Friday, April 01, 2011

Special Relativity and the Law

Just had a brief conversation with a friend involving time dilation, and on a complete tangent, I came up with a couple questions that seemed interesting. If ever in the future we are able to travel at ridiculous fast speeds such that time dilation becomes a real factor, then these questions might become relevant.

For those that are unfamiliar with time dilation, it is basically an effect of traveling very fast (we're talking about speeds like one-quarter the speed of light). The effect is that those traveling at the very high speed will age slowly as compared to those that aren't.

Say I hop into a super fast space shuttle and fly away from the Earth maintaining my high velocity for a year and return back to Earth. I've aged a year, but everything/everyone on Earth would have aged much more depending how fast I was going... they might end up aging 30 years, for example.

Anyway, enough of the basic background information. Here are two legal cases that I thought would be interesting for you philosophical and lawyer types.

1) A man, 40, has worked for about 20 years, paying enough in Social Security making him eligible for Old Age Social Security benefits when he is 67. He now hops into his special spaceship that allows him to travel very fast. He ages 6 months, but the Earth has aged 27 years. He is now 67 years old based on his birthdate. Should he be allowed to collect the Social Security benefits?

2) A male high school student, 15, is pursued by his high school teacher. They wind up having a secret relationship. She is much older than him, and thus any sexual relationship between them is clearly unlawful and she would be charged with statutory rape if their secret relationship were known to authorities. They both hop in their special spaceship and they each age 3 weeks, but the world around them has aged 3 years. To the world, he is now 18 (but, clearly he's only a 15 year-old kid). Should their relationship now be considered a legal one?

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