Further information on Fall 2020 courses


Rich Noer: It’s About Time


Course text

In Search of Time: The History, Physics and Philosophy of Time, by Dan Falk (St. Martin’s Press, 2010, paperback; list price $19) – available at Content bookstore and online.  Used copies are available (Amazon.com, AbeBooks.com, and elsewhere) for considerably less than the new price; several versions are available, each with a different subtitle but (as far as I can tell) identical text.  A Kindle e-book version sells for about $10.

This is an historically oriented book for a general audience, written in a very readable and non-mathematical style. I’ll recommend reading almost all of it, in chunks that average about 25 pages a week.


Expanded description

Classes will consist of informal online lectures, structured around PowerPoint slides, and liberally interspersed with student questions and discussion.


Schedule of classes (subject to modification)

Class     Topics

Sept. 14:  Student and instructor introductions

   “Now”; past, present, future

   History: cyclic vs linear time


Sept. 21:  History: astronomical clocks, how decide which is right?

            Units: day, month, year; then hours, minutes, seconds

            Calendars: Julian vs Gregorian; leap years, leap seconds…


Sept. 28:  Clocks

   Pulse beats, water flow

            Gravity clocks: pendulum, escapement

            Spring watches

            Harrison & longitude measurement challenge

            Digital watches

            Atomic clocks


Oct. 5:  Newtonian absolute time

            Newton vs Leibniz controversy

            Causality & block time


Oct. 12:  Einstein’s time; clock synchronization

            Relativity of simultaneity; time dilation

            World lines, light cones


Oct. 19:  Time travel

            Twins “paradox”; travel to future

            Wormholes: travel to past, problems & paradoxes


Oct. 26:  Arrow of time

            Second law of thermodynamics, billiards vs scrambled eggs

            Geologic time, evolution

            Darwinian evolution

            Big bang, cosmic evolution


Nov. 2:  Time as illusion vs real flow (of what?)

            Final thoughts