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Have re-edited question and changed the frame slightly as the other one speaks about a specific alien-generated time bubble and I'm asking if it could really be happening as we all seem to observe this phenomenon in our lives...

I'm writing a story that starts from the general feeling we have of being time-poor and that time is speeding up - we know a year isn't as long as when we were kids - but we say for one reason or another that it's our perception that changes as we get older and the flow of time remains constant.

But what if time really is speeding up for the whole planet and it's not a question of perception? Maybe what we're feeling when we feel our lives slip by faster is a sense of something, but we can't prove it because we're all inside it, but we feel squeezed.

Can anyone help with a credible explanation - . i.e. Yes, time is running faster than it used to and it is accelerating because... perhaps our planet has entered some weird sector of spacetime? there is negative matter nearby?

What is good/believable?


marked as duplicate by Ash, Mołot, L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica, MichaelK, AngelPray Oct 16 '17 at 10:07

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    $\begingroup$ What does "time is speeding up" even mean? Time flows at exactly one second per second; I cannot for my life understand how time could speed up to flow at two seconds per second. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 16 '17 at 0:04
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    $\begingroup$ Alright did your NASA breaks special relativity? $\endgroup$ – user6760 Oct 16 '17 at 0:20
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    $\begingroup$ See my answer here for another perspective. Also, read Greg Egan’s Exhalation ! $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Oct 16 '17 at 3:14
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    $\begingroup$ It's not just "impossible", it's impossible by definition. $\endgroup$ – chrylis -on strike- Oct 16 '17 at 5:01
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    $\begingroup$ What if it was other way round? What if Living Beings slow down as they age? $\endgroup$ – AEonAX Oct 17 '17 at 10:41

I think that if time really were speeding up, we wouldn't notice. This is because we exist inside the Universe; we have no objective overview of time.

However, for the purposes of story a plausible way of measuring time is by measuring light pulses.

At the LIGO laboratory, they rely on the speed of light being a constant; they know it will travel a certain distance (through vacuum) in a specific time. If the time the light pulse takes to travel changes, then they know a gravitational wave has passed through the earth, causing spacetime itself to expand or contract.

You could use this experiment in your story - say that the light pulses take less and less time to travel. Initially the scientists think this means that space is getting smaller, and worry about a black hole. But then objective experiments show that space has remained the same size. The only conclusion is that time is speeding up.

TL;DR the speed of light appears to increase. Given that the universe is expanding, this is impossible. Thus, time is speeding up.

  • $\begingroup$ I think that would be exactly the same as the issues with nievly changing the speed of light. It’s a scaling factor between time and space. Atoms as we know them will no longer exist. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Oct 16 '17 at 3:07
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    $\begingroup$ If the speed of light changes and time changes everywhere in the universe, our perception of how fast the speed of light travels will change with that, so that we THINK it still takes the same amount of time. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Oct 16 '17 at 4:06
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    $\begingroup$ The speed of light is an arbitrary number. For historical reasons, people used to measure space-like distances in a unit called "meter", and time-like distances in a unit called "second"; but we now know that they are the same thing. The so-called speed of light is just the conversion factor between meters and seconds; the specific value, 299'792'458 meters per second, is purely arbitrary -- it was chosen so that a meter would be the length we are accustomed to. For example, 1 kilometer is 3.335'640'952 microseconds. Meters and seconds are linked exactly as inches and centimeters are linked. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 16 '17 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Doesn't matter if the number is arbitrary - the important thing is that it's a constant in vacuum - it can't change. $\endgroup$ – Tim Oct 16 '17 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ @ErinThursby - that is the point of my first statement. $\endgroup$ – Tim Oct 16 '17 at 19:26

One year for a five year old is 1/5 of their life.

One year for a fifty year old is 1/50 of their life.

This is perspective perception at work. A year seems like a shorter amount of time, and seems more quick for a 50 year-old BECAUSE it's a much smaller percentage of their life than it is for someone younger. A fruit fly lives for about 40 to 50 days. A day for them is more SIGNIFICANT than it is for us, because they have less time.

No one is going nuts.

And even if time is ACTUALLY speeding up some, children would still perceive a year as a more significant amount of time than a grown up.

So let's break some things down.

The first question we have to ask is: What is time?

You are definitely going to have to give us a definition of time. And you are definitely going to have consider PERSPECTIVE. If time was sped up for everyone everywhere in the universe, how could anyone in the universe actually measure that?

If you're just talking about the sun speeding up around the earth, as the measure, that's a different story.

If you're talking about everything on the planet aging faster than it should as a measure of time, that too is different. (Like people aging a year in a single day or somesuch).

But if the sun is going round faster, and the year is passing more quickly and people are talking faster, and aging faster, having babies faster, thinking faster, if it takes less time for the second hand on the clock to say a second has gone by, and everything else is in sync--you can understand how it would be difficult to perceive.

This is fiction, so you can reach beyond the realm of the likely. On a practical level we might not notice time speeding up if it was on a cosmic scale, but, if there is a localized effect, it could be. The solution is perhaps some kind of wave or uneven effect so it would be. So time could be passing more quickly on earth, while just a day passes in the rest of the universe--if THIS were true, if we were in a time bubble, we would be able to see that the stars aren't moving as they should be.

I think the trouble that people are running into is the universality of the question--you should make it so that earth is now running at a different time than it should IN COMPARISON to everything else--it's the sort of thing that needs a different perspective, and would not work on a universe-wide level.


We understand why time seems to speed up. It is because we have fewer mental resources to build memories. We are running out of brain as we age, and new memories compete with old. Each day is a smaller fraction of our life.

But, since time is a function of matter and gravity, yes, it can change just as gravity can change. And it is arguably just as meaningless.

But it's still useful. For us.


Space time folds are causing a double pendulum-like speed up effect

Rudimentary physics background here, so this could be just a hopeful sparking point of an idea more suited to your science based tag. It's fiction, so hopefully could be believable enough for your scenario.

Imagine the theory people like to use for time/teleportation travel where the space time itself is folded and skipping directly from one spot on the folded part to another takes you to a new time and or place.

Now imagine NOT skipping off the fold, but rather entering that end part of the fold that happens to also be at the end of a double fold acting like a double pendulum. You get out there and all of a sudden, relative to someone elsewhere on the continuum, your spot on the continuum is traveling like crazy around the bend with a whiplash effect speeding up everyone within that spot's perception of time. Perhaps there's a bulge in the space time caused by the extreme conditions right then and there where time measurements are going to get wacky, not to mention some other interesting effects on gravity patterns and things dependent on them. "They're migrating East? How bizarre. They'll never survive winter..."

  • $\begingroup$ Techno babble. .......... $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson Oct 16 '17 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Donald Hobson you can read minds? Those are the last two words I thought as I finished this up... techno babble could potentially make this idea believable to many. I don't know enough of the correct terms, but think I got the picture in my head out in words well enough $\endgroup$ – N2ition Oct 17 '17 at 2:26

As far as I understand the local time is slowing down for the traveller when travelling at near light speeds. So we could imagine circumstances at which possibly the time could be speeding up for Earth, but slowing down everywhere else, like for some reason the rest of the Universe was going near light speed and our patch somehow managed to slow down.

Otherwise, as others said, we wouldn't have a frame of reference against which to see if things are happening faster/slower.

However the implications might be unsustainable for life, insofar as we are talking science-based.

I rather think time might be somewhere inside the fine-tuning constants, whose current values are what is permitting universe to exist in its current form. If speed of light alters, for example, the universe may just collapse. Or explode. Same about speed of chemical reactions or other things.


For purpose of your story, it's sufficient for human neurons to transmit the electrical signals slower. Speed of electrical impulse differs from one material to another anyway (as does the speed of light). In your case it could be a matter of a mild virus infection that has a side effect of slightly changing neurons' (axons'?) conductivity.

Other that that, if you consider a physical theory a "map" that allows you to predict what will happen in reality (on a "territory"), then it's clear that time as a concept is firmly placed as a part of a "map" and only there. Time is not part of reality. And you cannot measure it; every instrument measures speed or distance. If a theory predicts that "time will slow down" it actually predicts that speed of objects will decrease or the distance will increase (or both, as in case of Einstein's theories). See Barbour's "The End of Time".


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