Your Brain is a Time Machine

Your Brain is a Time Machine: The Neuroscience and Physics of Time
by Dean Buonomano
Published: May 2017

Great overview of how the fields of physics and neuroscience approach the study of time: how they overlap and where they butt heads. Historical context, thought experiments, and countless research studies form the framework for how our concept of time has evolved across fields of study. Circadian and biological rhythms inform our mental alarm clocks, but we also employ various levels of more precise neuro-timers to properly parse speech, music and memories. Sundials, crystal quartz watches and atomic clocks capture the external, more objective passage of time, though Einstein’s theories of relativity counter any hope of leaning on time as an unqualified absolute.
One dichotomy I found super interesting is the battle of presentism vs eternalism. The former holds that the present, the NOW, is the only moment grounded in reality, while the past and future are inaccessible and only exist in our memories or mental projections, respectively. This is the theory supported by our conscious experience – we feel that each passing moment, each NOW, is somehow qualitatively different than any moment in time not currently being experienced. Eternalism on the other hand, posits that time is the fourth dimension and reality can be presented as a 4D variation of a cube –like a block of cheese where the present moment is merely a slice. This is the view supported by modern physics, because time is relative to the observer and there is no evidence to suggest (beyond our intuition) that the present moment is any more real than any other moment in time. The world of scifi rejoices.

4 out of 5 stars: Expansive and well-researched, I appreciated the author bringing us into the proverbial trenches of each explicitly detailed experiment. That said, though the chapters themselves had a purpose and flow, there were times that felt a bit meandering and unnecessary for the Bigger Picture being painted.

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