Episode 20: Time Dilates When You’re Having Fun with Mookie Terracciano


many of you might wonder what got me into physics… I mean, beyond the prestige and the money and the ability to talk to cats (obviously). the answer is special relativity. It’s a brilliant combination of intuitive arguments with counterintuitive conclusions. Oh I love it so much. It’s like magic. it’s like TIME MAGIC.

So. to do relativity right, I need a guest who understands time magic. So I invited the hit webcomic artist Michael “Mookie” Terracciano, author of Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire. His comic has been going on 10 years now, and he’s managed to keep track of all the twists and turns of the plots and numerous characters. So I was confident he’d be able to keep track of all the complicated twists in the story of special relativity. at the end of the show, his mind gets BLOWWWNN and it’s a magnificent moment to cap the first 20 episodes of our show. hooray for Mookie! Hooray for Jocelyn! Hooray for Ken! Banzai!
In other newsy news. we now have a FORUM! a place where we can all hang out and talk about physics and also my plans for world domination. click HERE to go there

Also, we have a Store. I’m not going to lie, this podcast doesn’t cost all that much per month. but it does cost something. So I’ve started selling RAD T-Shirts (thanks, chelsea anderson!). If you wear them around, maybe people ask why you look so smart and then you can tell them about my titanium physicists.

Physicists: Jocelyn Read, Ken Clark

Intro Music: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Exit Music: John Vanderslice 

Transcript: Ep_20_Time_Dilates_When_Youre_Having_Fun


11 thoughts on “Episode 20: Time Dilates When You’re Having Fun with Mookie Terracciano

  1. Wow check out the pipes on Ben! Am I alone in wanting to hear an entire episode in song? Thanks for another awesome show.

  2. This is seriously one of my favorite episodes yet. Gotta be top three. Super-interesting topic, super-well explained, and the sound quality was right on. Great work!

  3. Hi Ben, great podcast! I had a question though and my 2 second perusal of the internet was not helpful. Is there empirical evidence for length contraction like there is for time dilation? Thanks!

    • Hiii!

      yeah. I’ve thought about it, and I googled it, and I can’t find any decent examples.
      big elongated objects are hard to accelerate up to near the speed of light… so…

      but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.
      the example i’m about to give is a little weak, because it contains a granule of circular logic. but bear with me.

      so. we definitely see time dilation. and one of the examples is how a muon, traveling down an accelerator tunnel will live longer than it should.
      So, imagine that because of time dialation, an muon lasts so long that it makes it all the way down a 4 km tunnel before it decays.
      but how do we reconcile the events from the muon’s perspective?
      Time dilation says that the muon, as it sees itself, will only live the average lifespan before popping.
      So there are two possibilities. Either the muon sees itself traveling FASTER than we see it traveling (allowing it to reach the end of the hall in its allotted lifespan) OR the hallway seems shorter to the muon.

      so. because physics would not be good if velocity was inconsistent (it would throw conservation of momentum out the window), the hallway must seem shorter to the muon. and that’s the length contraction.

      that said, a much more reassuring answer would have been “the hulk once threw a 100 meter sky scraper at 0.9C, and we took a photo and it was shorter”. but… sorry.

      • What a mind-bendy episode! Will there be a follow-up episode on the quantum mechanical miracles that make time dilation and length contraction happen??

        • haha
          no quantum mechanical miracles are necessary.
          that this should happen is built into the fabric of our universe
          and it comes about because everyone must measure light travelling at the same speed.

  4. Is time dilation a subject or objective experience?
    With the bullet train and lightening example, the light from the flash is subjective due to the amount of time it takes to reach a person’s eyes, but objectively, the lightening did hit the train at the same time, right?
    Using the rocket ship and barn example, that would mean that the barn doors would hit the end of the rocket. Except it didn’t, so I’m not sure what that means.

    Hopefully that made sense.

    • just the opposite.
      it means the phrase “lightning hit the train at the same time” is a subjective statement.

      simultaneity has gone out the window.
      the stories that go “X causes Y” are a matter of fact, but “X occurs at the same time as Y” now depends on who is talking, and how fast they are travelling

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