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Feb 10, 2015

Eternity is Real

A Conversation about Time with Br. Geoffrey Tristram and The Rt. Rev. Nick Knisely.

So many people today seem to suffer from a sense of disordered time; our experience of time is polluted by misuse and abuse. And it’s poisoning our lives—like a disease, really. Yet time is meant to be a gift from God. Geoffrey Tristram sat down with Nick Knisely in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of this complicated realm in which faith and science intersect.

GT: Thanks so much for sitting down with me, Nick. I know that you wear two hats, being both a bishop and a physicist. I’m hoping that you might be able help us to gain a clearer understanding of how time and space relate to each other.

NK: If we can solve that one, we’ll win a Nobel Prize! Well, let’s start with Einstein. Essentially, Einstein took the relativist philosophy of the nineteenth century and began to express it mathematically. To do so, he went back to some mathematical equations that Hendrik Lorentz had devised at the turn of the century, dealing with the mathematical idea that when you move, things begin to change their character, or your experience of them begins to change their character. Lorentz’s equations found a way to express the idea that as you are moving, space begins to collapse or conversely time slows down.  Either way, whether it’s time slowing down or space collapsing, the two effects give you the equivalent result: that light is always the same speed in every direction no matter whether you’re moving or stationary or anything else.

This is a huge deal for physics, because Einstein is able to take this equation and say there is no privileged reference frame. Anybody can say, “I am the center of the universe,” and they would be absolutely correct. Everybody is the center of the universe.  It’s really a quite lovely thing to meditate on.


You can read more of this fascinating discussion at the SSJE website, here.