Afternoon Inquisition

AI: If I Could Have Just A Moment

JPL research scientist Richard Gross and the folks at NASA did the math and it seems that the earthquake in Chile has shaved some time off the length of our day.

Preliminary calculations suggest that the February 27th magnitude 8.8 earthquake may have shortened the length of earth’s day by approximately 1.26 microseconds AND (hold on to your socks clockand your martini glasses) shifted earth’s axis by about 8 centimeters! These results are preliminary and may change slightly as new data comes in and of course, despite my fascination and geeky-excitement about this earth-shifting event, this type of movement is not unheard of. Other large quakes have had similar effects on the earth’s axis.

This groovy snippet of science is pretty darn cool but I just can’t help but think, how is this going to effect me?

Oh great! Now I have even LESS time in the day to get my kooky art and photography projects done!

I know, I know, it’s only a tiny fraction of a second that has been lost and I’m sure that I waste way more time stalking people on twitter or making equally distributed peanut butter and strawberry jam crackers for a late night snack. Not to mention that pesky sleep thing I have to do every night. It just serves as a reminder that time is fleeting now (a tiny bit) more than ever and perhaps we could all budget our time more effectively. Or screw it. Maybe things are just fine the way they are. Besides, as Evelyn has reminded us, time is after all relative.

What are some of the things that you do that take up time that might be better spent? Or are your time wasters not a waste at all?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. Today I went here from Bad Astronomy and got stuck for an hour or so playing with this and looking for simulations I could maybe use in class.

    So it wasn’t completely a waste, but it certainly wasn’t sensible prioritising.

  2. Well, as I am the Vice-Regent of the Royal Order of Procrastinators, I am truly gifted when it comes to wasting time. When my mind wanders, there are no half-measures. I can stare at a wall and get lost in thought for ri-god-damn-diculus amounts of time. I like to think this is what keeps me such a mellow chap, but who knows? At home we have a name for when I zone out. It’s called “baseball……….cookies…..” Long story.

  3. @Bjornar: You’re not the only one who spent time fiddling with that Solar System simulator today. Unfortunately, I can’t even come up with a weak excuse as to why I spent about an hour playing with that thing when I should have been working. It was just fun to mess with. :)

  4. I spend way too much reading blogs and playing online games. I am a serious procrastinator, and playing a game is just more enjoyable if I’m thinking about the important stuff I should be doing instead.

  5. Now I feel bad. I read it, and I wasn’t sure if it was a real NASA scientist, or some quack spouting off something crazy. That just seemed a little…extraordinary.

    Sometimes, I feel like everything is a waste of time. I know I’m not going to have any progeny, nor am I going to have anyone to care for me when I’m old, nor will I have a reason to be remembered.

    Sorry for the downer.

  6. @Imrryr: My game (drug) of choice is Civ4. I’ve conquered the world so many times. I personally like to research Fission, build the Manhattan Project, get me some nukes, and plunge the world into nuclear warfare. I then become the ruler of a dead planet.


  7. Pretty much all I do is waste time. I’m a pro at it! My job has deteriorated to the point where, frankly, I’m splitting my day between killing time and fighting the urge to run screaming through the office!

    Some people would consider my movie hobby to be a waste of time, but since I have an MA in the subject, I consider watching as many movies as possible to be “continuing education” and not “being a couch potato.”

    But, in truth, I have always felt like I’m doomed to waste time until my time is just my own. Working saps my energy, so maybe if I didn’t have to spend 50 hrs a week working or traveling to/from work I could FINALLY get around to doing something constructive with my time!

    ‘Course, that’s probably an excuse… I’ll let you know when I win the lotto and can finally just do as I please ;)

  8. @infinitemonkey: I don’t have kids to take care of me when I’m older either but you know what I’m hoping for? ROBOTS! Yeah, I listened to the latest SGU and I’m glad there are people “wasting” hours designing animal-like robots that will be my companion someday.

    When life gets ya down. Just remember we are all star stuff and will be star stuff forever. And you can guarantee that a fantastic new discovery is on the horizon and we are just so darn lucky to be here and to have a chance to witness each moment. Wasted or not.

  9. @Amy: Procrastinatius (the Roman god of procrastinating) will be most pleased by this sacrificial offering of your time that you’re making today. Just don’t bother to call on Him for any favors in return, He’s always really slow to respond for some reason.

  10. Oh, and the biggest timewaster I ever encountered was definitely World of Warcraft. I played that for roughly four years… got two characters to the level cap, had another three at the PRIOR level cap, several more below that. Counting up the hours I spent playing that game provided me with a terrifying number that I’ve blocked from my mind… something on the order of several WHOLE MONTHS in front of the computer

    Sometimes I do miss certain aspects of WoW but, frankly, I can do without the pointless adolescent competitiveness that pervades the game. On the whole, even doing NOTHING feels more proactive than wasting my time chasing the never-ending cycle of better gear, more achievements, higher reputations, and all that rot.

  11. @Bjornar: I have yet to try that gravity model thing, for exactly this reason.

    Sometimes I feel like school is just another procrastination tool. Like I’m putting off the real world for no reason other than because I’m lazy. Then again, I am a performing arts major, so what’s the difference, really?

    Also, I tend to spend too much time on Twitter–tweeting about my other procrastinatory things, like those delicious cupcakes I made, or “the Firefly DVDs that I just watched for the 73658920376th time!!!”, or how awesome Mars looked last night through my telescope…those such things.

  12. @infinitemonkey: Ah, Civ4… one of my fondest time-wasting moments in that game was setting up the Mongols to have all the techs in the game to start off with while I and all my allied computers had to hold them off. It didn’t go so well in the end, but I got some satisfaction from blasting their advanced submarines with bombs from my rickety airships.

  13. @Expatria: I think WoW has to be the biggest time suck ever invented.

    Not only is it an endless cycle of false achievement, but it also allows you to delude yourself with the idea that you are doing something vaguely social. And when people start talking about guild rankings it makes me stabby, srsly.

    Also, The Sims is another huge time suck sometimes when I force my sim to clean their bathroom and practice martial arts I think that perhaps I could stop watching virtual people do things and go do yoga or wash my dishes. But there is no 2x speed on real life……

  14. @Amy: You could take the Carl Sagan approach, but I take the Richard Dawkins approach – I was the 1 in 20 million who got the chance to waste time. Now, if being told you’re 1 in a million makes you feel special, just imagine how you are literally 1 in 20 million would make you feel. (all the other sperm you were in competition with)

  15. You know, I tried really hard today to only waste time after several months of intense cake work (which paid off, since I won the Show Cake section, got praise from Mike McCarey, got scouted by TLC, ended up on the local news, etc…check it out with someone else’s photos here since I haven’t posted mine yet: ), but I got so into the habit of working working working that I actually couldn’t deal with screwing around all day.

    So I spent the last two hours working on knitting for a gift for the child of another knitter mama who has a birthday in a couple of weeks. And now I’m off to cram in some needed shopping before picking up my Little Ape from preschool.

    I can’t stand losing the microseconds! No fair! *whimper*

    Before I had a kid and so many compulsive hobbies, I was an expert at time-wastery via computer games, though. Only gamers know why it’s funny to name a hamster Boo. And that was when I had time to clean hamster cages. Now I don’t have time to think about it, much less do it!

  16. I don’t mind wasting time here or reading news outlets or gchatting with my friends for hours on end- I figure I get enough enjoyment out of these things that it’s not really a waste. I manage to waste time on television, though, and that annoys the hell out of me. When I look back at the end of a day and realize that I spent all of it watching a marathon of America’s Next Top Model or Millionaire Matchmaker or some other trashy all day tv event, I get so annoyed at myself. I have so few days off that when one gets wasted on the mindless tv drivel I wish I could have it back.

    So, yeah, I won’t miss the fraction of a second; that’s one moment I haven’t wasted on Tyra.

  17. @LinzeeBinzee: I know the feeling. My default time suck and partial gift to the photobug skeptics is the Hipstamatic iPhone app. It’s a partial gift cuz it’s not free but SO freakin cool.

    @infinitemonkey: I like the Dawkins approach too. I actually try to merge them in my mind when I’m feeling blue.

  18. Wasting time is a true indulgence few generations have had the opportunity or ability to smugly wallow in. I for one will enjoy every opportunity I can find to ponder, play and perseverate on the fanciful, the unimportant, the unproductive and the unimaginable. Call it waste if you want, I consider the moments where nothing in particular is accomplished to be treasures. Granted sometimes it takes a lot of hiking, climbing or travel to finally get to my favorite places to waste time, but those places are also located in my back yard and in front of my fireplace.

  19. As a grad student, even sleep is a waste of time. Somewhere along the line I got it drilled into my head that OMGIHAVETOWORKALLTHETIMETOGRADUATEANDGETAJOBANDAAAAAGGGGHHH!

    But clearly, that’s silly…. right? (Because clearly I don’t do that.)

  20. @kimberlychapman: Holy Toledo! Those cakes are awesome! You could take on the crew from “Ace of Cakes” any day.

    On the subject of time wastage, I like to say I have a degree in procrastination, but I’m really “ABD” since I haven’t actually graduated yet, and I started in 1983.

    Any day now…any day.

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