The Real-Life Time Lords

Doctor Who: Ultimate Time Lord

Doctor Who: Ultimate Time Lord

All fans of British sci-fi series Doctor Who are familiar with Time Lords, but as happens so often, they are now making the jump from science fiction to science fact, as reported in New Scientist:

Time Lords walk among us. Two per cent of readers may be surprised to discover that they are members of an elite group with the power to perceive the geography of time.

Sci-fi fans – Anglophile ones, at least – know that the coolest aliens in the universe are Time Lords: time-travelling humanoids with the ability to understand and perceive events throughout time and space.

Now it seems that people with a newly described condition have a similar, albeit lesser ability: they experience time as a spatial construct.

Synaesthesia is the condition in which the senses are mixed, so that a sound or a number has a colour, for example. In one version, the sense of touch evokes emotions.

To those variants we can now add time-space synaesthesia.

I see… time

“In general, these individuals perceive months of the year in circular shapes, usually just as an image inside their mind’s eye,” says David Brang of the department of psychology at the University of California, San Diego.

“These calendars occur in almost any possible shape, and many of the synaesthetes actually experience the calendar projected out into the real world.”

One of Brang’s subjects was able to see the year as a circular ring surrounding her body. The “ring” rotated clockwise throughout the year so that the current month was always inside her chest with the previous month right in front of her chest.

Regenerating patterns

Brang and colleagues recruited 183 students and asked them to visualise the months of the year and construct this representation on a computer screen. Four months later the students were shown a blank screen and asked to select a position for each of the months. They were prompted with a cue month – a randomly selected month placed as a dot in the location where the student had originally placed it.

Uncannily, four of the 183 students were found to be time-space synaesthetes when they placed their months in a distinct spatial array – such as a circle – that was consistent over the trials…

[continues in New Scientist]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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4 Comments on "The Real-Life Time Lords"

  1. Interesting. However the headline is misleading. The link between these people and the fictional timelords is extremely tenuous at best.

  2. malatesting123 | Apr 13, 2010 at 1:02 pm |

    it is? gee, for a minute there I thought for sure they were from gallifrey too!

  3. Tuna Ghost | Apr 14, 2010 at 2:20 am |

    I’ve never wanted a potentially dibilitating disease so badly

  4. Tuna Ghost | Apr 13, 2010 at 9:20 pm |

    I've never wanted a potentially dibilitating disease so badly

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