# How can something be "one second out of sync"?

In many sci-fi shows, an object is placed a few seconds "out of sync" with the rest of the universe. This hides the object from sight, scanners, etc. How would such a device work in real life?

Here's a link with some examples (warning, TV Tropes): https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/JustOneSecondOutOfSync

• In real life, such a device is impossible, to the best of our understanding. So this question is unanswerable; if such a device ever does becomes possible, it will depend on things that are not currently known, and so can’t be given in an answer. Aug 25, 2019 at 18:17
• The link you give says it in the first sentence: It works by time travel! Simple, isnt it?
– Karl
Aug 25, 2019 at 18:33
• I think you will get a more useful set of answers to your question if you do a better job of defining your problem and your constraints. Directing your respondents to an outside link demonstrates you aren't really motivated to describe your problem, therefore it doesn't matter how much effort they put into the answer -- as you can see by the snarky comments you are collecting.
– EDL
Aug 25, 2019 at 20:29

The idea of 'one second out of phase' doesn't make any sense, but you can definitely use a time machine to hide things.

To visualise this, draw a space-time diagram, which in its simplest form is a two-dimensional graph, with time going up the vertical axis and one space dimension on the horizontal axis. All objects move 'up' the diagram at a constant rate, reflecting the passage of time. If an object is moving relative to the observer, they are also moving across the horizontal axis at an appropriate rate. Conventionally an object moving at the speed of light traces a path at 45 degrees on the graph, so the triangular area above the origin is the region that the observer will ever be able to see, now and in the future.

If you take an object and move it along the horizontal axis faster than the speed of light, you have superluminal travel, and from the perspective of an ordinary observer the object appears to vanish. If you move the object completely horizontally that is what we generally consider to be teleportation. Moving an object 'down' the graph constitutes classical time-travel.

Moving an object up the graph, though, is time travel into the future. Usually this is only explored from the perspective of the transported object, and usually the transported characters end up back where they started. From the perspective of an external observer, however, the object has completely vanished. It can't be detected by any classical sensor, because the object literally isn't there. If you wait long enough, though, it will reappear right where you left it, because that's where it was transported to. From the perspective of an observer stuck in the standard timestream, the future makes a perfect hiding place.

• That's like hiding goods from a customs officer by using a different road entirely. (Good answer) Aug 26, 2019 at 14:55
• Good answer. I would add that the concept of "1 second out of sync" - if the OP wanted it for their work - could be salvaged by good writing. For example if your settings "rules of time travel" required that (1) The engine powering the time travel cannot move itself in time (can only push other objects) and (2) this machine has a finite range (say 1 second). Then you push the object you want to hide into the future (but are limited to 1 second by your range). Shortly later you push it again, so that it remains 1 second in the future (keeps being pushed) until you turn it off.
– Dast
Aug 27, 2019 at 11:47
• Of note is that one second is a terribly short time to be hiding things for. It's even worse if you get an Outer Wilds style warp effect each time the object jumps :P Aug 28, 2019 at 6:05

There is in fact a real life example of a person relatively significantly "out of sync" with the rest of us. Un(?)fortunately it's nowhere near as spectacular or mystical as the sci-fi makes it out to be.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_Krikalev

Sergei Krikalev has spent so long aboard the space station Mir, that due to time-dilation (i.e. orbiting the Earth for a long time, a lot faster than the rest of us arsing about on its surface) he has travelled a total of approx 1/50th of a second into the future.

He has not vanished as the Sci-Fi would have us believe though, it's just from his point of view he's 1/50th of a second younger than the calendars and clocks on Earth say he should be.

Possibly not exactly what you were thinking when writing the question but it does seem to address what it would be like in real life.

Use the Marvel Method.

I have Stan Lee's autobiography. He mentions how he created his modt popular characters. When it comes to The Incredible Hulk, he says that he wanted a monster created by something that was both terrible and "scientific" - hence gamma radiation. But Stan didn't know much about science, specially radiation. Add to that, the Hulk was created in 1962, where people's knowledge of radiation in general was much less than today.

So he said that the hulk was born out of a gamma ray shower. He says he never elaborated on that on purpose - he wouldn't be able to, and the fans wouldn't buy any explanations anyway.

Truth be told, the Hulk was inspired by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In that tale Dr. Jekyll becomes a monster by drinking a chemical substance - again, something terrible and "scientific", proper to the time it was first published.

It doesn't take a degree in physics or chemistry to kmow that both the Hulk and Mr. Hyde are, from a scientific point of view, pure [redacted]. If you drink something that can alter your bone structure or expose yourself to an atom bomb's output worth of gamma rays, the expected outcome is death. Regardless, both works are enjoyed by scientists around the world - I am a scientist and Dr. Banner and the Hulk are among my favorite characters in fiction.

The bottom line is, pull whatever explanation you wish for your out-of-phase character/object from your [redacted] and never bother to explain it. Your story is only a pleasant read until you try to explain. It doesn't even have to be a scientific explanation to spoil it: Star Wars could really be improved by removing midi-chlorians from its canon.

• What do you mean, removing midichlorians would be a good move? It is the only reasonable explanation for why Jar Jar Binks suddenly reappears in SWIX and controls both the light side and the dark side at once, making him the first and only light saber dual wielder (save for that one robot way back). Aug 26, 2019 at 15:07
• @JohnDvorak I think Darth Plagueis could be developed without midi-chlorias. Still hoping to see him in Episode XIX! Aug 26, 2019 at 15:13

If you attempt to hide an object by placing it "one second out of sync" into the future, it will simply disappear for one second, and subsequently become as visible as it ever was, except one second younger. When you bring it out of hiding, by "re-syncing" it, the result will be that for a period of one second you will have it twice.

Similarly, if you attempt to hide it one second in the past, you will have two of it for a second, then one of it but one second older for a while, until you decide to reveal it, at which point it will disappear for one second.

As any Gallifreyan can tell you, if you want to effectively hide something, you have to place it somewhere further away then "one second out of sync". Like, perhaps, Brighton in November. Nobody goes to Brighton in November.

So not only is "one second out of sync" impossible, it's kind of stupid.