Friday, September 16, 2005

Our perception of time

As I was reading chapter 2 I started thinking that if time were just composed of changes, what would happen if you put someone in a completely pitch black room in a space station where they couldn't smell, hear, see, taste, or touch anything, and they couldn't move at all? Would he be able to perceive time by just the changes in his mind? Are physical changes and mental changes the same, or do we just perceive time by changes we pick up physically? Would it be the same type of thing as going to sleep in a dark room and waking up in darkness still and not knowing how much time has passed? I know that has happened to me a number of times- I think I have been asleep for hours or that it is the next day even, but look at a clock and see it has only been 15 minutes. I'd be interested to hear what you all think about this if it makes sense at all.

6 Comments:

Blogger Nigel said...

In response to the space station example, I believe that although people may feel the effects of time (changes) individually, time exists by itself. Therefore it would not matter if your man in the space station experienced no physical change, because the world would still be changing around him. Dealing with his mental status, his mind still functions in a chronological order, perceiving change. Think about if you close your eyes. The thoughts running through your head are changing, and although your sense of time may be inaccurate, you do have the sense that time is moving forward without physical sensation. This is the same as the sleeping in a dark room example. You dont know exactly how long youve been lying there, but you do know that at least some time has passed in the forward direction, and that some change has occured.

9:41 PM  
Blogger PVMunchy said...

Having him be in a space station was just so he couldn't feel whatever he would be sitting on if he were on the Earth. I know time would still be passing. I was just wondering if his perception of time would be severly distorted without being able to use his senses. Even when you close your eyes here, you can still hear and smell things around you, feel whatever you are touching, and taste whatever is in your mouth. Closing your eyes only takes away one sense. And just on the side, would he have some extreme psychological reaction like a panic attack or something?

6:10 AM  
Blogger The Hulk said...

You pose a very interesting question. But even if you're in a spacestation or in a very dark room, you can still move about and you can actually feel yourself moving. That's a change and therefore it's a change in time. Because if you're in a dark room and you get up, walk around the room, crash into the wall (because it's pitch dark and you can't see anything), you're still changing your position and that's a change. But, I know exactly what you mean about the sleeping thing. If you go to sleep at like 5:30 and wake up when its dark out, you don't know what day it is. Also, changes can occur mentally because if you think about different things, you're still changing something and therefore time is passing. So, time is about both mental and physical change

3:27 PM  
Blogger Singularity said...

You say that our friend on his space station can't move. That implies that he can't breathe. Assume he can breathe though; thus, he could define an interval of time to be the completion of an inhale/exhale cycle. If he can't breathe and his body were receiving all forms of sustenance (including oxygen) by other means, then I believe, in answer to your second question, if given enough time (haha), he would lose track of time passing with only his mind at work. I feel this way, first, because we perceive time based on our memories of the past--only. How would we perceive time even physically without the memory of the time that we designate as the beginning of an object's movement. If our mind were concerned with only the present, time would have no meaning, for us. But I think that without memory-provoking stimulation, our friend would likely forget his memories--granted, with enough time. He might even forget about memories. Since his mind is now his universe, and if his universe has no conception of memory any more, then he might forget about this time question all together, and not sense it, because it would no longer have any meaning. I realize your question didn't imply such an extreme case, but it's usually helpful to look at cases of such extremity, as in math too. It wouldn't be the same as waking up in a dark room, because we're not concerned with him 'waking up', since as soon as he did, he would then be able to sense time.

4:57 PM  
Blogger Kermit said...

I agree with you that things are still changing for him because of mental and physical changes. But I started wondering what exactly mental changes are. When we have a thought, is something really changing or are we just connecting two ideas that we hadn't connected before? Thought could be considered a change becuase if you think of something new, you might change your mind about something. But I don't think mental changes can tell anything about the passage of time unless they are influenced by something (which they can't be for the man in the example). He has no way of knowing how many times he has orbited the Earth or how many minutes have gone by his mental thoughts. They are also inconsistent in length so he can't use the number of his thoughts to measure time.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Darron said...

I guess what your tryign to say PVMunchy is if that person was in a temporal vacuum??? If he was in a temporal vacuum then time could not possibly be dependent on change because temporal vacuums assume that Absolute Space and Time is true, which states that time and space be independent of change.

4:06 PM  

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