It is not long after a new year begins that we start to hear people, specially the older ones, lamenting how quickly the year is already ticking by.
Does time speed up as we grow older?
‘It amazing, it is February already’ they say. And as the year goes on their sense of amazement grows. By this time of year, December, it is intense, and the older the person commenting, the more intense these comments seem to be.
Making a similar observation, although expressing it more eloquently, William Shakespeare’s central character in Henry V comments: ''In my youth I doth waste time, now time in its infinite wisdom doth waste me''.
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Do you remember when you were a child all those years ago?
If so, you perhaps remember how you reacted after asking your mother to go to the cinema or do something equally special, only for her to say, maybe next week. Apart from understanding that maybe meant almost certainly not, you thought to yourself, a whole week, I can’t wait that long.
A week to a 10-year-old is forever!
Now, if your partner suggests that you might go to the movies in a week's time, you possibly say, I don’t have time, it will have to be in three weeks. At 40, 50 and 60, a week seems like an instant. You are planning weeks ahead, where as the child struggled to plan hours ahead.
The older you get, the faster time seems to move.
Albert Einstein had one of the most imaginative and inspirational minds of the last century. He was a genius, not the kind that football commentators and music fans talk about, but a genuine genius.
Using pure mathematics alone, he discovered things that have taken physicists 50 or 60 years to prove through experimentation, as the technology became available. Through his brilliance, Eintein brought us the theory of relativity and E=MC2, among many other amazing discoveries.
To my mind, one of his most brilliant discoveries was that time was not, contrary to popular belief, a constant. That is, contrary to the wisdom of the time and the intuition of many today, Einstein established that time did not travel as a constant speed. He established that time was in fact the fourth dimension, and like the other three was a variable.
And he was 100 percent correct.
If you take two atomic clocks, the most accurate time device known to man, and place one on a supersonic jet and the other on a slow-moving ship, the fact that time is not a constant can be readily demonstrated. If the two vehicles take their respective clocks from say, New York to London, by the time they are both there in London, the clock in the jet will show a time milliseconds behind the one in the ship.
Einstein found that time slows down or speeds up depending on how fast you move relative to something else. Approaching the speed of light, a person inside a spaceship would age much slower than his twin at home. Also, under Einstein's theory of general relativity, gravity can bend time.
On this basis, perhaps time does move at different speeds as you age.
Professor Brian Schmidt, Vice Chancellor at the United Nations University, was asked a question along these lines on the ABC program Q and A one night.
While congratulating the woman on a clever question, the good professor assured her that while time was not a constant, it only appeared to move faster as we aged.
The speed per se does not change – an observation that makes perfect sense given that people of all ages live in the same world, using the same clocks.
So why does time seem to move faster as we age? This is a phenomenon that has now been research and substantiated by a range of scientists, including research psychologists Marc Wittman and Sandra Lenhoff of Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich.
Wittman and Lenhoff concluded that when it comes to how we perceive time, humans can estimate the length of an event from two very different perspectives: a prospective vantage, while an event is still occurring; or a retrospective one, after it has ended.
In addition, our experience of time varies with whatever we are doing and how we feel about it. In fact, time does fly when we are having fun. Engaging in a novel exploit makes time appear to pass more quickly in the moment. But if we remember that activity later on, it will seem to have lasted longer than more mundane experiences.
It seems the more active we are, the faster times seems to move.
Children have less to do in their day, so for them time moves more slowly. Adults have more to do, and for them time seems to move more quickly. Then as we grow old and slow down, time seems to slow down again, but not so much that we ever regain the perception of the child.
All that shit aside, 2017 sure has gone quickly!!