The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pop Quiz #4: Stopped Clocks. An essay question.

Some people around here like to say "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day." Usually about someone who is, for the most part, wrong all the time. (No, it's not Pat P. or Sibby. They have recently cleaned clocks, thanks to you, astute Forumpians.) Today's Pop Quiz Question #4 is: "When is a stopped clock always right?" Please feel free to be expansive with your answers.


PP said...

Bill, Missing the reference on Sibby or I having our clocks cleaned. Not that I'd agree anyway.

It's like me making a throw away statement on my website that you were owned by the SDWC commenters, and not providing a reference.

Bill Fleming said...

I AM owned by SDWC commenters. They are all geniuses as you know, Pat.

I cringe with fear every time I have to go over there.

BTW, is something wrong with your site lately? It's taking forever to load. Slooooowww. Anyone else having that problem?

Bill Fleming said...

p.s. Pat, my "cleaned clocks" aside was meant as a compliment of sorts. I like it that you and Sibby have dropped your usual postures and actually engaged yourselves in the real conversations on the Forum lately.

So, care to take a shot at the topic at hand on this thread?

>When is a stopped clock always right?<

C'mon, PP. Take a stab at it, what could it hurt?

Bob Newland said...

When the question is, "Are you a secular humanist or a bicycle?"

Steve Sibson said...

Actually a stopped clock can be right more than twice per day. That is if you are on a trip and you cross a time zone or two.

And Bill, I just cleaned your clock at the Madville Times. In fact a stopped clock can be right more in a day tham Fleming.

Bill Fleming said...

Typical André Breton, dada, existentio-surrealist, dialectic-materialist, post-modern answer Bob.

I'm talking reality here, man.

Get with the program, will ya? ;>)

Bill Fleming said...

Oh boy, Stevie, I can't wait to read it.

Cory's place huh? Cool.

As for this post, the question is, "when is a stopped clock ALWAYS right."

Focus, Sibonater, focus.

So far your wild throw answer darts haven't even come close to the dartboard board, dude. Plus they're not as funny as Bob's.

I just know you can do better.

Bill Fleming said...

Hey Steve... that answer on Cory's blog? That wasn't even an answer. I don't know what you would call it, actually, but let's just say the word "crock" came to mind before the word "clock" did.

Anthony Renli said...

If we accelerate the clock in question to the speed of light, special relativity, and of course the associated time dilation, dictates that time will slow and then stop with reference to the clock.
Being that we can assume that if we have the technology to do this, we’d be able to time it such that the relative time that we hit light speed would equal the time on the clock.

q.e.d the clock would always be right.

This might not be the answer you are looking for…

Bill Fleming said...

Anthony that is indeed one of the answers I was looking for. Nicely done, sir.

Braden said...

Well it depends what you mean by "right."

Most of our measurements of time were originally based somehow on Earth's relationship to the Sun: year, day, hour, etc.

But for any answer to your question to be correct, the clock would have to leave Earth, for instance if it was accellerated to the speed of light as Anthony suggests, or if it passed beyond the event horizon of a black hole. While time may come to a standstill in both of these occasions, and while the clock may reflect that (albeit mistakenly), does this mean the clock is "right?" Our time on Earth continues unimpeded.

Say you got the clock to stop at 6:00 on the dot. Time is stopped, and so is the clock, but is the clock right? What meaning does 6:00 have while your traveling through space at light speed, or at the center of a black hole? Does it have any meaning?

The only solution to this would be a universal time, which Einstein's theory of relativity proves impossible. Events do not normally occur simmultaneously, because time is relative to location and speed. So even if a universal time were created, it wouldn't be accurate for everybody, or really anybody. So the clock would only be "right" if you were in the exact same location and travelling at the exact same speed as the clock.

Bill Fleming said...

Nice, Braden.

You're warming up to another answer I had in mind.

To give you a little further push let me ask you this, is the so called "arrow of time" real, or imaginary?

(...mmm, now what's that old Chicago song I hear playing in my minds ear?... oh yeah..."does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?")

Les said...

If a stopped clock is right twice a day, and a clock running 15 minutes fast is always right, then a stopped clock, moving around the globe (aircraft or otherwise) at the speed of rotation would always be right. Now don't you Einsteins go pickin on me!

Bill Fleming said...

Pretty good, Les. Yes that's right, I think. A clock that was stopped at 6 am sunrise for example, moving around the earth at the same speed as rotation (chasing the sun) would always be right, relative to the part of the earth directly below it. Of course technically the date would have to change. But that would be one of them there fancy clocks.

Bill Fleming said...

So far, we all seem to be talking about mechanical clocks. What about atomic clocks. They're supposed to be the most accurate. Do they ever stop?

betty76 said...

this is easy. it doesn't matter what kind of clock it is, or whether it is running or not.

if you are standing at the north or south pole, any clock will always be right. (and any compass will always be wrong)

BMW said...

Regarding atomic clocks, since they depend on the oscillation of the cesium atom(I did not check wiki-I think I'm right)an atomic clock would stop at absolute zero and so does everthing else.

Frozen in time.

Of course there wouldn't be anyone available to say "Eureka".

Bill Fleming said...

Cool! Lot's of great answers. Betty76 and BMW check in with their "cold" theories.

Betty's points out that there are places on earth where indeed the concept of time, as measured by a clock is pretty much meaningless. Time still marches on, but the clock, as a measurement of sunlight traveling across the surface of our planet is pretty much irrelevant.

I'll have to double check BMW's example. It seems on first glance to defy the laws of gravity. But he's right about one thing. I'm sure not going to go wearing my watch into a walk-in freezer to try to find out.

One of the other answers I was thinking of was the event horizon of a black hole.

The other one is a little simpler and way more accessible physically, but perhaps not mentally.

Q. When is a stopped clock always right?
A. Now.

The point is that there really isn't any other time than now. This is it.

Les said...

""""The point is that there really isn't any other time than now. This is it."""

This would be a good post sometime Bill. Time being a questionable element. In electronics, everything is a measurement of time. Or is it?

Bill Fleming said...

Yeah, it would be a good topic, Les. I'm reading Brian Greene's "The Fabric of the Cosmos" right now. He's got some pretty amazing things to say about the arrow of time. Fascinating, actually. As soon as my head quits spinning, I'll see if I can write a post based on it.