November 28th, 2006


Time and relativity

I once read an essay by a guy who spent some time visiting a gathering of the Rainbow Tribe, a modern-day collection of folks who try to "live lightly". It seems to be a pretty basic peace-and-love hippie-style movement. Some participants apparently just travel the country full-time; some just show for gatherings. This particular gathering was in the woods somewhere in the upper midwest, with tents and mud and campfires. Motorized vehicles were either excluded or strongly discouraged, so the author and his companion spent much time walking from the forest entry and between encampments. Whenever the writer and his friend asked how far it was to a certain place, they were always told either "a quarter mile" or "about 20 minutes". This answer frequently proved to be entirely inaccurate, especially when they got the same answer multiple times during a single hour-long walk. When the writer asked about this, his respondent answered that this was a pretty standard answer, because it was a small enough unit of time/distance so as not to be discouraging ... but that their destination was in fact about a quarter mile away at that point, which proved to be true.

Whenever I'm asked how long it takes to get anywhere within/along I-495, out towards Worcester, down into Rhode Island, or down towards Fall River, I generally estimate "about an hour". That figure just usually feels right.

So today I was asked to check several travel times. I had driven one of the routes recently, and I looked the others up on MapQuest. For each of the four very different trips, the answer worked out to ... right about an hour.

Clearly, I am just that good.
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