Cognitive Physics | Relativity
As humans, there seems to be a common theme with regard to how we perceive time. We have all heard the old adage that “time flies when you’re having fun.”, but we seldom seem to look at the inverse of this. Just as time flies when we are taking pleasure or engaged with something, it also seems to come to a standstill when we are in pain or disengaged. Even the vices that we partake in seem to cause a rapid advancement in our perception of time, while the inverse seems to be true in their anticipation and absence. Flow Psychology seems to address some aspects of our perception of time, but these fields of study do not seem to be considering the influence that our perception of time has on our motivations, decision making, and possibly our aging processes as well and view it as coincidental like most people. However, I think that we may be missing a very important aspect of human nature by minimizing it to a coincidence.
After all, time isn’t some hazy concept, this is not ‘Nam. Time is a measurable quantity much like entropy, and there are rules surrounding it. While there are are a few hypotheses attempting to address this phenomena, no one seems to have a good explanation for it as of yet. However, a rather famous theoretical physicist seemed to think that our perception of time was just another proving ground for his Theory of Relativity.
“To simplify the concept of relativity, I always use the following example: if you sit with a girl on a garden bench and the moon is shining, then for you the hour will be a minute. However, if you sit on a hot stove, the minute will be an hour.” -Albert Einstein
Even though few people have heard of the quote above before, most seem to assume that Einstein was merely speaking in hyperbole, as if he said “Ich mache nur Spaß!”, while ignoring the fact that he was using an if/then statement. However, according to Quote Investigator, he used this reference regularly and even instructed his secretary to reference it as an explanation to the lay person regarding his Theory of Relativity. Because of this and since he has given no indication that he himself was speaking in hyperbole, I have simply chosen to consider the possibility that he was speaking literally for the sake of discussion. Why not?
Hypothetically², Einstein seemed to be implying that the phenomenon surrounding our perception of time can be explained with the theory of relativity, specifically Time Dilation. However, in doing so, he also seems to be implying that something(s) in our head is physically skewing our perception of time by traveling at a 99.98% the speed of light when we’re engaged or in a state of bliss, and that the inverse is true when we’re in unengaged or experiencing pain. One immediate consequence of such a hypothesis, if it were to be made, is that it forces anyone willing to consider the things in our body that are capable of moving fast enough to exhibit relativistic effects. The drawback with this is that it immediately forces us to remove electrochemical processes from the running, although not completely from brain functions entirely. *gulp*
As it seems, the only things in our body capable of such feats seem to be electrons and even that is a tall order, but this is hardly the first time that someone has considered such possibilities. Regardless of the mechanism though, if this does have any merit and if this phenomena truly is a consequence of time dilation, then we should also be able to readily see the impact of this within our aging processes in much same manner as the muons used to fortify Special Relativity. As ridiculous as it sounds at first, it may not be as crazy as it seems, and this approach might have some merit if we were to modify the original Twin Paradox a “smidge”.
Rather than putting a twin on a rocket that is capable of traveling at speeds near that of the speed of light, what if we simply observed 100 pairs of twins where one was living an incredibly happy and low stress life while the other was living an incredibly depressing and high stress life? Probabilistically, do you think that they would still appear to be the same age by 30, 40, 50 and 60 years of age? Or would it be reasonable to infer the happy twins that are experiencing the least amount of time tend to age at a slower rate than their depressed counterpart experiencing the most time? Hypothetically and much like the muons in the Mount Washington experiment, if this is truly a physical process, then shouldn’t we be able to predict that the twins living happy lives will have a higher probability of aging less in comparison to the twins living a depressed lives; much like the twin on the rocket as speculated in the original Twin Paradox thought experiment?
Thankfully and without traumatizing twins or forcing them into years of therapy, it seems as if we can see this in action without being completely evil. Instead, we can easily see the impact that stress and presumed depression can have on the aging processes by simply taking note of how old our presidents look when they initially enter office in comparison to when they leave office. I’ll admit that it’s hardly a scientific observation by itself, but even though they have all served 8 year terms, they all seem to have aged 15-20 years during that time frame.
But what if one of our presidents had an identical twin though? Further, what if the president not only had an identical twin, but one that that lived a happy and low stress life that is devoid of American politics? Do you think that we would be able to see disparity between their physical age and appearance by the end of their term; much like the Twin Paradox? Would it be safe to infer that the twin outside of politics would have aged less than the president while in office? In my opinion, the twin residing outside of political world would have a significantly higher probability of aging less than their twin running the White House; speculating otherwise even seems to border on the irrational.
However, if the persistence of stress and depression can increase our own rate of decay, doesn’t this also mean that the inverse should also be true? Could living a low stress life focused around happiness slow down our aging process? As cheesy as it sounds, just as muons and radioactive atoms increase the probability of extending their half-life as they approach the speed of light, it seems as if the same can be said about our own lives when we perceive less time and live a happy and wholesome life; although not as drastically as a muon. Further and even though no one can seem to explain the mechanism behind this as of yet, you would be hard pressed to find a doctor in any field that would disagree with some of the conclusions derived from this.
Needless to say, it would be foolish to deny that our brain doesn’t also have electrochemical processes, but it may be time to consider the possibility that our brain may also function on a quantum level in some capacity or another. Regardless this though, we should still reconsider just how much priority is given to our perception of time within motivations and decisions as it seems to be anything but inconsequential. The junk food we eat, the booze we that drink, the weed we smoke, the cocaine we inhale, and the heroin that inject into our bloodstream all result in a rapid advancement in our perception of time, and the inverse also seems to be true in their absence or anticipation. This doesn’t seem to be a coincidence or a minor detail, at least to me. Either way, it’s just fun to think about for now.
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