1
Special Theory of Relativity
frame of reference: A frame of reference may refer to a coordinate system or set of axes within which to
measure the position, orientation, and other properties of objects in it.
Inertial Frame of Refrence: A frame of reference in which Newton, Law of motion and all other fundamental
law of mechanics are valid. Inertial frame of reference always moves with uniform velocity and having
unaccelerated motion.
Space time coordinates: A frame of reference having four coordinates x,y,z and t is called space time co
ordinates.
Non – Inertial Frame of Refrence: A frame of reference which is accelerated is called noninertial frame of
reference.
The Galilean Transformation
Suppose there are two reference frames (systems) designated by S and S' such that the coordinate axes are
parallel (as in figure 1). In S, we have the coordinates (x,y,z,t) and in S' we have the coordinates (x', y', z', t') .
Frame of reference S' is moving with respect to S with velocity (as measured in S) in the direction. The
clocks in both systems were synchronised at time and they run at the same rate.
Figure 1: Reference frame S' moves with velocity (in the x direction) relative to reference frame S.
Time is measured form the instant when both frame of reference coincided with each other, after time t the
frame of reference S' get separated from the frame of reference S by a distance of vt in the direction of xaxis as
shown in figure. Hence from figure it is clear that frame S' is separated by a distance vt. Hence we get the
equation :
………. (1)
Since there is no motion in the Y and Z direction s,
………. (2)
………. (3)
Let the time of occurrence in both frame of reference is same
i.e. ……………….. (4)
The set of equation from (1) to (4) are called Galilean Transformation Equation
The inverse Galilean Transformation Equation can be obtain from above equation by changing prime to
unprime and viceversa and v changes to –v, we get the following equations.
Page No. 2
Lorentz Transformation:
Lorentz Transformation equation is suitable for special Theory of Relativity must fulfill the following
requirement.
1. The speed of light C must have the same value in every frame of reference.
2. The transformation should be linear and at low speed it must be reduced to Galilean Transformation .
3. It should not be based upon absolute time and absolute space.
Let us consider two frame of reference S(x,y,z,t) and S'(x', y', z', t') initaly both are at rest. After some time
frame of reference S'(x', y', z', t') starts moving with a uniform velocity v along the xaxis. Let two observers O
and O’ sit inside the frame of reference inside these frame of reference. As frame of reference starts moving at
the same instant a photon of Light P sent along the same direction in which frame of reference S'(x', y', z', t') is
moving .
Figure 2: Reference frame S' moves with velocity (in the x direction) relative to reference frame S.
Since the motion is only along xaxis , so there is no change in the coordinates of yaxis and zaxis. Hence we
get
………. (1)
A photon is traveling along xaxis with speed C. When photon will reach the poing A then values of x and x'
must be given by ct and ct' i.e.
When x =ct then x c t' …… … (2)
Know we have to find the relation between x and x'. This relation must be linear and it should be
reduced to Galilean Transformation at low speed. We can anticipate this relation should be of the form
' ( ) x K x vt = ÷
…… … (3)
Inverse transformation equation will be of the form
( ' ') x K x vt = ÷
…… … (4)
Putting the value of Eq. no.(3) in Eq. no. (4)
We get
{ ( ) '} x K K x vt vt = ÷ +
…… … (5)
Solving the equation we get
Page No. 3
2
1
' ( )
K
t x Kt
Kv
÷
= +
…… … (6)
Putting the value of Eq. no.(2) in Eq. no. (3) & (4)
' ( ) ct Kt c v = ÷
…… … (7)
'( ) ct Kt c v = +
…… … (8)
Multiply equation no. (7) & (8) we get
2 2 2 2
' '( ) c tt K tt c v = ÷
…… … (9)
From above equation
2
2
1
1
K
v
c
=
÷
……….. (10)
Putting the value of Eq. no.(10) in Eq. no. (4) & (6), we get
2
2
'
1
x vt
x
v
c
÷
=
÷
' y y =
…………………. (11)
' z z =
2
2
2
'
1
vx
t
c
t
v
c
÷
=
÷
These four equations are the Lorentz Transformation Equations. Inverse Transformation equations of these can
be written as
2
2
' '
1
x vt
x
v
c
+
=
÷
' y y =
…………………… (12)
' z z =
2
2
2
'
'
1
vx
t
c
t
v
c
+
=
÷
Application of Lorentz Transformation:
(1). VelocityAddition Formula:
Let us consider two frame of reference S(x,y,z,t) and S'(x', y', z', t') initaly both are at rest. After some
time frame of reference S'(x', y', z', t') starts moving with a uniform velocity v along the xaxis. Let two
observers O and O’ sit inside the frame of reference inside these frame of reference.
Page No. 4
Let us consider a body moving with velocity u’ in the frame of reference S’ in the same direction in
which the frame S’ itself moving with a uniform velocity v relative to the frame S. Let us find the speed of the
body relative to the frame S in term of the special theory of relativity.
Suppose the body moves through a distance dx’ in the time dt’ in the frame S’.
Then
'
& '
'
dx dx
u u
dt dt
= = ……………….. (1)
Using inverse lorentz transformation equation
2
2
' '
1
x vt
x
v
c
+
=
÷
and
2
2
2
'
'
1
vx
t
c
t
v
c
+
=
÷
……………….. (2)
Differentiation both equation, we get
2
2
' '
1
dx vdt
dx
v
c
+
=
÷
and
2
2
2
'
'
1
vdx
dt
c
dt
v
c
+
=
÷
……………….. (3)
Divinding both equation , we get
2
' '
' '
dx dx vdt
v
dt
dt dx
c
+
=
+
……………….. (4)
Divinding numenator and denominator by dt’ we get
2
' '
' '
' '
' '
dx dt
v
dx
dt dt
dt v dx
dt
dt c dt
+
=
+
……………….. (5)
Putting the value of equation no. 1 we get
2
' '
1
u vt
u
uv
c
+
=
+
……………….. (6)
This is the velocity addition formula.
2) Variation of Mass with velocity;
Let us consider two frame of reference S(x,y,z,t) and S'(x', y', z', t') initaly both are at rest. After some
time frame of reference S'(x', y', z', t') starts moving with a uniform velocity v along the xaxis. Let two
observers O and O’ sit inside the frame of reference inside these frame of reference.
Let two exactly similar elastic balls A and B approach each other at speed i.e. u and –u in the frame of
reference S’ and mass of the each ball is same. The balls collide with each other and say they colapsed into one
body after the collision.
Apply law of conservation of momentum in frame of reference S’
Momentum of Ball A +Momentum of Ball B = Momentum of collapsed mass
Page No. 5
Or mu +m(u) = 0 Hence the collapsed mass will be at rest in frame S’
Let us now consider the collision with reference to the system S. Let
1
u and
2
u be the velocities of the balls
relative to frame S. Then
1
2
1
u v
u
uv
c
+
=
+
……………………(1)
And
2
2
1
u v
u
uv
c
÷ +
=
÷
……………….. (2)
Let v be the velocity of the colapsed mass relative to the system S after Collision. Let m1 and m2 be the
mass of the body A and B travelling with velocity u1 and u2 inside the frame of reference S w.r.t. the frame of
reference S’ Total momentum of the ball will be conserved.
Therefore
1 1 2 2 1 2
( ) mu m u m m v + = +
…………….. (3)
Substituing the value of equ. No (1) and (2) in equ. no. (3), we get
1 2 1 2
2 2
( )
1 1
u v u v
m m m m v
uv uv
c c
( (
( (
+ ÷ +
+ = +
( (
( ( + ÷
¸ ¸ ¸ ¸
…………….. (4)
Seprating the variables of m1 and m2, we get
1 2
2 2
1 1
u v u v
m v m v
uv uv
c c
( (
( (
+ ÷ +
÷ = ÷
( (
( ( + ÷
¸ ¸ ¸ ¸
………….. (5)
2 2
1 2
2 2
1 1
uv uv
u v v v u v
c c
m m
uv uv
c c
( (
+ ÷ ÷ ÷ + ÷
( (
=
( (
( ( + ÷
¸ ¸ ¸ ¸
………….. (6)
2 2
2 2
1 2
2 2
1 1
1 1
v v
u u
c c
m m
uv uv
c c
( (    
÷ ÷
( (  
\ . \ .
( (
=
( (
+ ÷
( (
¸ ¸ ¸ ¸
………….. (7)
2
1
2
2
1
1
uv
m
c
uv
m
c
+
=
÷
………….. (8)
Solving the Value of
2
1
2
1
u
c
÷
and
2
2
2
1
u
c
÷
we get the values
Page No. 6
2 2
2 2 2
1
2 2
2
1 1
1
1
u v
c c u
c
uv
c
  
÷ ÷
 
\ .\ .
÷ =
 
+

\ .
………….. (9)
O r
2 2
2 2 2
2
2 2
2
1 1
1
1
u v
c c u
c
uv
c
  
÷ ÷
 
\ .\ .
÷ =
 
+

\ .
………….. (10)
Dividing both equ. No () and (), we get
2
2
2
2
2
2 2
1
2
2
1
1
1
1
uv
u
c
c
u
uv
c
c
 
+
÷ 
\ .
=
 
÷
÷

\ .
………….. (11)
Or
2
2
2
2
2
1
2 2
1
1
1 1
uv
u
c
c
uv u
c c
 
+
÷

\ .
=
 
÷ ÷

\ .
………….. (12)
Compairing Equ. No. (8) and (12), we get
2 2
1 2
1 2 2 2
1 1
u u
m m
c c
÷ = ÷
………….. (13)
If the velocity of second ball is zero i.e. u2 =0, from above equation we get
2 2
1 2
1 2 0 2 2
1 1 ( )
u u
m m m rest mass
c c
÷ = ÷ = ÷
0
1
2
2
2
1
m
m
u
c
=
÷
In General form we get
0
2
2
1
m
m
v
c
=
÷
This above equation shows the varioation of mass with veloctiy. Hence when we move any mass m0(rest mass)
with very high speed that is comparable with speed of light, then mass changes according to above equation.
If v→c then m→∞
A body travelling with the speed of light will have infinite mass. Therefore we find that no material body can
have velocity equal or greater than the velocity of light.
3) Einstein massenergy relationship:
As we know that the rate of change of momentum
i.e.
( )
d
F mv
dt
=
…………………(1)
Page No. 7
From theory of relativity bothe mass and velocity are variable
i.e
dv dm
F m v
dt dt
= +
…………….. (2)
Let the force displace abodythrough a distance dx then increase in kinetic energy dEk of the body is
equal to the work done F.dx
.
k
dv dm
dE F dx m dx v dx
dt dt
= = +
…………. (3)
.
k
dx dx
dE F dx m dv v dm
dt dt
= = +
……………..(4)
2
k
dE mvdv v dm = +
……………. (5)
According to vatiation of mass with veloctiy
0
2
2
1
m
m
v
c
=
÷
………………… (6)
Squaring and Multiplying each other, we get
2 2 2 2 2 2
0
m c m v m c ÷ =
………………. (7)
2 2 2 2 2 2
0
m c m c m v = +
…………(8)
Compairing Eq.no. (5) and (8), we get
2
.
k
dE c dm =
To calucalate the kinetic energy integrating both sides
0
2
0
k
dE m
k
m
dE c dm =
} }
2
0
( )
k
E c m m = ÷
2 2
0 k
E mc m c = ÷
Total enegy of body is the sum of kinetic energy and potential energy
E = K.E. + P.E.(rest mass energy)
2 2 2
0 0
( ) E mc m c m c rest mass = ÷ + ÷
We get the equation
2
E mc =
This equation is called Einstein’s mass energy relation and gives the mass energy equivalence.
4) Energymomentum relationship:
As we know that
P mv =
2
E mc =
Know we have to Find the value of
2 2 2 2 4 2 2 2
E p c m c m v c ÷ = ÷
according to the relation of variation of mass with velocity
0
2
2
1
m
m
v
c
=
÷
Putting the value of above equation we get
Page No. 8
2
2 4
2 2 4 2 2 2
2 2 2 2 4
0 2 2 2
2 2 2
1
1 1 1
v
m c
c m c m v c
E p c m c
v v v
c c c
 
÷

\ .
÷ = ÷ = =
÷ ÷ ÷
2 2 2 2 4
0
E p c m c ÷ =
5) Length Contraction:
Let us consider two frame of reference S(x,y,z,t) and S'(x', y', z', t') initaly both are at rest. After some time
frame of reference S'(x', y', z', t') starts moving with a uniform velocity v along the xaxis. Let two observers O
and O’ sit inside the frame of reference inside these frame of reference.
Let us consider a rod of length is placed parallel to xaxis inside the frame of reference S’. Let X1’ and X2’ be
the position of end points of the rod from origion O’ measuring at the instant t’.
' '
0 2 1
L x x = ÷ ………………… (1)
L0 is called Proper Length because it remain always at rest w.r.t. S’)
Let X1 and X2 be the position of end point of rod from origion O measured at same instant . How ever
clock of S would give reading t.
2 1
L x x = ÷
………….. (2)
According to direct Transformation equations
' 1 1
1
2
2
1
x v t
x
v
c
÷
=
÷
and
' 2 2
2
2
2
1
x vt
x
v
c
÷
=
÷
 (3)
Subtracting both equations
( ) ( )
2 1 2 1 ' '
2 1
2
2
1
x x v t t
x x
v
c
÷ ÷ ÷
÷ =
÷
 (4)
But since the two measurment made in the fixed frame are made simultaneously in that two frame
t1 =t2, hence we get from above equation.
( )
2 1 ' '
2 1
2
2
1
x x
x x
v
c
÷
÷ =
÷
…………… (5)
Putting the value of equation no. (1) and (2) in equ. No. (5), we get
Page No. 9
0
2
2
1
L
L
v
c
=
÷
 (6)
Hence
0
L L <
Hence the length of the rod gets contracted by the factor
2
2
1
v
c
÷
when it will moves with a velocity v
(comparable with the speed of light). This phenomena is called Length contraction.
6) Time Dilation:
Let us consider two frame of reference S(x,y,z,t) and S'(x', y', z', t') initaly both are at rest. After some
time frame of reference S'(x', y', z', t') starts moving with a uniform velocity v along the xaxis. Let two
observers O and O’ sit inside the frame of reference inside these frame of reference.
Let us consider a clock is placed in the frame of reference S which is at rest and which is placed at fixed
point x1. Suppose the observer O inside the frame of reference S observe an event, clock gives a signal at the
time of starting of event at time t1(say) and again gives the signal at the end of event at time t2(say).
0 2 1
t t t = ÷ ………………… (1)
0
t is the proper time
Let us consider same evemt is recorded by the observer inside the frame of reference S’ which is moving
with uniform velocity. Suppose the starting time of event recorded is t1’ and the end time of event recorded is
t2’
2 1
t t t = ÷ ………….. (2)
According to Lorentz Transformation
2
2
2
'
1
vx
t
c
t
v
c
÷
=
÷
Hence the value of
1
t and
2
t are
1
1 2
1
2
2
'
1
vx
t
c
t
v
c
÷
=
÷
and
2
2 2
2
2
2
'
1
vx
t
c
t
v
c
÷
=
÷
Subtracting both above equations we get
( ) ( )
2 1 2 1 2
'
2 1
2
2
'
1
v
t t x x
c
t t
v
c
÷ ÷ ÷
÷ =
÷
Since the position of the clock is fixed at
1
x hence
1 2
x x =
Page No. 10
We get
( )
2 1 '
2 1
2
2
'
1
t t
t t
v
c
÷
÷ =
÷
0
2
2
1
t
t
v
c
=
÷
Hence
0
t t > i.e. the time interval of frame of reference S is greater from the frame of reference
S’ by the factor
2
2
1
1
v
c
÷
, Therefor a moving clock always appears to go slow.
Concept of ether:
Before the invention of electromagnetic wave only waves know during those days were water and
sound waves. Both of them required a material medium for their propagation. There fore it was suggested that
there must be some unknown medium through which light wave could travel. This medium was supposed to be
present inside the whole universe at evey where. The existence of this hypothetical medium was know as ether.
3) MicholsonMorley Experiment:
Michelson and Morley devised an experiment to find out the velocity of light determined w.r.t.
earth moving through ether actually depend upon the velocity of the earth. If it can possible to calculate then we
would establish the existence of ether and help us to find the speed of the earth relative to ether. The instrument
for this measurement is called MichelsonMorley Interferometer.
S is a monochromatic source of light from which light is fall in the form of a parallel beam on a glass
plate P. Glass plate is thinly silvered at the back and beam of light after falling on it get divided into two part.
One part is transmitting(beam
1
B ) and other part is reflecting(beam
2
B ) , both the beam are perpendicular to
each other, gets reflected from the mirror
1
M and
2
M placed at the same distance l . On returning the path
both the beam will reach to the Telescope through the glass Plate P and shows the phenomena of Interference.
The beam
1
B travels only one time inside the plate P and the beam
2
B travels three times inside the
glass plate P. hence to remove the path difference between the two beam we introduce an extra glass plate
between the path of beam
1
B
.
Michelson and Morley set the interferometer with one arm along the direction or earth’s motion and
other perpendicular to it. Let the velocity of light relative to ether is c and that of the earth through stationary
ether is v. Since one arm is parallel to the earth motion,
The velocity of beam
1
B towards (P to M1) relative to interferometer =c  v
The velocity of beam
1
B towards (M1 to P) relative to interferometer =c +v
Page No. 11
Therefore the time taken by the beam
1
B for their complete trip P to
1
M and back:
1 2 2 2
2
2 2
1
l l lc l
t
c v c v c v v
c
c
= + = =
+ ÷ ÷  
÷

\ .
2
2
2 1
1
l
v c
c
 



÷

\ .
Since the whole apparatus is placed on the earth and earth is rotating with a velocity v, when beam of light
reaches from P to
2
M by the time whole apparatus shift to the new position i.e.
'
2
M and the path of light from
outside the earth is triangular. When beam
2
B comes back then the glass plate shift to new position
''
P .know
the beam follow the path
' ''
2
PM P as shown in the figure. Hence the component of velocity of light along
perpendicular direction to the motion of interferometer is
2 2
c v ÷ .
Therefore, time taken by the light to travel out and back along
2
PM
2
2 2 2 2
2 2 1 l l
t
c
c v c v
 
= =

÷ ÷
\ .
As the time difference between the two beam
2 1 2
2
2
2
2 1 2 1
1
1
l l
t t t
v c c
v
c
c
 
 



= ÷ = ÷ 


÷
 ÷

\ .
\ .
1
1
2 2
2
2 1 2 2
2 2
1 1
l v l v
t t t
c c c c
÷ ÷
   
= ÷ = ÷ ÷ ÷
 
\ . \ .
Using binomial theorem
Page No. 12
2 2
2 1 2 2
2 2
1 1
2
l v l v
t t t
c c c c
   
= ÷ = + ÷ +
 
\ . \ .
2
3
v
t l
c
=
If the interferometer is rotated through 90
the role of optical path get interchanged.
Then total time difference =
2
3
2
v
l
c
Due to this time difference, the waves are in phase at the instant they get separated at P will not in phase on
their return path.. due to time difference their should be path difference and this will appear as fringe shift from
the position the fringes would occupy therefore
Path difference =c. ∆t=n
c.
2
3
2
v
l
c
=n
n =
2
2
2lv
c
( Experimental value is 0.04)
With the value of fringe shift it is possible to determine the velocity of earth relative to the ether, hence if fringe
shift appears existence of ether is proved
But it was big surprises scientists are able to detect the fringe shift only when first time experiment was
performed. This experiment when performed during day and night time and in the different seasons like winters
and summers always result was zero.
This negative result suggest that it is impossible to measure the speed of earth relative to the ether.
Therefore the effect of ether cannot be detected. Thus the attempts to make ether as a fixed frame of reference
failed.
Explanation of negative result:
The earth dragged the ether along with it in its immediate neighborhood. So there is no relative
motion between the earth and ether
Lorentz suggested that the bodies get contracted along the direction of their motion through
ether. If
0
l
is the length of the body at rest, then its new length when moving with speed v parallel to its length
is given by
2
0 2
1
v
l
c
÷ .
Einstein concluded that velocity of light in space is a universal constant. This statement is called
the principal of constancy of speed of light.
Postulates of special relativity
1. First postulate
The laws of physics are the same in all inertial frames of reference.
2. Second postulate (invariance of c)
The speed of light in free space has the same value c in all inertial frames of reference.
Page No. 13