Ueber dem Zeitgeist


I recall a conversation with Charlie Hammons in 1999, as we worked with a company readying itself for “Y2K,” where he strongly impressesd upon me the complete artificiality of time.  Certainly time is a human construct.  Zulu, local mean solar, sidereal, even daylight savings — and those describe noticeable increments.  Time defined as motion, motion is always relative, and then we use sub-divisions of immeasurable infinity to measure finite events.

Lately I’m fascinated to juxtapose Nyquist’s rule for sampling and  the need to reduce data for reporting.   What does this tell us about ability to draw information from data?  It tells us that we have preconceived structures for data reduction, a bit of a post hoc ergo propter hoc presumption which taints our distillation as surely as copper stills both extract sulfides and impute metal to moonshine.  The misinformation from sampling too slowly cannot be undone by reduction (or might it, if the relationship between frequencies of a cyclic event and sampling were known and not harmonic?) and sampling too quickly increases the value added through reduction.

Time, the one artifice we measure but cannot create, destroy, or modify and the measure upon which so many metrics depend.  So the limit of time’s precision is the limit of measured motion.  Is eternity still?

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