Speciale Relativiteitstheorie 2013 – Werkcollege 7

25 Oct 2013
Please read all explanations carefully, all of the material is relevant for the exam.
All exercises will be discussed during the problem class on Friday. If you still have
open questions about this or previous problem sheets, please use the opportunity
to ask the assistants. – There will be no homework this week, so you can spend
more time on preparing for the exam next week. Please note that for the exam
you will not be allowed to bring along any notes, books, and other written or
electronic material or equipment.
Exercise 1 - Two-particle scattering and momentum conservation
In Newtonian mechanics the non-relativistic total three-momentum of a system
of n particles with masses m
k
, k=1, 2, . . . , n,
p
N.R.
TOT
=
n

k=1
p
N.R.
k
=
n

k=1
m
k
v
k
(1)
is conserved in scattering processes. In the last lecture we verified by explicit
calculation that the conservation of the total momentum of a two-particle system
with equal masses m
1
=m
2
=m is independent of the observer. More specifically,
what was shown implied that if momentum conservation holds in one inertial
coordinate system O (“inertial” in the Newtonian sense), it will also hold in an
inertial system which differs from O by a Galilei transformation.
(a) Show that for the same two-particle system an observer in a Lorentz-boosted
system O

will in general not observe momentum conservation in the sense
of (1). Proceed as we did in the lecture, by starting in the centre-of-mass
system O where the two particles before the collision are moving with equal
and opposite three-velocities u
1
and u
2
=−u
1
along the x-direction
1
, and
after the collision with equal and opposite three-velocities v
1
and v
2
=−v
1
along the y-direction, where u
1
=(u, 0, 0) and v
1
=(0, u, 0). We easily find
that the total three-momentum before the scattering is
p
N.R.
TOT
= p
N.R.
1
+ p
N.R.
2
≡ mu
1
+ mu
2
= 0. (2)
Similarly, the total three-momentum after the scattering is
q
N.R.
TOT
= q
N.R.
1
+ q
N.R.
2
≡ mv
1
+ mv
2
= 0, (3)
and we therefore have momentum conservation, p
N.R.
TOT
= q
N.R.
TOT
. Using the
relativistic transformation law for velocities, compute the components of
1
Don’t be confused by the usage of the letter “u” - the u
i
here denote the components of a
nonrelativistic three-momentum, and not the spatial components of a four-momentum.
1
the initial velocities u

i
and the final velocities v

i
, i =1, 2, from the point
of view of the Lorentz-boosted inertial frame O

that moves with relative
velocity w in negative x-direction. Thus show that
p
N.R.
TOT

=q
N.R.
TOT

. (4)
(b) Show by explicit computation that for the same two-particle system, if the
sum of the relativistic three-momenta
p
TOT
=
n

k=1
p
k
=
n

k=1
m
k
γ(v
k
)v
k
(5)
is conserved in one inertial coordinate system, it is also conserved in a
Lorentz-boosted system.
Again, without loss of generality, start in the centre-of-mass system O of
the equal-mass particles, and compute (5) before and after the scatter-
ing. Then, apply a boost of magnitude w in the negative x-direction and
compute the components of p

TOT
and q

TOT
in O

, thus showing that con-
servation of the total relativistic three-momentum holds also in the boosted
inertial frame (as it should).
Exercise 2 - Relativistic energy-momentum and units
In high-energy physics, one often measures the rest mass of a particle in units of
energy, for example, in MeV (Mega-electron Volt, 1 MeV=10
6
eV), because the
mass-energy equivalence E=mc
2
defines a unique correspondence between these
two quantities (simply given by a relative factor c
2
). Given the mass of a particle
in units of grams (g) or kilograms (kg), in order to work out the corresponding
rest energy E
R
in units of eV one needs a conversion factor from Joule (1 J=1 kg
m
2
/s
2
).
(a) What is the conversion factor between J and eV? – The rest mass of a π
0
-
meson is 135 MeV in units of energy. What is its rest mass in units of
kg?
(b) A π
0
-meson is moving with velocity V = c/

2 (V is the magnitude of its
nonrelativistic three-velocity) in a spatial direction at an angle of 45
o
to
the x-axis. Find the components of the particle’s four-velocity and of its
four-momentum.
(c) You learned in the lectures that also photons carry energy and momentum,
characterized by a four-momentum vector. What is the energy E (measured
in eV) of a single photon associated with (i) a typical radio wave, and (ii)
red light? What are the frequency and wave length of the corresponding
electromagnetic waves (made up of such photons)?
2