September 29, 2017 – Time Dilation

The first time I heard the term “time dilation” was while watching the new Star Trek series (the one with Patrick Stewart vice William Shatner) and I wondered what it meant. The theory goes like this, time moves at different speeds for two different observers relative to the gravitational field exerted upon the observers.  If you are a fan of science fiction then you have read about or watched this idea manifested in many ways. In the 1979 movie, The Black Hole, a ship is stranded near the event horizon of a black hole and the crew are literally frozen in time due to the time dilation effect that a black hole produces.

Another good sci-fi use of time dilation is in the book The Forever War by Joel Haldeman. The protagonist serves as a soldier in an intergalactic war (that’s not the main story line – just the backdrop) and due to frequent faster-than-light trips around the galaxy, stays young while the Earth and his family ages and the circumstances behind the war change. Interesting reading and recommended.

Recently I’ve also experienced time dilation. I remember when I was young the time between holidays seemed like ages – more or less glacial – in how slow time moved. I also remember that from the time school started to Christmas might as well have been a thousand years. Now that I’m a bit older – the time between September 1 and December 25th seems like a blink of an eye. The time dilation effect seems to have an age factor as well. Time moves at different speeds for two different observers, not only based on the gravitational field exerted upon them, but also their relative age.

The authors of this blog often comment at our get-togethers how fast time seems to move. I remember my grandmother talking about how fast the year went by when I was a kid and thinking, “is she nuts?”  She wasn’t – it was the time dilation effect due to age. Advice to our children – enjoy how slow time moves while you are close to the teens and twenties event horizon.

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