Dad, are we, relatavistically speaking, there yet?
May 7, 2009 4:57 PM   Subscribe

Project GREAT: General Relativity Einstein/Essen Anniversary Test
Clocks, Kids, and General Relativity on Mt Rainier
Think your dad was a nerd? A mad genius? Was he a Clark Griswold-esque cheerleader for outdoor family vacations? You ain't seen nothin' yet.
posted by zardoz (46 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
My child is soooo going to end up buying drugs off one of his kids.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 4:59 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

They got chased by terrorists on the way out of the parking lot and ended up in the 1950s.
posted by Artw at 5:03 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ellen: Clark, the clock is still ticking.
Clark: It's OK, honey! Cesium clocks always do that! *kicks clock*
posted by DU at 5:03 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wow... I just love this guy... what a way to raise your kids! I was rolling on the floor with the second picture of the van!

Good for him... if everyone with kids did that kind of parenting, we would be in pretty good shape in this country...
posted by HuronBob at 5:05 PM on May 7, 2009

This dude is awesome.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 5:07 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thought so, had his 15 passenger van riders equipped with captain seats, VCR and Nintendo. Apparently he's a conservative now.
posted by Mblue at 5:09 PM on May 7, 2009

this is awesome in so many ways
posted by mrzarquon at 5:13 PM on May 7, 2009

Keeping an eye on the clocks as we drove. It turns out there were no issues with vibration or shifting.

We had a lot of time to kill while waiting for the clocks to do their thing.

While the kids counted pages I counted picoseconds.

Checking on the clocks every hour or so, day and night, I was most tired of all. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that the experiment hadn't screwed up yet, and that within minutes of returning home we'd know if we saw time dilation or not.

Oh, and the kids? Yeah, we got them back safely, too. Right? Wait, we had three kids? Ah, bother.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:14 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Definitely a great father! (Wish my dad could do this...)

Though it is rather funny how the kids think Dairy Queen is that much better than McDonald's.
posted by movicont at 5:19 PM on May 7, 2009

Burhanistan -- I agree. Selfish jerk.
posted by mmdei at 5:19 PM on May 7, 2009

That is really cool.
posted by pombe at 5:22 PM on May 7, 2009

Burhanistan...if you're joking... Hahahahahahah

If you're not... jeez

I think I covered all the basis... :)
posted by HuronBob at 5:27 PM on May 7, 2009

So, if you lived for 100 years at a mile high, you'd gain about .158 seconds on us lowlanders. It almost seems worth it to move on principle.
posted by cmoj at 5:29 PM on May 7, 2009

Mom says goodbye to us. She stayed behind to study for her nursing board exams.
Sure, I bet that's exactly what she was thinking...
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:50 PM on May 7, 2009

Carpe Caesium.
posted by Tube at 5:52 PM on May 7, 2009

Mount Ren-NEER, you all. Ah-yup.
posted by Zambrano at 6:01 PM on May 7, 2009

Mount Ren-NEER, you all. Ah-yup.

Wouldn't that be Mount Ren-NERD?
posted by librarylis at 6:04 PM on May 7, 2009

the double neat thing about this was that I went to Paradise Lodge when I was in basic training at Fort Lewis in about 1971... (crap, I'm old!)... a neat place.... great memories.
posted by HuronBob at 6:08 PM on May 7, 2009

Feh. Professor George W. Hart with the trilobite cookies and the polyhedra sculptures made of old floppy disks is the true King of the Nerd Dads!

The guy in this post could definitely make it to the Nerd Dad Final Four, but I just don't see him dethroning the King.
posted by jonp72 at 6:13 PM on May 7, 2009

Mount Ren-NEER, you all. Ah-yup.

3311 miles
posted by DU at 6:27 PM on May 7, 2009

I monitored both of them and secretly hoped to also experience a "Main B bus undervolt" (as in Apollo 13).

No whammy no whammy no whammy no whammy....!

But, no, there were no AC or DC power problems.


Best dad ever. (Love you dad!)
posted by foodbedgospel at 7:35 PM on May 7, 2009

Next trip: Death Valley! Then we'll hike our gear up to the top of Mount Whitney! Who's with Daddy? I said ... where did you go?

I think the presentation of the trip came off as a geek who happened to have kids, not a geeky super-dad.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:42 PM on May 7, 2009

Yeah, I was with him right up until the "Idiling the car for two days" part. "Look kids, we are going to dilate time and ruin the planet at the same time!"
posted by Windopaene at 8:53 PM on May 7, 2009

posted by prinado at 9:05 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wow. My family went on some dorky vacations, I mean, we went to the Canoe Museum for chrissake, but this tops any fossil collecting or weird sightseeing that we ever did.
posted by Tesseractive at 10:10 PM on May 7, 2009

To everyone complaining about the single tank of gas that was used up: get some perspective. Suppose he had instead lugged the clocks inside and plugged them into a wall outlet. Almost the same amount of electricity would need to be generated, probably by a petroleum-burning power plant, and sent hundreds of miles via lossy power lines to accomplish the same thing.

I bet you generate more CO2 in a year just to run your nice shiny computer -- which is probably going to end up in a landfill anyway, slowly leaking heavy metals into the soil. Has it produced as much benefit to the world today as this guy's physics experiment?
posted by teraflop at 10:10 PM on May 7, 2009

I love the idea of a vacation as being just time to kill while the clocks 'do their thing'.
posted by mazola at 10:19 PM on May 7, 2009

My concern has little to do with gas nor irritating other guests, which I had not thought about at all. And his science experiment, (look Einstein was right!), seems to have about the same amount of benefit to the world as my computer does. Enough stupid people sit around idling their cars without this guy doing it for 2 days. Dumping CO2 into the air, (especially in a freaking National Park), for no real reason other than for kicks is the kind of selfish attitude that has gotten us where we are today in terms of the destruction of our environment. "Recycling is too big of a hassle" "These styrofoam containers are just so convenient" etc.
posted by Windopaene at 11:24 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

especially in a freaking National Park

Basically, you're a cretin.
posted by atrazine at 4:33 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

wow. What well-behaved children.
Do you think that's a side effect of adequate intellectual stimulation?
posted by debbie_ann at 5:06 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think we've all been punked. The give away was that this guy is supposed to be married and have three kids. I bet he's lucky if he got his cousin to go to the senior prom with him.
posted by Gungho at 5:09 AM on May 8, 2009

This shows the kids and everyone reading this what science is supposed to be about. He took a theory, predicted results from that theory and tested them. Yeah he burned a tank of gas in the process but no one objects when the same theory is tested using space probes that create a lot more carbon emissions. It's not like he took an unnecessary trip on an airplane or something truly frivolous and damaging to the environment. Get some perspective people.
posted by Tashtego at 6:47 AM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

That mountain is beautiful. I was there in July/August a few years ago; had a nice tri-tip sandwich in that same lodge after hiking around for a few hours. I hope they have good memories from this expedition.
posted by now i'm piste at 7:05 AM on May 8, 2009

Enough stupid people sit around idling their cars without this guy doing it for 2 days.

Huh. When my dad and I used a tank of gas in a "science experiment" it sure as hell didn't last for two days. because, you know, det cord + burn barrels = science.

you would probably find our science environmentally unsound.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:05 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Huh. I thought that by this point someone who'd read Kant's Critique of Pure Reason last summer would be in here to explain that there's no such thing as time. I didn't expect people to be arguing over whether or not the dad was an asshole for wasting a tank of gas purely to have fun and demonstrate a scientific concept to his kids.
posted by Humanzee at 8:18 AM on May 8, 2009

He articulated his opinion. You're the one who seems like a cretin for just tossing off a pointless insult.

Anyone who doesn't understand that it doesn't matter where greenhouse gasses are emitted has it coming, but maybe "cretin" was a bit strong.
posted by atrazine at 8:59 AM on May 8, 2009

No, it's the idea of filling the air, in a National Park with exhuast for no good reason. I guess those folks that decided no cars could go into Yosemite, and that everyone had to shuttle bus in are cretins too?
posted by Windopaene at 9:36 AM on May 8, 2009

What does altitude have to do with relativity? I thought time slowed down as you approach the speed of light... not how high above sea level you get. Did I miss a day of class or something?
posted by scottatdrake at 9:50 AM on May 8, 2009

"The kids have seen Super-Size Me so we don't stop at McDonald's anymore. "

...So you bring them to a Dairy Queen instead?
posted by daHIFI at 9:57 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

You kids pipe down back there!

Can someone actually explain what the experiment SHOWS? At first I thought he was comparing the traveling clocks to ones that stayed home, but it looks more like some sort pf phase comparison?...
posted by underthehat at 10:36 AM on May 8, 2009

What does altitude have to do with relativity?

I may be wrong, I was a liberal arts major, but I believe it is the greater mass of the mountain that causes a tiny bit of time dilation. Anyone with a science background feel free to correct me.
posted by Tashtego at 10:37 AM on May 8, 2009

In a gravitational field, clocks lower in the field tick faster than clocks higher in the field. If you were to kick someone into a black hole, they would appear (to you) to slow down, and become frozen in time at the event horizon, while from their own perspective, they would travel through the event horizon quite normally. Since the Earth's gravitational field is so much weaker than a black hole's, this effect can only be measured with a very accurate clock. As a related effect, light shining down in the field is blue-shifted, and light shining up is red-shifted. The mass of the mountain would have a minuscule impact on what is already a very small effect.
posted by Humanzee at 10:53 AM on May 8, 2009

scattatdrake, tashtego: In regards to your questions about how a difference in altitude impacts time, there are several things that are happening.

Being farther from the mass of the planet reduces the amount of Earth’s gravitational fields that would be encountered (think how there's less gravity from the Earth the farther up in space that you go). There's an equation for this here.

Also, the higher up you go, the faster that point is rotating around the axis of the earth than a lower point, and that speed differential would also result in a very small amount of time dilation since the faster you go, the more time slows down. Think of how the farthest point on a merry-go-round goes much faster than a point halfway between the edge and the middle. Unfortunately, I don't have the relevant equations that could be used to find the delta between the two altitude's rotational speeds and then use that number to determine the expected amount of time dilation.
posted by SeanOfTheHillPeople at 10:54 AM on May 8, 2009

Err.. I wrote that backwards. Clocks lower in the field tick SLOWER.
posted by Humanzee at 10:55 AM on May 8, 2009

Thanks Humanzee,There's an equation for this here., and SeanOfTheHillPeople for clearing that up. Although the effects are tiny I think it's admirable for this guy to actually test and show the results to his children and then share that with the rest of us. I know better tests have been done and it's not necessary but it's still cool that an individual can and will do things like this. Although the scale is very different this reminded me of Fredrick Pohl's Gateway.
posted by Tashtego at 11:26 AM on May 8, 2009

But Tesseractive, did you ever go to the Barbie Museum?
posted by cereselle at 12:10 PM on May 8, 2009

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