Flow is a psychological condition described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book ‘Flow’, published by Harper, 1990. I use flow frequently when writing novels. I am writing this piece to share my enthusiasm for flow as a technique able to improve all kinds of time-limited performances, from playing a musical instrument to acting, dance and gymnastics.  A fuller description of flow, used for long distance running, is in my novel Time is Gold, to be published in November 2020. 

What is flow? It is not possible to know the feeling of skiing without doing it. It is the same with flow: when you do it you can recall being purposefully absorbed, for example when I write I exclude other thought and apply my skills automatically. If you have ever realised that time has passed timelessly and pleasantly, with a sense of optimal achievement from having used your time well, you were in flow.

Performers may experience flow subconsciously. I hazard that a prolific author like J K Rowland could flow naturally. Flow is a mental condition acquired voluntarily. It is a psychological and spiritual state. Various conditions have been found to nurture it, for example focussing the will on achievement of a definite goal, exclusion of other concerns and application of favourite skills with automaticity. When I am editing my writing, I can work very fast applying complex skills dexterously. Other conditions that promote flow are comfort and absence of distraction. Each writer has their own springboard into flow.

I have extended Mihaly’s flow with my own theory, which I call extreme-flow. Besides enabling optimal achievement, extreme-flow pushes brain activity to capacity limits and causes brain time to dilate. This enables earlier completion of tasks and delays physical aging. When flow is infrequent and brief, the effects would hardly be noticeable. Flow artistes, who cultivate and experience the condition regularly, may be able to stay in flow for hours, or even days, with beneficial performance effects, such as accomplishment of a work of art, with higher performance speed, while staying younger.

To set up extreme flow, a performer requires attention to detail, like a chess player, golfer or snooker player for a difficult play. Everything has to be considered all at once in time that is limited. 

When the brain’s traffic of nervous impulses is nearing maximum capacity, flow is predicated to cause time dilation. To respond fast enough, time stretches with fewer, longer seconds. This is time dilation, first described by Albert Einstein in his Theory of Special Relativity, published in 1905. An object travelling very fast and observed from a slower time frame would have dilated time. Thus a writer could respond and finish a task earlier, in ‘extreme-flow’ than by simple reflex reaction. Time dilation has been observed scientifically. Like all psychological theories, extreme-flow cannot be observed, but there is circumstantial evidence. 


Extreme-flow plays require meticulous preparation

Did Bannister step up or dilate time?

No-one had ever run a 4 minute mile until Roger Bannister’s 3.59.4 in 1959. Within 2-3 years, about 30 others ran sub-4s. My theory of extreme flow causing time dilation is explained in my novel Time is Gold, to be published in November 2020.


Here is a link to a video of a murmuration of starlings. This is an extraordinary spectacle and the rapid and coordinated behaviour of the birds could be difficult to explain.

How would you explain it?

4 minutes

My explanation is that the birds are in a condition of extreme flow with full mental engagement, indicated by the excitement of the birds, their twittering before they alight for the night. I have heard Lorikeets vibrating with excitement as they settle into their roosting tree at dusk. It is their freakish coordination, requiring birds to behave quickly, in concert, without collision, that reveals something ‘magical’ is going on. At a slower speed, the moves would not be remarkable. It is easy to imagine the video has been speeded up because the birds are animated, darting this way and then that, all together. But the video plays in real time, the starlings’ time is definitely stretched and the ‘magic’ must be time dilation.

I believe starlings are able to manoeuvre aerially with dexterity because their time is dilated and they therefore have fewer and longer seconds, with time to do more and earlier, such as participate in coordinating with others. Their activities ‘flow’ by high mental engagement, with a goal of group conformance. Their ethos is like that of dancers on a musical kick-line, who move as one, imperceptibly taking cues from a lead dancer and from the music. They are focussed and move as one. They use dilated time to keep up, coordinate their navigation and avoid collisions. Dancers, athletes and sports players have extreme flow to dilate their time, hone rehearsals and put on optimal performances.

Time is Gold is a fiction novel about an elite runner, Maxi and her physicist coach, Jack. They discover how she can use flow and time dilation to run marathon races faster. Jack is a physicist who is able to reconcile time dilation in flow with Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity. Whereas the starlings’ goal is conformance, Maxi’s goal is to distinguish herself and she breaks the World record. The book tells of the science of endurance running, her gruelling training and the demands of performing on the world stage. It is expected to be available in November 2020.


Starling behaviour can be explained as time dilation


CORRECTION: I apologise for my post on this topic last week. It contained errors.

The table compares environmental warming by a coal station, with a solar panel and a wind turbine, which have equal capacity to convert and transfer electrical energy. 

All input energy ends up in the environment, whether absorbed, converted or used.

Energy conversion efficiency E is electrical output/total energy input. 

Different energy sources and technologies can be compared with equal electricity output as environmental energy input, or warming, in the table below.  Relative environmental warming per unit of electricity produced is the reciprocal of conversion efficiency 1/E. It is ‘inefficiency’ of conversion, or input for output.


After subtracting 10% for reflection due to albedo or whiteness of a panel, typically 15-30% of incident solar energy is converted (0.15-0.30). 

* Environment warming would be reduced when the solar panel is installed on a roof above a cooled interior. 


Assume efficiency of rotary multi-blade turbine is 30% or 0.30.


Assume station thermal efficiency = 40% or 0.40

Coal would have a 25% lower environment warming effect (3.33-2.50)/3.33 X 100. A renewable energy technology could warm the environment more than coal. A technology of lower thermal efficiency is more thermally polluting. It is one of several important factors such as cost to be considered before installing it to replace a more efficient technology. 

Renewal of energy input is ultimately from the Sun, for solar and wind, or by combusting coal. The heat flows from hot to cold, cooling down to ambient temperature, ending up as heat warming the environment as entropy: heat that cannot be used. For technologies having low efficiency, the amount of ambient warming is significant. This thermal pollution could be sufficient to disadvantage individuals of many species, locally and globally.

No amount of warming has been included from an Enhanced Greenhouse Effect, due to CO2 and CH4. I am not convinced that the postulated mechanism exists and I would need a method I can use to calculate any effect.

It is claimed burning fossil fuels to produce electricity or heat is responsible for roughly half of global warming (Google, April 13, 2014). Installing solar panels and erecting wind turbines to replace coal may not reduce warming and could increase it.


Solar panels can cool buildings
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