Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What is Time?

Albert Einstein’s explanation of Time Dilation, along with “The Twin Paradox” explained by Paul  Langevin, pose two scientific questions:  (1) ”What IS Time if it can be dilated?” and (2) “HOW is Time dilated by velocity and gravity?” The answers below may be only a re-visualization of what has been known for over a century, but it appears the topic has never before been explained by a layman in layman’s terms.   (For the complete explanation, click HERE.) 

Time is particle spin. What we perceive as time are the effects of particle spin.

We perceive time as non-cyclical processes, such as growth, aging and decay. We measure time by cyclical processes, such as the rotation of the earth, the seasons, the phases of the moon, etc. But Time itself is particle spin. Local particle spin determines how fast things grow, age and decay locally, and local particle spin determines the rate of local cyclical processes, such as our heart beat, our sleep cycles, and the ticking of local clocks. Thus we will perceive different effects of Time and particle spin in different locations depending upon our velocity through space and the gravitational strength at each location. 

What we commonly measure and call “Time” is just an agreed-upon standard.  Two centuries ago, “noon” occurred at a different time in nearly every town and city.   Clocks were set to 12:00 “noon” when the sun was at its highest point during the day.  Then the need for railroad schedules gradually created a requirement that everyone must use an agreed-upon standard for when “noon” occurred in a specific “time zone.”

In his 1905 paper, Albert Einstein viewed time in a very different way.  He explained that Time will run slower for an object whenever the object moves.  For convenience, he used clocks to describe how movement (velocity) dilates (slows down) Time: 

If at the points A and B of K there are stationary clocks which, viewed in the stationary system, are synchronous; and if the clock at A is moved with the velocity v along the line AB to B, then on its arrival at B the two clocks no longer synchronize, but the clock moved from A to B lags behind the other which has remained at B by ½tv2/c2 (up to magnitudes of fourth and higher order), t being the time occupied in the journey from A to B.

It is at once apparent that this result still holds good if the clock moves from A to B in any polygonal line, and also when the points A and B coincide.

If we assume that the result proved for a polygonal line is also valid for a continuously curved line, we arrive at this result: If one of two synchronous clocks at A is moved in a closed curve with constant velocity until it returns to A, the journey lasting t seconds, then by the clock which has remained at rest the traveled clock on its arrival at A will be ½tv2/c2 second slow. Thence we conclude that a balance-clock at the equator must go more slowly, by a very small amount, than a precisely similar clock situated at one of the poles under otherwise identical conditions.

The last sentence above explains that a clock at the equator will run slower than a clock at the North Pole simply because the clock at the equator is moving at about 1,000 miles per hour around the Earth’s axis while a clock at the North Pole just rotates in place once per 24 hours.  Everything at the equator that measures Time will run more slowly than an identical object at the North Pole.   A human being standing on the equator will age more slowly (by a very small amount) than a human being standing at the North Pole.

This means that Time can (and does) “move” at a different rate for each of us.  The rate with which Time “moves” depends upon your velocity and your distance from a large gravitational mass.  The closer you are to the center of a large gravitational mass – such as the Earth – the slower time will move.  Plus, because the Earth is not a perfect sphere but is slightly flattened at the poles, a clock at the North Pole is also 13 miles closer to the center of the Earth than a clock at the equator.  The clock at the North Pole will thus run slower by a very slight amount, an amount which must be added to any amount of slowing caused by velocity. 
The question then becomes: Exactly what are we measuring if Time will move at a different rate for someone on the equator versus someone at the North Pole? 

It isn’t just velocity.  A stationary person sitting motionless in “absolute space” will age normally, and his wristwatch will tick off the seconds normally.   

But, as soon as he starts to move, Time for him and his clocks will start to slow down in comparison to what was occurring when he was sitting motionless.

Since we are all moving, being “stationary” in “absolute space” is basically just a hypothetical concept.  But the speed of light is NOT hypothetical.  That is one reason why Time Dilation is typically computed by measuring an object’s velocity relative to the speed of light instead of relative to a purely hypothetical stationary object.
The speed of light is not only fixed, it cannot be exceeded by anything yet known to man.  And since nothing can move faster than the speed of light, that means that Time Dilation must be caused by a some kind of “conflict” with the speed of light – a circumstance where Time is somehow forced to slow down because the movement of Time cannot exceed the speed of light.

It appears there is only one “thing” that can cause Time to slow down when it conflicts with the speed of light – particle spin.  And that observation seems to indicate that particle spin IS Time, and Time IS particle spin.

One “fundamental unit of time” is one complete "spin" of a stationary particle.  When a particle moves, the completion of one full "spin" must slow in some way because the distance covered during the spin must be added to the lateral distance the particle itself has moved.  And that immediately conflicts with the fixed speed of light.  
(Muons are unstable subatomic particles with a mean lifetime of 2.2 microseconds.  They are created locally when cosmic rays collide with particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere.  Their short mean lifetime does not provide enough time for the particle to reach the surface of the Earth, yet they do reach the surface in great numbers.  That happens because their high speed (about 99 percent of the speed of light) slows down the Time they experience (i.e., they experience Time Dilation), allowing them to travel further before decaying.)

So, “a fundamental unit of time" is one complete spin of a hypothetical stationary particle.  However, the Time we all experience is NOT fixed because particles do not remain stationary, and thus the time it takes for a particle to complete one spin is not fixed.  One complete spin of a moving particle is one dilated unit of time. 

Unfortunately, we do not know with any precision what a particle looks like or how it spins.  Some theoretical models show an electron spinning just as the Earth spins on its axis.  A different model has the particle rotating like a spinning donut.  Another theory has particles vibrating instead of spinning.  Whatever is happening, the movement cannot exceed the speed of light and therefore the spinning must slow down.  A massive gravitational force will also slow the spin.   

This way of viewing time also indicates that Time can stop.  When an object (such as an electron or a human) reaches the speed of light, the object ceases to exist as a coherent object and will become waves of energy moving across the universe forever.  Time will stop for that object.  Likewise, when an object enters a black hole, the electron will cease to spin and Time will stop. 

This means that dilated Time is the normal form of Time.  Everything in the universe is moving and is being affected by gravity.  But the amount of Time Dilation is normally so small that we have all agreed to use a man-made "STANDARD" (such as the time measurement provided by the atomic clock at the National Institute for Standards and Technology) instead of trying to compute our own personal rate of time using the tiny clocks known as "particle spin.”

What is Time?  Time is the spin of sub-atomic particles at a specific location.  Time began shortly after the Big Bang, when particles such as electrons were formed, and Time will continue until electrons and other particles stop spinning.


  1. The "Twin Paradox"is merely Einstein's SPECULATIONS. Lorentz was the greater genius and did NOT agree with Einstein's interpretations. It cannot be tested.

    1. Time Dilation is a FACT. It is "tested" every day. GPS satellites have to have their clocks adjusted DAILY to compensate for BOTH velocity related Time Dilation AND gravitational Time Dilation. Check this link: http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~pogge/Ast162/Unit5/gps.html

      Special Relativity predicts that the on-board atomic clocks on the satellites should fall behind clocks on the ground by about 7 microseconds per day because of the slower ticking rate due to the time dilation effect of their relative motion.

      A calculation using General Relativity predicts that the clocks in each GPS satellite should get ahead of ground-based clocks by 45 microseconds per day.

      The combination of these two relativitic effects means that the clocks on-board each satellite should tick faster than identical clocks on the ground by about 38 microseconds per day (45-7=38)!

      And of course, there are also the muon experiments, which also confirm Time Dilation.


  2. No you are not wrong about time dilation. A clear and lucid explanation. Nobody seems to receive this fundamental and true answer when they enquire. As you point out, particle spin will become elongated (to the stationary observer) when motion is taken into account. The travel path of the spin (and also orbital path of electrons) will appear longer and therefore the frequency will decrease (to the static observer)- hence slowdown of this the most fundamental clock. This is what it's all about. Well done

  3. Thank you for helping me understand time dilation.you have very keen intellect Ed.

  4. Thank you for helping me understand time dilation.you have very keen intellect Ed.