Monday, December 19, 2016

How long is eight minutes?

You too can expand Time. I did it by driving a race car.

Let me explain.

The latest in my various efforts to delay cognitive decline is researching Time. (You might think this is only evidence that cognitive decline has already begun, but I’m hoping the jury is still out.)

There’s the heavy-duty stuff of physics (Einstein and relativity and space-time and lots of things that don’t make normal sense) and there’s the less heavy stuff of psychology and the perception of time. Both are full of things that get titled “paradox” (“something that seems absurd but expresses a possible truth”).

Here’s an example about the perception of Time: Researchers say there’s a difference between how people describe the duration of time while something is still happening and how they judge it after it’s over. A boring wait may seem like it’s taking forever, but afterwards – since nothing interesting happened and you have no details in your memory – you judge it to be shorter. On the other hand, if you had an interesting experience with a lot of emotional color and time just flew, afterwards you have so many details to recount, it seems like it took longer. They call this the time paradox.
So now we’re at last weekend. Tim had a secret New Thing excursion for me: a trip to Extreme Fun Center in Wasilla. Ooh, what a discovery! This was right up my alley. I saw the sign that said “Cart Races” and I was in the building in no time (just an expression, not a paradox).

I LOVE speed and motion when there’s no chance of breaking my neck. Extreme Fun Center has whole bunches of arcade games and little kid soft areas, laser tag and birthday party rooms. But the big square footage is a racetrack with carts. The price: $20 for an 8-minute ride.

Sense of time duration before: “Yikes, that’s a lot of money for only eight minutes.  A measly eight minutes. This will be a rip-off.”

First we have to watch a 3-minute safety video. Then we put on black helmet liners and big helmets. Then we go out to our car. When we’re all buckled in, we’re activated.
Whoosh! It was amazing! I could go so fast I’d barely make the turns, then open up on the straightaway. Every turn took incredible concentration – when to speed up in the middle of it, when to keep from crashing into far walls. Zinging left, flying through a turn at maximum speed, correcting at the last second. It was so intense I think I fogged up my helmet’s visor.

Sense of time during: “Every muscle in my neck and shoulders is so tense and my heart is beating so rapidly, will I be able to last eight minutes? This is way more than eight minutes.”
When you’re physically excited and your heart rate picks up, time seems to slow down. This is the experience of slow motion during a car accident. While in the middle of the action, you’re sure it’s all taking a very long time even if you’re not experiencing slow motion.

Eventually, the checkered flag signaled the end of the race and we had to drive our cars back into the pit. I took off my helmet and became a babbling fool recapping every turn, spin, pass, and lap.
Sense of time after: “I got a great ride for eight minutes. Way cool!”

My continuing quest for New Things? It’s not just fun, not just anti-boring; it expands Time!
“Experiences that are exciting and new expand time. … The greater the store of lived experience—that is, the more emotional coloration and variety one’s life has—the longer one’s lifetime seems, subjectively.” – from Felt Time: The Psychology of How We Perceive Time
Bring on the race cars!

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