Remembering When; Scientific American Time; Special Editions; by Antonio Damasio; 6 Page(s)
We wake up to time, courtesy of an alarm clock, and go through a day run by time—the meeting, the visitors, the conference call, the luncheon are all set to begin at a particular hour. We can coordinate our own activities with those of others because we all implicitly agree to follow a single system for measuring time, one based on the inexorable rise and fall of daylight. In the course of evolution, humans have developed a biological clock set to this alternating rhythm of light and dark. This clock, located in the brain’s hypothalamus, governs what I call body time [see “Times of Our Lives,” by Karen Wright, on page 34].
But there is another kind of time altogether. “Mind time” has to do with how we experience the passage of time and how we organize chronology. Despite the steady tick of the clock, duration can seem fast or slow, short or long. And this variability can happen on different scales, from decades, seasons, weeks and hours, down to the tiniest intervals of music—the span of a note or the moment of silence between two notes. We also place events in time, deciding when they occurred, in which order and on what scale, whether that of a lifetime or of a few seconds.