Universal Time

Untitled Thoughts

[This text by Bernard Newsam was typed from a handwritten, and much corrected, draft introduction found amongst his papers. The original text was undated. Julia Newsam, May 2002]

[Deleted sections are included mainly as prompts to Bernard's family and friends who may be trying to remember some of his many verbal explanations. B.E.N.]

Soon after the 1939 - 45 war I became interested in "Information" and found that it led me to question seriously the forms in which we were expressing the Laws of Physics. The numerical relationships seemed to be well justified, but the conceptual apparatus seemed arbitrary, ill-defined and in need of reshaping. In particular I was struck by the illogicality of starting with the Laws of Physics and deriving therefrom a Theory of Information. From what Information were also the Laws of Physics themselves derived? Was there a more basic Information with its own rules and limitations? The conclusion I reached was that our experience of the passage of time was equivalent to a statement that we receive a flow of Information. Other conclusions involved criticism of the accepted notions of the constant "c". Altogether my theories, at the time, received almost no support and I dropped active work on them.

Recently it seems that others are beginning to move tentatively along these paths and I am tempted to offer once again my views on "c".


Our intuitive feelings about space are that it has nothing whatever to do with time. We also in our daily transactions consider that the ground we stand on is fixed. This is a very satisfactory convention until we come to astronomy; we are then better off with an altered convention. To our intuition about space we can now add a well-documented experimental fact that space is inaccessible in a time sense. We cannot communicate, with or receive information from a remote location below a certain minimum time interval. Also if we take any of the possible numerical statements that may be associated with space :- a fixed number (convention, a distant object); an increasing number (convention, a receding object) a number varying generally with time (convention, a moving object); there is with each an identically varying time-delay, or time interval. The sole difference numerically is a fixed multiplier; in all respects the two sets of numbers behave identically.

Is our intuitive description of this multiplier acceptable? My personal answer to this is "Yes" for day-to-day usage, just as I am happy to consider the earth as fixed for day-to-day purposes; but it is "No" as far as Cosmology or General Theory is concerned. What has happened is that until recently there was no instrumental means of measuring nano-second inaccessibilities, and

The obvious answer to this (if it were not for years of habit otherwise) is that they are different ways of describing and giving a numerical value to the same phenomenon; and this I consider to be correct. Unfortunately the instrumental means to measure nanosecond intervals has not been available until recently, and for centuries we have used a comparison system of movable lengths. The method produces acceptable results on a hidden assumtion which must be met, that the interval being measured shall be insignificantly small compared with the interval consumed during the measurements.

Contrary to many arguments to the opposite effect, a length divided by a time is not necessarily a velocity, nor is it here. *

[The following deleted footnote is not crossed out in the original manuscript, but clearly belongs only with the deleted text above. B.E.N.]

* Thumb / boot lace tying time

This is the point of divergence with present day usage; - which unit most embodies the experimental facts; one which already defines an Information Rate, and now expresses Information limitations about remote objects in the same units; or one which is a simple comparison system of like with like, giving no hint at all of any problem of accessibility? In my own mind I have no doubt that time is the correct unit, and length standards and length measurements are a temporary instrumental expedient to compare nano-seconds with nano-seconds.

The Constant "c"

With all intervals measured in seconds (or perhaps nano-seconds), what is "c"? It is two things, one trivial and one fundamental. The trivial part is best given as its inverse, 1/c which is the measure in true units of the particular length unit selected. Any number of arbitrary length standards may be chosen, giving a corresponding number of values of 1/c, all trivial.

The fundamental part is at present expressed either as a statement that an electro-magnetic disturbance is coming towards us, or perhaps that another packet of energy is moving away from us. With all intervals in seconds this becomes one information packet associated with a decreasing number (coming) and another packet associated with an increasing number (going). Taking the incoming packet, where its number is decreasing at one per second, this will arrive in the future when its number is nought. If it is N seconds away it will arrive in N seconds time. The time of its arrival is N seconds off in the future, and when that time arrives, the energy will arrive too. Numerically the expected lapse of time before the expected arrival and the amount the energy has to go

The arrival of the packet is a future event separated from us by the same number of seconds, decreasing in the same way, at the same rate. The wave packet is inaccessible, the future is inaccessible; both measures of inaccessibility decrease at the same rate - 1 second per second, the evidence that they have reached zero is the same - the event occurs. The final fundamental part of "c" is seen to be the Flow of Information, indistinguishable numerically from the Lapse of Time, whichever is preferred.

This may well seem hard to accept and indeed the form of expression could no doubt be bettered; but at least it must be faced that Lapse of Time, Flow of Information, and "c" are closely interlocked, and in my view are aspects of the same underlying feature.


"c" is not a velocity but the lapse of time misinterpreted.

The decreasing number associated with a packet coming towards us is identical in all ways with the decreasing time which must elapse before the future event occurs. The lapse of time and the decreasing remoteness are indistinguishable. Nevertheless the decreasing remoteness is conventionally associated with and ascribed to "c". Thus "c" is a way of looking at the lapse of time; and has occurred because of the use of comparison standards (length units) of strictly limited application.

Shortly put, the non-trivial part of "c" is that it is another aspect of the familiar "lapse of time".

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The material in this web site is based on original documents written by Bernard Newsam (b.1913 d.1994), collated and edited by his children Julia and Brian Newsam.

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