Table of contents |

2 Gravitational time dilation 3 Time dilation and space flight |

It is important to note that this effect is extremely small at ordinary speeds, and can be safely ignored for all ordinary situations. It is only when an object approaches speeds on the order of 30,000 km/s (still 1/10 of the speed of light), that it becomes important.

The formula for determining time dilation factor is:

%c | Length contraction | Relativistic Mass | Time dilation |
---|---|---|---|

0 | 1.000 | 1.000 | 1.000 |

10 | 0.995 | 1.005 | 0.995 |

50 | 0.867 | 1.155 | 0.867 |

90 | 0.436 | 2.294 | 0.436 |

99 | 0.141 | 7.089 | 0.141 |

99.9 | 0.045 | 22.366 | 0.045 |

Taken to the extreme, an observer travelling at the speed of light (which, according to special relativity, is impossible for any object with a non-zero rest mass) would be all but frozen with respect to the outside world. Massless particles (which are forced by relativity to travel at the speed of light) include photons and gluons. Recently it was determined that neutrinos have a mass, unlike previously thought.

Gravitational time dilation is a verified effect of general relativity, and has been experimentally measured using atomic clocks on airplanes. The clocks that travelled aboard the airplanes were slightly fast with respect to clocks on the ground. The effect is significant enough that the Global Positioning System needs to correct for its effect on clocks aboard artificial satellites, providing a further experimental confirmation of the effect. Time dilation due to velocity is negligible in both cases.

An extreme example of gravitational time dilation occurs near a black hole. A clock falling towards the event horizon would appear (to observers far away) to slow down to a halt as it approached the horizon. A small and sturdy enough clock could conceivably cross the horizon without suffering adverse effects *at* the horizon, but to far away observers it would "freeze" and be flattened out on the horizon.