If we spent our lives on Everest, would we live longer or shorter than at sea level?

Being held down for so long must have some effect on the body. Anyone who has ever fallen will have noticed this physical property which is essential to the functioning of the planetary systems and in particular to life on Earth.

In fact, it was an apple that put Isaac Newton in context in the late 16th century, and since then our understanding of physics has evolved to unprecedented levels. The other big step that revolutionized our understanding of gravity and the mysterious mechanisms that govern the universe is Einstein’s general theory of relativity, according to which time is not a uniform measure of duration, but there are areas where it goes faster or slower.

The closer an object is to Earth, the stronger the gravitational pull with which it is attracted. Since this force distorts space and time, things will go differently if we are at a higher altitude, where gravity is less. Does this mean that if we could be less dependent on it, i.e. live at altitude, we would live much longer? If we spent our entire lives in a spaceship or on a very high mountain, would we age faster than those who live at sea level?

“Everything with mass affects space-time, distorts it. The effect is real and measurable, but insignificant. »

These are all questions answered by James Chin-wen Chou, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in an interview with Live Science in an article dedicated to this scientific curiosity. ” Gravity causes us to age more slowly, relatively speaking“, he declared. Even if the differences are small, that doesn’t mean they exist. ” If you sit for 30 years on top of Mount Everest, which is 8,848 meters above sea level, you will be 0.91 milliseconds older than if you had spent the same 30 years at sea level. »

A “carpet” of space and time

The explanation revolves around how much mass a body or object has and how far away we are from it. James Chin-wen Chou uses the metaphor of a tapestry to illustrate the function of space-time, which is constructed in four dimensions from three spatial coordinates (up or down, right or left, front or back) and d’ a time coordinate (past or future). In this sense, gravity acts as a distortion of the same tapestry where space and time are folded into one.

“The most significant effect is on GPS accuracy as they travel at high speed and very far from Earth.”

Everything with mass affects spacetimeExplains Andrew Norton, British professor of astrophysics, in the scientific journal. ” At the periphery of a large-mass object, spacetime is distorted, producing time dilation and space curvature. The effect is real and measurable, but insignificant in everyday situations“. So we don’t have to worry too much if we live at high altitudes and are afraid of the passage of time.

But when it’s not humans but machines involved, this effect, known as gravitational time dilation, has effects that are not so insignificant. Take, for example, the GPS satellites, which orbit the globe at an altitude of about 20,186 kilometers. In their case, atomic clocks must be constantly adjusted because they run 45.7 microseconds faster over a 24-hour period than those on Earth. ” Perhaps the most significant effect of relativity on the passage of time is the accuracy of GPS, as these satellites travel at high speeds and very far from Earth.”, added James Chin-wen Chou.

Until now, no human has thought of seeking refuge on the sea floor to outlive his peers. Gravity hardly interferes with our oxidative wear due to the passage of time, but it is true that it is very curious when we trip and bump into each other, it is so quick to land on the ground. This is one of the most common ways to feel gravity. And the closer it is to the earth, the younger it is. But in the end we are all mortal.

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