Thursday, September 2, 2010

Time marches on

Today the average temperature was six degrees lower than yesterday's. By comparison, yesterday's average temperature was only about a half a degree lower than the day before. What I'm getting at is that, relatively speaking, from my subjective point of view, it was cold today. If any one day can be marked as the start of fall, today was it.

Working in a coffee shop, I get to talk to a lot of people about a lot of things, and as mundane as it may be, weather is a common topic. Today, everyone was marveling at the onset of a new season and the passing of another. Almost without exception, everyone also commented on how quickly summer went by. People say these sort of things all the time: "Such and such just breezed right by." "I can't believe it's already blankety blank." A summer is a fixed piece of time consisting of 91 days and about 7 hours. That's how long it is. Period. But there seems to be a consensus in the world at large that this particular summer went by more quickly than expected. It's as though the collective consciousness felt time constricting around it. Maybe this isn't our imagination. Maybe there are things we don't know about time, and maybe for the last few months time, space, and the whole shebang contracted around us little sentient things, making us remark on how fast a season was progressing.

Maybe. But what's more likely is that winter spilled into spring, spring blazed quickly into summer, and summer cooled quickly into fall, making anyone with a keen eye for weather comment on the long winter, and the short spring and summer. But there probably is a lot we don't know about time too.


The sun sets on summer


  1. You basically said all this, but there isn't really any sense in which time might speed up from our perspective, at least not locally in such a way that the seasons would actually seems to pass more quickly. Summer, like you said IS a certain length, technically it's the length of a certain number of a very basic physical process. It doesn't make much sense to say that this process might speed up or slow, except in terms of the same process in other locations. If a basic physical process speeds up relative to the same process in another region, in all probability, and perhaps necessarily so, the physical processes that give rise to our conscious awareness will also speed up relative the other region, thus there is some sense in which time would have quickened, but unless the divisions of these regions could occur locally we'd have no sense of any change and the seasons should always seems to pass at the same speed.

  2. I agree, and that's why I ended the post the way I did. But consider this: What if the speed of time COULD change, and there were a sense acceleration or deceleration? When we take off in an airplane, we get thrust back into our seat from the change in velocity, but in the middle of the flight we're happily unaware of going 600 mph faster than the ground below. In the case of time acceleration, it wouldn't be felt the way we feel change in physical velocity, but we may experience it in some ineffable sixth-sense sort of way. Ponder that!