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Peter Fisher Nov. 27, 2008 8.


In lecture, we saw the twin paradox is not really a paradox at all, it arises because
traveling twin changes reference frames at the turn around point (at t=T/2) by the Earth
bound clock). Still, it seems odd that the traveling twin is younger when they meet up
again at time t=T.
The reason for the age difference comes from the way we measure "distance" in space-
time. Recall, the invariant interval between two events
remains the same in all reference frames. If we make the two events infinitesimally
close, we can write .
Suppose we are at rest in a frame S and there is an object accelerating with respect to our
rest frame. Over any time interval dt, there is a frame S’ in which the object is at rest.
Since the object accelerates, it will not longer be at rest in S’ in the next instant in time,
but for the instant dt, S and S’ are relatively inertial and S’ is the rest frame of the object.

In S’, the interval and the clock time to go from A to B is . The

interval is invariant, so and

Remember we are working out the clock time for a clock in the rest frame of the moving
object while we are in our rest frame S.
Let’s work out the clock time for the twins. The Earth bound twin is at rest, so dx/dt=0
and . For the traveling twin, the

outbound part is equal to the inbound part and

From the figure to the left, you can see the traveling
clock always reads a shorter time than a stationary
clock: if then . The minus sign1 in the interval means a
moving object always takes a longer path through space-time than a stationary object.
This is just a result of the way we measure “distance” (interval) in space-time.

Recall the minus sign comes from the Lorentz transformations and they come from the
need to keep c constant, which comes from Einstein’s second postulate which comes
from the fact there is no ether as Michelson and Morley showed.