Cromarty 2 December: The Physics of the Wood of Hallaig
16 November 2010

There was ice on the ground, snow on the roads, and frost in the air, but still eight people came along to the Old Brewery in Cromarty to explore with Howie Firth the nature of time, with the starting-point of Sorley MacLean's poem Hallaig and is powerful central image of different types of time.

From the poem the journey went back to the Greeks, and two images of time - the river and the turning mill, and then came the medieval clock and the work of Newton, and the emergence of a split between the large and the small, in the differing roles of time in relativity and quantum theory. Faced with the challenge of finding a new approach to time, two new pictures have developed. One, from John Cramer, looks at two opposing flows, one from the past and the other from the future. The other, from Itzhak Bars, sees two dimensions of time - time as a sea rather than a river. 

The audience opened up discussion on a variety of aspects of the subject, from metaphor in poetry to the nature of experimental proof, and then set off homeward, with the stars shining above.

"The way goes into the future, and the end of it cannot be known" - Neil Gunn