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You are on page 1of 19

Modern?

✦ Not really: Physics from 1900 to 1950

✦ Major breakthroughs: Relativity Theory (Poincare, Einstein,

Minkowski) and Quantum Mechanics (Heisenberg, Schroedinger,

Debye, Dirac)

✦ Before 1900, things seemed fine: Newton’s law of motion,

electrodynamics and thermodynamics worked well

A.A. Michelson: ``The underlying principles have been firmly

established . . . the future truths of physics are to be looked for in

the sixth place of decimals.’’

1

Problem with common sense, the

way we grew up and daily life...

✦ Human time scales: 0.1 s (reaction time) ... 75 years (grandpa’s

memories)

✦ Our length scales: 1/500th inch (thickness of hair) ... 3000 Miles

(New York-Seattle)

✦ Our velocity scales: 3 Miles/hour (pedestrian), 600 Miles/hour

(plane)

✦ Huge velocities (light: 186,000 Mi/s) : Relativity

✦ Tiny sizes (proton: 0.000001 nm) : Quantum physics

✦ Huge times (earth: 4.56 Billion years) : Evolution, Geology

based on experience with moving tennis balls

2

Why bother?

modern electronics and technology

✦ Why are atoms stable? Why does copper conduct current but

not glass?

✦ But: behavior at huge speeds and/or at tiny scales is very different

from our expectations: Most people still think in terms of 19th

century physics (which is ok on ``our’’ scales)

✦ Even experts are often uncomfortable about the implications/

interpretations of the ``new’’ theories

✦ But, theories have been confirmed at extremely high precision by

many different experiments

✦ Concepts an be quite mysterious and difficult: Beware of pseudo

science such as movie ``What the $#&* do we know ?’’

3

Goal and style of the lecture

✦ Familiarize you with the discoveries, classic experiments and

historic developments which led to the physics of the modern

era - relativity and quantum physics

✦ Using analogies, pictures and movies I’ll try to get to the core of

the weird behavior at large speeds and of tiny objects

✦ Give you some idea how new concepts and ideas are born

✦ After the class you should be able to perform simple calculations

such as how much younger than your twin brother can you get

by cruising around in fast space ships

✦ You will know how to measure the speed of light, the charge and

mass of an electron, the size of a distant star etc.

✦ Math is inevitable, for instance we will derive some simple

solutions of Schroedinger’s equation (a partial differential

equation) but it will be as simple as possible if new concepts are

explained.

4

Einstein’s Relativity Theory

Comparison of measurements made in different frames of

reference moving with constant velocity to each other.

and gravity. Great importance in cosmology and in vicinity of

very large mass (stars, black holes).

General relativity is incompatible with quantum mechanics:

Trouble if huge masses are concentrated in tiny spaces

5

Special relativity is based on two simple principles:

The laws of physics are the same in all inertial reference

frames

2.) Principle of invariance of the speed of light:

The speed of light in vacuum is equal to the value

c, independent on the motion of the source.

c=299,792,458 m/s

=186,282.397 miles/s

Inertial frame:

★ A frame in which Newton’s laws are valid

★ Any frame moving with constant speed relative to an

inertial frame is also an inertial frame

6

Reminder: Newtons laws

change (law of inertia)

➡ 2. The net force on a body F causes acceleration as

m*a=F

➡ 3. When two bodies interact, the force on the bodies

from each other are always equal in magnitude and

opposite in direction

accelerating frames

7

If both postulates are assumed to be true, many unexpected

things will happen ...

8

View from space ship trying to land on

main plaza of Tuebingen at v=0.99 c

9

Everything in special relativity can be quantitatively

derived from the two principles by ``thought

experiments’’.

(assuming the new laws reduce smoothly to the old ones

at small speeds v<<c)

One consequence:

Newton’s second law is just a low speed approximation.

on speed v:

dp d

F = = (mv)

dt dt

m0

m= !

v2

1 − c2

c=cosmic speed limit !

10

The principle of relativity (old and familiar)

Galileo:

By observing the motion of objects in a closed room

there is no way to tell if the room is at rest or in a boat

moving at steady speed in a fixed direction.

Example:

Sitting in a train at the station and watching

another ``moving`` train.

moving?

11

The principle of relativity continued...

Newton’s laws of mechanics are the same in a uniformly

moving room as they are at rest.

Einstein’s generalization:

All physical laws (including newly developed

electrodynamics) are the same in such uniformly moving

frames.

observations made in different frames are the same. It is

only the equations which are the same!

physics would depend on the frame you could use them

to distinguish between frames.

12

The invariance of the speed of light

Very unfamiliar and counter-intuitive:

Not true for a wave in water: speed relative to observer depends

on how fast observer is moving with respect to the water (surfing!)

a plane flying at u=40 m/s:

Hikers at bottom observe bottle with

v+u=50 m/s horizontal speed.

But:

Sending a light beam with v=c from plane.

Hikers observe beam with velocity c and

not c+u!

close to speed of light c!

13

What is meant by ``intuitive”?

The Galilean transformation between inertial frames S and S’

x! = x − vt, y ! = y, z ! = z, t! = t

u!x = ux − v, u!y = uy , u!z = uz

dx! dx

Integrate using u!x = , ux = etc.

dt dt

14

What inspired Einstein to set up these principles ?

How did classic physics break down ?

Newton’s (original) law and Galilean

transformation

No problem, F=m*a is Galilean invariant:

dux

acceleration : ax =

dt

transformation : u!x = ux − v

!

! du x dux

new acceleration : ax = ! = = ax

dt dt

! !

Force law invariant : Fx = max = max =F

15

Maxwell equations and Galilean

transformation

‣ Result in a speed of light independent on observer, i.e. agree with

Einstein’s second principle, but:

‣ They are NOT Galilean invariant !

Wire and charge at rest in S frame: Electric field gives force on charge q

Observer in S’ frame sees both q and the charges in the wire move with

in -x’ direction: additional magnetic field leading to additional Lorentz-

force on moved charge q

Total electromagnetic force is NOT the same in the two frames!

Concept of having two separate fields, electric and magnet field, not ok.

16

Possible solutions

‣ Can Maxwell’s equation (from 1860) be wrong ? No: contradicts

experiments since corrected equations predict strange new

electromagnetic phenomena

‣ Galilean transformation applies to mechanics but electromagnetism

has a preferred frame: the frame in which the luminiferous ether is at

rest. In contradiction to Michelson-Morley experiment.

‣ Einstein: Forget about Galilean transformation at all, even for

mechanics. Just take a new transformation, the Lorentz-

transformation!

‣ Problem:How to change mechanics that it fits with the new

transformation and is still compatible with our daily live experience?

Transformations were discovered by Lorentz by playing around with

Maxwell’s equations, but let’s derive them from the two Einstein-

principles !

Einstein at age 16: Can you catch a beam of light by flying at

the speed of light? Can light be stationary, i.e. has v’=0 ??

17

Graphical representations: The light cone

Event: position (x,y,z) and time t

18

Measuring the speed of light

1849 Fizeau experiment (not very precise)

of a wheel

‣ Light pulse takes 2L/c seconds from wheel back to wheel

‣ If rotation of wheel moved a tooth into light path: observer

could see no light

19

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