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Here’s Why Time Is Actually An Illusion

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Photo by Stephan Schmitz

Have you ever looked at a clock and noticed that time is standing still? It might not literally be stopped, but once your eyes peer over to the clock for a split second, the small hand seems frozen. There’s a solid explanation for this.

This is known as the “Stopped Clock Illusion,” and it’s actually a regular experience. An experiment conducted by a team at University College London recreated this experience and connected the phenomenon of a stopped clock to the action of the person witnessing it.

The team asked participants to look away and then quickly look at a digital clock. When the volunteers attempted to judge how long they looked at the digit that first appeared, they all assumed it was longer than what it actually was.

BBC’s Tom Stafford notes that moving our eyes from one point to another is a quick and automatic movement that we’re not typically aware of; it’s almost instinctual. However, when we move our eyes quickly, there is a momentary break in our visual experience, also known as a moment of darkness.

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To get a feel for this phenomenon, stretch your arms and move your gaze between both index fingers. When flicking your eyes from left to right, there should be a brief flash of darkness as input from your eyes is cut off. This is exactly the same interruption in consciousness that occurs during the stopped clock illusion.

In another example, you might have heard back in high school or college that time is relative, and it actually took us a while to fully comprehend what that meant. Einstein’s theory of relativity is nothing short of amazing, and here’s a quick rundown.

Einstein was traveling on a bus when he locked his gaze on a large clock that was slowly ticking as the bus continued to move. He thought if he were to travel at the speed of light, the clock would stand still, thus slowing time down for him. This blew his mind, and ours too.

The theory states that time moves faster for someone going slower, whereas time slows down for someone traveling at a faster rate. General relativity describes how any massive object, such as the Sun, produces gravity by bending space and time around it.

This might also explain why time seems to slow down when you’re high since your brain and heart are moving at a faster pace than usual. So yes, time is relative, and it’s quite an eerie illusion.

December 02, 2021
Written by BuzzMusic
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December 02, 2021
Written by BuzzMusic
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