Max Tegmark on Time

  • By David Levin
  • Posted 11.10.11
  • NOVA

Physicist Max Tegmark says that time is still one of the biggest mysteries in physics.



Posted: November 10, 2011

Something that amazes me about time is we talk about it like we really know what it is, and we ask "What is the time?" And yet we have no idea how it began, how it ended, or if it even had a beginning and will have an end. And, in fact, the more closely we look at it, the more we realize this is one of the core mysteries in all of physics so... I love time in this sense because I love mysteries.

If someone asked Isaac Newton, "Excuse me, what's the time?" he would have felt that that question made sense because he believed that there was "the time," the absolute time, which was completely well-defined and ticked at the same rate for everybody. And Einstein overturned this and said no, each clock, even a perfect atomic clock, will run at a different rate, which depends on how fast the clock is moving and how far down it is in the Earth's gravitational field. It's all relative. The question, "What is the time?" is actually a trick question. There is no "the time," and "the time" flows at a different rate depending on how fast you're moving and depending on where you are.



Produced by
David Levin
Original interview by
Randy MacLowery


(Max Tegmark)
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2011

Major funding for "The Fabric of the Cosmos" is provided by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Additional funding for this program is provided by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

Related Links

  • The Fabric of the Cosmos

    Acclaimed physicist Brian Greene reveals a mind-boggling reality beneath the surface of our everyday world.

  • Steven Weinberg on Space

    The concept of "space" is a tough one to explain, even for a Nobel prize-winning physicist.

  • Jim Gates on Space

    Physicist Jim Gates says that even if you took all the matter out of the universe, space still wouldn't be empty.

  • Special Relativity in a Nutshell

    Brian Greene explains Einstein's notion of the mutability of space and time in a way you can readily understand it.


You need the Flash Player plug-in to view this content.