Did it ever occur to the reader

Did it ever occur to the reader that analog clocks with moving hands and digital clocks with numbers tell different times? Mariner is old enough to remember when only analog clocks existed. Consequently, like everyone else, he grew up reading the whole face of the clock, not time-specific minute markers. If you would like to have the reading experience of an Evelyn Wood speed reader, quickly look at an analog clock for just a tenth of a second. Two things occurred: First, you did not subvocalize the minute marks, which is what speed reading is like; your brain took a picture of the whole face.

Second, your brain immediately perceives values on the clock face to be behavioral rather than temporal. For example, if one is preparing to leave the house for an appointment, the time on the clock face says, “Wow, I’d better get ready to go, it’s almost ten!” Almost ten is purely relative to the viewer’s situation and has nothing to do with finite measurement.

On the other hand, a digital clock zeroes in on the minute as the primary information. Again, the brain takes a picture of stationary digits but another mental step is required to convert the digital picture into a behavioral response. Because the brain perceives the digits as digital value alone, it is possible to look at a digital clock solely to know what minute it is without having a behavioral response. This effect actually is handy for people who don’t sleep well; they can check a digital clock throughout the night and avoid having to deal with behavioral responses.

Being the old generation yet again, with a digital clock mariner must momentarily search to construct meaningful human context for a digital value. Using an analog clock, however, he automatically has a human response. In his house, there are many analog clocks.

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Did it ever occur to the reader that our relationship with numbers – no matter why we use them from telling time to building pyramids to astrophysics – is the same as our reading of a digital clock? Our brains need human comprehension of value before numbers have meaning. For example, on sequential days Betty bought 7+4+19 = 30. Thirty what? If we say elephants, that’s a lot of elephants; if we say penny candies, that has a different behavioral response – either example is a response meaningful to humans – a value that numbers alone don’t possess.

When Albert Einstein wrote his “Special Theory of Relativity” in 1905 (he was 26), he had to devise demonstrations that made his theories understandable. He could have shown his mathematical formulas all day to no avail. However, by cleverly relating the special theory to a behavioral experience, people at least had an inkling of what Albert was talking about. One of his famous demonstrations was the elevator thought experiment. To view an entertaining reproduction with a quadcopter in an elevator, see: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=albert+einstein+elevator+theory&&view=detail&mid=5DCA66974B5DEE42C8CD5DCA66974B5DEE42C8CD&&FORM=VRDGAR

The moral of this epistle is that as humans we are bound to a human view of reality. How much more is there to the Universe, the flower garden, the weather, even of ourselves that we cannot see or experience? What is the Universe really like beyond our senses?

Ancient Mariner

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