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Time dilation

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Time dilation refers to a phenomenon retated to special and general relativity. In special relativity, the time rate of an observer's reference is different from a reference point. This would enable a fast-moving clock to travel into the future while aging very little. In general relativity, differences in gravity between locations can cause time to flow at different rates.


On the island

4x03 Clock1
Clock 1 showing 02:45:03

In "The Economist", Daniel performs an experiment using two synchronized clocks, one on a rocket from the freighter and the other attached to a beacon on the island. The rocket is fired from the ship and homes in on the beacon. Approximately 30 seconds passes in freighter time before Regina sees the rocket at the target. The rocket does not arrive on the Island for 31 minutes. Time appears to pass slower on the Island than in the rest of the world. The satellite phone conversation, however, was not affected by this phenomenon.

4x03 Clock2
Clock 2 showing 03:16:23

When Desmond, Sayid, and Frank leave the island via helicopter, those left on the island call the freighter the following day who say that the helicopter has not arrived. This is unusual because it should have taken less than an hour to reach the freighter ("Eggtown"). However, seen from the viewpoint of those aboard the helicopter, it seems to take only a short time to reach the freighter ("The Constant"), a phenomenon that would later influence Ray's corpse, which arrived on the Island two days prior to Ray's death. ("The Shape of Things to Come")  ("Cabin Fever")

Types of time dilation

Gravitational time dilation

Gravitational time dilation allows time to pass at different rates in regions of different gravitational potential. The higher the local distortion of space-time by gravity, the slower that time will pass. Time diation due to gravity effects would allow for two objects to stay at a constant distance from each other, but would require the people near the slower-running clocks to be close to something with enough mass to generate such a gravity field. This form of dialation would also allow for real-time communications between the two regions of different time in that the electromagnetic waves are not affected by gravity.

Motion/acceleration based time dilation

In special relativity, a clock that is moving with respect to an inertial observer will be measured as running slower. The requirement for this form of time dilation is that the two clocks must be motion relative to each other. Patterns of motion are possible in free space where the relative distance between the clocks would not increase but the clocks would always be in motion relative to each other.

See also

  • Time, the general theme pertaining to the show
  • Timeline, specific dates of events referenced on the show
  • Time on the island (theory), a speculative theory about how time distortion may be working on the island

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