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Slowing Down The Clock

One of the unwritten rules of life is that the two weeks holiday you've looked forward to all year will fly past as if it had only been a few days.

Yet when we remember childhood holidays they seem to have stretched out for ages. Of course they were longer, but it's obvious that advancing years bring a sense of accelerating time.

Yet it doesn't have to be like that. Clock time is about minutes and hours, but Real Time is how we experience it, and differs from person to person depending on what we're doing.

A child's school day from 0900 to 1530 is like a 20-hour day for an adult.

The perceptual theory, first put forward by American psychologist William James in the 19th Century, says time is related to how much "information" someone is taking in from the world around them.

Children are frequently experiencing things for the first time. They also have an amazingly intense vision of the world, a clear fresh perception. Children are incredibly awake to the surrounding world, so time passes slowly for them.

Information - through perceptions of the world, not from books, television or the internet - stretches time and we get older we have fewer new experiences. There is less novelty in our lives and we become more familiar with the world and. We take in less information from the world around us and time is less stretched.

A possible explanation is that the brain and its capacity to perceive time are affected by the units of information it is asked to process.

So eight months spent in the Amazon Basin might seem like eight years because of the number of new experiences crammed in.

There is also the proportional theory; as we get older, a year is a smaller part of our life as a whole and so seems to pass quicker.

Another factor is the way we can occasionally shift out of our normal consciousness. For example, during an accident, people often say time slowed down.

This shift to "slow motion" can also be achieved by top sportsmen. The late George Best and former basketball player Michael Jordan are among those to have remarked that time seemed to slow down when they were "in the zone".

Is this a delusion? Or perhaps time isn't something real or something absolute, it's something created by our minds. Einsteinís theory of relativity shows that time is dependent on other factors. So it's probably not just an illusion. The sportsmen are