A baseball speeds from the hands of a pitcher, a slave to Newton’s laws. But in the brain of the batter who is watching it, something odd happens. Time seems to dawdle. The ball moves in slow motion, and becomes clearer. Players of baseball, tennis and other ball sports have described this dilation of time. But why does it happen? Does the brain merely remember time passing more slowly after the fact? Or do experienced players develop Matrix-style abilities, where time genuinely seems to move more slowly?
According to five experiments from Nobuhiro Hagura at University College London, it’s the latter. When we prepare to make a movement – say, the swing of a bat – our ability to process visual information speeds up. The result: the world seems to move slower.
At first glance, this might seem to contradict a now-classic experiment by David Eagleman. He threw volunteers off a tall fairground ride and asked them to stare at a special watch, to see if their perception of time would slow. It didn’t. They merely remembered the experience as being long and drawn out afterwards.
But there’s a critical difference between the two studies. Eagleman studied time perception while people were actually undergoing a crisis—in this case, falling to their possible doom. But Hagura showed that time appears more leisurely before an event, rather than during it—when we’re preparing to move, rather than moving.
Hagura first asked volunteers to press a key for as long as a white disc appeared on a screen. The disc would then be replaced by a hollow target. In some trials, the volunteers had to release their key and touch the target. In others, they were told to keep pressing the key. In every case, they had to say how long the white disc stayed up for, compared to all the previous trials in the experiment. Hagura found that the volunteers deemed the durations to be longer if they were preparing to move, than if they were planning to keep still.
Perhaps the volunteers who were about to reach out were just more excited or attentive? Not so. When Hagura changed the task from pressing (or not pressing) the target, to naming (or ignoring) a letter, the time-slowing effect vanished. Preparing to move makes the difference, rather than just preparing for any old task.
In a third variation, the white disc was replaced by two possible targets instead of just one. In some trials, the disc had a line that told the volunteers which of the two targets was correct, allowing them to prepare the right movement. In other trials, there was no line, and the volunteers had to make their move when the two targets appeared. As you might have guessed by now, they thought the white disc stayed up longer if they were preparing to move their arm in a specific direction, but not if they were simply waiting.
These three sets of results support the idea that time moves more slowly when we prepare an action. But they could also be explained in the same way that Eagleman’s results were: Time only seemed to pass more slowly because the volunteers remembered it doing so.
Estonia must accept African & Middle Eastern immigrants says politician 2015-05-22 3:06
Kalle Laanet, an Estonian politician, spoke at the International Migration Forum held in Tallinn. He told the audience that the question is not: Should Estonia take the African and the Middle Eastern immigrants (who illegally entered Southern Europe)? He said the question is: How will Estonia take the immigrants?
â€œToday the issue is not whether Estonia should receive the refugees coming to ...
Rescuing Palmyra: History's lesson in how to save artefacts 2015-05-21 22:49
With Islamic State militants now inside the historic town of Palmyra in Syria, the question, inevitably, is whether they will destroy the ancient ruins.
As IS continues to sweep through parts of Iraq and Syria, damage to centuries-old artefacts - because IS sees statues and shrines as idolatrous - is plentiful.
But history has shown that, when culturally important sites are under ...
Saudi Arabia Wants to Convert Sweden to Islam 2015-05-21 20:38
Aje Carlbom is an Associate Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Malmö
Since the 1970s, Saudi Arabia has actively spread its interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism or Salafism, worldwide. It is the most literal version of Islam and affects many young Muslims, who regard society as a place to Islamize, writes social anthropologist Aje Carlbom.
Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot WallstrÃ¶m was ...
Professor: If You Read To Your Kids, You're 'Unfairly Disadvantaging' Others 2015-05-21 18:22
According to a professor at the University of Warwick in England, parents who read to their kids should be thinking about how they're "unfairly disadvantaging other people's children" by doing so.
In an interview with ABC Radio last week, philosopher and professor Adam Swift said that since "bedtime stories activities . . . do indeed foster and produce . . ...
If You Read About Conspiracies You're Just Like Osama Bin Laden Apparently 2015-05-21 3:46
At its heart, the story of Osama bin Laden's time at his house in Abbottabad is surreal. The American image of bin Laden - leering at us from under his head wrap as he plots and schemes - is undermined by the mundane realities of his life. The guy was responsible for murdering thousands of Americans and orchestrating a global ...