Who Americans spend their time with

Dan Kopf's Who Americans spend their time with is a chart—six of them—that show the number of hours a day people spend with n over the course of their lives. Together they tell a story. The sixth is a gut-punch. But not, perhaps, if you're introverted.

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NTP: the rebirth of ailing, failing core network infrastructure

Network Time Protocol is how the computers you depend on know what time it is (this is critical to network operations, cryptography, and many other critical functions); NTP software was, until recently, stored in a proprietary format on a computer that no one had the password for (and which had not been updated in a decade), and maintained almost entirely by one person. Read the rest

What people with "calendar synesthesia" reveal about how our minds deal with time

Synesthesia is the fascinating neurological phenomenon whereby stimulation of one sense involuntarily triggers another sensory pathway. A synesthete might taste sounds or hear colors. Now, leading synesthesia researcher VS Rakmachandran at the University of California, San Diego is studying "calendar synesthetes" who see very clear images of calendars in their mind's eye when they think about months that have passed or are in the future. For example, according to New Scientist, one participant in the research "sees her months as occupying an asymmetrical “V” shape. Along this V, she sees each month written in Helvetica font." From New Scientist:

The idea that calendars are literally laid out in space for some people suggests that we are all hardwired to some extent to map time in space.

The concepts of time and numbers are something we acquired relatively recently in our evolutionary history, says Ramachandran, but the brain wouldn’t have had time to evolve a specific area to deal with it.

“Given the opportunistic nature of evolution, perhaps the most convenient way to represent the abstract idea of sequences of numbers and time might have been to map them onto a preexisting map of visual space, already present in the brain,” he says.

Indeed, imaging scans show connections between areas of the brain involved in numbers and those involved with mapping the world, memories and our sense of self. The team suggest that when these areas act together, they enable us to navigate mentally through space and time, while being firmly anchored in the present.

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Wrong things that programmers believe, a curated list

Kevin Deldycke has collected a "curated list" of "awesome falsehoods programmers believe in," sorted by subject into meta, business, dates and time, emails, geography, human identity, networks, phone numbers, postal addresses and software engineering. Read the rest

Today we gain a leap second. Why?

At 23:59:59 (UTC), time will "stop" as the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US and other official timekeepers around the world add a second to our clocks. They last did this in 2012. Read the rest

Why you're so busy

The Economist's feature on time-poverty is an absolute must-read, explaining the multi-factorial nature of the modern time crunch, which combines the equivalence of time and money (leading to leisure hours that are as crammed as possible in order to maximize their value), the precarity of the American workplace (meaning that affluent workers work longer hours), and the pace of electronically mediated communications (which makes any kind of refractory pause feel like a wasteful and dull eternity). Read the rest

Happy 42nd birthday, Leap Second!

The first atomic clock, at NIST. [Wikipedia]

It was on this date in 1972 that the first leap second was added to a day.

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Twins born a year apart on New Years eve

I was a midnight birth, born somewhere between 7/16/71 and 7/17/71 (the doctor let my mom choose my birthday). For New Years babies born around midnight, the choice is more momentous -- a whole year's difference! But what about New Years twin births? A woman in DC delivered her twins in two different years, three minutes apart. Read the rest

Long-form YouTube: videos of entire long-distance train journeys

YouTube has been an existence-proof of forms of video that were lurking in potentia, unable to come into existence due to limitations of the distribution channel. The two-to-three-minute video has now been firmly established as a genre (with the six-second video hot on its heels), but there's plenty of room at the long end of the scale. Case in point: subculture of YouTubers who post full-length train journeys, hours and hours' worth -- and if that's not long-form enough, how about 134-hour sea crossings?

Given the modern vogue/panic about short-reads being mere "linkblogging" and the practice of spinning out a few hundred words into a "serious, long-form journalism" wheeze that is split across eight or more screens, this may just be the video form for our age (and please let it be a short one!). Read the rest

Museum of Four in the Morning

"Four in the morning" appears with strange frequency in movies, TV, art, and culture. The Museum of Four In The Morning collects such references. Submit yours! Read the rest

Enormous timescales made graspable by graphs

Wait But Why has a fantastic series of graphs that aim to help us wrap our heads around the enormous timescales on which forces like history, biology, geography and astronomy operate. By carefully building up graphs that show the relationship between longer and longer timescales, the series provides a moment's worth of emotional understanding of the otherwise incomprehensible. Read the rest

Christian Marclay's "The Clock" video montage

Pioneering sound/video collage artist Christian Marclay's "The Clock" (2010) is a 24-hour montage of appropriated film clips related to time.

Grand Central Station's clocks are a minute off

Here's The Atlantic on how New York's busiest train station helps commuters get there in time: by giving them an extra minute: "The idea is that passengers rushing to catch trains they're about to miss can actually be dangerous -- to themselves, and to each other. So conductors will pull out of the station exactly one minute after their trains' posted departure times." Read the rest

Hello, Curiosity

On Sol 32 (Sept. 7, 2012) the Curiosity rover used a camera located on its arm to obtain this self portrait. The image of the top of Curiosity's Remote Sensing Mast, showing the Mastcam and Chemcam cameras, was acquired by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). The angle of the frame reflects the position of the MAHLI camera on the arm when the image was taken. The image was acquired while MAHLI's clear dust cover was closed.

That's from NASA's description of this great Curiosity self-portrait.

What really stuck out to me, though, was the use of "Sol 32". Sol is what you call a "day" on Mars. We use a different word because the length of time is also a bit different. One Martian Sol is equal to 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds. Sol 32 isn't, itself, a date, but simply a record tracking the number of sols that Curiosity has been on Mars—starting with Sol 0, which was August 6th. Every mission to Mars since Viking has kept its own sol count, so you can't really use these sol dates to keep track of history except as it relates to a specific mission.

There have, however, been proposals for a standardized Martian calendar system with a starting point that all dates progress from. NASA includes a Mars Sol Date on its Mars24 Martian clock app. In this case, the count begins on Earth date December 29, 1873 at noon Greenwich Mean Time and MSD represents the number of sols that have happened since then. Read the rest

Falsehoods programmers believe about time - riff on the malleability of computer time

"Falsehoods programmers believe about time" is InfiniteUndo's riff on Patrick McKenzie's classic Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names. It's quite an eye-popping and mindbending riff on the malleability of time inside the world of computers, where a minute can last longer than an hour, where clients and servers may disagree about the time by an order of decades, and where production systems might routinely change timezones.

20. Time has no beginning and no end.

21. One minute on the system clock has exactly the same duration as one minute on any other clock

22. Ok, but the duration of one minute on the system clock will be pretty close to the duration of one minute on most other clocks.

23. Fine, but the duration of one minute on the system clock would never be more than an hour.

24. You can’t be serious.

Falsehoods programmers believe about time (via Making Light)

(Image: CASIO 593 A163WA-1QGF wristwatch, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from andresrueda's photostream) Read the rest

Newly-discovered Mayan calendar in Guatemala proves (again) the world won't end in 2012

William Saturno, a Boston University archeologist, excavates a mural in a house in Xultun. Photo: Tyrone Turner © 2012 National Geographic

An archaeological expedition in the northeastern lowlands of Guatemala yields an amazing discovery: the "9th-century workplace of a city scribe, an unusual dwelling adorned with magnificent pictures of the king and other royals and the oldest known Maya calendar."

From Thomas Maugh's report in the Los Angeles Times, on the dig in the ruins of Xultun led by William Saturno of Boston University:

This year has been particularly controversial among some cultists because of the belief that the Maya calendar predicts a major cataclysm — perhaps the end of the world — on Dec. 21, 2012. Archaeologists know that is not true, but the new find, written on the plaster equivalent of a modern scientist's whiteboard, strongly reinforces the idea that the Maya calendar projects thousands of years into the future.

To paraphrase modern-day Maya priests I've spoken with on past travels in rural Guatemala: "Well, duh."

The findings were first reported Thursday in the journal Science. The full text of the report requires paid subscription, but a recent Science podcast covers the news, and is available here (PDF transcript or MP3 for audio).

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Excellent vintage film about the first accurate atomic clock

This short film was produced by the film unit of the UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the 1950s, and explains the principles behind the first accurate atomic clock, which was designed by Louis Essen and built at the National Physical Laboratory in 1955. The NPL's YouTube channel has other videos of interest to science geeks. (thanks, obadiahlemon) Read the rest

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