Speed, Relative to Size

In a dream last night, I heard myself saying to a friend, “The world is too fast now. I’m a very slow person.”

Yesterday, in response to all the birthday wishes I received on Facebook, many from friends I haven’t seen in ages, some from people I only know online and have never met in person, I found myself thinking about the old saying, “It’s a small world,” and about how it’s often asserted in this day and age that it’s getting smaller all the time.

Taken together, these two thoughts have me turning the law of Conservation of Angular Momentum over and around in my head. This bit of science says that as the diameter of an orbit decreases, the orbital speed proportionally increases. This explains why stars spin faster as they collapse, and why the massive swirls of cosmic dust and gas that make up nebulae turn much more slowly than the stars or planets they eventually become. I wonder if the perceptual size of the social world somehow influences its perceived speed. Do my personal interactions seem quicker because they cross a smaller perceived space than they used to? Does that even mean anything. And do we really perceive time as generally moving more quickly as we age, because each moment is a proportionally smaller unit of our total consciousness of time than the last?

And whether any of this works or not, how would it look translated into a piece of art?

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