There’s probably no better time to read Alan Burdick’s entertaining and thought-provoking exploration of time in all its facets than early in a new year. Yes, we're already in the second month of 2017. So just why does time seem to fly, faster and faster with each year?
As the subtitle, “A Mostly Scientific Investigation,” suggests, Burdick, a staff writer at The New Yorker and a National Book award finalist for his first book, Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion, addresses the fascinating subject of our concept of time from primarily (but not entirely) a scientific perspective.
Certainly some of the most intriguing aspects of the work are its exploration of accurate time (it’s more complicated than you might think) as well as interviews with scientists, including developmental psychologist David Lewkowicz, who has studied how infants begin to recognize when things happen together in time. Another section introduces readers to John Wearden, a British psychologist who has spent three decades trying to unravel how humans perceive time. In between Burdick explores the work of St. Augustine, Stephen Hawking, H.G. Wells and lesser known figures, including a French geologist named Michel Siffre who subjected himself to underground experiments to see how he would fare without knowing the time (not so well).
Burdick begins his far-ranging account at a moment we can all recognize: waking in the night to the ticking of a clock and an “understanding that time moves in one direction only.” For, inevitably, it is hard to think about time without reflecting on our own lives. And Burdick does not shy away from that. One of the marvels of Why Time Flies is the grace with which the author weaves into the narrative his own experience as a writer and father of twin sons.
Burdick has created something unique and quite wonderful here, a book sure to be savored by armchair philosophers, avid readers of science, and just about anyone who’s wondered, “Where did the time go?”