web metrics



Gerardus D. Bouw, Ph.D.[1]


Preface to the Reader


          In Part I we looked at time from a physical perspective.  In the course of the analysis we discovered that the popular interpretation of the Energy Uncertainty Principle suffers from several problems, among which it apparently violates the First Law of Thermodynamics.  The cause of this appears to center on a misconceived or incomplete theory of time.

          This article covers an area that is implicit in all theories but is commonly neglected in their formulation and that involves the field of linguistics.  Mathematics works fine as a language to describe the field of physics, but it is not so successful in other human disciplines.  On the other hand, all human endeavors and disciplines use “natural” languages.  Part I was mathematical, but this part has no equations.  It is entirely written in English, a “natural” language.  It looks at time from its perception in language, particularly the language of Scripture.  

          The current article presents research conducted by the author over the course of the past 43 years, most intensively between August 1969 and April 1973, the spring of 1979, and the spring of 2007.  The investigation presents the result of literature searches, collection of anecdotes, as well as experimental results and observation of everyday events. 

          The study investigated the effect on perception of emotion, chemicals such as alcohol, hallucinogens, magnesium pemoline, mood enhancers, diet pills, etc., in short, anything that we could collect in the literature or by first-person testimony of users and abusers of mind-altering pharmaceuticals.  Although the investigative team was somewhat interested in, and most of the world’s research at the time concentrated on, the physical damage done to the brain by these various substances, we were primarily interested in the effect of these substances on perception.  Physically, we concentrated on neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.  As a result, the study provided a different dimension of time than thitherto recognized in the literature. 

          Our starting premise in the study was that the aforementioned substances interfered with or replaced the normal neural transmitters of the brain, most specifically Serotonin.  Our first task was to devise a way to measure the effect of substances on the brain’s neurotransmitters.  The key to unlocking the neurotransmitter’s time-mystery was the discovery of speech-based attention span. 

          The research team consisted of three people.  Our short-term memory expert and our most insightful researcher was a schizophrenic named Kim,[2] who formulated the speech-based attention span concept.  Our long-term memory expert was Mack      whose chief interests lay in memory enhancement, the expansion of speech-based attention spans.  As the third, and only trained observer in the group, the author’s job was to record and assimilate the data, as well as conducting the literature searches and developing a comprehensive theory based on said data.  In short, I was the generalist.

          This article tells the story of the research and presents our findings.  It also presents a statistical picture of two lies which were recorded as an offshoot of the research.  The author will take the liberty of speaking in the first person in the remainder of this article as it makes the narrative read more fluently.  In the third paper, we will present these results in light of modern topological cosmologies.  


Introduction to Attention Span


          In the fall of 1964 the Astronomy group of the University of Rochester held a picnic for their undergraduate and graduate students.  While awaiting the burgers and hot dogs, Dr. Lawrence (Larry) Helfer regaled us with tales of, among other things, his very young son.  The one story that stuck with me was a conversation he had had with his son some time earlier in that year.  A couple of days prior to the picnic his son had resumed the conversation right from the point it had ceased some six months earlier.  This incident introduced me to the concept of attention span—the length of time it takes the mind to either lose the trend of a conversation or wander off in other directions never to return or to pick up the trend of a conversation and continue with it as if there was no intervening period.  In this example, the attention span was at least six months.  Over the decades since, I have learned what I can about attention span. 

          For a given individual the attention span is dependent upon the topic.  If a person is interested in a topic, his attention span will be longer than for a topic in which he is disinterested.  People who tend to have short attention spans overall were once labeled as inattentive or indifferent but are now said to suffer from “Attention Deficit Disorder,” as though it were a disease.  It may be in some rare cases, but most A.D.D. is due to lack of discipline.  Some cases may be due to problems with the neurotransmitters of the brain, perhaps due to damage from exposure to foods or chemicals such as alcohol in the person’s environment.  Others may be due to trauma to the head.  It appears that the vast majority of attention deficit is due to spiritual disorders such as laziness and carelessness resulting from the effects of a lax upbringing, television, offbeat music (referring to tension-inducing rhythm patterns as much as content), and lack of exposure to a wide variety of environments and activities.  Once someone’s interest is piqued, his attention span increases and much of the laziness disappears. 

          In 1969 I found several ways to study attention spans.  One was through the pathologies of food and drug interactions, particularly over-the-counter flu remedies and the effects of alcohol and “recreational drugs.”  A second method was through argument, an example of which will be given later.  A third method was the study of trauma to the brain, including alcohol and drug-induced damage.  Much of the initial study was done at the Cleveland Free Clinic’s Together Hot Line, a phone number that could be called by people having drug-related problems.  Other evidence, such as the effects of alcoholism and drug addiction on memory, came from the literature, including the writings of LSD guru Timothy Leary. 

          By 1971 two others interested in the study joined in the research.  We had an abundance of subjects.  One was Virginia, who could not accurately recall any event for more than three weeks.  Another could totally switch through several moods in a matter of seconds.  Our data supported the premise that many of the aforementioned substances change the effectiveness of neurotransmitters.  We concluded that psychotropic drugs such as LSD, STP, and DMT functioned as neurotransmitters, usually less efficiently except for DMT which occurs naturally in the brain and functions, among other things, in color perception.  Most shorten the attention span, possibly resulting in perceptual distortions and hallucinations. 

          Our most valuable subject, Sam, was extremely capable of suppressing hallucinations and illusions under the influence of hallucinogens.  While most of the hallucinogen-taking subjects suffered from permanent patterns[3] after taking some five to thirty “trips,” Sam’s never persisted, even after twice as many “trips”; nor did he have any flashbacks.  His observations at extremely short attention spans (half a second or less, the realm in which LSD takers such as Timothy Leary experienced “religious experiences”) revealed that there are at least two forms or dimensions of attention spans: a physical one dominated by the neurotransmitters; and an abstract one that is totally independent of the human physical body and may even be cosmic, that is, built into the fabric of space and time.  Both act as recording devices, the former in human memory, the latter as a cosmic memory.  At the time, it was not clear how these two attention spans meshed, but they were perceived as slices or sheets of time. 


Pathologies of Attention Spans


          As noted in the introduction, some of our information came from pathological findings.  Red, one subject who was not part of our study, decided he wanted to stay up on speed (amphetamines) for an entire month.  His first try ended when he decided to surprise his grandmother, with whom he lived, by painting her basement.  When he finished the walls, he had more paint, as well as more basement left, so he painted the ceiling and then the floor.  With still more paint and more unpainted parts of the basement in sight, he painted the sink, the washer and drier.  When his grandmother arrived home he had painted everything in the basement and was busy painting himself.  At that point, the “men in the white coats” came and took him away.  He had a clear goal in mind, to paint the entire basement.  Perhaps if he had been more exact in the statement of his goal, to paint the basement walls, things would have worked out differently (though he might still have painted the windows).  But his attention span was so long and so tightly defined that the misstatement of his assignment caused him to go too far.  From this, and similar anecdotes, we derived the theory of tangential thought, presented below.  (By the way, his second attempt to stay up on amphetamines, which started a few weeks after his release from the sanitarium, lasted two weeks when he was frightened out of it by green stools.)  

          Attention span problems can also be diagnosed by argumentation or debate.  In one classic case the topic was especially emotional for the subject, Rich, who had not really thought his position through.  We started on one particular point.  Rich ceded me the point and jumped to his next point.  After about twenty minutes of jumping from point to point, Rich returned to his starting point having completely forgotten he had ceded that point twenty minutes earlier.  I repeated my initial argument and he again ceded the point to me and went to the same follow-up point he had made the first time through.  We had gone twenty minutes with him retreating from point to point until he had come full circle in a radius of 3.2 minutes, which was roughly the average time spent on each point.  From that we can learn two things about the nature of the ever-faulty circular reasoning: first, the radius of curvature of the circle is a measure of the attention span of that person on that subject; and second, the circular form derives (i.e., the second and third etc., derivatives of the circle) from an emotional strain,[4] not necessarily by a deficiency in reasoning.[5] 


Pathology of Straight Thinking


          In our study of attention spans, we discovered several principles that were later verified by neural network (computer) systems.  One of those dealt with “straight thinking.”  We are brought up to think that straight thinking is good.  If someone reasons to a conclusion we have also reached, we call him a “straight shooter” and say, “he thinks straight.”  Technically, the conclusion may be right or wrong but we call him a straight shooter because he agrees with us.  Such agreement does not make the conclusion right or wrong.  All that straight thinking does is amplify one’s own points of view.  Straight thinking, referred to as a “linear transform” in the field of neural networks, may enhance or degrade opinions already formed but cannot teach us anything new. 


Non-linear Tangential Thought


          Tangential thought is nonlinear.[6]  One can learn from it, but relatively few people know how.  We all know people who go off on tangents, and it is generally not appreciated.  People who go off on tangents may or may not return to the original thought because of the same problem encountered by Red, a de-amplification of the short-term memory which keeps one in context.  Tangential thought is tied to correlation coefficients, that is to say, several “large” (meaning requiring long attention spans) concepts running parallel at the tangent point and that can be tied together at that point into a single concept or part of a concept (i.e., a subconcept).  Imagine Tarzan swinging from vine to vine.  He does proceed to the jungle and goes faster than walking on the ground, but not everyone is adept at it, in particular, not everyone trusts the next vine.  Those who do know how to learn from tangential thinking will learn about a variety of topics and, from their own tangents as they listen, will learn a whole lot more than if the speaker had not strayed from the topic.  Critics of tangential thought condemn it as pointless, however, the point of tangential thought is to stimulate the hearer to thinking, to discover for himself the energy that lies in discovery by derivation. 


Points and Thought


          Speakers who stay on topic may be said to be pointed.  In essence, they go from point to point until they make their ultimate point.  Typically, each point-to-point transition is more or less linear, amplifying (bringing to the hearer’s mind) the familiar and then sloping the trend of thought to the next point.  This should ideally be an integrative process since the point-by-point exposition should trace a curve the same way a connect-the-dots puzzle reveals a figure.  Thus the points can exhibit a turn or twist to reorient the hearer to the next point.  Pointed speakers will often alliterate their points.  However, alliteration promotes the usage of imprecise wordings, leading to fuzzy, confused thought.  As a result, most alliterated presentations, in order to maintain the same starting letter for each point, end up emphasizing the intermediate points and often fail to deliver a single unifying concept at the end.  In other words, the alliteration presents each point as if it is itself an endpoint. 


Discovery of the Unit of Attention Span


          Kim’s expertise in short attention spans led to the modification of units of time as the fundamental measurement of human attention span.  Since human thought is highly complex and contextual, it is very difficult to measure the attention span factors of human thought.  There are too many variables such as the level of interest, distractions, mood, and patience.  Instead, we developed the sentence as a unit of measure.  In the shortest attention spans, the unit of measure is a word. 

          To understand what is meant here, consider the following.  Suppose a subject’s attention span averages three seconds.  We first ask the subject to repeat a sentence that takes five seconds to repeat.  (Speaking the previous sentence takes about that long.)  What happens is that after the three seconds, the subject has forgotten what he is going to say.  It takes about three seconds to get to the first “repeat” in our five-second sentence above.  The result may be as follows: “We first ask the subject to repeat the second most important thing in existence the importance of the cosmic all.”  This takes about seven seconds to say and could have run longer or shorter, depending on the tangent taken.  The tendency to over-generalize is typical of such cases.[7] 

          Another sample sentence was, “What is the color of your shoe? Brown,” without pause and where brown is the color of the subject’s shoes.  The problems arise in that first, the subject’s name is not Brown, second, is this a command to color the shoes brown, or third, is this a question or a statement?  A catatonic state can thus be induced.  The key to understanding attention spans is to consider that the subject forgets the start of a sentence before the end of the sentence is reached.  We mentioned earlier that religious experiences happen when the attention span reaches the length of a word.  In light of John 1:1, this should not be surprising.[8]  We can thus convert the attention span to normal units of time, that is, seconds, by observing how long it takes the subject’s mind to wander off into a tangent or stop without reaching a conclusion. 


Long Attention Spans


          With short attention spans, we noted that the word and sentence are the basic units useful in measuring them.  For longer attention spans we need to use longer linguistic structures such as paragraphs, chapters, volumes, etc.[9]  The best way to analyze long attention spans is by argumentation.  Mack and Sam were our experts in that area.  Both were decadal planners, Sam even to generations yet unborn. 

          It is difficult to describe such long attention spans.  We can point to the extraordinary example of the Rothschild family, who since 1776 have focused on the goal of controlling the world’s money supply.  Such a long-term view is clearly unusual.  Bible believers whose faith is in redemption through the shed blood of Jesus Christ have an eternal view.  These make up less than 5% of the world’s population.  To these, intelligence is not a measure of smartness but of awareness of one’s environment; and by environment we refer not to the environmentalist’s concept, which is sometimes extremely short sighted and unintelligent. 

          Of the latter, consider an event that happened on a beach in the Caribbean.  The beach is world renowned as an area where sea turtles come to lay their eggs.  One day a group of environmentalists, concerned about the preservation of sea turtles, walked along the beach waiting for the turtles to hatch from the sand.  One turtle started to break the surface of the sand and a seagull spotted it.  To keep the gull from snatching the turtle, and before the guide could stop her, a woman scared the seagull away.  A few seconds later the sand erupted with baby turtles, much to the delight of the hovering flock of seagulls who feasted royally upon them.  Though well-intentioned and at first emotionally satisfying, the environmentalist was ignorant of the way God had designed the sea turtle’s hatchling behavior.  If a seagull had been allowed to catch the first baby turtle, the rest of the baby sea turtles would have heard it and stayed put in the sand.  However, the fact that the first baby turtle ran successfully on the sand for several seconds signified to the others that there were not many seagulls around; hence they left the safety of the sand.  Intelligence tells us that God made the earth to sustain life and that man cannot improve upon it but can only function as a gardener at best and a defiler at worst.  In particular, man cannot save each individual creature. 

          Another example of a deficiency in long-term attention span is found in the catch and release philosophy of fishing.  It sounds “oh so good” on the surface but the end thereof are the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12).  Recall that in the New Testament when the disciples fished and caught a net full of fish, they would bring it to land and sort the bad fish from the good ones.  The bad fish were not returned to the water but were allowed to die on the land, becoming fertilizer for the soil.  Today the environmental focus is on catch and release.  The good fish are kept while the bad ones are released back into the water.  This can spread disease among fish.  Fish with obvious sores and ulcers are also released, allowing them to spread their diseases to other fish.  By killing all fish caught, one keeps the ratio of good fish and bad fish constant.  By keeping only the good fish and throwing the bad ones back into the water, the fish population is increasingly threatened with extinction.  Doing so may make one feel good in the short run, but it is neither good nor intelligent in the end. Likewise, if a fish is below the legal size limit, it is thrown back.  Now some may be small because they are young and others because they are genetically small.  The effect is that the average fish size reduces over time.  This is particularly a problem with commercial fishing nets that are designed to let small fish escape while retaining the large ones.  Already fishermen are reporting that their catch is decreasing.  The problem is not so much that the population of fish is decreasing but that the genes for largeness are being depleted from the genetic pool.  In other words, now the smaller fish predominates.  Emotions limit ultra-long attention spans. 


Inflationary Argument


          We noted above that argumentation or reasoning gives the most information about long attention spans because the ideas under consideration take a long time to think through. We also noted that limitations to intelligence could be due to biological factors or, more significantly, emotional factors.  Emotional limits can be extremely dangerous.  They can result in a “snow job” once reason breaks down.  A “snow job” is a form of sophistry in which an advocate, having run out of reason, attempts to overwhelm his opposition with an emotionally-charged surge of words and claims.  The idea is for the surge to overwhelm the opponent so that the job of pointing out that the surge is nonsense is made nearly impossible by the number of individual points, each of which takes time to expose as nonsense to the uninitiated in the field.  Geocentrists and creationists run into this all the time.  Emotional arguments are flat claims that reduce to nothing more than linear thoughts.  They amplify the indefensible position but, being linear, they cannot bring any new evidence to the table.  We call this inflationary thought because the flat arguments appear to make the volume[10] of an erroneous idea look infinite or, at least, to have a radius of curvature that appears far in excess of that which the listener’s normal attention span can muster.  As a result, the opponent gives up and the one with the lack of evidence claims victory, idiotic though his idea may be.


A Simple Example


          Consider the evolution example given in footnote 5.  Over the decades creationists have shown evolution to be nonsense so many times in so many different ways that no argument is left the evolutionist.  His only recourse is to keep insisting that evolution is science while opposing ideas are not science.  He claims that all “true” scientists[11] agree on this: that Special Creation is a myth and that only evolution must be allowed to be presented to the public eye.  He is reduced to claiming that Creationism will throw us back into the dark ages.  His religion is Humanism and he has forgotten that Humanism is what gave us the dark ages in the first place.  His arguments are emotional; he has exhausted his reason and been forced to non-reason, to fiction.

          Logic favors the existence of God and his having created the universe in whatever time span he chose.  One may argue about whether or not the Holy Bible consists of the words of the Lord, but one’s conclusion will depend heavily on one’s concept of God.  In turn, anti-geocentric creationists define “Bible believers” as those who agree with them while geocentrists are dismissed as foolishly deceived or end-time heretics.  Humanists perceive that the geocentrist is more consistent then the anti-geocentric creationist.  Therefore, it all depends on how well one has thought through the implications of being a “Bible believer.” 




          By looking at how the mind functions, we have discovered that ideas, as expressed in parts of speech, have characteristic times associated with them.  We have dubbed that characteristic time “attention span” and regarded it as consisting of sheets, either in the mind or in the cosmos, or both.  The sheets reflect the state of the environment somewhat as a mirror reflects the 3-dimensional reality in front of it.  The sheets are the topic of the third and final paper in this series on time. 






No greater misfortune can overcome a Christian people than to have God’s word taken from them, or to have it falsified so that they no longer have it pure and clear.  God grant that we and our descendents may never be witness to such a calamity.

—Martin Luther

Table Talks, The Scriptures

[1] Professor Emeritus, Baldwin-Wallace College, which does not necessarily agree with any of the work presented in this article.

[2] All names have been changed.  Since the locations of the other team members are unknown, it has been impossible to obtain permission to use real names. 

[3] Patterns are a visual phenomenon in which a person’s vision sees patterns (e.g., paisley-like, well-defined groupings which may appear to “boil”) in things like carpets or walls.  Some filamentary type patterns turned out to be caused by blood vessels over the retina.  After about 50 to 60 hours of sleep deprivation, most people will see similar patterns, which may swim or boil in the beholder’s eye.

[4] We here posit that the strain results from two orthogonal complex dimensions.  The product of two complex constants of the same sign is always negative, thus acting like an attractive force towards the central point, that is, the premise defended by the circular reasoning.   We shall have more to say on those dimensions when we consider perception and memory. 

[5] We see this in those who insist that only evolution be taught and that no one be allowed to present any evidence against it.  Evolution is based on circular reasoning, viz. the fittest survive and those that survive are the fittest and rocks are dated by their fossils and the fossils are dated by the rock in which they are found.  Likewise we witness this among global warming alarmists who insist that no evidence against their insane notions be allowed to see the light of day. 

[6] Although we normally think of a tangent as a straight line, tangential thought is nonlinear because the higher-order derivatives are usually non-zero.  Thus tangential thought is perceived by derivational principles.  That is why highly intelligent people tend to love it and are addicted to it.  A tangential thought will allow the derivation of higher order revelations or concepts.  Each such derivation (discovery) of a new tangent releases a spiritual energy that feeds the mind and souls of perceiver and speaker alike. 

[7] It is as if the short-attention span mind spirals outwards as attention span decreases as if trying to reach or make the most important point.  Sam observed that if he spiraled inward he would get paranoid.  On one occasion, he allowed himself to spiral into his personal hell.  He reported it as two geometric solids, a tetrahedron and a sphere, embedded in such a way that he was trapped, unable to move, in one of the interior apex surfaces by the surface of the sphere.  Later we were able, from the context in which he experienced his personal hell, to decipher both the general and specific pictures of his geometrical vision.  Sam eventually removed himself from the specific (sinful) situation and found great peace of mind. 

[8] John 1:1—In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

[9] Bouw, G. D., 1996.  “Theory of Theories” parts 1 and 2, B.A 6(77 & 78):22, 18. 

[10] Volume here can refer to noise, that is shouting, and it can also refer to inflating one’s idea with specious arguments unrelated to reason. 

[11] Of course, to such evolutionists, a “true scientist” is an evolutionist.  Creationists are excluded from the number of “true scientists.”