“An insightful meditation on the curious nature of time…A highly illuminating intellectual investigation” (Kirkus Reviews) explaining the sometimes contradictory ways we experience time.
“Time” is the most commonly used noun in the English language; it’s always on our minds and it advances through every living moment. But what is time, exactly? Do children experience it the same way adults do? Why does it seem to slow down when we’re bored and speed by as we get older? How and why does time fly?
“Erudite and informative, a joy with many small treasures” (Science), this witty and meditative exploration by award-winning author and New Yorker staff writer Alan Burdick—“one of the finest science writers at work today, with an uncanny ability to explain knotty topics, with humanity, and humor” (Publishers Weekly, staff pick, best books of 2016)—takes readers on a personal quest to understand how time gets in us and why we perceive it the way we do. In the company of scientists, he visits the most accurate clock in the world (which exists only on paper); discovers that “now” actually happened a split-second ago; finds a twenty-fifth hour in the day; lives in the Arctic to lose all sense of time; and, for one fleeting moment in a neuroscientist’s lab, even makes time go backward.
“Why Time Flies captures us. Because it opens up a well of fascinating queries and gives us a glimpse of what has become an ever more deepening mystery for humans: the nature of time” (The New York Times Book Review). This “intellectual adventure renders a hefty topic accessible to the general public” (Richmond Times-Dispatch), is an instant classic, a vivid and intimate examination of the clocks that tick inside us all.
Burdick (Out of Eden), a staff writer at the New Yorker, brings a casual, evocative style to his inquiry into the nature of time. He surveys historical conceptions of and experiments about the phenomenon, recounts his own chatty visits to the laboratories of experts who've devoted their life's work to the subject, travels to the places where aspects of time manifest dramatically, analyzes how animals and human babies view the passage of time, and draws connections to the ephemera of his own experience. Burdick relates the scientific elements here with unusual clarity, making sure the book is not merely a collection of intellectually stimulating physiological and psychological trivia. Coffee-table conversationalists will appreciate his discussions of such topics as the methods for synchronizing world time, exactly how long "now" is, and how circadian rhythms work across nature. Burdick's orientation is as philosophical as it is scientific, and he provides thoughtful background on such themes as time as four-dimensional geometry and the question "Are we born into time or is time born into us?" Returning regularly to the idea that time is a property of the mind that does not exist without a subject to perceive it, Burdick places his readers in the centers of their temporal universes.