Time After Time

It's been exactly one year since I've joined FTDM.  In honor of this anniversary, I thought I'd write about something that enters our minds more frequently than my usual Molecule of the Month posts. It's a concept that we all experience first-hand, every second: time.

What is time?

This question might sound rhetorical, but there's more to time than we think.  Albert Einstein came up with the all famous Theory of Relativity.  What is the Theory of Relativity, you ask?  This quick clip summarizes: 

In short, it acknowledges time as a dimension that we "move" through.  To put the term 'dimension' into easier context: we've all taken a basic Math course at some point or another.  In these courses, we learned about dimensions of width (x), length (y), and perhaps depth (z).  The 4th dimension is time. There are 10 dimensions in total, but we won't go into too much detail on those in this post.  This post focuses on the dimension of time.

How do we change over time?

At first, the answer to this question may sound obvious.  As we age, we grow taller, gain wrinkles, and become wiser . . . right?  Well, that's correct . . . mostly.  

Most of us are born brand, spanking new.  At specific time point in our lives, our body releases hormones that stimulate tremendous morphological and physiological changes (e.g. puberty, pregnancy or menopause).  This means that changes occurring on a molecular level are seen visibly (morphologically and physiologically) with examples such as growth spurts and acne.  With time, our body reaches an optimal point (which also translates to prime reproductive age).  After this point, it beings to slowly wear down.  

As we grow older, our eyesight starts to fade, our hearing isn't as sharp, our skin loses elasticity, and even our memory begins to erase itself.  Some of us, however, can be born "old".  No, not like Benjamin Button, per se.  Some children are born with a rare disease known as Progeria.  The disease is a gene mutation that results in accelerated aging.  To date, most diagnosed with Progeria have not surpassed the age of 14. 

Sam Burns at 16 with Progeria.  Sam passed away the following year.  Photo courtesy of Digital Journal. 

Sam Burns at 16 with Progeria.  Sam passed away the following year.  Photo courtesy of Digital Journal

We've covered physical aging, but only touched on mental aging.  What does it mean when someone refers to another as mature or wise?  Do these aspects of aging have optimal points as well? Are they continuous, or is it all a bunch of cacophony the elderly tell us younger folks to make us feel dumb and silly?

Interestingly, unlike physical aging, our mental age is not necessarily time-dependent.  Genetics do play a role, but that's not to deter the fact that a 17-year-old can have the same aptitude of intelligence (IQ) and maturity (behavioral) as a 50-year-old.  Let be known, however, that according to a paper published in 2011, timing by which intelligence occurs predates maturity by several years.  The paper wanted to see if there was a relationship between adolescence and criminal activity.  What they found was that mental intelligence and maturity varies from person to person.  This means that mental intelligence and maturity are not restricted in the same way physical aging is by time.  Why this is the case is still unclear and is continuing to be investigated.     

Perhaps one day we can defy the 4th dimension and live forever like the immortal jellyfish, but who's to say we want to?

To end, I finish this post with a familiar, fitting song covered by a not-so-familiar artist.

Stay hungry!