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Time Dilation

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Time Dilation

When the measurement of elapsed time and simultaneity are taken into account, a significant relativistic effect emerges, called 'time dilation'. In order to understand the concept of time dilation, one should study why this phenomenon occurs and what factors should be calculated to achieve the most accurate measurements when studying space and time.

What are 'time dilation' and 'proper time'?

Time dilation is the concept that time is measured differently for moving objects than for stationary objects as they travel through space. Time dilation occurs when an observer moves relative to another observer, causing time in their frame of reference to flow more slowly.

Proper time (from Latin, "own time") is the time measured by an observer at rest, relative to the event being observed. Between the same two occurrences, an accelerated clock will measure a shorter elapsed time than a non-accelerated (inertial) clock.

Time Dilation, An example of time dilation, StudySmarterSpacecrafts are perfect examples of time dilation since it is known that for every 12 Earth months 0.01 seconds is elapsed in the ISS. flickr.com

How can you calculate time dilation?

In order to calculate time dilation, first, you need to imagine which variables resemble which quantities. In order to do that, take a look at the example below.

Consider a train passenger with a clock that is timing a light pulse reflected between two horizontal mirrors in the carriage, one directly above the other at a distance L apart, as illustrated in Figure 1. A second spectator is observing the train as it travels along a track parallel to a platform.

Time Dilation, time dilation example diagram, StudySmarterA diagram showing the two views, (a) is the view from the train, and (b) is the view from the platform, Tezcan - StudySmarter Originals

Let's consider the paths followed by light as seen by each observer. The observer inside the train sees the light travel straight across and back with a total distance of 2L. The observer on the platform sees the light travel a total distance of 2s since the train is moving at a velocity v to the right relative to the platform.

We know that the light travels at a speed c = 3.00 ⋅ 108 relative to any observer and the time is distance divided by speed. So the time measured by the observer inside the train is

And it is the proper time. The time observed by the observer on the platform will be

Now let's give a variable name to vt / 2 as d. To find the relation between Δt0 and Δt you need to consider triangles formed by L and s, the third side of these similar triangles is d. If you apply the Pythagorean theorem, then s will be

We have found that Δt is equal to 2s / c . In order to place it into the equation, we need to multiply the right side of the equation by 2 and divide it by c :

Squaring both sides and writing d as vt / 2

Notice how 4L² / c² equals (Δt 0) ²

If we solve it for Δt

this then gives us

Now if we take the square root on both sides it will yield a simple relation between elapsed times.

Where

What is an example of time dilation?

Time dilation may seem like it can't be seen in real life since it occurs at relative speeds but in today's technology humans interact with space more than ever before.

A great example of this is the global positioning system, or GPS. It is used in almost every area of life. GPS signals travel at relativistic speeds, which means that the corrections for time dilation need to be done. Otherwise, the GPS system would fail in minutes.

Time Dilation, an example of time dilation, StudySmarterGPS is a real-life example of why time dilation is important. flickr.com

Another great example of time dilation is the Frisch-Smith experiment. The Frisch-Smith experiment was conducted in 1963 by David H. Frisch and it consisted of measuring a quantity of muons in the atmosphere emitted by the Sun per unit time. The average speed of muons coming from the sun is really high and close to the speed of light.

The experiment measured the quantity of muons in two points with a difference of altitude of 1907 meters, which it should take 6.4 µs for muons to travel. However, the average lifetime of a muon is 2.2 μs, which means that only about 25% of muons would reach the endpoint. However, approximately 73% of muons reached the endpoint per hour because their proper time is smaller than the proper time of an observer on Earth. This confirmed that time was flowing more slowly for them with a time dilation factor of 8.80.8.

Time Dilation, Results of the Frisch-Smith experiment, StudySmarterResults of the Frisch-Smith experiment, Tezcan - StudySmarter Originals

Time Dilation - Key takeaways

  • Time dilation is the idea that time is measured differently for moving objects than for stationary objects as they travel through space.
  • Proper time is the time measured by an observer at rest, relative to the event being observed.
  • Time dilation occurs when one observer moves relative to another observer, causing time to flow more slowly.
  • These calculations are becoming more and more necessary in daily life.

Frequently Asked Questions about Time Dilation

Time dilation is the concept that time is measured differently for moving objects than for stationary objects as they travel through space.


In order to find the relation between proper time and the time observed you need to use the equations of time dilation. 


Yes it does. Since technology has evolved in such a way that we are connected with space more than ever before. One of the best examples for this is GPS, since it relies on signals traveling at relativistic speeds and time dilation corrections need to be done.


Final Time Dilation Quiz

Question

 A particle travels at 1.75 * 10 ^ 8 m / s and lives for 3.12 * 10 ^ -7 s when at rest relative to an observer. How long does the particle live according to an observer who is viewing it in the laboratory?

Hint: “when at rest relative to an observer” means the given value is the proper time.

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Answer

 3.83 * 10 ^ -7 s

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Question

Which of the following describes time dilation?

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Answer

Time dilation is the concept that time is measured differently for moving objects than for stationary objects as they travel through space.

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Question

Which of the following describes proper time?

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Answer

Proper time is the time measured by an observer at rest relative to the event being observed.

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Question

Time is measured differently for moving objects than for stationary objects as they travel through space. True or false?


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Answer

True.

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Question

Can you give an example for an everyday-used invention that needs time dilation corrections?


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Answer

GPS

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Question

 Between the same two occurrences, an accelerated clock will measure a shorter elapsed time than a non-accelerated (inertial) clock. True or false?


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Answer

True

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Question

For 12 months elapsed on Earth, how much time is elapsed at the ISS?


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Answer

 0.01 seconds.

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Question

 Is the time dilation concept related to the speed of light c?


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Answer

Yes

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Question

 Is the time dilation concept related to the velocity of the moving observer?


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Answer

Yes

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Question

Is the time dilation concept related to the angle the outer observer is looking from?


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Answer

No

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Question

If observer A is in a spaceship and going from point x to point y, and observer B is watching from the ground earth. What is the given name for the time elapsed for observer A?


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Answer

Proper time.

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