Relativity and coming home from holidaysSep 1st, 2007 | By Ian Poulton | Category: Personal Columns
A friend once commented that she felt that something had been borne out by Einstein’s theory of relativity. Never too hot on physics (my scientific education never ran beyond an English CSE in General Science), I just replied ‘Mmmm’.
Einstein is cited chiefly in our house as a reason not to worry about brushing one’s hair. It was only by reading Bill Bryson that I discovered that there were two theories of relativity, one special and one general. In the case of Einstein, very special and most special would seem more appropriate.
Anyway, Einstein, as I understand him, seems to suggest that the time-space continuum bends, and that at speeds greater than that of light, time would be of different lengths.
Brittany Ferries vessels probably do not approach the speed of light, they would probably overshoot Portsmouth and end up in Southampton if they attempted to do so, but travelling on them does seem to cause a change in the speed of time. Going to France on holiday and coming back a month later, there is a sense of being away for a great length of time, for having been away for so long that the world must have changed and something interesting must surely have happened.
But, no. Ever year we go away for an Einstein length of time and come back and nothing has changed. Bertie is Taoiseach, Kilkenny are in the All Ireland Final, and the County Council still haven’t connected our water supply.
Every year, the days and tempers get shorter in September, the traffic gets worse, and the M50, like some Black Hole in deep space from which nothing escapes, sucks in more and more traffic.
Sometimes I wonder if, like some character from science fiction, there might be a year when I could get the car up to light speed so as to go back to the beginning of August in the hope that when the end of the month comes round again, the world might have changed.
Now, where’s the hairbrush?