Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Could time dilation be caused by an increase in energy of the clocks?

  1. Apr 18, 2013 #1
    Im definitely not an expert in this field but i have a question. From what ive picked up time dilation can be observed when a clock has a velocity or moves away from the centre of earth and it slows/speeds up. In both these cases the clock has more energy, be it potential or kinetic. Could this increase in energy cause the atomic clocks to speed up somehow? I know the increase in energy is small but so is the time dilation. This could be very wrong as i dont quite understand how these clocks work (a semi-simple explanation would be nice), but i feel like it would make sense if they speed up when they had more energy. Im probably wrong but i just want to know why.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 18, 2013 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I think you are suggesting that instead of time dilation, we're seeing errors on clocks due to motion, right? Well:

    1. Your kinetic energy is always zero in your reference frame. So to you, there is no difference between being in motion and being stationary (or, rather, you are always stationary to yourself). So there can be no clock-specific effect of motion. If there were, we'd notice such effects in other phenomena when in motion (such as not being able to play catch on a moving train.
    2. The most accurate clocks are not mechanical.
  4. Apr 18, 2013 #3
    Clocks travelling fast usually tick slower actually. Some short lived particles can be seen for far longer than the normal lifetime of the particle when they are going fast through a particle accelerator. This can be explained by time dilation. So it is not just clocks but anything that moves in space also moves in time.. However small that might be.

    In a clock you count a recurring phenomena like the swinging of a pendulum or the oscillations of something that happens periodically. If that oscillation is stable then you can call each oscillation one unit of time or a number of oscillations a unit of time. In an atomic clock the frequency is usually set by a transition between hyperfine states. In cesium this is around 9 ghz and this defines our second. This frequency is in the microwave region of the spectrum.
  5. Apr 18, 2013 #4
    thanks guys that clears it up.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook