Why clocks go slower when they’re lower

This is in response to a query from Jonas K. See my post you can lead a horse to water, and take a look at the comments. OK, I’ll start again from the beginning, Jonas, you’re blue:

Textbook optical clocks of the bouncing-photons-kind go slower when lower in a gravitational field, yes. So do Cesium-based atomic clocks, by exactly the same amount. Why is that?

It’s because a Cesium-based atomic clock has an electromagnetic nature. Take a look at the NIST caesium fountain clock:

Image courtesy of NIST

The second is defined as “the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom”. Then see the Wikipedia hyperfine structure article,  which says this: “In atoms, hyperfine structure arises from the energy of the nuclear magnetic dipole moment interacting with the magnetic field generated by the electrons and the energy of the nuclear electric quadrupole moment in the electric field gradient due to the distribution of charge within the atom”. So it’s clear enough that the Cesium atomic clock operates via electromagnetism, which I think ought to satisfy you that it’s going to slow down like the idealised bouncing-photon clock.

Why should it be that two so different kinds of clocks, based on entirely different mechanisms, end up slowing down by the same amount? Please provide detail, not references. Thanks.

It’s because gravity has an electromagnetic nature too. A gravitational field is a place where the speed of light is spatially variable, and the speed of light c = 1/√(ε0μ0). The permittivity and/or permeability of space is varying. This affects all electromagnetic phenomena. I talked about the wave nature of matter, how pair production worked, and about the electron being a 511 keV photon in a spin ½ closed-path configuration, but I don’t think you need to know any of that to know that the Cesium clock is going to slow down just like the photon clock.

Thank for replying! I realize now that my request for details in a comment section like this was a bit much to ask for. Perhaps some day you will find the time to give a fuller answer in a separate post; it would be much appreciated. What I’m driving at is this: it seems that your account of the slowing down of optical clocks relies on special properties of photons.

It’s because in a gravitational field the properties of space are “neither homogeneous nor isotropic”. So waves in space go slower when they’re lower. Photons have an E=hf nature, they’re waves in space. Then we make electrons (and positrons) out of photons in gamma-gamma pair production, and their electromagnetic interactions go slower when they’re lower too.

In that case, there is no reason to expect clocks based on other mechanisms to slow down at all, let alone by the exact same amount.

See above re the Cesium clock. That’s going to slow down in line with the photon clock. Because electromagnetism is ubiquitous. I’m pretty sure the nuclear force is electromagnetic too. And take a look at this picture:

Annihilation images from CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility

In low energy proton-antoproton annihilation, we sometimes see two gamma photons. That says to me that the strong force has an underlying electromagnetic nature too.

Now, logically, one of the following is the case:

1) all clocks, whatever their mechanism, when experiencing acceleration/gravity slow down by the same amount; or

I’d say that’s true with the exception of the grandfather clock, or any pendulum clock. The clock rate depends on the force of gravity rather than the depth of potential. Hence a grandfather clock would go faster at a lower elevation.    

2) there are at least two different kinds of clocks that slow down by different amounts (or speed up, or are unaffected) when experiencing acceleration/gravity.

Let’s pretend that pendulum clocks don’t exist. That said, I opt for option 1,

I would like to know which of the alternatives you favour. Moreover, if 1) is the case, I’d like to know by what mechanisms it happens; whereas if 2) is the case, I’d like an example of clocks that would behave differently.

I favour option 1, and would say that all clocks go slower when they’re lower because light goes slower when it’s lower, and because matter is in essence “made of light”.

Either way, I’d like to see your derivations of the quantitative behaviour of the clocks. Thanks!

There’s not much to say about the quantitative behaviour of clocks. They go slower when they’re lower because of the wave nature of matter, and because those waves go slower when they’re lower, because space is affected by a concentration of energy in the guise of a massive star. As for a derivation, l said something about time dilation in the nature of time. I said it’s based on Pythagoras’s theorem. See the simple inference of time dilation due to relative velocity on Wikipedia:

Public domain image by Mdd4696, see Wikipedia

The hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle represents the light path. The base represents my speed v as a fraction of c. The height gives the Lorentz factor, which can be written as √(1 – v²/c²). If I travel at .99c, the Lorentz factor is √(1-.99²/1²) = √(1-.98) = √(.02) = .1414, which is a seventh. So my clock clocks up one year while yours clocks up seven. The Lorentz factor is that simple, and it applies to everything because of the wave nature of matter. Robert Close talked about this in the other meaning of special relativity. We can make electrons out of light in pair production, and we can diffract electrons. Remember what Feynman said about around and around, and think of electron spin as light going round a circular path. Then look at it sideways like this: |. Then set it moving so that the circular path looks like a helical path. Sideways on, it would look like this: /\/\/\/\. It’s just like the light bouncing back and forth between the parallel mirrors, and it’s why time dilation applies to electrons and other particles too, and me, and you.

(Your answer here is obviously incomplete since it makes no reference to the specific functioning of Cesium-based clocks, but again, it was unreasonable of me to demand details in a comment.)

No problem Jonas.

Great, I’m looking forward to it. It sounds like you’re going with alternative 1), in which case you agree with the mainstream physicists who say that “time slows down” in a gravitational field; for all they mean by that phrase is precisely that all processes slow down by the same amount. Of course you might have some other disagreement with them, but I’ll let you explain yourself in a post. Please take your time, I am interested in seeing the quantitative details of your position and I’m happy to wait for them (and I imagine your other readers feel the same).

Yes, I’m going with option 1. However I don’t agree with mainstream physicists who say time slows down in a gravitational field, because that’s not what Einstein said. He said light slows down in a gravitational field. The mainstream physicist flatly contradicts Einstein, and says time slows down instead of light. As a result he doesn’t understand how gravity works.

Formulas are of course necessary if you wish to make clear how your position differs from the mainstream. Again thanks!

I’m afraid formulas just can’t help with all this. My position is this: I’m with Einstein. The mainstream isn’t. But I hope that one day, it will be.

Part 2:  7th March 2020

So your position is that there is really only one mechanism at work, namely the effect of gravity on electromagnetism, and since all processes are electromagnetic, all processes are affected in the same way?

Yes, that’s about it.

Does this cover time dilation due to relative velocity, too?

Yes. I said “think of electron spin as light going round and round”. I think it’s similar for the proton. That has spin too. The proton g factor is circa 5.85.  It’s nearly three times the electron g factor, and it’s there because spin is a real rotation:

 CCASA image by Arpad Horvath see Wikipedia             Public domain image by Jim Belk, see Wikipedia

I think you’re right that formulas are not much help in this particular context unless you are going to get into how electromagnetism accounts for/gives rise to the strong and weak forces too.

I don’t think formulas would help with that either. Mathematics is a vital tool for physics, but it doesn’t help you to understand the physics.

But basically I’m trying to understand what your disagreements with standard physics are, and that requires getting to predictions at some point.

I’d say “standard physics” isn’t really physics any more. It doesn’t offer any understanding. It doesn’t tell you how gravity works, even though Einstein explained most of it. It doesn’t even tell you how a magnet works. even though Ampère explained most of it. As for predictions, I’d say one prediction is gamma ray bursts. If you drop a brick into a black hole it erupts into a gamma-ray burst. Sadly Einstein didn’t predict this. I think he could have done in his 1939 paper on a stationary system with spherical symmetry consisting of many gravitating masses. But in 1939 I guess he had other things on his mind. Funnily enough it was the detection of gamma ray bursts that reawakened interest in general relativity in the 1960s. The USA launched satellites to detect Russian nuclear tests, and they detected gamma ray bursts instead. See Wikipedia: “Kip Thorne identifies the “golden age of general relativity” as the period roughly from 1960 to 1975 during which the study of general relativity,[29] which had previously been regarded as something of a curiosity, entered the mainstream of theoretical physics[30]”. General relativity entered the mainstream in the 1960s. But the version of general relativity that became mainstream flatly contradicted Einstein.

This is why I’m hoping to see some formulas that I could use myself. You tell me (to take just one example) that an electron is a photon moving in a certain configuration, but I’m unable to derive any consequences of this claim.

Here’s a consequence: if you drop an electron into a black hole, it will erupts into a gamma-ray burst. That means conservation of charge is not absolute. How cool is that? But I think the important thing is understanding. You can actually understand what happens in Compton scattering and why an electron goes round in circles in a uniform magnetic field. You can understand why two electrons repel, why two positrons repel, and why an electron and a positron attract.  You don’t need to invent virtual particles popping into existence, spontaneously, like worms from mud.

I really don’t see how the mainstream physicist disagrees with Einstein if they agree on all predictions. Saying “time slows down” and “light slows down” sounds different, but again, mainstream physics is not committed to any doctrine about time: that claim is just shorthand for “every process slows down by the same amount”.

Mainstream physics is committed to the doctrine that the speed of light is constant. It isn’t. Because of this, mainstream physics doesn’t understand why light curves. It claims that light curves because it follows the curvature of spacetime, which is wrong. It’s all downhill from there, ending up with fantasy physics about the black hole information paradox, and futile dreams of quantum gravity.

So the empirical content is the same.

It isn’t. Einstein said light curves because “the speed of light is spatially variable”. You can test that with optical clocks. And yet mainstream physics will tell you the speed of light is constant, and that an optical clock goes slower because of some magical mysterious unseen thing called time going slower.

Perhaps the question I’m working my way toward when trying to understand your writings is this: do you make any predictions that differ from those of mainstream physics?

Yes. For example Hawking radiation does not exist. You will never see a free quark. You will never see a gluon. But you will see a pentaquark. And the stasis box. And flying cars. There’s more. Lots more. Perhaps I should gather them up and write about them.

NEXT

 

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. If a pendulum clock behaves differently to other clocks, might that be a reason to say that light is slower rather than time is slower? As Jonas said, people who say time slows down mean that all processes slow down in the same way, so if some processes don’t slow down the same way (or speed up), then that is a different thing to time slowing down. It might also be possible to say that a pendulum clock isn’t actually measuring time, it’s just a process that happens to be regular enough in some places to provide a close approximation to time.

    1. Yes Andrew, I think it is a reason to say that light is slower rather than time is slower. I also think that no clock actually measures time. A clock is a device that features some kind of regular cyclical motion, and shows an accumulated reading of that motion. That’s all it is. A gas meter measures the flow of gas, but there is no time flowing in a clock. It doesn’t really measure the flow of time.

      1. Another perspective is that time is defined by the experimental environment, rather than the object being observed, in the sense that the improvements in the measurement of time are improvements in the experimental apparatus rather than any changes to the observed item.

        For the atomic clocks we have the disentanglement of the atom on one side, with the careful total entanglement of the apparatus on the other. (entanglement is easy, disentanglement (especially partial) is hard).

        Aggregate time (of the apparatus) is what’s being determined. (i.e. the atom doesn’t know what time is, until it interacts, and only then as an ordered sequence of events for itself. For the apparatus it becomes a partial order of the totality of its events).

        Worth a thought anyway.

        1. I think the whole of physics starts with time Philip. Have a look at my article on the nature of time. There’s this chain of logic that takes you from the nature of time to the speed of light and then on to gravity. Well, it did for me. Because the measurement of time isn’t really the measurement of time. You’re typically measuring some regular cyclical motion in your experimental apparatus. In an atomic clock it’s like you find the resonant microwave frequency, then you count 9,192,631,770 microwaves passing you by, and say that’s a second. These waves are light waves in the general sense. So we use the motion of light to define the second, which we then use to measure the motion of light. Duh!

  2. Awesome! I thought I had you in my RSS reader but for some reason I only noticed this post right now.

    Fair point about the Cesium clocks being in some sense electromagnetic. Also, excellent that you thought of grandfather clocks, I really didn’t think about them at all. They are not discussed in any books that I can think of, but of course they really ought to be. Now I have to do some looking around to see how standard books treat them. (I.e. do they just not count as clocks, or what?)

    So your position is that there is really only one mechanism at work, namely the effect of gravity on electromagnetism, and since all processes are electromagnetic, all processes are affected in the same way? Does this cover time dilation due to relative velocity, too?

    I think you’re right that formulas are not much help in this particular context unless you are going to get into how electromagnetism accounts for/gives rise to the strong and weak forces too. But basically I’m trying to understand what your disagreements with standard physics are, and that requires getting to predictions at some point. This is why I’m hoping to see some formulas that I could use myself. You tell me (to take just one example) that an electron is a photon moving in a certain configuration, but I’m unable to derive any consequences of this claim.

    I really don’t see how the mainstream physicist disagrees with Einstein if they agree on all predictions. Saying “time slows down” and “light slows down” sounds different, but again, mainstream physics is not committed to any doctrine about time: that claim is just shorthand for “every process slows down by the same amount”. So the empirical content is the same.

    Perhaps the question I’m working my way toward when trying to understand your writings is this: do you make any predictions that differ from those of mainstream physics?

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!

    1. My pleasure Jonas. I’ve put my reply in the post above. See where it says Part 2.

    2. Talking of grandfather clocks, anyone noticed that they say they add pennies to Big Ben (the clock bit;-) to adjust its rate, but that the period of a pendulum should be independent of the pendulums mass?

      In reality, what they are doing is shifting the Center of Gravity (CoG) of the mass up or down just a very little (I’m guessing it’s microns) to tweak the rate. Using a shifting spanner to turn a nut doesn’t get that level of finesse (nor ease of operation).

      Hopefully a nice aside about how the glib public explanations can be misdirected. It was a discussion with my daughter about how news reports need careful interpretation.

      1. Philip: that’s a really neat fact, thanks for sharing! I haven’t myself heard any claims that the period is mass-independent for a physical pendulum; it sounds like the kind of thing a half-educated elementary school physics teacher would say…

        1. Here’s something else that’s really neat Jonas:
          .
          At the top of its swing, the rest mass of a pendulum is greater than the rest mass of the moving pendulum at the bottom of its swing. However the rest mass energy plus the kinetic energy adds up to the same total energy in both situations.
          .
          Gravity converts rest mass energy, which is internal kinetic energy, into external kinetic energy as the pendulum swings down. Then it does the reverse as the pendulum swings up. Conservation of energy always applies, so the total energy is unchanged.

  3. Whether you like it or not, no trained physicist will take any of your ideas seriously until you can formulate them into a theory. Unfortunately what this means for anyone working on reformulating foundational theories, is the burden of proof is much much higher than any extension to current theories.
    Extensions to current theories simply must not contradict the foundational theory, and hold some modicum of explanatory power.
    An idea like yours (an ontological reformulation of quantum theory informed by a certain interpretation of relitivaty) holds enormous burden of proof. You’d have to prove it to be consistent with all current observation, and show reduction in limiting cases to approximations of current theories. This requires derivations, self consistent mathematical frameworks, rigour. Fancy argumentation simply won’t cut it.

    P.S.
    That all being said, I do appreciate your critique of physics. There is definitely a place for such questioning, especially for a field that has enshrined itself in self congratulatory infallibility.

    1. They’re not really my ideas, Eric. They mostly come from the old papers, and some not-so old papers. For example see what Einstein said about the speed of light in 1920: “Second, this consequence shows that the law of the constancy of the speed of light no longer holds, according to the general theory of relativity, in spaces that have gravitational fields. As a simple geometric consideration shows, the curvature of light rays occurs only in spaces where the speed of light is spatially variable”. I haven’t reformulated the foundational theory. People like Misner Thorne and Wheeler have. And people like Heisenberg and Pauli. They threw away the nascent electron models proposed by the likes of Schrodinger and Charles Galton Darwin. Check out Darwin’s 1927 Nature paper on the electron as a vector wave, which talked about a spherical harmonic for the two directions of spin.
      .
      Much of what I tell you is merely a distillation from the old papers. There’s links to them in my various articles. I’m pretty sure a lot of people haven’t read those old papers. Thank you David Delphenich for the many translations.
      .
      PS: if physicists wait for somebody like me to come up with a fully-developed theory before paying attention, who needs them?

  4. Following on from the Burden of Proof comment from Eric, I like the joke “if a man speaks in the forest and there is no woman there to hear him; Is he still wrong?”, by a similar token, if a layperson discusses physics ideas on the internet, rather than peer reviewed in a high impact journal, and no “serious” physicist takes any notice, are those ideas wrong?

    It seems to me that acceptance of an idea by the mainstream physics community is entirely optional with respect to its inherent appeal and practical usefulness. These are the qualities are think are most important in physics; concepts that help me make sense of the world rather than attempting to put understanding of the world in such complicated and obtuse forms that people can claim to be doing me a service by understanding it for me. I don’t need that and I don’t want it. I also think it is a shame that my taxes are wasted on supporting people with that aim.

    Hence, I appreciate the Physics Detectives meticulous historical research and work to demystify the subject and point out where people have produced models or interpretations of models that help to simply and aid understanding of a subject that is complicated enough in itself. As Einstein is misquoted as saying “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler!”

    1. The ideas aren’t wrong, Andy. Because they’re Einstein’s ideas, or de Broglie’s ideas, or Schrodinger’s ideas, et cetera, all backed by the hard scientific evidence. But acceptance of those ideas by the mainstream physics community isn’t optional. It’s forbidden. Propaganda and censorship is employed to maintain the status quo, and it is endemic.
      .
      The bottom line is that the mainstream community will not willingly accept any idea that demonstrates that the mainstream community is wrong. For example QED requires renormalization because it employs Frenkel’s point-particle electron, despite everything de Broglie and Schrodinger (and Dalton and Born and Infeld and Bohm) said about a wave in a closed path. Despite all the evidence for the wave nature of matter and the reality of electron spin. But the mainstream physicists cannot admit a wave-in-a-closed-path electron model because that means renormalization is wrong, so QED is wrong, so QCD is wrong, and so is the Standard Model. Despite all the Nobel prizes. Oh the irony, Alfred Nobel’s prizes have done more harm than his dynamite, because they have set bad science in stone.
      .
      It’s like they’ve painted themselves into a corner and can’t get out. That’s why progress in physics has been stalled for circa 50 years. And the real shame of it is that your taxes are being spent on the very people who are standing four square in the way of that progress.
      .
      I only hope I do my bit to make a difference and encourage younger physicists to challenge their elders and to break the dam. That’s what Einstein did, when he was 26. That’s how progress usually occurs.

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