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Participants in the Deep Time project leave the Lombrives cave on April 24. Photo: Fred Scheiber/AFP via Getty Images

Fifteen people this week emerged from living in total isolation in a cave in France for 40 days as part of an experiment in "Deep Time."

Why it matters: Without smartphones and clocks the participants were forced to simply be with themselves. In doing so, they provided an object lesson for how artificially regulated our modern lives have become.

How it works: The Deep Time research project, led by France's Human Adaptation Institute, took seven women and eight men — all volunteers — and sent them to live in the Lombrives cave for nearly six weeks.

  • Aside from cameras and tools to measure their sleep and movement patterns, the participants had no access to technology, spending all of their time in an environment with no natural light and temperatures of around 50 F and 100% humidity.
  • When they finally emerged from the cave — wearing special sunglasses to protect their unaccustomed eyes from the sun — they had no idea how much time had passed, with one participant estimating as few as 23 days.

Details: That's because without clocks or sunlight, they measured the passing of time mostly in sleep cycles, which varied from person to person.

What they're saying: "Time went by so fast and I still had, like, so [many] things I wanted to do in the cave," Marina Lançon, a Montreal expedition guide, told the CBC.

The bottom line: Two-thirds of the participants said they wanted to stay underground and in isolation a little longer — which, given the current state of the world, perhaps isn't that surprising.

Go deeper

Federal Reserve scales back expectations for economic recovery as Delta variant weighs

Fed chair Jerome Powell during a congressional hearing last year. (Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Fed downgraded near-term expectations for the economy and the labor market, alongside hotter-than-expected inflation, in new estimates out on Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's the first time those closely-watched estimates reflect impact from the delta variant that's already rattled the labor market. Still, Fed chairman Jerome Powell said enough progress has been made to begin to pull back emergency-era measures that have supported the economy.

Bipartisan police reform negotiations end without deal

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) with Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in the Capitol in May 2021. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Bipartisan talks on reforming police tactics and accountability, prompted by George Floyd's murder in May 2020, have ended without a compromise, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a key negotiator, said Wednesday.

Why it matters: Lawmakers, led by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Booker, had been working toward a bipartisan deal for months but things fell apart due to disagreements on qualified immunity and other issues.

Biden speaks with Macron for first time since diplomatic crisis

President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron have a conversation ahead of the NATO summit in Brussels, on June 14, 2021. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron for the first time since a diplomatic row erupted over a scrapped submarine order, per the White House.

Driving the news: Macron said that the French ambassador will return to Washington next week and will resume working with senior U.S. officials.