Theory of Special Relativity

Theory of Special Relativity

“A true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination”. From his works we can clearly see that Einstein did believe in what he said. The great maestro of imagination developed ways of thinking and ways of looking at how the world works and questioned its underlying principles. The beauty of not giving the questions unanswered but to defy all preconceived “facts“ about the working of the universe and show the world how the universe works in his eyes.

Einstein’s theory of special electricity is an ingenious one. It is derived from two postulates which state 1)The laws of Nature are valid in all initial frames of reference 2)The speed of light in vacuum has the same value as measured from all inertial(non accelerating)frames of reference.

Now, what does the speed of light being constant from all inertial frames of reference mean? It means that the speed of light is constant and will be the same as measured by a stationary observer or an observer moving at some velocity. Now this may seem very absurd-in fact it is. If you are in a car moving with the speed of 50 km/h another car is moving with a speed of 80 km/h with respect to earth, we can say that the other car is moving at a speed of 30 km/h relative to you but this is not the case then we talk about light and this is what Einstein proposed and proved, and this why he is considered such a genius.

The above assumption that light travels at a constant speed irrespective the frame of reference creates many contradictions to the logical mind. It creates mind-boggling puzzles which makes us rethink all our previous knowledge and it makes us question and doubt basic things that we can see. Relativity is about how everything in this world is relative and that nothing is absolute. Later in his life Einstein came up with the theory of general relativity in which he talked about how space time is curved by mass and explained gravity and what causes it as his theory of special relativity did not quite fit with the classical mechanics in Newtonian physics. 

The assumption that the speed of light is constant generates mathematical or rather do you geometrical contradictions. If we operate within the framework of Euclidean geometry Einstein‘s theory is incorrect. Einstein’s theory requires a revision of what we consider length and time. Keeping the speed of light constant and equating the observations from different reference frames Einstein concluded that time is not absolute. 

I am sure that all of you have watched the movie Interstellar. Have you ever wondered why Murph and Tom aged on Earth while Cooper who was on a spaceship did not? This is special relativity in action. Time dilation is a phenomenon which is explained by the postulates Einstein proposed and according to it time passes slower in frames moving with a constant velocity as seen from a reference at rest.

This effect of time dilation has also been experimentally observed by maintaining particles at a high speed. These particles were seen to have a longer life time as compare to other like particles kept at rest suggesting that time dilation is true.

The discovery of the special theory of relativity was one of the biggest mental and scientific be breakthroughs as it was a transformation to a new way of looking at things much different from the one Newton had showed-which was the prevalent view point at that time.

-Shaurya Bhardwaj

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