From our early childhood days, we have craved supernatural powers. Everyone would have for once in his/her life would have dreamt of having supernatural powers. One such in-demand power was and is the power to stop time. We just want to stop time and do things the way we want. Different people have different ideologies as to what they would do if time stopped. But what we forgot was if time stopped, everything including us would stop.
In this article, we are going to know more about Time. What time is, how it works, can time stop and What would happen if time stopped! So for all the curiosity you have, let us dive straight into the topic.
What is Time?
Every field of life from physics, philosophy, arts or religion provides a different definition of what they mean by time. For the common man, time is the basic unit of change that is measured in seconds, minutes and hours and is checked from the clocks.
But science says that time is the chronological progression of a series of events from the past to the present and then to the future. You may have heard that everything around you is three-dimensional or exists in a three-dimensional space. Time is the fourth dimension. Time is the dimension that allows the description of the events in 3D space. It is not like the three-dimensional world which can touch, feel or see but its passage can be felt.
It was Einstein who introduced time as the fourth dimension which meant that space and time were linked together now. For the proof that space and time were linked, NASA’s Gravity Probe B found something quite amazing. Four gyroscopes were fixed towards a distant star.
The scientists observed a frame-dragging effect due to the gravity of Earth, meaning the gyroscopes were pulled out of position. If gravity did not affect time and space this won’t happen. Thus, it meant that space can be altered, and if space and time are linked, time can be altered by gravity as well!
How does time work?
Time has been going on from the beginning of the universe. Since the universe was formed around 13.8 billion years ago, when the Big Bang took place, but mankind has still not been able to understand time completely.
Einstein and Newton have a crucial role to play in understanding how time works. In the 17th century, Newton saw that an arrow from a bow would travel straight and won’t deviate. He believed that the basic unit of time i.e. second was the same everywhere either it is Earth, Jupiter or any part of space. He also believed that absolute motion couldn’t be detected thus the universe had a constant speed. This led to the assumption that if the speed of light could vary, time must be constant.
There must not be any difference of duration between any two seconds and time must move on from one second to another. This leads to the constant 24 hour-day.
But Einstein believed that the speed of light was constant and time would speed up or slow down around different bodies depending upon their mass and velocities. He meant that the length of the second wasn’t the same everywhere.
In 1971, two physicists named J.C. Hafele and Richard Keating proved Einstein’s theory. Not only was his theory true but was deemed to be perfectly accurate.
Time Dilation – Classical mechanics says that life is the same. But Einstein’s view says that time is relative. It depends on the frame of reference of the observer. This can cause time dilation where the time between events become longer, the closer one travels to the speed of light. This effect can be seen in clocks that are moving with speeds closer to that of the speed of light.
How long is a second?
Time can be measured in two ways – atomic and dynamic. The latter is not an accurate method as it involves the measurement of time-based on the motion of Earth or the motion of a distant star. This was deemed not as accurate as the motion could differ.
The atomic way of measuring the duration of a second is much more accurate. It relies on the energy transition within an atom called caesium. By the number of transitions, time can be measured accurately with losing just a small portion of a second over a million years. According to this model, the second is defined as 9,192,631,770 transitions with a caesium atom.
Can time be stopped?
For all the people believing in supernatural powers, wanting the ability to stop time, just wake up! Stopping time is not just a difficulty, it is an impossibility.
Let us know why this is impossible. You must have known that the speed of light is 3 x 108 m/s. Nothing is faster than the speed of light in our universe. It means lights travels 300 million metres in just one second. By that sense, in zero seconds, it will travel zero metres.
What we want to say here is if time stopped, time would be zero and the speed of light would be zero. For time to be stopped, one needs to travel at nearly infinite speeds. And that is surely not possible because according to Einstein’s theory of relativity, nothing can be faster than the speed of light.
But there are certain ways that could be potentially be termed as ‘stopping time’. What we mean is we could slow down time so that we could observe the world at a slow rate. For doing this, either you need to go to a different universe where physics doesn’t apply or you have to freeze the universe for slowing its motion. This might certainly not be possible as absolute zero or zero Kelvin isn’t possible.
There is an alternative as well, which was shown in a movie. It depicted the speeding up of atoms of people so that time is relatively slow. The problem here is if atoms would speed up, they would vibrate more and thus produce more heat. You would become super-hot.
What if we could stop time?
This is a purely hypothetical situation. Assume you have achieved the unachievable. Time has stopped! This means everything around you have effectively stopped i.e. people have frozen, the wind has stopped and Earth is no more in motion.
For this situation, we are assuming that only your body is fully functional and isn’t affected by time. The laws of physics also are working although this is a contradiction because we have already broken the laws of physics by stopping time. Keeping these aside, let us start moving or walking. You would realise that you won’t be able to walk and are stuck at a place.
This is because the atmosphere and the particles around you would be frozen. This means your lungs won’t get oxygen as well as there is no flowing air to reach your lungs. If you try to call for help, you will realise no one can hear as sound will not propagate. Most importantly, the light won’t reach your eyes as light also will not propagate. Thus, you will not see anything. This result in an end i.e. your death.
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These types of situations just illustrate how much functional time and gravity are to the universe. If either of them stopped – which is purely hypothetical – the universe would be dead soon. This depicts how much they are crucial for the working of this universe. So, the next time you think and wish to have the power to stop time, just stop at that moment and realise what consequences it would have. You would live a lonely life and that too albeit for few moments. So rather than wishing such unnecessary powers, thank their existence.
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FAQ related to (What would happen if time stopped?)
Q- Does time really exist?
Answer: Since we can measure and observe time, it does truly exist.
Q- When did the measurement of time begin?
Answer: the measurement of time began through sundials in ancient Egypt before 1500 BC. Although that time was not the same as today’s time.
Q- Does time exist inside a black hole?
Answer: Time doesn’t end in a black hole.
Q- Can we see the world, if time stops?
Answer: If time stops, we won’t be able to see anything.
Q- What if time stopped now for 5 seconds?
Answer: If something like this happened, no one would witness it.