In Brief
  • If time is an objective measurement yet can feel subjective is it real?
  • In this Big Think video, Bill Nye explores whether time is real, and wonders which undiscovered truths of time might be waiting out there to be discovered.

Bill Nye On Time

The same period of time can feel mind-bendingly fast or achingly slow. Bill Nye weighs in: is time subjective? And what does it measure?

Bill points out that “time” is the single English word for this fourth dimension. While we describe periods of time like evening or morning, when it comes to time itself, it’s just called time. This, says Nye, makes him feel that time is both subjective and objective.

Both engineering and science depend on the accurate, objective measurement of time. Producing enough food, finding our way around, and understanding the physical forces that affect us here on Earth — each of these require an accurate (if not absolute) measurement of time. The reason that we need to measure time externally with precise instruments is because our minds lose track of time too easily. If we could naturally keep track of time without any tools, it would be too great a constraint on the way that we, as humans, think.

This leads Bill to consider philosophical questions such as what is possible to know, and when things in the future will happen, if at all. He points out that while it’s easy enough to say that technically you can’t be certain of knowing much of anything about the future, there’s a lot we can know objectively by observing what’s around us, and that includes the passage of time.

He closes by pointing out that in his grandfather’s time, no one knew what relativity was, because no one had discovered it yet. He wonders what similar mysteries we might be unaware of now, which undiscovered truths that will be revealed by the passage of time.