Saturday, April 16, 2022

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Why Time Goes By Faster As We Age

Actual time and our mental time are very different things.
Copyright 2020 Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D. 

Posted November 29, 2020 Reviewed by Devon Frye

Source: VGstockstudio/Shutterstock

Time is an amazing and fascinating phenomenon. It is believed to be a fundamental quality of the universe that, along with the three known spatial dimensions (length, width, and height), makes up what Einstein famously described as spacetime. What’s more, Einstein proved that time is relative and actually slows down due to gravity and acceleration. Hence time is relative, depending on its observer, rather than an immutably fixed constant everywhere in the universe.

But beyond the theoretical and practical applications of Einstein‘s theories of relativity, almost every human knows intuitively that time is relative—because it seems to pass much faster the older we get. Hence, how a clock measures time and how we as humans perceive it are quite different. This speeding up of subjective time with advancing age is well documented, but there is no consensus on the cause.

A typical explanation that might explain some of this perception is the simple fact that for a 10-year-old, one year represents 10 percent of their entire life and even 15 to 20 percent of their conscious memory. But one year for a 50-year-old represents less than 2 percent of their recallable life. Thus those long days in school and almost endless summers of grade schooler’s childhoods, and the rapidly fleeting days, weeks, and months that most adults experience.

Another intriguing hypothesis stems from the fact that young children have faster heart rates and faster breathing rates than adults. It is likely, therefore, that their brains’ electrophysical undulations and rhythms occur faster as well. Just like the heart’s pacemaker slows the heart’s rhythm as children age, it is possible the brain has a pacemaker as well that slows as people age, and this “neuralmetronome” provides an internal sense of the passage of time.

Indeed, if you ask a young child to sit quietly, close their eyes, and state when a minute has passed, most children will report a minute has elapsed in 40 seconds or less. Run the same experiment with adults and seniors, and they will likely report a minute has passed in 60 to 70 seconds. Hence, children's brains "beat" faster than adult brains, thus allowing them to have more conscious experiences in a given unit of objective time. This, in turn, leads to the subjective passage of time moving more slowly for children than it does for adults.

A fascinating explanation that extends this neural pacemaker theory has recently been posited by Professor Adrian Bejan. He presents an argument based on the physics of neural signal processing (Bejan, 2019). Bejan hypothesizes that, over time, the rate at which we process visual information slows down, and this is what makes time “speed up” as we grow older.

This is because objectively measurable “clock time” and purely subjective “mind time” are not the same. Unlike the number of a cesium atom’s vibrations (the current agreed-upon definition of one second), mental time—memory—is never veridical and universally agreed on. It is a reconstructive process that involves a great deal of mental imagery (i.e., A. A. Lazarus, 1978). Bejan believes time as we experience it represents perceived changes in visual stimuli. We know something happened because we see change. And things always change in one direction; from cause to effect. We will never see a broken glass reassemble itself and jump onto a table from which it fell.

In this way, our experience of time is always a backward-looking process, reliant on memory and is thus relative, but not only in the way Einstein meant it. Of course, memory is much more than just a sequence of images, there are other sensory dimensions to it as well. But our predominant sense is vision and therefore a great deal of our memory is visual.

We can think of a camera, film, projector, and movie as metaphors to represent a central part of visual memory and its relationship to time.

Like frames in a movie, the more frames one sees in a second the slower the image appears to pass. The fewer frames one sees per second the faster the image seems to move. In other words, slow motion reveals many more frames per second than normal motion or fast motion. Bejan asserts that as we age our brain’s neuro visual memory formation equipment slows and lays down fewer “frames-per-second.” That is, more actual time passes between the perception of each new mental image. Children perceive and lay down more memory frames or mental images per unit of time than adults, so when they remember events—that is, the passage of time—they recall more visual data.

This is what causes the perception of time passing more rapidly as we age. When we are young, each second of actual time is packed with many more mental images relative to our older selves. Like a slow-motion camera that captures many more frames per second than a regular speed one, and time appears to pass more slowly when the film is played.

The root cause of this subjective, temporal gearshift, Bejan argues, is that the size and complexity of our brain's neural networks increase as we mature and continue to age. This means electrochemical signals must traverse greater distances and span more pathways thus slowing signal processing. Moreover, aging causes nerves to accumulate damage that creates greater resistance to the flow of signals, further slowing processing time.

As Bejan puts it: “People are often amazed at how much they remember from days that seemed to last forever in their youth. It’s not that their experiences were much deeper or more meaningful, it’s just that they were being processed in rapid-fire.”

Of course, the phenomenon of time passing faster as we age is but one of the brain's unknown, and possibly unknowable, mysteries. Classical physics has incorporated and moved beyond the seismic contributions of Einstein into the realm of quantum mechanics. Similarly, it is probable that to glean the intricate and multi-dimensional workings of the mind, a quantum theory of consciousness might be needed.

Remember: Think well, act well, feel well, be well!

This post is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for help from a qualified health professional. The advertisements in this post do not necessarily reflect my opinions nor are they endorsed by me.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

In 1922, author W.L. George imagined what life would be like in 2022. He came pretty darn close.

In 1922, author W.L. George imagined what life would be like in 2022. He came pretty darn close.
John Kelly
The Washington Post, March 8 2022

The British Airways livery on the tail fins of passenger aircraft at London's Heathrow Airport last month. W.L. George wrote in 1922: "It could take as little as eight hours" to fly between New York and London in 2022. (Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

As I gazed at the blurry scan of the 100-year-old newspaper page on my computer, I started to wonder if what I saw was some kind of joke: a hack of the newspaper archives or a mind game from a puckish time traveler.

“Novelist Visions World of Year 2022,” read the headline on the May 7, 1922, article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. It was above the sort of story editors like to assign and readers like to read: predictions of the future.

But this one was … different. English writer W.L. George had gotten nearly all of it right, from how long it would take an airplane to fly between New York and London in 2022 (“It could take as little as eight hours,” George wrote), to decreasing reliance on coal as a fuel (“a great deal of power will be obtained from radium … while it may also be that atomic energy will be harnessed”); from legalized birth control to motion pictures that had sound — and color!

“When one can not prophesy, one may guess,” George wrote, “especially if one is sure of being out of the way when the reckoning comes. Therefore it is without anxiety that I suggest a picture of this world a hundred years hence.”

George was 40 when he wrote his futurecast. I’d never heard of him before. He published more than two dozen books but didn’t attain the lasting fame of H.G. Wells or George Bernard Shaw. He died in 1926, just four years after his predictions were published.

Silver Spring reader Michael Ravnitzky pointed me toward George’s 1922 essay, originally published by the New York Herald. It appeared in newspapers across the country, sometimes illustrated with drawings possibly meant to convey the outlandishness of the prediction: a female politician orating in Congress, for example.

George felt the world wouldn’t change as much between 1922 and 2022 as it had between 1822 and 1922. “[The] world today would surprise President Jefferson much more, I suspect, than the world of 2022 would surprise the little girl who sells candies at Grand Central Station. For Jefferson knew nothing of railroads, telephones, automobiles, aeroplanes, gramophones, movies, radium, etc.”

He began with technology. Planes would replace both steamships and long-distance trains. Trucks would probably replace freight trains. Communications technologies such as the telephone would go “wireless.” Wrote George: “the people of the year 2022 will probably never see a wire outlined against the sky.”

Improvements in the movies — in “natural colors,” with actors speaking “with ordinary voices” — would threaten stage plays.

George wasn’t right about everything. He thought most people in 2022 would opt for “synthetic” food in the form of pills. And he believed houses would be easier to clean, not because of robotic vacuum cleaners, but because of reduced coal smoke.

Also, he wrote, the floors and walls will be made of compressed papier-mâché, bound with brass or taping along the edge.

Rather than scrub the floor or wall, homeowners of the future would simply unscrew the brass and peel off the dirty paper, revealing the clean layer below.

George expected the family to change, with the state taking on many aspects of child-rearing. An avowed feminist, George said societal improvement would be dependent on how women were treated.

“It is practically certain that in 2022 nearly all women will have discarded that idea that they are primarily ‘makers of men,’” he wrote. “Most fit women will then be following an individual career. … The year 2022 will probably see a large number of women in Congress, a great many on the judicial bench, many in civil service posts and perhaps some in the President’s Cabinet.”

But progress would be slow, he cautioned, writing “a brief hundred years will not wipe out the effects on women of 30,000 years of slavery.”

Nations would still go to war, but maybe less frequently and in a more limited fashion.

“I suspect that those wars to come will be made horrible beyond my conception by new poison gases, inextinguishable flames and lightproof smoke clouds,” he wrote. “In those wars, the airplane bomb will seem as out of date as is today the hatchet.”

If George was wrong in places, it was, I think because he was too optimistic. He believed the United States would be more “settled” in 2022. The zeal that drove the pioneers across the continent would be exhausted. Instead of scrapping for wealth, Americans would put that energy toward producing art and literature.

He predicted “a great liberalism of mind” and a sort of national homogeneity. “The American from Key West and American from Seattle will be much the same kind of man,” he wrote.

There was a tinge of nostalgia in George’s prose, a nostalgia for a future he would not know. “The sad thing about discovery,” he wrote, “is that it works toward its own extinction and that the more we discover the less there is left.”

I’m happy to have discovered W.L. George.