Part I: The Theory of Everything
For most of recorded history, mankind assumed that time wasn’t a thing. We believed it to be what we perceived – a seamless, uninterrupted flow of events. And then, on the summer of 1922, following what might be the greatest discovery ever made, everything humanity thought it knew about time forever changed. In this post and the one following it we will describe, in very simple terms and with plenty of useful images, what is time, according to modern science.
Thank one’s lucky stars: What led to the discovery
In August 1922, a young professor named Albert Einstein was sitting at his home in Germany, feeling tensed. For ten years, Einstein had tried to find an answer to one question: what is gravity? How can two objects be attracted to each other even when they are millions of miles away, with nothing to connect them? Einstein spent years locked in his study room, scrambling thousands of mathematical equations over countless notebooks. He scarcely slept, he barely stepped outside. Even his meals were brought to him. He simply had to sit and to think. He had to find an answer.
And then – it hit him.
But the explanation he came up with was so wild, so farfetched, that no one on Earth would believe him. Nevertheless, he decided to try. Naturally, the majority of the academies reacted with extreme skepticism to this new, weird theory of his. But, a few scientists decided to take a deep look. So it was that in August 1922, a handful of senior scientists arrived in Australia to observe an eclipse that was soon to take place. They waited, watching the sky.
Then, during high noon, the day started to go dark. The eclipse that revealed itself to the researchers was about to revolutionise our understanding of the universe.
When The Stars Answer: The Discovery
The reason that the scientists needed a full eclipse was to check whether or not Einstein’s revolutionary theory was correct. We’ll explain:
This is a star. Let’s called it “our star”. Thanks to mathematical calculations, we can tell EXACTLY where it is currently located even millions of miles away from us. But, according to Einstein, the glowing dot which marks its location in our sky appears a few millimeters away from where it should be, provided that our star’s light travels straight. In other words, Einstein said that although light rays always travel in a straight line, the light rays of our star will not go straight.
This is what the scientists in Australia set out to find: whether or not there is a gap between where the stars around the sun appear to be in the sky compared to where they should appear.
As the eclipse began, the stars around the sun suddenly revealed themselves. The observers took hundreds of photos, rushed to their tents and began examining them, trying to figure out if Einstein was right.
Astonishingly, he was. There was a gap.
What does this mean?!
What Einstein discovered was something that for most of us is beyond perception. Light rays travel straight and they cannot be bent. There is no doubt about it. And yet, in our case, the light curved somehow. So, how is this possible? How can something travel straight and curved at the same time? Embrace yourself, cause now comes the mind blowing part:
Light doesn’t curve; the universe does. Existence does.
Let’s take a step back. Have you ever asked yourself how gravity works? How two distant objects can be attracted to each other? What kind of force is causing the Earth to orbit the sun? The answer, according to Einstein’s discovery, is that matter causes space to warp, just like a bowling ball sitting on top of a stretched out blanket. Earth is orbiting the sun because it simply travels across the “slopes” the sun is creating in the universe, in existence.
This is also why the glowing dot that marks the location of our star appeared to be in the different location than where it “should” have been. Although light rays travel straight, since existence itself is bending around the sun, so does the light traveling inside of it – or everything else, for that matter.
Even we humans are currently experiencing a heavily bent reality. But that doesn’t mean we will feel any difference far in space. No, for all humans everywhere, the feeling remains constant. Since it’s existence itself that’s changing, we have no way of feeling it, even if our entire reality is currently being stretched by Earth’s gravity. However, if we were somehow able to detach ourselves from such forces and yet remain here on Earth, then everyone would appear to be a few times bigger (or smaller; it depends).
OK This Is Crazy, But What About Time?
Now comes the real mind-altering part: just like mass (and, most significantly, planets) warps space, it changes time as well. On what that means, on how it affects the amount of time pilots live and how you – the reader of these lines – might double your years of life, we’ll go over in our next part. See you soon!