Sunday, January 31, 2010

Speed of Time

Well into one of the first nights of the year, a couple friends and I were sitting around a small coffee table in a crowded Starbucks discussing the events that had unfolded over the years. Gossiping, discussing jaw dropping events, laughing over embarrassing moments and then coming to the sudden realization that the past year had gone by so fast.
Time. The irony in the invention of keeping time is that our own bodies does not have the ability to grasp the concept of time passing constantly at the same rate. When in a stuffy, quiet library reading about the quantum of physics, time seems to slow down and stop and when outside, breathing in the cold air while boarding down a mountain, time flies just like you. It's one of life's cruel jokes.
A couple days after the annual conversation ending with "this year flew by," I was online reading the New York Times and came across this article that discussed this very topic (how our body remembers time) but with an obviously more scientific slant.


Isabella Webbe said...

This article highlights one of those things you don't consider very often but actually is pretty important to take into account in our everyday lives: our perceptions are distorted. Our own brains, the foremost thing on which we rely for the purposes of defining our world, aren't all that reliable to start with--in this case, when it comes to perception of time passing.
The article talks about the brain's tendency to "telescope" events (I thought this choice of wording was particularly accurate)--that is, to perceive them as having happened either more recently or further in the past depending on the significance it attaches to said event.
I'm sure everyone has experienced this. Myself, I was getting ready for my eighth grade graduation ceremony when my cousin was born. Although she is a walking, talking, long-haired seven year old, I cannot help but conceive of her as being a distant screaming infant.
This is, I suppose, exactly what the article is talking about. An emotionally significant event, whether you enjoyed it or not, is one that will be swimming around the forefront of your thoughts and will therefore seem much more recent than it actually is.

DPenge said...

It's funny that I stumbled across this article when I did, because I as well was just spending a lot of time recently pondering this subject matter. My birthday is coming up in the next few days and imagining that I've almost reached my twenties is a scary thought. All i can think about is "where did the time go?". Don't get me wrong, I've had a fantastic and fulfilling life as of yet, but I also cannot help but think of all the time I've wasted or forgotten about. I've noticed that now that I live in the city things seem to pass by even quicker. Maybe its the chaotic New York scene, or maybe its that I'm focused on doing my own thing now that I have the opportunity. But whatever the reason, it's helped me to learn to take a deep breath when I feel to caught up in my own business and just live in the moment.

I always remind myself that time is a man-made invention. The whole idea is very confusing, but nonetheless the quote mentioned by Heidegger in the article definitely has some weight to it. I think I would agree with him, because personally, I know that I think of time in terms of experience; what I did when, and what I learned from it all.

There's something about this study that's not feeling right to me though. How could they generalize the brain's thinking patterns in terms of time when everyone is so different? The results seem to be completely subjective. In my mind, there's a lot more to this topic than what the study is focusing on.