CTK Insights

17 Jan

Can you miss the New Year moment?

Indeed, is it possible to miss the New Year moment? The question is not meant to account for a possible tragic circumstance and is being asked plainly and candidly. Assuming you are in good health on December 31 of one year and remain healthy on January 1 of the next year, is it possible to have missed the New Year moment?

The answer is Yes, and a delightful book Insurmountable Simplicities by Roberto Casati and Achille Varzi, shows how this may happen. Imagine boarding a plane flying from New York to London some time on a New Year's eve, say 10:45 pm. It may so happen that an hour later at 11:45 pm the plane will cross the boundary of a time zone, such that instantaneously you would find yourself in the 00:45 am time zone. Simple? Still curious - the tricks the presence of time zones may play with an uninitiated.

Now that you know the answer to that question, there is another one: Is it possible for two people to be born at exactly same moment in time, but have different birthdays? The answer to this question is also Yes. Imagine one baby born in Los Angeles at 10:30 pm on say, June 1 when in New York it's already 1:30 am, June 2. A baby born at this time in New York will be 1 day younger than the baby born in Los Angeles. In time, they will be eligible for the Social Security benefits one day apart. Talk about social justice.

There are 39 dialogues in the book that illuminate various philosophical conundrums of everyday life. As another example, is the Aral Sea still where it is used to be? Being drained practically of all its water following the grandiose plans of the successive Soviet governments to irrigate the surrounding arid steps, is the sea still around? As a matter of fact, at his point in time, there is no sea over there as there is no water. Until about 50 years ago, the Aral Sea was the fourth largest lake in the world. So, what about that lake? If it is not there any more, has it moved to an ocean? Is it not where it used to be in the same sense as the Bamyian Bhuddas are no longer where they used to be?

This is a fascinating book raising questions that I am going to discuss with my 8th grader boy - easy to understand, not so easy to answer.

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