How Time Dilates…

How Time Dilates…

atomic clock
Atomic Clock USNO

I just read that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was shown to apply to altitude differences as small as 33 centimeters. Scientists at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, using the latest and most accurate atomic clocks, found that the higher you are above sea level, the faster time runs for you.

In addition, as Einstein had also suggested, the scientists found that travel through space influences clock speed. A stationary clock ticks slower than a moving one. So, if your clock is moving rather than stationary and, in addition, you live high up, then you might start thinking about botox, moving to sea-level, or buying a bungalow!
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The time differences at these small distances are minuscule, but now measurable.
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This demonstration of time dilation leads me on to another, though I believe related, track. Einstein conceived of his Relativity Theory more than one hundred years ago, and yet we are only now able to confirm its predictions on our, human level! Atomic theory, stating that matter is composed of discrete units called atoms, according to Wikipedia, “began as a philosophical concept in ancient Greece and India” and only entered scientific thinking in the early nineteenth century. Thus, “time” is also relative, depending on the prevailing culture, socio-political conditions, etc., when it comes to the interval between ideas being born and their progressing to proof and acceptance. Just think of the effect of certain periods of the Middle Ages on the progression of ideas!
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Moving on to a more experiential level: In my forthcoming novel Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree, a little girl is obsessed with time. She fears changes of plan, the adults changing their mind, things happening unexpectedly – “Can you do that?” she wants to know. If you change your plans, then time becomes unpredictable. She keeps comparing the time on her watch with that of other family members, to reassure herself of the stability of her world. Like most of us, she confuses the subjective timeline of our lives, and its curves, ambits, u-turns and roundabouts, with the instrument of its measurement, her watch.
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On the other hand, shrinking or speeding up time, for instance through time-lapse photography, can provide us with a new, marvelous perspective on the world. The BBC has a great video on this, “Timelapse: Speeding up life” Watch it; I added it to my previous post.
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For musings and poetry on Time, read Asian Cha’s Random musings on Time: “Pray, my dear, quoth my mother, have you not forgot to wind up the clock?” They claim their clock does not tick. Not even tock?
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Perhaps this, the dilation of time, the arrhythmia of time, where the interval between “tick” and “tock” is unpredictable, or different to what our current understanding would lead us to expect, is a major, crucial point where the arts and the sciences intersect – where the subjective and objective meet. Let us stay with this thought for a minute. Stop all the clocks!

4 thoughts on “How Time Dilates…”

  1. I enjoyed this post, and feel compelled to consider moving from the pre-Alpine heights to the costal flatlands, or perhaps to somewhere below sea level (see http://geology.com/below-sea-level/)
    Re. your reference to the Middle Ages: yes, indeed, there are times, even now, when the gravitational pull of old ideas prevents any flights of our creative minds.

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    1. I hope the new findings, as well as my blog post, do not start a population relocation to the low-altitude countries!

      On the other hand, North Norfolk and the North Sea are wonderful. Did I not write a micro-poem about these areas? see escarp http://bit.ly/9ADSzD

      Thank you for your comment, Hermann

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  2. Hello Stella,

    I’m a little bit like the little girl in your story. In some ways I’m obsessed by the finite number of years, months, days, minutes, seconds (you get the idea) we get in life – the exact number unknown.

    There are a lot of minor annoyances I run across in daily life but nothing more bothersome than when I find my self in situations or with people that waste my time. Most people treat time as a commodity as something they have in limited supply – but once spent it’s gone.

    Of course I get such pleasure out of time well spent – a return on my investment …like reading your blog.

    As you know I fly a lot for my job and now I’m wondering at what happens at those really high altitudes?

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    1. Thank you for your good words.

      I agree, questioning what is worthy of our time does mean our time is well spent.

      Yes, frequent flying and the new findings…also worth thinking about. My guess would be a time difference of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second in five lifetimes!

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