Saturday, December 31, 2005

The speed of Time

Saturday, December 31, 2005

The speed of Time

It’s true. As you get older, the rate at which time progresses increases exponentially. It happens in stages and I've narrowed it down to three.

The first is college. Those 4 or 5 years leading up to your diploma seem to be a distant memory by graduation day and suddenly the real world begins.

(While it might be said that your high school years should be mentioned first, I'm of the belief that in the grand scheme of things, high school can be grouped into the "child years" phase where for the most part you have no worries. You play video games, you go to school then you get a job when you turn 16 then you play videogames some more.)

The second stage is marriage. Maybe you date your girlfriend for 3 or 4 years. You travel, go on hikes or just hang out and pass the time watching movies. But once you say your "I dos", forget about Saturday afternoons feeling like an eternity. Before you know it, 2 years have passed and kids begins to enter the mental picture and you both wonder what in the hell happened.

The third stage is child birth. Get ready because this stage is instantaneous. Once that child enters the world, the earth, for reasons unknown, begins to rotate much faster decreasing the length of day. No longer is a day 24 hours, its more like 15. Time on your watch begins to skip. You look down and its reads 12PM. You look down again and it reads 3PM! In essence, the laws of physics change for you and your wife. A temporal rift of some sort envelopes your world and its gets more pronounced every second!

For me, the whirlwind treadmill ride that is 2005 is complete. I just stand back and think about that for a bit and it hits me. I am deep into the longest stage of them all: Stage Three! Its odd looking back over the year realizing that for almost half of the year, I had my own child living and breathing in my house! Let me tell you, it’s more than a tad overwhelming. It’s downright frightening!

What about this thing called time? It’s a concept that many of us don't really understand. Yes, we see a clock on the wall and it moves each day but how do we know what an hour is or what a second is? According to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, the second is the duration of 9 192 631 770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground states of the caesium-133 atom at rest and at a temperature of zero Kelvin. I have no idea what that all means but its sounds good to me.

For insight on time that's doesn't resemble a doctorial dissertation, a professor of mine--who allegedly worked on the Manhattan Project no doubt getting coffee for the physicists--postulated that the rate at which you perceive time to progress is inversely proportional to your age and can be quantified as a percentage of your lifetime/experiences. That is, if you are 5 years old, one year is 1/5th of your life or 20% of all of your experiences. So as a kid, you perceive time as moving very slow. Conversely, when you are 50, one year is 1/50th of your life or 2% of all of your experiences. So one year at age 50, isn't perceived as a huge chuck of time so to a 50 year old, time seems to just fly by.

All of this coming from a professor who had severe posture problems, sounded like Jack Nicholson, wore ties from the late 40s and always ate mustard covered pieces of meat for lunch surrounded by books that were grossly outdated. Needless to say, I thought that he
was a bit senile.

Stage Three is by its very nature a paradox. It’s the most grueling but at the same time, it’s the most fulfilling. Now that I have a 6 month old son--who is always happy, loves to play and perhaps a bit rotund--I can appreciate Stage Three more fully. Sure it’s still frightening but that’s all apart of the magic that is parenthood. Yep, my professor's postulate though somewhat antiseptic couldn't be more right.

Here is to a happy and prosperous 2006. Don't forget the leap second

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