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What is time? What is time?
by Joseph Gatt
2021-02-10 10:37:46
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Explaining how time works in the universe is rather complex. But let's try to keep it simple.

Imagine our planet was created in the year 2000. In the United States, 1 year is 365 days. In China, 1 year is 36500 days. And in Brazil one year is 18 days.

So if on January 1st, 2000 I am in the US. And that I leave the US for Brazil. I spend 182 days in Brazil. I come back to the United States, and it's already January 1st, 2010.

Then on January 1st, 2001 I go back to Brazil, and in Brazil, it's only January 18, 2000.

time01_400_01But here's where it gets more interesting. Imagine that if I leave Brazil on July 1st 2000, spend one night in the United States, come back to Brazil on July 2nd, it's supposed to be July 2nd because I only spent one night in the US, but it turns out it's January 1st 2001 in Brazil. So what was one night in the United States ended up being six months in Brazil.

Here's where it gets more interesting. Let's say on July 1st 2000 I go from the US to China. I spend one night in China. And when I come back the next day, it's July 1st 2001 in the US.

So here's what I could do. Sad experiment. I go back and forth between China and the US. I spend one night in China and one night in the US. Each time I come back to the US, I gain a year. So if I spend 10 nights in China, I go straight from 2001 to 2011 in ten nights.

This thought experiment is a little complicated. But I'll try to clarify this.

Time involves change. Here on planet Earth, we all change at the same time, and the exact same moment. Just not at the same place. But at this very moment, we are all changing with time, be it in China, Brazil or the US.

But imagine if I changed 10 times faster than you did. Or 10 times slower than you did. Imagine I spend 10 nights, and find you 10 years older. But I'm only 10 days older.

Or even better, imagine that I could go back in time. Imagine that each night I spend in China, when I go back to the US, I end up 1 year in the past. So if I spend 10 nights in China, I end up in the US in 1990.

One of the surprising features of the universe is that change is not constant. There are different time frames depending on where you locate yourself in the universe.

So let's say I move to a corner of the universe around Neptune. That corner of the universe will experience change differently than other parts of the universe, including our planet. So each night I spend in that corner of the universe, I could be losing or gaining a few days, a few months, or a few years.

So if I spend 10 nights in that corner of the universe, I could end up going back in time for 10 years, or moving ahead of time for 10 years.

How is that possible? The simplest way to explain this is that here on our planet the waves are constant. That's why we have satellite imagery and can show each other and talk to each other in real time regardless of where we might be located.

But in the rest of the universe, the waves are not constant. If the waves are slower in one corner that means change there happens slower. And that means if we spend a night on planet Earth and move back to that corner of the universe, we'll end up 10 years behind schedule.

If the waves move faster. We spend a night on Earth, move back to that corner of the universe, and end up 10 years in the future.

So if we move back and forth, we could have something of a time machine, where we could see planet Earth from 10 years ago or move 10 years in the future.

So to the trick question. If we move to planet Earth 10 years back, does that mean that, like in the movie “Back to the Future” we could end up disappearing because we could alter things in ways that our parents never met?

This is where it gets interesting. Physicists believe that there are “parallel” universes. This means that if I go back in the past or to the future, I'll find a completely different world, that looks nothing life this world we live in.

In that completely different world Bill Gates could be a tennis coach or a middle school teacher. The United States could be a poor nation and Ghana a rich nation. Or the United States, Canada and Mexico would be a nation called “Wakanda.” Or dinosaurs could still be around. You get the idea.

So don't freak out. If you go back to the future, chances are, none of us will exist in that past, or in that future. That's the magic of parallel universes.

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