Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Is time changing or is it me?

The days and weeks seem to be flying by. I have always heard that relative time changes, speeds up, as we age. I wonder, why?

Could it be that I forget the time between events so that the events seem more compact? Am I slowing down so that it takes longer for me to accomplish routine activities that results in my sense that time is flowing faster? I don’t think so. But then, you know that the easiest person for each of us to fool is ourselves.

I’m reminded about the descriptions of traveling near the speed of light. As I remember it, the faster that an item travels in space the larger its mass becomes and the slower that time occurs to that object. Viewed from outside the object, such as to those of us on earth if we were observing a clock traveling near the speed of light as it traversed space, to us the clock’s time would slow down. A person traveling with the clock would age slower than the observers on earth and that person would observe her/his view as accurate and that time for us who are not traveling so fast would be speeding up.

Are we something like that when we age? No, I don’t think so. I can still keep track of a minute of time as well as younger people. Do you want me to come back and talk with you in about ten minutes? No problem. When I return we will both agree that it has been about ten minutes.

Then why has the last week and the past two months seemed to have passed by so quickly to this old guy I call me?

1 comment:

Katharyn said...

Please excuse me while I put on my anthropology geek hat.

According to an NPR report last fall, a global study was done where people of all ages in major cities were asked to stand with their eyes closed and let the scientist with the stop watch know when a minute was up. Across the board, people in their twenties marked 55, 60, 65 seconds; while people in their sixties and up noted 90 seconds (everyone inbetween varied). The theory being that as our interpretation of time slows with age, thus our perception of time quickens because we actually perceive there to be fewer minutes in a day.

You say that you can tell when 10 minutes has past; well first what is the age group of those people who agree with you that 10 minutes has gone by; and secondly, as it is possible to know one time frame but not the other, can you truly tell when only one minute has past?

As a musician who knows that you can train your brain to memorize a length of time, since hearing this report I have wondered if you took someone who interprets 90 seconds to be a minute, and trained them to interpret what 60 seconds is (team work with a stop watch) would their perception of time slow back down?

Another theory is that our brain only creates long term memories from new stimuli (even special events like birthdays are sill old stimuli most of the time, because really how different is your birthday experience from year to year?), and after we have experiences more things our brain stops taking note, allowing time to “fly by”. – By this theory you could say that it’s not that time seems to speed up as we age, but that time is slowed when we’re younger (and taking note of EVERYTHING).

That said, I’m 26 and the last four years went past at the speed of light so… couldn’t tell ya.