March 17, 2022

463: Time and Beauty: Why Time Flies and Beauty Never Dies (with Dr. Adrian Bejan)

What is the scientific basis for the perception of time and beauty?

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Time and beauty are two of our most visceral perceptions. Yet, their nature is seldom questioned.


In this groundbreaking new work, Dr. Adrian Bejan -- a true 'original' among physicists -- explains, in a scholarly yet colorful style, the scientific basis for the perception of time and beauty.


Organized into three main ideas, the book begins first with the perception of time. The author expounds on why we feel that time flies faster as we get older. Perceived time, also called 'mind time, ' is different from clock time. In this context, time is another word for 'perceived change'.


Next, readers will discover that beauty is appealing because beautifully-shaped images are scanned faster by two eyes. To observe our immediate surroundings and to understand them faster is highly advantageous to survival; hence, there is an underlying evolutionary advantage to our discernment for ideal ratios, shapes, and beauty at large.

Finally, time and beauty are jointly understood to explain why the global pandemic had decelerated our mind time. This understanding arms us with techniques to slow down our mind time (which accelerates with age), and to create the conditions for living longer and more creatively.

Scientists may have contemplated aspects of time and beauty separately. In contrast, the author submits an original and rewarding approach to understanding them together. In the process, key questions to our cognition are answered.


Why does the mind 'try' to make sense of a new mental image? Why is there a natural tendency to organize a new input and mentally position it among past perceptions? Through physics, the book offers a general answer: to empower the individual with speed and clarity of thought, understanding, decision-making and movement.


The same answer holds for the other disparate perceptions illustrated in this book, from time and beauty to ideas, message, shape, perspective, art, science, illusions, and dreams.


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Brian Nichols  
faced with an uncertain future many business owners and technology professionals don't have time needed to invest in their business technology strategies and as a result are afraid of their technology getting outdated and putting their company and customers information at risk. The digital future is already here. But with all different choices in the marketplace, it's difficult to know which one will be the best fit for you and your strategic vision. Imagine having the peace of mind that your business is backed by the right technology investments that are tailored for your specific needs. Hi, I'm Brian Nichols and I've helped countless business owners and technology professionals just like you helping you make informed decisions about what technologies are best to invest in for your business. Voice bandwidth, cybersecurity, business continuity, juggling all the aspects of business technology is messy. Let me help at the Brian Nichols forward slash help and sign up for a free one on one consultation with yours truly to dig deep into where you see your company headed and how we can align your business technology towards those goals. Again, that's the Brian Nichols forward slash ELP. To get your simplified business technology started today, instead of focusing on winning arguments, we're teaching the basic fundamentals of sales and marketing and how we can use them to win in the world of politics, teaching you how to meet people where they're at on the issues they care about. Welcome to The Brian Nichols Show. Well, happy Thursday there, folks, Brian Nichols here on The Brian Nichols Show in thank you for joining us on a course another fun filled episode. I am as always your humble host and today, we have a returning guest you know him from talking about freedom being nature and constructal law school today we're talking about his brand new book, why time flies and beauty never dies. Dr. Adrian bidjan Welcome back to The Brian Nichols Show.

Dr. Adrian Bejan  
Thank you, Brian. I'm happy to be back.

Brian Nichols  
So happy to have you Dr. Adrian bidjan. And thank you for all you've been doing over the past few years here as a part of The Brian Nichols Show. Greater family, you've been on the show, I think now we're going on three or four times. And every time I had you on the program is a third time Okay, perfect. Yet every time I've tried you in the show, Dr. John, I have always received bountiful emails from people saying thank you for having that awesome doctor on the program. I liked learning about constructal law and how Yeah, freedom is nature I shouldn't be made bad to feel that I like embracing and supporting that that crazy little F word freedom. So Dr. John, you've been busy in your your your life here on the side beyond teaching classes at Duke and focusing on Yes, bringing that F word to academia. But as I mentioned in the intro, you just wrote a brand new book, time and beauty why time flies and beauty never dies. Dr. berjon Fill us in what led to the combination of this book today?

Dr. Adrian Bejan  
Well, several AHA is the all of a sudden sounded like only one, one impression. And the beginning of it is in the title of the book. And in the secondary title, there is a common perception that as we age, time flies faster and faster. And so that's just the beginning of, of the story in this particular book. And there's a lot there are many connections in the story. So I've reduced them to so three takeaways, the number one takeaway is that to obviously different perceptions, and I put this in quotation marks, different perceptions, time, the perception of time and the perception of beauty, are in fact, due to the same physics that is to the same design of the human animal. So that's, that's the first the design is the following. Five is the perception of change, changing the observed image the the eyes are in fact, moving abruptly in in a very abrupt very fast high frequency jolts called saccade. And what is transmitted from the retina to the brain is in fact the change with you and the surprise in the new image that has just taken taken shape. And the so it's a scanning the eyes are scanning, and the time interval between these let's call them cliques is increasing during a lifetime, in the beginning, we are of course growing the body is growing so the distance traveled by these signals is increasing as the body length scale increases. And in the same direction of aging, the speed of everything that flows through channels in the human body is decreasing because So many, many reasons, degradation is one. There are other effects, the movement of any muscle is actually decreasing and frequency as the body grows, but also as the body ages. The sum of all of that is that from sunrise to sunset, as we age, the brain receives fewer images. But the brain was trained in infancy to receive many, many such impressions. So that is why as we age, when sunset comes, we have the feeling that the sunset has arrived too soon, to sunset or tomorrow, or the next Christmas for the next decade. So that's the perception of flight time flies, coming from physics. Scanning, the one that I just described, is, has another effect on us, it is a

scanning that occurs with basically two eyes, we know the two eyes, but imagine the scanner at the grocery store, which has only one eye, if there were two eyes, a lion, just like the eyes of the of the well, the most common animal from man to dog and cat, the field of vision is elongated, let's call it looking more like a business card. The long dimension align with the with the horizontal, why because the field of vision is about the world, the world is flat, as we look at it, and, and the speed of scanning in the horizontal direction, because there are two eyes doing the scanning is 50% greater than in the vertical direction. And this is why the area the field of vision is scanned the fastest, if the image has the shape of the business card or the credit card where the cinema screen, or the flag of every nation on the globe. In other words, the the ability to perceive an image faster is beneficial to human life, to human movement, safety, while basically getting the message to get out of the way of danger, to find mate and all of that. So, scanning faster is good for animal movements, which is also known as life. And so that is the the connection with a construct the law everything else about us is about what I just said, it was a design of how to move not only faster, more economically, but also more safely on the end, for a longer duration in time meaning a longer life lifetime on the landscape. So I've just ended with the first thing go away meaning that time and beauty seemingly very, very different are in fact perceptions that come from scanning and and the and that takes me to the second take away this this is an important step. Because before my work, perceptions of this type, time and beauty or categorizes intangibles not belonging again, in physics, well, they're actually physics just like other intangibles you brought up the urge to have freedom, the urge to organize the urge to have wealth, also the urge to live with others for example, in the city or in an organization also known as hierarchy. So all these things, which are actually flow configurations are from the perception of time to hierarchy are fingerprints of, of the natural tendency, known as the construct the law, in this case in the human design, but I'm quite sure now that I think that the Tennessee universal that the cat and the dog have similar feelings and of course, similar urges and objectives and and sources of not only pleasure but also longer life. The third takeaway is that I come back to the beginning the the perception that time accelerates is is definitely worrisome as the individual becomes older and older. Running out of time is not a good feeling to have. Because there are so many things to do. especially in the, in the mind of a creative person. And that leads to the challenge to slow down the speed of time. And I've experimented with my own solution to this challenge. I did that during the pandemic,

because actually, I had more freedom during the pandemic, the solution is to, to impress your own brain with more changes from sun rise to sunset, that is to get away from the routine, to make the effort to do different things, to yes, if you're a creative person to, to change, the problem that you're solving were to change the painting that you've been finessing for about three months, to do new things, and learn a new language, whatever, take a trip, in a direction, meaning to the next town where you've never been many, many things that take you away from, from the routine, and certainly get you off that couch. And so that is the the, let's call it exercise or training that you should push yourself through, you know, if you want to have the impression, actually it works to have the impression that that sunset is not arriving sooner than then it should.

Brian Nichols  
Well, let's rewind back to one of the things you said at the very beginning how with time, the perception of time will change as you go throughout your life. And that's really, I think, the context you're referring to as when you're younger to when you're older. And it's interesting, Dr. John, because when you when you see the disparities between the older generations and the younger generations, I mean, one can almost go back to this underlying idea of time and that that shared time while we all have the same amount of hours in the day, some of us have had more of those hours collectively in our lived experiences and because of that, the perceptions of things have changed. And I would love if you could maybe dig into a little bit as we go through life and how we see those changes take place What are you identifying are the main areas that people will will actually change? Is it more in the way they approach things in life? Is it the way that they approach leisure or is it the way they approach issues or is it a combination of the three

Dr. Adrian Bejan  
Well, I ended the others my third that take away the the advice to any any person is to get away from the routine, what I come back to the way you started basically the perception of time which is belongs to the prehistoric humans is not about looking at the clock time the word stands for perceived change. So change after change is is the so called time or the confidence that the observer animal or human has in the fact that the knot was different than before or that next will be different than now. So, these words by the way, we go back to the beginning of language words such as before now, next or past and future, these are words that that and the evolution of language call for one word to summarize all these impressions namely time and then the instruments game basically in in antiquity from the Egyptians all the way to us and that's the end is it is the instruments the clocks that the then to confuse the discussion and by the way, this is the clocks are the reason why time and physics is not the kind of time you and I are discussing now. And okay, so, they the the fact that time appears to fly and faster probably made to summarize it with with This metaphor, time flies faster on a wing with two engines. engine number one, when we grow in size, that is when time flies faster. Number two, when we age the adults and of course the aging are perceiving the number two engine, the young are perceiving only the number one engine, but only only if they have the tendency to question what they perceive. And this brings us back to our previous discussion, the importance of questioning what we perceive, questioning what we see what we hear what we read, questioning everything from from device, that's good advice to indoctrination. So questioning is what opens the eyes of the young to what is really going on. And in early age, one of the most difficult to detect, in my own experience was the fact that time was accelerating. I had a, I was lucky to make this discovery when I was in middle school, and occurred to me that the hour of in the classroom was not taking as long as in elementary school. And then of course, I paid attention. And in high school, the hour was even shorter. And then as a basketball player i, I paid attention again, and the the duration of the match was getting shorter and shorter, which meant, of course, that I had to become better in order to do something during Yeah, that's a shorter and shorter period of time.

And I had a coach who was, in fact doing attention to the fact that that time flies. So I had this click in my mind for several decades, until I was no longer young, which was basically about three years ago. And I decided to connect the dots and offer this explanation of physics. Coincidentally, a few years earlier, I had figured out already why we are attracted to two shapes that are like the business card. In fact, I like to look at art, in all the art galleries, most of the famous paintings are, are shaped just like this, things behind my head. Why? Because they're, they're being scanned the fastest and the wall is a finite area number one, but also the time of the observer is finite as well, where the life of the spectator. And so it betters the same physics. So coincidences that come from physics are extremely important. All of a sudden, all of a sudden, the so called intangibles, through my work belong in physics, and I, these are just two I mentioned the otherwise starting with freedom, and ending with the urge to organize in the case of people. And also for those who are interested in my day job, which is not of engineering science, the baby of that is actually design making configurations that are with purpose with usefulness. Well, I am now even happier in this domain, because I'm teaching my students how to do design with beauty. Number one, also with time, meaning more time at the disposal of the thinker. In other words, time filled with excitement, not bored boredom, with perspective with prospective and, and certainly with usefulness. And the bottom line is given the fact that this discussion is also the result of the pandemic, is that the story or if you want the lesson that comes from this book, is that it is worth reading, or it's worth picking up the book during the next pandemic. That's right. In other words, believe it or not, there's at least one positive thing that came from this, this gift that you know where it came from.

Brian Nichols  
So let's talk about I'm looking at that pandemic, right because for the good that came from this pandemic, where it did give you the opportunity to dig into this things like this and maybe take a step back. We did see a lot of people and I've said it many times on the show, you know all that pandemic time. It's You can't really COVID time it just flies by. And I think we saw this happen a lot over the past two years where time just kind of either it didn't feel like it was moving. Or to the contrary, it went by like warp speed. So as we're coming out of the past two years, Dr. John, and to your point, as we're preparing for the next one, which inevitably will be coming down the pike at some point, what would be a plan of action for somebody to really appreciate? And you gave us the tools, you know, the things that do you know, looking at learning a new language or challenging yourself or reading a new book, wherever it may be? But what are things that we can do right now to appreciate the the time that we have but also around us the beauty that's there? And better, I guess, enjoying the overall experience that is life?

Dr. Adrian Bejan  
Well, look, I will answer that. Shortly. First, you began with a pandemic, the the first impression people communicated, especially on the web, during the first week of the pandemic, during the lockdown was, was that time had to slow down, of course, it slowed down because it was a brand a huge change in the lives of everyone. And they talked about it. In fact, I had the reporters calling me to explain why this sudden change in the impression, and then about one or two weeks later, time accelerated again, why because the previously surprised the population had discovered a new routine, a new boring way of life. So that's right. So they have brought the office back into their homes, and they were basically looking at the screen beginning you know, technologically advanced couch potatoes. So, that is what happened then, you asked me What can we do in the future? Well, I did say that the technique on time or lengthening one's creative life during the day is to do new thing. Yes. This is a great discussion now because it takes me in the direction of our most recent discussions, how can you get into new one new thing after new thing you can get do that if you have freedom, freedom to change the audacity to to exercise your freedom to do okay this car this will try this or buy this or you get an idea. If you are have also freedom to move, yes, freedom to move, freedom to pose a new question. Freedom to Okay, throw a punch if somebody is insulting you. In other words, there is a a huge, huge bag of benefits that comes from having freedom to make changes. And in this particular discussion, they The good thing is the impression that that the the your own life during one day, or one week, has taken longer than otherwise, you see. And so in the creative realm that is extremely important. Imagine you're a composer, you one thing is to have peace and quiet, which by the way also comes from freedom. But another one is to have a mind that's that's how should I say it is and natural or like in that line from Mohammed Ali. There's like a butterfly and sting like a bee, you know, that? That is the the, the sound of the music I'm trying to compose right now for you.

Brian Nichols  
It's important for us to I think take a step back and appreciate the time and maybe this is one thing is we're going toward the tail end of the conversation is that we can we can do the new things and we can try the new things. But I think it's also important I'd love to as we go towards the end here, you know, focus on appreciating the time and I think sometimes we are to your point, so focused on what's next. And then when you get to the end of life or or whatever it may be. And you realize that that what next might not be coming. It is important to appreciate the what happened. And I think right now we're really seeing after past two years of relationships being fractured, families being torn apart or not being allowed to see each other that we're really start. I'm hoping to appreciate the importance of not just the time that's to be had but the time that we have had. So with that That being said, obviously Dr. Brown we want make sure that folks can go ahead and buy this brand new phenomenal book, which correct me if I'm wrong, it's actually coming out today, which is as a recording March 17. Happy St. Patrick's Day, by the way, Dr. John, so the book again, time and beauty why time flies and beauty never dies? where can folks go ahead and find that Dr. John?

Dr. Adrian Bejan  
Thank you, Brian. Then go and please show them the book cover.

Brian Nichols  
Yes, we certainly will. And I say we can find on Amazon too. By the way, folks, and here's what we're going to do will make it easy for you. All you have to do is click the artwork in your podcast catcher, it'll bring you right to today's episode where you can find not only that the past few episodes, where Dr. John has joined us talking about yes, questioning everything. And by the way, freedom is nature's nice water ball you have there. And also it's important for us to make sure that we give people an opportunity to go ahead and purchase this new book which is available on Amazon so link there in the show notes as well as Dr. John's social media links and bio but with that being said, Dr. Prashant has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for joining us once again on The Brian Nichols Show. And folks again if you enjoy the episode, please do us a favor make sure you give it a share. And when you do give yours truly a tag at be Nichols liberty. But with that being said, it's Brian Nichols signing off. You're on The Brian Nichols Show for Dr. Adrienne Zhaan. We'll see you tomorrow. Bye bye.

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Dr. Adrian BejanProfile Photo

Dr. Adrian Bejan

J.A. Jones Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering

J.A. Jones Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Professor Bejan was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal 2018 and the Humboldt Research Award 2019. His research covers engineering science and applied physics: thermodynamics, heat transfer, convection, design, and evolution in nature.

He is ranked among the top 0.01% of the most cited and impactful world scientists (and top 10 in Engineering worldwide) in the 2019 citations impact database created by Stanford University’s John Ioannidis, in PLoS Biology. He is the author of 30 books and 685 peer-referred articles. His h-index is 101 with 79,000 citations on Google Scholar. He received 18 honorary doctorates from universities in 11 countries.

J.A. Jones Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
Faculty Network Member of The Energy Initiative