook islands without a paddle?

LAKIN@LARGE - If the universe is expanding, why can I never find a parking place?

And what was the effect on those Samoans whose birthday it was on December 30th, are they the same age for another year thus outdoing your astronaut brother or are they a day older?

The good news for employees is that they were paid for a day’s work that they didn’t do. Employers on the other hand …

In Europe we can’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel concerning an agreement on the standardisation of daylight saving time because the societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals feel it would be too traumatic for the cows to be milked an hour later or earlier depending on the country. Like cows wear Jordi’s wristwatches with bovine portraits around the bezel, right? But there’s no society to protect us taxpayers from the governments as they continue to milk us dry!

Don’t worry though, due to budgetary constraints and the poor local economies, the light at the end of the tunnel will be turned off until further notice.

Well, you’ve got to laugh haven’t you!