Can the passage of time be measured precisely, always and everywhere? The answer will upset many watchmakers. A team of physicists have just shown that when we are dealing with very large accelerations, no clock will actually be able to show the real passage of time, known as ‘proper time.’
“Our calculations showed that above certain very large accelerations there simply must be time disorders in the decay of elementary particles. And if the disturbances affect fundamental clocks such as muons, then any other device built on the principles of quantum field theory will also be disrupted. Therefore, perfectly precise measurements of proper time are no longer possible. This fact has further consequences, because losing the ability to accurately measure the passage of time also means problems with the measurements of distance,” explains Dr. Dragan.
Until now it has been assumed that the concepts of time and space may lose their traditional senses only when certain phenomena predicted by hypothetical theories of quantum gravity begin to play a vital role. It is believed that the necessary conditions prevailed in the vicinity of the Big Bang.
“In our paper, we show that for problems with the measurements of space-time to arise, such extreme conditions are not needed at all. Time, and therefore space, most likely cease to be accurately measurable even in today’s Universe, provided that we try to carry out the measurements in systems moving with great acceleration,” notes Dr. Dragan. More.
Here’s the abstract:
We show that no device built according to the rules of quantum field theory can measure proper time along its path. Highly accelerated quantum clocks experience the Unruh effect, which inevitably influences their time rate. This contradicts the concept of an ideal clock, whose rate should only depend on the instantaneous velocity. (paywall) –Krzysztof Lorek, Jorma Louko, Andrzej Dragan. Ideal clocks—a convenient fiction. Classical and Quantum Gravity, 2015; 32 (17): 175003 DOI: 10.1088/0264-9381/32/17/175003
See also: Economist: Can time go backwards ? No, apparently. Rats again.
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