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Speed of time

Updated on September 20, 2015

To science a minute is a minute and a hour is a hour. There are effects caused by speed and gravity etc. that can change how fast time moves in one place compared to another. But as far as science is concerned when the conditions are all the same a minute is a minute and a hour is a hour. But from a subjective point of view, we all know that this is not the case when it comes to actually experiencing time. Some times it seems like days and weeks just fly by and other times they seem to last a really long time.

My guess is that this is because we measure time differently than a machine does. When we measure time in our minds between now and a random event in the past, we don't really look at how many seconds, minutes, hours or days there has been since that event. What we do is that we measure the amount of change there has been in our lives since that event. If it has been a week an all we have done in that time is go to work, do some repetitive and boring work, watch television in the evening and during the weekend, then it might feel like the time since that past event is very short. But if we instead have been on a vacation for a week and have spent all our time doing new and interesting things every day, then it will probably feel like a lot more time has past since that past event.

Essentially this has to do with how we record information and how that information is used to measure time. We tend to see time as a forth dimension that we move in, but personally I think time the way we see it is an illusion. We are always in the now. But the now is never the same, we are constantly changing the now. And each time we change something, we record it. And by constantly "reading" this recording at the same time as we are experiencing the now, we get a sense of motion in time and space. But information is stored differently. When we do the same things over and over again we develop patterns in our brains for doing these things. And when wee keep doing these things, the details about how we do them tends to be ignored by our long term memory. Whereas memories about new and unique experiences tends to remain in far greater detail in our long term memory. And when looking back it makes periods of time filled with these kind of experiences feel much longer.

Most of us feel that time seems to move faster and faster as we grove older. And the main reason for this is that we usually experience fewer and fewer new things and spend more and more of our time doing the same things and following the same routines. Most of these things don't seem very important to our long term memory, so when we look back, it seems like there is just a few major events her and the rest we can't remember. And it makes it feel as if time has just flied by.

There are of course way to combat this. If we stay aware of this, we can make sure to do more unique things, and pay more attention to the world around us while we do does repetitive things that we can't avoid. It will give us more events to fill our long-term memories with and it will make our time spent feel longer and more meaningful.

The reason I'm writing this now, is because I recently went on vacation to Japan. And on of the things that I noticed was that the time I spent there felt much longer. And so I thought a bit about it and realized that the main difference was that I were in an environment were virtually everything was new to me and where I constantly had to pay attention to what I was doing. Even something as simple as eating became it's own adventure, when I were tasting new kinds of food, drinking soup from a bowl etc. I probably have more memories from my time in Japan than I have from several months of time spent at home doing the same things everyday.

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      Tamara 2 years ago from U.S.A.

      Seeing the forest or seeing the trees...yes...nice analogy with movies. It is absolutely true, in general, that people slow down with age either physically, mentally or both. We slip into routines as well (all throughout life) changing them on occasion to suit an altered environment or atmosphere. When we settle into these routines our views become momentarily limited until something comes along to change it yet again. Some have less 'somethings' coming along so they stay in their way longer. If this is for research perhaps you could have a questionaire for people from those who seek adventure to those who like habits and wish to remain in their habits asking them what time frames feel like to them. Just some thoughts...lol...you sparked something in me. Peace.

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      Fredrik 2 years ago from Oslo, Norway

      I agree intensity has nothing to do with it. Simply how much we remember about it. In a sense it has more to do with uniqueness and novelty. We remember new, unique and very strong emotional experiences well, regardless of how exiting they were. But if we do something over and over again, we won't remember every single time we did it.

      And I think I understand what you mean by focus. In a sense our experience in the now is like a movie. If we focus on every single detail around us, then the "movie" becomes very long and times seem to move slowly. But if we narrow our focus to only include one or a few things, then there is less for us to process, the "movie" becomes shorter and time seem to move faster.

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      Tamara 2 years ago from U.S.A.

      Some of my strongest memories are of severely traumatic events of which I recall the details (feeling, sight, smell etc) but they do not feel longer than memories of mundane tasks I did. I cannot explain how memory works but I do not believe that the more intense the memory the longer the time feels. I have to say thank God for that because I sure don't wish to recall traumatic events that have a long feeling recall. I cannot explain why a smell can take me back to childhood either. All I know is that my brain somehow decides what is most important to place in long term memory even mundane things from my past.

      We seem, for thr most part to be on the same page, I merely suggest including focus as part of the reason. Take care.

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      Fredrik 2 years ago from Oslo, Norway

      In a sense that it what I'm trying to say. when we do things we are used to doing and/or that requires little to no mental effort, time, as you say, seem to move faster. And we remember less details from these periods of time. So when we look back at these times they seem to have gone by very fast.

      When we do things that are boring or alternatively things that requires us to pay attention and make a lot of decisions however, we remember far more details and when we look back at that period of time, it seems much longer.

      And this has a lot to do with how our memories work. Because many of the boring things we do tend to seem unimportant to our brain, they will often not remain in our long term memories. So a boring period might seem long while and right after, but when we look back at it it seems short because we can't remember anything about it.

      And as you say if our focus gets weaker with age, our ability to store memories lessens. And we remember less about the time we spend and so it seems shorter than if we had been able to remember more details about it.

      The point is that how long we feel a period has been, has to do with how much we remember about it. The more we remember the longer it feels.

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      Tamara 2 years ago from U.S.A.

      It is an interesting idea you have but it does not mesh with my experience or others I know both with ageing and new experiences as opposed to routine ones. I find that the focus of events is what tends to alter time perception. If you do things that excite you then your focus is on the event (which takes your focus off of time causing it to move faster). If you do activities you deem as mundane/boring then you tend to focus on the time more which makes it appear to move more slowly). Age is also focus related. The older you get the less sharp and fresh your focus is so time is also not focused on thus it seems to fly by.

      I would also like to add that you can physically change with enough of a speed difference time (like one watch synchronized with another sits on Earth while it match is in a jet that breaks the sound barrier with speed- while they travel the times are different).

      Anyway, that is my 2 cents take it as you will. Peace to you.

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