Physics Practice Exam Solutions

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Physics Practice Exam Solutions

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1. An electron, which has a rest mass energy of 0.511 MeV, moves with a speed

u = 0.8c. Calculate in a relativistically correct way

a) total energy of the electron (5 points)

The total energy is given by

E 2 = (mc2 )2 + (pc)2

where mc2 = 0.511 MeV for the electron. The momentum is given by

m(0.8c)c 0.8mc2

p = mu =

=

c

c

Thus we can write

E 2 = (mc2 )2 (1 + 0.64 2 )

For the speed u = 0.8c,

2 =

1

= 2.78

(1 0.64)

q

b) the kinetic energy of the electron (5 points)

The kinetic energy is the total energy less the rest mass energy

K = E mc2 = 0.341 MeV

c) the magnitude of its momentum (5 points)

p = (

1

)(0.8)mc2 /c = 0.681 MeV/c

0.36

2. Two spaceships, each 100 m long as measured in their own rest frames, are

traveling toward each other with the same speed 0.85c as measured by an observer at rest on the Earth:

a) What is the length of each spaceship as measured by the observer on the

Earth? (5 points)

To an observer at rest on the Earth the length of each spaceship will appear

to be contracted from the length as measured in the rest frame of the

spaceship. The contraction factor is 1/ where is the Lorentz factor

q

= 1 1 v 2 /c2 =

1

= 1.898

1 (0.85)2

b) How fast is each spaceship traveling according to an observer at rest on the

other spaceship? (5 points)

From the point of view of the second spaceship, the first spaceship is said to

be moving with a speed u = +0.85c in a reference frame (the Earth) which

is moving in the same direction with a speed v = +.085c.

u0 =

0.85c + 0.85c

= 0.987c

(1 + 0.85 0.85)

the other spaceship? (5 points)

The 100 m proper length will be contracted by the factor corresponding

to the u0 = 0.987c speed. The

length of one spaceship as measured by the

other spaceship will be 100 1 0.987 0.987 = 16.1 meters.

d) At time t = 0, according to an observer on the Earth, the front ends of the

spaceships are just beginning to pass each other. How long will it take the

two ships to completely pass each other, according to the observer on the

Earth? ( 5 points)

To the observer on the Earth, the spaceships are each 52.7 meters long, and

traveling with a speed of 0.85c. So the for the spaceships to completely pass

each other, from the point of view of an Earth clock, is t = 53.7/0.85c =

2.1 107 seconds.

3. The 0 particle, which has a rest mass energy of 547 MeV, decays into two

photons. [The 0 is also called the eta.]

a) In its own rest frame, what is the energy of each photon and what is the

magnitude of the momentum of each photon? (5 points)

In the rest frame of the eta, where there is no initial momentum by definition, the decay occurs with the two photons moving in opposite direction,

each with the same energy. This is the only way to have zero final momentum. The photons split the rest energy of the eta, 273.5 MeV each.

b) In its own rest frame, what is the total momentum (vector sum) of the

addition of the momenta of the two photons? (5 points)

As described above, there must be zero momentum total after the decay

(final state) as there was before the decay (initial state). Each photon has

a momentum 273.5 MeV/c, going in opposite directions.

c) In a certain laboratory an 0 particle is seen to be moving with a momentum

of 2 GeV/c. The 0 particle decays into two photons one of which is traveling

in the original direction of the 0 particle. What is the energy of each

photon, as measured in the laboratory frame? (10 points)

In the laboratory frame we say the first photon has momentum p1 in the

original direction of the 0 , and the second photon has momentum magnitude p2 which we assume to be in the opposite direction of the first photon.

The sum of these two momenta, in this one dimensional case, must equal

the original momentum p0 of the 0 particle.

p0 = p1 + p2 = p0 c = 2 GeV = p1 c p2 c

In the above equation we are taking into account that the second photon is

traveling in the opposite direction as the first photon. Similarly the total

energy must be conserved

q

Hence we have

p1 c p2 c = 2 GeV and p1 c + p2 c = 2.073 GeV

= p1 c = 2.0365 GeV/c, forward, p2 = 0.0365 GeV/c, backward

The two photons have energies 2.0365 GeV and 0.0365 GeV in the lab.

Alternate solution to 3c

We can get the solution to 3c by considering it to be a relativistic Doppler shift

problem. The photon emitted in the same direction as the 0 moving source will

be shifted up in frequency (blue-shifted) according to

f1 =

v

u

u1

t

+

fO

1

273.5 MeV energy. In fact, by multiplying both sides of the equation by Plancks

constant h, and since E = hf , we have

E1 =

v

u

u1

t

+

EO

1

273.5 MeV. We can calculate the from the factor, using v = c

p = mv =

pc =

1

mc

1 2

1

mc2

2

1

(pc)2 (1 2 ) = (mc2 )2 2

pc

2

q

=q

=

= 0.965

(pc)2 + (mc2 )2

4 + (0.547)2

E1 =

v

u

u (1

u

t

+ 0.965)

(0.2735) = 2.0367 GeV

(1 0.965)

Similarly, for the photon emitted in the opposite direction, it will be red-shifted,

E2 =

v

u

u (1

u

t

0.965)

(0.2735) = 0.03673 GeV

(1 + 0.965)

Although the color terminology is being used for these Doppler shifts, even the

lower energy here is in the MeV region, meaning far above the visible spectrum.

in a detector for 8.2 1011 seconds, leaving an ionization trail of 24 mm in

length, at which point it decays. What is the total energy of the particle.

You can assume that the particle is traveling at constant speed until it

decays. (25 points)

We can solve this problem by determining the speed of the , which in turn

determines the factor. Then the total energy is E = mc2 . From the data

provided

24 103 m/s

= 2.93 108 m/s = 0.976c

v=

11

s

8.2 10

1.0

= = q

= 4.56

1 (0.976)2

E = 4.56 1672 = 7.62 GeV

5. We know that the relativistically correct equation for momentum is p~ = m~v .

Prove that the expression

1

K = mv 2

2

does not give the relativistically correct value for kinetic energy. (20 points)

We know the relativistically correct expression for kinetic energy

K = ( 1)mc2

So we can check if the expression mv 2 /2 is compatible with the relativistically

correct expression. We can express v in terms of as

1

2 1 2

2

= v =

c

2

1 v 2 /c2

1

1

2 1 2 1 2 1 2

2

= mv = m

c =

mc

2

2

2

2

1 2 1 2

mc 6= ( 1)mc2

2

It is clear that that two expressions lead to different coefficients in front of the

mc2 term, and are thus incompatible in general. In fact, the only value of for

which the two expressions are equal is = 1, namely the trivial, zero kinetic

energy case.

p~ = m~u ;

f=

E 2 = p2 c2 + (mc2 )2

T 0 =

x0 = (x vt) ;

T0

1 v 2 /c2

v

u

u1

t

fO

1

1

=q

1 v 2 /c2

q

L0 = L0 1 v 2 /c2

t0 = (t vx/c2 ) ;

y0 = y

u0x + v

ux =

1 + vu0x /c2

u0y

uy =

(1 + vu0x /c2 )

u0z

uz =

(1 + vu0x /c2 )

K = mc2 mc2

E = K + mc2

s2 = x2 + y 2 + z 2 c2 t2

z0 = z

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