Thursday, November 5, 2009

Controlling Time By Controlling Our Perception Of Time

“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it feels like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it feels like a minute. THAT’S relativity.” – Albert Einstein

I think most people can relate to that and at one point or another have said “time is dragging” or “time is flying by”. So my question: is there a way we could possibly control how we experience time psychologically? Is there a way to make time feel like it’s flying past you while you are in an unpleasant situation and make your time experiencing something pleasant feel like it is stretched out longer? Is there a way to do so without making yourself have to consciously enjoy the quick passage of time and be miserable during the slower passage of time?

This is different than Time Dilation (where if I am moving fast, I experience time differently than someone who is standing still), this is about how we perceive time and how time feels to us depending on our situation.

THIS ARTICLE talks about how you can make time slow down (like the baseball batter who can see the ball coming at him slowly enough to make impact) though focus and concentration and being in the moment. But that takes a conscious effort and does not seem the same as time flying by when you’re “sitting with a pretty girl”. That phenomenon seems much more subconscious.

Some people who have been in an accident or some kind of emergency have said that time seemed to have slowed down for them in those last moments before the accident. But THIS ARTICLE says that in those circumstances where we are scared, “a brain area called the amygdala becomes more active, laying down an extra set of memories” causing you after-the-fact to remember the time differently.

But the perception of time moving slower while you are on an airplane next to a weirdo and the different perception of time being next to a beautiful woman are not experiences triggered by fear – though maybe they are experienced by the joy and the misery we’re experiencing - so actually these phenomenon may be related.

Anyway, it would be great to be able to control the way we personally experience the passage of time. If I was a brilliant physicist I would totally figure that out.


Jeremy said...

Robert Heinlin's book "Stranger in a Strange Land" discusses this. The main character was raised on Mars where he learned how to control his perception of time. He can slow down his perception so when he does things, which to him seem normal speed, they are lightning fast to an outside observer. (Of course he could also push things into the 4th dimension using his mind, too. Another little trick that could come in useful.)

Matsby said...

That's cool. I'll have to check it out.

B was telling me about a scene in an episode of Futurama called Three Hundred Big Boys. Here is the description of that scene from Wikipedia...

"As the flames spread through the room, an agitated Fry, shaking violently from his caffeine intake, drinks his hundredth cup of coffee. Fry enters a caffeine-induced state of hyperspeed where he perceives everything else as moving so slowly that it appears to be standing still. Seeming strangely calm and peaceful, he rescues everyone at incredible speed (which for him appears to be a leisurely pace) and puts out the fire."

Though that may not be an issue of perception as much as more of a time dilation situation - him moving at a faster speed makes things seem slower to him.

Still that's cool.