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One of the syntactical interpretation of the famous linguistics sentence "Time flies like an arrow." is to consider "time flies" as a noun phrase. This makes "time flies" analogous to "fruit flies". For details about this, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_flies_like_an_arrow;_fruit_flies_like_a_banana.

My question is that if we go along with this interpretation, we have "time flies" which would probably be some sort of flies attracted to time. What would the characteristics of these time flies be? What would their appearance and behaviour be from the human perspective?

I am looking for interesting characteristics grounded in physical and/or biological principles. This creature is to be designed for humorous and parodical purposes. As long as it's feasible in a fantasy setting and cannot be disproven given our physical laws, it is an acceptable answer. The limiting rules here are that they are analogous to fruit flies (or some type of flies) as their basic characteristic i.e. attracted to time in some way. As an example of a physical principle, time slows down as you travel faster so they might materialize in a near-speed-of-light spaceship or close to the event horizon of a blackhole.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding.SE. When you have a moment, please take our tour and read our help center page about how questions are on- and off-topic. Please note that this question is (a) too broad as it asks us to consider the entire biome of a fictional creature and (b) is primarily opinion-based as you haven't laid out any limiting rules or conditions (meaning there is no correct answer). Out of curiosity, can you suggest a physical or biological principle that would ground a fictional creature with an impossible (insofar as we understand it) capability? The example would help considerably. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 12 '18 at 5:03
  • $\begingroup$ This creature is to be designed for humorous and parodical purposes. As long as it's feasible in a fantasy setting, it is an acceptable answer. (a) As far as I understand, a biome for this doesn't really exist. I am more interested in the creature than the biome. (b) The limiting rules here are that they are analogous to fruit flies as their basic characteristic i.e. attracted to time in some way. As an example of a physical principle, time slows down as you travel faster so there may be more (or less) of them present in a near-speed-of-light spaceship or an event horizon of a blackhole. $\endgroup$ – camelCase Apr 12 '18 at 5:25
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH Methinks you protest too much. The question doesn't ask for an entire biome. In fact, the question asks possible physical or biological principles to explain the existence of such hypothetical organisms. As for laying out limiting rules or conditions, I suspect if the querent could do that, the question wouldn't need to be asked. As for correct answers, the less said the better. The OP's acceptance vote determines that. $\endgroup$ – a4android Apr 12 '18 at 5:30
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    $\begingroup$ If you look at the question with a puzzle eye it makes indeed perfectly sense. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Apr 12 '18 at 6:50
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch Indeed when I first read this I thought this might be a post from puzzles. It seems a little out of place here though. $\endgroup$ – Tyler S. Loeper Apr 12 '18 at 20:16
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A house fly travels through houses, but a fruit fly does not travel through fruit. As someone else has already discussed time-shifting buzzing, let’s consider “time fly” analogous to “fruit fly”.

They eat time. Their eggs consume your time. This implies that they are massive.

If you stand too close to a black hole, the time dilation will cause the rest of the universe to move quickly relative to you. Similarly, if a time fly approaches you, its gravitational distortion effect will cause you to move slow relative to your surroundings. But while some extraterrestrial species may actually be massive, time flies on Earth are lightweight but capable of bending the gravitational field around other animals using a technique unknown at this time.

What benefit does the fly get? All of your potential energy. Consider— a butterfly flapping its wings early enough in history can shift a hurricane. Defer that butterfly and it is like you just swallowed the potential energy needed to move the storm. Fly digestive tract can convert that lost potential into kinetic energy for itself.

Time flies only live a single day, but in the billions of years of the universe, they are only into the 6th generation because of dilation.

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The answer you are looking for is in the saying itself: time flies like an arrow.

These flies like arrows, as little bugs they grow up eating the wood of the arrow body. When they become flies, they consume the metal of the tip as source of energy via metabolic oxidation.

They thrive on battlefields, but for obvious reason modern, arrows poor, warfare has endangered the species. Some reports though show that the species is now adapting to consume the wood of the weapon body and then the metal of the weapon itself.

Darwinian linguists therefore forecast that the saying will become "time flies like a Kalashnikov"

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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn’t that be “like a bullet”? Or are we going to begin throwing the guns at each other? :-) $\endgroup$ – SRM Apr 12 '18 at 6:11
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM, the bullet has no wooden parts ;) $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Apr 12 '18 at 6:28
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    $\begingroup$ Expanding upon this idea, since its "time flies like AN arrow" perhaps when they hatch, they wander around and look for an ideal arrow. Then when they mature they lay their eggs in the arrowhead. Once the arrow is loosed, they actually help the archer by guiding his arrow to his intended target. The arrow head gets embedded in flesh and the eggs get pumped into the blood stream, eventually hatching and eating their way out of their host. Grim but interesting no? $\endgroup$ – Arkhaine Apr 13 '18 at 7:02
  • $\begingroup$ “I have no quarrel with time flies,” said the first archer. “You poor guy,” said the second. “I have a whole quarrel full.” $\endgroup$ – SRM Apr 13 '18 at 15:11
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Maybe they are called time flies because ancient cultures used them to measure time.

Maybe every time fly has a regular schedule it follows every day.

  • When it is asleep, (or stays in one place) then it is nighttime.
  • When it is eating fruit and cereals, it is morning.
  • When it starts buzzing and looking busy, flying from one object to the next, then it is time for work. ...etc.

Language has adapted to refer to the time by the patterns of the time fly, e.g. "be in the office when the time fly starts buzzing" or "be at home before the time fly goes to sleep".

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  • $\begingroup$ You mentioned language. Any idea how your time flies became associated with arrows? $\endgroup$ – SRM Apr 13 '18 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM maybe at a specific time of the day (when people are supposed to go to work or go home from work?) the time fly flies in a straight line. $\endgroup$ – Real Subtle Apr 16 '18 at 6:19
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The most mundane possibility, in terms of ordinary biology, is not so much transtemporal diptera, but rather insects with body markings resembling clock faces or even possibility hourglasses. Insects are often known for their colourations, patterns and other markings, so the possibility that insects could exist with patterns or shapes on their bodies similar to horological devices (that's clocks, watches and time-measuring contraptions) is highly improbable. However, it is not impossible.

Due to their time-measurement-device-related markings these flies would be named "time flies". While it is conceded that they could also be named "clockface flies", this is too close to being a tongue twister to gain common currency. So they would be more likely known as time flies.

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Time flies are attracted to temporal paradoxes. The name implies a small fly, but in reality they are brutal, quite big and carnivorous.

Ever wondered why there are no time-travellers around? Guess who ate them.

Whenever some genius invents some form of time-travel these little critters find out and fly at the invention and the inventor alike, similar to how an arrow finds its target. They then proceed to consume the invention and the inventor.

They are the guardians that protect the universe from temporal paradoxes. They are scavengers just like your common fly, always looking for ways to help compost the temporal waste that time-travel invariably leaves around.

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    $\begingroup$ This was also an episode of Dr. Who $\endgroup$ – bendl Apr 13 '18 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ Also the basis of the entire Mage:The Ascension RPG. $\endgroup$ – SRM Apr 13 '18 at 15:14
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What are the most likely conditions for an organism, no matter how hypothetical, to be called a time fly?

Firstly, it must look like a fly. Say, a common fly. Since flies tend to buzz around in an annoying manner, we can assume a time fly will do the same but utilizing a simple form of time travel. This establishes our second criterion. This is basically a time-shifting dipteran.

This basic form of time travel can operate with the fly shifting into either the future or the past. Presumably with some compensation for spatial displacement due to the motion of a planet like Earth's orbit around the Sun, and around the galactic centre. Such a time fly will be even more adept at avoiding being swatted since it can shift to a point in time when the fly swatter isn't about to hit it.

Accordingly a time fly will resemble a normal fly and it will be even more annoying than ordinary flies because its ability to switch forwards and backwards in time.

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Time flies consume time, but contrary to what others have said are tiny. Effectively invisible to the naked eye they accumulate around computers, cinemas, and especially large concentrations of alcohol.

You will occasionally encounter them in other areas, but they're most noticeable by the symptoms of their presence. You'll know they're around when someone says something like "how did it get so late", "doesn't time fly", or "where has the time gone".

They particularly like bars, one moment you step through the door and the next thing you know it's closing time and you're being thrown out. the reason for this is the high concentrations of time flies found around alcohol.

And yes they fly like an arrow, speed is a function of time and since they've consumed the intervening time, they're fast.

They should be detectable by a good wizard, or a scientist with a selection of strategically placed clocks, containment and direct observation are left as an exercise for the reader.

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  • $\begingroup$ Seems like this is one kind of bug you WANT in a computer. $\endgroup$ – SRM Apr 13 '18 at 15:15
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Time flies like arrows because they are fast moving elongated objects that move axially.

Slow moving stuff is incredibly big in the time-dimension, fast moving stuff is small in that aspect. (Think about measuring one of the three space-dimensions of a house, by walking by it, and calling out whether the house is beside you. One step: Still there. Two steps: Still there...... Thirty steps: now ist gone! Same for time: Go forward in time (meaning stand still and exist), and call out whether the object beside you is there: second 1: There. second 2: There. ... second 123134: Still there. It's a house. Gonna take awhile.

Now sit there while an arrow flies by (and remember: Time flies are tiny, so they don't see so good. Stuff needs to be near them to appreciate it. No knobbly stuff either, moving knobbly stuff to a time creature is like a rapidly expanding and contracting monster. Scary. Nice, smooth arrows: Great. You sit near them, the view alters, soothing like staring at a tumble-dryer (which they like second best). Modern aluminium-shafts with paint on it? bliss. Practically like TV.

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  • $\begingroup$ how tiny? add a banana for scale, please $\endgroup$ – Will Crawford Apr 15 '18 at 2:03
  • $\begingroup$ ( .| Banana for scale (Time Fly near the Arrow, though) $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Apr 16 '18 at 6:35

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