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THE CHEMISTRY OF TIME Hudson Hoagland* My wife was ill one afternoon—miserable as she could be. Her temperature on that long past day stood at one hundred and three. When I at last came home from work she asked me to go to the store. She needed some medicine to treat the flu that made her feel so sore. For fifteen minutes I was gone, but when I reached home again, she said I'd been out a half an hour and wondered where I'd been. I said, "Oh, no, I hurried fast to get the medicine quick. Something is wrong with your sense of time, perhaps because you're sick!" We argued a bit and then I had a genuine flash of insight. Could it be true that her fever high was distorting her time in flight? Chemical reactions it is well known go faster the higher the temperature. Fever might speed up brain chemistry to make events longer endure. I told myself if the brain cells burned foodstuffs at a faster pace, one's sense of time would appear to drag, the faster the metabolic race. If our private clocks were to run too fast and said it was four when 'twas two, we'd say how badly the day did drag with so much more to do. Accordingly, to test this out, I asked her to count for me at a speed she believed to be one per second up to just sixty. She did this over again and again for the next days two or three, while I with a stopwatch timed her counts and chortled in high glee. Her temperature ranged from one hundred four to exactly ninety-six. She was a good sport, though she thought me nuts to make her do such tricks. The higher the fever the faster the count which would make time drag for us. But most important of all, the data fit the equation of Arrhenius. This mathematical law is of general scope and in test tubes works quite right. It relates speed of chemical reactions to heat and fits the data tight. For years we had studied the speed with which temperature controls the cell, the speed of oxygen uptake; CO2 release as well. * Address: 222 Maple Avenue, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts 01545. For some years I have been a member of a dining club limited to 30 men. The club was established in 1793. We have four excellent dinners a year at which papers are presented. Since the club lives by its ancient book of rules, at the annual meeting each member must at some time present an original poem. These so-called poems are, of course, more doggerel than poetry, and I chose as a topic a review of experiments conducted nearly 40 years ago on the physiology of time. This work has been published in scientific journals and has been confirmed by others. With poetic license and apologies to all poets from Homer on, the above summary. 142 I Hudson Hoagland · Chemistry of Time Many physiological rhythms of insects, fish, and the frog follow this equation beautifully, as if these rates were fixed by God. Not only this, but in this equation a constant can be resolved; the size of which reflects the enzymes controlling the reactions involved. With bated breath I next persuaded some students bold and strong to be cooked to fevers by high frequency currents to see how their time flowed along. The equation fitted their data too and gave, to my consternation, a constant the same as that found for my wife, called the energy of activation. The constant was the same that we had found in animals again and again. It signified a chemical pacemaker functioning in the brain. This meant beyond a reasonable doubt that somewhere in our heads a chemical clock is keeping time and running along till we're dead. We have all agreed on public time standardized by the sun, but our private time depends on the rate oxidative metabolism runs. Birds and mammals like ourselves, by mechanisms intricate, control within us the temperature to a highly constant state. This means that in our bodies chemical...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 142-144
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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