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Physics explains why time flies as we age

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Remember as a kid, how it took forever to go from one Christmas to the next? Remember how as a kid, you would always be wishing some forthcoming event you were looking forward to, would hurry up and arrive? Now in old or middle age we complain about how time flies. At last, we have an answer!!! 

 https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-03-physics-flies-age.html

According to Adrian Bejan, the J.A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke, this apparent temporal discrepancy can be blamed on the ever-slowing speed at which images are obtained and processed by the human brain as the body ages.

The theory was published online on March 18 in the journal European Review.

more at link.....

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So, does this mean that the previous theory has been replaced? Or are there now two competing theories?

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Posted (edited)
30 minutes ago, QuantumT said:

So, does this mean that the previous theory has been replaced? Or are there now two competing theories?

Not at all. It gives a reason for how the senses views the passage of time as one ages. Irrespective of one's age, any time dilation and length contraction would be seen as the same by an adult and a child. eg: A child still sees Alpha Centauri  as it was 4.3 years ago, the same as an adult does. Or as the article says, "Days seemed to last longer in your youth because the young mind receives more images during one day than the same mind in old age."  At least that's the way I see it.

But an interesting question which I certainly would like to get more expert opinion on.

Edited by beecee

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4 minutes ago, beecee said:

Not at all. It gives a reason for how the senses views the passage of time as one ages. Irrespective of one's age, any time dilation and length contraction would be seen as the same by an adult and a child. eg: A child still sees Alpha Centauri  as it was 4.3 years ago, the same as an adult does. Or as the article says, "Days seemed to last longer in your youth because the young mind receives more images during one day than the same mind in old age." At least that's the way I see it.

You didn't really address my question.

Here is the old theory

Quote

Our brain encodes new experiences, but not familiar ones, into memory, and our retrospective judgment of time is based on how many new memories we create over a certain period. In other words, the more new memories we build on a weekend getaway, the longer that trip will seem in hindsight.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-time-seem-to-speed-up-with-age/

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If I could make a comparison, it would be analogous to how large we see the Sun or Moon on the horizon, compared to at its zenith. Simply put, it is nothing more then an illusion.

1 minute ago, QuantumT said:

You didn't really address my question.

Here is the old theory

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-time-seem-to-speed-up-with-age/

OK, I misunderstood your "other theory"  :doh:and thought you were referring to relativity. 

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11 minutes ago, beecee said:

OK, I misunderstood your "other theory"  :doh:and thought you were referring to relativity.

Don't worry. The ability to "cross associate between different subjects" is actually a sign of high intelligence ;)

(I don't know if that is correct english...)

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Posted (edited)

My initial thought on why we experience time passing faster as we age was that when we do something we've already done we mentally pass right through it as it doesn't leave much of an impression (been there, done that). So, we tend to contemplate the new things we do because we enjoy new experiences and we quickly forget about mowing the lawn because we've already done that 10,000 times. So, as we get older we find less and less new things to experience and thusly, we glaze our increasing database of repetitious memories over with a dreamy intentional forgetfulness.

You could also theorize that our mental memories work much like our muscle memories work. When you repeatedly do a physical action such as swinging a baseball bat or turning on that light switch each time you walk in the room, your muscles remember that motion and after a while you start completing those repetitive physical actions unconsciously without any real effort.

On 3/20/2019 at 1:51 PM, QuantumT said:

You didn't really address my question.

Here is the old theory

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-time-seem-to-speed-up-with-age/

This article that QuantumT shared outlines what my initial thoughts were.

On 3/20/2019 at 12:45 PM, beecee said:

Remember as a kid, how it took forever to go from one Christmas to the next? Remember how as a kid, you would always be wishing some forthcoming event you were looking forward to, would hurry up and arrive? Now in old or middle age we complain about how time flies. At last, we have an answer!!! 

 https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-03-physics-flies-age.html

According to Adrian Bejan, the J.A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke, this apparent temporal discrepancy can be blamed on the ever-slowing speed at which images are obtained and processed by the human brain as the body ages.

The theory was published online on March 18 in the journal European Review.

more at link.....

This article is very intriguing and I always get a thrill whenever a new brain mechanism is discovered. Another step in the right direction.

One final example that proves this that you probably didn't think of is simply the memorization of times tables. Once you memorize them your brain stops calculating them and gives you instantly the answer.

Edited by Art Man

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It seems odd to me that we have multiple theories to explain an effect that may or may not exist.  Personally, I haven't found that time seems to pass more quickly as I age.  Is there any actual scientific evidence that the perception of the passage of time changes as we age? or is this a case of science trying to explain anecdotal perceptions?

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I have not seen the the full paper but based on the article in the link it seems somewhat far fetched. The article describes various elements such as long-term memory consolidation and short term time perception. The memory effect is real, but not necessarily due to processing speed, but there are again several mechanisms. One is that once memories are formed, they are harder to discard. New memories tend to be matched against those and are not processed in the same depth and stability, IIRC. Processing speed could affect immediate time perception, but this would not create the feeling that time flies.

In the short term, mental focusing seems to have a stronger effect. I.e. if you concentrate deeply in a task, it can alter your perception of time to some degree. Likewise, rewards, repetition and expectation have been shown to alter subjective time perception. There are reviews out there outlining the current knowledge of time perception mechanisms (again this relates to subjective timing not to long-term memory perception as mentioned in the article from OP) which also indicate that perception from all senses, consolidation of these signals, attention, memory, disease etc. all influence time perception. Thus, while there is no real consensus on the model itself, it is widely accepted to be a diverse and complex problem, which makes the article a bit too simplified as an explanation.

Purely from the linked article it seems to me that they use computer timing as an analogy to explain a biological phenomenon that on first sight does not seem plausible to me. But then again it is not really my specialty but at least based on the article, I am not certain that it is the author's, either.

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I think that how long ago an event appears to be is based on the degree of diversity or originality of experiences since that event. If you 9-to-5-it everyday day with little change, then you have less events in between to create a sense of much time passing. You ignore the experiences that are repeated when creating this sense of time-distance. When you are younger, the proportion of original experiences to routine experiences is much greater and therefore time seems slower.

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On 9/9/2019 at 11:15 AM, StringJunky said:

I think that how long ago an event appears to be is based on the degree of diversity or originality of experiences since that event. If you 9-to-5-it everyday day with little change, then you have less events in between to create a sense of much time passing. You ignore the experiences that are repeated when creating this sense of time-distance. When you are younger, the proportion of original experiences to routine experiences is much greater and therefore time seems slower.

Assuming the link is a fair representation of the article I would take bets that the author might be a physicist or engineer. From experience many tend to focus on narrow mechanisms and kind of neglect the rest of the biology (unless they have extensive interdisciplinary experience, which usually renders them somewhat even more cynical).

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