Did you know that when an object such as a person is in motion his or her time clock is slowed down? I know that sounds strange and it is more complicated than that, but that is basically what happens.
In his book, The Elegant Universe: Super Strings, Hidden Dimensions and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, Brian Greene talks about how geniuses such as Einstein used experiments to discover many fascinating things about the concept of space, time and motion.
This might sound weird, but our perception of space and time depends on our position in relation to another object. Einstein called this phenomenon the “Theory of Relativity. In other words, if all people, places and things moved at exactly the same speed, we would not know that we were in motion and there would be no perceptual concept of space and time.
Imagine being the only driver on the turnpike. There are visible objects such as road signs, markers and trees on the road. Because they are stationary we are able to perceive where we are in time. Einstein named this phenomenon “Special Relativity.” It is a fancy word that builds on the idea of relativity. Special Relativity explains that our sense of where we are in time is dependent on our velocity relative to inertial objects in space.
Normally, we are not aware of how our own motion affects our position in space and time. But, if we could travel 670 million miles per hour, the speed of light, we would definitely find that our movement impacts time and space. How so you ask? Well, the faster one moves through space, the slower his or her time-clock ticks. Hence, a body in motion slows the processes involved in the passing of time.
Thus, motion effects the passage of time. An object moving at a high velocity conserves time because time moves slower for a fast moving object. Another interesting point I want to make is that motion also affects our perceptual position in space.
People rarely ever see an incident exactly the same because of their placement in relationship to the incident. For example, imagine strolling down your street late at night with your best buddy Erin. You two are walking side-by-side, but she is about one step ahead of you. In an instant, the owner of Big Bert’s Chicken Shack flicks the outdoor switch that lights the big neon sign above his restaurant. Because you were a step behind Erin, you claim that the sign illuminated the instant Big Bert hit the switch whereas Erin argues there was a slight delay.
Who is right? Both of you are as a result of your position in space. You were walking toward the neon sign when Big Bert hit the switch while Erin’s position was adjacent to the sign. Different positions in space caused a conflict in the perceived time elapsed before the neon sign illuminated.
Ready for another interesting discovery? It has been shown that motion also effects distance and space. An object in motion appears shortened in the direction that it is moving. Keep that in mind when you discover that your 1963 Cadillac Fleetwood appears longer when it is NOT moving at 75 miles per hour. So slow it down so those watchful eyes on the street can marvel at length of your antique classic!
In closing, we see that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is useful to explain phenomena related to the abstract concepts of motion, space and time. Without comparisons to other objects in space, humans would not have references to determine their position in time. Furthermore, Einstein’s theory supports the notion that an object in motion is less affected by passing time---thus, it is perhaps possible to slow the body’s aging process by keeping active. With all things considered, the theory of relativity does a fine job explaining how space, time and motion impacts human perception.