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Exercises on Relativity

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They will not be collected for credit. They are mainly to help you remember some of the basics. Solutions will be posted in a few days. 1. A missile is red from New York to Los Angeles (dont ask why), a distance of about 5000 km. How fast must the missile go so that an observer on the ground in Omaha perceives its length to be shorter than its length at rest by 1% ? (Ans.: 4.2 107 m/s) Solution: With a contraction of 1%, L/L = 0.99 = 1 2 . Thus = 0.14 or v = c = 4.2 107 m/s. 2. A clock in a moving spaceship is observed to run at a speed of only 3/5 that of when it is at rest on earth. How fast is the spaceship moving? (Ans.: 2.4 108 m/s) Solution: The observed time-dilation gives the Lorentz factor as = 5/3, so then 2 = 1 1/ 2 = 16/25, and the speed is then v = c = (4/5)c = 2.4 108 m/s. 3. What speed will a clock have to be moving in order to run at a rate that is one-half the rate of the clock at rest? (Ans.: 2.6 108 m/s) Solution: This means that any given time interval t measured by an observer who watches the clock go past will be twice as long as the interval t measured in the rest frame of the clock. The Lorentz time-dilation is given by t = t , so we can rearrange things to obtain the speed or : 1 1 2 = 1 2 = (1 2 ) In our case, = t/t = 2 so = giving v = 0.866c = 2.6 108 m/s. 4. How fast must a meter stick be moving if its length is observed to shrink to 0.5 m ? (Ans.: 2.6 108 m/s) Solution: An observer measures the moving stick to be L, while someone moving with the stick measures its rest length L . In our case L = 0.5L . The Lorentz length contraction expression tells us that = L /L = 2. As in the last problem, = so again v = 0.866c = 2.6 108 m/s. 5. A clock on a spacecraft runs 1 second slower per day when compared to an identical clock on earth. What is the speed of the spacecraft relative to the earth? (Hint: it is helpful to make an approximation using 2 1) (Ans.: 1.44 106 m/s) 1 1 = 0.866 22 1 1 = 0.866 22

Solution: Use the Lorentz time dilation relation between two frames t = t to determine the Lorentz factor : In the at-rest earth frame S , let t = 1 day = 86400 sec. In the moving spacecraft frame S , the clock is one second per day slow, so in that same period t = 86399 sec. Thus = 86400/86399 = 1 + 1.16 105 . Since diers little from 1.0, the speed is well under the speed of light, 1.0. Use the approximate expression: 1 1 + 2 2 2( 1) = 2(1.16 105 ) = 0.0048

to obtain v = c = .0048c = 1.44 106 m/s. 6. The pion is a subatomic particle which has an average lifetime of 2.6 108 sec in its own frame of reference (i.e., when it is at rest). If the particle is observed moving at a speed of 0.95c, what is (a) its mean lifetime and (b) the average distance it travels before decaying? (Ans.: (a) 8.33 108 s, (b) 24 m) Solution: (a) = with = 0.95 so = (1 2 )1/2 = 2.6 108 sec(1 0.952 )1/2 = 8.33 108 sec (b) d = v = 0.95(3 108 m/s)(8.33 108 sec) = 24m. 7. If the pion above is seen to travel 10 m before it decays, how fast must it be moving? (Ans.: 2.37 108 m/s) Solution: If a pion travels 10m in our frame, v t = 10m. In the pions rest frame, t = 2.6 108 sec. Lorentz time dilation tells us that t = t , so 10m = v t = v t = v (1 v 2 /c2 )1/2 (2.6 108 sec) Squaring and rearranging, (3.85 108 m/sec)2 (1 v 2 /c2 ) = v 2 (3.85 108 m/sec)2 = v 2 (1 + (3.85 108 m/sec)2 /c2 ) = v 2 (1 + 1.64) v = 2.37 108 m/sec = 0.789c 8. An astronaut at rest on Earth has a heartbeat rate of 70 beats/min. What will this rate be when she is traveling in a spaceship at 0.90c as measured by (a) another astronaut in the ship with her and (b) by an observer at rest on Earth? (Ans.: (b) 30.5 beats/min) Solution: (a) To this astronaut, the subject is at rest so they will measure 70 beats/min. (b) The time between beats (when observed at rest) is t = (1/70) min. When she is seen to be moving, the time interval is t = t = or 30.5 beats/min. 1 1 (0.9)2 t = 2.29(1/70) = 1/(30.5) min

9. A particle having a speed of 0.92c has a momentum of 1016 kg m/s. What is its mass? (Ans.: 1.42 1025 kg) Solution: = m= 1 = 2.5516 1 0.922

10. Calculate the momentum, kinetic energy, and total energy of an electron traveling at a speed of (a) 0.01c, (b) 0.1c, and (c) 0.9c. (Ans.: for part (a), 5.11 keV/c, 26 eV, 511.026 keV) Solution: (a) p = mv = (511 keV/c2 )(0.01c) = 5.11 keV/c 1 0.012 (511 keV/c2 )(c2 ) = 511.026 keV 1 0.012

E = mc2 =

K = E mc2 = 511.026 keV 511.00 keV = 26eV( 30eV) Similarly for parts (b) and (c): (b) = 0.1: p = 51.4 keV/c, E = 513.6 keV, K = 2.6 keV. (c) = 0.9: p = 1055 keV/c, E = 1172 keV, K = 661 keV. 11. What is the speed of an electron when its kinetic energy is: (a) 10% of its rest energy, (b) equal to its rest energy, and (c) 10 times the rest energy? (Ans.: (a) .417c, (b) .866c, (c) .996c) Solution: (a) If K = 0.1mc2 then E = K + mc2 = 1.1mc2 so = 1.1. Then = and v = 0.417c. (b) As above, = 2.0 and v = 1 1 = 2 1 1 = 0.417 1.12

3c/2 = 0.866c.

(c) As above, = 11.0 and v = 0.996c. 12. Across what potential dierence does an electron have to be accelerated in order to reach a speed of v = 2 107 m/s? Comment on whether you need to use relativistic calculations here. Solution: Assume the speed is exact. Relativistically, put the electron through potential V and nd the kinetic energy is K = q V = eV (where e is the charge of an electron). Relativistically K = mc2 ( 1). In this problem, = 1/ 1 ((2 107 )/(2.9979 108 ))2

and for an electron with mc2 = 511 keV, V = 1141.0 volts. Nonrelativistically K = eV = 1 mv 2 . so 2 V = mv 2 (9.1094 1031 kg)(2 107 m/s)2 = = 1137.1 volts 2e 2(1.6022 1019 C)

These results dier by about 4 volts or 0.34%. Use of relativistic techniques is neccessary only if this level of precision is required. (Note: I used a more precise expression for the speed of light c than we normally do. As you may have noticed, the answer is slightly dierent that way. But were looking for rather small dierences, so it was probably important to use the more precise value.) 13. Protons are accelerated at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago to a (total) energy equal to 400 times their rest energy. (a) What is the speed of these protons? (b) What is their kinetic energy in MeV? (Ans.: 0.999997c, 3.74 105 MeV = 374 GeV) Solution: (a) E = 400mc2 = mc2 , so = 400. Then = 1 1/ 2 v = 0.999997c. (b) K = ( 1)mc2 = 399 mc2 = 399 938.3 MeV = 3.74 105 MeV

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