Time Travel Research Center
© 2005 ## Special RelativityEinstein's theory of Relativity came in two parts. The first was
published in 1905 and dealt only with objects that are moving with respect
to each other at constant velocities. Thus each object has an
indistinguishable The theory is built on 2 basic assumptions: - When you are on an airplane, train, bus, or whatever and you have the window shades down and the ride is smooth you do not notice that you are moving with respect to the Earth.
- If you do physics experiments to test the laws of nature you will find the same form for these laws as anyone at rest with respect to the Earth would find.
There is, in fact, no absolute standard of rest. -- Recall Our point of view will be relative and so we seek to understand how we can view events from one frame while in another. ## Relative VelocityEinstein asked, "What would the world look like if one could travel on a beam of light?" We must first be sure to understand what the world looks like at slower
speeds. So let us do some Let's just focus on the relative motion of a pair of friends:
## The Speed of Light
If the speed of light were able to simply add we would have a
These two illustrations say that something is wrong with our assumption that we can just add the velocity of light to the motion of whatever emitted it. In fact they say that in order for things to make sense the speed of light should be the same for everyone no matter what speed they have relative to it. Indeed, electromagnetic theory at the end of the 19th century was saying the exact same thing, only no had yet realized it. The speed of light is a constant for all observers. That is the second assumption of special relativity.
This has been experimentally verified again and again for the past 90-some-odd
years. No matter who emits the light and at what relative velocity, everyone
measures it to have the same speed, c = 3 x 10 Thus when You shine your flashlight you measure the speed to be, c, and when Jackie observes the light of your flashlight she also measures the speed of the light to be c, not c + v! ## Universal Speed LimitThe fact that light must be measured the same by all observers requires that no material object can exceed, or even attain, the speed of light. Consider that Jackie now goes speeding off in her spacecraft. She throws the craft into high gear, firing the rockets to incredible speed. Now she turns on her head lights. In her frame the lights go zooming out ahead of her at the speed of light (no faster, no slower). In her own frame it is impossible for her to overtake her headlights since the speed of light must always be constant. Can anyone else observe her to move faster than light? People in different frames will measure her to have different speeds relative to themselves, but they will all agree on two things. - The light of her headlights is moving out in front of her
- it has the speed, c.
Clearly, if she is being outraced by her headlights and her headlights
are traveling at the speed of light, she must be traveling This is not merely some technological challenge. No material object may even reach the speed of light. This is the law of nature. There are no penalties for violating the law, because it cannot be broken. ## SimultaneityAnother fact that results from the constancy of the speed of light is that no two relative observers can agree on the simultaneity of events.
They agree on the outcome, but not the timing of the events separated by a distance. Note: All observers must observed the same order of events that occur at
the ## Velocity AdditionNow that we see that it is indeed impossible to travel at speeds greater than the speed of light, we wonder what about the addition of velocities.
## Time DilationConsider a thought experiment. Imagine that Bob is in a train moving to the right with some speed, v, relative to the ground on which Jackie is standing watching him go by.
This effect is called This effect has been experimentally verified. Very accurate atomic clocks have been taken aboard jet airplanes that flew in circles for hours. When the clocks aboard the plane were compared to clocks on the ground they had lost a few nanoseconds of time. Exactly the amount predicted by special relativity. The effect is obviously inperceptible at normal speeds. But as speeds approach the speed of light it is much more noticeable. In particle accelerators, physicists accelerate particles to near the speed of light and smash them into each other. In the collisions new particles are formed. One such particle is the muon. When at rest this particle lives only 2.2 microseconds before decaying into other particles. But in experiments where it is created moving at 99% the speed of light it last for 15.6 microseconds, which is exactly the amount predicted by special relativity. ## Length Contraction
This is a form of Time Travel into the future. But there's no return trip (or is there? ... Bum Ba Baah) ## Mass Increase
## Mass-Energy EquivalenceEinstein's famous equation relating Mass and Energy is actually a direct result of the effects of special relativity discussed above. E = mc This equation is derived mathematically by taking the equation for mass increase and rewritting it. You eventually end up with terms that look like Kinetic energy and an extra term, one for what we call rest mass: the energy associated with an object at rest. Another way we may derive the equation is to try and figure out what the kinetic energy is of a moving mass and use the mass increase formula. The equation says that just as Space and Time are not the separate things
they appear to be Mass and Energy are also two sides of the same coin. When
we look at it in one way we see Mass when we look at it another we see
Energy. Likewise when we look at it in one way we see Space, when we look at
it another way we see Time. This lead to the concept of the
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