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Why Time Flies By As You Get Older 252

Ant notes a piece up on WBUR Boston addressing theories to explain the universal human experience that time seems to pass faster as you get older. Here's the 9-minute audio (MP3). Several explanations are tried out: that brains lay down more information for novel experiences; that the "clock" for nerve impulses in aging brains runs slower; and that each interval of time represents a diminishing fraction of life as we age.
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Why Time Flies By As You Get Older

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @11:04PM (#31004826)

    And we just think it does.

  • Re:Ugh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @11:24PM (#31005082)
    definately would. you don't understand it yet, but you will never be healthier and more free then you are right now. i'm turning 30 this year and already i can see why they say youth is wasted on the young.
  • Perception (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @11:25PM (#31005086)
    Generally young people have a lot more to look forward too so time seems to go by quickly, older people have really not much to look forward to so time goes slowly. How many times in school did you count down the days till summer? With older people there is less to look forward to because there is generally less things to -do- that is fresh and new. While you might have really enjoyed TV while young, by the time someone is older they begin to see that all of the plots are exactly the same.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @11:57PM (#31005426)

    Actually you are very close but you stole an idea I had almost 50 years ago but even then I thank Einstein for his relativity theory. :)

    Time in fact is relative so that when you are 2 years old 1 year is half your life so it represents a very long sense of time. When you are 50 it is 1/50th of your life so the passage of 1 year is very little time.

    The sense of time is at least in part a function of your life experience and you can check this by simply talking with young children about the time frame of christmas or birthdays or if you discuss an exciting event that is approaching. Their sense of time is distorted compared to say the perception of someone 25 or 50 waiting to experience the same type of event and what they will describe how far away it seems.

    But there is one constant. No matter the age of a person, if they are kept busy or focused on something, the sense of time changing will be described in a similar fashion by all those age groups. It speeds up. How about a really good movie compared to a boring one. Ask a kid. This is an important factor if you want to claim the sense of time passage relates to simply a biological aging of our built in clock. Our internal clock doesn't just go wonky because someone is older. Not unless from the time we are born it begins to act erratically.

    So my conclusion is to go with Einstein in that time is relative.

  • by Roblimo ( 357 ) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @11:57PM (#31005428) Homepage Journal

    Exactly. At age 57, time doesn't "pass faster" for me than it did when I was 23 or 24, but each day adds a lower percentage of new experiences and memories than it did back then. This should be obvious to most people over age 10 who have decent memories.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:01AM (#31005458)

    I would say it has to do with what the brain expects. When we are young, or we try something novel, the brain doesn't know how to best allocate resources to it. So it allocates more resources to counter the unexpected events that could pop up, this results in some energy waste.

    When we do something we have done before, we know what to expect so that the brain can efficiently calculate resources required for that task. This more efficient resource allocation results in dampened personal experience as we age, because incidents of unexpected events reduce in frequency.

  • my theory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by physburn ( 1095481 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:08AM (#31005504) Homepage Journal
    I've oft thought that you measure duration, by how many interesting events have happened in the time span, you've been measuring. Although boring times, drag by, when you in them. Looking backward you rembember so little of them, that the time has almost disappeared from you mind. Of course as you get older, there's less and less that you haven't already seen before, and so looking back time seems to be moving so much quicker.


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  • Re:Ugh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:22AM (#31005638)
    i'm turning 30 this year and already i can see why they say youth is wasted on the young.

    If you're 30, then you are young. You should have another 10 years or so before the effects of entropy really start making themselves noticed. Mind you, although my knees and ankles creak and my eyes don't work that well, I really wouldn't want the chore of having to live the last 5 decades all over again....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:37AM (#31006208)

    Other than being something interesting to think about, why would this cause my actual perception of time to change?

    The perceived flow of time depends on what you're doing and thinking. This is obvious even to children, who get bored sitting in a doctor's office for 20 minutes but complain that they didn't have enough time to play after 4 hours of friend time. If it seems related to age, it's because our typical patterns of thought change as we age, and we grow more patient. Duh. I don't see what the big mystery is here.

  • Re:Not a chance! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gyrogeerloose ( 849181 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:58AM (#31006334) Journal

    I wouldn't trade my 65 years of experiences and my white hair for anything in this world.

    I'd trade for some better teeth, though.

  • Re:Michio Kaku (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) <> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @02:42AM (#31006584) Homepage Journal

    Aren't you awfully young to be drinking coffee?

  • Re:Ugh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jasonq ( 244142 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @05:19AM (#31007520)

    Bugger that! Think of all the abysmal 1980s music you skipped over. A Flock of seagulls, Wham, Adam and The Ants, Human League, Culture Club etc.

    And Lady GaGa is an improvement?

  • Re:Ugh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dario_moreno ( 263767 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @05:32AM (#31007582) Journal
    8 and 16 bit computing are the only positive things from the eighties...with "Wargames" or "Back to the Future" and "Indiana Jones" movies. CD marked the end of 45RPM records and hence the beginning of the domination of marketing over artistic sense in music. 1983 marked the end of interesting pop music IMHO. Then there was AIDS. This is why we spent our time programming C64 in assembler rather than fucking hippie or disco girls like in the 60's or 70's. The end of the cold war marked the beginning of decadence in science education and funding. Reaganism brought to us infinite jealousy for others, permanent competition, and an obsession with money and consumerism. The space shuttle sucked ass in comparison to Apollo program, for instance. There were no decent cameras to speak of. Remember the german cameras from the 30's and 50's, and japanese from the early 70's..The same for Hifi. It should say something about the period.
  • Re:Ugh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @05:39AM (#31007600) Journal

    I like aspects of the 80s too, the technology, at least the computers, were a lot of fun. They were simple enough you could understand them pretty much entirely, you could actually get down to the bare iron and not be wrapped up in 15 layers of abstraction, even proprietary software was somewhat open - you had books like "The Complete Spectrum ROM disassembly" - a complete and well commented listing of the entire machine OS - imagine if someone tried to do that with Windows - firstly, you'd need something the size of Britannica, and secondly you'd be sued to smithereens within milliseconds of thinking of the idea.

  • by vegiVamp ( 518171 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @05:07PM (#31014814) Homepage

    If the size of a single "tick" reaches infinity at the time of death, as you suggest, then you'd never actually die - your consciousness will be streched out forever, like the image of an object falling through a black hole's event horizon.

    If you're right, that means that your last-ever experience is gonna last until the end of infinity itself, even if it will only feel as a single subjective "tick".

    I just decided, I wanna die having the greatest orgasm of my life.

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