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Chapter 1

Relativity
1905 Albert Einstein showed how measurements of time and space are affected by motion
between an observer and what is being observed.
Theory of Relativity deals with the consequence of the lack of a universal frame of reference;
encompasses two theories:
(1) Special Theory of Relativity
- published by Einstein in 1905, treats problems that involve inertial frames of reference
- had an enormous impact on much of physics
(2) General Theory of Relativity
- published by Einstein a decade later, describes the relationship between gravity and the
geometrical structure of space and time.
1.1
Special Relativity: All motion is relative; the speed of light in free space is the same for
all observers.
frames of reference part of the description of motion; to say that something is moving
implies a specific frame of reference
e.g. a student is moving 0 m/s relative to his chair
a student is moving 400 m/s relative to earth center (rotation)
a student is moving 30,000 m/s relative to the sun (orbit)
a student is moving 220,000 m/s relative to the galaxy center (orbit)
a student is moving 370,000 m/s relative to the CMB cosmic wallpaper

inertial frame of reference one in which Newtons first law of motion holds. In such a
frame, an object at rest remains at rest and an object in motion continues to move at
constant velocity if no force acts on it.

Two Postulates of Special Relativity


(1) The law of physics are the same in all inertial frames of reference.
(2) The speed of light (c = 2.998 x 108 m/s) in free space has the same value in all inertial
frames of reference
1.2

Time Dilation: A moving clock ticks more slowly than a clock at rest.
proper time the interval between the events that occur at the same place in an
observers frame of reference
time dilation a change in the duration of the interval appears when the event and the
measure of interval between events occur at different places

'

t=

v2
1 2
c
where:
t = time interval on clock at rest relative to an observer = proper time
t = time interval on clock in motion relative to an observer
v = speed of relative motion
c = speed of light

Sample Problems:
(1) A spacecraft is moving relative to the earth. An observer on the earth finds that, between
1P.M. and 2 P.M. according to her clock. 3601s elapse on the spacecrafts clock. What is
the spacecrafts speed relative to the earth?
(2) The period of a pendulum is measured to be 3.0 s in the rest frame of the pendulum.

a. What is the period of the pendulum when measured by an observer moving at a speed
of 0.95c with respect to the pendulum?
b. What would be the period if the speed of the observer is increased to 1c?
c. What would be the period if the speed of the observer is increased to 1000 km/hr?
(3) An athlete proposes to set a world record for the 100-meter dash by having his time
taken by an observer on a moving spacecraft. Is this good?
(4) How fast must a spacecraft travel relative for each day on the spacecraft to correspond to
2days on the earth?
1.3

Doppler Effect: Why the universe is believed to be expanding.


Doppler Effect in Sound the increase in pitch of a sound when its source approaches
us (or we approach the source) and the decrease in pitch when the source recedes
from us (or we recede from the source)

Three Cases of Doppler Effect in Light

Case 1: Observer is moving perpendicular to a line between him and the light source.

f ' =f 1

v
c

where:

= source frequency

f'

= observed frequency

= speed of relative motion

= speed of light

The observed frequency

f'

is always lower than the source frequency

Case 2: Observer receding from the light source

f ' (receding )=f

where:

= source frequency
'

= observed frequency

= speed of relative motion

= speed of light

v
c
v
1+
c

f .

The observed frequency

f'

is always lower than the source frequency

f whether the

observer is moving away from the source or the source is moving away.
Case 3: Observer approaching the light source

v
c
f ' ( approaching)=f
v
1
c
where:

= source frequency

f'

= observed frequency

= speed of relative motion

= speed of light

The observed frequency

f'

1+

is always higher than the source frequency

f whether the

observer is moving toward the source or the source is moving toward the observer.
The Expanding Universe
Red Shift shifting of spectral lines of distant galaxies toward the low-frequency (red)
end of the spectrum.
Hubbles Law states that the speed at which the galaxies are receding away from
one another is proportional to distance
Big Bang Theory the expansion apparently began 13billion years ago when a very
small, intensely hot mass of primeval matter exploded.

1.4

Sample Problems:
(1) A driver is caught going through a red light. The driver claims to the judge that the
color she actually saw was green (f = 5.60 x1014 Hz) and not red (f = 4.80 x 1014 Hz)
because of the Doppler effect. The judge accepts this explanation and instead fines
her for speeding for each km/hr she exceeded the speed limit of 80 km/hr. What was
the fine?
(2) A distant galaxy constellation Hydra is receding from earth at 6.12x10 7 m/s. By how
much is a green spectral line of wavelength 500nm (1nm = 10 -9 m) emitted by this
galaxy shifted toward the red end of the spectrum.
Length Contraction: Faster means shorter.
proper length the length of an object in its rest frame
length contraction a change in the length of an object in motion with respect to an
observer compared to the objects length in motion; occurs only in the direction of the
relative motion

(1) Contraction in Altitude

v2
h ' =h 1 2
c
where:

= altitude from the ground of an object from the frame of reference of an

observer at rest
moving object

h'

= altitude from the ground of an object from the frame of reference of the

= speed of relative motion

= speed of light

(2) Contraction in Length

l' =l 1

v2
c2

where:

= altitude from the ground of an object from the frame of reference of an

observer at rest

l'

= altitude from the ground of an object from the frame of reference of the

moving object

= speed of relative motion

= speed of light

1.5
Twin Paradox: A longer life, but it will not seem longer
Twin Paradox involves two identical clocks, one which remains on earth while the other is
taken on a voyage into space at the speed v and eventually is brought back where the clock
on the voyage will have paced slower.
Sample Problems:
(1) Dick and Jane are twins. Dick is 20 years old when he takes off on a space voyage at a
speed of 0.80c to a star 20 light-years away.
A. To Dick, how far away is the star?
B. How long did the two way voyage happen according to Dick?
C. How long did Jane have to wait before they were reunited?
(2) Dick and Jane each send out a radio signal once a year while Dick is away. How many
signals does Dick receive? How many does Jane receive?

1.6

Electricity and Magnetism: Relativity is the bridge

1.7

Relativistic Momentum

Classical Momentum

p=mv
Relativistic Momentum

p=

mv

v2
2
c

1.8

Mass and Energy

1.9

Energy and Momentum

1.10 General Relativity: Gravity is a warping of spacetime.


Special Theory of Relativity concerned only with inertial frames of reference that is not
accelerated.
General Theory of Relativity includes the effects of acceleration on what we observe
concluding that the force of gravity arises from a warping of spacetime around a body of
matter.
Principle of Equivalence An observer in a closed laboratory cannot distinguish between
the effects produced by a gravitational field and those produced by an acceleration of the
laboratory.

Gravity and Light


According to general relativity, light rays that graze the sun should have their paths bent
toward it by 0.005 - the diameter of a dime seen from a mile away.
In 1919, photographs of stars that appeared in the sky near the sun during an eclipse, when
they could be seen because the suns disk was covered by the moon. The photographs were
then compared with other photographs of the same part of the sky taken when the sun was
in a distant part of the sky.

Gravitational Lensing Because light is deflected in a gravitational field, a dense


concentration of mass such as a galaxy of stars can act as a lens to produce
multiple images of a distant light source located behind it.
In 1979, there was a discovery of what seemed to be a pair of nearby quasars but was
actually a single one whose light was deviated by an intervening massive object.

The interaction between gravity and light gives rise to the gravitational red shift and to
black holes.

READING ASSIGNMENT: Read on the following advances in science due to the theory of
relativity:
(1) Lorentz Transformation
(2) Spacetime