IdeaFestival

Time travel as therapy?

In the study of time, philosophy has become theory, which has become proof: moving at widely differing speeds, two clocks with the same initial start times will eventually diverge.

A feature of special relativity, time dilation has been confirmed through experimentation and everyday life. Soaring 12,000 miles or more overhead, global positioning satellites, for example, must have their interal clocks continuously adjusted so that they correspond with the Earthbound clocks used by pilots making timed, precision approaches to airfields obscured by low clouds, or by the GPS on your car dash that calls out turn-by-turn instructions.

As it turns out, our internal experience of time may be crucial, as well, to our perception of the world and consequent well being.

An article in PopSci, "When Life Flashes Flashes Before Your Eyes: A 15 Story Drop to Study the Brain's Internal Timewarp," suggests that understanding why "time dilation" occurs in individuals during times of crisis (think flying bullets in The Matrix) might lead to better treatments for mental illnesses:

In recent years, scientists have learned that the circadian rhythms that control our 24-hour sleep/wake cycle are governed by a cluster of 10,000 brain cells called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Sorting out what happens moment to moment is the focus of [David] Eagleman [neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine]... [H]is Baylor-based Laboratory for Perception and Action is one of the only facilities dedicated to running experiments that produce hard data on how we perceive time.

Engleman has found that the brain keeps two clocks, one "that feeds you a perception of the now, and another that is constantly at work tidying up that perception." To conserve energy, the portion of the brain "tidying up" will predict events, meaning that the everyday events will flow by relatively unnoticed, while the unexpected events takes longer - or so we think - to pass. 

This new understanding might have profound implications for sufferers of mental illness.

Deana Davalos, a psychologist at Colorado State University who works on timing and mental illness, agrees. 'Sensory gating, the process by which the brain filters out repeated stimuli, is a problem with schizophrenia,' she says. 'Most people think it’s a breakdown in their ability to inhibit responses to repeated stimuli, but Eagleman’s work points to a timing malfunction.' To this end, Eagleman, with the help of psychologists, is designing a videogame that would recalibrate the brains of patients. He hopes to begin testing it in the next few years.

For now, he continues devising new temporal illusions, hoping to force another odd flash-lag type of result that will help unlock the brain’s secrets.

If the idea of time travel interests you, you might like hearing what theoretical physicist and author of "From Eternity to Here," Sean Carroll, has to say about "Wild Time" it at the IdeaFestival on Sat., Oct. 2.

All-access and individual event passes are available online at the IdeaFestival web site.

Wayne

"oh this is going to be addictive"

Do we need something more to explain something more?

Pictured here thanks to the Way-back Machine is Twitter co-founder Dom Sagolla's first tweet, "oh this is going to be addictive."

Insider Passes to hear @dom at #IF10 are now on sale.

Wayne

The stillness of Time

IF blog readers, I've reposted the entry below without the original tease about Sean Carroll's appearance at the IdeaFestival. These entries are syndicated; just click the "IdeaFestival blog" link to the left if you are reading this on the web site. "Insider Passes" to hear Carroll - and all the other fantastic presenters - are now available for purchase.

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A recent Wired piece interviewed Caltech physicist and author of "From Eternity to Here," Sean Carroll and asked whether "he could explain his theories about time to a layman." 

His reply?

In one very real sense, you are time:

I’m trying to understand how time works. And that’s a huge question that has lots of different aspects to it. A lot of them go back to Einstein and spacetime and how we measure time using clocks. But the particular aspect of time that I’m interested in is the arrow of time: the fact that the past is different from the future. We remember the past but we don’t remember the future. There are irreversible processes. There are things that happen, like you turn an egg into an omelet, but you can’t turn an omelet into an egg.

And we sort of understand that halfway. The arrow of time is based on ideas that go back to Ludwig Boltzmann, an Austrian physicist in the 1870s. He figured out this thing called entropy. Entropy is just a measure of how disorderly things are. And it tends to grow. That’s the second law of thermodynamics: Entropy goes up with time, things become more disorderly. So, if you neatly stack papers on your desk, and you walk away, you’re not surprised they turn into a mess. You’d be very surprised if a mess turned into neatly stacked papers. That’s entropy and the arrow of time. Entropy goes up as it becomes messier.

The_Persistence_of_Memory

From a cosmological view, the universe is moving from a highly ordered state to a completely disordered one, from a colossally energetic beginning to a cold end. Although the laws of physics are in theory symmetrical, the arrow of time goes in only one direction. People grow older. Suns eventually exhaust their fuel. It's that passage from energy to lethargy to stillness that we perceive and clock on the way to the next business appointment.

Among other reasons, it's that intuitive association of the passage of time with decreasing energy that makes Salvador Dalí's painting "The Persistence of Memory," pictured here, so startling.

Wayne      alt

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At the IdeaFestival, you've got another think coming

The growing sophistication and business muscle of video gaming is redefining the relationship between game developers and the film industry, according this May article in Variety. That evolving relationship was something that the Matrix visual effects designer John Gaeta discussed at length at his appearance in Louisville - in 2006.

At the IdeaFestival, you've got another think coming.

Wayne

Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

Network model miraculously untangles Facebook, hopes for more

Exhausted from favoriting wall posts from across Facebook, a mathematical model has finally untangled relationships on the social network. Amazingly, the new technique could be applied to analyze the spread of infectious disease or pandemics, or, though there are clear limits to the method, to understanding what happens in Congress. Those slim hopes rests on getting members to talk across the aisle.

Futurity:

With the new community detection method, researchers should be able to dig deeper to examine the relationships among different groups in dynamic, multiplex data. Identifying community structures in a network might help to model processes and provides a signal about the underlying system, such as legislative polarization or the influence of various factors and forces...

Wayne


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