Time and Distance in Physics

Physics is a science able to explain how everything in the material world works. Physics is everywhere around us, even when we don’t think about it. Imagine that you are now standing near your house and need to reach the supermarket. The road is straight all the time. It will take you about two minutes. From the door of the entrance to the shop, there are 200 meters. This is the distance. What will be the description of your walk from home to the supermarket? S=200 m.

However, by distance, we mean not only what can be measured by a meter. How, for example, to measure the distance between the peaks of two mountains? Another method of measuring distances – triangulation should be applied here. It was used to measure, the height of the first satellite, which turned out to be approximately 5 * 105 m. With more thoroughness of measurements, the distance to the Moon was determined by the same method. The directions of two telescopes at different points of the Earth give two necessary angles. It turned out that the Moon is distant from us at a distance of 4 * 108 m. However, for the Sun such measurements cannot be made, at least until now no one has succeeded.

Distance cannot exist separately as it must play some role. Imagine that you are riding a bicycle to college, and do not go on foot because you are late. The way to school is direct. You can safely ride along the sidewalk. Naturally, if you move on foot, it will take longer than riding a bike. Physics is a science that includes a lot of calculations. From this example, one can see the connection of time, distance, where time is worth special attention.

There is no point in talking about time itself because apart from material processes. Only the study of processes taking place in the material world, as well as their interrelations, make the term of time physically meaningful. The concept of time reflects such properties of the world as a constant development, changing it in the mind of a person. Processes go in a certain sequence, with a certain duration. Time is a physical quantity reflecting the property of material processes to have a certain duration, to follow one another in the established sequence and to develop step-by-step. Time is designated by the letter t.

In a series of processes taking place in nature, a special place is occupied by recurrent processes (repetition of days and nights, breathing, moving stars in the sky, etc.). The study and comparison of similar processes lead to the idea of the duration of material processes, a comparison of their duration leads to the idea of measuring them.

The duration of the physical process taking place at a certain point is determined by means of clocks, which are placed at one point. Here, one should compare lengths of the processes flowing at the same point using the direct comparison method. If one wants to measure the duration, it is necessary to fix the start of an action or a process till its end. The entire measurement process should take place in terms of the scale of the process considered the etalon. Here, the main idea is fixing the clock at the beginning and end of the process, and this has nothing to do with the actual location of the clock (process) at the point of consideration.

Synchronization of the clock and study of the laws of the propagation of physical signals developed in parallel, with mutual clarifications and additions. Synchronization is carried out using signals that propagate at a finite rate. This method uses the definition of a constant speed: if from a point at which the clock shows t0, a signal traveling at a speed of v = const emits, then the signal comes to a point at a distance s.


  1. McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Physics: 3rd ed, New York, 2003
  2. Richard A. Muller “The Physics of Time”, 19 August 2016.
  3. R. Feynman, R. Penrose “Six Not-So-Easy Pieces: Einstein’s Relativity, Symmetry, and Space-Time”, 6 April, 2005.


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