Got a sec? Let’s talk about time. One of the fundamental constructs of the universe and a rather intriguing topic for us humans. We tend to put a lot of time…umm…into time, and that’s why it’s no surprise that recently we saw two different headlines about time which highlight the contrasting ways we humans approach this topic. In our day to day lives, some like to take full advantage of every moment possible while others want to kick it and relax as time passes. Humans and time have had a pretty interesting relationship. Should we make time for time?
The first headline is all about getting better at measuring time. NASA is about to test a new atomic clock in space to help improve spacecraft navigation. Much like our cars' GPS units, spacecraft need to know both time and position to find their destination. Currently, we send radio signals to and from spacecraft and use atomic clocks on Earth to get all that information.
Even at the speed of light, this two-way communication takes, yep you guessed it — time! A spacecraft with a more accurate atomic clock on board could receive a signal from Earth and then calculate the rest of its course on its own, allowing for autonomous navigation and more precise control for future missions with astronauts on board. This microwave sized atomic clock was carried into space by a Falcon Heavy rocket in the early morning of June 25th and will orbit the Earth in a trial phase for about a year to see if we humans can measure time across the solar system.
Meanwhile, back here on Earth, there is a totally different time-related story to talk about. A small Norwegian town of Sommarøy wants to abolish time! Say what? Yes, you read correctly. They want to get rid of time. A group of citizens are campaigning to rid the city of time. Largely due to the fact that this city in the Arctic circle sees vast extremes and sunlight and nighttime based on the season, but still…you need time to measure the seasons, but moving on, let’s not let that distract us here. Since nightless summers there allow folks to swim at midnight, mow the grass at 2 in the morning, and other non-normally schedule activities this group has collected a 1/3 of the citizens' signatures in support of banning...time. Critics say this has more to do with a marketing campaign for tourism than anything else, but the campaigners insist they’re trying to lobby for a more impulsive and less rigid lifestyle, fully aware that they’ll still need to use time for important things like hospitals, running the city, and basically everything else that goes into living on Earth.
There you go, some are looking for more accurate time, while others attempting to rid themselves of this universal construct. Weird. So, will NASA’s atomic clocks pass their test run? Will Sommaroy pass a law banning the measure of passing moments? Only time will tell.