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Traveling at the Speed Of Time July 14, 2006

Posted by Andy in andy roth, einstein, relativity, soapbox.

27 November 2001

“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity.” – Albert Einstein

We’ve all noticed that the speed of time is not consistent. Not even a little. Some moments/days/weeks/months/years go by quickly while others crawl slowly past. What’s more, one’s preception of a given span can change depending on when one is examining it. While you are in the middle of long drive, it can seem like it is taking forever, but when you get there, the trip did not seem that long. Also, there is no law of conservation of time perception. For example, a week that consists of seven slow days in retrospect could seem to have flown by.

A question that this time flow discontinuity brings up is how do we measure the relative speed of time. For most things, rates are determined by dividing something by time. Can we thus divide time by time? Perhaps if we divide how long a span “feels” like, lets call that relative time, by how long it actually is, that would give us a speed. So the minute on the hot stove that feels like an hour would be 60/1, or 60. The hour with the pretty girl would be 1/60 or 0.0167.

I wonder how long it would seem to be sitting with a pretty girl while your hand was on a hot stove.



1. Mark of Toast - October 6, 2006

“I wonder how long it would seem to be sitting with a pretty girl while your hand was on a hot stove.”

In this situation, relative time derives from a ratio of hotnesses (H) of the girl (Hg) and the stove (Hs). Girl hotness is measured on a scale of 1 to 10 (girls, as you know, are unitless) and stove hotness is measured on a scale of Lo to Hi (units: settings). The time-hotness constant (Kth) needed to speak of settings in terms of time is 1.618 seconds/settings. (This constant is based on the golden ratio and should not be questioned. Hey! No questions.) This gives the formula for Time sitting with a pretty girl while your hand is on a hot stove:

Tswapgwyhioahs = Hg/Hs*Kth.

Real world example:
You and Jessica Alba (having never spoken with her, we’ll give a conservative Hg of 8) are about to enjoy some tea. The two of you are seated by the stove, and you decide it’s time to impress her with your focus and pain endurance. The burner is off, but the residual heat gives an effective Hs of about Med Lo. So just plug in the figures:

Tswapgwyhioahs = 8/Med Lo * Kth
Tswapgwyhioahs = 8/Med Lo *1.618 sec/settings
Tswapgwyhioahs = 12.944 seconds/Med Lo

To further simplify, there is only one Med Lo setting per burner, and 12.944 seconds per Med Lo, so we substitute 1 for Med Lo and arrive at:

Tswapgwyhioahs = 12.944 seconds or about 13 sec.

There you have it. Thanks for asking, Andy!

2. Mark of Toast - October 6, 2006

Correction: Jessica Alba is not shades hot. We gave her an 8.

3. Andy - October 6, 2006

wow. careful what you ask for. That comment must really have smoked your spell checker 😉

4. iwishicouldtellyou - January 15, 2007

very funny! way out of the soap box thinking!

5. Evomialliem - September 6, 2007
6. sourorgejek - September 24, 2007


7. avaskFanosync - September 27, 2007


8. utitnetuaws - September 27, 2007


9. Afforyweemy - October 12, 2007

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