Why does time fly?

I’ve heard Einstein once explained: “Sit with a beautiful woman for an hour, and it seems like a minute. Sit on a hotplate for a minute, and it seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”

Why does time fly when we’re having fun? Are we distracted from time so we lose “count”?

Why does time fly when we get older? Are we too used to things happening?

What happens which makes us see time flow differently?

(I will accept time as either our count of motion or as the internal form – or use another if it helps.)

‘‘Time’’ does not fly, time does not ‘‘pass’’. It’s just the illusion that you create, nothing else around you is changing, the heavenly bodies are still moving at the same pace, the sky remains as it is but it is just you that experiances things in a different frame.

Imagine a scenario;

John and Fred are driving to the end of the road, they both use identical cars in relation to speed. John and fred get to the end of the road at the exact same time but Fred says that the journey did not seem like a full 1 hour journey? Does this mean that his journey was not a one hour journey?

Just because you may ‘‘feel’’ as though a 10years only seemed like 10minutes, this doesn’t disgard the fact that 10years have actually passed.


theres a hard to describe dichotomy here. some things take forever while your doing them, and some things, when you look back at them, seem like they happened really fast.

i think the more things that are new and that you learn about, the faster it seems, at the time, but the slower the date changes when you look at the calendar.

when you sit in detention, its really long while your sitting there. if youre thinking at all, then your mostly only repeating previous thoughts, boringly. then when you look back, its like nothing happened.

because nothing really did happen. nothing new. if its not new, then your just repeating the same memory. the only reason time seems to pass at all is because our senses are inputting new memories, such “the bullet is at 3 oclock, now its at 2 oclock”

but if you view bullets every day all day then the newness of all of your input is minimal, and your perception of the time changes so that it seems slower at the time, and empty in retrospect.

as for pain slowing it down, i dont know maybe thats a defense mechanism so that we can respond to danger with better reflexes. imagine playing a video game where you can slow down the time, max payne leaps across the room and lands prone while shooting 7 guys. doesnt seem related to previous idea.

In the spirit of your question, time flies when you cease to be aware of it. It’s the old “A watched pot never boils” thing.


Since time in itself is always stationary it never moves but we do, so whenever we are busy time seems to fly. When we are happy we either have something to do, look forward to or just think, so time flies, but when we are sad or bored then we don’t have something to look forward to and so time seems to drag. That’s why when we make ourselves busy when waiting for something time flies because it’s really us who are on the go and not time!

Time flies because driving takes too long.

To teach us to live in the moment.

time is somewhat subjectively constructed within the brain, so it can run at different speeds of processing depending on different needs.

Yes, that is the scientific point of view - can you give us one from your own experience?

Let’s say for instance, a tortoise was crossing a highway. Much traffic this night on the highway. He moved ever so slowly and had to make many stops between the cars, shivering with great fright as he did so - so certain that he would be blown away over even worse, crushed to death - it felt like an eternity when he got to the other side and breathed a sigh of relief.

And here we go again with the same tortoise crossing the same highway but lo and behold this part of the highway was under construction so there was no movement whatsoever, no cars, no trucks, just perfect stillness and space this night. And wouldn’t you know Tony thoroughly enjoyed his trek across the highway. He went at the same speed he did before and he even took the time to stop at the same intervals and spots as before, but something felt so different to him tonight. It didn’t seem to take an eternity. It seemed to take only a few minutes and there he was, on the other side. He had no need to breathe a sign of relief either. He just :laughing: :laughing: and did a little :banana-dance:

What was so different for Tony and why did time seem to fly by one of these times and at the other, it was such an excruciatingly long time.

Are we truly sensing the speeds at which our brain is running in these times or can be that the brain is actually shutting down at these times and we are more or less lost in a heavenly moment or a hellish moment? I really want to know.

i really think it just has to do with the amount of processing thats going on.

“time” is nothing more than a rate of change per unit of quantity. if 1,000,000 mental operations take place the first time the turtle crosses the road during traffic, but in that same amount of time the second time crossing when no one is around he only has 200,000 mental operations take place, then his brain will perceive more change the first time— this will lead to “more time” being experienced (i.e. it “took longer”).

so the number of perceptions/processes factors in. also, emotions factor in as well. we can assume that the reason why “time flies when youre having fun”, and the inverse that it crawls when you are not having fun, is for a similar reason: evolutionarily, our brains operate at a higher level during stressful or dangerous situations. when we are around a dangerous or stressful stimuli, our brains amp up in order to more effectively deal with this threat; conversely, when we are happy, we are in a state of lack of danger, and our brain is “resting” relative to its fight of flight response. so, even though we may not consciously perceive it, the brain is churning out many many times as much information and processing power when we are “angry/upset/irritated/in pain/stressed” than when we are happy, and this leads to the same subjective difference in experience of time.

Wait a minute here - something is not jiving for me here unless my brain is just on “off” today. :unamused: Now, what I put in bold, you are NOT saying here, or are you, that the brain circuitry would be the same when we are angry or fearful as when we are happy? You use the word above “as much” rather than more, which would lead me to believe that you are saying that the information perceived by the brain is equal whether we are fearful or happy.

I hope I am not convoluting this for you here. I understand let’s say we are running for our life - the brain circuitry is on fire, fire, fire and the adrenaline and endorphins are jumping all over the place. This would lead to 1,000,000 mental operations going on within the brain and so yes those circumstances might lead one to experience a lifetime in really what is just a few minutes. What I don’t understand is why when the brain goes at 1,000,000 operations, time shouldn’t speed up for us but yet it slows down and when one is happy and following one’s bliss and not aware of time that circuitry that is at 200,000 operations seems to speed time up for us. Do you follow what I am saying.

And by the same token, when one has been sitting outside still and peacefully and happens to look up and see an airplane go by and suddenly all time and space appear to stand still and there is no time, just a moment where this is nothing else, why do we altogether lose a sense of time and space then. What of the brain then? I would think it should slow down to nothing, and if in fact that is true, then why the other two criteria? I think I’m lost in space here. Do you understand what I’m trying to get at here? I am really interested in this but it seems like science has it backwards. :laughing: :laughing: I am doomed.

when i said “as much” i meant “more”-- i suppose i could have worded that better.

if a brain processes 1,000,000 operations in 1 minute, and a second brain (mostly equal in structure/function/ability) processes 100,000 operations in that same 1 minute, then i believe the first person would experience “more” moments of time (faster movement of time) than the second person, because his brain will be “doing more”, i.e. having more relative changes, which is all that time is, really, just change.

Time! Olly mushmimuni! WOW! Okay, so what can I say?

I like this description:

From another angle I would say time is the construction of input from the senses into an approximate awareness of actual reality.
We are from within this system (the universe/reality/existence), therefore, whatever we may not know, one thing we do know: however blurred our vision may be, the sight is genuine.

We are limited to our five senses (and all five are sensitive to such a small part of the whole spectrum), which come together to constitute a whole different type of sense (awareness). This new type of sense/awareness gives us the perception of time. This type of sense is an extension of the physically dependent senses, the five senses.

I think more to the point for you would be to ask what awareness is.

Goddamned best question I’ve read on this board since the mediocrity took over… oh but it’s from 2004…

Time, motion, and change are such basic philosophical concepts that we see them being considered by all philosophers throughout Western philosophical thinking. These are fundamental concepts about which philosophers theorize and they are fundamental concepts about which every DickandJane deal with constantly in their ever-day actions and thoughts.

All of these concepts are abstract ideas that are constructed of multiple metaphors resulting from literal ever-day experiences. Our society thinks of metaphors as being the venue of poets; however, metaphors are not arbitrary or culturally and historically specific. “Rather, they tend to be normal, conventional, relatively fixed and stable, non arbitrary, and widespread throughout the cultures, and languages of the world”

Most importantly we must recognize these metaphors as being abstract but also that they are grounded in specific experiences.

Philosophers have theorized as to whether time really is; is it bounded, is it continuous or divided, does it flow like a river, is time the same to everyone, and is it long or short. These are common questions for DickandJane but philosophy seems to discount most of these human quizzes as being irrelevant. Often philosophers point out paradoxes embodied within these questions.

We have a rich and diverse notion of what time is. Time is not a thing-in-itself that we conceptualize as being independent. “All of our understandings of time are relative to other concepts such as motion, space, and events …We define time by metonymy: successive iterations of a type of event stand for intervals of “time”.” Consequentially, the basic literal properties of our concept of time are consequences of properties of events: Time is directional, irreversible, segmentable, continuous, and measurable.

We do have an experience of time but that experience is always in conjunction with our real experiences of events. “It also means that our experience of time is dependent on our embodied conceptualization of time in terms of events…Experience does not always come prior to conceptualization, because conceptualization is itself embodied. Further, it means that our experience of time is grounded in other experiences, the experiences of events.”

It is virtually impossible for us to conceptualize time as a stand alone concept without metaphor. Physics defines motion, i.e. velocity, in terms of distance and time, thereby indicating motion is secondary to time and distance. However, metaphorically we appear to place time as dependent upon the primitive sense of motion. “There is an area of our visual system of our brain that is dedicated to the processing of motion.”


“There is a lone, stationary observer facing in a fixed direction. There is an indefinite long sequence of objects moving past the observer from front to back. The moving objects are conceptualized as having fronts in their direction of motion.”

The time has long past for that answer. The time has come. Time flies by. Summer is almost past. I can see the face of trouble. I cannot face the future. The following days will tell the story.

In this metaphor I conceptualize time as an object moving toward me. The times that are in front of me are conceptualized as the future and the times that have passed me are the past. The present time is that time that is now beside me. This is why we speak of the here and now. My position is a reference point, thus tomorrow is before me and yesterday is past me. I can see the future and the past is gone forever.


The second major metaphor for time represents a moving observer wherein the present is the position on the path in which the observer is positioned.

In this metaphor the observer is moving through time. Time is a path that I move through. Time, i.e. the path can be long or short, time can be bounded.

There is trouble ahead. Let’s spread this project over several days. We reached summer already.

In this metaphor we construct temporal correlates with distance measurements: long, short, pass, through, over, down the road, etc.


Time is more relative to speed then anything else you are considering. Time dilation indicates the following: Consider the allegory of the space traveller. The man travels in space and has a twin on earth. The man returns and has aged what seems to be slower then his twin on earth. The man did not actually age slower, and the man on earth did not age faster. THey both aged relative to the speed at which they were moving, because speed dictates your movement in time relative to everything else.

When you’re driving in the rain and your windshield wipers are moving at one pace, those wipers stay at the same pace and will move at that pace regardless of the speed that the car is at, wether at a stop light or on the highway. Compare those wipers with the human biological clock, it is a seperate entity outside of time and speed.

When you consider time consider a river, and we are moving through this river in a speed boat. IF you speed up the boat that you are traveling in you speed up your movement in time relative to the speed you were previously traveling at, in time. Therefore the time you were previoiusly moving at stays the same however the time you are presently traveling at is moving faster, but your “windshield wipers” (biological clock) is staying the same.

Reality is experienced by the sort term memory, experiences are committed to the long term memory if it is of some sort of significant piece of information or event, or if you use the golden rule of repetition. When you are a child things are new, things are being learned, mundaine tasks are challenging and you become more aware. At this time things seem to go slower, you remember more of what happened that day because it is more likeley for you to have encountered or learned new things. WHen something new is learned you place what could be called a “time stamp” on that event, and your memory organizes it in a timeline of what had occured. If the time line is filled with more memories then the day seems to have gone past slower. If you are only marking significant events because they are the only ones sent to your LTM then the time inbetween is not “taken count of.” The repetitiveness of the events that occur are not significant, nor are they new, can you remember brushing your teeth or taking a shower 2 days ago unless there was some significance when that occured? If not then that time is alomst lost. As you become older you enter a routine, certain days are confused with other days and the individual looses a sense of their time line because there are no new time stamps being consistently added. Consider a patient who suffers from Retrograde amnesia, this individual feels as if they have been born yesterday, time for them is altered all the events that occured in their past are gone and they have no concept of how long they have actually lived. When buddhist monks are meditating they can meditate for hours and this can seem like it is only minutes to them, simply because there is nothing happening in their STM, the mind is clear and the identification of time and the stamp of events on that periods time line is nonexistent.

I apologize if someone already said this. A teacher told our class this a while ago, and its a really simple explanation for why time goes faster when you get older. I’m not really sure if this is embarrassingly commonplace knowledge but here goes. When you are a little kid and you just got done experiencing your fifth year of life that is 1/5 years. This is large proportion compared to say when you’ve just experienced your 50th, 1/50, which should seem to go a lot faster. So I guess maybe the point of this “theory” is that time is relative to how much you have experienced as opposed to being an absolute. I’m not sure if that is true or not but it kind of makes sense.

Long, long ago, I took a course in physics at Oklahoma Agriculture and Mechanical College now called Oklahoma State University. That physics course defined speed to be equal to the distance traversed by an object in a unit of time. For the initiated that is s=d/t. It was assumed that distance and time were more primitive concepts than was motion.

I live in the mountains and often go hiking. On occasion some motion among all the other fluttering motions going on within my perception halts all activity, my pulse races, chills run down my back, and all my attention is focused upon a particular motion. Later I consciously analyze the situation and discover that that motion was similar to a dangerous motion as defined by my genes. We are hard-wired to respond to motion. I discover every time such an incident occurs that motion is number one and time is not supreme.

“What we call the domain of time appears to be a conceptual domain that we use for asking certain questions about events through our comparison to other events: where they are “located” relative to other events, how can they be measured relative to other events, and so on. What is literal and inherent about the conceptual domain of time is that it is characterized by the comparison of events.”

“This does not mean that we do not have an experience of time…What it means is that our real experience of time is dependent, is always relative to our real experience of events. It also means that our experience of time is dependent on or embodied conceptualization of time in terms of events. This is a major point: Experience does not always come prior to conceptualization, because conceptualization is itself embodied. Furthermore, it means that our experience of time is grounded in other experiences, the experience of events.”

What, if anything, is time ‘in itself’? I suspect no one can answer that question because such a thing, I guess, does not exist. We are able to talk of time only with metaphors.

Common linguistic expressions: “That’s all behind us now. Let’s put that in back of us now. We’re looking ahead to the future. He has a great future in front of of him.”

A Moving Time Metaphor: “There is a lone, stationary observer facing in a fixed direction. There is an indefinitely long sequence of objects moving past the observer from front to back. The moving objects are conceptualized as having fronts in their direction of motion.”

Common linguistic expressions: “There’s going to be trouble down the road. Will you be staying a long time or a short time. Let’s spread the conference over two weeks. We passed the deadline. I’ll be there in a minute.”

A Moving Observer Metaphor: “What we will encounter in the future is what we are moving towards. What we are encountering now is what we are moving by. What we encounter in the past is what we moved past.”

We see in these time metaphors a duality of figure and background reversals. In one metaphor time moves and the observer is stationary while in the other the observer moves and time is stationary. Such duality of figure-ground reversals is apparently common in human perception. “Object-location duality occurs for a simple reason: Many metaphorical mappings take a motion in space as a source domain. With motion in space, there is the possibility of reversing figure and ground.”

The quotes are from “Philosophy in the Flesh”.

Maybe your brain lags the universe around you.
Without conscious thought to observe a fraction of time, maybe everything happens instantaneously.

"Tantra looks at things the same way.

It says of that past full of ‘objects’, is not as a landscape through which each person moves …, but as a trail of things and events which are … projected from the mouth of the present, like the flames from the tail-vent of a rocket."

“…Things did not ‘begin’ at some imaginary point back in the depths of the picture. They are being projected through each of us; each person’s ‘present-frame’ is itself a mouth of that monster vomiting out his world of experience and knowledge. We will never be able to find the origin or causes of all things ‘out there’, among older projected things. Their origin is in the projective-mechanism itself, that is to say within the psycho-physical organism. And what is being projected is the tissue of experience and memory we call reality.” - Philip Rawson