I was told by my Physics instructor that there is such a thing as negative time. Is that true, or was he just pulling my leg?
Asked by: Eric Anderson
Physics teachers never pull the legs of their students. Most especially this one and I am sure
yours never has either. In fact we have to take an oath which says that we promise, for the whole
of our teaching career to never ever pull the legs of our students. Gosh, if we ever pulled a
students' leg we could lose our Physics License.
So, yes, there is such a thing a negative time. Think about the launch of the Shuttle. You will
hear the announcer saying 'T minus three minutes to launch.' This means exactly what it sounds
like: minus time! Now, what does negative time mean? Simply this: the time before you are
actually measuring the time for the experiment or the measurement. For example, if your class was
doing an experiment where you had to collect data on how fast a ball rolled down a ramp you might
want to give your timekeeper some notice before you start the ball rolling so that she will be able
to start the clock at exactly the same time you roll the ball. So, you might say, 'Three, two,
one, now!' Well, this is negative time.
I hope this answer helps. And remember, Physics Teachers never pull the legs of their students!
Answered by: Tom Young, M.S., Science Teacher, Whitehouse High School, Texas
'Our job in physics is to see things simply, to understand a great many complicated phenomena, in terms of a few simple principles.'