Time is a strange thing. We are used to counting the clock, but the universe does not have any major clocks and dials, which means that we can experience time in different ways, depending on how we move or how gravity affects us. Physicists have tried to combine two great theories of physics in order to conclude that time is not only not universally agreed upon, but any clock that we use to measure it blurs the flow of time in the surrounding space.
First, it does not mean that your wall clock will help you grow old. We talk about watches in high-precision experiments, for example, about an atomic clock. A group of physicists from the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences drew conclusions from quantum mechanics and general relativity to state that increasing the accuracy of measurements on a clock in one space also increases time distortion.
Let’s stop for a second and try to express in simple terms what physicists know at the moment.
Quantum mechanics extremely accurately describes the universe on the smallest scale, where everything goes into the realm of subatomic particles and forces acting at the shortest distances. For all its accuracy and usefulness, quantum mechanics allows us to make predictions that contradict our everyday experience.
One such forecast is the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, according to which, when you know one parameter with high accuracy, the measurement of the second parameter becomes less accurate. For example, the more you specify the position of an object in time and space, the less you can be sure of its momentum.
And it’s not that someone is smarter or that someone has better equipment – the universe is basically so working, it’s fundamental. Electrons do not crash into protons, due to the balance of “uncertainty” of position and momentum.
You can also look at the other side: to determine the position of the object with the highest accuracy, we need to reckon with an unimaginable amount of energy. With regard to our hypothetical hours, dividing the second into fractions in our clock leads to the fact that we know less and less about the energy of the clock. And here comes the general theory of relativity – another proven theory in physics, only it uses time more to explain how massive objects affect each other at a distance.
Thanks to Einstein’s work, we understand that there is an equivalence between mass and energy, expressed by the formula E = mc2. Energy is equal to the mass multiplied by the square of the speed of light. We also know that time and space are connected, and this space-time is not just an empty box – mass, and therefore energy, can distort space-time.
That’s why we observe interesting effects like gravitational lensing, when massive objects like stars and black holes with their mass warp the path of light. And also this means that the mass can lead to gravitational time dilation, when the time flows the closer, the closer to the source of gravity.
Unfortunately, although these theories are perfectly supported by experiments, they practically do not get along together. Therefore, physicists are trying to create a new theory that would fit both these theories and would be correct. At the same time, we continue to explore how these theories describe the same phenomena like time. As, actually, in this article.
Physicists have suggested that the act of measuring time with high accuracy requires increasing energy costs, which automatically reduces the accuracy of measurements in the immediate area of any time-tracking device.
“Our conclusions suggest that we need to reconsider our ideas about the nature of time, when both GRT and quantum mechanics are taken into account,” says researcher Esteban Castro.
What impact does this have on us on a daily basis? As is often the case with theoretical physics, especially no.
Although technically quantum mechanics is applicable to “big” things, do not worry if your stopwatch counts down fractions of a second; You do not have a black hole on your wrist. All of the above conclusions will only be important for watches in highly accurate experiments, much more advanced than those currently being developed.
But the better we understand how hours and time work in particular, at least in theory, the better we understand the universe around us. One day, perhaps we will understand the nature of time itself. The work of scientists was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).