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Relativity: The Special and General Theory by Albert Einstein

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Author Topic: Relativity: The Special and General Theory by Albert Einstein  (Read 529 times)
Jean
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« Reply #75 on: May 03, 2009, 06:04:36 am »

In the theoretical treatment of these electrons, we are faced with the difficulty that electrodynamic theory of itself is unable to give an account of their nature. For since electrical masses of one sign repel each other, the negative electrical masses constituting the electron would necessarily be scattered under the influence of their mutual repulsions, unless there are forces of another kind operating between them, the nature of which has hitherto remained obscure to us.* If we now assume that the relative distances between the electrical masses constituting the electron remain unchanged during the motion of the electron (rigid connection in the sense of classical mechanics), we arrive at a law of motion of the electron which does not agree with experience. Guided by purely formal points of view, H. A. Lorentz was the first to introduce the hypothesis that the form of the electron experiences a contraction in the direction of motion in consequence of that motion. the contracted length being proportional to the expression
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Jean
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« Reply #76 on: May 03, 2009, 06:04:59 am »


This, hypothesis, which is not justifiable by any electrodynamical facts, supplies us then with that particular law of motion which has been confirmed with great precision in recent years.

The theory of relativity leads to the same law of motion, without requiring any special hypothesis whatsoever as to the structure and the behaviour of the electron. We arrived at a similar conclusion in Section 13 in connection with the experiment of Fizeau, the result of which is foretold by the theory of relativity without the necessity of drawing on hypotheses as to the physical nature of the liquid.
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« Reply #77 on: May 03, 2009, 06:05:10 am »

The second class of facts to which we have alluded has reference to the question whether or not the motion of the earth in space can be made perceptible in terrestrial experiments. We have already remarked in Section 5 that all attempts of this nature led to a negative result. Before the theory of relativity was put forward, it was difficult to become reconciled to this negative result, for reasons now to be discussed. The inherited prejudices about time and space did not allow any doubt to arise as to the prime importance of the Galileian transformation for changing over from one body of reference to another. Now assuming that the Maxwell-Lorentz equations hold for a reference-body K, we then find that they do not hold for a reference-body K ' moving uniformly with respect to K, if we assume that the relations of the Galileian transformstion exist between the co-ordinates of K and K '. It thus appears that, of all Galileian co-ordinate systems, one (K) corresponding to a particular state of motion is physically unique. This result was interpreted physically by regarding K as at rest with respect to a hypothetical æther of space. On the other hand, all coordinate systems K ' moving relatively to K were to be regarded as in motion with respect to the æther. To this motion of K ' against the æther ("æther-drift " relative to K ') were attributed the more complicated laws which were supposed to hold relative to K '. Strictly speaking, such an æther-drift ought also to be assumed relative to the earth, and for a long time the efforts of physicists were devoted to attempts to detect the existence of an æther-drift at the earth's surface.
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« Reply #78 on: May 03, 2009, 06:05:22 am »

In one of the most notable of these attempts Michelson devised a method which appears as though it must be decisive. Imagine two mirrors so arranged on a rigid body that the reflecting surfaces face each other. A ray of light requires a perfectly definite time T to pass from one mirror to the other and back again, if the whole system be at rest with respect to the æther. It is found by calculation, however, that a slightly different time T1 is required for this process, if the body, together with the mirrors, be moving relatively to the æther. And yet another point: it is shown by calculation that for a given velocity v with reference to the æther, this time T1 is different when the body is moving perpendicularly to the planes of the mirrors from that resulting when the motion is parallel to these planes. Although the estimated difference between these two times is exceedingly small, Michelson and Morley performed an experiment involving interference in which this difference should have been clearly detectable. But the experiment gave a negative result -- a fact very perplexing to physicists. Lorentz and FitzGerald rescued the theory from this difficulty by assuming that the motion of the body relative to the æther produces a contraction of the body in the direction of motion, the amount of contraction being just sufficient to compensate for the differeace in time mentioned above. Comparison with the discussion in Section 11 shows that also from the standpoint of the theory of relativity this solution of the difficulty was the right one. But on the basis of the theory of relativity the method of interpretation is incomparably more satisfactory. According to this theory there is no such thing as a " specially favoured " (unique) co-ordinate system to occasion the introduction of the æther-idea, and hence there can be no æther-drift, nor any experiment with which to demonstrate it. Here the contraction of moving bodies follows from the two fundamental principles of the theory, without the introduction of particular hypotheses ; and as the prime factor involved in this contraction we find, not the motion in itself, to which we cannot attach any meaning, but the motion with respect to the body of reference chosen in the particular case in point. Thus for a co-ordinate system moving with the earth the mirror system of Michelson and Morley is not shortened, but it is shortened for a co-ordinate system which is at rest relatively to the sun.
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« Reply #79 on: May 03, 2009, 06:05:39 am »

Notes
 *) The general theory of relativity renders it likely that the electrical masses of an electron are held together by gravitational forces.
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« Reply #80 on: May 03, 2009, 06:05:52 am »

Section 17 - Minkowski's Four-Dimensional SpaceThe non-mathematician is seized by a mysterious shuddering when he hears of "four-dimensional" things, by a feeling not unlike that awakened by thoughts of the occult. And yet there is no more common-place statement than that the world in which we live is a four-dimensional space-time continuum.

Space is a three-dimensional continuum. By this we mean that it is possible to describe the position of a point (at rest) by means of three numbers (co-ordinates) x, y, z, and that there is an indefinite number of points in the neighbourhood of this one, the position of which can be described by co-ordinates such as x1, y1, z1, which may be as near as we choose to the respective values of the co-ordinates x, y, z, of the first point. In virtue of the latter property we speak of a " continuum," and owing to the fact that there are three co-ordinates we speak of it as being " three-dimensional."
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« Reply #81 on: May 03, 2009, 06:06:08 am »

Similarly, the world of physical phenomena which was briefly called " world " by Minkowski is naturally four dimensional in the space-time sense. For it is composed of individual events, each of which is described by four numbers, namely, three space co-ordinates x, y, z, and a time co-ordinate, the time value t. The" world" is in this sense also a continuum; for to every event there are as many "neighbouring" events (realised or at least thinkable) as we care to choose, the co-ordinates x1, y1, z1, t1 of which differ by an indefinitely small amount from those of the event x, y, z, t originally considered. That we have not been accustomed to regard the world in this sense as a four-dimensional continuum is due to the fact that in physics, before the advent of the theory of relativity, time played a different and more independent role, as compared with the space coordinates. It is for this reason that we have been in the habit of treating time as an independent continuum. As a matter of fact, according to classical mechanics, time is absolute, i.e. it is independent of the position and the condition of motion of the system of co-ordinates. We see this expressed in the last equation of the Galileian transformation (t ' = t)

The four-dimensional mode of consideration of the "world" is natural on the theory of relativity, since according to this theory time is robbed of its independence. This is shown by the fourth equation of the Lorentz transformation
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« Reply #82 on: May 03, 2009, 06:06:25 am »

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« Reply #83 on: May 03, 2009, 06:06:36 am »

Moreover, according to this equation the time difference Δt ' of two events with respect to K ' does not in general vanish, even when the time difference Δt ' of the same events with reference to K vanishes. Pure " space-distance " of two events with respect to K results in " time-distance " of the same events with respect to K. But the discovery of Minkowski, which was of importance for the formal development of the theory of relativity, does not lie here. It is to be found rather in the fact of his recognition that the four-dimensional space-time continuum of the theory of relativity, in its most essential formal properties, shows a pronounced relationship to the three-dimensional continuum of Euclidean geometrical space.* In order to give due prominence to this relationship, however, we must replace the usual time co-ordinate t by an imaginary magnitude  proportional to it. Under these conditions, the natural laws satisfying the demands of the (special) theory of relativity assume mathematical forms, in which the time co-ordinate plays exactly the same role as the three space co-ordinates. Formally, these four co-ordinates correspond exactly to the three space co-ordinates in Euclidean geometry. It must be clear even to the non-mathematician that, as a consequence of this purely formal addition to our knowledge, the theory perforce gained clearness in no mean measure.
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« Reply #84 on: May 03, 2009, 06:06:47 am »

These inadequate remarks can give the reader only a vague notion of the important idea contributed by Minkowski. Without it the general theory of relativity, of which the fundamental ideas are developed in the following pages, would perhaps have got no farther than its long clothes. Minkowski's work is doubtless difficult of access to anyone inexperienced in mathematics, but since it is not necessary to have a very exact grasp of this work in order to understand the fundamental ideas of either the special or the general theory of relativity, I shall leave it here at present, and revert to it only towards the end of Part 2.
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« Reply #85 on: May 03, 2009, 06:07:09 am »

Notes
 *) Cf. the somewhat more detailed discussion in Appendix II.

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Relativity:_The_Special_and_General_Theory/Part_I#Figure_1
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