What IS Time?

FlameChallengeTimeThe Concept of TIME

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
2013 World Science Festival’s Flame Challenge Video

“As far as we can tell, time is a subjective experience, 
and timekeeping was just invented
to keep people from missing trains.”
~ Jonathan Strickland

ADDers everywhere are dancing in the streets! 

It turns out that we have been right about time all along – it doesn’t really exist.
Universal Time, Standard Time, clock synchronization – it’s ALL an illusion!

No wonder we’ve always had such a tough time with with the concept.

What time do YOU have?

As I said in my “light-hearted introduction” to
So-Much-More about Time™ —

For over a quarter of a century now, I have been fascinated with anything related to the topic of the awareness of the passage of time.

My secret fascination with the mechanics of time’s awareness began long before I first learned that I seem to be one who was born without that internal tic-tic-tock with which most people DO seem to have been equipped as part of the standard package.

I first began to wonder how anybody managed to
keep track of time when I was a very young child.

  • I had no idea there was such a thing as an
    inner time-sense until I was diagnosed with ADD.
  • I was 38 years old.

Does ANYBODY get it?

Does anybody even know what time IS?

I mean, when we are attempting to discuss TIME as a topic, are we talking about

  • the concept of time,
  • the perception of time,
  • the mechanics and relative synchronization of internal time cues

— or something else entirely?

How we need to focus our thoughts about time changes with area of impact. Yet, we rarely attempt to define what we’re talking about before we begin to explore the subject.

We tend to talk about TIME as if it were a thing. And it isn’t.

The Scientists Ring In

As it turns out, science itself has been pretty fascinated by the topic of how to define time as well. They’ve done more than a little bit of research on it, even though they seem to have a great deal of difficulty explaining it in terms that most of the rest of us can understand or relate to.  

SO – the goal of the 2013 Flame Challenge was to explain the topic of TIME in terms an eleven-year-old could understand.  (In case you’re wondering, the contest is judged by KIDS.)

 Remember – links on this site are dark grey to reduce distraction potential
while you’re reading. They turn red on mouseover.

So What’s Up with this TIME thing?

You may or may not have an internal time sense, but I’ll bet you don’t have a much of a clue how it works. Don’t feel alone in that, by the way.  Science is still trying to figure that out as well. So am I.

sand_timer_sEven though a contest winner or two might be able to explain the concept relatively simply, it’s ironic how complex the process of working within time’s boundaries really is.  Yet most of us can DO it!

Those of us with Executive Functioning Disorders (like ADD, for example) don’t tend to fall within the purview of that “most,” however.
I certainly don’t.

In my life-long search for answers, I’ve learned we do know a few things about how the so-called “neurotypical” brain tracks time’s passage and passes that information to our conscious awareness, which I’m going to share with anyone else who’s curious enough to read my articles.

  • In some of the articles in my So-Much-More about Time™ Series, I’ll share some of the implications of a kludgy sense of internal time-tracking that I have learned in the ADD trenches.
  • I’ll also let you in on a few of the strategies my clients and I use to work within other people’s perceptions of time’s boundaries.  So stay tuned.

MEANWHILE, let’s take a look at what some scientists have to say about it.

Time_FliesDuring The Flame Challenge segment of this year’s World Science Festival in New York City, scientists from various fields and around the world attempted to explain this year’s topic: TIME.

The segment was introduced and hosted by hosted by science lover and Flame Challenge creator, actor Alan Alda (well-known from MASH) — beginning with a video explanation of why the contest itself is called “The Flame Challenge”

In the video linked below, take a look at how three scientists, Lawrence Rosenblum, Alexandra Horowitz, and Max Tegmark, attempt to explain a few things about time while they are being timed.

Three Ways to Look at the Topic of Time

  • Why time seems faster or slower depending on how old we are

Perceptual Psychologist Lawrence Rosenblum attempts to explain why time flies when we’re interested and engaged, but slows to a crawl when we’re bored.  In a requested “overtime” couple of minutes, he offers a few age-related tips to “speed things up” or “slow things down.”

  • How dogs and animals relate to time

Alexandra Horowitz, noted animal cognition researcher and author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know, delivers an on-the-money 10-minute talk enlightening us on her research toward a theory of what time could be like for dogs – at about minute 24.

  • How gravity and speed change the perception of time

Physicist Max Tegmark tackles an explanation of what Einstein figured out about time — with the help of three kids who take a journey across the universe (complete with caps donated by NASA).

Earlier this summer, the 2013 Flame Challenge was streamed live around the world.
If you missed it then, it’s not too late to catch it now.

Click the image below to open a new window/tab where you can watch the ENTIRE Flame Challenge segment on video.  (it says “event ended” at the top of the landing page – the video itself is further down and works fine!)


Toward the end is some wonderful footage on the judging process through a session of one panel of some unbelievably sophisticated fifth-graders with an amazingly understanding and positive come-from toward the scientists attempting this difficult challenge.


As always, if you want notification of new articles (in this particular Series or any new posts on this blog), give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some coaching help (one-on-one,couples or group) with anything that came up while you were reading this article, click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
(in case you missed them above)

Time-related articles on ADDandSoMuchMore.com

Related articles ’round the ‘net

BY THE WAY: Since ADDandSoMuchMore.com is an Evergreen site, I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

7 Responses to What IS Time?

  1. Pingback: Sleep Timing and Time Tangles | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

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  5. Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC says:

    grrrrrr!! WordPress glitch. Not home, cannot log in to do more. SEE notice left at top of [link===>]Home/NEW (good to check for site glitches overall — I post newest there. Cannot spare the time for the back and forth with “the Happiness Engineers” to sherlock NEW permutations of this glitch that has lasted throughout my ENTIRE several month sabbatical until ’til I’m back & have caught up — but a refresh MAY work.

    SO sorry for your frustrations. I am powerless on this platform.



  6. Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the pictures on this
    blog loading? I’m trying to find out if its a problem
    on my end or if it’s the blog. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


    • Missed this earlier — sorry! It is SO frustrating for me too — every time this bubble under plastic reappears.

      Periodic graphics glitches seem to be an unacknowledged WordPress issue
      that shows up following many of their periodic “upgrades.” Maybe somebody fails to test before releasing?

      In any case, I’ve given up attempting to notify them about it – they eventually find and fix without my spending hours documenting the problem anew to whichever “happiness engineer” happens to field my latest notification email. It makes me CRAZY (er – 😐 )

      MEANWHILE: a screen refresh usually renders graphics correctly until enough other bloggers complain that somebody is tasked with finding and fixing. Then you won’t have to refresh for a while (until they “upgrade” again, when the problem frequently returns like a bad penny!)

      In most browsers, a screen refresh is accomplished via the navigation/address bar at the top of the page — – In Firefox, you’ll see a little arrow in a circle at the far right of the navbar – click it to refresh. Similar procedures in other browsers.

      SO sorry – I have plenty of experience that I have NO power over this. I hope it won’t keep you from being able to stay tracked on what you came for.



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