# The limitations of life

Of great fascination to me is speed – a simple but often overlooked little quality representing the rate of change of position over time. One of the really exciting things about speed is that you would assume it is infinitely large; one can quite easily construct an argument for numbers being infinitely large (take the largest number in the universe, add one and you have a larger number therefore there cannot be a largest) – so would this not work for speed? If I am travelling at say 1,000,000 m/s I can add 1, so now I am going faster and so on and so on. Well the logic breaks thanks to light and Einstein.

In short, when you travel fast time travels slow. This is called time dilation – it really exists and we will prove it in a future post. However for the purpose of today; know that it is a fact. But what is oh so exciting about this is that not only does time slow down, there is no asymptotic property; it just reaches a stopping point (brain: pop). What is the stopping point? Well naturally the speed of light, c. My favorite representation of this is:

Q: You are travelling at the speed of light and fire a gun off in front of you. Is the bullet moving faster than you?

A: You didn’t even fire the gun, because time has stopped.

This gives the curious yet exciting fact that light never ages. The light created by the big bang has not aged a second. Lucky light… kind of… although the light, bless it can’t really do anything at all because time isn’t running for it. It is trapped. Actually sounding a lot less fun.

A human being cannot reach the speed of light because as we speed up our mass increases compared with the mass at rest which is found by taking the product of the rest mass and the Lorentz factor. So what this basically means is if you put discrete packets of energy into speeding something up the returns would diminish. As you start to creep to even a small(ish) fraction of c the energy going into making the object more and more massive increases a huge amount. Remember the most famous of all the equations relating energy to mass – energy is proportional to mass at a constant of c squared; or 9.00 x 10^16 (m/s)^s. Now that is a huge constant.

Currently the fastest speed ever reached with a human inside comes from Lunar 10 with a speed of 24,791 mph.  As impressive as this is, expressed in mph the speed of light is 671,000,000 mph – so we have achieved 0.004%. The limits of human speed are currently well beyond even comprehending the effects of time dilation seriously – there is a long way to go but that isn’t to say we are not trying. It is a brave and interesting pursuit – and one very much worth keeping an eye on.

## 12 responses to “The limitations of life”

1. It certainly seems to defy common sense as you point out but it appears they have proved this time change using atomic clocks in airoplanes.
We live in a Newtonian world ; when I look at a grave stone with its carved date I seem to hear the great clock ticking away my minutes.
There was a young lady called white,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She set off one day; in a relative way,
And returned on the previous night.

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• Wonderful limerick! Love it. I think us physicists are a lucky bunch who realise time is nothing more than relative

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• Well I’m no physicist just an interested layman. I have a self – taught background knowlege of science and I try to understand the experts. Perhaps where intuition ends mathmatics starts. But physics is applied mathematics, pure mathematics is in the fantastic realm
of fantasy.

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• I quite agree – I too am self taught at the moment although I do have some university background; predominantly in pure mathematics so I understand your point. I am enjoying applying mathematics a lot more!

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2. I am definitely looking forward for the proof of time dilation!

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• And I very much look forward to writing it! I have not forgotten a few book recommendations!

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3. Does this mean if I drink my French champagne faster there’ll be less in my glass?

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• It’s all relative!

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4. Time is indeed a dimension of space (experimentally proven many times). To the extent you move in traditional 3D space is the extent you slow down in time.

Given the absence of any objectively proven distinction (a particle has been most concisely and scientifically professionally described as a “blur”), I hypothesize space is not distinct from its occupants (ultimately energy, because mass is highly condensed energy), so time (as seamlessly with all of us) is apparently purely energetic.

Any constructive thoughts on that hypothesis are appreciated by yours truly.

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• Allow me a little time to think over this one and I will get back to you with a good response!

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• Cool. I sincerely look forward to it.

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