8/13/13

Time Warped by Claudia Hammond

There is one rather mysterious element to all this: the way we think about time and space is not symmetrical. If you show people a line of three light bulbs, switch them on one at a time and ask people to guess the time between each light coming on, the more spread out the lights are physically, the longer people will say the duration between lights was. This is known as the "kappa effect." [It] also works the other way round. If you switch the lights on in turn and ask people to estimate the distance between them, the faster you turn on the lights, the closer they will say they are. This is called the "tau effect." Just as we know a lion is big so it probably runs fast, we find it hard to ignore what we know about speed and distance and assume that faster probably means nearer. But Boroditsky and Casasanto have shown that the relationship between space and time is imbalanced. We think about time in terms of space more than we think about space in terms of time. This brings us back round to the language and the lack of phrases such as "a four-minute-long street."