New Device “Stretches” Time?

Do you always feel short of time? Is 24×7 beginning to feel like 25×8? Who would not want an extra hour a day to deal with all those emails, voice mails and text messages from colleagues?

The answer may be at hand.

It may seem far-fetched, if not incredible, but after studying the effects of time on the local populace, scientists in Polegate, East Sussex, England, believe they have invented a new device that could provide a solution by actually stopping the passage of time for up to one hour a day.

This reporter tested the device and is now absolutely convinced that something astonishing is happening near the normally sleepy South coast of England.


Professor Heinz Siebenundfünfzig of the “Polegate Institute for Population Studies (annexe)”, near Eastbourne, takes up the story.

‘There is a common perception that time always seems to pass more quickly when people are enjoying themselves, “having fun”, as it were. Conversely the belief is that time seems to pass more slowly when tedious, repetitive tasks must be performed, for example, at work.

We decided to investigate the foundation of this belief and to discover if there is any scientific justification for it.
Our team of ten researchers spent six months without interruption observing people at their various places of work.

The same team then spent six months ensconced in places of recreation, such as bars and night clubs.

A “double-blind” testing approach was used in the bars and clubs to prevent the conscious or unconscious skewing of results. We then asked our researchers to compile their reports.


The results were astonishing:

1) The physical and mental effects of ageing actually seemed to be diminished, if not eliminated, by the subjects having even mildly enjoyable fun, comparable to watching a favourite television program with a box of chocolates at hand and one’s feet kept warm by resting them on a dog’s back.

2) By contrast brainless, drop-jawed tedium immeasurably increased the effects of time on our minds and bodies, comparable to the subject watching television shopping channels or any daytime television.

3) These effects were compared to a median level of just feeling “normal”, such as the subject watching television news involving neither chocolates nor dogs.

The passage of time on a daily basis is therefore demonstrably “stretched”. We measured this phenomenon with great scientific precision in extended tests and found a further strange effect.


By asking people to deal with email and other messages from colleagues in a controlled environment called “FunZone”, we could actually stop time completely by precisely one hour per day.

Quite why this should happen specifically when dealing with such messages we are still not sure, though several subjects did admit that ploughing through emails from colleagues about something in which they had not the slightest interest had always made them feel like giving up the will to live, thereby making time seem to pass more slowly anyway. Possibly “FunZone” merely accentuated the effects.

However, our next challenge was to prove even greater.


How could the findings be of practical use to the general populace, since controlled environments are notoriously difficult to duplicate outside the laboratory? This lead us to further research and collaboration with some of the many time-space continuum engineering companies in the area to develop these findings and to exploit them commercially, if possible.

The brief: to develop a device that could duplicate the useful effects of “time-stretching”. The aim was to make these devices easily available in public places, at work or at home. People could therefore pay to enter them and get the business benefits of saving an hour per day by dealing with their tedious messages without wasting time.

Stress would be reduced and productivity improved. Thus the “P-box” was created.’


Professor Siebenundfünfzig let me test the device. The capsule is cylindrical in shape, about two metres in diameter, three in height; just large enough for one person of average height to sit down comfortably and dock a laptop computer (on one’s knees, it must be said). The walls are painted a hazy purple, it is cosy and warm, with relatively low lighting. No external sound is audible.

Each person can spend up to one hour within any 24-hour period in this time-free environment. Just swipe your credit card (19.99 per hour including broadband access), boot up your laptop and connect.


One problem: the time-stretching effect is only produced, for some inexplicable reason, by the constant and repeated playing of a particular piece of music, namely Elton John’s ‘”Candle in the Wind”. In addition, this works only when accompanied by the display of a monochrome photograph featuring the local council leaders of whichever town the device is then located.

The Professor forlornly admitted that this could be a major barrier to the P-box’s wider commercial adoption and that even a selection of John’s greatest hits did not achieve the same effect, ‘Not even “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” gets us anywhere near’ he confirmed, wearily. In addition, no other type of picture makes the eyes glaze over in quite the same way.


I found that the P-box does indeed seem to work, though my efforts to delete all those unwanted messages were hampered somewhat by the music which I cannot now stop humming.

Other minor operational issues during R&D have now largely been resolved. The Professor confirmed that a problem had occurred one day when the door to the P-box got stuck, trapping a colleague inside for over three hours.

The Professor gravely indicated the colleague in question, who now insists on wearing oversized glasses and stack-heeled shoes in a “flamboyant” manner, while reciting local council bylaws in an unwavering monotone.

In response to my question about whether people would just use the device to have a quick snooze, beer, or to fulfil other, less savoury instincts and lose no time by so doing, the Professor confirmed that only message-deletion creates the desired effect.


Some rules: customers must go to the toilet before entering and must never consume drinks or food due to the reverse-digestion effects when exiting the capsule.

‘Very few people have mistaken the P-box for a public toilet during trials, though we do accept there is some similarity in design. Hence the door can be opened at any time following some initial accidents.

Time spent on tedious, live conference calls cannot be avoided by entering the device: only messages recorded before the time of entry can be handled.’

I also asked what happens to messages sent and received during the hour-long stay in the capsule. Apparently these are not updated until after departure from the P-box. There seems to be no easy way, therefore, to stop the constant drip-drip of messages into one’s Inbox, other than getting people to stop sending them in the first place.


Other details: ladies attempting to use the capsule as a way of delaying the onset of those tell-tale wrinkles will be disappointed, as time continues to pass outside the P-box during the one-hour session and any lessening of wrinkles in the P-box is compensated by increased ageing after exit. Apparently this can be uncomfortable and disconcerting for onlookers and domestic pets.


Gentlemen who would like to peruse sports magazines or “exotic” literature should be aware that an automatic detector flags the carrying of such publications.

Marketing has started with the slogan, “Pop a capsule a day. Keep those emails at bay!” Other suggestions are welcome.

Devices are intended for airports, train stations and other public places. Certainly it is a real advantage to be able to keep things under control in the time before one’s train is due, even if that is in the next few minutes, rather than offend other passengers on the train by the overuse of elbows and run the risk of someone spying over one’s shoulder at vitally important messages.

Corporate use is discouraged, however, as it is feared that people would retreat in to P-boxes rather than attend key management meetings or seminars on ISO Quality Procedures and Processes.