Special relativity predicts that a twin in a high-speed rocket, as viewed by his Earth-bound brother, will have a slower-ticking clock. A precise test of this time dilation, first performed in 1938, involves observing the frequency shift—or “ticking” change—in the electronic transitions of fast-moving ions. An update of this type of experiment using lithium ions has now verified special relativity’s prediction with unprecedented accuracy—a result that provides additional constraints on quantum gravity models.

Relativistic time dilation derives from Lorentz invariance: a physical measurement should be independent of the orientation or speed of the lab’s reference frame. As fundamental as Lorentz invariance might sound, certain quantum gravity theories, such as string theory, predict its violation at a very small level. Physicists have therefore devised a whole host of Lorentz violation tests, one of which involves measuring time dilation. Continue reading Relativity is Right on Time, Again