Saturday, July 9, 2011


Second grade seemed to last an eternity, from its beginning in September to the end of the year in hot June. To my eight-year-old life it was like an eternity or at least a lifetime--and the summer vacation following on was like another lifetime added on. More recently I registered my son for second grade and I assure you an eternity did not pass, nor a lifetime or even any time at all until I was asked to sign him up for third grade and did I know what he was doing this summer. Everybody experiences this difference in time perception, across genders and across cultures, young time going slow and old time going fast and no one has one explanation that is generally accepted.

I decided to diagram my memory in a scalometer, and I think the diagram helps explain the situation. From eight-years-old to nine-years-old is one stop on the scalometer dial, from "1" to "2". At the same time, I went from 37 to 38, barely one quarter stop from "14" to "15". The message is clear to me: time is experienced like the accumulating rings of a tree, in proportion to the amount of time you have already experienced and accumulated in your body, in its memory, habits and conventions. Recently I found out Glashow agrees with this explanation, though leading psychologists do not.

Scalometer Human Life in Seconds (c) 2011 Lionel Wolberger

To complete the diagram, I put John Tyler Bonner's rendering of the changing proportions of the human body, from infant to mature adult.

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