Physicists Have Uncovered a Weird Problem While Measuring Time

When it comes to measuring, time can be really tricky thing in physics and some researchers believe that clocks maybe are not solving this problem as we think they do.

In this sense, clock is more of a physics concept than simply a ticking machine hanging in your room. So far, physics showed us that clocks aren’t really affected by time and space – they just have a consistent rhythm and they are measuring the same amount of time with a principle named “time translation invariance”.

Recently, physicists from the Austrian Academy of Sciences and University of Vienna has shown that there is a fundamental flaw in our ability to measure time. They have studied the interplay of Einstein’s theory of relativity and Quantum mechanics and they have published a study from the research for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – PNAS.

“We find that there exist fundamental limitations to the joint measurability of time along neighboring spacetime trajectories,” they said.

Blurred times

If you are into quantum mechanics, we assume you heard about Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. It assumes that the precision with which two physical properties – time of a clock and the energy – is limited and therefore it can’t be strictly measured. But we should also have in mind the general relativity’s “gravitational time dilation” effect that shows how the flow of time could be change by the source of energy or by the presence of masses.

“However, if time is defined operationally, as a pointer position of a physical clock that obeys the principles of general relativity and quantum mechanics, [that there is an ideal clock to each world line] is, at most, a convenient fiction,” the three researches wrote in their journal

Or in other words – if the uncertainty of energy is larger, the uncertainty of time is also getting bigger. The scientists have shown that when clocks are placed next to one another it appears that they create some kind of “blurred” flow of time.

This research points out the importance of possessing clocks that are more accurate in measuring time because they are crucial for the modern technologies that we are surrounded with, for example, in GPS devices that we tend to use on a regular everyday basis.


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