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  • Feature

    Special Report: Dimensions of Time

    Time, as the late physicist John Archibald Wheeler liked to say, is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening all at once.

    But time also has many other jobs. It keeps eggs from unscrambling, glass from unbreaking, and somehow accommodates the expansion of the universe. Time helps humans and other organisms function on a recurring daily schedule that alternates light with darkness...

    07/15/2015 - 10:30 Neuroscience, Molecular Evolution
  • Feature

    A brief history of timekeeping

    For millennia, humans have harnessed the power of clocks to schedule prayers, guide ocean voyages and, lately, to chart the universe. Whatever their use, all clocks need two basic components: a constant repetitive action (like a pendulum’s swing or an atom’s vibrations) and a way to mark time’s progression.


    07/15/2015 - 09:47 History of Science
  • Feature

    How the brain perceives time

    Everybody knows people who seem to bumble through life with no sense of time — they dither for hours on a “quick” e-mail or expect an hour’s drive to take 20 minutes. These people are always late. But even for them, such minor lapses in timing are actually exceptions. We notice these flaws precisely because they’re out of the ordinary.

    Humans, like other animals, are quite good at...

    07/15/2015 - 09:10 Neuroscience
  • Feature

    The origin of biological clocks

    The Earth has rhythm. Every 24 hours, the planet pirouettes on its axis, bathing its surface alternately in sunlight and darkness.

    Organisms from algae to people have evolved to keep time with the planet’s light/dark beat. They do so using the world’s most important timekeepers: daily, or circadian, clocks that allow organisms to schedule their days so as not to be caught off guard by...

    07/14/2015 - 13:00 Physiology, Evolution, Health
  • Feature

    Some animals’ internal clocks follow a different drummer

    Circadian clocks, which reset about every 24 hours, are common in organisms living on Earth’s surface. They control sleeping and eating patterns, the rise and fall of body temperature and blood pressure, hormone release and many other important body processes. But the clocks in some animals tick-tock to a different beat.

    Lunar clock Along with its circadian clock, a marine worm called...
    07/14/2015 - 13:00 Animals, Evolution, Molecular Evolution
  • Feature

    The arrow of time

    In T.H. White’s fantasy novel The Once and Future King, Merlyn the magician suffers from a rare and incurable condition: He experiences time in reverse. He knows what will happen, he laments, but not what has happened. “I have to live backwards from in front, while surrounded by a lot of people living forwards from behind,” he explains to a justifiably confused companion.

    While Merlyn is...

    07/10/2015 - 14:23 Physics, Cosmology