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Special Relativity

An Introduction To ‘High Speed’ Physics


What Is Light?
There were two contradicting theories as to the nature of light:

Newton – light is corpuscular Huygens – light is a wave

18th Century 19th Century 20th Century


Newton must be right!? diffraction/interference wave-particle duality

If light is a wave, through what does it propagate?


The Aether
Space is permeated by an invisible lumineferous aether
(light-bearing medium)

Medium through which light can propagate

The Earth must be moving relative to the aether

So light will travel faster or slower, depending on the orientation

Differences can be determined by experiment

Test for the existence of the aether

The Michelson-Morley Experiment


The Michelson-Morley Experiment
Test for the presence of an aether using an interferometer

A is a half-silvered mirror B
B/C are mirrors speed c – v
O is a detector
C
incoming light v ms-1 relative
to the aether
1 A
d d 2 d  v 2 
t ACA    1 2 speed c + v
cv cv c  c 

O
 12
2d  v 
2
d
t ABA  1  
 c2 
t ACA  t ABA
c  

There is a phase difference between the two beams


Light at O should be phase -shifted, but no phase shift was observed
Maxwell’s Predictions
Electric and magnetic fields interact

changing E-Field

E-Field B-Field

changing B-Field

Accelerating charges produce EM waves

Maxwell’s equations predict that these waves 1


propagate through a vacuum at a constant speed c
 00
What Has Gone Wrong?
Consider a train:

v ms-1
u ms-1

Galilean velocity
transformation
The resultant velocity of the person is u + v
The resultant velocity of the light is c not c + v
Is Maxwell wrong? Are Michelson and Morley ’s results wrong?

Or is Galileo wrong?
Einstein’s Postulates
We can now state two postulates:

1) The laws of physics are the same in all inertial frames of


reference

2) The speed of light in a vacuum is the same in all inertial


frames of reference

But what is an inertial frame of reference ?


Frames Of Reference
A frame of reference is the coordinate system of an observer
y y y

v ms-1 a ms-2

x x x

z z z
stationary frame frame moving at accelerating frame
constant velocity v

inertial frames indistinguishable from


a gravitational field
The Galilean Transformation
Consider two inertial frames, S and S’

S’ is moving at velocity v away from S, and vy = vz = 0 ms-1


y y’
S S’
v ms-1

x x’

object in
z z’ frame S’

The object has the same y- and z-coordinates in both frames


The time measured at any instant is the same in both frames
The x-coordinate is constant in S’, but changes in S
The Galilean Transformation
At a time t, the x-axis of S’is a distance vt from the x-axis of S

So the x-coordinate in S is the x-coordinate in S’+ vt

All other coordinates are unchanged

This transformation between frames can be written as:

x  x'  vt The transformation from S ’to S

y  y' x '  x  vt
z  z' Galilean Transformation y'  y
t  t' z'  z
The transformation from S to S ’ t'  t
A New Transformation…
The Galilean transformation contradicts Einstein’s second postulate

We need to derive a new transformation, with the properties:

The speed of light must be a constant

It must tend to the Galilean transformation for low velocities

We are not assuming that time is absolute

So we need to be careful when referring to time

An event has both space and time coordinates

This can be written as a four-vector (x, y, z, t)


A Thought Experiment
Alice is on a long train journey, and is rather bored

She decides to build a clock using her mirror and a torch


What is the time interval between a pulse leaving and
returning to the torch? (Proper time)

2d
t 
c
A Thought Experiment
Bob is standing on platform 9 ¾ and watches Alice in the train

d l l v ms-1

vt’

What is the time interval t’ in Bob’s frame of reference?
2 2
 v t '  2l 2  v t ' 
l d2   t '   d2  
 2  c c  2  t
t ' 
2
v
d
c t
 t ' 
2
2  c t   v t ' 
2
1 2
    c
2 c  2   2 
The Lorentz Factor
The factor  is the Lorentz Factor
1
 (v ) 
For v << c, (v) = 1 v2
1 2
As v tends to c, (v) tends to infinity c

1
0 c
Speed / ms -1
Time Dilation

 t '   t
1

v2
1 2
c

We have this relationship, but what does it mean?

If a body is travelling slowly w.r.t. an observer (  = 1) time


intervals are the same for the body and the observer

If a body is travelling fast w.r.t. an observer (  >> 1) time


intervals appear longer to the observer (Dilated time)

If you are in a spacecraft travelling close to c, time will pass


normally for you, but will speed up around you

Notice, therefore, that photons do not age


The Twin Paradox
Once upon a time there were two twins …
Bill Ben

Ben goes on a journey into space, but Bill stays on Earth


When Ben returns, which of the twins is oldest?
Bill thinks he will be older, as Ben travelled very fast away fr om him
Ben thinks he will be older, as Bill travelled very fast away fr om him
Who is right?
Bill is older, because he stayed in the same inertial frame, but Ben
had to accelerate in the rocket
The viewpoints are not identical
Length Contraction
How do lengths appear in a different frame?

Similar derivation as for time dilation

There is no change in the directions perpendicular to travel

In the direction of travel, we can show that:

1
L   L0
1

2
v
1
c2

So, for a body travelling with v close to c, relative to an observer,


the body will appear shorter to the observer, in the direction of v
How do you measure your velocity?
It is meaningless to have an absolute velocity

Velocity can only be measured relative to another body

But what about length contraction and time dilation?

If lengths are shortened, then can you measure the change?

No – the ruler is length-contracted as well

Similarly, clocks slow down, so changes in time can ’t be measured

But doesn’t relativity define c as a maximum absolute speed ?

Not quite – this is a maximum relative speed, as light has the


same speed (c) relative to any frame
The Lorentz Transformation
We can now derive a relativistic transformation
y y’
S S’
v ms-1

x x’

this length is contracted


z z’ in the frame S

The y- and z-coordinates will be the same in both frames, as before


From the Galilean transformation, x = x’+ vt
But in frame S, x’is length-contracted to -1x’
x'
x  vt  x '    x  vt 

The Lorentz Transformation
To get the time transformation is a little trickier
Notice that the transformations are linear

x' x
x  vt  x '   vt '
 

x '    x  vt 

x
 ( x  vt )   vt '

 vx 
Lorentz time transformation t '   t  2 
 c 
The Lorentz Transformation
We can now state the full Lorentz Transformation :

x '   x  vt 
x '  x  vt
y'  y
y'  y
z'  z v << c
z'  z
 vx 
t '   t  2  t'  t
 c 
This satisfies the conditions for the transformation
Can We Go Faster Than Light?
From Newton’s Second Law, F = ma (constant mass)
So if we provide a continuous force, we can achieve v > c
But momentum must be conserved

p  mv p  m 0 v
relativistic momentum

m0 is the rest mass


The  factor in effect increases the mass, as v increases
A greater force is needed to provide the same acceleration
To reach the speed of light, an infinite force would be required
9. Relativity
The principle of Newtonian Relativity
• Inertial frame
:The frame is moving with a constant velocity v.
y y´

v  v î

x x´
z z´
x   x  vt
y   y
Galilean transformation of Coordinates
z   z
t  t

d x  dx
 u x    v  u x  v
d t  dt
u y  u y

u z  u z
9-5. The Lorentz Transformation Equations
( x , y , z , t) ( x , y , z , t )
x    ( x  vt )
y y´
y   y
P
z   z
 v 
O x O´ x´ t    t  2
x 
v  c 
z z´
x   ( x   v t )
y  y  When v << c ,
z  z 
2 2
v c  1    1
 v  x   x  vt
t    t  x  
 c 2  y   y
z   z
c t  ct
Galilean transformation
  x     x  v  t 
 v  s  s 
 t     t   x 
 c 2 

 x   (  x   v  t )
s   s
 v 
 t     t   x  
 c 2 
• Velocity
d x  d x    ( dx  vdt )
u x 
d t  v 
d t     dt  dx 
dx  vdt  c 2


v
dt  dx
c 2
u x  v
u x 
v
1  2
u x
c
u u
u y 
y
, u z  z

 u   u 
  1  x
v    1  x
2
v 
 c 2
  c 

If v , u x  c
u x  u x  v u y  u y u z  u z

If u x  c
c  v
u x   c
1  v c

u x  v u y u z
u  u  u z 
x
u x v
y
 v u x   v u x 
1    1     1  
c 2  c 2
  c 2 
Example 9.5 Relative velocity of Spaceship
v = 0.75c v = -0.85c
A B
Velocity of B with respect to A? v = 0.75c
ux = -0.85c
u  v  0 . 85 c  0 . 75 c
u x  x
   0 . 98 c
1 
u xv 1    0 . 85   0 . 75
c 2
9-6. Relativistic Momentum and Newton ’s Laws
 
Newtonian mometum p  m u is not conserved !!

But a momentum
  p must be conserved
 in all collisions.
p  m u u  0
as
The relativistic momentum is defined as


p 
1  u
m u
2
2
  m u

  
1  u
2

c 2   1
2

c
  
d u u d u d u
  m mu  m
d p dt c 2
dt dt
F    3 / 2
 3 / 2
dt u 2
 u 2
  u 2

1  2  1    1  
c  c 2
  c 2

3 
  m a
9-7. Relativistic Energy
x x m du dt u mu
  1  1
2
W  F  dx  x
dx  du
x 1 0
 u 2
c 2
 3 / 2 0
 u 2
c 2
 3 / 2

2
mc 2
  mc
2
u
1  2
c
2
mc 2 2 2
K   mc   mc  mc
2
u
1  2
c

At low velocity
1
1  x 2
  1
2
 1 
2
x 2
  x  1
 1
 v 2
 2
1 v 2
   1  2
  1  2
 c  2 c
 1 v 2
 1 Newtonian Kinetic
K  mc 2
 1  2
  mc 2
 mv 2

 2 c  2 Energy

Total Energy 2
2 2 mc
E  mc  K   mc 
2
v
1  2
c
Rest Energy
2 4
2 2 2 4 c m
E   m c  2
u
1  2
c
2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
p c  ( mc )   m u c  ( mc )  m c ( u  c )
 u 2

 m 2
c 4
 1   2
2

 c 

u 2 u 2
2 1  
2 u c 2 c 2
2
1    2
 
c 2
u
1 
c 2
2 2 2 2 2
 E  p c  ( mc )

If m  0
E  pc ; Photon

Rest Energy
m e c 2
 0 . 511 MeV ; Electron
2
m p c  938 MeV ; Proton
2
m n c  940 MeV ; Neutron
9-8. Mass as a Measure of Energy
L Momentum conservation
p  E v  c
c
L Mv  E
c
v
c v  E  t  L
Mc c
EL
 x  v  t  2
Mc

Kinetic mass of Pulse of light (Center of mass of the box is fi xed)


m k L  M  x

M  x M EL E
m k   2

L L Mc c 2
2
 E  m k c
If a body gives off the energy E in the form of radiation,
its mass diminishes by E/c 2.

Conservation of mass-energy
2
2 mu
E t   mc 
2
1  u 2
c
Lorentz Relative Velocity
Two spaceships are approaching each other at the same speeds (0. 99c) relative to the Earth.
Find the speed of one spaceship relative to the other .
Let frame S be the rest frame of the Earth and frame S’ be the spaceship moving at speed v
to the right relative to the Earth. The 2nd spaceship moving to the left is then a “particle”
moving at speed u relative to the earth. Now, find the speed u’ of this 2nd spaceship in the S’
reference frame.
v = 0.99c ux = – 0.99c
y S’

S = earth
x

ux  v 0.99c  0.99c
1.98c
ux'     0.99995c
1  vux c2 1  0.99c0.99c  c2 1.9801
Note that the oncoming spaceship approaches at less than the speed of light, as
must be true.
MUON DECAY
• Why do we observe muons created in the upper atmosphere on earth?
– Given its ~2 s lifetime, it should travel only ~ 600 m at 0.998 c.
• Need relativity to explain!
– In muon’s S’ frame, it sees a shorter length. (Length contraction)
– In our S frame, we see a longer lifetime of  ~ 30 s. (Time dilation)

Earth’s S frame
Muon’s S’ frame
~30 s
~2 s

Proper Lifetime Longer Lifetime


Contracted Length Proper Length
EXERCISE
A spaceship departs from earth (v = 0.995c) for a star which is 100 light-years
away. Find how long it takes to arrive there according to someone on earth (t1)
and to someone on the spaceship (t2).

x 100 c  yr
t1 earth    100.5 yr
v 0.995 c
where x is measured from the earth's reference frame (S frame)
For t2, remember that the spaceship sees a “contracted” distance x’.

1 1 x 100 c  yr
    10.01 x '    9.99 c  yr
1 v2 c2 2  10.01
1 0.995
x ' 9.99 c  yr
t2 ship    10.04 yr
v 0.995 c

Note that someone on the ship thinks it takes only 10% of the ti me to reach the star
as someone from the earth believes it takes. This is why we say the clock on the
ship “runs slow” compared to the clock on the earth.
DOPPLER EFFECT
• Doppler shift causes change in measured frequency.
Doppler Shift
– When a light source moves towards an observer, the light
frequency is shifted higher (i.e. blue shift).
– When a light source moves away from an observer, the light
frequency is shifted lower (i.e. red shift).
– Only difference with “classical” Doppler shift for sound is the
incorporation of time dilation (causes square root factor).

Approaching - blue shift

1 v / c 
f obs  f source
1 v / c 
Note: For a receding source, switch signs.
Doppler Shift Exercise
The light from a nearby star is observed to be shifted toward th e red by 5% (f =
0.95 f o). Is the star approaching or receding from the earth? How fast is it
moving?
Answer:
The star is receding the earth because the frequency is shifted to a lower value.

f 1  v
 where f  0.95 f o and solve for  
fo 1  c
f f o  1     1    f   1     f f o  1
2 2 2
fo
 
1   f fo  1  0.95 f o f o 
2 2
0.0975
   
1   f fo  1  0.95 f o f o 
2 2
1.9025
  0.0512 (1.54  1 07 m/s)
Speed of Light
Speed of Light Examples
An observer is moving at speed c toward a light source. Find
the speed of light measured by the observer.

v = -c
y
S’
photon ux = c

x
S = earth

ux  v c  c
2c
ux'    c
2 2
1  vux c 1  c c  c 2