Life Moves Pretty Fast Around Here

If you’ve visited New York or moved here from somewhere else, like I did many years ago, it might seem like things move fast. Indeed, the pace of a big city can seem blinding compared to a small town or country village. When I first moved here, time seemed to pass a lot quicker in New York than it did, where I lived before, in sleepy Santa Barbara, California.

While the frenzy of city life might have something to do with that, I’ve always wondered whether there was an astrological or geological reason that time “felt” faster here, even on days I didn’t leave my apartment. Could it be that being farther north, at a higher latitude, made time pass more quickly?

Seth Kadish, an Oregon-based geologist, has made a simple formula for determining how fast you are rotating around the earth’s axis.

cos (latitude) × 1040 = tangential speed in mph

At the poles, you are basically standing in place, not really rotating at all. But at the equator, Kadish determined, you are whipping around the earth at 1,040 miles per hour, hence why the above formula uses a constant of 1040 mph.

Seth Kadishs Tangential Speed of Earths Surface Due to Rotational Motion

Is this why time seemed to move faster in New York than it did in Santa Barbara?

Location Latitude Rotational Speed Time to rotate 6,000 miles
Santa Barbara 34.417° 857.95 mph 6h 59m 31s
New York 40.783° 787.47 mph 7h 37m 8s

Time may have seemed faster because I experienced time, not as a velocity, but as a distance. For example, in Santa Barbara, it would take me just under seven hours to “travel” 6,000 miles around the earth’s axis. If I woke up at 9:00 AM, it would be about 4:00 PM when I “travelled” that distance at 34° N latitude. In New York, however, traveling that same distance would take more time. Assuming the same 9:00 AM wake-up time, it would be 4:37 PM, closer to 5:00 PM, by the time I travelled that same distance at 40° N latitude. In other words, it would feel like I“lost” 37 minutes. No wonder I’m often late.

To experience time differently due to latitude, you probably need to travel pretty far. That would require traveling by airplane. But then jet lag, traveling across time zones, could disrupt your sense of time anyway. Traveling for a few days, such as leisure or business trip, is also quite disruptive to how you experience time because you’re on a different schedule, often more hectic, than what you’re accustomed. To really get this effect, you probably need to be settled in one place having just left some other place. That probably only happens when you’re relocated across a “tall” country like the US, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, India, or China or between countries at different latitudes, such as UK to India.

Until I saw Kadish’s post, this was all speculation. I didn’t have to scientific tools to approach this problem. But his using basic trigonometry, tools I haven’t used in a long time, compelled to outline my theory here.

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