osmic dust masks change with time. Herein unknowingly, we encounter yet another mask: the mask of time itself! All knowledge and all data ever secured by Mankind is secured within the confines of time. Can time ever be "penetrated?" Would it ever be possible to envisage a "timeless" Universe - one with only space dimensions, which no dimension of time? The answer is yes, as will become evident in our discussion of superspace below. In this chapter, we pursue thoughts which occurred to us while traveling to Papua New Guinea: our progress through superspace is actually reflected in primitive notions of time.
Where could one go to perhaps best understand the concept of time? Let us interact with people in the remote areas of Papua New Guinea. A land containing remote highlands and deep valleys. A unique environment to explore the mind of Man, without heavy influence of Western culture.
Papua New Guinea is a land where cannibals and head-hunters once roamed free, for centuries. But what lies in the minds of these people? How do they understand time, for are they not closest to it? Adam in Ochre, Adam in Plumes, Adam with Arrows are but three of the myriads of titles of books written about these regions.
David undertook a journey spanning fourteen flights and a seven day boat ride to attempt to glimpse and conceive the concept of time in the jungles of Papua New Guinea and environs (see Figures 153-156). We visited the island of Kiriwina, beloved by the great anthropologist Malinowski, who writes:
The Trobriand Islands, situated at the east end of New Guinea, are an archipelago of flat coral islands and reefs ... they are rather densely populated - the total Penetrating the Mask ofTime number of inhabitants may be estimated in 1920 at about 10,000 ... 263
Through the work of Malinowski, we understand why the Trobriand Islands (of which Kiriwina is the largest) are indeed one of the most sacred areas for anthropological studies.
People might say that Papua New Guinea and its surrounding islands may have very little to teach us with regard to time, but a great surprise lies in store: in a grand sense, the Papuans we interacted with are so very advanced in their concepts of space and of time!
Penetrating the Mask of Time
Figure 154  265
Penetrating the Mask of Time
Figure 154  265
Shrouds of the Night
266 Figure 155 
There are over 800 languages in Papua New Guinea, but there is a common lingo called Pidgin English ("Tok Pisin"). The Papua New Guinea lingo for East is "san i gerap" (the sun gets up). A constable is known as a "polis boi" (police boy). Afternoon is "apinun" and eventually is "baimbai" (by and by).
On Kiriwina, we saw the masawa, or large, sea-going outrigger canoe; the ceremonial exchange of shell valuables, the Kula, was carefully explained to us. We identified with the playfulness or mwasawa of children and we walked past a liku, or small yam hut or food crate. We handled necklaces of shell disks, the soulava.
In Papua New Guinea, time is definitely temporal. It is determined by the wanderings of material bodies. Time to many Papuans is measured by the wanderings of the Sun, the Moon and the onset of darkness. Time in the culture of Papua New Guinea is not measured by some external parameter. To the people of Papua New Guinea, space is more fundamental than time.
There are myriads of legends and stories to demonstrate this crucial aspect in the Mind of the Papuan. Here is how just one of the legends begins:
Many years ago, when the world had just begun, a crab decided to travel to the setting place of the sun.
In other words, to this tribe, there is a spatial emphasis (the setting place of the Sun) at a time of beginnings - it is not when, but where.
And how is time determined? The flow of time from a lofty tree house (Figure 155) would be determined by the movements of heavenly bodies such as the rising of Sun, the rising of the Pleiades star cluster ("the Seven Sisters") or merely by penumbral shadows which lengthen as our closest star apparently journeys toward the horizon at twilight hour. Without the Sun and darkness, there would, in their understanding, be no time.
There is a wonderful piece of folklore entitled "The Stars Helped a Man" from the West Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea, as transcribed by Thomas Slone, a staff scientist at the University of California at Berkeley. We relate portions below:
Long, long ago, a man took his bow and arrows then went to hunt for wild game in the forest at night. The man walked a very long distance to a mountain. He worked hard, but he did not find any game, so his eyes became sleepy. When he was about to sleep, he put his bow and arrows at his side then fell dead asleep. The man was dead to the world, so he did not know what was happening about him. A masalai [ghost] man was also looking for game. He hunted and hunted, but did not find any game. When he was walking along, he smelled the man nearby. When the ghost [masalai] man looked, he saw the man but he thought that a piece of tree had broken and was lying there. The masalai stood and watched carefully, then he saw the man there. The masalai was very happy. He said, "Oh my, I tried hard to find game and now it's come to me." So, he dumped the man into his net bag and carried him towards his home. However it was too bad that the masalai man dwelled on an island. When the masalai arrived on the beach, he put the man in the net bag on his back and began to swim to the island. The masalai man swam and swam, and the waves rose and fell strongly. The man inside the net bag felt cold and thought, "Oh my, where am I now?" When he opened his eyes, he saw the waves. The man had a good idea because when he was running through the forest, he had put a small piece of sharp bamboo into his loincloth. So when the masalai was still carrying him, he removed the bamboo and began to cut the net bag.
When they approached the island, the man saw a log drifting in the sea and coming towards them. He took the log inside the net bag, and he swam back to the beach.
The story then relates how furious the masalai was in realizing that he had been deceived, and starts to diligently search for the escapee, who by this time had climbed a coconut palm.
The masalai took his axe and began to cut the coconut palm. It was too bad for him that the man thought of something. When the coconut palm was about to fall, he jumped to another coconut palm. They did this for a long time until many of the coconut palms on the beach were gone. The stars looked at the man going around and they were sorry for him. Quickly, they made a ladder and threw it down to the man on top ofa coconut palm. The man was happy for this, so he went Penetrating the Mask of Time up the ladder, and the stars pulled him up. 269
The story unfolds of the man inviting the stars to his village, to celebrate with some food especially prepared for the occasion. He tells his fellow kinsmen:
I'll call out to some men to come and meet me. They'll come, but you men will not be able to see them [the stars]. I alone will see them and talk with them.
When everything was ready, he sent a message to the stars. They then descended to meet with him. They ate, then the stars went back to their places. When the stars returned, they lit up the night. Before, they never lit up the night. However after this party, they began to light up the night. When the men of the village saw this, they thought that this time the stars helped a man.
Such richness and diversity of thought is contained in this story: from the origin of the stars' shining to a ladder extending upwards, as in Jacob's ladder. Yet again, this folklore clearly shows the measurement of time as related to temporal events: swimming to the island, the waves rising and falling, the opening of the man's eyes in the net bag, the placing of the log inside the net bag, the climbing of a tree, the intimacy of the stars coming down to the man's village for food ... and the stars subsequently lighting up the cosmic dome above.
Let us next cast our mindsets to the land of Mexico, and to their grand volcano Popocatepetl. How would time be measured by ancient hunters or gatherers near Popocatepetl, as they viewed spewing volcanic eruptions? They would obviously see thick ash clouds rising. There would be no watches. What might be a concept of time in the mind of such a person? How would the gatherer understand that there is a movement or flow of cosmic time? No doubt, by the number density of the rising ash particles; the thickness of ash clouds spewing majestically above the volcano; in modern terminology, by the "optical depth" of the cloud.
Time to this ancient gatherer, would be measured by the degree of fogginess through these smoke clouds. In other words, it would not be incorrect in this context to say that time and spatial descriptions (such as the density of smoke particles) are simply equivalent!
In Papua New Guinea, we have stressed that there are temporal labels of time. We may define time to be the equivalent of (or measured by) temperature, for example. If one defines time to be equivalent to temperature, we may think of our expanding Big Bang cosmos and how it continually cools down. We may, alternatively, define time in terms of volume of the cosmos. How big is the cosmos? Its observable horizon expands by one light year, each year. When the cosmos was ten years old, it was ten light years across. At an age of one million years old, our observable Universe would span one million light years in extent. Fourteen thousand million light years old (its current age): we see galaxies close to fourteen thousand million light years away! The volume is presently on the increase: the volume of our expanding Universe increases as time flows. Volume (a spatial concept) and time gather equivalent footings.
What about the beginnings of our Universe? How is time measured at those unimaginably tiny epochs, of billionths upon billionths of a second?
Enter Philo, a first century Jewish scholar in Alexandria.
Philo boldly asserts that God does not create the world in time. He asserts that God creates time along with the world.
Philo eloquently argues that there is no "pre-existing" time: there is no "before" the Big Bang. He writes:
Time began either simultaneously with the world or after it. For since time is a measured space (emphasis added) determined by the world's movement, and since movement could not be prior to the object moving, but must of necessity arise either after it or simultaneously with it, it follows of necessity that time is also coeval with or later born than the world.
Time presents a mask as we approach cosmic beginnings. Time is veiled. Shrouded. How do we penetrate the time mask? Can it be achieved in terms of spatial descriptions alone?
Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, Stephen Hawking, and his colleague, Penetrating the Mask of Time
James Hartle at the University of California, imagine a "Superspace" of all possible three- 271
dimensional spaces. Herein lies their point of genius: a curve in Superspace demarcates or measures time!
Back to the volcano analogy. When ash particles start rising, that provides one spatial "snapshot." As the eruptions proceeds, we have a sequence of spatial, three-dimensional, snapshots. To measure time is equivalent to moving along a curve in Superspace, wherein selecting any one point along the curve is to select a different spatial snapshot of Popocatepetl.
In the minds of Hartle and Hawking, our Universe moves along a curve in Superspace. Of course one can elegantly transform that curve into a more familiar notion of four-dimensional space-time, but the Universe, from its grand beginning to the present epoch, may be regarded as the collection of multitudes of different, three-dimensional, snapshots, of different temperatures, or of different volumes, and so on. We then mysteriously move behind the time mask, into a world of space alone!
A moment in time but time was made through that moment: for without the meaning there is no time, and that moment of time gave the meaning.
wrote the British poet T.S. Eliot in his work "Choruses from 'The Rock.' "
The Australian poet Kenneth Slessor articulates his thoughts on the richness of time thus:
Time that is moved by little fidget wheels Is not my Time
While four-dimensional space-time does have a beginning, the union of all three-dimensional spaces does not. Superspace always exists ...
Hawking asserts: "The Universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by Shrouds ofthe Night anything outside itself. It would just be."
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