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Unlike the analogies used to explain events, such as firecrackers or lightning bolts, mathematical events have zero duration and represent a single point in spacetime. The path of a particle through spacetime can be considered to be a succession of events. The series of events can be linked together to form a line which represents a particle's progress through spacetime. That line is called the particle's world line.

Mathematically, spacetime is a manifold , which is to say, it appears locally "flat" near each point in the same way that, at small enough scales, a globe appears flat. The magnitude of this scale factor nearly , kilometres or , miles in space being equivalent to one second in time , along with the fact that spacetime is a manifold, implies that at ordinary, non-relativistic speeds and at ordinary, human-scale distances, there is little that humans might observe which is noticeably different from what they might observe if the world were Euclidean.

It was only with the advent of sensitive scientific measurements in the mids, such as the Fizeau experiment and the Michelson—Morley experiment , that puzzling discrepancies began to be noted between observation versus predictions based on the implicit assumption of Euclidean space. In special relativity, an observer will, in most cases, mean a frame of reference from which a set of objects or events are being measured. This usage differs significantly from the ordinary English meaning of the term. Reference frames are inherently nonlocal constructs, and according to this usage of the term, it does not make sense to speak of an observer as having a location.

In Fig. Any specific location within the lattice is not important. The latticework of clocks is used to determine the time and position of events taking place within the whole frame. The term observer refers to the entire ensemble of clocks associated with one inertial frame of reference. A real observer, however, will see a delay between the emission of a signal and its detection due to the speed of light.

To synchronize the clocks, in the data reduction following an experiment, the time when a signal is received will be corrected to reflect its actual time were it to have been recorded by an idealized lattice of clocks. In many books on special relativity, especially older ones, the word "observer" is used in the more ordinary sense of the word.

It is usually clear from context which meaning has been adopted. Physicists distinguish between what one measures or observes after one has factored out signal propagation delays , versus what one visually sees without such corrections. By the mids, various experiments such as the observation of the Arago spot a bright point at the center of a circular object's shadow due to diffraction and differential measurements of the speed of light in air versus water were considered to have proven the wave nature of light as opposed to a corpuscular theory.

For example, the Fizeau experiment of demonstrated that the speed of light in flowing water was less than the sum of the speed of light in air plus the speed of the water by an amount dependent on the water's index of refraction. Among other issues, the dependence of the partial aether-dragging implied by this experiment on the index of refraction which is dependent on wavelength led to the unpalatable conclusion that aether simultaneously flows at different speeds for different colors of light.

George Francis FitzGerald in and Hendrik Lorentz in independently proposed that material bodies traveling through the fixed aether were physically affected by their passage, contracting in the direction of motion by an amount that was exactly what was necessary to explain the negative results of the Michelson-Morley experiment. No length changes occur in directions transverse to the direction of motion. By , Lorentz had expanded his theory such that he had arrived at equations formally identical with those that Einstein were to derive later i.

As a theory of dynamics the study of forces and torques and their effect on motion , his theory assumed actual physical deformations of the physical constituents of matter. However, Lorentz considered local time to be only an auxiliary mathematical tool, a trick as it were, to simplify the transformation from one system into another.

Other physicists and mathematicians at the turn of the century came close to arriving at what is currently known as spacetime. Einstein himself noted, that with so many people unraveling separate pieces of the puzzle, "the special theory of relativity, if we regard its development in retrospect, was ripe for discovery in While discussing various hypotheses on Lorentz invariant gravitation, he introduced the innovative concept of a 4-dimensional space-time by defining various four vectors , namely four-position , four-velocity , and four-force.

In , Einstein introduced special relativity even though without using the techniques of the spacetime formalism in its modern understanding as a theory of space and time.

Time, Space, and Love

He obtained all of his results by recognizing that the entire theory can be built upon two postulates: The principle of relativity and the principle of the constancy of light speed. Einstein performed his analysis in terms of kinematics the study of moving bodies without reference to forces rather than dynamics. His seminal work introducing the subject was filled with vivid imagery involving the exchange of light signals between clocks in motion, careful measurements of the lengths of moving rods, and other such examples.

In addition, Einstein in superseded previous attempts of an electromagnetic mass -energy relation by introducing the general equivalence of mass and energy , which was instrumental for his subsequent formulation of the equivalence principle in , which declares the equivalence of inertial and gravitational mass.

By using the mass-energy equivalence, Einstein showed, in addition, that the gravitational mass of a body is proportional to its energy content, which was one of early results in developing general relativity. While it would appear that he did not at first think geometrically about spacetime, [20] : in the further development of general relativity Einstein fully incorporated the spacetime formalism. When Einstein published in , another of his competitors, his former mathematics professor Hermann Minkowski , had also arrived at most of the basic elements of special relativity. Nor is it clear if he ever fully appreciated Einstein's critical contribution to the understanding of the Lorentz transformations, thinking of Einstein's work as being an extension of Lorentz's work.

The opening words of Space and Time include Minkowski's famous statement that "Henceforth, space for itself, and time for itself shall completely reduce to a mere shadow, and only some sort of union of the two shall preserve independence. The spacetime concept and the Lorentz group are closely connected to certain types of sphere , hyperbolic , or conformal geometries and their transformation groups already developed in the 19th century, in which invariant intervals analogous to the spacetime interval are used.

However, in order to complete his search for general relativity that started in , the geometric interpretation of relativity proved to be vital, and in , Einstein fully acknowledged his indebtedness to Minkowski, whose interpretation greatly facilitated the transition to general relativity.

Goodbye to NASA's Opportunity Rover, a Machine We Loved That Could Never Love Us Back

Although two viewers may measure the x,y, and z position of the two points using different coordinate systems, the distance between the points will be the same for both assuming that they are measuring using the same units. The distance is "invariant". In special relativity, however, the distance between two points is no longer the same if measured by two different observers when one of the observers is moving, because of Lorentz contraction.

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The situation is even more complicated if the two points are separated in time as well as in space. For example, if one observer sees two events occur at the same place, but at different times, a person moving with respect to the first observer will see the two events occurring at different places, because from their point of view they are stationary, and the position of the event is receding or approaching. Thus, a different measure must be used to measure the effective "distance" between two events.

In four-dimensional spacetime, the analog to distance is the interval. Although time comes in as a fourth dimension, it is treated differently than the spatial dimensions. Minkowski space hence differs in important respects from four-dimensional Euclidean space. The fundamental reason for merging space and time into spacetime is that space and time are separately not invariant, which is to say that, under the proper conditions, different observers will disagree on the length of time between two events because of time dilation or the distance between the two events because of length contraction.

But special relativity provides a new invariant, called the spacetime interval , which combines distances in space and in time. All observers who measure time and distance carefully will find the same spacetime interval between any two events. We are always concerned with differences of spatial or temporal coordinate values belonging to two events, and since there is no preferred origin, single coordinate values have no essential meaning. The reason is that unlike distances in Euclidean geometry, intervals in Minkowski spacetime can be negative. Because of the minus sign, the spacetime interval between two distinct events can be zero.

In other words, the spacetime interval between two events on the world line of something moving at the speed of light is zero. Such an interval is termed lightlike or null. A photon arriving in our eye from a distant star will not have aged, despite having from our perspective spent years in its passage. A spacetime diagram is typically drawn with only a single space and a single time coordinate. In addition, C illustrates the world line of a slower-than-light-speed object. In other words, every meter that a photon travels to the left or right requires approximately 3. A minor variation is to place the time coordinate last rather than first.

Both conventions are widely used within the field of study. To gain insight in how spacetime coordinates measured by observers in different reference frames compare with each other, it is useful to work with a simplified setup with frames in a standard configuration. With care, this allows simplification of the math with no loss of generality in the conclusions that are reached. The same events P, Q, R are plotted in Fig. While the rest frame has space and time axes that meet at right angles, the moving frame is drawn with axes that meet at an acute angle. The frames are actually equivalent.

The asymmetry is due to unavoidable distortions in how spacetime coordinates can map onto a Cartesian plane , and should be considered no stranger than the manner in which, on a Mercator projection of the Earth, the relative sizes of land masses near the poles Greenland and Antarctica are highly exaggerated relative to land masses near the Equator. A light double cone divides spacetime into separate regions with respect to its apex. Likewise, the timelike past comprises the interior events of the past light cone.

Because of the invariance of the spacetime interval, all observers will assign the same light cone to any given event, and thus will agree on this division of spacetime. The light cone has an essential role within the concept of causality. The future light cone contains all the events that could be causally influenced by O.

Likewise, it is possible for a not-faster-than-light-speed signal to travel from the position and time of A, to the position and time of O. The past light cone contains all the events that could have a causal influence on O. In contrast, assuming that signals cannot travel faster than the speed of light, any event, like e. All observers will agree that for any given event, an event within the given event's future light cone occurs after the given event.

Likewise, for any given event, an event within the given event's past light cone occurs before the given event.

The before-after relationship observed for timelike-separated events remains unchanged no matter what the reference frame of the observer, i. The situation is quite different for spacelike-separated events. From a different reference frame, the orderings of these non-causally-related events can be reversed. In particular, one notes that if two events are simultaneous in a particular reference frame, they are necessarily separated by a spacelike interval and thus are noncausally related.

The observation that simultaneity is not absolute, but depends on the observer's reference frame, is termed the relativity of simultaneity. The events in spacetime are invariant, but the coordinate frames transform as discussed above for Fig.

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The white line represents a plane of simultaneity being moved from the past of the observer to the future of the observer, highlighting events residing on it. The gray area is the light cone of the observer, which remains invariant. A spacelike spacetime interval gives the same distance that an observer would measure if the events being measured were simultaneous to the observer. A spacelike spacetime interval hence provides a measure of proper distance , i. In Euclidean space having spatial dimensions only , the set of points equidistant using the Euclidean metric from some point form a circle in two dimensions or a sphere in three dimensions.

These equations describe two families of hyperbolae in an x — ct spacetime diagram, which are termed invariant hyperbolae. Each timelike interval generates a hyperboloid of one sheet, while each spacelike interval generates a hyperboloid of two sheets. Note on nomenclature: The magenta hyperbolae, which cross the x axis, are termed timelike in contrast to spacelike hyperbolae because all "distances" to the origin along the hyperbola are timelike intervals.

Different world lines represent clocks moving at different speeds. A clock that is stationary with respect to the observer has a world line that is vertical, and the elapsed time measured by the observer is the same as the proper time. For a clock traveling at 0. This illustrates the phenomenon known as time dilation. Clocks that travel faster take longer in the observer frame to tick out the same amount of proper time, and they travel further along the x—axis than they would have without time dilation. Length contraction , like time dilation, is a manifestation of the relativity of simultaneity.

Measurement of length requires measurement of the spacetime interval between two events that are simultaneous in one's frame of reference. But events that are simultaneous in one frame of reference are, in general, not simultaneous in other frames of reference. The edges of the blue band represent the world lines of the rod's two endpoints. But to an observer in frame S, events O and B are not simultaneous. To measure length, the observer in frame S measures the endpoints of the rod as projected onto the x -axis along their world lines. The projection of the rod's world sheet onto the x axis yields the foreshortened length OC.

In the same way that each observer measures the other's clocks as running slow, each observer measures the other's rulers as being contracted. Mutual time dilation and length contraction tend to strike beginners as inherently self-contradictory concepts.

Spacetime - Wikipedia

How two clocks can run both slower than the other, is an important question that "goes to the heart of understanding special relativity. Basically, this apparent contradiction stems from not correctly taking into account the different settings of the necessary, related measurements.

These settings allow for a consistent explanation of the only apparent contradiction. It is not about the abstract ticking of two identical clocks, but about how to measure in one frame the temporal distance of two ticks of a moving clock. It turns out that in mutually observing the duration between ticks of clocks, each moving in the respective frame, different sets of clocks must be involved.

In order to measure in frame S the tick duration of a moving clock W' at rest in S' , one uses two additional, synchronized clocks W 1 and W 2 at rest in two arbitrarily fixed points in S with the spatial distance d. Two events can be defined by the condition "two clocks are simultaneously at one place", i.

For both events the two readings of the collocated clocks are recorded. The difference of the two readings of W 1 and W 2 is the temporal distance of the two events in S, and their spatial distance is d. The difference of the two readings of W' is the temporal distance of the two events in S'. Note that in S' these events are only separated in time, they happen at the same place in S'. Because of the invariance of the spacetime interval spanned by these two events, and the nonzero spatial separation d in S, the temporal distance in S' must be smaller than the one in S: the smaller temporal distance between the two events, resulting from the readings of the moving clock W', belongs to the slower running clock W'.

Conversely, for judging in frame S' the temporal distance of two events on a moving clock W at rest in S , one needs two clocks at rest in S'. In this comparison the clock W is moving by with velocity - v. Recording again the four readings for the events, defined by "two clocks simultaneously at one place", results in the analogous temporal distances of the two events, now temporally and spatially separated in S', and only temporally separated but collocated in S.

To keep the spacetime interval invariant, the temporal distance in S must be smaller than in S', because of the spatial separation of the events in S': now clock W is observed to run slower. Obviously, the necessary recordings for the two judgements, with "one moving clock" and "two clocks at rest" in respectively S or S', involves two different sets, each with three clocks. Since there are different sets of clocks involved in the measurements, there is no inherent necessity that the measurements be reciprocally "consistent" such that, if one observer measures the moving clock to be slow, the other observer measures the one's clock to be fast.

Obviously, for this event the readings on both clocks in both comparisons are zero. In the upper picture the ct -coordinate A t of the event A the reading of W 2 is labeled B , thus giving the elapsed time between the two events, measured with W 1 and W 2 , as OB. For a comparison, the length of the time interval OA , measured with W', must be transformed to the scale of the ct -axis. This is done by the invariant hyperbola see also Fig. This shows that the time interval OD is longer than OA , again, the "moving" clock, now W, runs slower.

In the lower picture the frame S is moving with velocity - v in the frame S' at rest. Please note the importance of the word "measure". In classical physics an observer cannot affect an observed object, but the objects state of motion can affect the observer's observations of the object. Many introductions to special relativity illustrate the differences between Galilean relativity and special relativity by posing a series of "paradoxes".

These paradoxes are, in fact, ill-posed problems, resulting from our unfamiliarity with velocities comparable to the speed of light. The remedy is to solve many problems in special relativity and to become familiar with its so-called counter-intuitive predictions. The geometrical approach to studying spacetime is considered one of the best methods for developing a modern intuition. The twin paradox is a thought experiment involving identical twins, one of whom makes a journey into space in a high-speed rocket, returning home to find that the twin who remained on Earth has aged more.

This result appears puzzling because each twin observes the other twin as moving, and so at first glance, it would appear that each should find the other to have aged less. The twin paradox sidesteps the justification for mutual time dilation presented above by avoiding the requirement for a third clock.

The impression that a paradox exists stems from a misunderstanding of what special relativity states. Special relativity does not declare all frames of reference to be equivalent, only inertial frames. The traveling twin's frame is not inertial during periods when she is accelerating. Furthermore, the difference between the twins is observationally detectable: the traveling twin needs to fire her rockets to be able to return home, while the stay-at-home twin does not.

Deeper analysis is needed before we can understand why these distinctions should result in a difference in the twins' ages. Consider the spacetime diagram of Fig. This presents the simple case of a twin going straight out along the x axis and immediately turning back. From the standpoint of the stay-at-home twin, there is nothing puzzling about the twin paradox at all.

The proper time measured along the traveling twin's world line from O to C, plus the proper time measured from C to B, is less than the stay-at-home twin's proper time measured from O to A to B. More complex trajectories require integrating the proper time between the respective events along the curve i. For the rest of this discussion, we adopt Weiss's nomenclature, designating the stay-at-home twin as Terence and the traveling twin as Stella. We had previously noted that Stella is not in an inertial frame. Given this fact, it is sometimes stated that full resolution of the twin paradox requires general relativity.

This is not true. A pure SR analysis would be as follows: Analyzed in Stella's rest frame, she is motionless for the entire trip. When she fires her rockets for the turnaround, she experiences a pseudo force which resembles a gravitational force.

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Terence, in turn, would observe a set of horizontal lines of simultaneity. Throughout both the outbound and the inbound legs of Stella's journey, she measures Terence's clocks as running slower than her own. But during the turnaround i. Therefore, at the end of her trip, Stella finds that Terence has aged more than she has.

Although general relativity is not required to analyze the twin paradox, application of the Equivalence Principle of general relativity does provide some additional insight into the subject. We had previously noted that Stella is not stationary in an inertial frame. Analyzed in Stella's rest frame, she is motionless for the entire trip. When she is coasting her rest frame is inertial, and Terence's clock will appear to run slow. But when she fires her rockets for the turnaround, her rest frame is an accelerated frame and she experiences a force which is pushing her as if she were in a gravitational field.

Terence will appear to be high up in that field and because of gravitational time dilation , his clock will appear to run fast, so much so that the net result will be that Terence has aged more than Stella when they are back together. Any theory of gravity will predict gravitational time dilation if it respects the principle of equivalence, including Newton's theory. This introductory section has focused on the spacetime of special relativity, since it is the easiest to describe.

Minkowski spacetime is flat, takes no account of gravity, is uniform throughout, and serves as nothing more than a static background for the events that take place in it. The presence of gravity greatly complicates the description of spacetime. In general relativity, spacetime is no longer a static background, but actively interacts with the physical systems that it contains.

Spacetime curves in the presence of matter, can propagate waves, bends light, and exhibits a host of other phenomena. A basic goal is to be able to compare measurements made by observers in relative motion. Say we have an observer O in frame S who has measured the time and space coordinates of an event, assigning this event three Cartesian coordinates and the time as measured on his lattice of synchronized clocks x , y , z , t see Fig. Within the train, a passenger shoots a bullet with a speed of 0. The blue arrow illustrates that a person standing on the train tracks measures the bullet as traveling at 0.

This is in accordance with our naive expectations. What is its velocity u with respect to frame S? The composition of velocities is quite different in relativistic spacetime. To reduce the complexity of the equations slightly, we introduce a common shorthand for the ratio of the speed of an object relative to light,. What is the composite velocity u of the bullet relative to the platform, as represented by the blue arrow? Referring to Fig. The relativistic formula for addition of velocities presented above exhibits several important features:.

We had previously discussed, in qualitative terms, time dilation and length contraction. It is straightforward to obtain quantitative expressions for these effects. Next, we note that for any v greater than zero, the Lorentz factor will be greater than one, although the shape of the curve is such that for low speeds, the Lorentz factor is extremely close to one. The Galilean transformations and their consequent commonsense law of addition of velocities work well in our ordinary low-speed world of planes, cars and balls.

Beginning in the mids, however, sensitive scientific instrumentation began finding anomalies that did not fit well with the ordinary addition of velocities. To transform the coordinates of an event from one frame to another in special relativity, we use the Lorentz transformations. We are, in general, always concerned with the space and time differences between events.

Note on nomenclature: Calling one set of transformations the normal Lorentz transformations and the other the inverse transformations is misleading, since there is no intrinsic difference between the frames. Different authors call one or the other set of transformations the "inverse" set. Example: Terence and Stella are at an Earth-to-Mars space race. Terence is an official at the starting line, while Stella is a participant.

The distance from Earth to Mars is light-seconds about There have been many dozens of derivations of the Lorentz transformations since Einstein's original work in , each with its particular focus. Although Einstein's derivation was based on the invariance of the speed of light, there are other physical principles that may serve as starting points. Ultimately, these alternative starting points can be considered different expressions of the underlying principle of locality , which states that the influence that one particle exerts on another can not be transmitted instantaneously.

The derivation given here and illustrated in Fig. Or the other way around, of course. The Lorentz transformations have a mathematical property called linearity, since x ' and t ' are obtained as linear combinations of x and t , with no higher powers involved. The linearity of the transformation reflects a fundamental property of spacetime that we tacitly assumed while performing the derivation, namely, that the properties of inertial frames of reference are independent of location and time. In the absence of gravity, spacetime looks the same everywhere.

Another observer's conventions will do just as well. A result of linearity is that if two Lorentz transformations are applied sequentially, the result is also a Lorentz transformation. Example: Terence observes Stella speeding away from him at 0. Stella, in her frame, observes Ursula traveling away from her at 0. The Doppler effect is the change in frequency or wavelength of a wave for a receiver and source in relative motion. We are ignoring scenarios where they move along intermediate angles. The classical Doppler analysis deals with waves that are propagating in a medium, such as sound waves or water ripples, and which are transmitted between sources and receivers that are moving towards or away from each other.

The analysis of such waves depends on whether the source, the receiver, or both are moving relative to the medium. Light, unlike sound or water ripples, does not propagate through a medium, and there is no distinction between a source moving away from the receiver or a receiver moving away from the source.

Hence, the relativistic Doppler effect is given by [34] : 58— Suppose that a source and a receiver, both approaching each other in uniform inertial motion along non-intersecting lines, are at their closest approach to each other. It would appear that the classical analysis predicts that the receiver detects no Doppler shift. Due to subtleties in the analysis, that expectation is not necessarily true. Nevertheless, when appropriately defined, transverse Doppler shift is a relativistic effect that has no classical analog. The subtleties are these: [38] : — In scenario a , the point of closest approach is frame-independent and represents the moment where there is no change in distance versus time i.

The source observes the receiver as being illuminated by light of frequency f ' , but also observes the receiver as having a time-dilated clock. In scenario b the illustration shows the receiver being illuminated by light from when the source was closest to the receiver, even though the source has moved on.

Scenarios c and d can be analyzed by simple time dilation arguments. The only seeming complication is that the orbiting objects are in accelerated motion. However, if an inertial observer looks at an accelerating clock, only the clock's instantaneous speed is important when computing time dilation. The converse, however, is not true. In classical mechanics, the state of motion of a particle is characterized by its mass and its velocity. It is a conserved quantity, meaning that if a closed system is not affected by external forces, its total linear momentum cannot change. In relativistic mechanics, the momentum vector is extended to four dimensions.

In exploring the properties of the spacetime momentum, we start, in Fig. In the rest frame, the spatial component of the momentum is zero, i. It is apparent that the space and time components of the four-momentum go to infinity as the velocity of the moving frame approaches c. We will use this information shortly to obtain an expression for the four-momentum. Light particles, or photons, travel at the speed of c , the constant that is conventionally known as the speed of light.

This statement is not a tautology, since many modern formulations of relativity do not start with constant speed of light as a postulate. Photons therefore propagate along a light-like world line and, in appropriate units, have equal space and time components for every observer. Photons travel at the speed of light, yet have finite momentum and energy. This result can be derived by inspection of Fig.

Consideration of the interrelationships between the various components of the relativistic momentum vector led Einstein to several famous conclusions. The second term is just an expression for the kinetic energy of the particle. Mass indeed appears to be another form of energy. The concept of relativistic mass that Einstein introduced in , m rel , although amply validated every day in particle accelerators around the globe or indeed in any instrumentation whose use depends on high velocity particles, such as electron microscopes, [39] old-fashioned color television sets, etc.

Relativistic mass, for instance, plays no role in general relativity. For this reason, as well as for pedagogical concerns, most physicists currently prefer a different terminology when referring to the relationship between mass and energy. The term "mass" by itself refers to the rest mass or invariant mass , and is equal to the invariant length of the relativistic momentum vector.

Expressed as a formula,. This formula applies to all particles, massless as well as massive. Using an uppercase P to represent the four-momentum and a lowercase p to denote the spatial momentum, the four-momentum may be written as. In physics, conservation laws state that certain particular measurable properties of an isolated physical system do not change as the system evolves over time.

In , Emmy Noether discovered that underlying each conservation law is a fundamental symmetry of nature. In this section, we examine the Newtonian views of conservation of mass, momentum and energy from a relativistic perspective. To understand how the Newtonian view of conservation of momentum needs to be modified in a relativistic context, we examine the problem of two colliding bodies limited to a single dimension. In Newtonian mechanics, two extreme cases of this problem may be distinguished yielding mathematics of minimum complexity:.

For both cases 1 and 2 , momentum, mass, and total energy are conserved. However, kinetic energy is not conserved in cases of inelastic collision. A certain fraction of the initial kinetic energy is converted to heat. The four-momentum is, as expected, a conserved quantity. However, the invariant mass of the fused particle, given by the point where the invariant hyperbola of the total momentum intersects the energy axis, is not equal to the sum of the invariant masses of the individual particles that collided. Looking at the events of this scenario in reverse sequence, we see that non-conservation of mass is a common occurrence: when an unstable elementary particle spontaneously decays into two lighter particles, total energy is conserved, but the mass is not.

Part of the mass is converted into kinetic energy. The freedom to choose any frame in which to perform an analysis allows us to pick one which may be particularly convenient. For analysis of momentum and energy problems, the most convenient frame is usually the " center-of-momentum frame " also called the zero-momentum frame, or COM frame. This is the frame in which the space component of the system's total momentum is zero. In the lab frame, the daughter particles are preferentially emitted in a direction oriented along the original particle's trajectory.

In the COM frame, however, the two daughter particles are emitted in opposite directions, although their masses and the magnitude of their velocities are generally not the same. In a Newtonian analysis of interacting particles, transformation between frames is simple because all that is necessary is to apply the Galilean transformation to all velocities.

If the total momentum of an interacting system of particles is observed to be conserved in one frame, it will likewise be observed to be conserved in any other frame. In the simplified, one-dimensional scenarios that we have been considering, only one additional constraint is necessary before the outgoing momenta of the particles can be determined—an energy condition. In the one-dimensional case of a completely elastic collision with no loss of kinetic energy, the outgoing velocities of the rebounding particles in the COM frame will be precisely equal and opposite to their incoming velocities.

In the case of a completely inelastic collision with total loss of kinetic energy, the outgoing velocities of the rebounding particles will be zero. Einstein was faced with either having to give up conservation of momentum, or to change the definition of momentum. As we have discussed in the previous section on four-momentum , this second option was what he chose. The relativistic conservation law for energy and momentum replaces the three classical conservation laws for energy, momentum and mass.

Mass is no longer conserved independently, because it has been subsumed into the total relativistic energy. This makes the relativistic conservation of energy a simpler concept than in nonrelativistic mechanics, because the total energy is conserved without any qualifications. Kinetic energy converted into heat or internal potential energy shows up as an increase in mass. A charged pion is a particle of mass It is unstable, and decays into a muon of mass The difference between the pion mass and the muon mass is Because of its negligible mass, a neutrino travels at very nearly the speed of light.

To conserve momentum, the muon has the same value of the space component of the neutrino's momentum, but in the opposite direction. Algebraic analyses of the energetics of this decay reaction are available online, [42] so Fig. The energy of the neutrino is Most of the energy is carried off by the near-zero-mass neutrino. The topics in this section are of significantly greater technical difficulty than those in the preceding sections and are not essential for understanding Introduction to curved spacetime.

Lorentz transformations relate coordinates of events in one reference frame to those of another frame. Relativistic composition of velocities is used to add two velocities together. The formulas to perform the latter computations are nonlinear, making them more complex than the corresponding Galilean formulas. This nonlinearity is an artifact of our choice of parameters. We have also noted that the coordinate systems of two spacetime reference frames in standard configuration are hyperbolically rotated with respect to each other. The natural functions for expressing these relationships are the hyperbolic analogs of the trigonometric functions.

The rapidity defined above is very useful in special relativity because many expressions take on a considerably simpler form when expressed in terms of it. For example, rapidity is simply additive in the collinear velocity-addition formula; [6] : 47— The Lorentz transformations take a simple form when expressed in terms of rapidity. Transformations describing relative motion with uniform velocity and without rotation of the space coordinate axes are called boosts.

In other words, Lorentz boosts represent hyperbolic rotations in Minkowski spacetime. The advantages of using hyperbolic functions are such that some textbooks such as the classic ones by Taylor and Wheeler introduce their use at a very early stage. Indeed, none of the elementary derivations of special relativity require them.

Working exclusively with such objects leads to formulas that are manifestly relativistically invariant, which is a considerable advantage in non-trivial contexts. For instance, demonstrating relativistic invariance of Maxwell's equations in their usual form is not trivial, while it is merely a routine calculation really no more than an observation using the field strength tensor formulation. The study of tensors is outside the scope of this article, which provides only a basic discussion of spacetime.

As usual, when we write x , t , etc. The last three components of a 4—vector must be a standard vector in three-dimensional space. As expected, the final components of the above 4-vectors are all standard 3-vectors corresponding to spatial 3-momentum , 3-force etc.

The first postulate of special relativity declares the equivalency of all inertial frames. A physical law holding in one frame must apply in all frames, since otherwise it would be possible to differentiate between frames. As noted in the previous discussion of energy and momentum conservation , Newtonian momenta fail to behave properly under Lorentzian transformation, and Einstein preferred to change the definition of momentum to one involving 4-vectors rather than give up on conservation of momentum.

Physical laws must be based on constructs that are frame independent. This means that physical laws may take the form of equations connecting scalars, which are always frame independent. However, equations involving 4-vectors require the use of tensors with appropriate rank, which themselves can be thought of as being built up from 4-vectors. It is a common misconception that special relativity is applicable only to inertial frames, and that it is unable to handle accelerating objects or accelerating reference frames. Actually, accelerating objects can generally be analyzed without needing to deal with accelerating frames at all.

It is only when gravitation is significant that general relativity is required. Properly handling accelerating frames does require some care, however. The difference between special and general relativity is that 1 In special relativity, all velocities are relative, but acceleration is absolute. To accommodate this difference, general relativity uses curved spacetime.

The Dewan—Beran—Bell spaceship paradox Bell's spaceship paradox is a good example of a problem where intuitive reasoning unassisted by the geometric insight of the spacetime approach can lead to issues. They are connected by a string which is capable of only a limited amount of stretching before breaking. At a given instant in our frame, the observer frame, both spaceships accelerate in the same direction along the line between them with the same constant proper acceleration.

The main article for this section recounts how, when the paradox was new and relatively unknown, even professional physicists had difficulty working out the solution. Two lines of reasoning lead to opposite conclusions. Both arguments, which are presented below, are flawed even though one of them yields the correct answer.

The problem with the first argument is that there is no "frame of the spaceships. Because there is no common frame of the spaceships, the length of the string is ill-defined. Nevertheless, the conclusion is correct, and the argument is mostly right. The second argument, however, completely ignores the relativity of simultaneity.

A spacetime diagram Fig. They are comoving and inertial before and after this phase. The length increase can be calculated with the help of the Lorentz transformation. If, as illustrated in Fig. The "paradox", as it were, comes from the way that Bell constructed his example. As shown in Fig. Certain special relativity problem setups can lead to insight about phenomena normally associated with general relativity, such as event horizons.

In the text accompanying Fig. During periods of positive acceleration, the traveler's velocity just approaches the speed of light, while, measured in our frame, the traveler's acceleration constantly decreases. At any given moment, her space axis is formed by a line passing through the origin and her current position on the hyperbola, while her time axis is the tangent to the hyperbola at her position. The shape of the invariant hyperbola corresponds to a path of constant proper acceleration. This is demonstrable as follows:. Stella lifts off at time 0, her spacecraft accelerating at 0.

Every twenty hours, Terence radios updates to Stella about the situation at home solid green lines. Stella receives these regular transmissions, but the increasing distance offset in part by time dilation causes her to receive Terence's communications later and later as measured on her clock, and she never receives any communications from Terence after hours on his clock dashed green lines. After hours according to Terence's clock, Stella enters a dark region. She has traveled outside Terence's timelike future. On the other hand, Terence can continue to receive Stella's messages to him indefinitely.

He just has to wait long enough. Spacetime has been divided into distinct regions separated by an apparent event horizon. So long as Stella continues to accelerate, she can never know what takes place behind this horizon. Newton's theories assumed that motion takes place against the backdrop of a rigid Euclidean reference frame that extends throughout all space and all time.


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Gravity is mediated by a mysterious force, acting instantaneously across a distance, whose actions are independent of the intervening space. Nor is there any such thing as a force of gravitation, only the structure of spacetime itself. In spacetime terms, the path of a satellite orbiting the Earth is not dictated by the distant influences of the Earth, Moon and Sun. Instead, the satellite moves through space only in response to local conditions. Since spacetime is everywhere locally flat when considered on a sufficiently small scale, the satellite is always following a straight line in its local inertial frame.

We say that the satellite always follows along the path of a geodesic. No evidence of gravitation can be discovered following alongside the motions of a single particle. In any analysis of spacetime, evidence of gravitation requires that one observe the relative accelerations of two bodies or two separated particles. The tidal accelerations that these particles exhibit with respect to each other do not require forces for their explanation. Rather, Einstein described them in terms of the geometry of spacetime, i.

These tidal accelerations are strictly local. It is the cumulative total effect of many local manifestations of curvature that result in the appearance of a gravitational force acting at a long range from Earth. To go from the elementary description above of curved spacetime to a complete description of gravitation requires tensor calculus and differential geometry, topics both requiring considerable study. Without these mathematical tools, it is possible to write about general relativity, but it is not possible to demonstrate any non-trivial derivations.

Rather than this section attempting to offer a yet another relatively non-mathematical presentation about general relativity, the reader is referred to the featured Wikipedia articles Introduction to general relativity and General relativity. Instead, the focus in this section will be to explore a handful of elementary scenarios that serve to give somewhat of the flavor of general relativity. In the discussion of special relativity, forces played no more than a background role.

Special relativity assumes the ability to define inertial frames that fill all of spacetime, all of whose clocks run at the same rate as the clock at the origin. Is this really possible? In a nonuniform gravitational field, experiment dictates that the answer is no. Gravitational fields make it impossible to construct a global inertial frame. In small enough regions of spacetime, local inertial frames are still possible.

General relativity involves the systematic stitching together of these local frames into a more general picture of spacetime. Shortly after the publication of the general theory in , a number of scientists pointed out that general relativity predicts the existence of gravitational redshift. Einstein himself suggested the following thought experiment : i Assume that a tower of height h Fig. Nancy has put together some great reasons why everyone should be proud of this amazing project.

Wonderful article. Our astronomy club had an event in July of Sure enough, 90 minutes later it passed over again, this time a little higher up. Several of us stayed all night, stargazed and saw the last, fifth pass of the ISS toward the south just before the sun came up. Or we can lift our eyes up and look into the skies and move forward in an evolutionary way. Having just been Valentines day, is there any example of a couple making love in space — the ultimate mile-high club?

I love the ISS because it shows that we can break out of our comfort zones and go somewhere interesting because it is there and have fun. I think it is called exploring, about places and relationships the fun things in the life of mankind. Kudos to the author, hear, hear! ISS is the only internationally cooperative creation of mobile art for the world to behold. With the ISS as an example, I can hardly wait to see what the next 20 years will bring! Their type have always been around and always will be. Try to imagine their counterparts in picketing outside the Spanish palace of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

Spend it here at home on the unemployed, homeless, poor, uneducated, and sickly — ad nauseum. Never argue with an undeducated person. Agree strongly. The ISS is a much more remarkable space project than the shuttle and offers the oportunity for yet new frontiers. Too expensive? A waste? No way. Sometimes you have to ignore the dollars to achieve something truly original and magnificent. Maybe the ISS was a grandiose dream from a wealthier time, but the components were all finished long ago, we are obligated to deliver what we promised, and it will be put to excellent, long-term use.

It is a necessary step in an inevitable direction. We are learning immense amounts from it already, about living and working in space, even without the science research, and particulary from the mistakes. Every bolt we tighten up there is an unprecedented milestone and wonder. The reason the ISS has had poor press is because we had to halt progress for three years because of the Columbia disaster, so NASA shut off the PR funds spigot and diverted attention away from the ISS as much as it could while it reorganized.

It is now time to make up for this and turn the PR machine back on. The people will respond if you pump them up about something. Time to get the PR presses rolling again. The only thing that really threatens the ISS, other than technical malfunction, is human malfunction. That is, personality difficulties or future international conflicts.

At the same time, having international citizens up there will compel nations to cooperate, at least until we can get their members down. But human error can only be blamed on ourselves, not the engineering. Yes, its too bad the Brits are not involved, their presence in the space community is sorely missed. I imagine the expense is just too extravagant to justify. But in the choice between national space program or national healthcare, many of us may soon be wondering if you have made the more sensible choice.

And as has been very rightly noted, our current reckless war of occupation is by far the heaviest unwarranted burden and threat to our economy. Ever since we visited the Kennedy Space Center last Winter, we have been making the effort to watch the ISS as it crosses the sky in the evening. Every time we see it, it is spectacular and thrilling and I get goose bumps just thinking about it. I totally agree with the author. Besides, whenever NASA decides on a way forward there are scores of people, among them respected scientists, who are bitching about NASA doing the wrong thing.

At some point you have to stop debating and actually do something. I am quite convinced that whatever Bigelow Aerospace gets up and running flying? Make no mistake about it though: I am just as excited about what Bigelow Aerospace is doing as about ISS and the new vision for exploration of Moon, Mars and perhaps beyond…. Unfortunately ISS is not built for the radiation environment in the interplanetary space. Not so at a distance of say km from Earth. The Apollo astronauts were out there for a week or so at a time.

The ISS crews are supposed to be away for months. Same goes for materials and electronics. So, we should never turn our back on this things… Beside that, ISS is not as expensive as it might look. Just check the numbers against program Apollo. Better yet, check the numbers on some really nowadays money sucking actions, such as some middle east wars or even try to find how much money mankind spend each year in cosmetics.

For those younger, just find out what were we suppose we would be in the year …. Ya know, I bet a whole bunch of folks shook their heads when Khufu built the great pyramid. After decades of personal opposition to ISS, this article almost persuaded me to support it. Actually, I will support it, anyway. But my support is given, not because, but in spite of the snide sniping potshots people took at Mr. More efficient power systems for spacecraft would now exist, with the hope of sooner than later sending an interstellar probe meaningfully out of the solar system…. Yes, great is your ego to get people to do things in space.

Your egotistical pressure on Mr. Your strenuous dislike of Mr. Bill proves my contention. The future of the human race depends on our ability to live and work in space. We can either put all our eggs in one basket earth or expand our imaginations, horizons, and the human spirit with space exploration. We are all descendents from explores and space is the last great exploration for humans.

It inspires the next generation, teaches us how to live and work in space and has expanded the global economy into space. It is a choice for the United States — to lead the world through our ideals, technology, and capability — or be happy taking the back seat and let somebody else drive! Remember if we are in the backseat we will not be steering anymore — are we really ready to be second best?

Civilization that lose their vision and their ability to invest in their future will wither away. Thank you Nancy, thank you RussRobers, you said everything I would. We should be lucky that ISS exists at all, knowing the world we are living in. Skip to content. Like this: Like Loading Now we just have to keep the ball rolling after construction is complete Do that this minute by contacting your congressman and encouraging them to give NASA more funding for Moon and Mars initiatives in the budget, which they are now reviewing.

Eloquently put. I am in complete agreement. Thanks for all your hard work. The ISS is an impressive accomplishment. However, it is in my honest opinion doomed in the future. It was a glorious night for astronomy.