More To That

How Life Shocks Cause the Slowdown of Time

Setbacks are hard, but they give us the space to see what truly matters

More To That
Human Parts
Published in
8 min readApr 10, 2020

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Illustrations: More To That

In the opening chapter of his book, The Order of Time, physicist Carlo Rovelli writes:

“Let’s begin with a simple fact: Time passes faster in the mountains than it does at sea level.”

He describes a situation where two friends separate, with one going to live in the mountains and one moving to the plains:

When they meet up years later, the one who lived high up in the mountains will have aged more than the one who lived closer to sea level.

This may sound surprising, but it has been repeatedly proven with the usage of specialized timepieces. This holds true even within the narrowest of altitude differences: A clock placed on the floor will run slower than one that is on a table.

The best part, however, was that someone understood this phenomenon well before we had clocks precise enough to measure it. His name, of course, was Albert Einstein.

Rovelli describes what Einstein figured out (emphasis mine):

He imagined that the sun and the Earth each modified the space and time that surrounded them, just as a body immersed in water displaces the water around it. This modification of the structure of time influences in turn the movement of bodies, causing them to “fall” toward each other.

What does it mean, this “modification of the structure of time?” It means precisely the slowing down of time above: A mass slows down time around itself. The Earth is a large mass and slows down time in its vicinity. It does so more in the plains and less in the mountains, because the plains are closer to it…

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