IA Dynamics and Relativity
8 Special relativity
When particles move Extremely Fast
, Newtonian Dynamics becomes inaccu-
rate and is replaced by Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity (1905).
Its effects are noticeable only when particles approach to the speed of light,
c = 299 792 458 m s
≈ 3 × 10
This is really fast.
The Special Theory of Relativity rests on the following postulate:
The laws of physics are the same in all inertial frames
This is the principle of relativity familiar to Galileo. Galilean relativity mentioned
in the first chapter satisfies this postulate for dynamics. People then thought
that Galilean relativity is what the world obeys. However, it turns out that
there is a whole family of solutions that satisfy the postulate (for dynamics),
and Galilean relativity is just one of them.
This is not a problem (yet), since Galilean relativity seems so intuitive, and
we might as well take it to be the true one. However, it turns out that solving
Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism gives an explicit value of the speed of
. This is independent of the frame of reference. So the speed of light must
be the same in every inertial frame.
This is not compatible with Galilean relativity.
Consider the two inertial frames
, moving with relative velocity
Then if light has velocity
, then Galilean relativity predicts it has velocity
c − v in S
, which is wrong.
Therefore, we need to find a different solution to the principle of relativity
that preserves the speed of light.