The Perception of Time

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.

“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”

– Douglas Adams

An atomic clock will lose about 1 second every one-hundred million years.

The SI time unit ‘second’ is calculated by the time an atom of caesim-133 oscillates between two different energy states. The natural way an atom oscillates is very stable, hence an atomic clock’s accuracy.

So, we’ve got the official unit of time out of the way but it doesn’t explain why we feel time passes at different rates depending on what we are doing or how old we are. That’s about our perception of time.

Time perception is a combination of how many visual images our eyes can ‘update’ to our brain, and how fast our brain can then process that information.

The human eye sees 30 Frames Per Second (FPS) i.e. when an image flickers on and off at 30fps or more we see a constant image. (Actually we see a constant image at slightly less than this as movies are typically shot at 24fps).

A fly doesn’t see a constant image until the flicker reaches 300fps. Our swatting hand is slow motion to them.

FPS is half the story, the brain’s processing power is the other half. It’s astonishing.

When we are engaged in interesting, challenging or enjoyable tasks time flies. My advice: set yourself challenges.

I have more to say but is that the time? Damn! Missed lunch.

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