The theory of relativity modifies traditional concepts of time. While the fourth dimension was a feature of classical physics, according to the theory of relativity, time cannot be described in stable and universal terms simply by adding a fourth dimension (time progression) onto three-dimensional coordinate systems. Time is a reference frame. Thus no universal time-frame exists. Therefore, objects moving at different speeds and in different locations experience time differently. Teri Reynolds writes, "no frame-independent matter of fact about the separate spatio-temporal locations of an event." The term spacetime is specific to the theory of relativity and refers to the conception of time in spatialized terms. In this system, the "now" we experience in conventional concepts of temporality should be understood to be analogous to the way we understand "here" in spatial terms. "Now" is a reference point, not the edge of a moving line or point of "time's arrow." From the point of view of relativity, the temporal asymmetry (the illusion of a forward moving, linear, uni-directional temporality) that underlies most human perceptions of time is show to be a construction of our experience and perceptual apparatus, not an aspect of the physical universe. The implications of this theory for physics focus particularly on debates about the second law of thermodynamics (the tendency of chaos to increase in the physical universe along an apparently asymmetrical temporal axis). In narrative imagination, the theory of relativity provides suggestive starting points for reordering of the perception of human experience within such tropes as those found in Flann O'Brien's The Third Policemen, Alex Lightman's Einstein's Dreams, and perhaps, though he will have to address this himself in our seminar, David Blair's Wax, or the Invention of Television Among the Bees.
Image: Minkowski Diagrams and Fraser