Brain Pickings

What Is Time? Michio Kaku’s BBC Documentary

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What string theory has to do with fish mating and your sleep-wake cycle.

We have a soft spot for BBC documentaries that attempt to answer some of life’s biggest questions. Previously, we’ve explored the nature of reality, how music works, is there God, the politics of fear and where innovation comes from. Last week, we saw this beautifully filmed teaser for an NPR story on why time seems to fly by as you get older:

So it made us wonder about the nature of time: What is it, how do we experience it, why does it play the tricks it does on us? Luckily, there’s a BBC documentary that explores precisely that: Time is a fascinating four-part series by string theory pioneer and prolific author Michio Kaku exploring our sense of time passing, the biological clocks governing our bodies, the geological clues to the depth of time on a planetary level, and the cosmic origin of time itself.

As a physicist, I’ve spent most of my life studying time and I know it’s one of the greatest mysteries in all of nature. We all know that time is out there, but we can’t see it, feel it, taste it, touch it, or smell it. So how does it exert such power over our lives? In this program, I’m going to find out.” ~ Michio Kaku

The series is now available online in its entirely, compiled in this playlist for your illuminating pleasure:

Time drives every second of our lives in ways we can scarecely imagine. But what is time? This is the quest to understand time and our place within it. It’s a journey that starts with cutting-edge discoveries into what makes us tick and ends with the mind-boggling implications of cosmological time. It’s a journey that reveals something extraordinary: The more we understand time, the more we find that it is time that makes us uniquely human.”

For an even more mind-bending look at the trickeries of time, we highly recommend Kaku’s classic Einstein’s Cosmos: How Albert Einstein’s Vision Transformed Our Understanding of Space and Time — not only a deeply fascinating yet digestible distillation of the iconic physicist’s work, but also a fine companion read to the 7 newly digitized Einstein gems we featured earlier this month.

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