Saturday, December 06, 2008

What if... #6

What if we could build a room in which time could be made to run faster or slower?

This post is part of the 2008 advent series "What if..."


  1. We could get rid of criminals in an ethical manner by putting them inside it, and letting time run at a rate of one year inside during a second outside. They'd get to live out their full lives in prison, but to everyone else it would be the same as if the criminal had been executed.

  2. We would have adventurous people who got into a room that runs slower, so they can be "pioneers" into the deep future.

  3. I would put a computer with a lot of memory inside and compute lattice QCD up to planck scale.

  4. 1. Colors would change as frequencies change: psychedelic.
    2. You would become larger and smaller as space changes: psychedelic
    3. Temperatures would change constantly.

    In short, it's been done before and real experimental data can be gathered using Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or Dimethyltryptamine (DMT).

  5. Everyone then could become over achievers with the only discernible difference being how quickly they appeared to have aged :-)

  6. 1. Time could be made arbitrarily slow in such a room, by building rooms inside rooms.

    2. Causality could be violated through the building of very long rooms: you could transmit a signal across the length of the room in arbitrarily little time. These long rooms would be like wormholes. That means:

    3. Time travel would be possible (i.e., closed timelike curves would appear) through a Thorne (1998) style procedure. Take two very long such rooms, one traveling at relativistic speeds past the other one. Begin by entering the right side of the first room, traverse it and enter the left side of the second room, traverse it and finally come out before you began.

  7. I think it would cause cancer due to excessive tissue inflammation. Seems it would be like being in a room full of radiation.

  8. Some mundane household uses:

    A very slow room would be a great refrigerator replacement, preserving food at any temperature you like (what would heat transfer at the border look like?). Put the oven in a fast room to cook and bake in a flash. Power requirements would be huge if pumped in from outside - this would be true for computers or any other device as well.

    I'd like my bedroom to be a fast room so I could always get enough sleep. But if I could make it run slow I could hibernate through the dark and depressing Scandinavian winter.

    A fast wine cellar would be nice!

    But thinking again about thermodynamics at the border, perhaps a slow room would appear much colder outside than it was inside, and would be a very poor conductor of heat. An outside power source would appear much stronger inside. So perhaps we could practically achieve containment of fusion for power production. Outbound power would also be reduced, of course.

  9. Thinking about the optics between a slow room and normal space, wouldn't normal space see a redshift? Continuing in that vein, aren't distant galaxies in the slow room?

  10. Dear Arun:

    I deliberately wrote 'what if we could build' and not 'invent' since it is not hard to invent a room to slow down time. Just put it near a very strong gravitational field. And yes, light would be redshifted then if it comes out. This effect would stretch all light signals to be 'slowed down'. Best,


  11. We can!
    Time goes slower in a strong gravitational field as you know - so presumably it's possible in principle to build a room where time is 'speeded up' by shielding it from the earth's gravity...or consider a room in a satellite etc

  12. Arun & Bee,

    “Thinking about the optics between a slow room and normal space, wouldn't normal space see a redshift? Continuing in that vein, aren't distant galaxies in the slow room?”

    “I deliberately wrote 'what if we could build' and not 'invent' since it is not hard to invent a room to slow down time. Just put it near a very strong gravitational field. And yes, light would be redshifted then if it comes out. This effect would stretch all light signals to be 'slowed down.”

    Yet with a black hole where the red shift extends all the way to black what sort of room would this then describe, perhaps no room to exist?



  13. A suggestion inspired by Arun’s previous comment:

    'If a weapon in a far off galaxy had been triggered, which over time (at speed c) would destroy the universe, could we learn of it in advance of our demise?'

    Actually when I come to think of it this question is not suitable in the context and spirit of Advent. Perhaps then I'll fore go asking it to be considered until just before New Year 2013 :-)

  14. Hi Bee,

    I must say I truly like thinking about this one so I offer a few more possible uses.

    -We could sequester all our leaders to a fast room until they have definitively solved all our problems.

    -With the spaceship to Mars being a slow room the journey’s distance would be of no consequence for the astronauts.

    -Environmentalists would welcome the invention of nearly instantaneous composters.

    -With fast rooms movie theatres could offer more showings without increasing space or initial investment.

    -It would lend a whole new meaning to “time is money”.

    -All vehicle interiors could become slow rooms to eliminate the stress of travel.

    -No more long waits for bread to rise or beverages to brew made in fast room.

    -Hurried work lunches could be extended in a fast rooms to be leisurely.

    -The terminally ill could be placed in a slow room until a cure was made available.

    -Doctor’s offices should become fast rooms to minimize the time spent in their waiting rooms.

    -All golf courses would be built within fast rooms to increase the quantity and availability of tee times.

    -In short it would lend a whole new meaning to having room for improvement :-)

  15. You mean like a video
    where we could fast forward and/or Rewind

    Yeah bring it on.
    I'd be in a permanent state of ecstasy and edit the other99.999999999999999999999999991 of my Time (or experiences), literally

    But then again I am selfish and into sensual gratification - lol

  16. Funny I was watching an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, where there's a large anomaly and some talk of anti-time

    but that would be like anti-gravity, right?

  17. PS - the room could probably do wonders for my sex life

    Though having time run faster is always handy when waiting for the pay cheque at the end of the month.

    Pay day could last a month, and the rest of the month be over in a day.

    Mind you orgasms that last 30 days (in real or actuaql time) could be very 'draining' - lol

    Unless of course you don't actually experience any fluctuation in the speed of time when you are in the room - then orgasms will last no ore or no less than if one were outside the room. I'm guessing!

  18. Since there exist in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent "now" objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated. It appears therefore more natural to think of physical reality as a four dimensional existence, instead of, as hitherto, the evolution of a three dimensional existence. Albert Einstein

    Subjectively, we can already make time go faster or slower in that room?:)

    Conclusion: The state of mind of the observer plays a crucial role in the perception of time.

    And then a "certain freedom and beauty" comes to mind, about no longer worrying about straight lines and such. That we are really "confining ourselves" while thinking "just about the room."


    The value of non-Euclidean geometry lies in its ability to liberate us from preconceived ideas in preparation for the time when exploration of physical laws might demand some geometry other than the Euclidean. Bernhard Riemann

  19. Bee, duly noted that putting something into a deep gravitational well is like the slow room. What is the fast room?

  20. Dear Arun,

    That is an interesting question. Is there, in GR, any background where time can run faster than in flat space? It might require some fancy type of matter. Consider that the redshift in a gravitational field comes along as sqrt(1-2M/r) for the frequency emitted at r and recieved at infinity, which goes to zero at the horizon, meaning time slows down. Now it seems the only way to get this to be larger than one is to have negative mass... Best,


  21. It is also amazing how GR slows time for us without affecting the laws of physics in the way that would happen if we tried fiddling with (the dimensionless ratios) of physical constants.

  22. We already have rooms like that. In my house, at least, time runs faster on the upper floor and slower on the lower floor. To be honest, I haven't verified this, not having an atomic clock handy, but I'm willing to believe what I've been told about general relativity.

  23. HI Bee & Arun,

    “What is the fast room?”

    How about a room that was orbiting close to a “White Hole”? That is if they exist as to find one. Another way to look at it is if you orbited normally close to a black hole's event horizon all places above this for you would fast rooms , that is relatively speaking.



  24. Doesn't time move slower up here at altitude (I'm in Denver)? In relation to the Earth's center, we are moving faster than those of you at sea-level (and in between). Everything I know on the subject, I learned from Einstein's Dreams :), but a trip through any of the small mountain towns here should confirm my hypothesis.

  25. Hi Benjamin,

    Time actually runs faster at higher altitude (even though at a negligible rate). It runs slower where the graviational potential is stronger, i.e. in the valleys. Best,


  26. All sorts of weird stuff should happen at the boundary where time would be discontinuous. Like instantaneous shortening or breaking of objects and stuff like that.


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