Thursday, August 8, 2013

The mystery of time and its mythological traces

I am an avid reader and love to read science fictions, science journals and biographies of greatest researchers of all times. Recently, I came across a book ‘The Elegant Universe’ by Brian Greene which is a technical collections of theories around superstrings, hidden dimensions, time travel and theory of relativity.

For me, Einstein’s theory of relativity always had a pull which intrigued me to try understanding this non-intuitive phenomena. The theory claims that when a person is in motion, the time he observes runs slower than everyone stationary. So, if a person can move at 667miles per hour, which is 99.6% of speed of light time in his part of the world would be 10 times slower. That means if life expectancy of this person is 70 years that would correspond to 700 years in his motion frame.

This is quite interesting because I like travelling and if I am in motion then my body clock will tick slower and hence I would live longer. Seriously! But there is a catch. Because my body clock is moving slower, all my activities would also slow down as if I am in a slow motion world. I won’t be able to observe this but stationary world will. Now comes the crazy thought, is it possible to reverse this effect? That is can everything else than me slow down and I can observe this all. Think about the sitcom Heros where a person gets ability to slow down and eventually pause the time. But technically that means everything other than me has to move extremely fast. That seems counter intuitive because if they are moving at near light speed how can they be in slow motion?

But the craziest thing is that it really happens. They will be moving extremely fast in speed but at the same time very slow in time and that’s where our common sense of space-time left us entangles. The person in motion is very fast in space but slow in time and therefore he is analogous to planet Venus which is very fast in revolving around sun but at the same time very slow in revolving around its own axis. It takes 224.7 earth days to take one full spin.

The important thing to notice is that after slowing down the time a person can live longer than others but as he himself gets slowed down his life experience for 700 years would be exactly same as if it was 70 years. This reminds me of a story of King Muchukunda. According to Hindu mythology, Muchukunda was born in the family of Iksvaku whose descendants include Lord Ram too. He was a great warrior and when, in a battle, the deities were defeated by the demons, they sought help from king Muchukunda. King Muchukunda agreed to help them and fought against the demons for a long time. Since the deities did not have an able commander, king Muchukunda protected them against the demonic onslaught, until the deities got an able commander like Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva. Then Indra, King of deties, said to the king Muchukunda, "O king, we, the deities are indebted to you for the help and protection which you have given us, by sacrificing your own family life. Here in the heaven, one year equals three hundred and sixty years of the earth. Since, it has been a long time, there is no sign of your kingdom and family because it has been destroyed with the passage of time. We are happy and pleased with you, so ask for any boon except Moksha (liberation) because Moksha is beyond our capacities".

Muchkunda asks Indra for a boon to sleep. While fighting on the side of the deities, king Muchukunda did not get an opportunity to sleep even for a moment. Now, since his responsibilities were over, overcome by tiredness, he was feeling very sleepy. So, he said, "O King of the deities, I want to sleep. Anyone who dares to disturb my sleep should get burnt to ashes immediately". Indra said, "So be it, go to the earth and enjoy your sleep, one who awakens you would be reduced to ashes". After this, king Muchukunda descended to earth and selected a cave, where he could sleep without being disturbed.

Centuries later Lord Krishna was battling with Kalyavan. Kalyavan had a boon to never get defeated in a battle and therefore Krishna had to run and hide in the same cave. Kalyavan chased Krishna and in a fit of anger and unable to see in the dark attacked Muchukunda mistaking him to be Krishna. When Muchkunda opens his eyes, his gaze falls on Kalayavan who is immediately burnt to ashes.

This simple mythological story explains the same theory proposed thousands of years later by Einstein. Interestingly, Einstein himself was a big believer of Hindu mythology and claimed that Srimadbhagwatgeeta is the most scientific religious book he has ever read. The mythological story remains just an anecdote but it gives some inklings to a great treasure of scientific knowledge which we have always ignored.   

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