Nick Cave Narrates an Animated Film about the Cat Piano, the Twisted 18th Century Musical Instrument Designed to Treat Mental Illness

What do you imagine when you hear the phrase “cat piano”? Some kind of whimsical furry beast with black and white keys for teeth, maybe? A relative of My Neighbor Totoro’s cat bus? Or maybe you picture a piano that contains several caged cats who shriek along an entire scale when keys are pressed that slam sharpened nails into their tails. If this is your answer, you might find people slowly backing away from you at times, or gently suggesting you get some psychiatric help.

But then, imagine that such a perverse oddity was in use by psychiatrists, like the 18th-century German physician Johann Christian Reil, who---reports David McNamee at The Guardian---“wrote that the device was intended to shake mental patients who had lost the ability to focus out of a ‘fixed state’ and into ‘conscious awareness.’”

So long, meds. See you, meditation and mandala coloring books.... I joke, but apparently Dr. Reil was in earnest when he wrote in an 1803 manual for the treatment of mental illness that patients could “be placed so that they are sitting in direct view of the cat’s expressions when the psychiatrist plays a fugue.”

A bafflingly cruel and nonsensical experiment, and we might rejoice to know it probably never took place. But the bizarre idea of the cat piano, or Katzenklavier, did not spring from the weird delusions of one sadistic psychiatrist. It was supposedly invented by German polymath and Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680), who has been called “the last Renaissance man” and who made pioneering discoveries in the fields of microbiology, geology, and comparative religion. He was a serious scholar and a man of science. Maybe the Katzenklavier was intended as a sick joke that others took seriously---and for a very long time at that. The illustration of a Katzenklavier above dates from 1667, the one below from 1883.

Kircher’s biographer John Glassie admits that, for all his undoubted brilliance, several of his “actual ideas today seem wildly off-base; if not simply bizarre” as well as “inadvertently amusing, right, wrong, half-right, half-baked, ridiculous….” You get the idea. He was an eccentric, not a psychopath. McNamee points to other, likely apocryphal, stories in which cats were supposedly used as instruments. Perhaps, cruel as it seems to us, the cat piano seemed no crueller in previous centuries than the way we taunt our cats today to make them perform for animated GIFs.

But to the cats these distinctions are meaningless. From their point of view, there is no other way to describe the Katzenklavier than as a sinister, terrifying torture device, and those who might use it as monstrous villains. Personally I'd like to give cats the last word on the subject of the Katzenklavier---or at least a few fictional animated, walking, talking, singing cats. Watch the short animation at the top, in which Nick Cave reads a poem by Eddie White about talented cat singers who mysteriously go missing, scooped up by a human for a “harpsichord of harm, the cruelest instrument to spawn from man’s gray cerebral soup.” The story has all the dread and intrigue of Edgar Allan Poe’s best work, and it is in such a milieu of gothic horror that the Katzenklavier belongs.

The Cat Piano narrated by Nick Cave will be added to our list of Free Animations, a subset of our meta collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Hear Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” Shifted from Minor to Major Key, and Radiohead’s “Creep” Moved from Major to Minor

A few years ago, we shared a version of R.EM.’s 1991 alternative hit “Losing My Religion” as reworked from a minor to a major key through digital processing by Ukranian musician Oleg Berg and his daughter Diana. Many people thought the project a travesty and railed against its violation of R.E.M.’s emotional intent. But the stronger the reactions, the more they seemed to validate Berg’s tacit argument about the important differences between major and minor keys. We know that, in general, minor keys convey sadness, dread, or moody intensity, all familiar colors in the R.E.M. palate. Major keys, on the other hand—as in the band's inexplicably bouncy “Shiny Happy People”---tend to evoke… shininess and happiness.

Why is this? Goldsmiths University Music Psychology Professor Vicky Williamson has an ambivalent explanation at the NME blog. Her answer: the association seems to be cultural but also, perhaps, biological. “Scientists have shown that the sound spectra—the profile of sound ingredients—that make up happy speech are more similar to happy music than sad music and vice versa.”

This thesis may reduce down to a “water is wet” observation. A more interesting way of thinking of it comes from Aristotle, who “suspected that the emotional impact of music was at least partly down to the way it mimicked our own vocalizations when we squeal for joy or cry out in anger.”

Do these expressions always correspond to major or minor scales or intervals? No. Emotions, like colors, have subtleties of shading, contrast, and hue. Williamson names some notable exceptions, like The Smiths' “I Know It’s Over,” a song in a major key that is almost comically morbid and maudlin. These may serve to prove the rule, achieving their unsettling effect by playing with our expectations. In general, as you will learn from the video above from Minnesota Public Radio—in which a lumberjack explains the distinctions to an animated blue bird---major and minor keys, scales, intervals, and chords are “tools composers use to give their music a certain mood, atmosphere, and strength.”

If you were to ask for a song that contains these qualities in abundance, you might get in reply Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which, like Beethoven’s 9th Symphony or most classical opera, relies on exaggerated quiet-to-loud dynamics for its dramatic effect. But it also uses a minor key as an essential vehicle for its anxiety and rage. So important to the song is this element, in fact, that when shifted into a major key, as Berg has done at the top of the post, it sounds nearly incoherent. The clarity with which “Smells Like Teen Spirit” communicates angst and confusion evaporates, especially in the song’s verses. The digital artifacts of Berg’s processing become more evident here, perhaps because the change in key is so destructive to the melody.

Can we closely correlate this loss of melodic integrity to the critical importance the minor scale plays in this song in particular? I would assume so, but let’s look at the example of a similar type of moody, quiet-loud alt-rock song from around the same time period, Radiohead’s “Creep.” Here’s one of those exceptions, originally written in a major key, which may account for the pleasant, dreamlike quality of its verses. That quality doesn't necessarily disappear when we hear the song rendered in a minor key. But the chorus, underneath the digital distortion, loses the sense of anguished triumph with which Thom Yorke imbued his defiant declaration of creepiness.

In the case of the original “Creep,” the G major key seems to push against our expectations, and gives a song about self-loathing an unsettling sweetness that is indeed kinda creepy. (And perhaps helped Prince to turn the song into a genuinely uplifting gospel hymn). What seems clear in the Nirvana and Radiohead examples is that the choice of key determines in large part not only our emotional responses to a song, but also our responses to deviations from the norm.  But those norms are “mostly down to learned associations,” writes Williamson, “both ancient and modern.”

Perhaps she’s right. University of Toronto Music Psychologist Glenn Schellenberg has noticed that contemporary music has trended more toward minor keys in the past few decades, and that “people are responding positively to music that has these characteristics that are associated with negative emotions.” Does this mean we're getting sadder? Schellenberg instead believes it's because we associate minor scales with sophistication and major scales with “unambiguously happy-sounding music” like “The Wheels on the Bus” and other children’s songs. “The emotion of unambiguous happiness is less socially acceptable than it used to be,” notes NPR. “It’s too Brady Bunch, not enough Modern Family.”

Maybe we’ve grown cynical, but the trend allows brilliant rock composers like Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood to do all sorts of odd, unsettling things with major and minor modulation. And it made “Shiny Happy People” stick out like a shockingly joyful sore thumb upon its release in 1991, though at the time the mope of grunge and 90s alt-rock had not yet dominated the airwaves. Now we rarely hear such earnest, “unambiguously happy-sounding” music these days outside of Sesame Street. Find more of Berg’s major-to-minor and vice versa reworkings at his Youtube channel.

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R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” Reworked from Minor to Major Scale

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Patti Smith’s Cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” Strips the Song Down to its Heart

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


How Mindfulness Makes Us Happier & Better Able to Meet Life’s Challenges: Two Animated Primers Explain

The West has very rich contemplative tradition. Monastics of the early Christian church practiced forms of meditation that have been adopted by many people seeking a deeper, more serene experience of life. Given the wealth of contemplative literature and practice in European history, why have so many Western people turned to the East, and toward Buddhist contemplative forms in particular?

The answer is complicated and involves many strains of philosophical and countercultural history. Some of the greatest influence in the U.S. has come from Tibetan monks like the Dalai Lama and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, onetime teacher of Allen Ginsberg, and founder of Naropa University and the ecumenical Shambhala school of Buddhism. Trungpa Rinpoche contrasted theistic forms of meditation, both Hindu and Christian, with the mindfulness and concentration practices of Buddhism, writing that the first one, focused on a "higher being" or beings, is “inward or introverted" and dualistic.

Buddhist mindfulness meditation, on the other hand, is “what one might call ‘working meditation’ or extroverted meditation. This is not a question of trying to retreat from the world.” Mindfulness  “is concerned with trying to see what is,” he writes, and to do so without prejudice: “there is no belief in higher and lower; the idea of different levels, or of being in an underdeveloped state, does not arise.” In other words, all of the imported concepts that push us one way or another, drive our rigid opinions about ourselves and others, and make us feel superior or inferior, become irrelevant. We take ownership of the contents of our own minds.

How is this relevant for the modern person? Consider the videos here. These explainers,  like many other contemporary uses of the word “mindfulness," peel the concept away from its Buddhist origins. But secular and Buddhist ideas of mindfulness are not as different as some might think. “Mindfulness,” says Dan Harris in the video at the top, “is the ability to know what’s happening in your head at any given moment without getting carried away by it.” (Some might prefer the more succinct Vipassana definition “nonjudgmental awareness.”) Without mindfulness, “there’s no buffer between the stimulus and your reaction.” With it, however, we "learn to respond wisely" to what happens to us instead of being pushed and pulled around by habitual reactivity.

As the video above has it—using the Cherokee parable of the two wolves—mindfulness provides us with the space we need to observe our sensations, emotions, and ideas. From a critical distance, we can see causes and effects, and create different conditions. We can learn, in short, to be happy, even in difficult circumstances, without denying or fighting with reality. The Dalai Lama refers to this as observing “the principle of causality… a natural law." "In dealing with reality,” he says, “you have to take that law into account…. If you desire happiness, you should seek the causes that give rise to it.” Likewise, we must understand the mental causes of our suffering if we want to prevent it.

How do we do that? Is there an app for it? Well, yes, and no. One app is Happify---who produced these videos with animator Katy Davis, meditation instructor Sharon Salzberg, and Harris, creator of the mindfulness course (and app) 10% Happier. Happify offers “Science-based Activities and Games, and "a highly secularized, some might say decontextualized, form of mindfulness training—including the “Meditation 101” primer video above. For those who reject everything that smacks of religion, secular mindfulness practices have been rigorously put to many a peer-reviewed test. They are widely accepted as evidence-based ways to reduce anxiety and depression, improve focus and concentration, and manage pain. These practices have been used in hospitals, medical schools, and even public elementary schools for many years.

But whether we are Buddhists or other religious people practicing mindfulness meditation, or secular humanists and atheists using modified, “science-based”---or app-based---techniques, the fact remains that we have to build the discipline into our daily life in order for it to work. No app will do that for us, any more than a fitness app will make us toned and healthy. Nor will reading books or articles about meditation make us meditators. (To paraphrase Augustine, we might say that endless reading or staring at screens amounts to an attitude of “give me mindfulness, but not yet.”)

Harris, in character as a mouse in a V-neck sweater, says in the video above that meditation is “exercise for your brain.” And like exercise, Trungpa Rinpoche writes, meditation can be “painful in the beginning." We may not always like what we find knocking around in our heads. And yet without acknowledging, and even befriending, the feelings and thoughts that make us feel terrible, we can't learn to nurture and “feed” those that make us feel good. If you're inspired to get started, you'll find several free online guided meditations at the links below.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Walt Disney Creates a Frank Animation That Teaches High School Kids All About VD (1973)

The comically plainspoken, tough-guy sergeant is a heaven sent assignment for character actors.

Think R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket

Louis Gosset Jr. in An Officer and a Gentleman

Even Stripes’  Warren Oates.

Keenan Wynn, who strove to keep America safe from “deviated preverts” in 1964's Dr. Strangelove, was awarded the role of a lifetime nine years later, when Disney Studios was seeking vocal talent for VD Attack Plan, above, a 16-minute animation intended to teach high schoolers about the scourge of venereal disease.

Wynn (son of Ed) threw himself into the part with gusto, imbuing his badly-complected, Kaiser-helmeted germ commander with the sort of straight-talking charisma rarely seen in high school Health class.

A risky maneuver, given that Vietnam-era teens did not share their parent’s generation’s respect for military authority and VD Attack Plan was the first educational short specifically aimed at the high school audience. Prior to that, such films were geared toward soldiers. (Disney waded into those waters in 1944, with the training film, A Few Quick Facts No. 7—Venereal Disease, the same year Mickey Mouse appeared in LOOK magazine, waging war on gonorrhea with sulfa drugs.

Gonorrhea was well represented in the Wynn’s Contagion Corps. The ranks were further swelled by Syphilis. Both platoons were outfitted with paramilitary style berets.

The Sarge pumped them up for the coming sneak attack by urging them to maim or better yet, kill their human enemy. Shaky recruits were reassured that Ignorance, Fear, and Shame would have their backs.

Scriptwriter Bill Bosche had quite the knack for identifying what sort of sugar would make the medicine go down. The Sarge intimates that only a few of the afflicted are “man enough” to inform their partners, and while Ignorance and Shame cause the majority to put their faith in ineffectual folk remedies, the “smart ones” seek treatment.

Elementary psychology, but effectual nonetheless.

Today’s viewers can’t help but note that HIV and AIDS had yet to assert their fearsome hold.

On the other hand, the Sarge’s matter of fact delivery regarding the potential for same sex transmission comes as a pleasant surprise. His primary objective is to set the record straight. No, birth control pills won’t protect you from contracting the clap. But don’t waste time worrying about picking it up from public toilet seats, either.

A word of caution to those planning to watch the film over breakfast, there are some truly gnarly graphic photos of rashes, sores, and skin eruptions. Helpful to teens seeking straight dope on their worrisome symptoms. Less so for anyone trying to enjoy their breakfast links sans the specter of burning urination.

So here’s to the sergeants of the silver screen, and the hardworking actors who embodied them, even those whose creations resembled Pillsbury’s Funny Face drink mix mascots. Let’s do as the Sarge says, and make every day V-D Day!

VD Attack Plan will be added to the animation section of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her play Zamboni Godot is opening in New York City next week. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

20,000 Letters, Manuscripts & Artifacts From Sigmund Freud Get Digitized and Made Available Online

In his introduction to the 2010 essay collection Freud and Fundamentalism, Stathis Gourgouris defines fundamentalism as “thought that disavows multiplicities of meaning, abhors allegorical elements, and strives toward an exclusionary orthodoxy.” While there may be both religious and secular versions of such ideologies worldwide, we can trace the word itself to an Evangelical movement in the U.S., and to a set of beliefs that endures today among around a third of all Americans and has “animated America’s culture wars for over eighty years,” writes David Adams. The fundamentalist movement first took shape in 1920, just as Sigmund Freud wrote and published his Beyond the Pleasure Principle.

It was in that book that Freud introduced the concept of the “death drive.” Adams argues that “the ‘fundamentalist’ and the ‘death drive,’ are twins: they came into being simultaneously,” and “their simultaneity is not merely an accident. Both of these concepts are responding to the profound cultural and psychological crisis resulting from the First World War.” Every calamity since World War I has seemed to reanimate that early 20th century struggle between modernism—with its pluralist values and emphasis on creativity and experiment—and fundamentalism, with its compulsion for rigid hierarchy and destruction. And we might see, as Adams does, such cultural conflicts as analogous to those Freud wrote of between Eros—the pleasure principle—and the drive toward death.

The Great War turned Freud’s thoughts in this direction, as did the racism and anti-Semitism taking hold in both Europe and the U.S. His theory of an instinctual drive toward the destruction of self and others seemed to anticipate the horror of the World War yet to come. Freud integrated the concept into his social theory ten years later in Civilization and its Discontentsin which he wrote that “the inclination to aggression” was “the greatest impediment to civilization.” While meditating on the death instinct as a psychoanalytic and social concept, Freud also pondered his own mortality. Just above, you can see the draft of a death notice that he wrote for himself during the 1920s. This comes to us from the Library of Congress’s new collection of Sigmund Freud papers, which contains artifacts and manuscripts dating from the 6th century B.C.E. (a Greek statue) to correspondence discovered in the late 90s.

The “bulk of the material,” writes the LoC, dates “from 1891 to 1939,” and the “digitized collection documents Freud’s founding of psychoanalysis, the maturation of psychoanalytic theory, the refinement of its clinical technique, and the proliferation of its adherents and critics.” Much of this archive may be of interest only to the specialist scholar of Freud’s life and work, with “legal documents, estate records… school records” of the Freud children, and other mundane bureaucratic paperwork. But there are also letters representing “nearly six hundred correspondents,” such as Freud’s onetime protégé Carl Jung and Albert Einstein, with whom Freud corresponded in 1932 on the subject of “Why war?” (See Freud’s letter to Einstein above.)

The documents are nearly all in German and the handwritten letters, notes, and drafts will be difficult to read even for speakers of the language. Yet, there are also artifacts like the 1936 portrait of Freud at the top, by Victor Krausz, the pocket notebook Freud carried between 1907 and 1908, just above, and---below---a picture of a pocket watch given to Freud by physician Max Schur, whose family left Austria with Freud's in 1938. You can browse the online collection of over 20,000 items by date, name, location, and other indices, and all images are downloadable in high resolution scans. 

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Carl Sagan Predicts the Decline of America: Unable to Know “What’s True,” We Will Slide, “Without Noticing, Back into Superstition & Darkness” (1995)

There have been many theories of how human history works. Some, like German thinker G.W.F. Hegel, have thought of progress as inevitable. Others have embraced a more static view, full of "Great Men" and an immutable natural order. Then we have the counter-Enlightenment thinker Giambattista Vico. The 18th century Neapolitan philosopher took human irrationalism seriously, and wrote about our tendency to rely on myth and metaphor rather than reason or nature. Vico’s most “revolutionary move,” wrote Isaiah Berlin, “is to have denied the doctrine of a timeless natural law" that could be "known in principle to any man, at any time, anywhere.”

Vico’s theory of history included inevitable periods of decline (and heavily influenced the historical thinking of James Joyce and Friedrich Nietzsche). He describes his concept “most colorfully,” writes Alexander Bertland at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “when he gives this axiom”:

Men first felt necessity then look for utility, next attend to comfort, still later amuse themselves with pleasure, thence grow dissolute in luxury, and finally go mad and waste their substance.

The description may remind us of Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man." But for Vico, Bertland notes, every decline heralds a new beginning. History is “presented clearly as a circular motion in which nations rise and fall... over and over again.”

Two-hundred and twenty years after Vico’s 1774 death, Carl Sagan---another thinker who took human irrationalism seriously---published his book The Demon Haunted World, showing how much our everyday thinking derives from metaphor, mythology, and superstition. He also foresaw a future in which his nation, the U.S., would fall into a period of terrible decline:

I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness...

Sagan believed in progress and, unlike Vico, thought that “timeless natural law” is discoverable with the tools of science. And yet, he feared "the candle in the dark" of science would be snuffed out by “the dumbing down of America...”

...most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance...

Sagan died in 1996, a year after he wrote these words. No doubt he would have seen the fine art of distracting and misinforming people through social media as a late, perhaps terminal, sign of the demise of scientific thinking. His passionate advocacy for science education stemmed from his conviction that we must and can reverse the downward trend.

As he says in the poetic excerpt from Cosmos above, “I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky.”

When Sagan refers to “our” understanding of science, he does not mean, as he says above, a “very few” technocrats, academics, and research scientists. Sagan invested so much effort in popular books and television because he believed that all of us needed to use the tools of science: “a way of thinking," not just “a body of knowledge.” Without scientific thinking, we cannot grasp the most important issues we all jointly face.

We’ve arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.

Sagan’s 1995 predictions are now being heralded as prophetic. As Director of Public Radio International’s Science Friday, Charles Bergquist recently tweeted, “Carl Sagan had either a time machine or a crystal ball.” Matt Novak cautions against falling back into superstitious thinking in our praise of Demon Haunted World. After all, he says, “the ‘accuracy’ of predictions is often a Rorschach test” and “some of Sagan’s concerns” in other parts of the book “sound rather quaint.”

Of course Sagan couldn't predict the future, but he did have a very informed, rigorous understanding of the issues of twenty years ago, and his prediction extrapolates from trends that have only continued to deepen. If the tools of science education---like most of the country's wealth---end up the sole property of an elite, the rest of us will fall back into a state of gross ignorance, “superstition and darkness.” Whether we might come back around again to progress, as Giambattista Vico thought, is a matter of sheer conjecture. But perhaps there’s still time to reverse the trend before the worst arrives. As Novak writes, “here’s hoping Sagan, one of the smartest people of the 20th century, was wrong.”

via Charles Bergquist

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Why Time Seems to Speed Up as We Get Older: What the Research Says

No matter what age we've attained, we can think back to childhood and feel just how agonizingly long it then took for Christmas to come, for the school day to end, for a tray of cookies to come out of the oven. Mysterious as this apparent change in the speed of time may at first seem, it actually makes a kind of intuitive sense: one day represents, at the age of fifty, a tenth of the proportion of the time we've experienced so far than it does at the age of five. As our timeline lengthens, our perception of certain fixed units on that timeline — a minute, a year, a decade — shortens.

But there are other factors in play as well. "Individual perceptions of time are strongly influenced by our level of focus, physical state and mood," write The Independent's Muireann Irish and Claire O'Callaghan. "Just as 'a watched pot never boils,' when we are concentrating on an event, time occasionally appears to pass more slowly than usual. This is also the case when we’re bored; time can seem to drag endlessly." This might well contribute to the childhood perception of slow time, since kids have to spend so many of their days in the classroom, an environment that strikes most of them as expressly designed to induce boredom.

In addition, according to Scientific American, "our brain encodes new experiences, but not familiar ones, into memory, and our retrospective judgment of time is based on how many new memories we create over a certain period. In other words, the more new memories we build on a weekend getaway, the longer that trip will seem in hindsight." The relatively high frequency of distinctive memories created earlier in life and low frequency of distinctive memories created later in life means that "our early years tend to be relatively overrepresented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer."

You can see some of the ideas and theories behind this almost universally agreed-on sense that time speeds up as we grow older in the video from the National Geographic Channel show Brain Games above. It also introduces a few new ones into the mix, connecting them all with how much energy the brain uses to record which kinds of experiences, suggesting that even a sense as fundamental as the one we use to mark time has a great deal more complexity to it than we understand. Ultimately, though, it all comes back to the words of no less a thinker on relativity than Albert Einstein: "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute."

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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