Top Secret Echelon

5 07 2008

Echelon is part of a global communications tracking and spying system. It now operates across the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia and can be used to monitor phone conversations, Internet browsing, satellite up-links and just about any form of electronic communication in existence across the globe.

The system, nicknamed Echelon (pronounced esh-a-long). began operating in the 1970s. Since then, it has become one of the biggest and most secret government operations in the history of this planet. The actual system itself is by definition one of the largest and most powerful networks of super computers ever to exist.

Echelon’s super computers can simultaneously monitor all communications in every corner of the world including your own home phone, mobile (cell) phone, and Internet communications. Since Echelon’s existence, the government has been using the technology to secretly tap into every known electronic communication medium in the world for inter/national intelligence and national security purposes.

In order to gain access to all this information, the NSA (National Security Agency, which leads the operation) works closely with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other telecos (telecommunication companies) in the U.S. and other parts of the world to secretly gain access to fibre optic lines and install a giant packet sniffer (specifically equipment such as the Narus STA 6400) on all inbound/outbound electronic communication.

These packet sniffers are then used to filter through and access any Internet data packets bound for domestic and international destinations and interpret and organize the information so it can be easily analyzed for intelligence purposes. In addition to this, the Echelon project comprises of several outposts positioned around the world which pick up microwave and radio communications (including mobile phones, wireless broadcasts and transmissions, Wireless Internet devices, etc.) for monitoring. Last but not least, the U.S. has a comprehensive system of orbiting/geostationary satellites that also offer a substantial amount of information and communications to aid in international surveillance and intelligence programs.

How can they possibly listen into every single phone conversation and communication all the time? That’s where the amazing computer software comes in. Since the 1970s, several advanced speech and vocal recognition algorithms (built well before their time and restricted to internal government use) have been developed and deployed across the worldwide Echelon network. In addition, Echelon is comprised of advanced filtering systems which can very quickly sift through tons of e-mail and other written electronic communications (such as Instant Messaging and SMS messages) to identify suspicious activity.

Echelon can then take advantage of these powerful technologies to actively and automatically scan phone calls and communications for keywords and phrases such as “bomb” and “terrorist”, as well as identify speakers by cross referencing voice samples stored in a database. The system is so powerful that all this can be done in practically realtime, and in several different languages! When the system picks up suspicious activity, it then logs and relays more information about the communication to the appropriate authorities for further investigation if necessary.

As much as the system invades our privacy and what we stand for as free nations with the right to free speech, Echelon still has many advantages. For instance, several terrorist plots and attacks over the past decade have been foiled. So why don’t we hear about them in the news? The public is hardly ever told of any uncovered plots. This is mainly due to two reasons, firstly it would cause panic amongst the public if the full extent of the Echelon project was realized, and secondly, it would let terrorists know they are being watched so they can take further steps to avoid monitoring in the future.

The mission itself is and has been so top secret that its supercomputer network and head operations centre is located in one of the most heavily guarded buildings in the U.S. To have authorized access, one would have to pass through several layers of physical barriers, security guards and guard dogs; not to mention biometric identification systems including (but not limited to), finger print scanning, eye/iris scanning, and facial recognition detection.

Do realize however, Echelon does not just operate out of one operations centre, there are several other outposts around the globe. Some of these are remote and automated (such as microwave listening devices), but other outposts exist right under our noses so to speak. Over the years the NSA has been forming ‘alliances’ (read as forced partnerships) with telcos such as at&t to lend out space and access to network communications in the telcos’ own buildings to be used by the NSA to monitor and analyze communications for intelligence reasons.

You would think they need a warrant to have Echelon constantly monitoring your every move.. right? The answer is no. Even without the president’s attempted successful plot to rid the warrant requirement and award telecom immunity across the states, Echelon has been and still will monitor every form of electronic communication every minute of every day of every year (a part from system down time, which does inevitably happen even for Echelon, the most notable case being at the start of the century when the whole system was inoperable for an entire three days).

There is however a general rule that whenever a country uses Echelon to spy on one of their own citizens, they are not allowed to use the information they obtain against that individual and are required to delete any records immediately. This however does not stop one of the other countries involved (which also have access to Echelon) from obtaining such information and passing it on to their country’s government, or from simply breaking the ‘rule’ (which in the U.S. refers to the Constitution) and listening in without a warrant anyway.

So who uses Echelon? Well, not your local police station that is for certain. In fact, most government workers are blissfully unaware that such a system exists even today. Echelon has been so high-up on the top secret scale for so long that the only organizations or clients that actively involve themselves in the project are generally national/federal agencies (such as the FBI & NSA) and more commonly foreign intelligence programs such as the CIA (USA), CSIS (Canada), MI5 (UK), MI6 (UK), and ASIS (Australia).

Tips: How do I protect myself? Unfortunately, this is not that easy. As previously stated, Echelon pretty much covers the full world map, but there are still ways to get around the system. Here are some tips to protect your privacy:

1) Talk in code. When you use ordinary words to replace suspect keywords, Echelon will have trouble spotting your hidden agenda. There are also not enough government officials involved in the Echelon project to constantly monitor for common everyday keywords. That being said, Echelon discovered communications pre-911 that used code phrases similar to “the garbage truck will be delivered on Friday”, so even in code the system might be able to see past what you’re saying.

2) Alter your voice or speak a different language. Even though Echelon can pick up keywords in several languages, when you speak in another language you tend to change speech patterns, sentence construction, and tonal intonations. By speaking in another language or altering your voice, you are making it difficult for the system to identify you based on a pre-recorded voice sample that might already be on file.

3) Use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone lines. VoIP phones do not protect you from monitoring however they are substantially more secure compared to traditional analog telephony. Traditionally, analog phone services can be tapped into easily anywhere between you and the telco simply by attaching a telephone receiver to the copper wiring. With VoIP thousands of small data packets with 1s and 0s are sent over wiring to your ISP and then to the VoIP service. The only way to monitor a VoIP line (under the assumption transmission is not encrypted) is by using a packet sniffing device which can piece together thousands of data packets to reassemble the transmitted audio. VoIP lines are also not easily traced back to a physical address like a traditional phone line. A tracer would have to obtain a court order and demand records from your ISP to retrieve your name and address from the IP address you used at the time.

The Echelon project is currently having some trouble keeping track of and monitoring VoIP lines. Keep in mind however the system is constantly expanding and improving and over time VoIP will be just as vulnerable to interception.

4) Use anonymous proxies. A proxy is a type of remote gateway that allows you hide anonymously behind your Internet connection or phone line. An Internet proxy works by gaining access to remote computer and having it download the information you request. The information is then sent to your local computer from the proxy. If for some reason the records of who accessed the original source of information are reviewed, the proxy server’s IP address will be recorded, not that of your local computer. If the proxy does not retain records of your access, the proxy can’t be traced back to you. A phone proxy works in a similar way. You phone into a gateway, and then dial the number you want to call. If the call is traced, it will be traced back to the location of the gateway (proxy) and not your actual location.

5) Use redundancy & concurrent communications. The best way to ensure your privacy is to make sure you don’t rely entirely on just one system. Always assume that one of your mediums of communications is being actively monitored. If you make a phone call with two mobile phones on both ends of the call and then each party talks into one mobile and listens to the other party on the second mobile, then someone tapping the call can only here one side of the conversation. Echelon will not be able to automatically piece together two separate concurrent calls and treat them as one.

6) Use encryption. Probably the most secure method of all, data encryption allows you to disguise data such as written emails under what appears to be random characters and bits of scrambled information that have no meaning. By using a unique ‘key’ in combination with a decryption algorithm a receiving party can then restore the original data from the “random” character string. Without access to the decryption algorithm and key, the information cannot be read. Warning: In the UK, a new law may force you to provide government agencies with the decryption platform and key if such agencies find it necessary.

Although Echelon’s super computers could be used to ‘crack the code’ for most sets of encrypted data over a period of time, such decryption could not be processed in realtime or a reasonable period of time for that matter even under the assumption that Echelon could dedicate enormous amounts of processing power to the task. Therefore unless a government specifically requests that an encrypted transmission be decrypted, the use of secure encryption algorithms is for the most part safe from automatic scanning from Echelon.

As a personal recommendation, I encourage readers to look into Quantum Cryptography. This type of encryption is the most secure available today and cannot be intercepted by Echelon. Even if a government agency specifically requested to have this type of communication decrypted, the laws of physics guarantee with probabilistic certainty that the information exchange will remain secure, even with the power of Echelon’s supercomputers.

Conclusion: The above article sums the system up reasonably well in my opinion. It is definitely amazing and somewhat scary technology and while I am sure many would agree that it invades our privacy, it is also useful in keeping this world a safer place to live in. I stand neutral on the project, I neither encourage governments to use the system, nor do I outright protest against such use. However, I do feel that as citizens of a free country you have the right to pursue the use of confidential and encrypted communications when and where possible. In other words, it should be legal to take efforts to secure your transmissions, and if you choose not to, that is a personal decision thereby allowing governments access to monitor such communications.

However If communications are being monitored, I strongly believe that the government(s) involved should obey both national and International law and not abuse the system to spy on citizens of their own country or citizens of another country that are not suspect of serious crimes or terrorism. As a final note, it is my belief that international diplomats and United Nation member’s governments should be exempt from such monitoring regardless of current diplomatic relations, or the current political or economical situation of the country.

Discussion: Is Echelon keeping this world safer, or is it invading your privacy? Do you feel it’s right to allow other countries (or even your own country) to spy on your telephone and internee communications without your permission or knowledge? Can governments really be permitted to spy on citizens who are not suspect to crimes or terrorism?

Extra: Here is a sample list of keywords that Echelon is most probably looking for right now. By saying a handful of them in one conversation, your communications will likely be flagged as suspect. Just posting them here has no doubt set-off the system and alerted the NSA of this blog post.
(note that some of the keywords below are actually two or more words in sequence such as “wire transfer”, independently those words would not usually be considered suspect)

NIJ blackjack ie.org Wu force Johohonbu Peering WSP PGP 2.6.2. AIEWS IWIS UXO ddnp TNT VNET Koancho Chicago Templar CIM Tools TEXTA unclassified JASSM Spetznaz RIT NTIS SEAL SACLANTCEN captain SC O/S ssa NATOA Goodwin Jatti SAW resistance SLIP VBS erco B.D.M. basement Montenegro Samford Road ANDVT Lexis-Nexis data havens Donaldson Secure Internet Connections Mavricks nuclear charges E-Bomb wojo UNCPCJ Manfurov SACS STU-III MDA SURVIAC MOIS osco Protection SAPM FBI XM KWT-46 Morse Rapid Reaction VOA JRSC WHCA Tarawa munitions Dictionary Minox ZL31 Leitrim MIR Gray Data president jya.com USS sneakers R1 picric acid Hollyhock SUN bullion Chicago Posse The Artful Dodger Aum CFD NAVELEXSYSSECENGCEN rhosts M5 Bess BAR Yukon PPP MD5 Delta Force Ronco assassination PCMT DOE SEAL Team 3 SVR CESID CSC High Security Cap-Stun CIA-DST tiger RPK74 NORAD PBX keebler FALN Bunker LLC impact fraud PGP garbage Posse finks MD4 AT blocks ANZUS NAIAG Fox MKULTRA ARC Merlin detonators Compsec DF orthodox RG STEEPLEBUSH unix Verisign DC7 Stephanie spies DCSS initiators RSA CUD subsonic rounds AMW Defensive Information wire transfer Kosovo Link 16 Aldergrove F-22 JRB Telex SAMF Walther WA2000 Steve Case DEVGRP USSS ASIC Macintosh Firewalls Ortega William Gates meta ELF Awarehouse Mayfly Wackendude LDMX Computer Terrorism the football 2EME REP rail gun Goldman DONCAF MILSATCOM VHF RPK AOL TOS Information Warfare Shaldag JPL CSE Waihopai FDM Keyhole GEBA NACSI STE LEETAC OC3 SIGDASYS World Trade Center FX Glock 26 Event Security DRA penrep SDF forcast Speakeasy Counterterrorism BIOLWPN Perl-RSA HALO Bellcore 355ml SWAT Wilma Ufologico Nazionale SDIS 50BMG PA598D28 Analyzer Monica honor TDR BLU-114/B KWR-46 MEU/SOC ISCS J-6 SEIDM SAPT PSAC JIC Investigation N-ISDN MSCJ Vinnell Tanzania NADIS SCIF NSWT Europol Kilo TRV JAVA TSCI Secert HK33KE Baranyi mailbomb





DinoChicken & Orion Physics

18 06 2008

I know I haven’t posted anything here for a while, but this article caught my eye.

It relates to the discovery of “DNA relics in the wings and beaks of regular chickens”

The article essentially shows how modern birds evolved from Dinosaurs and with left-over ‘DNA relics’ in their genetic code, there may be a way for us to actually bring back dinosaurs.. much like the ficticious soon to be real Jurasic Park stories.

The other thing I wanted to talk about is the Orion Project. Although not well known yet, it is an effort to discover ways of producing a “free energy generator” (in other words some form of perpetual motion device which can produce electricity indefinitely without consuming non-renewable fuel such as petrol).

Many physicists are quick to ostracize anyone who claims to be able to create such devices. Part of the problem is our current laws of physics tell us that the energy output of a system cannot exceed its input. But as many other scientists point out, you must learn to be open minded. There have been many cases in the past where science did not agree with the current known ‘laws’ and eventually through further scientific study, new (or modified) laws had to be put in place to explain newly discovered scientific facts.

One of the classic examples is Newtonian physics. For centuries we have been using Newton’s basic laws of physics to explain motion and forces of everything we know to exist. But it hasn’t been until recently (20th century) that we discovered that these laws Newton set out so many years ago are actually just crude approximations and in some cases (such as for objects travelling close to the speed of light) the laws have no merit whatsoever.

The point is: just because a perpetual motion device doesn’t follow the known laws of physics, it doesn’t definitively mean such a device couldn’t exist. It only means we have yet to discover the laws which allow such a device to exist.

Here is one for the conspiracy theorists. When I was poking around and doing some research on this topic, I found a few sites which suggest that the U.S. Government has already developed ‘free energy devices’ in the past and present but has chosen to keep information on said devices top secret. Possibly to have an advantage over other countries, or for political/economical reasons.

One person in particular wrote a comment on a site discussing how a friend he knew (who worked on a U.S. Navy submarine) was briefed on how the “nuclear” sub was in fact not powered by any radiating elements, but instead by a free energy ‘engine’ using large magnetic components.

Always remember the goverment is light-years ahead in technology. Take Echelon for example, absolutely amazing and quite frankly scary technology that has been around since the 70s completely hidden from public view. For those who don’t know what the Echelon project is, stay tuned for my next post. But do know this, if the Government wanted to hide something, I have no doubt in my mind they could do so, and do so very well.





Open vs Closed Software

18 05 2008

In recent years, I have seen a lot of people (including myself) begin to switch from proprietary/closed products & services to the more ‘open’ alternatives. Now more then ever there is a strong push for companies across the globe to move toward open standards. Unsurprisingly however, many of the big corporations are reluctant do so.

Since this issue keeps popping up, I figured I should give a shot at outlining the pros and cons of both Open & Closed source software. Hopefully this will help developers make an informed decision on what’s best for them, and users can decide which type of software they would rather support the development of.

Open Source
PROS:
Expedited Development (large diverse group of programmers available to contribute to the program at almost any given time, usually at no cost other than a mention in the credits)
Freedom & Creativity (Programmers are able to focus on contributing their own ideas to their own area(s) of expertise rather than following a predefined design set out by an employer. Also speeds up development)
Minimal Development Costs (a community of programmers contribute their own section of code, usually free of charge)
Ongoing Updates & Improvements (new features and improvements are constantly being added on by developers, helping to ensure a bug free stable software platform that is also feature-full)
Many users prefer open source software over closed software (as it is usually free without DRM restrictions, and is also open for additions or customizations to the program to fit the user’s needs

CONS:
Loss of commercial value, hard to make profit from (a part from donations)
Can lead to loss of quality standards (e.g. a contributor to the program could add something very useful, but may leave out basic components like a user friendly GUI. In other words, contributors/programmers are faced with less expectations/requirements than they would be in a company environment)
Loss of control (companies who release their software under Open Source licenses give almost full control of the software development to the community of users & developers, making it difficult to keep development under control and making sure it fits the company’s image and doesn’t hurt its reputation)
Software may end up being a series of pieces rather than a whole puzzle

Closed Source
PROS:
Control (Gives developer(s) complete control over the software development. Developer(s) can still take in suggestions from users, but aren’t compelled to add certain features if they are viewed as unnecessary or unwanted, also gives more control over quality standards and overall design)
Profit (Better chance of earning profit through sales & making the software a business success)
Gives developer(s) more control over how the software is distributed
Complete Puzzle (Program is whole, complete & uniform rather than a composition of several different pieces of code)

CONS:
Significant Development Costs (Time = Money! Programmers and program designers have to be hired rather than having a community full of programmers volunteer for the project)
Longer Development Times (As I said earlier, Time = Money. With less programmers on the project and more standards, restrictions, and guidelines set by the company, development can take much longer)
Users must work with what the program has rather than making the program work with what they have (Users are forced to work around the limitations of the software instead of having the option to extend or manipulate the software’s code to make improvements, customizations, or other custom changes)

Bottom line: If you are a developer and you want to make money off your software, Open Source is probably not the way to go unless you want to live off donations. On the other hand if money isn’t your ultimate goal but you want your program to be a great success, Open Source could be the key to promoting the project and gaining public interest.

If you’re a user, Open Source on many levels is a better alternative to the costly commercial software out there. For example, instead of paying $900 for Photoshop, consider The GIMP as a free alternative with almost as many features with a unique creative user interface for accomplishing tasks. However it is sometimes advantageous to have the commercial (closed) product for compatibility, stability, and/or tech support reasons.





Medical Triage Ethics

10 05 2008

Being a physician must be a tough profession, especially if you’re working in the ER. I wouldn’t know, but I can’t imagine there is anything worse than talking to someone one minute, and then watching their dead corpse shrivel up a moment later. And then to have that happen on a daily or even hourly basis is probably not something the majority of us could ever deal with.

Unfortunately, it comes with the job. It’s just something doctors have to find their own way of dealing with. But what is also unfortunate is that it’s not always death that is the most disturbing or traumatic part of being in the medical profession, it’s often the decisions that need to be made which can and do lead to death(s).

Medical Triage
A term that originated on the battlefield, triage is the evaluation of patient conditions for urgency and seriousness, and establishment of a priority list for multiple patients.

Every hospital is faced with triage everyday. It’s the process of deciding the order in which to treat patients. Most of the time this task is relatively straight forward; if someone is bleeding to death, it’s obvious they should be given treatment ahead of someone with a broken thumb or injured muscle.

But what happens in a crisis? What if all of a sudden twenty patients of varying ages flood the ER needing immediate medical treatment in order to survive, how do you decide who to save?

At this point you could say it’s logical to treat the children first because they have only just begun life, and are essentially the future of our society. On the other hand you could say children are much weaker, and it would be more effective to tend to someone who may respond better to treatment. But what happens if you let a child survive but not their parents? By doing that, you would be destroying a family and potentially ruining a child’s life. And by saving the parents you are denying treatment to others (possibly other children) who would have otherwise survived. And by not treating the parents nor the children, you could be wiping the family’s future existence off the face of the earth, just like that.

That’s tough.

To make matters worse, lets say you have come across two patients of a similar age and you can only save one of them. Then what? Do you save the one on the left because he’s closer, or the one on the right because he wears a Rolex? How on earth do you decide… Flip a coin? Roll a die?

If you decide not to treat either, and instead move on to one of the many other equally ill patients; is that fair? Is it fair to deny a patient’s treatment simply because it was too hard to decide which one to save? What if you knew one of them? Sure, that would make the decision easier in the short term… but what about the long term guilt of indirectly causing the death of a mother or father because you decided to save Mr. Drunk from the party you went to last weekend.

My point is: what do you think is the best way of rationing out treatment to patients needing immediate medical care if normal determining factors (such as age, vital signs or previous medical history) can’t be used to fairly give priority to one patient over another?

I’m sure some would prefer if the doctor made the decision based on instinct, others may rather trust their fate with a computer’s random output.. but one of the more interesting concepts I’ve heard is the idea of having a computer make the choice based on the patient’s calculated success or achievements (based on factors such as occupation, annual income or credit rating).

Bottom line: I know, you are probably sick with an overdose of rhetorical questions by now, but this is one topic I am really curious to see what people have to say. Please leave a comment below, and tell us what you think is the appropriate method of triage when two similarly aged patients with equal chances of survival need treatment.





Evolution

22 04 2008

I want to set the record straight from the start. Whether you believe all life evolved from a unicellular organism, or that a god or gods created us and everything around us, I am not here to dispute either claim. That is for you to decide on your own, and I’m not about to start a ‘Does God Exist?’ debate for this article’s discussion.

However what I am going to discuss is the fact that a species can evolve through the process of natural selection, and whichever belief you hold, this is not a fact that can be disputed.

Case Study:
A very recent study shows that the average length of elephant tusks has shrunk significantly over the past 50 years. This is the result of poachers hunting the elephants with large tusks for their valuable ivory. Over a period of only fifty years, elephant tusks have now become stereotypically shorter which makes them less appealing to poachers for hunting.

This is a classic example of how the logic of evolution of species through natural selection works. It’s the concept of how there are always variations of species (e.g. short or long tail, blonde or black hair, short or long fur, etc.) and some of these variations will allow certain organisms to survive better than others, and long enough to reproduce several offspring with the same or similar advantageous characteristics.

Example: It is only logical that giraffes with short necks will find it hard to find food and many of them will end up dying off from starvation. Meanwhile, their long-necked counterparts are thriving. In the end, it is the long-necked giraffes which are more actively reproducing off-spring and outliving the short-necked of the species. Eventually over time, the short-necked giraffes will become such a small group that they may eventually cease to exist.

What I’m trying to get at in this article is basically I am sick and tired of the people out there who down-right deny the concept of evolution through natural selection altogether.
Yes, I can’t say for absolute certainty whether we did in fact all evolve from a single cell. Yes, I can say there are missing links and a lack of proof to support either side of the story. But the fact is, nobody can say species don’t evolve.

Final thoughts: It’s up to you whether you want to believe one theory or another, but it is impossible to completely deny that species evolve over time. Whether we all evolved from a single cell, or if we had help from a supernatural force to get where we were some thousands of years ago is uncertain, and there is a lack of concrete proof on both sides of the argument. However we can’t deny that since human records have existed, evolution has occurred.





Alien Life

10 04 2008

The universe is massive. In fact it is so extensive; we have no idea where it ends, or if it even ends at all. Within this large expanse we have discovered so many planets, star systems and galaxies, that it would be very naive and arrogant of us to consider ourselves the ‘centre of the universe’ in the context of being the only planet able to sustain life.

Scientists have already estimated some 50 billion galaxies to exist just within visible range of modern day telescopes. Each one of these galaxies has as many as hundreds of billions of stars, most likely with their own solar system of orbiting planets.

Let us be conservative in our estimations and say there are only 10,000,000,000,000,000 (ten million billion) planets in the universe. It is extremely difficult to believe that only 1 planet out of those ten million billion has an atmosphere that can support life.

Even if no other planet in the universe could sustain life as we know it, this does not exclude the possibility of life existing in other forms that we cannot yet detect, see, or begin to understand. And let us not forget that the universe is so great that if alien life were to exist, the chances are it would be so distant from our world that it would be impossible for us to physically transport anything to their world using current space technology.

Even sending a radio signal which travels at 300,000 kilometres per second (the speed of light) could take decades or centuries before it reaches the planet of alien inhabitants. The chances of such life forms even receiving the signal, knowing how to interpret it, and then sending a signal back is virtually non-existent.

Such alien life forms could have also designed alternative communication technologies which we do not pick-up when scanning for radio frequency signals. Itis also important to realize that the alien life might be too primitive to even design and operate radio frequency communication technology.

Final thoughts: The existence of alien life is more than just a possibility; it is a theory with overwhelming certainty. Whether we will ever be able to communicate or seek-out such life is yet to be seen, and it is unlikely to happen for at least the next couple of decades, if at all during our life time.





Does the pot really take longer to boil when you watch it?

6 04 2008

Let us define time. Time is a basic component of the measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify the motions of objects [Wikipedia].

In other words, time is a man-made system of measurement used to perceive and measure events and intervals between said events to establish a duration or ‘period of time.’

Using this notion, it is then reasonable to assume that humans can change or control time by altering their perception and durations of those events. The question is whether it is possible for the brain to consciously or sub-consciously achieve this task, ultimately controlling the speed at which a period of time occurs.

The answer is yes.

Do you ever wonder why people who fall off a tall structure (e.g. a bungee jumping platform) say that their entire life “flashed before [their] eyes” when in reality the fall started and ended in only a few seconds? To us observers, it seems impossible for someone to reflect upon their whole life in such a short period of ‘time’, but believe it or not, the victim of the fall is likely telling the truth.

Why is this?
At the moment of the fall, time was perceived to be moving faster for the victim than it was for the observer. The victim’s brain was able to take in and process much more information in the same period of time than the observer was able to.
* For the purpose of this example, the observer is anyone on the ground that is not affected by the fall; whether they actually observed the fall is irrelevant and the ‘observer’ is simply being used for the basis of comparison.

This is also why people who are involved in accidents can often describe what happened in great detail in what seems to be ‘super-slow motion,’ or the reason why one can remember the look on people’s faces in a room during an embarrassing or frightening situation. This is result of the victim being able to take in and process everything that is happening at extremely fast speeds relative to their observing counterparts.
But there is still an unanswered question, why does time move faster for the victim? Why is it that the victim can process more information than the observer over the same period of time?

The answer is this: When certain chemicals flood the body (such as adrenaline), the brain starts to perceive time at a different speed than its observing counterpart. This allows the brain to think more ‘quickly’ as if a two second fall was actually occurring over several seconds or maybe even minutes, much like how high-speed slow-motion cameras are used to represent a quick event over a long period of time.

Scientific study: Scientists from Duke University recently designed and performed an experiment which provided conclusive evidence to support this theory of time perception. In the experiment, several lab mice were trained to operate a lever at exactly 12 seconds after a timer started in order to receive a food reward.

Under normal conditions, all the lab mice were able to execute this task flawlessly. However when one of the mice was given a dose of cocaine, it began to perceive time as moving much faster relative to the control mouse. In fact, the mouse then tried the experiment and operated the lever at only 8 seconds, 4 seconds quicker than the normal time period.

When a mouse was placed under the influence of marijuana however, it perceived time slower and didn’t operate the lever until 16 seconds into the experiment, 4 seconds after the normal time period.

In actuality, the movie “The Matrix” is a lot more real than it seems. We have the ability to control and speed up time using emotions to trigger a chemical flow of adrenaline so the brain is able to process and act on a given situation much quicker (e.g. in a fight or life threatening scenario). Learning to control the chemical flow is learning to control time.

Thus it is my belief that improving reaction time is actually the skill of learning to speed up time so the brain can realize a stimulus earlier, rather than just training the eye to be more sensitive to movement. I also maintain a hypothesis that people who possess a so called ‘eidetic memory’ (a very rare ability, also loosely termed ‘photographic memory’) live in a state where time is almost always perceived faster than people around them, allowing them to walk by a painting and remember it as if they studied it for minutes at a time.

Final thoughts: Yes, the pot will take longer to boil if you watch it. Your brain will become docile and inactive while waiting, resulting in time (as defined earlier) being slowed down relative to those around you. While you wait (for what seems to be an eternity) for the water to boil, your friend who is talking on the phone probably did not even notice you left the room.