Relatively Relative Relativity

“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”

For someone that plays with words, this saying is pure joy. The multiple meanings of words, the crazy parallelism, the twisted images. It is fun, but sadly not a true statement (or rather, pair of statements). My experience is fruit flies would rather have an avocado any day. Not that they are banana adverse, but there is something about an over ripe and under processed piece of raw guacamole that will generate MILLIONS of friends for a party that never ends. I was still using my vacuum cleaner to try and evacuate my kitchen of moving dust motes with wings 22 days after returning from an ill-advised trip. Gone 10 days, vinegar traps the next month.

As for time, an arrow doesn’t necessarily travel in a straight line (a parabola due to gravity and deflection from wind from side to side) or at a constant rate (friction verses a slight acceleration due to gravity) but it does not do justice to the variance experienced in the real world.

In the first third of my life, the concept of a time frame of 20 years was inconceivable. In fact, years seemed to be mostly an imaginary construct in a life of such short duration. Months and weeks were more manageable chunks to grasp in one’s imagination. Oh, to anticipate a birthday in the fall or the joy of Christmas during a day-dreaming session in school during a warm spring day was conceivable, but to actually suggest the ability to plan for a “future” more than a few calendar pages out seemed ludicrous at best.

The second third allowed for the growth of more abstract units of time. Employment created the need to “plan a 2 week vacation next year” with enough vision to actually submit a form to HR with proposed dates. Marriage and the start of a family made a “nine month” window slide from imaginary to imagery to immediate activity. Children expands ones (event) horizon to encompass whole blocks of time, the “terrible twos” through the teens (shudder!). Still, a two-decade block of time is a stretch to wrap one’s mind around.

Which brings us to the third half (as the tappet brothers used to say on “Car Talk”) of our show life. It seems absurd, but I am discovering that most of the interesting stories I am sharing include at some point the line “… that happened about… umm, twenty some years ago….” Now, I realize it is a time span going from over twice a lifetime to about a lifetime to about a third of a lifetime in this millennium, but (depending on what category you, the reader falls into) it is either impossible or depressing. And perhaps both in the same moment.

Also disorienting is the realization that time is anything but linear. I have been involved in radio for… um, well over twenty years or so now (starting in 1974, so I guess I need to repeat myself). While in the Navy, we would tune a short-wave radio to the WWV broadcast in Fort Collins, CO. This was a “clock” that ticked (and beeped) 58 times a minute, 60 minutes an hour, 24 x 7. It was partially a source of background noise, and a constant reminder of what time it was (which we needed to know as we processed messages from around the world). To hear “This is radio station WWV, Fort Collins Colorado, broadcasting on internationally allocated standard carrier frequencies of 2.5, 5, 10, 15, and 20 megahertz, providing time of day, standard time intervals and other related information…” twice an hour was to be lulled into thinking time passed with metronome like precision.

Wrong! Everybody “knows” that time passes faster or slower depending on what you are doing. A minute sitting in history class takes about 400 seconds. Sitting at a table sharing the evening with your best friends can have 19 minute hours evaporate into the ether. And, as the ultimate example, were it not for event-driven time dilation why else would the last two minutes of every basketball game take just under an hour on an observer’s clock (not in the arena, but on the microwave in the kitchen, for example, while watching on TV)?

I was told as a youth that the older I got, the faster time would seem to pass. It has proven to be true, but I think I can give a scientific explanation for why: nocturnal-derived changes in angular rotation of the Earth. You see, just as gravity is much stronger today than it was when I was younger (I estimate it has increased at least 70% in the last three decades alone), the amount of darkness in the night period is much shorter than it was last millennium. Daylight periods have not changed (at least if you disregard the cumulative effects of “Daylight Savings Time”) but they don’t put as much dark in the nights as they used to.

In essence, the phrase used to start this rant would be better stated as

“Time flies like fruit flies”

Phred

post 15 of n

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