Science - Nature
By: - at June 19, 2013

15 Interesting Facts About Time

Time FactsTime is one of those things that there never seems to be enough of. It is real, and it affects people's lives. Yet at the same time, it's a hard thing to grasp. People try to measure it. They try to catch it. They are engaged in a perpetual process of trying to save it and keep it. The fact is that time cannot truly be caught. A number of fascinating theories surrounding time exist. Time is rich with facts and beliefs as is any study, but it is also one of the more difficult studies to understand because studying time requires understanding it. And understanding time fully is something that no one has truly reached. That does not keep people from trying, and a number of fascinating facts have come out of these studies as people have tried to make the most of the time they have and understand the way that it influences people.

15)  Benjamin Franklin Proposed a Daylight Savings Type Solution But He Did Not Invent Daylight Savings
Daylight Savings TimeBack in the ancient times, there was no real concept of daylight savings time. Time was a somewhat flexible notion, and people generally measured time through the noon point. However, even then, there were significant differences. It was not until Benjamin Franklin that anyone really started considering the possibility that time could be better handled through shifting the perception of it.

Benjamin Franklin first proposed the idea to France while visiting during his service as an American envoy. He submitted a letter anonymously to the newspaper that recommended people save money on candles by getting up earlier when the sun rose earlier. However, this was as far as he took it.

The invention of the railway and instant communication is what brought about the requirement for a more consistent handling of time. Their effective use required a standardization unlike anything that the world had ever seen. George Vernon Hudson enjoyed collecting insects, but he only had a short amount of time in which to do it. During the shifting seasons, he found that it was rarely consistent. He wanted very much to be free from his job with enough time to be able to pursue his hobby. He eventually decided that the best solution was to propose a daylight savings shift. Hudson developed an extensive paper and proposed it to the Wellington Philosophical Society of New Zealand, his home in 1898.

William Willett:
William Willett

Another popular account as to how Daylight Savings Time came to be was that an Englishman named William Willett found himself annoyed at how much daylight and time was wasted during certain months. He disliked losing part of his day to the darkness. So he published his own proposal in 1905. He requested that Daylight Savings be implemented. The House of Commons received the Daylights Savings Bill, and committees were set up. The bill fell, and Willett spent the rest of his days fighting for its acceptance until his death in 1915.

Daylight savings eventually started throughout several countries in response to World War I. The purpose was, as Benjamin Franklin originally put it, to save candles and resources. Germany is credited as being the first to officially adopt it. The United States adopted it in 1918, although not all of the states agreed to accept it.

14)  The Length of a Day Increases Gradually Over the Years
Moon TideThe length of a day is actually increasing as time passes. It is estimated that by 140 million years from the current century, a single day will last approximately 25 hours. Discovery also puts the way that time increases more precisely. It states that a single second can be measured as 1/86,400 of a day. The effects of the tide on the sun and the moon cause decreases in the planet's rotation. This in turn causes increases in the length of the days. The length is by no means substantial. In fact, it's only 3 milliseconds per single century. Over time, that apparently adds up. They estimate that back in the Jurassic period, a day was only 23 hours long. This does not, however, take into account the fact that weather can also change the passage of time. During hurricanes and events like El Nino, winds slow down the Earth's rotational pull by fractions of milliseconds for each 24 hours of storm. Scientists have started adding the "leap second" on every few years to make sure that Earth remains in sync with time and the planet's rotation.

13)  Leap Year Was Invented to Avoid Date Drifting
Leap YearThe leap year is generally credited to Julius Caesar. He developed it around 45 or 46 BC and requested that an extra ten days be placed in the calendar months. He also decided that the single intercalary day had to take the place of the entire month. This particular day would only occur every few years, and it was to take place during the end of February.

At the time of his conclusion, Julius Caesar did not realize the precise length of a single year. A single year is actually 365.24219. By requiring a set year in which an extra day is given, calendars could be brought back into alignment. Otherwise, dates drifted significantly.

Of course, Julius Caesar's choice for February was not entirely without its share of hedonism. In the Roman culture, February was the final month of the year. It was actually a time of great celebration. The last days of the festival were among the finest, and so Julius Caesar extended the greatest party day to include an extra number of hours to set the world back on the proper course of time. Later on Pope Gregory XIII would release his own Gregorian calendar that corrected some of the issues with Julius Caesar's calendar. That is actually the one that people use today.

12)  The Railroad System Forced Standardized Time Zones
For centuries, each individual town and city had monitored its own time, if time was kept at all. In most of the European countries as well as the United States and Canada, people set their clocks by the current local time. This meant that every single city and town had a different time. For awhile, this worked fine. However, just as Daylight Savings fired the imagination once again because of railroads and increased communication, railroads and increased communications increased the demand for standardized time zones.

Railroad and Standardized Time Zones

The first incident of standardized time zones took place in Britain. The Railway Clearing House recommended that a general time zone be adopted across all of Britain so that there could be uniformity and they could increase efficiency. The Statutes Act, also known as the Definition of Time Act, passed in 1880. Standard time in the United States and Canada took significantly more work. The majority of Congressmen believed that time of day was purely local. They did not believe that the federal government could force such a change, and they were loathe to do so as well. William Lambert, an astronomer, spearheaded the movement in the United States to establish specific time zones. He developed a number of proposals along with the railway stations, insisting that it would create greater levels of effectiveness and participation. At first, this was still met with great existence. In fact, for a time, people could buy watches that had local time and railway time so that the individual cities and towns could maintain their own time zones. People soon realized that this was a lot of extra work. Instead of following this, they decided to develop particular time zones with clearly stated markings of each location. This way there could be greater efficiency, and there would still be some degree of local control.

11)  If Time Stops, Life Stops
A number of science fiction shows and movies have attempted to demonstrate what happens if time stops. That's not something that most people want to contemplate, and several theories exist. One of the more intriguing theories about what will happen if time stops is that everything will just immediately freeze. This particular theory was proposed by three scientists in Spain. They state that the appearance of expansion within the cosmos is nothing more than an illusion. As time slows, it looks as if it goes on forever. Through their mathematical calculations, these scientists believe that everything will stop at one point, and at that time, it will remain stopped because movement cannot occur without time.

Time and Life

The Scientific American has also determined that this research is probably sound. It states that there is evidence that time will at one point stop and that it makes sense, given the fact that time did not at one point exist. It describes it as being the paradox of time. Previously, most people assumed that time would continue forever, but Einstein's theory of relativity altered that perception. The question of what will happen, though, is one that they debate. They state that it is possible that at the death of time another greater and more timeless form of physics will develop, but there is no evidence to back this theory up.

10)  Perceptions of Time Vary By Country and Individual
Every person has the same amount of time in a day. However, the way that it is used changes the way that is perceived and handled. Researchers measured the activities and responses of people who lived in the three fastest paced cities in the world versus those who lived in the three slowest. What they discovered was that the individuals whom they observed did not actually have more to accomplish necessarily, but the people who acted as if they had more time actually had more time ultimately. They were less rushed and harried than their fast paced counterparts. This does not mean that time can be magically expanded, but it does indicate the importance of perception and priority in terms of handling the stress and the like.

Perceptions of Time Vary

This particular observation is even more striking when taken into the global community. People notice significant differences when comparing how time is handled in countries like the United States and Jamaica. However, the consequences go beyond this. Different countries measure time in different units. It states that in the United States, most people measure time in five minutes, but in Iran, fifteen minutes is usual. The intriguing part about this is that it was not any one particular task that led people to perceive these matters differently. It was just the standard unit of time that people measured from. It is also an indicator of a faster paced culture, and it is one that can wear people out significantly faster.

9)  No One Second Takes Longer, But Your Brain Can Lead You to Think It Is
Most people are convinced that second hands take longer to tick when they are watching. This is incorrect, but it is the perception of watching a second that makes it seem that way. Brain guided imaging studies have revealed that people tend to see things backwards because the eyes must shift back and forth. During this time, the brain must fill in the gaps. The only way that it can do this is through creating what is best described as an elongated second. The second still takes just as long, but it looks longer.

Seconds and Your Thoughts

8)  It's Better to Overestimate Time
Researchers from the University of Amsterdam as well as those at the Setting Time Aright conference agreed that the perception of time's pleasure depends on how much it takes and how closely that meets the expectations. If you say that you must complete a task within an hour, and you are able to complete it within fifteen minutes, you are likely to regard it as being significantly more pleasurable than you would if it had taken you the entire hour. The same is also true. When a task takes significantly longer to complete, then the pleasure drastically diminishes. This explains why people become so agitated with one another when someone is only a few minutes late. In the larger scheme of things, it actually isn't that big of a difference, but it feels like one. This is one of the illusions of time. This is also why most amusement parks and restaurants will try to make sure that they tell you that they think things will last significantly longer than they will.

Overestimate Time

7)  Not Everyone Has Had a Seven Day Week
The seven day week started out in Mesopotamia. Because they based their calendar off the new moon, the weeks had seven days in them. The seventh days were always days of celebration. Although they did not realize it at the time, Frierich Delitzsch went on to demonstrate that a seven day week was one that did accurately represent a quarter of a lunation. Other cultures have attempted different weeks. The Han Dynasty started off with five and ten day weeks. France attempted a 10 day work week as well, but they returned to the seven day when they saw the effect that it had on the people. The Soviet Union also tried to develop a different formation, but they abandoned it within a number of years.

7 day week

6)  Gravity Affects the Passage of Time
Einstein was one of the first to actually demonstrate that gravity makes time pass more slowly. This means that when airplane passengers fly where gravity is at its weakest, they age a little more on the flight. The aging is, of course, only in nanoseconds, but they are still aging faster. The phenomenon itself is known as gravitational time dilation. This phenomenon can be proven by the aging and counting of two atomic clocks. Scientists have gone through numerous steps to demonstrate both the theory of general relativity as well as the dilation of time.

Einstein Time and Gravity:
Einstein Time and Gravity
(Photo Credit: NASA)

One of the interesting things about this, though, is that all global positioning units must be corrected for this phenomenon. The largest sources of experiments were those related to the white dwarf star Sirius B.

5)  Everybody Experiences Time in a Unique Way
No two people will experience one single moment in the same way. This is partially due to the fact that everyone is doing something different with the time that they have, and it is also due to the fact that individual perception colors time just as much as its actual passage. The consciousness of an individual adds just as much to the passage of time and its fullness or emptiness as regular time. This was demonstrated with Einstein's theory of relativity as well as Isaac Newton's theories on the passage of time. It goes on to state that time as it is measured by atomic clocks and the like is not the most important time at all. Rather an individual's own measuring of time and its responses is the most important time.

Unique Time Perception

4)  Time is the Fourth Dimension Humans Cannot See
People are three dimensional creatures. Individuals are locked into their particular dimensional sets. A one dimensional being cannot perceive a third dimensional being and so on. Time, however, is the fourth dimension. Humans can perceive length, height, and width because they are three dimensional creatures. If they were fourth dimensional creatures, then time could be seen. Because humans cannot see it, all it can register are the markings of time and its effect. The fact that humans are three dimensional is also what keeps them moving in one direction through time rather than multiple directions. The current research proposes that if science could find a way to make humans capable of experiencing the fourth dimension in a more interactive way, then time travel and the reversal of aging would be possible.

Time is the 4th Dimension

3)  People Always Live in the Past
People forever live in the past. According to this theory, every person is living at least 80 milliseconds in the past. The example that the author gives asks that readers place their one hand to their nose and the other hand on their feet at the same time. It appears to be simultaneous. However, David Eagleman points out that it is impossible for these two actions to occur simultaneously. It is necessary for your body to transmit the impulse to your feet farther than it does to your nose. He claims that the result indicates that human consciousness sometimes creates delays so that it is possible for things to occur simultaneously.

motion blur due to time

This theory has a great deal of authority. It indicates the importance of the passage of time as well as the misperceptions that people make in interpreting life. People cannot be conscious of the impulses passing through their nerves, nor can they be aware of every fractional and minute operation of their bodies. As such, some amount of misperception is necessary.

2)  Consciousness Requires Imagination

Scene from "Back to the Future":

More specifically, consciousness of time requires the ability to imagine that there are other times. Malcolm MacIver, one of the conference participants at Setting Time Aright used this to distinguish and describe why time and consciousness are so essential. He goes on to point out that it is not necessary that people have a full big picture of time. It is the ability to contemplate the possibilities of time and other times that allow people to be conscious. This is what separates humanity from animals. Animals and plants do not contemplate in their consciousness. They merely choose something based on instincts. Man often fights his instincts. In fact, time will seem to pass slower when one is fighting one's instincts. However, it is the ability to imagine and to conceive that creates consciousness and allows people to live.

1)  False Memories Can Be as Real as Real Ones
In a series of studies, researchers decided to test participants to determine the reality of their memories. Some of these participants were hooked up to lie detector tests and other tools to gauge their indicators. Through this, they could monitor all of the signs that would otherwise indicate that the person was knowingly lying. The experiment continued, and the participants were asked to recount their visits to Disney Land. During the course of this experiment, an image was flashed in front of them revealing Bugs Bunny waving while standing next to Mickey Mouse. The participants were then asked whether they got their picture taken with Bugs Bunny or whether they enjoyed seeing Bugs Bunny there that day. The majority of the participants stated that they had. The truth telling machines did not register any lies, even though it was impossible for the participants to have seen Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse together at Disney Land.

False Memories

This study and other similar ones have demonstrated that people fill in the gaps of their memories with details that they can obtain at the time the memory is needed. The brain does not recall every facet of information. Instead, it files it away with the major pieces intact. Yet even those major pieces can sometimes be deleted or rearranged. When trying to remember something, people will remember things in the way that most makes sense. In some cases, this results in false narratives. Rewriting your history can take a great deal of effort, but it can be done. Most people do it on a significantly smaller scale, and the perceived memories can have just as great an effect as the actual occurrence.

Even in law, eyewitness testimony is not nearly as valuable as most people assume. Harvard Law Review published the account of a suicidal man in the New York subway. In front of more than a hundred witnesses, he ran out and leaped in front of the train. He was killed on impact. The police arrived, and they took statements from all of the people there. This particular scenario should have been one of the most perfect scenarios for determining the ability of people to be objective in their perceptions of time and consciousness. Yet that was not the case. While there were many key similarities, everyone who gave a testimony had a different perception. Some claimed that the man had just fallen in while others stated that he leaped a great distance in. There were even discrepancies about what he was wearing even though everyone saw the precise same events.

Perception and consciousness work together along with the perception of time to create memories. Through recalling, people are unable to always remember it correctly, and their memories fill in the gaps with what makes the most sense to them.





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