Time and Relative Dimensions in Space  

The entire universe in blog form
June 21 2014 7:30 AM

The Timey Wimey Spacey Wacey Explanation of Relativity

Daleks explain light speed
River Song's laser has an advantage over Captain Jack's gun when it comes to Daleks and space-time diagrams.

Photo by Tippet and Tsang, from the paper

Are you a Doctor Who fan? Are you also scratching your head over how relativity works? Then do I have a paper for you: “The Blue Box White Paper”, an explanation of how space and time work under the auspices of Einstein’s general relativity.

doctorwho_briancox

The paper was written by two physicists who are experts in the field.* It uses various ideas from Doctor Who (as well as pretty funny illustrations featuring companions in various states of peril) to delve into the bizarre notion that space and time are intertwined, how you could (theoretically) move back and forth in time, why that’s unlikely, and what might happen when you do.

Advertisement

It’s written clearly, aimed at an educated audience. I’ll admit I struggled with some of the more advanced concepts, but then, I tend to live my life in a linear, entropic manner. My experience in severely warped and/or punctured space-time is limited.

And because why not, if you want a longer and eminently readable description about relativity, the speed of light, and how the Universe works the way it does, I highly recommend Why Does E=mc2? by my friend Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. I had a far better understanding of all these things after reading it, and it’s really a brisk and enjoyable book.

And of course, there’s always this:

*Haha! “Field”! I kill me.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?