Unravelling the Mystery of Real Time
The other day there was a Zoom Meet of Pallikkutam SELFIE, a new initiative to provide entrepreneurial learning activities for children. It was streamed live on FB also. As I was in recording room and also monitoring the Zoom and FB live, I could sense the lag between the real event, a slight delay in the same images appearing in Zoom and even more delay in the same images appearing in FB. The person watching the FB live was infact seeing a delayed rendering of the same event happening on Zoom. But we believe that everything is happening in real time! You might have observed in live TV discussions that the anchor has to wait a few seconds before a panelist sitting somewhere else hears the question fully and responds. The viewer is fated to see such gaps throughout the programme.
When we are watching a cricket or football match live, we might be seeing Virat Kohli hit to the boundary much after the fielder had picked up the ball and thrown back to the bowler! Or a ball swirl over the goal post at least a few seconds after it really happened. However those in the gallery are seeing it in real time although at a distance. Time is quite perplexing because the Sun doesn't rise and set on the same time every day. The most expensive Rolex watches or Swiss Patek Philippe or the latest digital smart watches cannot show us the most accurate time.
But if you go to a village, old
farmers can be seen telling the time just by looking at the sky and the
direction of the sun. Scientifically speaking, the most precise clocks in the
world are the atomic clocks. They use lasers to measure the vibrations of atoms
which oscillate at a constant frequency. An MIT research study has said that
the best atomic clocks are so precise that if they had been running since the
beginning of the universe, they would be off by about half a second today.
Now they are trying to make it more precise with a new technology. The new clock measures not a cloud of randomly oscillating atoms but atoms that have been quantumly entangled. Entanglement-enhanced optical atomic clocks will have the potential to reach a better precision according to Edwin Pedrozo-Peñafiel, co-author of the study (More details-https://news.mit.edu/2020/atomic-clock-time-precise-1216).
Timepieces we use need
calibration from time to time as it loses upto a few minutes every year while
atomic clocks don't need to.
In communication theory the most quoted model is the Shannon-Weaver model. Although it is linear it brings into the picture the sender, encoder, channel, noise, decoder and receiver. Later on Norbert Weiner added a 7th concept called feedback which transformed it from a linear to a cyclical model. According to Shannon, the fundamental problem of communication is that of reproducing a message sent from one point, either exactly or approximately, to another point. This is again quite complex in this internet age when data in any form voice, text or images are broken down into packets, compressed and reassembled at the destination.
A practical application of Shannon's theory can be found in the explanation of different dialects in Malayalam language used by people in Kerala. One researcher found the language used by people living in coastal areas to be greatly influenced by the sea waves and winds that caused an elongation of a word or a sentence. Our brain is programmed to accept one form of doing something and that gets repeated everywhere irrespective of the environment. So, the fishermen spending most of the time in the sea may possibly develop the habit of talking the same way while he is at home and away from the sea waves. I had an English professor in pre-university classes whose sound reverberated the whole building. He had taken voluntary retirement from the army after attaining a rank and he was used to shouting loud as part of their daily routine activities or on the fighting front. He said he couldn’t control his voice! Habits die hard.
There indeed are many more many things perplexing about time. Bhagwan Rajaneesh noted that our clocks and watches create a ticking sound every second. After sixty such ticks of the second hand, the minute hand moves one point. However, if you would be surprised to know how the tick sound comes. Even if you take apart the clock to pieces you can’t find out from where the tick sound is coming!
Being poor at Physics and Mathematics, I haven’t taken the pains to understand Theory of Relativity. However, I understand that in Einstein’s theory, the concept of time and space are interwoven in a single continuum called space-time. Light has the same speed and it is the same in a vacuum irrespective of the speed at which the observer travels. Events that occur at the same time for one observer could occur at different times for another.
But one of the easier ways to understand relativity of time and for sake of simplification is that when you spend time with the girl friend, time seems to fly while it moves like a tortoise when you are standing in a queue.
Understanding the concept of time can have profound influence of choice of our careers even. When I went for a refresher course in Film and Television Institute of Pune in an effort to secure admission for Film Editing in 1990, I remember the lectures of Prof Suresh Chabbria, an expert in film appreciation having done PG in cinema from a US university. Apart from several important insights he shared , the most important was that cinema doesn’t shoot real space or real time. Sharp and impactful were those words and that drove me away from a career in film world and into journalism which is perhaps more grounded in realities but not necessarily catching all the action in Real Time.
The next time someone talks about Real Time data, connectivity or analytics it is better to ask them what they really mean!