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Time dependent vs Independent

In Computational mechanics, for rate(time) dependent calculations (eg. Creep, plasticity), when we say time step dt, does it mean physical time.

Can I think this way:

I start at time 0 and calculate stress, strain etc  after 1 sec, 2 sec, 3 sec..

Also, what exactly is strain rate? why do some books say ..'when a strain rate is applied'''..I'm confused..dont we just apply displacement or force all the time.

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