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The American poet Delmore Schwartz once wrote: “Time is the fire in which we burn.”  We are born, we live and we die. Yet throughout history, we have been fascinated with the possibility of sidestepping time, from fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty to stasis fields and suspended animation in science fiction.

In 1971, Joseph Hafele and Richard Keating placed four atomic clocks on aeroplanes, which flew twice around the world, first eastward, then westward. They were then compared with reference atomic clocks, and found to disagree.

As the Hafele–Keating experiment proved, the rate at which time passes is circumstantial and situational. “If you are travelling at super-relativistic speeds, which are close to the speed of light, or near a black hole (and somehow not being destroyed by it) the amount of time you will experience is going to be less than the amount of time of someone else,” says Katie Mack, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University.

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Category: Science