We told the story about one man’s extreme experience of time warping; when he entered the shower, water droplets seemed to freeze in the air – an experience that he compared to bullet time in the The Matrix films.
Since some researchers suspect the strange feeling of a time warp may be surprisingly common, we asked our readers to send us their own experiences of time slowing down. We were amazed by the response.
Phill Healey, for instance, described a terrifying car crash:
"I turned a corner to see a tow truck stopped suddenly in front of me. I put on the brakes just in time, only for my passengers to tell me we were about to be hit by a bus from behind. I recall looking at them listening to their explanation and then looking behind me to see the bus hit the car and knock us into the tow truck. The event seemed to happen very slowly yet our actions occurred at normal speed. How I was able to talk to my passengers and see the bus hit us and then turn around and see the tow truck in front of us come closer, I do not know. I've always described it as time appearing to go slowly."
Ijuaigi Emmanuel, felt something similar while sitting with some friends under a live electric cable. Hearing a spark above them, he looked up, to see it falling in slow motion, before they ran to safety.
Some researchers suggest that when we are confronted with danger, the rush of stress hormones could accelerate our thought processing, which makes the outside world seem to move slowly in comparison. The idea would certainly tally with Andrew Arthur Prescott’s lightning-quick reactions that saved his son. As he put it:
"I do not have good reactions and am somewhat uncoordinated, poor at sports. When my son was small we put him on a high playground slide, when he was still too top heavy. He seemed to fall to one side and over the edge, and I seemed to have all the time in the world to move to catch him."
Occasionally, the feeling of super-human power can end in bathos, as Wendy Crossley describes:
"My foot gave way, which it is apt to do from time to time. I felt I was flying like superman, arm out stretched. It seemed like a lifetime that I was floating in air slow motion. I eventually collapsed in an unladylike manner onto the pavement in a heap with a twisted ankle and hurt pride."
For most people, a time warp is a one-off experience, but David Bull says he has seen the world in slow motion on numerous occasions. Like Healey, he saw a car crash in excruciating detail, and saw everyone on the stairs in the London Underground moving abnormally slowly. He also describes a more prolonged experience, after surfing, where he found it strangely difficult to judge the speed of his car. “I would drive at 100 kph which for the first 30 minutes of driving felt like about maybe 5-10 kph.”
If you have never seen the world stand still, Olumide Olaoye points out an illusion that is a little more mundane, but that everyone can do:
"Sometimes it seems to my eyes that the 'second hand' of the clock stops for a second or less. Or at other times it seems to move backwards before it picks up again."
This is known as the “stopped-clock illusion” and is thought to be caused by tiny eye movements, known as saccades, that temporarily slow our perception, leading it to look like the hand of the clock is jammed before it picks up again.
As the patient in our original article pointed out, it doesn’t take much for us all to get the feeling that we are living in an altered reality.