Special RelativityDate: 11/1/96 at 2:0:47 From: Timothy J Parrotte Subject: Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity Please explain Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity to me. I understand that if a person is stationary, that person's time will be greater than a person who is in motion. Does this mean that time is different for everyone who moves when compared to a stationary clock? Wouldn't this also mean that all over the world everyone reads a different time, since the clock they read is moving with them? Here's an example I have been pondering: There are two people; a runner and a coach. Each has his or her own stopwatch. Both start it when the runner starts running and they stop it when the runner stops. Won't the runner have a different time than the coach's time? The runner's time will be less than the coach's time, right? If not, why? If this is true, what is a true measurement of time? Date: 11/1/96 at 11:37:15 From: Doctor Allen Subject: Re: Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity To answer your questions, first realize that special relativity states that there is no such thing as a stationary person. In order for us to say something is not moving, we have to compare it to something else. For example, when you're in a car, the person sitting next to you is not moving as far as you're concerned, but appears to be moving to a person standing on the street. The person standing on the street is not moving as far as a person next to them is concerned, but both appear to be moving (in terms of rotation of the earth) to a person on the moon. The only way to say something is stationary would be to have one thing absolutely still that everything else could be compared to. Einstein's theory says there is no such thing. So the special theory actually says that clocks in motion relative to an observer will appear to run slower than a clock in the observer's hand. This means that time is different for two different people if they are moving relative to each other. In general, everyday motion, such as walking, driving, or even flying, is not fast enough to make the effects of special relativity noticable. For your coach and runner problem, you need to consider that special relativity states that things that are at the same time for one observer may not be at the same time for another observer. In other words, if the runner sees that she stops the stopwatch at the same time as the coach, the coach may not see it as happening at the same time. Since the two are in motion relative to each other, they cannot operate the stopwatch simultaneously. At the speeds we're talking about, the difference in perceived time between the two is so small that it is not measurable. At the speed of a runner (say 15 mph) for 5 minutes, the difference between the two would be roughly .00000000000000001 seconds! In other words, it would take over 300 million years to make a difference of 1 second. So the answer is "yes" the times would be different, but the difference would be too small to measure. -Doctor Allen, The Math Forum Check out our web site! http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ |
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