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Compiled by: Gerry Lou Quiles, BS ChE 4

The theory of relativity starts by examining how measurements of physical quantities are affected by relative motion between an observer and what is being observed. From this apparently modest beginning, come links between space and time, matter and energy, electricity and magnetism links that are crucial to our understanding of the physical universe. To start with, let us realize what Physics is right now. Physics is divided into two big divisions, the Classical Physics and the Modern Physics. Classical Physics has its laying foundations based on three Newtons laws of motion. This involves calculations of speeds that are very small compared to the speed of light. Isaac Newton is considered the father of Classical Physics and his laws about gravitation until the laws of optics is under this division. This is the division that is very easy to comprehend and to understand, since we usually experience motion at very low speeds, which is comparable to the speed of light. Modern Physics, on the other hand, is actually the more general theorem, and is usually used when speeds are approaching the speed of light. This division includes Einsteins theories of relativity and it also includes quantum and atomic physics, as well as nuclear physics, which are all applications of Einsteins theory. It is so difficult to understand, as a student, at first, since it deals with things that we dont even experience, to travel at the speed of light. Later on, we can prove that if we let our velocity as very small compared to lights speed, then, Modern Physics equations reduces to Classical Physics equations, hence, we can say that Classical Physics is a special case of Modern Physics. So, let us put it this way. Before 1905, people only knew of one division the Classical Physics. But, because of Einsteins proposed theory and with supporting evidences, Albert Einstein shocked the whole world and he made an event that make the study of Physics more interesting. This topic is actually part of Modern Physics. Actually, there are two parts of what Albert Einstein had proposed in 1905 the Special Theory of Relativity and the General Theory of Relativity. But before that, let us define first some terms so that we can understand it more. Terms to Ponder 1. REFERENCE FRAME-is also called inertial frame, relative to which any particles has a constant velocity vector when free from all external forces. Any other frame is inertial if and only if its velocity with respect to this particular frame is constant. In laymans terms, it is known as BASIS. It is like saying that if Jane is beautiful according to Peter and Jane is not beautiful according to Mark, it means that, based on Peters frame, Jane is beautiful and Jane is not beautiful according to Mark; that is why, there is the saying that Beauty is relative. 2. INERTIAL SYSTEM- is a frame of reference in which Newtons first law holds. It means that the system is not accelerating. (Recall Newtons first law The sum of the forces is zero at rest or at constant velocity, right?) REMEMBER it is described as an unaccelerated system. Therefore, a body acted upon by a zero net external force will move with constant velocity. Examples: a. rocket ship drifting in space, without spinning and with engines shut off. b. any set of axes fixed on Earth (small acceleration effect due to the Earths rotation and orbital motion is neglected. c. Any set of axes moving at uniform velocity with respect to the Earth (e.g. train, ship, plane)

QUESTION: Is a merry-go-round an inertial system? Why or why not? 3. EVENT- something that happens independently of the reference frame we might use to describe it. Example: collision of two particles; turning on of a tiny light source So, let us now have this scenario. With respect to the Earth, the speed of the bus, or vBE,is 4 m/s (travels at constant speed) and inside the bus, your friend Martha and her Dad is sitting. They glance at you while standing along the street. If the reference frame is Marthas Dad, Marthas speed with respect to Dads frame, or vMD,is zero, since Dad sees that Martha just sits inside the bus and she doesnt move at all. Now, let us take You as the reference frame. What can you say about the speed of Martha? Of course, since Martha is inside the bus, her speed according to your frame, or vMY, is 4 m/s. Now, let us find the speed of Marthas Dad with respectto your frame. So, by calculations, it will be vDY = vDM + vMY = 0 + 4 = 4 m/s. Based on experience, it is correct! On the other hand, Classical Physics also talks about electromagnetic waves. These waves are the one who causes the transport of energy from the sun, and it includes visible, ultraviolet and infrared waves. It was the great Scottish scientist and physicist James Clerk Maxwell who showed that these two fields fluctuating together can form a propagating electromagnetic wave. From Maxwells equations of electromagnetism, it will be proved that the electric field is equal to the speed of light times the magnetic field. And from the consequence of Amperes law and Faradays law, Maxwell proved that(equation 1)

where: law equation) and

= speed of light in a vacuum ,

= permittivity of free space (as seen in Coulombs

= permeability of free space (as seen in Biot-Savarts law equation)

Here, Maxwell theoretically determine the speed of light in a vacuum. So, to solve the value of the speed of light, let us substitute the values of the constants as determined and defined in previous discussions-


According to this analysis, light and all other electromagnetic waves travel in vacuum with a constant speed (and in optics, it travels at a speed of light in a vacuum divided by the index of refraction of the medium). Now, let us consider this example.

A light beam is emitted by a bus travelling at 4 m/s. If we insist the concept of our daily experience, we can say that the speed of light relative to you, or vLY, is equal to the speed of light with respect to the bus (which is almost equal to the speed of light in a vacuum) or vLB plus the speed of the bus with respect to you, or vBY. Actually, it disproves the classical thinking that the speed of light is a constant. This is the problem of the scientists before. Now, it is so difficult to comprehend it is actually a big problem. Classically, light is an electromagnetic wave and waves actually require medium so that it can propagate. For instance, sound waves travel in air, water waves in water. If light also consists of wave motion, there must be a medium which propagates it. This medium, as proposed by scientists is called ether. Since it is known that light passes through material objects like glasses as well as through empty space, the ether must be a medium that permeates all of space. Furthermore, light is known to be a transverse wave. The ether therefore, is a solid. The speed of transverse waves in a medium is proportional to the square root of the modulus of elasticity of the medium. Since light waves travel very fast, the modulus of elasticity of the ether must be very great. The ether is therefore seemed to have contradictory properties. It is so tenuous that its presence in a vacuum cannot be detected and at the same time, it is so rigid as to cause the velocity of light waves through it to be large. In spite of this contradiction, physicists during the nineteen century felt that the ether was the frame of reference; they were looking for, in other words that which Newtons law holds exactly. If the ether is the preferred frame of reference, then, how fast is the Earth moving through theether? This is the objective of the experiment done by A. A. Michelson and E. W. Morley in an instrument known as the interferometer.But from their experiments, they proved that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ETHER! Because of this experiment, physicists have to do something. The failure of the detection of the ether meant that the search for the fixed reference system must be made by another technique or abandoned altogether. Albert Einstein explored the alternative of abandonment. From this sprung the Einsteins theory of relativity. Before we start our discussion on the special theory of relativity, let us define two branches of Einsteins theory of relativity. 1. GENERAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY- the branch that treats problems that arise when one frame of reference is accelerated relative to the other. It involves Gravitation Theory and it is quite complicated. 2. SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY- the branch that treats problems that arise when one frame of reference moves with a constant linear velocity relative to the other. It is sufficient for discussions in atomic and nuclear phenomena.


Again, special theory of relativity deals with INERTIAL FRAMES OF REFERENCE. So, to start, let us state the two postulates of the special theory of relativity. 1. The laws of physics are the same for any two observers moving with constant linear velocity in relation to the other. 2. The speed of light in empty space is the same for all observers and is independent of the motion of the source.


What we have done in our previous discussions about Martha and his Dad is actually in the principle of Galilean Transformation. In this transformation, the first postulate of relativity is valid but should be applied when the velocity involved is very small compared to the speed of light. GALILEAN TRANSFORMATION

Figure 1.Simplified Concept of Relativity. The description of any type of motion in Galilean transformation starts with an inertial coordinate system S, which is considered to be at rest. Let us consider the occurrence of some event that is observed in the S frame of reference, as shown in Figure 1. The event might be the explosion of a firecracker or the lighting of a match, or just the location of the body at a particular instance of time. For simplicity, we will assume that the event occurs in the x-y plane. A second coordinate system S, moving at the constant velocity vin the positive x-direction is also introduced. The same event can also be described in terms of this frame of reference. We assume that the two coordinate systems had their origins at the same place at the time t = 0. At a later time t, the S frame will have moved a distance vt, along the x axis. The x-component of the event in the S frame is related to the x component of the same event in the S frame byequation 2 and from the figure, equation 3 It is also assumed, but usually never stated, that the time is the same in both frames of reference, that isequation 4 The inverse transformation from the S frame to the S frame in equation 2 is-

equation 5 LORENTZ TRANSFORMATIONS Because the Galilean transformation violate the postulate of relativity (as what the light problem illustrates), we must derive a set of equations that relate the position and velocity of an object in one inertial frame to its position and velocity in another inertial frame. And we must derive the new transformation equations directly from the postulate of special relativity. Galilean transformations are used at low speeds, so the new equation should be reduced to Galilean transformations at low speeds. So, we will put a function or something that we should determine. So, equation 2 and 5 becomes equation 6 ) equation 7 For a light pulse, equation 8 equation 9 Equating equations 6 and 8 and then 7 and 9 equation 10 equation 11 Equate equations 10 and 11 by t and further simplification will yield to-

The result was actually known as the Lorentz factor. Therefore, if we substitute this equation to equations 6 and 7, it will become-


Then, let us try substitute equation 7 to equation 6.

Let us substitute the value of our Lorentz factor:

) ] )

) ( )

Then, multiply 1 or the factor

and take the negative sign

( )

This is the Lorentz-time transformation. From the derivation, what is this v? Thisv denotes the velocity of S with respect to the Earth, right? We will change this variable into u so that our new transformation becomes

If we take changes in x and changes in u, then-

, then-

If we divide the right-hand side of the equation by

The result is actually the Lorentz-transformation of velocities. TASK: Derive the following equation using similar steps as what we did in the discussion.

A woman on Earth observes a firecracker explode 10 m in front of her when her clock reads 5 s. An astronaut in a rocketship who passes the woman on Earth at t = 0, at a speed of 0.40cfinds what coordinates for this event? SOLUTION:

Substitute also to our previous equation, t = 5.45 seconds.

1. Prove from Lorentz transformations that when v = c, the value of v is also c. Why is it? 2. In the Earth frame, starship A is chasing starship B at 0.80c while Bs velocity is 0.60 c. What is the velocity of A relative to B? Answer: 0.3846 c 3. Suppose that as we travel away from Earth, the spaceship Eagle overtakes and passes us, headed in the same direction we are heading. We measure its speed as 0.50 c. We look back at Earth and note; the Earth is receding from us at 0.90 c. If people on Earth measure the speed of the Eagle, what value do they find? Answer: 0.9655 c 4. A spacecraft approaching the Earth launches an exploration vehicle. After the launch, an observer on Earth sees the spacecraft approaching at a speed of 0.50 c and the exploration vehicle approaching at a speed of 0.70 c. What is the speed of the exploration vehicle relative to the spaceship?Answer: 0.3077 c

To illustrate why Einstein found it necessary to make changes in the concept of time, we shall apply the two principles of relativity to a simple kind of clock called a light clock. The construction is very simple: Two parallel mirrors with a fixed distance D apart as shown. On the figure above, if the plane mirrors are at rest, the time required for a light pulse to move to the other mirror is related by-

Where To is the proper time (or the time interval on clock at rest, c is the lights speed and D is the distance between the two mirrors.

On the figure below, consider the mirrors to move at a distance of v T, where v is the speed of the mirror in the horizontal direction and T is the time required based on the Earths frame. So, observe the formation of a right triangle. Apply Pythagorean theorem-

Figure 2. Time Dilation

It will be leave to you as an exercise to derive T in this equation. Here, T is given by the equation The effect is reciprocal: every observer finds that clocks in motion relative to him tick more slowly than clocks at rest relative to him.

1. What is the speed of a spacecraft whose clock runs 1.0 second slow per hour relative to a clock on Earth? SOLUTION: In an hour, there are 3600 s. So, To= 3600 s = the proper time interval (since it is on a rest frame) T = 3601 s = the time interval in the moving frame Then use this equation Then, by algebra

2. An astronaut wears a new Rolex watch on a journey at a speed of 2.0 x 108 m/s with respect to the Earth. According to mission control in Houston, the trip lasts 12 hours. How long is the trip as measured on the Rolex? SOLUTION: T = 12 hours= time relative to the moving frame So

1. A spaceship travels at constant speed from Earth to a point 710 light-years away as measured in Earths rest frame. The ships speed relative to Earth is 0.999c. A passenger is 20 years old when departing from Earth. How old is the passenger when the ship reaches its destination, as measured by the ships clock? Answer: 30 years old 2. In 1998, using the Kech telescope, scientists discovered some previously undetected, young stars that are only 150 light-years from Earth. Suppose, a space probe is flown to one of these stars at a speed of 0.98c. The battery that powers the communication systems can run for 40

years. Will the battery still be good when the space probe reaches the star? Answer: Yes, To = 30.46 years 3. A spaceship is moving away from Earth with a constant velocity of 0.8c with respect to Earth. The spaceship and an Earth station synchronize their clocks, setting both to zero, at an instant when the ship is near Earth. By prearrangement, when the clock on Earth reaches a reading of 1.0 x 104 s, the Earth station sends out a light signal to the spaceship. (a) In the frame of reference of the Earth station, how far must the signal travel to reach the spaceship? (b) According to an observer on Earth, what is the reading of the clock on Earth when the signal is received? Answer: (a) 2.4 x 1012 m (b) 50000 s. 4. As observed on Earth, a certain type of bacterium is known to double in number every 24 hours. Two cultures of these bacteria are prepared, each consisting initially of one bacterium. One culture is left on Earth, and the other placed on a rocket that travels at a speed of 0.866 c relative to the Earth. At a time when the Earthbound culture has grown to 256 bacteria, how many bacteria are there in the culture on the rocket, according to the Earth-based observer? Answer: 16 bacteria

Length contraction is a direct consequence of time dilation. To start with, let us consider a meter stick traveling along the positive x direction with speed v. At time t, its ends are at the points x 1 and x2, respectively. An observer in a moving reference frame, moving with the same velocity as the meter stick, would record the ends of the meter stick to be at the points x1 and x2 respectively, where by Lorentz transformation gives us-

The length of the stick in the moving frame is The length of the stick in the moving frame is 1 m since it is at rest in that frame. To a person in the frame that is not moving, the length is than by the factor . Since is always less than 1, is less

. Thus, if Lo is the length of an object measured by an observer at rest

with respect to the object, and L is the length of the object measured by an observer moving with the speed v in the direction in which the length is measured, then

This effect, called the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction, was proposed many years before the special theory of relativity to explain the results of the Michelson-Morley experiment.

1. A spaceship flies past Earth at a speed of 0.99c. A crew member on board the spaceship measures its length, obtaining the value 400 m. What length do observers measure on Earth? SOLUTION: (

2. A spaceship moves at constant velocity of 0.4c relative to an Earth observer. The pilot of the spaceship is building a rod, which he measures to be 1.0 m long. a. The rod is held perpendicular to the direction of motion of the spaceship. How long is the rod according to the Earth observer? SOLUTION: It is still 1 m. To apply length contraction, it must be parallel to the direction of motion. b. After the pilot rotates the rod and holds it parallel to the direction of motion of the spaceship, how long is it according to the Earth observer? SOLUTION: Substitute this into our length contraction equation becomes ( )

1. A spaceship travels towards the Earth at a speed of 0.97c. The occupants of the ship are standing with their torsos parallel to the direction of travel. According to Earth observers, they are about 0.5 m tall and 0.5 m wide. What are the (a) occupants height and (b) width according to others on the spaceship? Answer: 2.057 m, 0.5 m 2. An astronaut in a rocket passes a meter stick moving parallel to its long dimension. The astronaut measures the meter stick to be 0.8 m long. How fast is the rocket moving with respect to the meter stick? Answer: 0.6 c or 1.8 x 108 m/s 3. A train moving in a straight line with a uniform speed of 0.80 c passes a series of communication towers. The spacing between the towers, according to an observer on the ground, is 3 km. A passenger on the futuristic train uses an accurate stopwatch to see how often a tower passes him. (a) What is the time interval the passenger measures between the passing of one tower and the next? (b) What is the time interval an observer on the ground measures for the train to pass from one tower to the next? Answer: 7.5s, 12.5 s 4. The mean lifetime of a muon in its rest frame is 2.2 s. A beam of muons is moving through the laboratory with speed 0.994c. How far on average does a muon travel through the lab before it decays? Answer: 6 km


High energy sub-atomic particles coming from space interact with atoms in the Earths upper atmosphere, producing unstable particles called muons. These are sub-atomic particles generated when cosmic rays strike the upper levels of our atmosphere. Let us have this experiment. A muon decays with a mean lifetime of 2.2 x 10-6 s as measured in a frame of reference in which it is at rest. According to time dilation equations, if the muon is moving at 0.99 c relative to the Earth, an observer on Earth measure its mean lifetime to be-

From the calculations, it means that, if an average muon moves at 0.99c past observers, they will measure it to be created at one point, then to decay 15.6 x 10-6 s later at another 4630 m away. For example, this muon could be created level with the top of a mountain, then move straight down to decay at its base point (0.99)(3x108 m/s)(2.20 x 10-6 s)=4630 m below. However, an observer moving with an average muon will say that it traveled only (0.99)(3x108 m/s)(15.6 x 10-6 s ) = 653 m because it existed for only 2.20 x 10-6 s. To show that this answer is truly consistent, consider the mountain. The 4630 m distance is its height, a proper length in the direction of motion. Relative to the observer traveling with the muon, the mountain moves up at 0.99c with the 4630 m length contracted to (

Thus, we see that length contraction and time dilation is consistent with scientific experiments.


Atomic clocks are the most accurate of clocks known to man. It has been said that if an atomic clock, such as a cesium clock, were to be flown on an airplane, those clocks should move at a different speed relative to those on Earth, and that the slowdown could be attributable to differences both in GR, which predicts that the clocks should go faster at lower gravity, and SR, which predicts that the clocks should move slower due to the speed of the airplane. In 1971, Hafele & Keating (H&K) conducted tests to measure the effects of relativity on cesium clocks on airplane. The planes flew in east and west directions along the equator, making a round-world trip to their starting point. H & K calculated that, due to the combined effects of SR and GR, the different east/west travel times and different altitudes, the eastward should loose 40 ns and the westward should gain 275 ns. The measured results showed that the eastward lost 59 ns, while the atomic clock transported westward gained 273 ns, compared to the stationary laboratory clocks.


A. H. Bucherer in 1909 performed the first experiment to verify the change in mass with speed. Electrons were first accelerated by a large potential difference until they were moving at high speeds. Then, they entered a velocity selector. By varying the electric field E and the magnetic field of the velocity selector, electrons with any desired velocity can be obtained. These electrons were then sent through a uniform magnetic field where they were deflected into a circular path. The centripetal force was set equal to the magnetic force, and we obtain: CENTRIPETAL FORCE = MAGNETIC FORCE

1. Cutnell, John C., Physics, 7th Edition, Wiley Publishing, 2004 2. Giambattista, Alan K., et al, College Physics, 2nd Edition, Wiley Publishing, 2008 3. Giancoli, Douglas C., Physics Principles with Applications, 5th Edition, Pearson Prentice Hall, 1998 4. Montealegre, Perla P., et al, Lesson Notes in Nuclear Physics, A TUP-Visayas Special Citation, 2010 5. Nolan, Peter J., Fundamentals of College Physics, 2nd Edition, W.M. C. Brown Publishing, 1995 6. Young, Hugh, et al, University Physics with Modern Physics, 11th Edition, Pearson, Addison Welsey, 2004 7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Error_analysis_for_the_Global_Positioning_System