Stop the World–It’s for Science

Most everyone has, at some point in their life, wished they could put the world on pause while they try to catch up. Sometimes they just need to get in a good night’s sleep. Sometimes they’re a month behind on paperwork. Sometimes they’re wrapped up in the middle of a dramatic incident and they just need time to think and process instead of saying the first thing that comes to mind.

Like time travel, time suspension is a secret desire of everyone, regardless of their affiliation to science fiction. Let’s take a look at time suspension–what it is, what it can be used for, how to pull it off, and what could go wrong if you do.

Freeze Time or Super Speed? are two obvious methods of time suspension. The first is to put a pause button on the world. Everyone else stops moving, and you are left to do as you please. The second method is to speed up your own processes so that you can deal with whatever you need to in the millisecond between the start and end of a blink. The idea is that if you could move fast enough, you could effectively stop time.

Of course, any time we juxtapose time and speed we start to think about gravity. As everyone knows, the closer you get to an event horizon, the slower time moves. This usually happens to lone astronauts who come back centuries later than the half hour flight they thought they were taking. But suppose it could be reversed and the entire world would suffer the effects while you yourself remained immune. Bang. Time has stopped.


GPB_circling_earthThere is another way to effectively freeze time, and that is to step out of it momentarily. In order to understand the concept of stepping out of time we have to go back to the theories of faster-than-light travel. Space and time are connected. Space-time is like fabric. Sometimes you can jump from one point to another through a wrinkle, or wormhole. But other FTL enthusiasts hypothesize that something lies outside of the universe as we know it; a little piece of reality known as hyperspace.

Hyperspace doesn’t exist within space-time. Hyperspace is a place where the rules do not apply. Given that time only exists within the space-time fabric, presumably it does not exist in hyperspace. If we could find a way to jump from our reality into hyperspace we could just stay there as long as we like, jumping back into space-time whenever we felt ready to resume that fight with our boss.


xkcdNarnia_6150Of course, as long as we’re talking about stepping outside of time, parallel universes must be addressed. Presumably there are world that run on different times than hours. This is most commonly found in fantasy, but it can exist in science fiction as well. Remember the black hole example above? If you lived on a world that was close to an event horizon, time would run much slower than the rest of the world. You could spend years visiting a planet somewhere else in the universe and return home to find that only hours had passed.

Of course, once you get into parallel universes you’re firmly back into the realm of time travel. And if you can travel through time, stopping it is a piece of cake.

Freeze Ray

horrible_002It can be a very daunting prospect trying to freeze the entire world. Easier by far is simply freezing an individual. This is called stasis, and it’s very underrated. Instead of stopping the world while you try to come up with a cutting reply to an insulting stranger, why not freeze the stranger instead? He’ll never know the difference, and when he’s late to work the next morning because his watch is off revenge will have been that much more sweeter.

Bonus material, here’s a real life time-freeze event, courtesy of Improve Everywhere. What method would you use to stop time?

Katie Lynn Daniels is the author of Supervillain of the Day, and the mastermind behind Vaguely Circular. She blogs about science and things that are peripherally related to science. You can read all her posts here.

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