Tempus Fugit, Radio 4
Time flies in a riveting look at how to make life last
Sunday 06 December 2009
As George Harrison sang, "Each day just goes so fast/ I turn around, it's past". Would you like to slow down that mad acceleration towards the grave? Want to know how to live longer, or at least make it seem as though you're living longer? Read on. You'll need your toothbrush.
As Ian Peacock discovered in the riveting Tempus Fugit, we're still not completely sure how our brains process time. I once had the idea that things seem to speed up as we get older because each successive day is an increasingly smaller fraction of our lives, and it was gratifying to hear maths egghead Marcus du Sautoy voice the same theory (words I never expected to write, I must say).
But it's more complex than that, apparently. Car-crash survivors report it happening in slow motion, and David Eagleman, an excitable American neuroscientist, wanted to see if that's just how we're remembering, or whether our time-resolution actually increases during the event.
So he sent a guinea pig, a graduate student called Chess Stetson (oh yes), off the top of a 150ft tower in Dallas into a safety net – it's called Scad diving, and is reportedly terrifying. He was wearing a special watch flashing the time so quickly that it's beyond normal vision. If Chess (who we heard screaming in the background) could read it on the way down, Eagleman explained, then we'd know.
He couldn't, and what Eagleman found is that fear has its own memory track. In fact our brains construct time subjectively, and when we're neurally aroused by new experiences, emotions and perceptions – not necessarily scary ones – time seems to dilate so we can accommodate it all.
So, says Eagleman, we can make it feel that we live longer by injecting novelty into our lives: "Even brushing your teeth with your other hand – anything that switches it up so that you're getting out of the neural ruts that you're in and laying down different sorts of memories."
I tried it, the toothbrush thing, for what I estimated to be 30 seconds. It was 27. So did time slow down, or speed up? Am I nearer my grave, or further away? I'm not entirely sure. Anyway, I'll report back when I've tried the 150ft jump.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Miley Cyrus' homeless MTV VMAs date, Jesse Helt, is wanted by the police
- 2 Arizona shooting: Gun instructor accidentally killed by nine-year-old girl with Uzi
- 3 Paul Scholes: Manchester City were so good against Liverpool I felt like turning the television off
- 4 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 5 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
Great British Bake Off, episode 4, review: Heat gets turned up as Iain goes into meltdown
Doctor Who kiss sparks Ofcom complaints over 'weird lesbian-lizard perv trip'
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
Emmys 2014: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Steven Moffat win big awards for Sherlock
Homer Simpson takes the ALS ice bucket challenge because of course he does
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Arizona shooting: Gun instructor accidentally killed by nine-year-old girl with Uzi
- < Previous
- Next >