Tuesday, December 14, 2004


When I went out of the College of Science auditorium, I felt exhausted.

It was an exhaustion brought about by an hour and a half of listening to my fast-talking professor (he blurts out words in such a way that we, his students, would perpetually ask ourselves, "What did he just say?"), and wondering if time is, in fact, absolute.

Newtonian and Galilean physics assume that time is absolute for all inertial frames. I had agreed with this idea: after all, intuition and practical observation would prove this theory to be correct. I was about to yawn and drift to half-sleepiness had it not been for the puzzling question the professor asked the class of almost 200 people (who were mostly sleeping; some were even not listening to him): Can you travel in time?

Uh oh. My mind said, "Bloody no!" But I didn't shout, of course. It was such a public place, and he (the prof) does not like interference of any kind--except of course the concept of interference of waves.

Then he went on to explain Einstein's Theory of Relativity whose implications were: time is relative; mass changes with respect to velocity; when the velocity reaches (or closely approaches) the speed of light (i.e., c= 300,000 m/s), time slows down. When it's equal to c, time stops.

He gave an illustration of this relativity. I cannot exactly replicate what he actually said, but here's a rough take on it. It's called the TWIN PARADOX. It goes this way: There are twin brothers, A and B. They both look at a distant star, and so B decides to go there by a rocket with a speed of .9c (ninety percent of the speed of light). A decides to observe here on Planet Earth. Will there be an age difference?

Einstein would tell us that B would become younger. Because time slows down in velocities approaching c, the biological and physical clock of B would slow down, too, though he wouldn't be able to realize it. Using complicated solutions to this problem, all scientists would agree that B would be younger.

Oh well. If you think Botox or facial surgery is too costly, why not try buying a rocket ship and travel to Mars?

Time is, in fact, relative.



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