Please forgive the lack of rigour in this intuition-based question:

Alice and Bob are the twins from the infamous twin experiment. Alice boards a spaceship and accelerates away from Bob, turns around half way, and comes back. Let's let Alice accelerate at precisely the rate required so that for her entire trip her perceived time is 1 day, while Bob's perceived time is 1 year (let's also assume that she has a really good inertial dampening system so that she isn't flattened by the incredible accelerations she'd have to endure).

Now, according to Alice, the day is, let's say, January 17, 2017, while according to Bob, the day is January 17, 2018. Once Alice comes back, after a slight period of adjusting her clocks, Alice agrees with Bob, doesn't she? The entire world agrees with Bob as well. So how did Alice suddenly get here? How did her timeline "accelerate" to match up with Bob's?

  • $\begingroup$ What am I missing here? Once Alice comes back To get back she has to slow down ( negative acceleration), otherwise she will hit Earth at high speed, so during that period she more and more closely matches Earth time. Have I misunderstood, I usually do :) $\endgroup$ – user140606 Jan 16 '17 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, it's probably me explaining badly. I agree that as she slows down her perception of an interval of time, say 1 second, will more and more closely match with Bob's perception of the same interval. The question is more so: once they start to agree on their perception of time, why do they also agree on what time it is? $\endgroup$ – Michael Stachowsky Jan 16 '17 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ Alice's clock does not agree with Bob's. There is no catching up. She has to reset her clock to the proper Earth time. To see this, consider Alice herself as a biological clock: if she had to catch up with Bob, then there would be no more relativistic twin "paradox": she would end up with the same age as Bob. $\endgroup$ – Stéphane Rollandin Jan 16 '17 at 21:10

The basic answer here is that then Alice is looking at Bob she will perceive his time as going slower than hers, except precisely at the point where Alice turns.

At the turn (assuming she instantly change her direction, not necessary but makes things easier) Alice is changing her frame of reference in such a way that she considers a much oder Bob to the simultaneous bob to compare to. Then when she travels back, that older Bob, now ages slower that her again an the paradox is resolved.

What Alice actually will see (as the light carrying the image of Bob reaches her in space) is that as when leaves earth, Bob is aging incredibly slowly as she is basically trying to outrun the light from earth . Then when she turn around and comes back, she will see Bob aging in an accelerated pace, as she is now meeting up with all the light that is still being emitted from Bob. This accelerated aging is so fast that bu the time Alice returns to earth, Bob will be much older that she is.


This isn't necessarily the answer to the question but possibly a Verification/Clarification of it.

A) .....................(<)(<)....................

A) .......................(<).......................


B) (<).........................................(<)

B) .......................(<).......................


C) .....................(<)(<)....................

C) .......................(<).......................

In the above example in section A, I have three clocks positioned in roughly the same area, and they are all synchronized. In section B you see that two of the clocks have moved off to the sides. In section C, you can see that the two clocks have moved back to the middle position.

So let's imagine that this continues and thus the two clocks keep moving off to the edge, then back to the middle, then off to the edge, and then back to the middle, and so forth. Now due to this ongoing back and forth motion, these two clocks shall be ticking slower than the one lower clock that remained still.

And so we could watch this phenomenon going on and on and on, but over time we would begin to see that the two upper clocks are ticking at a slower speed, and thus do not indicate that the same amount of time has passed as does the lower clock which remained stationary in our observers frame of reference.

So the point here is that despite the fact that these two clocks, which are going off and then coming back, each of them being somewhat like a twin moving off to a star and then coming back, as we watch them these clocks still remain here with us in the present time from our point of view. Meaning there's no separation in time from our point of view.

All three clocks always remain with us in the present time, or the "NOW" time.

And so the question arises, how is it that all 3 clocks managed remain constantly within the "NOW" time, even though 2 of them are moving through time at a different rate than is the remaining clock.

Is this what you are asking about ?


All along, Alice observes Bob's clock, more precisely, stationary clocks that she meets, synchronous with Bob's clock, running slower than her clocks, according to special relativity. The last stationary clock that she meets is Bob's clock so she must end up older than Bob unless... some miracle happened at the turning-around point:

http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~djmorin/chap11.pdf David Morin, Introduction to Classical Mechanics With Problems and Solutions, Chapter 11, p. 14: "Twin A stays on the earth, while twin B flies quickly to a distant star and back. [...] For the entire outward and return parts of the trip, B does observe A's clock running slow, but enough strangeness occurs during the turning-around period to make A end up older. Note, however, that a discussion of acceleration is not required to quantitatively understand the paradox..."

The contradiction is easy to see: the turning-around acceleration is both crucial (without it, twin A would not end up older) and immaterial. Here is Einstein unequivocally saying in 1918 that the turning-around acceleration ('gravitational field') is CRUCIAL - its effect is given by a mysterious 'calculation' based on general relativity:

http://sciliterature.50webs.com/Dialog.htm Albert Einstein: "A homogenous gravitational field appears, that is directed towards the positive x-axis. Clock U1 is accelerated in the direction of the positive x-axis until it has reached the velocity v, then the gravitational field disappears again. An external force, acting upon U2 in the negative direction of the x-axis prevents U2 from being set in motion by the gravitational field. [...] According to the general theory of relativity, a clock will go faster the higher the gravitational potential of the location where it is located, and during partial process 3 U2 happens to be located at a higher gravitational potential than U1. The calculation shows that this speeding ahead constitutes exactly twice as much as the lagging behind during the partial processes 2 and 4."

Today's Einsteinians almost universally reject (implicitly of course) Einstein's 1918 arguments and teach that the turning-around acceleration is IMMATERIAL.

Conclusion: The twin paradox is actually an absurdity.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.