Tag: time

The Plane Truth: Boarding by Rows Is the Worst Possible Way, Says Physicist

By Joseph Castro | August 29, 2011 3:17 pm

Let’s face it: boarding an airplane with luggage is just downright frustrating. Not only do you have to puzzle out how you are going to wrestle your carry-on bag into the aircraft’s tiny overhead compartment, but you have to do it while trying not to get swept away by the tugging current of other passengers.

“OK, everybody count off!”
Courtesy of Steffen, arXiv

But surely not all boarding procedures are created equal—simply boarding the plane back to front would be the easiest and most efficient method, right? Wrong. In fact, boarding by sequential rows is the worst possible approach (pdf), according to a new study by physicist Jason Steffen of the Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics.

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Einstein & Air Miles: Do Frequent Fliers Age at a Different Rate?

By Eliza Strickland | October 25, 2010 11:21 am

airplaneBy Valerie Ross

You’re squeezed into a middle seat, two rows from the back of the plane. It’s barely two hours into your cross-country flight, though you’d swear it’s been longer. Does it just seem like the minutes of your trip are crawling by — or does time actually pass more slowly for people who are mid-flight than for people on the ground?

Many of us have heard the idea that time doesn’t pass at the same rate for everyone. It’s a common narrative in science fiction, one that has its roots in Einstein’s theory of relativity. The story starts, let’s say, with two twins, one of whom stays on Earth while the other clambers aboard a rocket that’s making a round-trip journey, at a substantial fraction of the speed of light, to a planet in a not-too-distant solar system. When the traveling twin returns to earth, he’s aged more slowly, and now he’s younger than the twin who stayed behind.

This familiar — and paradoxical — plotline comes from a particular tenet of relativity theory known as time dilation. It predicts that a fast-moving clock will tick at a slower rate than a stationary one — or, a man on an interstellar voyage will age more slowly than his twin back on Earth. But time dilation also says that velocity isn’t the only thing that affects the rate at which clocks tick, or people age; gravity does, too. A clock in a stronger gravitational field (the Earth’s surface, let’s say) will have a slower tick rate than a clock subject to weaker gravity (such as a few miles up into the atmosphere).

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This Is What Happens When a Physicist Reads "Goodnight Moon"

By Eliza Strickland | October 18, 2010 1:54 pm

goodnight-moonGoodnight moon, goodnight room. Goodnight frogger, goodnight super-analytical blogger.

Chad Orzel of the physics blog Uncertain Principles has had plenty of time to contemplate the beloved children’s book Goodnight Moon in the course of bedtime readings with his toddler. And he got to wondering, just how long does it take the book’s bunny protagonist to say goodnight to all the objects in the room? And could a physics blogger figure it out from eyeballing the moon’s rise through the sky during the course of the story?

Happily, yes. Go read the full post for the math of the moon’s passage through the sky; we’ll skip to the results and tell you that Orzel puts the figure at about 6 minutes. But there’s a hitch: The clocks shown in various pictures of the bunny’s room instead show that one hour and 10 minutes have elapsed. There are only two possible explanations, Orzel says:

These two methods clearly do not agree with one another, which means one of two things: either I’m terribly over-analyzing the content of the illustrations of a beloved children’s book, or the bunny’s bedroom is moving at extremely high velocity relative to the earth, so that relativistic time dilation makes the six-minute rise of the moon appear to take an hour and ten minutes.

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Discoblog: Astronomers Identify the Mystery Meteor That Inspired Walt Whitman

The OK Go Video: Playing With the Speed of Time

By Eliza Strickland | June 16, 2010 9:21 am

OK Go strikes again.

Their last video memorably featured a Rube Goldberg machine that filled a two-floor warehouse and took four minutes to complete its sequence of wonder and mayhem. This time, the tech-happy band recruited Jeff Lieberman and Eric Gunther–artists, musicians, and all-around interesting guys–to direct the video.

Together, the team warped time. Check out the video, and read below for some details about the project from Lieberman.

From Lieberman:

“The fastest we go is 172,800x, compressing 24 hours of real time into a blazing 1/2 second. The slowest is 1/32x speed, stretching a mere 1/2 second of real time into a whopping 16 seconds. This gives us a fastest to slowest ratio of 5.5 million. If you like averages, the average speed up factor of the band dancing is 270x. In total we shot 18 hours of the band dancing and 192 hours of LA skyline timelapse – over a million frames of video – and compressed it all down to 4 minutes and 30 seconds! Oh and don’t forget, it’s one continuous camera shot.”

“We also made a special friend in the process. Her name is Orange Bill and she’s a goose. You will agree that she clearly has a future in music videos.”

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DISCOVER: The Real Rules for Time Travelers

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
MORE ABOUT: music, OK Go, time, video

The Rare Humans Who See Time & Have Amazing Memories

By Smriti Rao | April 2, 2010 12:44 pm

synaesthesiaThe “normal” form of the condition called synesthesia is weird enough: For people with this condition, sensory information gets mixed in the brain causing them to see sounds, taste colors, or perceive numbers as having particular hues.

But psychologist David Brang is studying a bunch of people with an even odder form of synesthesia: These people can literally “see time.”

Brang’s subjects have time-space synesthesia; because they have extra neural connections between certain regions of the brain, the patients experience time as a spatial construct.

In his research, Brang describes one patient who was able to see the year as a circular ring surrounding her body that rotated clockwise throughout the year. The current month was reportedly inside her chest with the previous month in front of her chest, reports New Scientist.

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MORE ABOUT: brain, senses, synaesthesia, time

World Science Festival: The Psychology of Time

By Cyrus Moulton | June 15, 2009 4:09 pm

Time PanelTime is a constant in modern life. We waste it. We obsessively track it. We continually wonder “where it goes.” We run out of it. We never have enough of it. Neurologist Oliver Sacks, psychologist Daniel Gilbert, and psychologist and neuroscientist Warren Meck from Duke University gathered Saturday evening at the World Science Festival’s “Time the Familiar Stranger” event for a discussion on our most precious commodity. They addressed both complex questions such as the existentialism and relativity of “the present,” and more mundane topics such as why children must continually ask “are we there yet?” on long car trips.

Unlike many panel discussions where participants agreeably confirm others’ views, each participant brought a unique perspective to the subject of time. Sacks focused on his clinical experiences with patients whose perception of time was altered by Tourettes’ Syndrome, Parkinson’s Disease, and other neurological conditions. Meck discussed his experiments on how time influences human and animal behavior. Gilbert was more abstract, addressing time as a psychological construct that influences our mental health.

Moderator Sir Harry Evans, editor at large of The Week, just wanted to know the basics. “Why can’t I remember where I put my cell phone this morning, when I can vividly remember events thirty years ago?” he asked.
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