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©2000 Zhan Huan Zhou
Updated Sep-01-2000

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That's Relativity

©2000 Zhan Huan Zhou, Spring 2000, Issue 5

They say time flies when you're having fun. According to Albert Einstein, traveling near the speed of light can also change how time passes by. For those who have trouble understanding his special theory of relativity, he summarized it into a phrase that appealed to the masses: "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. THAT'S relativity."

Wouldn't it be nice if we could control that kind of relativity? This is especially true at the end of term when there doesn't seem to be enough time to finish off projects and studying for finals. There are times when hours just seem to vanish into oblivion without getting much accomplished. But even worse is when those hours turn into days and when Monday and Tuesday seem like the end of the week because the entire week is booked for working on projects. There doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to enjoy the finer aspects in life such as eating and sleeping. I define this set of circumstances as "life moving too fast." You are no longer in control of your life. The momentum that has built up in your life is maintaining the ridiculously high speed you find yourself living. Appropriate action must be taken to slow it down so that you don't lose control and crash and burn.

In an attempt to keep things in my life moving at a reasonable pace, I decided to put the brakes on to slow it down. One week, I had plans to work on one project with specific goals and procedures. I knew exactly where I was going to be every day and what I was going to be working on. When Saturday came, I decided to do the exact opposite. I woke up in the morning with absolutely no plan on how I was going to spend my day. I did whatever I wanted to do at whatever pace I wanted to. If I ever got distracted from what I was doing, which was quite often, I just went ahead and did it. I just drifted from one thing to another. There was nothing holding me to a particular task since I didn't need to get anything done that day. Anything useful that was accomplished that day was a bonus since it wasn't in my plan. It was incredibly relaxing to be able to just basically waste a day and do my own stuff. I didn't even have an inkling of guilt for not doing work because I knew that I wouldn't be able to get much done in my current state anyways.

What made that Saturday even more enjoyable was that my roommate was out of town and I had the entire apartment to myself. I was in complete control of my own time. I could use the kitchen whenever I wanted, I could put on whatever music I wanted, I could watch whatever television program I wanted, I could do all that without having to compromise with my roommate first. I was in control.

With the feeling of being in control of my own life having been restored, I felt ready once again to tackle the problems that lay ahead of me. I had discovered that the fundamental principle of relativity was that you ultimately have control of the speed at which you conduct your life. So next time you feel crunched for time for end of term projects, or a Friday afternoon lecture just seems to drag, I urge you to take control. Slow down or accelerate your pace in life. It's much easier to master than time dilation that Einstein had proposed.