Yawning, Dogs and Time Travel


Did this picture make you yawn? Or is it the other way around? Photo by Manokaran M  CC BY-SA 4.0

As many of you know, my friends at the County Durham College of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fine Arts have been furiously fiddling away with a time capsule from the future. One side benefit of this research is that the physics team at CDCAAHFA has gained a much better insight into the nature of time itself. In fact, they’ve recently made an astounding discovery.

Before going further, it might help to briefly review the concept of “the arrow of time”. I’m sure many of you are aware of the unresolved questions physicists have about the nature of time. In particular, if the direction of time were to reverse, many of the physical processes in the universe would work perfectly fine. To a degree, this leaves open the question of why we perceive time to move in only one, inexorable direction from the past throught the present. This is the “arrow of time”.

As an example, consider the curiously infectious nature of yawns. When one person yawns, other people around them often follow suit. (Even dogs do this. Try it yourself.) And when this happens, we universally blame the first yawner for starting the chain of events. After all, no one in their right mind questions the inviolable progression of cause and effect.

Turns out, though, that it’s a good thing we don’t stone people to death for being the first to yawn, as my friends at CDCAAHFA have proven that yawns propogate backwards through time, starting in the future and moving into the past. In other words, they defy time’s arrow.

So if you yawned and, five seconds later, your dog yawned too, you did not cause your dog to yawn. It is, in fact, precisely the reverse. The dog’s later yawn caused your earlier yawn.* (And now you know why physicists say time travel is a bitch!)

With this utterly incredible result, the CDCAAHFA physicists have shown that time isn’t a one way street. Effect can precede cause. And the first person in a group to yawn is actually at the end of a time-reversed chain reaction started by the last yawner. Cool!

The research team at CDCAAHFA is continuing to investigate similar socially-contextualized cause/effect phenomena to see if they can find other time-reversals. Their next subject is the universally recognized rule of “whoever smellt it, dealt it”. I’m glad I won’t be in the room for that.

* If you followed my suggestion to try this with your dog, you are also left with a conundrum: who was experimenting on who? You thought you were tricking your dog into yawning but, in reality, you were only copying your dog’s future yawn. Is it not possible, then, that your dog was experimenting on you, trying to see if it could make you yawn?


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