Your Brain Is a Time Machine: The Neuroscience and Physics of Time (Hardcover)
A leading neuroscientist embarks on a groundbreaking exploration of how time works inside the brain.
In Your Brain Is a Time Machine, brain researcher and best-selling author Dean Buonomano draws on evolutionary biology, physics, and philosophy to present his influential theory of how we tell, and perceive, time. The human brain, he argues, is a complex system that not only tells time but creates it; it constructs our sense of chronological flow and enables “mental time travel”—simulations of future and past events. These functions are essential not only to our daily lives but to the evolution of the human race: without the ability to anticipate the future, mankind would never have crafted tools or invented agriculture. The brain was designed to navigate our continuously changing world by predicting what will happen and when.
Buonomano combines neuroscience expertise with a far-ranging, multidisciplinary approach. With engaging style, he illuminates such concepts as consciousness, spacetime, and relativity while addressing profound questions that have long occupied scientists and philosophers alike: What is time? Is our sense of time’s passage an illusion? Does free will exist, or is the future predetermined? In pursuing the answers, Buonomano reveals as much about the fascinating architecture of the human brain as he does about the intricacies of time itself. This virtuosic work of popular science leads to an astonishing realization: your brain is, at its core, a time machine.
About the Author
Dean Buonomano is a professor of neurobiology and psychology at UCLA and a leading theorist on the neuroscience of time. His previous book, Brain Bugs: How the Brain’s Flaws Shape Our Lives, was a Wall Street Journal bestseller.
Why does time seem to flow from moment to moment? It’s a mystery because physics tells a different story: time simply is, a passive label on different parts of the universe. Dean Buonomano cooks a rich stew of ideas, from philosophy to neuroscience, to help understand this question, and thereby paints a clearer picture of our place in the physical world.
— Sean Carroll, author of The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself
Dean Buonomano’s book is a revelation that proposes a radically new view of the brain in which the paramount function of neuronal circuits is to generate processes whose actions define time. Neuroscience needs a revolution before we can comprehend how a brain gives rise to a mind. Buonomano’s proposal to understand the brain as a coupled set of processes playing out in time, to define time, may come to be seen as the start of that revolution.
— Lee Smolin, author of Time Reborn
Buonomano does for the neuroscience of time what Hawking did for the physics of time. The science of temporal perception is in the middle of a renaissance. Highly overdue, this is the best popular treatment of the latest research on your mind’s clocks.
— Craig Callender, professor of philosophy, University of California, San Diego, and author of Introducing Time
It's about time. A fascinating, engaging, and informative book about one of the deepest mysteries in science. What else can you ask for?
— Joseph LeDoux, neuroscientist at New York University and author of Anxious
Dean Buonomano has a light touch and a sure hand in addressing complex scientific issues. Your Brain Is a Time Machine is filled with vivid examples of how time weaves its web in the physical world and in our brains. A pleasure for anyone interested in the deepest questions about how the brain and the universe work.
— Chris Impey, author of Beyond
Buonomano has brought the study of time to center stage, shining a spotlight on how the brain constructs a sense without sensors. Drawing on insights from fields as diverse as neuroscience, theoretical physics, linguistics, and even public policy, Your Brain Is a Time Machine reveals how the enigmatic fourth dimension is essential to our existence and, indeed, fundamental to what makes us human. Through his engaging and lively writing, Buonomano invites the reader to join him on an extraordinary travel into the science of time. A trip not to be missed.
— Richard Ivry, professor of psychology, University of California, Berkeley, and coauthor of Cognitive Neuroscience
Beautifully written, eloquently reasoned…. With lucidity and flair—not to mention an appealing avoidance of the reductionism and exaggeration to which many pop-neuroscientists are prone—Mr. Buonomano takes us off and running on an edifying scientific journey.
— Carol Tavris - Wall Street Journal
This book awakened me to the possibility that the nature of time may very well come from a marriage between neuroscience and fundamental physics. Buonomano’s writing is so clear and captivating that I felt like we were having a conversation at my favorite café—I simply couldn’t put it down.
— Stephon Alexander, author of The Jazz of Physics
[Buonomano] lays out the latest, best theories about how we understand time, illuminating a fundamental aspect of being human.
— Thomas MacMillan - New York Magazine
— Barbara Kiser - Nature
Buonomano lays out a wealth of complex concepts in an entertaining, digestible way…. [This] book will make you question your own perceptions and marvel at the fact that your brain is probably ‘the best time machine you will ever own.’
— Diana Kwon - Scientific American
Full of delicious details… Reading Buonomano’s book, it’s hard not to marvel at how time and timekeeping pervade our existence.
— Anil Ananthaswamy
Eminently accessible [and] backed by some fiercely hard-edged science… Fascinating.
Forget Doc Brown’s DeLorean. Buonomano has discovered a more exciting—and real—time machine inside of every human head... Armchair scientists must make time for this excursion!
— Bryce Christensen - Booklist
[Buonomano] treats the most complex topics with refreshing clarity.… [A] thoughtful and provocative exploration of time.
— Publishers Weekly