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What Happens With Time When We Move At Higher Speeds?

Explaining time dilation.

A car in the city of Rotterdam. Photo by toine G on Unsplash.

Circumstances in nature

There is a thing called “Standard Temperature and Pressure” (STP) which has nothing to do with time dilation but helps us understand how physical phenomenons change depending on the circumstances.

So the conditions agreed as “standard” for temperature and pressure are sea-level atmospheric pressure (1 atm) and 0 Celsius (or 32 Fahrenheit). Under this atmospheric pressure, water would need to reach 100 Celsius to boil. Whereas, if the atmospheric pressure were 2 atm, water would need to reach 120 Celsius to boil.

That is, water behaves in different ways depending on the physical circumstances in which it finds itself (just as “time” also behaves in different ways depending on the circumstance as we will see below).

But note that there are some physical notions needed for us to understand what happens in a phenomenon such as “boiling water,” which are: temperature and atmospheric pressure.

Likewise, to understand what happens with time at different speeds we need to use other notions.

Which physical notions are involved in the idea of ​​time?

Scientists (Einstein, Riemann, and many others) helped develop a scientific framework to measure as properly as possible how time behaves according to speed in the space-time fabric (being “space-time fabric” one of the main descriptive resources of this scientific framework).

According to this framework (which we can roughly call Einstein’s Theory of Relativity), objects moving at high speeds in the space-time fabric would experience time in a different way. I.e., time would be dilated when these objects remain at high speeds. Clocks, for example, in vehicles at high speeds would tick slowly in comparison to clocks in vehicles at lower speeds.

This theory has evidence in its favor. E.g., in the 70s there was an experiment in which very precise clocks were put on two airplanes, and the clocks on the airplane that traveled more were late.

Plus, scientists assume there are places in space where time is experienced differently because gravity attracts all bodies with mass in the space-time fabric (thus, changing the speed of these bodies). So gravity ends up dilating the time experienced by all bodies that are attracted by it (thus, clocks tick slowly in places that suffer intense gravitational force).

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to see time “dilating”, or becoming wider, (this might not even make sense). But it is possible to compare how much time has passed for objects at different speeds. See Twin Paradox.

Final Thoughts

It is now possible to explain phenomenons such as electricity according to the motion of electrons, or gravity and mass with the help of the Higgs boson and Higgs field. However, there is still a lot to be explained in the universe.

Could there be, for example, a fundamental particle of time? The Chronon? Or a fundamental particle of dark matter? Would a new theory as revolutionary as Einstein’s emerge? Or is this no longer possible?

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