CCST9043 Scientific and Technological Literacy
Time’s Arrow

[This course is under the thematic clusters of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’ and ‘The Universe and the Question of Meaning’.]


Course Description

This course will introduce students to a well-known but poorly understood phenomenon: time. We all have a personal concept of time since it drives our lives minute by minute, day after day. It changes us over our lifetime yet it is one of the greatest mysteries to humankind. In this course, we will discuss the concept of time and how it profoundly affects our everyday lives from different yet connected angles: cosmological, astronomical, biological, geological, socio-cultural and philosophical. We will explore the fundamental nature of time, how we measure it, and its important role in the human society. We will also scrutinize footprints of time on different time scales, manifested as different events in the past history of our Earth, our solar system, and even our Universe.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe and explain the concept of time and how it has been measured and perceived in different stages of the story of human civilization.
  2. Elaborate critically on an ordinary, everyday phenomenon such as time, and on its role in the development of knowledge and its consequences for modern society.
  3. Use the familiar concept of time to derive connection and commonalities between different aspects and disciplines of science and the humanities.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of the universal beauty of natural science and obtain a better understanding of the nature of time as perceived in different cultures.
  5. Realize the importance of good management of time.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 8
Fieldwork / Visits 1
Reading / Self-study 20
Film viewing 4
Panel discussion 2
Problem-based Learning sessions 40
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 30
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 15
Assessment: In-class test 1.5
Total: 141.5

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Problem-based Learning sessions 30
Poster presentation 15
Project report 10
Essay 35
In-class test 10

Required Reading

  • Bardon, A. (2013). A brief history of the philosophy of time. New York: Oxford University Press. [E-book available in Hong Kong University E-book Library]
  • Roberts, W. A. (2002). Are animals stuck in time? Psychological Bulletin, 128(3), 473-489.

Recommended Reading

  • A matter of time. (2006, February). Scientific American (Special ed.).
  • Darling, D. (1989). Deep time. London: Bantam Press.
  • Davies, P. (2002). That mysterious flow. Scientific American. [pp. 40-47]

Recommended Website


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr Y.L. Li
Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science
Tel: 2859 8021
Email: yiliang@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr W.M.Y. Cheung
Faculty of Science
Tel: 3917 8589
Email: willmyc@hku.hk