Time is a phenomenon that is steadfastly bound to our existence. The measurement of time is one major factor that determines the extent of the evolution of civilizations. Our concept of time has also evolved accordingly. But still, we are unable to grasp its true nature. Our capability to experience time tells us that it is a constant, unidirectional flow, and we have no existence outside of it. Studying Einstein's relativity makes us aware that there is more to it, and many of our preconceived notions are in fact incapabilities in our perceptions.
Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli's popular science book, The Order of Time, is an effort to decode the enigma of time using the latest findings of theoretical physics. I have read many books on science, especially theoretical physics. Some of them made me know science, and some made me hate it. The Order of Time is the one that made me feel science. It is a literary work that, instead of simply stating facts and figures, like normal popular science books do, approaches the concepts philosophically, using a language that borders on poetry.
Carlo Rovelli explains that time is an effect of the blurred universe that we see around us. Our human perceptions are incapable of sensing the universe in its fullness, and we are only aware of a miniscule part of it. These incapabilities are the reason for our perception of blurring and our experience of time. Rovelli elucidates further that none of the basic equations of physics have a time variable, and time is not an elemental part of the universe.
The book is divided into three parts. In the first part, all our misconceptions about time—that time is a constant and unidirectional flow—are demolished, taking it off the pedestal on which Aristotle and Einstein have idolised it. In the second part, an explanation of the universe without the time variable is presented. In the third part, time is reinstated in the world, but in a new form based on entropy and quantum principles.
For people who lived a couple of centuries before, the concept of the earth as a globe would have been very difficult to comprehend. Similarly, they would be under the impression that the sun moves about in the sky daily from east to west and all the stars and galaxies in the sky revolve around the earth. We cannot fault them because our sensory organs are not evolved to grasp the universe to the fullest. Even today, when we see the ground that we walk on, we see a flat surface. But as we are equipped with irrefutable proof that we live on a globe, we accept that and make fun of flat-earthers.
While more advanced knowledge is unveiled and the enigma of time decoded, we will be in a position to discard the concept of time as we experience it and embrace a concept of time more in tune with reality. The Order of Time will be one minor effort towards establishing that disposition.