Biology, History and Philosophy of Science, Reviews

Review: Richet, A Natural History of Time

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Last Sunday the Los Angeles Times ran an interesting review of Pascal Richet’s new book, A Natural History of Time. Applauding some of the many rich details included in this fascinating story of mankind’s endeavors to construct a chronology, Times review editor Sara Lippincott writes:

[Richet] begins with early myths, stories humans told themselves to make sense of their world. These myths were “outside of time,” he writes, “because nature, above all, is governed by cycles” and “neither beginning nor end can be discerned.” The Egyptians, for example, counted years in cycles, starting with each new reign. Speaking of the Egyptians, one of the entrancing nuggets in this nugget-studded book is the information that their hours “varied in duration according to the length of the day.” We owe the stable, 60-minute hour to the Greeks, via “the sexagesimal notation of the Mesopotamians.”

From the ancient Egyptian calendar to modern radiometric dating, Richet’s book delivers an eye-opening exploration of the history of man’s quest for time, giving us a chance to truly appreciate how far our knowledge—and our planet—have come.