What is time? Introducing ‘It’s About Time’

Everything in our lives is shaped by time. This podcast series explores how we can make the most of it.

Photo illustration by Ann Hermes/Staff

What Is Time? Introducing: It's About Time

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Everything that happens in your life – every experience, every interaction, even every thought – is mediated by one thing: time. That’s why the word “time” is the most frequently used noun in the English language.

We talk about time all the time – how quickly or slowly it seems to pass, how much or little of it we have, and how our past and future compare to our present. But we rarely talk about what time actually is, how our perceptions of it shape our behavior, and how changing these perceptions might improve our lives. 

Our new podcast series hopes to change that. Over the course of six episodes, hosts Rebecca Asoulin and Eoin O’Carroll speak with experts in physics, psychology, philosophy, culture, history, science fiction, and many other topics to help unravel time’s mysteries. You’ll learn why time sometimes seems to slow down, how Albert Einstein’s theories open the possibility for time travel, and how time enforces social hierarchies. We’ll also hear from people who are fighting to help us get our time back.

We hope you’ll tune in. Because understanding time more deeply can help us make the most of the time we have.

This is the teaser for "It's About Time," our 6-part series that's part of the Monitor's "Rethinking the News" podcast. To listen to episodes on our site or on your favorite podcast player, please visit the "It's About Time" series page.

“Rethinking the News" is a podcast that brings Monitor journalism straight to your ears. To learn more about the podcast and find new episodes, please visit our page

This story was designed to be heard. We strongly encourage you to experience it with your ears, but we understand that is not an option for everybody. You can find the audio player above. For those who are unable to listen, we have provided a transcript of the story below. 

Audio Transcript

Rebecca Asoulin: What is time?

Heather Dyke: There’s a quote from the physicist John Wheeler. He says: ‘Time is nature’s way of stopping everything from happening at once.’ 

Eoin O’Carroll: Is it a number on a clock?

Fuschia Sirois: Time is a construct. It’s something we use as a metric to quantify, I guess, our existence.

Rebecca: A continuum that we can travel through? 

Ted Chiang: Time is the change in the state of the universe.

Eoin: Who gets to decide?


Rebecca: I’m Rebecca Asoulin, a storytelling editor for The Christian Science Monitor.  

Eoin: And I’m Eoin O’Carroll, a science writer for the Monitor.

Rebecca: And we’re the hosts of, “It’s About Time.” A new six-part science series all about –

Eoin: – time.

Rebecca: We’ll be unraveling its mysteries. Talking to physicists –

Alan Lightman: Before Einstein, time was considered absolute. A second is a second is a second.

Eoin: – a philosopher –

Heather Dyke: There is on both sides an urge to reconcile what it thinks is true of time.

Rebecca: – an anthropologist –

Dorsa Amir: How you view the future versus now really could have a significant impact on your decisions. 

Eoin:  – a magician –

Debbie O’Carroll: One, two, three, abracadabra!

Rebecca:  – a procrastination expert –

Fuschia Sirois: Laziness is not procrastination. 

Eoin:  – and even someone trying to build a time machine!

Ron Mallet: I thought, ‘This is it, this the thing that is going to allow me to see my father again.’

Rebecca: Because understanding time more deeply can help us make the most of the time we have. 

Eoin: So if you love psychology, or philosophy  –

Rebecca: – or if you love time puns –

Eoin: – or if you’re just someone who wants to use your time more wisely, join us! 

Rebecca: We’ll soon be releasing new episodes right here on the Monitor’s “Rethinking the News” podcast. You can find us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Stitcher. Just search, “Rethinking the News.” And subscribe to “Rethinking the News” to get notified about new episodes. 

Eoin: We’ll be dropping new ones every week. 

Rebecca: Like clockwork.

Eoin: You could set your watch to it.


Rebecca: Well, not your watch. Isn’t it broken?

Eoin: Well, it’s still right –

Rebecca & Eoin: twice a day!


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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

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The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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