Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Its about time

So I have had a self instigated moratorium on blogging for a while. Largely due to good weather (don't fancy being stuck at the computer for too long), good wine (couple of 'scoops' at the end of the day and I'm poleaxed), too much work (although I am conscious of the Steerpike maxim from my last attempt at this excuse - "you choose how much you want to work" - a little simplistic for my ethos but a grain of truth nonetheless) and too many end-of-term events. Anyway, with holiday season almost upon us I thought I'd better get this one off my, errr..., chest.

I've recently downloaded an app for my iPad (device review is long overdue - suffice to say 10:10) and it has pushed many buttons for me, the app I mean. I find a great satisfaction in knowing that mechanical watches with ever miniaturised and complex, accurate movements are manufactured - yes I love watches - I am also fascinated with Astronomy, thats the study of celestial objects not the study of terrestrial newspaper fillers. If you were confused by that reference you're probably a sagitarian - they always struggle with concealed irony. This app then, observatory, is designed for people like me - in fact its so perfect I sat there wondering for a brief egocentric-moment if I had actually commissioned it.

I'm not sure the purpose of the app is immediately clear, nor should it be, I have used it to marvel at the differences in various measures of time, to explore the heliocentric movement of the planets, to examine the "accuracy" of time at different points in history, to discover the position of celestial bodies at specific historic events and finally and most importantly to explore the physical, conceptual and philosophical nature of time. I have flicked back and forth between graffiti-pedia and the app grappling with the meaning of Solar Time, the Solar Day, Sidereal Time, The Equation of Time and now I am astounded by the complexity of evaluating what we simply call "a day".

Eventually, as is its wont, my mind drifted off to the subject of time perception. I remember reading that in reality our brain processes a sequence of images and uses "trickery" to make us believe we are seeing a continuous stream rather than this continual stream of separate stills. If one were able to process more images, one would in effect see the world in slow-motion (relatively speaking). This is one reason why we can't catch the fly with chopsticks, it processes many more images per second than we do. So where did this lead me? beyond the capacity to reason is the honest answer, so I was able to experiment - the app can "animate" the solar system with a number of different frequencies. Year, Month, Phase, Day, Hour and Minute. Enough for eons of experimentation. I'll publish the results when I'm done.

Sent from my iPad

1 comment:

  1. I really wish I could remember the sci fi book I read that plays with the continual stream idea, including how virtual humans might experience time differently if they could process faster than we can, and how it might be possible to arrive at a mind state the same as one achieved by experiencing a long period of time, but without actually experiencing that time. Subjectively, one would remember the time as having passed, but this would not be a real memory. It also looked at the consequences of achieving these mind states out of order. All thought-provoking stuff, anyway - if I ever remember the book, I'll refer you!

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