Reading: Alan Burdick

Alan Burdick

Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation


Monday, February 27 at 7:00pm
“Erudite and informative, a joy with many small treasures.” —Science

“Time” is the most commonly used noun in the English language; it’s always on our minds and it advances through every living moment. But what is time, exactly? Do children experience it the same way adults do? Why does it seem to slow down when we’re bored and speed by as we get older? How and why does time fly?

In this witty and meditative exploration, award-winning author and New Yorker staff writer Alan Burdick takes readers on a personal quest to understand how time gets in us and why we perceive it the way we do. In the company of scientists, he visits the most accurate clock in the world (which exists only on paper); discovers that “now” actually happened a split-second ago; finds a twenty-fifth hour in the day; lives in the Arctic to lose all sense of time; and, for one fleeting moment in a neuroscientist’s lab, even makes time go backward. Why Time Flies is an instant classic, a vivid and intimate examination of the clocks that tick inside us all.


“Alan Burdick offers a fascinating and searching account of how we perceive time’s passage. It will change the way you think about the past, and also the present.”
—Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction

“Alan Burdick turns an obsession with the nature of time into a thrilling quest—one that brilliantly illuminates a subject that haunts us all. Time may fly by but at least while reading these pages it is never wasted.”
—David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z

“In his lucid, thoughtful, and beautifully written inquiry about time—what is it, really? Did we invent it, or does it invent us?—Burdick offers nothing less than a new way of reconsidering what it means to be human.”
—Hanya Yanagihara, author of A Little Life and 
The People in the Trees

“Burdick tours that unsettling passage of existence we call ‘time’—how our brains process it, how infants first grasp it, how our conversations encode it—and returns with a spellbinding, provocative book that will fill you with wonder.”
—Robert Sapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers

“A marvelous meditation on the subtle mysteries of time.”
—Olivia Judson, author of Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation

“Burdick is like a charming and witty river guide, exploring the tributaries and side-streams along the river of consciousness—the science, the history, the literature, the deep and beautiful paradoxes that make us what we are. Why Time Flies will enhance your experience of what may be, in the end, the most intimate relationship of your life—your connection with the passage of time.”
—Jonathan Weiner, author of Long for This World: The Strange Science of Immortality

“This book blew my mind.”
—Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit

Alan Burdick is a staff writer and former senior editor at The New Yorker and a frequent contributor to Elements, the magazine’s science-and-tech blog. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, GQ, Discover, Best American Science and Nature Writing, and elsewhere. His first book, Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion, was a National Book Award finalist and won the Overseas Press Club Award for environmental reporting. 
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