from the world's big
‘Time is elastic’: Why time passes faster atop a mountain than at sea level
The idea of 'absolute time' is an illusion. Physics and subjective experience reveal why.
- Since Einstein posited his theory of general relativity, we've understood that gravity has the power to warp space and time.
- This "time dilation" effect occurs even at small levels.
- Outside of physics, we experience distortions in how we perceive time — sometimes to a startling extent.
Place one clock at the top of a mountain. Place another on the beach. Eventually, you'll see that each clock tells a different time. Why? Time moves slower as you get closer to Earth, because, as Einstein posited in his theory of general relativity, the gravity of a large mass, like Earth, warps the space and time around it.
Scientists first observed this "time dilation" effect on the cosmic scale, such as when a star passes near a black hole. Then, in 2010, researchers observed the same effect on a much smaller scale, using two extremely precise atomic clocks, one placed 33 centimeters higher than the other. Again, time moved slower for the clock closer to Earth.
The differences were tiny, but the implications were massive: absolute time does not exist. For each clock in the world, and for each of us, time passes slightly differently. But even if time is passing at ever-fluctuating speeds throughout the universe, time is still passing in some kind of objective sense, right? Maybe not.
Physics without time
In his book "The Order of Time," Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli suggests that our perception of time — our sense that time is forever flowing forward — could be a highly subjective projection. After all, when you look at reality on the smallest scale (using equations of quantum gravity, at least), time vanishes.
"If I observe the microscopic state of things," writes Rovelli, "then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between 'cause' and 'effect.'"
So, why do we perceive time as flowing forward? Rovelli notes that, although time disappears on extremely small scales, we still obviously perceive events occur sequentially in reality. In other words, we observe entropy: Order changing into disorder; an egg cracking and getting scrambled.
Rovelli says key aspects of time are described by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that heat always passes from hot to cold. This is a one-way street. For example, an ice cube melts into a hot cup of tea, never the reverse. Rovelli suggests a similar phenomenon might explain why we're only able to perceive the past and not the future.
"Any time the future is definitely distinguishable from the past, there is something like heat involved," Rovelli wrote for the Financial Times. "Thermodynamics traces the direction of time to something called the 'low entropy of the past', a still mysterious phenomenon on which discussions rage."
"Entropy growth orients time and permits the existence of traces of the past, and these permit the possibility of memories, which hold together our sense of identity. I suspect that what we call the "flowing" of time has to be understood by studying the structure of our brain rather than by studying physics: evolution has shaped our brain into a machine that feeds off memory in order to anticipate the future. This is what we are listening to when we listen to the passing of time. Understanding the "flowing" of time is therefore something that may pertain to neuroscience more than to fundamental physics. Searching for the explanation of the feeling of flow in physics might be a mistake."
Scientists still have much to learn about how we perceive time, and why time operates differently depending on the scale. But what's certain is that, outside of the realm of physics, our individual perception of time is also surprisingly elastic.
The strange subjectivity of time
Time moves differently atop a mountain than it does on a beach. But you don't need to travel any distance at all to experience strange distortions in your perception of time. In moments of life-or-death fear, for example, your brain would release large amounts of adrenaline, which would speed up your internal clock, causing you to perceive the outside world as moving slowly.
Another common distortion occurs when we focus our attention in particular ways.
"If you're thinking about how time is currently passing by, the biggest factor influencing your time perception is attention," Aaron Sackett, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, told Gizmodo. "The more attention you give to the passage of time, the slower it tends to go. As you become distracted from time's passing—perhaps by something interesting happening nearby, or a good daydreaming session—you're more likely to lose track of time, giving you the feeling that it's slipping by more quickly than before. "Time flies when you're having fun," they say, but really, it's more like "time flies when you're thinking about other things." That's why time will also often fly by when you're definitely not having fun—like when you're having a heated argument or are terrified about an upcoming presentation."
One of the most mysterious ways people experience time-perception distortions is through psychedelic drugs. In an interview with The Guardian, Rovelli described a time he experimented with LSD.
"It was an extraordinarily strong experience that touched me also intellectually," he said. "Among the strange phenomena was the sense of time stopping. Things were happening in my mind but the clock was not going ahead; the flow of time was not passing any more. It was a total subversion of the structure of reality."
It seems few scientists or philosophers believe time is completely an illusion.
"What we call time is a rich, stratified concept; it has many layers," Rovelli told Physics Today. "Some of time's layers apply only at limited scales within limited domains. This does not make them illusions."What is an illusion is the idea that time flows at an absolute rate. The river of time might be flowing forever forward, but it moves at different speeds, between people, and even within your own mind.
- Different Personalities Experience Time Differently - Big Think ›
- 4 temporal illusions your brain regularly employs - Big Think ›
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Stress and anxiety therapist Dr. Amelia Aldao suggests waiting 60 seconds before reacting to a stressor, giving your rational mind time to catch up to your emotions.
- Stress is a complex defense mechanism that we experience in relation to either internal or external threats.
- Self-inflicted stress is stress we inflict upon ourselves with our emotional and behavioral responses to certain situations. An example of self-inflicted stress would be your car breaking down on the morning of an important meeting because your "check engine" let had been on, but you ignored it.
- There are a few ways for you to cope with self-inflicted internal and external stressors, put forth by researchers and therapists.
What is “self-inflicted stress”?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg3NDgwMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5ODUyNzQ5M30.plH9mP77sPf3-un8g7KNIU84ad6zVgKIbQONcopUGK0/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C52%2C0%2C52&height=700" id="ee733" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0ba6b904a1542563f02dfe038f18fe50" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="concept of stress businesswoman feeling stressed at her desk" />
Stress is a complex defence mechanism that each of us experiences differently depending on our personality and the circumstances of the situation.
Photo by Kite_rin on Shutterstock<p>Stress is an adaptation of a living organism to internal or external threats. It's a complex defense mechanism that each of us experiences in vastly different ways depending on various factors such as personality, causal factors, and circumstance.</p><p>Studies show that positive emotions (happiness, comfort, pleasure, etc) allow us to consider a larger set of options in order to make faster, smarter decisions. The opposite is also true - unpleasant emotions (anger, stress, fear, etc.) overwhelm our rational minds and impact our behavior in ways that damage our ability to make smart, rational choices. </p><p>Stressors can be either external or internal, and this greatly impacts how we react to that stressful situation. </p><p><strong>Examples of self-inflicted internal stress (stress we inflict on ourselves by how we manage expectations, time, relationships, and emotions) can include:</strong> </p><ul><li>Putting pressure on yourself to excel at something within an unrealistic timespan.</li><li>Negative self-talk after not being able to complete something (realistic or not). </li><li>Fear of public speaking, thinking you're going to make a mistake in front of everyone even if you're prepared.</li><li>Not having enough time in the day to complete your "to-do" list and having thoughts of not being good enough because you didn't complete an unrealistic goal. </li><li>An "all or nothing" attitude (example: if I can't get everything on my list done today I just won't do anything at all." </li></ul><p>In more serious situations, these kinds of internal stressors can lead to feelings of anxiety and/or depression. </p><p><strong>Examples of self-inflicted external stress can include:</strong> </p><ul><li>Planning a vacation in a time of budget cuts at work only to discover that your salary has been lowered in a time where you've spent more money than normal. </li><li>Procrastinating to study for an upcoming exam or presentation and then staying up all night the day before. </li><li>Ignoring the "check engine" light in your car only to have it break down in a moment of urgency (picking a child up from school, on your way to a meeting, etc). </li></ul>
How to manage your self-inflicted stress<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg3NDgwMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTUxNjY2MX0.UvFSTWkXcFi4qIqv1moPKac3KIPJugywdeSePEw2Upo/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C103%2C0%2C1&height=700" id="c0a57" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6a683cb20ee3a37aa850b32b39560db9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="concept stress man squeezing happy face stress ball" />
A tip: wait one full minute before doing anything in reaction to the stressor.
Photo by Obak on Shutterstock<p>Over time, stress can damage areas of your life (adding even more stress) such as you having trouble sleeping, losing your appetite, losing interest in daily activities due to stress. Symptoms that you are stressed can include things like irritability, headaches/migraines, stomach pains, and unbalanced emotions.</p> <p>How do you cope with stress? There are a few different methods that are specifically designed to help you overcome self-inflicted stressors in your life. </p> <p><strong>Take a full 60 seconds of pause before doing anything.<br></strong>The 60 Second Method is simple: wait one minute before doing anything in reaction to the stressor. It can be as simple as that, according to OCD, stress, anxiety and depression therapist <a href="https://www.togethercbt.com/groups" target="_blank">Dr. Amelia Aldao</a>.</p> <p>"In particular," she explains in <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sweet-emotion/202003/the-60-second-approach-managing-emotions" target="_blank">this Psychology Today article</a>, "don't follow what the emotion is telling you to do. Don't send that angry text, don't decline the invitation to present at work, don't tell your potential date you're too busy this week…" </p> <p>While this is extremely difficult for some people, pausing before reacting to a stressful situation gives your "rational brain" the ability to catch up. The best thing you can do is "stay with your emotion", according to Dr. Aldao, "but don't act it out." </p> <p>Experiencing the emotions is a good thing, we should never ignore how certain situations (even stressful ones) make us feel - but acting from a place of pure emotion (instead of thinking rationally about a proper action to follow the situation) can be detrimental to our mental health. </p> <p>According to Dr. Aldao, by the end of these 60 seconds, the intensity of your initial emotional reaction to the stressor should have somewhat subsided, allowing you to act from a place of rationality than a place of hasty emotion. </p> <p><strong>Prioritize your schedule and manage your time in a realistic way to motivate yourself.<br></strong>When it comes to internal stressors, much of the time we inflict these upon ourselves with ever-growing to-do lists and agendas that seem impossible to get through. This, in a way, is setting ourselves up for failure, because we aren't giving ourselves realistic goals that can encourage us to keep going.</p> <p>Instead, what you're doing, is designing a system that will make you feel more stressed the more work you do because even if you complete the work, it will seem as though you're falling behind. </p> <p>Instead, you should operate in a prioritization system. This can be done by splitting your to-do list into categories such as immediate (needs to be done in the next 3 hours), average (needs to be done sometime today) and non-critical (can easily be done tomorrow or the next day). </p> <p><strong>Ask for help and accept that you might not be able to accomplish everything on your own (or risk falling apart).<br></strong><a href="https://www.ruthklein.com/" target="_blank">Productivity coach Ruth Klein</a>, who has also authored a book called Time Management Secrets for Working Women, explains that you should start by asking yourself what the top three priorities for the day are. If there are more than three main things, delegate some of your work to someone else or push back deadlines if you can. It takes courage to admit you can't do it all, but ultimately that might be your best option.</p> <p>Waiting too long to ask for help, according to Klein, will eventually lead us into an "overwhelmed crisis" which tends to zap us of all energy and motivation. </p> <p><strong>Acknowledge that some (if not most) of your stress may be self-inflicted and make changes to fix that.<br></strong>While there are external stressors that we have little to no control over, there are lots of times when the stress we feel is self-inflicted. And when stress is self-inflicted it can also be self-solved, even when that feels impossible.</p> <p>When we are managing self-inflicted stress, it can be extremely difficult to see outside of our bubble of worry. We are focused on trying to beat the stress because we don't want to feel stressed - it seems like a solution. But if your stress isn't motivating you to get things done (and is instead actually hindering you from being productive) it's time for you to change how you react to your stress. </p> <p><em>"What can I do to lessen my stress right now?" </em></p> <p><a href="https://www.lessstresscoach.com/2016/12/21/do-you-suffer-from-self-inflicted-stress/" target="_blank">Jamie Sussel Turner</a> (otherwise known as "The Less Stress Coach") explains that asking yourself this question and acknowledging some of the harmful behaviors and emotions you're feeling that are negatively impacting your stress levels can help us re-evaluate the importance of the things we're trying to do. </p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?