There are never enough hours in the day to do all of the things we want to do. Jonathon Keats, a conceptual artist, designed a city that would give residents as much time as they needed — by taking advantage of Einstein’s theory of Relativity.
The theory states that if you move really fast, or are near any massive object, including the Earth, time slows down for you relative to the rest of the universe. At 60 mph, for example, each second lasts an extra 3.8 femtoseconds, or a millionths of a billionth of a second, as measured by an outside observer. A clock on a GPS satellite in orbit moves faster than one on the surface of the planet — enough so that GPS systems have to take it into account to keep the errors from adding up.
Keats is exhibiting two ideas at the Modernism Gallery in San Francisco that capitalize on this theory. One exhibit demonstrates a way to manage time by building whole cities as rings that spin at high speeds. In this vision, residential, agriculture and industrial areas would each be in a spinning wheel. The wheels would have different rates of spin, with the fastest being in the residential area. Agriculture and industry would spin slower. From the perspective of the residents, crops would grow much faster, and manufacturing would too. It’s also possible to apply this idea to individual homes: spin your house at 90 percent of the speed of light and your bank interest will grow twice as fast — at least from your point of view.
The other exhibit slows time by using gravity itself. In this case, bricks of high-density metal warp space in their vicinity, slowing time down — although the amount is small, about a second every billion years. “Time management gurus are always talking about saving time,” he told DNews. “But if you really want to make a difference you have to deal with the physics,” rather than the psychology of personal habits.
None of this is possible yet — a ring 20 miles across spinning at half the speed of light would generate a centripetal force 141 billion times the force of gravity. Standing on the inside of it would be difficult.
Since you can’t build a spinning city, Keats came up with the ingots — a desktop version of time-dilation technology. “Any technology becomes mass-market when it reaches the desktop,” he said. The ingots, like everything else, generate their own gravitational fields, which is why they slow time down. Keats calls it time micromanagement, though it might be better termed nano-management since the time dilation is measured in billionths of a billionth of a second.
Keats has used science in his art before, notably a quantum bank, and this is another project in which he wants people to think about how we perceive time and physical laws. “It’s just kind of allowing the possibility of grappling with, and interacting with, forces and phenomena that are part of our lives,” he said. “Trying to make manifest things that are all around us but that we cant directly experience.”
Credit: Jonathon Keats