During the fourth chapter, we are brought a week into the future and see Hosokawa and Gen looking outside, as time slips away. The hostage situation has made the hostages lose concept of time. As if “the world had become a giant train station in which everything was delayed until further notice”, as if time had stopped. I began researching how we experience time, why certain experiences pass by quicker and others that feel like an eternity. I came across a book, “A watched Pot: How we experience time”, where the author explains our locked human condition and how ‘suffering, violence, danger, boredom, exhilaration, concentration, shock, and novelty’ influence our experiences of time. Flaherty discusses how there are three paradoxes of experiencing time. He explains how certain high stimuli experiences can also stretch time just as much a low stimuli experience. For example, he gives several personal accounts of people in combat, car accidents, and other highly eventful situations experiencing time as being stretched. Much in the same way people sitting in a doctor’s office waiting for their appointment feel time going on forever. Which goes against the old folk saying that time flies when you’re busy or actively doing something, versus ‘empty’ time. The second paradox is that the same interval of time which is was experienced as time being stretched, in the present can be remembered as having passed quickly in retrospect. His example is a personal account of an inmate in jail. The third paradox is that some busy experiences are experienced as taking far longer, while other busy experiences are experienced as having passed quickly.
I came across an experiment that also dealt with how we experience time. The premise of the experiment was testing a groups “subjective” experience of time. They had to look at a screen and say whether a dot was there for a shorter or longer period of time. But something interesting happened when they increased the size of the dot. People began overestimating time the dot lasted on the screen. However, when this was not true when the dot had shrunk in size. When examining the brain scans, they discovered something fascinating. When the object was growing in size, structure in the middle of the brain started becoming active. These areas of the brain are associated with self-judgement, the brain thinking about itself, relating oneself to the rest of the world, including position. This made sense as the dot appeared to come closer as it grew larger. The part of the brain involving the left anterior insula was more active when the dot was getting smaller (or seemingly move away). This area of the brain has to do with safety and relaxation. This all related to our evolution and recognition of predators, time seems to slow when an entity is approaching us, but when it is moving away, we feel safer and not endangered by said predator. This is advantageous, because it allows for a quicker reaction time.
I focused on the idea of duration, the passage of time itself. I found out that I’m obviously not the first person to be fascinated by the passage of time itself. A Christian by the name of Augustine in 354 AD was also interested in the same idea, but also its relation to God. He wrote a book called the “Confessions”, where he raises a conundrum. When someone states a situation was short or long, what is that is being described as of short of long in duration? He says it cannot be the past, because it ceases to be, and what is non-existent cannot have any properties. But it cannot be what is present because the present has no duration, that while an event is going on, its duration cannot be determined. This interesting idea led me to a philosopher by the name of Alan Watts. He stated that “the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is”. It took a moment it register that thought in my head, because when most of us think of time, we think of it as a passage of events with a duration. We experience point A, and then Point B and remember point A as a memory that happened earlier. Except that they all occurred in the present, not simultaneously however. Even when one thinks about the past, like the beginning of my post, to the future, where I end this post. All of this is experienced in the present.
I switched over to see a more scientific approach towards time, and in more astronomical terms as well. Even though the previous paragraph stated at the end we experience time in the present, technically it is in the past (in a sense). To explain this easier, let’s say someone says something, and then you understand what they said. Between those two points, the sound waves had to travel from that person into your auditory canal to be registered by your brain into the languages you have stored in your memory. This happens simultaneously, so it isn’t noticed as a delay. However, on a much grander scale, we can see this in the stars themselves. When we look out into the night sky, we see the universe as it existed in the past. Light takes time to travel before it reaches our eyes, so in a real sense when you look out at night, you’re essentially indirectly time travelling. Seeing stars that may have died billions of years ago. This is a surprisingly wonderful result of the physics in our universe.
Another interesting aspect of space and time is that time is actually bendable. Wherever gravity increases in intensity in the universe, time also increases with it. It is why satellites need to be adjusted every so often to match clocks on the surface of the earth, but it isn’t a mechanical malfunction, its called time dilation. An extreme of this, for example, if one fell into a black whole, a point of infinite mass and density, time would be slowed exponentially. So much so that time would almost stop for the individual, and according to one theory (if you weren’t crushed completely by nearing the black hole) that the whole universe would age into its death before you reached the center. People looking outside would always see this non-aging individual until he or she passes the event horizon, which is the point where even light cannot escape. In a less extreme case, we can use high gravitation areas to essentially thrust ourselves forward into time. What would have been five years for an astronaut flying a ship around a black hole, would have been 500 years for everyone else on earth depending how close the ship was to the black hole. This happens to be the issue of space travel however, as one approaches the speed of light, time will slow. But In order to reach other star systems in a timely fashion, we need to be able to travel as fast, or even faster than the speed of light. This cannot be done because exponentially more and more energy would be required to thrust an object at the speed of light. The holy grail of star travel is to figure out how to traverse the vast distances of space without being hindered by the time problem.
Flaherty, Michael G. 1999. A watched pot how we experience time. New York: New York University Press. http://site.ebrary.com/id/10032546.
Paulous, Martin. “Why Does Time Fly?” Scientific American Global RSS. Accessed September 24, 2015. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-time-fly/.
Poidevin, Robin. “The Experience and Perception of Time.” Stanford University. August 28, 2000. Accessed September 24, 2015.
Watts, Alan. 1957. The way of Zen. New York: Pantheon.
Marder, Leslie. 1971. Time and the space-traveller. London: Allen and Unwin.