Your Brain Is a Time Machine: The Neuroscience and Physics of Time

Dean Buonomano (Author)


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.

Product Details

W. W. Norton & Company
Publish Date
April 04, 2017
6.3 X 1.2 X 9.3 inches | 1.05 pounds

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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.


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
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
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
[Buonomano] treats the most complex topics with refreshing clarity.... [A] thoughtful and provocative exploration of time.
Immensely engaging.--Barbara Kiser
[Buonomano] lays out the latest, best theories about how we understand time, illuminating a fundamental aspect of being human.--Thomas MacMillan
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
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
Full of delicious details... Reading Buonomano's book, it's hard not to marvel at how time and timekeeping pervade our existence.--Anil Ananthaswamy "New Scientist "
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