Question: Are you what is called “a woman of a certain age”?
I used to be.
All that has changed recently. Not only have I been told that 50 is the new 30, which would make me under 40, but the Max Planck Institute says I’m still in my twenties because 72 is the new 30. So, my age is no longer certain.
The research institute that declared me young bears the name of Max Planck. If you’ve watched enough Jeopardy shows, you’ll remember him from the question “Who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1918?” Max Planck received the award for his discovery of little bundles of energy, called quanta, sometimes known as grandchildren.
Thanks to Planck, we know, or should, that light is both a wave and a particle (a lump of energy) at the same time. This is easily understood by considering Superman. Depending on how or when you look at him, he is either Clark Kent, the equivalent of a mild-mannered wave wearing dark-rimmed glasses, or Superman, a bundle of super-human energy flying through space in tights.
But what does that have to do with time slowing down, so that it now takes over two of the old years to make one of the new ones?
Thank you for asking. It has something to do with Einstein, the mathematical short story writer. His most famous story, E=mc2, consists of just three letters, a symbol, and a number. A close reading of the text yields the following. A hapless thirty-year-old astronaut sent on a mission just after his first child, Herminia, is born spends thirty years traveling at very high speeds here and there in the galaxy, eating irradiated beef and freeze-dried ice cream. He returns to earth on what he believes is his daughter’s 30th birthday. When he bursts through the door of the family home, expecting to surprise Herminia, he discovers “Happy 72nd Birthday!” written on the cake. He is confused because he is only 60 and his birthday is next month. Overcome by the sight of real ice cream, he consumes a bowl before learning that the old woman at the head of the table is Herminia. Yet no matter what the calendar says, in the mind of the hapless astronaut, she is his 30-year-old daughter. Hence, the idea that 72 is the new 30.
Long ago, people my age were considered long in the tooth; now we are long in the youth because the fast pace of life is slowing time down. If I live long enough, it may take three of the old years to equal a new one. By the time I reach 90, it may be the new 30, and I’ll never be able to retire.
Caveat anagnóstis (Reader beware): My understanding of physics is limited to interpretative dances about the elusive quark. However, I have heard that as an object accelerates, its mass increases. This explains why as I move faster and faster through time, growing younger and younger, my fluffiness is also increasing – a matter that weighs heavy on me at times.
(NOTE TO READER: This is a non-science blog and is not a substitute for a college class in theoretical physics. My expertise lies primarily in theatrical physics with a focus on musicals. Any information with a resemblance to actual science is purely coincidental and rather lucky.)