Can we stop time?

The relentless march of time is usually a supply of tension. Who hasn’t generally wished for the power to freeze themselves in a contented second and even forestall a cherished one from slipping away. 

Every now and again, a science-fiction guide, film or TV present will characteristic characters who can do what we all want: Stop time. 

But is such a factor potential? Answering that query requires a deep dive into the farthest corners of physics, philosophy and human notion. 

First, we must outline time. “To a physicist, it’s not that mysterious,” Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist on the California Institute of Technology, instructed Live Science. “Time is just a label on different parts of the universe. It tells us when something is happening.”

Related: Where does the concept of time travel come from?

Many physics equations make little distinction among the many previous, current and future, Carroll added. One place time seems is in Albert Einstein‘s theory of relativity. According to Einstein’s principle, time is measured by clocks. Because the elements of a clock should transfer via space, time will get twisted up with space into a bigger idea often known as space-time that underpins the universe.

Relativity famously confirmed that point can turn into fairly wonky relying on how briskly an observer is shifting relative to a different observer. If you ship an individual with a clock on a spaceship at close to light speed, time will appear to go extra slowly for them than it will for a stationary pal left on Earth. And an astronaut falling right into a black hole, whose immense gravity can warp time, may additionally seem to decelerate relative to a distant observer.

But that is probably not a way to stop time, Carroll stated. Two clocks could disagree in relativity, however every will nonetheless report the same old passage of time inside their very own reference body.

If you have been nearing a black hole, “you wouldn’t notice anything different,” Carroll stated. “You would look at your wristwatch, and it would pass at one second per second.”

For him, it makes little sense to speak about stopping time. We know {that a} automotive is shifting as a result of, at totally different moments of time, it is at a distinct location in space, he stated. “Motion is change with respect to time, so time itself can’t move.” In different phrases, if time stopped, all movement would stop too. 

While sci-fi has generally given us protagonists who can pause time for everybody else, such conditions increase a substantial amount of questions. “Are you stopping the air from moving?” Carroll requested. “Because if so, then you’re imprisoned by the air.”

A time-stopping character would additionally possible be unable to see something, he added, as a result of mild rays would not attain their eyeballs. “There’s not really any consistent scenario in which time stops.”

So a lot for physics. But time is extra than simply one thing learn on a clock. It’s additionally a sense that we have in our heads and our bodies, in addition to the pure rhythms of the world. Yet in these circumstances, time can turn into one thing topic to private whims.

“Thinking about the subjective impression of time gets interesting,” Craig Callender, a thinker who focuses on time on the University of California, San Diego, instructed Live Science.

Related: Why does time sometimes fly when you’re NOT having fun?

He described a widely known psychological phantasm often known as “chronostasis,” through which an individual locations a clock on the fringe of their imaginative and prescient after which stares at one thing else for a second. Glancing again on the timepiece and specializing in the second hand will make it pause. (It is usually a quirky way to remain entertained throughout fifth interval math class in highschool.)

“The second hand definitely hangs there a little bit,”  Callender stated. “You can make time seem like it freezes.”

The phantasm has to do with tiny eye actions referred to as saccades, through which your eyeballs quickly flick backwards and forwards to always take of their environment. To forestall you from seeing a chaotic blur, your mind truly edits what it sees in actual time and creates the impression of a steady subject of view, Callender stated.

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The query then turns into, what’s the relationship between our perceptions of time and the time physicists are speaking about? Callender has written a lot of books that try and discover the connection between the 2, and as but, there is not a lot consensus on a remaining reply.

Regarding the final word move of time, Callender favors an image “where there’s nothing flowing, but the story of yourself is flowing.”

And what does he consider relating to the potential of stopping time? “If we think of our subjective sense of time, then we can stop portions of it with chronostasis,” Callender stated. “But that’s probably the closest we can do.”

Originally revealed on Live Science.

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