Ultraprecise Time Warps Space?

Physics is so weird!

In my lifetime, I have seen the Heisenberg uncertainty principle demonstrated at macroscopic scales, i.e., visible to human eyes. For example, measuring the velocity of a particle finer and finer, means that its position is less and less certain. With a clever set up, we can actually see the smear as the normally invisible becomes large enough to see.

In fact, a quick search tells me that there have been quite a few such experiments, for larger and larger systems. Wow!

This month researchers at University of Vienna have proposed yet another bit of extreme weirdness: combining Einstein with Heisenberg, they show that an ultraprecise clock distorts gravity.  (A Heinsteinberg uncertainty effect.)

Assuming that I understand this correctly, increasing the precision of the observation of time decreases the precision of measurements of energy. Energy is the same as mass, so this increases the (virtual) mass of the system, which increases gravity. [1] [arxive]

Theoretically.

Clocks aren’t precise enough yet, so the effects aren’t detectable today.

I can’t possibly critique the physics here, and I’m far from sure if this has any practical implication.

I don’t really grasp how the measurement of “time” works in this case.  To me, clocks and time are psychological entities, and human perception (the observation of the measurement) isn’t necessarily as precise as whatever the instrument.

Regardless,of how it is supposed to work, what does it mean if an insanely precise timer creates a virtual proton? I have no idea.

One way or another, it will be interesting to see how well this theory holds up. As ultraprecise clocks come to be, will this really hold up?


  1. Esteban Castro Ruiz, Flaminia Giacomini, and Časlav Brukner, Entanglement of quantum clocks through gravity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114 (12):E2303-E2309, March 21, 2017 2017. http://www.pnas.org/content/114/12/E2303.abstract
  2. Douglas McCormick, Can Ultraprecise Time Measurements Warp Space?, in IEEE Spectrum – Tech Talk. 2017. http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/at-work/test-and-measurement/can-ultraprecise-time-measurements-warp-space/

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