#2492: Apparentime

Humans seem to be unsettled by discontinuous time changes when travelling between continents. Today’s invention is a watch which automatically alters the rate at which it runs.

If you leave Melbourne, for example, at 4pm and arrive in Edinburgh at 06.30 that’s 14.5 apparent hours spent on a 23-hour journey. The watch would run 63% as fast as normal, providing the user with linear time progression on the watch.

It’s probably a good idea not to have a second hand, since we can easily perceive that this is moving rather slowly, but the lag in the minutes and hour hands would just appear to be the normal symptoms of impatience.

Once the (smart) device knows your flight number, it can slightly adjust its rate, taking into account any realtime updates, such as delays.

I did a quick analysis of flying from London and the only destination which would give serious perceptual difficulty is Seattle, which requires that your watch moves 9 times slower than usual (Vancouver has a factor of 5, which is I think on the edge of acceptable). I’ve found it hard to find references that say eg we start to notice that something is wrong with a timepiece when it moves faster or slower than a certain amount. Here is an article which makes it clear that this level is heavily dependent on context.

It may be that these apparent time dilation factors serve as a measure of expected jet lag…perhaps airlines should be giving discounts for flights with high factors?

As often happens with these ideas, I’ve just had another one on this theme. Imagine a smartwatch which can tell when you are looking at the time. When you aren’t, it displays nothing. When you suddenly inspect the face, the watch works out what the linear time should be and shows you that, as above…but now, it displays hands moving at the correct rates for a watch…so you don’t get the feeling that anything is amiss. You look away and the display switches off.

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