In A Pandemic, Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

Apr 30, 2020

What day is it again? Has it been a year since February? Or a day? We take a look at the science behind how the pandemic is warping our sense of time.


Carlo Rovelli, theoretical physicist and writer. Director of the quantum gravity group of the Centre de Physique Théorique of Aix-Marseille University. Author of “The Order of Time” and “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics.” (@carlorovelli)

Peter Ulric Tse, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College.

Listen: Songs For The Time Warp

From The Reading List

WBUR: “That ‘Brain Fog’ You’re Feeling Is Perfectly Normal” — “A few weeks ago, I read a piece in The Atlantic about how Shakespeare wrote great works when quarantined due to the bubonic plague. On Twitter, I’ve seen cheery proclamations that sheltering-in-place will spark increased productivity and creativity.”

New York Times: “What Day Is It? You’re Not the Only One Asking” — “A little over a week ago, a local news anchor in Cleveland, Todd Meany, got a call from his producer about an unusual problem created by the coronavirus pandemic.”

The Guardian: “‘There is no such thing as past or future’: physicist Carlo Rovelli on changing how we think about time” — “What do we know about time? Language tells us that it ‘passes,’ it moves like a great river, inexorably dragging us with it, and, in the end, washes us up on its shore while it continues, unstoppable. Time flows. It moves ever forwards. Or does it? Poets also tell us that time stumbles or creeps or slows or even, at times, seems to stop. They tell us that the past might be inescapable, immanent in objects or people or landscapes.”

New York Magazine: “Why Coronavirus Makes February Feel Like Six Months Ago” — “Thanks to the email exchange that set it up, I know the date of my last trip to a bar with a friend: Friday, March 13th. I remember what I ate and drank and what I talked about with the friend in question (yes, by that point we probably should have known it was a bad idea to be out at a bar, but in our defense a lot of other people hadn’t yet gotten the message either).”

Vice: “Time Is Meaningless Now” — “In 1962, a French geologist, Michel Siffre, descended into a cave more than 400 feet below ground and stayed there for two months. He left his watch, and any other indicators of time, at the surface to experience what life was like ‘beyond time.'”

Vox: “What day is it today?” — “Today is Thursday, April 30, 2020, at least in the continental United States. It is already Friday, May 1, in some parts of the world. Did you know May was imminent? Feels wrong, huh?”

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