Time -- as I visualize it
Ed Lake
(Created February 29, 2016)
(Last revised on April 4, 2016)

If anyone has any comments or sees any errors
in this explanation of Time,
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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 seem to be:

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.

Time Dilation

In his 1905 paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies," Albert Einstein explained that Time will run slower for an object when the object moves.  For convenience, he used clocks as objects 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.

What this also means is that time between the equator and the North Pole will run slower by varying amounts depending upon how far from the North Pole you are.  And, of course, the same holds true between the equator and the South Pole.

In short: Time will run slower and slower for an object when it moves faster and faster (until the speed of light is reached).  And the controlling factor for this slowdown in the passage of Time is the speed of light.  The speed of light is the same no matter how fast you are going. 

Why?  Because, as soon as you or a clock starts to move, you start to conflict with the speed of light.  The speed of light is measured as
299,792,458 meters per second whether you are motionless or are moving at astronomical speeds.  But a second is much longer when you are moving at astronomical speeds than it is when you are motionless.  The length of a second depends upon your velocity.

In typical movements on Earth, you do not notice the slowing down of Time because typical movements result in only a difference of billionths or trillionths of a second.  You do not notice it even when you are on the equator moving around the Earth's axis at 1,000 miles per hour while also moving with the Earth around the Sun at 66,000 mph and the Earth and Sun are moving in orbit around the galaxy at 483,000 mph.  A total velocity of roughly 600,000 miles per hour would only result in a difference of about ½ of a millionth of a second between a person on Earth and a theoretical stationary object in “absolute space.” That’s roughly 36 seconds per year.  Plus, you do not notice it because everything around you slows down at the same rate.  Your pulse slows, your aging process slows, etc.  And, of course, all nearby clocks slow down at the same rate.

Furthermore, in your "frame of reference," light still moves at 299,792,458  meters per second - because your seconds are longer.

If you move at a relative velocity of 298,290 kilometers per second (which is 99.4988% of the speed of light), you will experience only 1 second while a stationary person experiences 10 seconds. You will age “1 year” while a stationary person ages 10 years. Your clocks will tick off 1 year while a stationary clock will tick off 10 years."

If you measure the speed of light at that velocity, it will still be 299,792,458 meters per second, because your seconds will be 10 times longer

Fermions Control Time

Why does movement cause to time to slow down?   As I understand and visualize it, it's because the sub-atomic particles called fermions that comprise everything around us (i.e., electrons, protons, quarks, leptons, etc.) are like tiny clocks measuring time for us.  Those "clocks" move at a fixed speed, and when in motion, that fixed speed "conflicts" with the fixed speed of light.  They must maintain their fixed time relative to the speed of light.  So, no matter how fast they are moving laterally, they will tick off one second while a beam of light moves 299,792,458 meters.  And therefore objects comprised of fermions will experience Time Dilation whenever they move.

The problem is, of course, that no one knows exactly how a fermion particle "moves."  It is referred to as "particle spin" because its magnetic properties are like those of classic spinning objects, but many or most scientists believe fermions are not spinning in any classical sense (like the earth spinning on it axis), since, if they were, they would be spinning faster than the speed of light. 

But, if an object spins at the speed of light when stationary in space, and then it is put in lateral motion, it may appear to be spinning faster than the speed of light as long as it continues to move laterally, because its lateral speed is being combined with its spin rate.  And every particle we view as spinning faster than light may be doing so because, as described above, it (and we) are moving around the Sun, around the galaxy and through space at a significant velocity. 

One way to visualize what seems to be happening, is to view particle spin as if it is similar to the orbital spin of an electron around the nucleus of an atom.  F
or purposes of this explanation, and to avoid the complications of multiple electrons in different orbits moving at different speeds, it is best to use a very simple atom.  The simplest atom is the hydrogen atom, which has a nucleus consisting of only one proton, and it has only one electron orbiting the nucleus:


The single electron orbits the proton at a fixed speed, very much like the tip of the minute hand of a clock moves around the center of a clock at a fixed speed, and very much like the fixed speed of particle spin.

If the clock is working properly, the fixed speed for the minute hand on the clock is one orbit per hour.  The
electron in the hydrogen atom orbits the proton at a much faster fixed speed, which we can call "electron orbit time."  And the electron itself is "spinning" at a fixed speed, which we can call "spin time" or a "fundamental unit of time."

Our bodies are composed of different kinds of atoms and particles.  We just need to think of each particle as being a tiny clock measuring off time for us.  And, if we were in a space ship, the space ship would also be made up of tiny clock particles measuring off time in tiny increments.

Those little clock-like particles determine how fast time passes for us.  When we are going about are normal business, the electrons are spinning normally and measuring time normally.  But, when we start moving very fast, time is no longer "normal." 
To visualize one theoretical reason for the difference, it is easier if the hydrogen atom is viewed edge on:

atom 02
When the the atom is stationary, its orbit is like the orbit shown above.  But, in order to complete one orbit when the atom is moving, the electron has to travel the distance of its normal orbit PLUS the lateral distance traveled.  So, when viewed edge on, the electron is making a corkscrew pattern through space:

atom 03 

If the complete atom moved laterally the same distance it takes to complete one orbit of the electron, time as measured by this atom "clock" will have slowed to half its normal rate.  I.e., it would take the electron twice as long to complete one orbit at its fixed rate of speed.  If the lateral velocity is ten times greater, it will take the electron ten times as long to complete one orbit.  Time, as measured by the fermion particle "clocks" in the atom and the object it is part of, will have slowed down to one-tenth the normal rate.

If viewed as we view the speed of light, the speed of the particle is unchanged and still fixed, it is only the speed of TIME which has changed.  If you ignore the slowdown in the speed of Time, then it will appear that the particle is spinning faster than the speed of light.

Time Dilation due to Gravity

If the particle is part of a satellite in orbit around the earth, time will slow down for that astronaut.  It's not a big difference - typically just 7 microseconds per day -  but it is a measurable difference, so it has been proven to happen. 

There is also a similar effect on time that is caused by fermion particles moving closer to a massive gravity source.

As I visualize, when sub-atomic particles get closer and closer to a massive gravity source (such as the earth or a black hole), the spin of the particles is slowed down by the pull of gravity.  Time slows down.  For example, time moves slower on the surface of the Earth than it does aboard a satellite in orbit around the Earth, because the satellite is farther away from the Earth's mass.  Again, the difference is small.  It's about 45 microseconds per day.

That means that clocks aboard satellites in certain orbits above Earth have to be periodically reset by 38 microseconds per day, subtracting 7 microseconds to compensate for the motion of the satellite and adding 45 microseconds to compensate for the difference in distance from the center of the earth (45-7=38).

It also means that Time moves at a different rate for someone standing on a street than it does for someone on the top floor of a building next to the street.  And it moves as a slightly different rate on each floor of the building.


Time is particle spin.  Particle spin is Time.
Time can move at a different rate for every person and every object.
Dilated Time is the "normal" form of time.  Non-dilated Time is an hypothesis.
Time is still the "4th dimension" of the universe.

---------------------------------------- Unresolved Issues ---------------------------------------------

I notice that Einstein's mathematical formula for calculating Time Dilation is
And I also notice that all known elementary fermions have a spin of ½.

Also, Einstein wrote in his 1905 paper:
We have so far defined only an “A time” and a “B time.” We have not defined a common “time” for A and B, for the latter cannot be defined at all unless we establish by definition that the “time” required by light to travel from A to B equals the “time” it requires to travel from B to A.
As I understand it, Einstein seems have said that, if it takes the same amount of time for light to travel from Point A to Point B as it does for light to travel from Point B to Point A, then we have a "common time" for Point A and Point B.  And both are stationary times.

Why?  Because, if Point A is moving and Point B is stationary, a second will be longer for Point A than for Point B.  Light will move at the same rate for each of them at their locations, but what is being timed is movement over a measured distance between locations. In addition, if Points A and B are moving at the same speed in parallel, the travel time will be off because the distance traveled will not agree with the speed of light.  I.e.,
if Points A and B are 299,792,458 meters apart, and Points A and B are moving in parallel, light would have to travel more than 299,792,458 meters to get from Point A to Point B.  It would have to move the lateral distance traveled, too.  So, light will appear to have moved at a slower rate. 

It also seems to be a way to establish hypothetical "stationary" points in space where Time passes at its fastest rate, one second per second.  

I could be totally wrong about all of this.  If you can explain where I'm wrong, please send an email to the address at the top of the page.

© 2016 by Ed Lake