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Radiolab on Morning Edition

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 - 07:01 AM

When Alice fell down the rabbit hole, her fall seemed to last forever. Neuroscientist David Eagleman had the same experience as an 8 year old boy while falling off a roof. This led him to wonder, what is it about brushes with death that cause this slow-mo effect? He now thinks he knows.
Jad, Robert, David and Steve Inskeep discuss!


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Comments [8]

Nando Rossi from Chicago, IL

Oh my god, how amazing is this show. Every episode is like a treat and always feels too short.
I just listened to the "Falling" iteration, and enjoyed it much, especially the selection of songs that went way beyond (but still included) the obvious Tom Petty.
I gotta say though, you guys forgot one really really good song, by Ben Kweller, called "Falling". That song would've fit right in with the gravity bit, especially the line "say hello to the ground".
Doesn't matter. It was fantastic. I just thought I'd bring it up.
Keep blowing everyone's minds, guys.


Sep. 21 2010 05:35 PM

The Parasite edition of Radio Lab was on the radio in Andy's van on last nights premier of "Weeds" last night. Yeah Radio Lab.. woot!!

Aug. 17 2010 11:24 PM
David Dornbusch

Pehaps a useful course for your research would be to investigate the phenomenon of athletes getting into "the zone," when time seems to slow down and they're able to perform with a precision not normally available in real time. It seems to happen at random and is not under their control. So, how about investigating methods to help athletes, and others needing to perform in "do or die" situations, control their ability to get into "the zone?"

Aug. 17 2010 12:11 PM

Nice piece and a well reasoned theory, but I think you've got it wrong. The most memorable aspect of my similar experience was the frustration I felt that I couldn't get my body to react at the same pace that my mind was. I was a teenager on a bicycle riding downhill as fast as I could when a car pulled out, saw me, panicked and stopped right in my path. The maneuver I performed to avoid hitting the car was somewhat complex (it involved laying the bike down, climbing on top of it, and then lying flat as I slid under the rear of the car) and I can recall what I experienced as long periods between a change in tactics and the actual execution. More importantly, I can recall realizing that my body wasn't reacting fast enough to complete my original plan, and then adjusting the plan accordingly. I remember thinking all of this immediately after the event.

Although your high-speed watch experiment is very clever, I think the flaw rests in the fact that you're measuring perception, but not thought. As I understand it (mostly from Pinker), the eyes have their own pre-processor in the brain, which naturally cannot match the rest of the brain in terms of it's massively parallel capability. I'm not a scientist, so perhaps I misunderstand. But while your observation about enhanced memory seems spot on, I don't think that's the only thing happening here. What would really be interesting is if you (or someone) could find a way to induce this reaction with a subject while in an MRI. I have a feeling you'd see something extraordinary.

Aug. 17 2010 12:09 PM

This also happens in extreme sports like kayaking, mountain biking, and snowboarding, etc. I have experienced this in several big rapids where I can recall every single detail from the sun reflecting in a suspended drop of water, to the stark contrast of green trees against the crystal blue sky. It's really amazing!

Aug. 17 2010 11:43 AM

just a note about the free fall "ride". Just a few weeks ago a young girl was seriously injured on such a ride here in wisconsin when they failed to put up the net that is supposed to catch you. Just thought it ironic the guy reassuring the reporter that no one had been "killed" on such a device when serious injury has occurred recently (and in the past). Might make people think twice before trying it themselves. The girl will survive, but probably paralyzed.

Aug. 17 2010 11:17 AM
ken miller

re-slow motion falling. race car drivers see in slow motion, and then can react in "real time" thus allowing them to function at high speeds. Stirling Moss quit racing when he had a wreck in which he didn't know what had happened - meaning the slow motion was no longer working for him. This might be a source of research for your project. regards, Ken

Aug. 17 2010 09:34 AM
Dave Gurka

It does not take a life-or-death event to experience the time dilation effect. While recuperating from knee surgery I was walking on ice and slipped and fell. This was the only time in my life that I had this sensation, but I clearly remember it even after many years. As I was falling, wishing to protect my knee, I had all the time in the world to carefully arrange the location of my cane and briefcase so I would not fall on them; I slowly fell to the ground without sustaining any additional damage. I wish I could reserve that effect for other, more enjoyable, events.

Aug. 17 2010 09:33 AM

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