I don’t know about you but time is really speeding up for me. It seems like every time I turn around, another three months have got behind me, almost as soon as they’ve begun. The heady days of childhood summers that seemed to last forever are long gone. Or perhaps not? If the world-renowned neuroscientist David Eagleman is to be believed, you can make this year’s summer holiday much longer by slowing down time, now isn’t that a thought?
Professor Eagleman had the unfortunate childhood experience of falling off a roof and badly hurting himself. Waking up in hospital, he remembered every tiny aspect of what happened during his short flight to the ground. He remembered seeing the sky from a strange angle and seeing the rainwater gutter flash past him, he even remembered thinking, among other thoughts, ‘oh dear I think this is going to hurt’. His flight seemed to have lasted a very long time indeed!
It was only later, when he was at secondary school that he made the calculation of the duration of his flight based upon the equation that ‘an initially stationary object which is allowed to fall freely under gravity falls a distance proportional to the square of the elapsed time’. By measuring the distance from the ground to the roof of his house, he calculated that his entire flight was less than 0.8 seconds! It was his time slowing experience that encouraged him to study the effects of time on the human brain.
The result of his studies reveals a very simple hypothesis, that when we look back on an event, if everything we witnessed was new, then our brains took in a great deal of new data to be processed and stored for later. And because of this new event or sequence of events, we have a lot of data to draw on and therefore time seems slower. If nothing exceptional happens, only stuff which we have, more or less, done before then our brains don’t bother making memories of them and thus time just seems to disappear.
Of course, I have over simplified the university of Stanford prof’s findings. He has written many interesting books on this and other topics but for me, for now, I have decided that the secret to a long and happy life is to keep filling one’s days (and head) with new and interesting things. Some people will call this entrepreneurism or ‘a challenging career’, me? I call it ‘making the most of each and every day that we are lucky enough to live’.
Have a good week (may it be a long one, for all the right reasons)!