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Coordinates

Coordinates have the job of dividing different bits of the world from each other. What happened yesterday is not the same as what…By Michael Segal

Coordinates have the job of dividing different bits of the world from each other. What happened yesterday is not the same as what happened today, no matter how similar the two days seem. Two bits of empty space are different from one another when we attach an x, y, and z to each.

But the more we learn about coordinates, the more we understand their tendency to melt into each other. Far-flung bits of space can get entangled. At the tiniest scales, space and time dissolve into a complex foam. In the brain, grid cells that mark our location in space also help us demarcate time.

This issue begins with another kind of admixture, between objective and subjective descriptions of time. The physicist Lee Smolin and the philanthropist and investment banker Beth Jacobs have put together a collection of essays by scientists and artists on time, which Nautilus will publish over the next month in addition to our regular content. Just think of it as another collision of coordinates.

Welcome to “Coordinates.”

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