Does time really fly as humans get older as Duke University mechanical engineer Adrian Bejan argues in his latest book, Time and Beauty

Time and Beauty cover

Or does the ramping up of technology merely give the impression that time flies as humans get older?  I take the latter perspective. 

Strip New York of electricity, as happened in 2012 during Superstorm Sandy, and what have you got?  A scene from The Day the Earth Stood Still

I remember during Sandy walking with a flashlight from the West Village in Manhattan to midtown and a source of electricity several nights in a row just so I could file a story.  We had no electricity downtown.  Shops downtown were closed.  Candles were scarce.

To further illustrate this point:  As a child growing up in Newark decades ago, I loved the energy of the city, the vibrancy of my elementary school with all its then high-tech tools, the thrill of a train ride downtown through the trees and colors of Branch Brook Park to the city’s big department stores and the ceiling monorail at Bamberger’s, etc.  But when my family moved to Northeastern Pennsylvania several years later, life slowed to a crawl because except for the coal mines, Wyoming Valley was a relatively undeveloped place where time seemed eternal. An unchanging landscape of coal banks was visible from my classroom window and inside, the loud tick of a wall clock opposite a portrait of George Washington.  Coming to New York following my school years was a trip into hyperspace, speed, exhilaration.  

As expected, today—Memorial Day—time has again slowed in New York because of the holiday exodus. Technology has largely been tamed—life for now has returned to a human pace.  Nighttime is another matter—social disorder is still rampant, a vestige of the de Blasio years of mismanagement.

I do find Adrian Bejan’s book idea about the human eye interesting, which is that humans find it easiest to scan a rectangular area whose length-to-height ratio is roughly 3:2 because this corresponds to a rectangular area on the human face where the eyes are positioned. Thus, Bejan says, images that can be scanned 3:2 are considered most attractive to humans.

Bejan also notes “the two eyes scan the image in short and quick motions called saccades.  This movement is also responsible for the perception of change, which we associate with the concept of time.”

Placement of the eyes obviously differs with other animals.  Bejan, the son of a veterinarian, discusses the parietal positioning of eyes of “horses, bovines, many birds, and many fish.”

Because the eyes of a horse are on either side of the cranium, horses are often seen wearing blinders to keep focus forward—like Rich Strike, this year’s winner of the Kentucky Derby.

But I question whether there is a formulaic beauty due to said scanning range of the eyes due to position in the human skull.  Beauty, I think, is in the eyes of the beholder.  Every eye is unique.

For example, because every individual’s eyes are unique, there is a certain vogue now in having your iris photographed and framed as enamel wall art (for several hundred dollars).   

Indelible in memory are the eyes of my father eleven years ago, as life began to leave him.  Peter Mazur was a watchmaker and artist.  Time and beauty were his tools. 

Dad - Pilot Portrait

Today would have been Dad’s 103rd birthday. He was also a bit of a poet and once said: 

“The years go by so fast!  But if we keep smiling, the years slow down.”

Dad - Eyes - 1
Sketch, Peter Mazur

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