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Time, The Great Enemy

Guest Column Seth Bisen-Hersh

"Time is of the essence," says an old proverb. And it's undeniably true. There is always stuff to do but never enough time to do it, and that's just plain annoying. If it weren't for restrictions on time, students could have it all - time to sleep, eat, do homework, and participate in all the activities one wants to do. Most importantly, of course, students would be left with plenty of time to party.

According to Webster's, time is "a continuous measurable quantity in which events occur in apparently irreversible order." Let's examine this definition. Continuous is it? I suppose so, although, it always seems as if the hours spent sleeping are skipped. Before one knows it, the alarm clock is ringing and it's morning again; that does not sound continuous to me. Measurable? That one seems fine in theory. But there always seems to be more time per hour during a calculus lecture than there is during an hour when you're is checking e-mail. The final requirement for time is its "irreversible order." Well, until time machines become a reality, that one appears to be true for now.

There are only 24 hours in each day and seven days in each week. And that is just not enough. Wouldn't it be nice if we could vote to extend each day by an hour or two and add a day to the week? Unfortunately, even if we added more time, there still would not be enough of it. As my former English teacher once said about assignments, if one's given a week, one will take a week and if one's given a month, one will take a month. Although I'd like to fantasize about extra time, it would backfire; with more time, there would be more stuff to do. The amount of stuff to do is therefore obviously proportional to the lack of time one has to do it in.

Here at MIT, also known as "Majorly Impaired Time," there is never enough time for anything. How many activities can one do? Everything meets at the same time, which brings up another favorite concept, conflict. A conflict is when more than one thing goes on at the same time, and one cannot do both. This is because splitting oneself in half is not possible; perhaps cloning will eventually alleviate this problem. There's a similar problem with classes meeting at the same times. And of course homework from these classes seems to always take more time per week than they originally tell you that it will take. So between extraneous homework to do and tons of activities to get involved in, an MIT student's time is seriously impaired. It seems very unfair: Here we're the brightest people in the country, and we can't do everything we want to do because of a silly, insignificant factor called time.

What is the solution to this problem of time? Some people would point to time management as a solution, but does time management really work? Say I leave myself exactly 4.5 minutes to do each physics problem: if I find I need more time than what I allotted, it could screw up my entire schedule for weeks. Another solution is to concentrate completely on school work and forget about activities, but then again our high school activities are part of what got us in to MIT in the first place.

At MIT, time is the ultimate enemy. We fight our watches. Unfortunately, it is a race that is hard to win.

Seth Bisen-Hersh is a member of the Class of 2001.