Einstein Gets Proved Right Yet Again with Relativity Test

Andrew Brookes, National Physical Laboratory/SPL

Time dilation is the notion that time is dependent upon your relative speed and gravity’s pull. It’s a theory that’s been tested time and time again; first with highly accurate caesium atomic clocks, then with even more accurate strontium atomic clocks, and each time Einstein still comes up correct every time.

Just recently a group of researchers from the Paris Observatory set up various strontium atomic clocks around Europe to see if their different speeds as the Earth spun affected their relative times the same in which Einstein predicted in his theory of special relativity. General relativity is often used by physicists to predict the behavior of large objects such as galaxies and stars. It’s also used in quantum mechanics to predict how particles will interact with one another. So, just to re-iterate and separate the two – special relativity relates to gravity and space while special relativity relates to gravity and space.

There’s a relativity rule that exists called the Lorentz invariance which basically says that all physical laws will be the same. This is regardless of if you’re standing still, sitting down, moving, or floating in space. The problem is light can only go one speed in a vacuum, so two people moving at different speeds would need to agree on one. It may only be a subtle difference, in time delay depending on the speed you’re moving, but it’s still there.

A recent experiment used four optical lattice clocks based on the ticking of thousands of strontium atoms which switch energy levels around 430 trillion times a second. These clocks are three times more accurate than caesium atom clocks. While two of them were located in the Paris Observatory, another was in Braunschweig, Germany, and the fourth was in Teddington, UK. Because of their positions globally, the three cities move at different speeds as the Earth spins which should mean that time flows differently for each too.

The team was able to detect which clocks were ticking at a different speed to the others by detecting any variations in their frequencies. Once they had these measurements the researchers were able to conclude that the Lorentz variation was still intact, proving Einstein right, once again.

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