# Special Relativiy 1

Special Relativity
(Translated from Relativités et quanta
clarifiés)
Bernard Schaeffer PhD
Special Relativiy 2
1. INTRODUCTION
Special relativity originated one century ago from unsolved problems and
various observations incompatible with the ideas of that epoch. Maxwell
observable with the Crookes radiometer. The Maxwell equations have been
criticized because they were not conserved in the Galilean transformation. With
the newtonian absolute movement, speed and time one predicted that light
should be dragged by the Earth’s movement. Michelson-Morley experiment had
to prove the existence of the Ether. The negative result of the experiment led to
light speed invariance.
Special relativity is special because it is limited to uniform translation, without
any acceleration. Its fundamental postulate is the invariance of light speed in a
change of Galilean reference frame.
The Galilean transformation had to be replaced by the Lorentz transformation in
order to take into account this experimental result, already known from the
Maxwell equations. Einstein deduced directly the Lorentz transformation
without using the Maxwell equations. From the Lorentz transformation one
deduce various transformations : time, length, speed, acceleration, mass…
Acceleration ought to be incompatible with Galilean frames but Einstein took
the precaution of saying that special relativity should be applied to the "slowly
accelerated electron". Using time as a fourth spatial dimension, one obtains the
pseudo-euclidean space of Minkowski, euclidean by using an imaginary fourth
dimension.
Completed by Newton’s laws, special relativity became the relativistic dynamics
whose principal application is the formula giving the energy contained in a mass
at rest or in movement. The diagram below shows the logical process from the
Lorentz transformation to E = mc
2
.
Special Relativiy 3
Relativité restreinte
Linéarité c = cste Réciprocité
Transformation de Lorentz
v =
1
1 -
v
2
c
2
t' = v t -
vx
c
2
x = v x' + vt' t = v t' +
vx'
c
2
x' = v x - vt
Directe
Réciproque
Dynamique relativiste
E
c
= m - m
0
c
2
Energie cinétique
Energie proportionnelle
à la masse
x =
x'
v
Dilatation du temps:
Immobilité de la règle dans le
référentiel R' en mouvement
x' = 0
Contraction des longueurs:
Instantané depuis le référentiel R
de l'observateur
t = 0
t = vt'
Accélération
d vv
dt
=
dv'
dt'
Vitesse limite = c
v
x
=
v'
x
+ v
1 +
v v'
x
c
2
Loi de Newton
relativiste
F =
d mv
dt
E = m c
2
Equations de
Maxwell
Théorême de Pythagore
dans l'espace à quatre
dimensions de
Minkowski
s
2
= x
2
+ y
2
+ z
2
+ ict
2
ds
2
= dr
2
+ r
2
dh
2
+ sin
2
h dc
2
+ d ict
2
Masse relativiste m = v m
0
Flow chart of special relativity
Special Relativiy 4
2. MICHELSON-MORLEY EXPERIMENT
2.1. THE AETHER
The Michelson-Morley experiment consists to compare light speed in the
directions parallel and perpendicular to the motion of the Earth on its axis. If
Aether exists, still in an absolute reference frame, light speed should be constant
in this reference frame, like sound speed in the air in the absence of wind.
According to the Galilean principle of superposition, the speed of light is
increased or decreased, depending on the direction and amplitude of the wind as
may be shown with a ultrasound anemometer measuring the wind velocity based
on the transit time of ultrasonic acoustic signals.
There are two possiblilities, either the Aether is still relative to the Universe and
the Earth is in motion, the speed of light will vary with the orientation, or the
Aether is stuck to the Earth and light speed is independant of direction.
Let us take a closer look to this experiment with the swimmer analogy.
2.2. THE MICHELSON SWIMMER
Crossing a lake
Let us consider a swimmer crossing a lake of width L
0
. The time t
0
of a round-
trip crossing at speed c is given by
t
0
=
2L
0
c
Crossing a river
To cross a river, the swimmer has to swim obliquely upstream in order not to be
dragged downstream. The relative speed c of the swimmer has to be larger than
the driving speed v of the current. If c = v, the swimmer stays on the spot and
the duration of the crossing is infinite. If c < v his route seems oblique to an
observer staying on a boat dragged by the current and perpendicular to an
observer staying on the bank. In any case the duration of the crossing is larger
with a current than without : this is a kind of time dilation ! Nevertheless, the
time is absolute in classical mechanics and the swimmer has the same time as an
observer on the bank or on a boat. In a given time, the distance covered by the
swimmer is the vector sum of the distances covered along and across the river.
Special Relativiy 5
The same is valid for the speeds obtained by dividing by the corresponding time
increment.
The absolute speed v
1
is the swimmer speed for an observer on the bank. The
absolute speed is perpendicular to the bank and given by the Pythagorean
theorem :
c
2
= v
2
1
+ v
2
The duration of the round-trip crossing is :
t
1
=
2L
0
v
1
=
2L
0
c
2
– v
2
That is to say :
t
1
=
t
0
1 –
v
2
c
2
The crossing time increases with the speed of the current and becomes infinite
when the speed of the current attains that of the swimmer in still water. Time
seems to be dilated for an observer on the bank.
Swimming along the river
The velocities add the way down and subtract the way up. The durations add.
Therefore, the time t
2
necessary for a round-trip along the river with the same
distance L
0
parallel to the current is :
t
2
=
L
0
c - v
+
L
0
c + v
that is
t
2
=
t
0
1 -
v
2
c
2
This time dilation, with a slightly different formula, is larger.
Comparing the travel times
For the same distance, it takes a longer time to swim along the river bed than to
cross it. Both times are larger than in still water. The time difference between
swimming perpendicular and parallel to the stream is :
Special Relativiy 6
t
2
– t
1
=
t
0
1 –
v
2
c
2

t
0
1 –
v
2
c
2

v
2
2c
2
t
0
This is the formula that Michelson proposed himself to transpose to light. The
swimmer velocity c is that of light (nowadays a photon). The current speed v is
the velocity of the Aether wind.
2.3. MICHELSON INTERFEROMETER
The Michelson interferometer is a very sentitive equipment made of two
perpendicular mirrors M
1
et M
2
and a half transparent mirror, inclined at an
angle of 45 degrees, so that half the light pulse goes on through the glass, half is
reflected. The two arms of the apparatus have equal lengths, are perpendicular
and may rotate. One has two beams from the same light source, reflected
parallel to the incident ray and coming again together through the semi-
reflecting mirror. Equal optical paths may be adjusted very precisely in order to
obtain interference fringes. The fringes should move with the orientation of the
interferometer if the speed of light depends on that of the solar system
(400 km/s). The shift should be maximum in the direction of the constellation
Virgo. According to Michelson, the precision of the apparatus is even enough to
detect the Earth’s Aether wind due to the rotation of the Earth around the Sun
(30 km/s or 0.04 fringe). A later improvement with an eleven meters optical
path, should even detect the Aether wind due to the rotation of the Earth on its
axis (400 m/s or 0.005 fringe. One should note that there are already three
absolute reference systems. The newtonian notion of absolute space is thus
physically incorrect.
Special Relativiy 7
The formula derived for the swimmer remains valid for the Aether wind :
t = t
2
– t
1

v
2
2c
2
t
0
In order to minimize errors, the shift of the interference fringes, being measured
at 0° and 90°, has to be multiplied by two :
t
v
2
c
2
t
0
=
2 Lv
2
c
3
The variation of the optical path is then :
n = c t
2Lv
2
c
2
The number n of fringes shifted by the translation at 30 km/s of the Earth around
the Sun is, for a 600 nm wavelength, with c = 300.000 km/s and with arms of
1.2 m length
n
2Lv
2
c
2
=
2 1.2 10
-4
2
6 10
- 7
= 0.04
To their amazement, Michelson and Morley found that the velocity of light was
independent of its direction of travel through space. There was no observable
fringe shift although the expected effect was twice the experimental error.
Michelson and Morley carried out, in 1887, a new experiment ten times more
sensitive with the same null result : there is no Aether wind. The speed of light
seems to be constant, even in single trip as shown by measuring the speed of
light emitted by the -ions (or pions or pi-mesons). However, there still exist
people who believe in the Aether, like the Nobe Prize winner Maurice Allais.
2.4. CONTRACTION AND DILATATION
Going back to the formulae giving the crossing times :
t
1
=
t
0
1 –
v
2
c
2
et t
2
=
t
0
1 -
v
2
c
2
t
0
is the round-trip time in still water (v = 0)
t
1
is the round-trip time for crossing the river with a current of speed v
t
2
is the round-trip time along the river bed with a current of speed v
The Michelson-Morley experiment having shown that, for light, these two times
were equal. One has :
Special Relativiy 8
2L
1
c 1 –
v
2
c
2
=
2L
2
c 1 –
v
2
c
2
L
0
is replaced by L
1
, parallel to the movement, and L
2
, perpendicular to the
movement. L
1
and L
2
are, indeed, the only adjustable parameters. In order to
verify the preceding equality, one needs to have :
L
2
= L
1
1 -
v
2
c
2
Fitzgerald had read a paper from Heavyside showing that the electric field of the
moving charge distribution undergoes a distortion, with the longitudinal
components of the field being affected by the motion but the transverse ones
not. Then, if we assume that intermolecular forces are electrical, then we have
L
1
= L
0
and
L
2
= L
0
1 -
v
2
c
2
which is the Fitzgerald-Lorentz contraction, a consequence of the Maxwell
equations. Then
t
1
=
2L
1
c 1 –
v
2
c
2
=
2L
0
c 1 –
v
2
c
2
=
t
0
1 –
v
2
c
2
where t
0
is the round-trip time in the absence of Aether. It shows that the time
dilates. But the time is independant of the direction of movement. A clock,
laser, for example will have a period increasing with speed, but without change
under a slow rotation, even if its dimensions vary with speed. This should be
true for any type of clock, mechanical, optical or electronical. Then
t
1
= t
2
=
t
0
1 -
v
2
c
2
The period of the pendulum of a clock
A clock with one beat per second will have one beat in two seconds at a speed of
261,000 km/s for a fixed observer.
Special Relativiy 9
3. RELATIVISTIC KINEMATICS
3.1. GALILEAN TRANSFORMATION
According to newtonian mechanics, the the absolute velocity is the sum of the
relative and the transferred (may also be called dragging or entrainment, in fluid
mechanics) velocities :
v
a
= v
t
+ v
r
For a constant speed, the abscissa is a linear function of the time. We may then
write :
x
a
= v
t
t + x
r
or with other notations :
x = x' + v t'
where t = t’ : the time does not depend on the reference frame. In fact, it does :
time is different in New York and in Paris but the difference is a constant.
We may also write it
x' = x v t
It is exactly the same, except for the sign of v with t = t’. It is the reciprocal
Galilean transformation.
3.2. DERIVATION OF THE LORENTZ
TRANSFORMATION
The Galilean transformation needs to be generalized to take into account the
constancy of the speed of light. The frame of reference R of the observer,
generally considered as motionless, corresponds to the absolute reference frame
of newtonian mechanics. The frame of reference R’ is the relative reference
frame. The speed v is the classical transferred velocity, assumed to be constant.
The Lorentz transformation, in its simplest form, is usually written in two
dimensions (space and time), with the x axis coinciding with the velocity vector
of R’ relatively to R.
Special Relativiy 10
Linearity
In special relativity t t’. The simplest linear relationship between spacetime in
the R and R’ reference frames is, with three independent coefficients, o, µ, v,
function of the velocity v of the particle and v of the light is:
x' = x vt
t' = t + x
This is the Lorentz transformation de Lorentz that becomes the Galilean
transformation for µ = v = 1 and o = 0.
Constancy of light speed
In order to have a speed of light c independent of the reference frame, one needs
to have x = ct and x' = ct'. The first of the preceeding equations then becomes :
ct' = v ct - vt
Using the second one
t' = t + ct
we get :
c t + ct = ct - vt
Simplifying by t et dividing by cv, one obtains the relation
1 + c =
v

1
v
c
Relativity principle
According to the principle of relativity, there is no privileged reference frame.
One has to find the same relationship when passing from R to R’ or, inversely
from R’ to R. The relative speed v of the frames needs however a change of sign
for the same reason as for the Galilean transformation. The direct transformation
is
ct' = c v t
The reciprocal transformation of the abscissa is
ct = v ct' + vt'
then
ct' = c v t = c v

c
ct' + vt'
or
Special Relativiy 11
c= c v

c
c + v
After transformation this expression gives the Lorentz factor :
=
1
1
v
2
c
2
The second Lorentz relation, using x = ct and
1 + c =
v

1
v
c
becomes :
t' = t + x = 1 + c t =
v

1
v
c
t = v 1
v
c
t =
t
vt
c
1
v
2
c
2
Replacing t = x/c, we get the Lorentz transformation of the time :
t' = v t –
vx
c
2
Algebraic form
The constants o et v being determined, one obtains the direct Lorentz la
transformation :
x' =
x vt
1
v
2
c
2
t' =
t
xv
c
2
1
v
2
c
2
and the reciprocal
x =
x' + vt'
1
v
2
c
2
t =
t' +
vx'
c
2
1
v
2
c
2
When light speed c tends to infinity, the Lorentz factor v tends towards one. The
preceding formulae become the Galilean transformation :
x' = x - vt et t' = t
or
x = x' + vt et t = t'
Special Relativiy 12
where the resultant displacement is the sum of the relative and of the transferred
displacements.
Matrix form
The Lorentz transformation
x' = v x – vt
t' = v t –
xv
c
2
may be written in matrix form :
x' t' = v
1

v
c
2
– v
1
x
t
Using i = 1 , y = ict and y' = ict', we obtain :
x' y' = v
1

iv
c
iv
c
1
x
y
Multipliantthe transformation matrix by its transpose, on obtains the unit
matrix :
v
1

iv
c
iv
c
1
v
1
iv
c

iv
c
1
= v
2
1 +
iv
c
2

iv
c
+
iv
c

iv
c
+
iv
c

iv
c
2
+ 1
= v
2
1 –
v
2
c
2
0
0
1 –
v
2
c
2
=
1
0
0
1
Its transposed is also its inverse. There is conservation of the lengths in the
space x, y = ict which is then euclidian. The Lorentz transformation is then a
rotation of an imaginary angle.
In the littérature one fins a matrix presentation of the four-dimensional Lorentz
transformation représented by the capital lambda A (the L of Lorentz) :

i j
=
1

0
0

1
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
1
where µ = v/c. In an arbitrary direction, sans explicit it, on may write the general
form of a linear transformation in the four-dimensional spacetime as :
Special Relativiy 13

i j
=
a
11
a
12
a
13
a
14
a
12
a
22
a
23
a
24
a
13
a
23
a
33
a
34
a
14
a
24
a
34
a
44
where the a
ij
are of the form
a
i j
=
x'
i
x
j
= a
i,j
where the partial derivative is indicated by a comma.
The comma, representing a partial derivation, abridges considerably the
formulae in relativity. In two dimensions the a linear transformation is :
dx' =
x'
x
dx +
x'
y
dy = x'
, x
dx + x'
, y
dy
dy' =
y'
x
dx +
y'
y
dy = y'
, x
dx + y'
, y
dy
Rotation in spacetime
By putting ict = y, ict' = y', tg (ih) = iv/c, one has
v =
1
1 -
v
2
c
2
=
1
1 +
iv
c
2
=
1
1 + tg
2
ih
= cos ih
The Lorentz factor v is real ; indeed
v = cos ih =
exp(i
2
h) + exp(– i
2
h)
2
=
exp(– h) + exp(h)
2
= ch h
The transformation becomes, in matrix form, a rotation of an imaginary angle
ih :
x' y' = v
1

iv
c
iv
c
1
x
y
= cos ih
1
– tg ih
tg ih
1
x
y
=
cos ih
– sin ih
sin ih
cos ih
x
y
Using the hyperbolic functions, one eliminates the imaginary quantities by
replacing y = ct and y’ = ct' :
x = x' ch – y' sh
y = – x' sh + y' ch
These are formulae analogous to those of rotation, where the trigonometric
functions are replaced by hyperbolic functions. The terms in hyperbolic sines
are preceded each with a minus sign. In the rotation, only one sine is preceded
Special Relativiy 14
with a minus sign. The Lorentz transformation matrix is symmetrical while the
rotation matrix is antisymmetrical.
The Lorentz transformation is then a hyperbolic rotation in a pseudo-euclidean
space or in a true rotation in a euclidean space, but with an imaginary angle. In
this euclidean space, the time is an imaginary distance, ict. The Lorentz
transformation may be generalised in vectorial form for some rare practical
applications.
3.3. TIME AND LENGTH
Time dilation
Let us consider a motionless observer in a reference frame R. He looks at a
clock (not a pendulum clock, depending on the Earth gravity) moving at a
velocity v. He measures a time interval t between two beats of this moving
clock.
An observer moving with the clock (x’ = 0) in R’ measures a time interval t’
between two beats of his clock.
The second equation of the Lorentz transformation is :
t =
t' +
vx'
c
2
1
v
2
c
2
With x’ = 0, we get
t =
t'
1 –
v
2
c
2
= vt'
The time interval between two beats looks larger for a moving clock. It becomes
infinite when the speed approaches that of light. A photon is immortal. A
meson has a limited life that can be measured practically motionless in the
laboratory and at high speed in the atmosphere. A longer life was found at high
speed than at rest in accord with the preceding formula.
The twin paradox is something similar but usually misinterpreted. One compares
two twins, one staying on Earth and the other flying with a rocket near the speed
of light. The twin staying on earth will see the other aging slower. Now let us
apply the principle of relativity : there is no preferred frame. Then the twin on
the rocket will see the twin on earth also aging slower. Both of the twins will see
the other one aging the same way, with or without acceleration and when they
will meet again they will have the same age. Indeed, acceleration, being a
Special Relativiy 15
differential of space to time, is relative between the twins like time, space and
velocity. Within the scope of special relativity the acceleration is not absolute. It
is often assumed without proof that there is a stationary and a travelling twin
(relative to what absolute frame?).
Time, space and their derivatives depend on the relative velocity between the
frames. No reference frame is preferred.
Length contraction
With the same kind of reasoning, let us consider an observer in a frame R
measuring a length x of a ruler moving at a relative speed v in a reference frame
R’. The observer in the moving frame R’measures a length x’. He has to take an
instantaneous photograph, that is, t = 0. We use the first Lorentz equation
x' =
x vt
1
v
2
c
2
where we put t = 0 :
x' =
x
1
v
2
c
2
The length apparent to the motionless observer being x’, we have :
x = x' 1
v
2
c
2
which is the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction. A direct measure does not seem to
exist, but it is taken into account in the calculation of the synchrotron radiation,
the diameter of the accelerator being different in the frame of the high speed
electron and in the frame of the laboratory.
Like the time, the lenth of a ruler parallel to the speed depends on the relative
speeds of the ruler and the observer. A ruler contracts at high speeds while the
time dilates.
3.4. COMPOSITION OF VELOCITIES
In classical kinematics, velocities simply add vectorially according to the
Galilean transformation.
Special Relativiy 16
Colinear velocities
In relativistic kinematics, near the speed of light things are more complicated.
We shall limit ourselves first to a single spatial dimension, with colinear
velocities.
The Lorentz transformation is valid, in principle, only for Galilean reference
frames, that is, for constant transferred speeds. The relative speed v between two
Galilean frames R and R’ and the Lorentz factor v are constants. The Lorentz
transformation may then be written in différential form :
dx = v dx' + v dt'
dt = v dt' +
v dx'
c
2
with
v =
1
1 -
v
2
c
2
Using v
x
= dx/dt and v’
x
= dx’/dt’, we get the relativistic composition of
velocities :
v
x
=
dx
dt
=
v dx' + v dt'
v dt' +
v dx'
c
2
=
dx'
dt'
+ v
1 +
v dx'
c
2
dt'
that is :
v
x
=
v'
x
+ v
1 +
v v'
x
c
2
For an infinite light speed, the denominator is equal to one. We then recover the
classical formula of speed addition where the absolute velocity v
x
= v
a
is the
sum ot the transferred velocity v = v
t
and of the relative velocity v’
x
= v
r
:
v
a
= v
t
+ v
r
In einsteinian relativity, velocities add as in Galilean relativity except that a
factor prevents to reach the speed of light. Let us chek it. If v’
x
= c, as for a
photon in a frame moving at speed v, then we have :
v
x
=
c + v
1 +
v c
c
2
= c
c + v
c + v
= c
The velocity of a photon does not depend on the speed of the reference frame.
Special Relativiy 17
The relativistic composition of the velocities is no more the Galilean addition of
velocities. There is a factor preventing to overpass light speed. For low
velocities one recover the classical principle of superposition of velocities.
Non colinear velocities
Let us consider two frames R and R’ whose axes Ox and O’x’ coincide, their
origins O and O’ moving away from each other with velocity v.
Considérons des référentiels R et R’ dont les axes Ox et O’x’ coïncident, les
origines O et O’ s’éloignant l’une de l’autre à la vitesse v. Les composantes des
vitesses seront donc
The components of the velocity are v
x
and v
y
in R, v’
x
and v’
y
in R’. The
relation between v
x
and v’
x
is the same as for colinear velocities. Using the
differential form of the Lorentz transformation, one has dy = dy’, in the absence
of transverse contraction :
dt = v dt' +
v dx'
c
2
= v 1 +
v
c
2
dx'
dt'
dt'
which gives
v
y
=
dy
dt
=
dy'
v dt' +
v dx'
c
2
=
dy'
dt'
v 1 +
v
c
2
dx'
dt'
and lastly
v
y
=
v'
y
1
v
2
c
2
1 +
vv'
x
c
2
This formul is used to calculate the relativistic aberration.
3.5. LONGITUDINAL DOPPLER
The Doppler effect is observed when a vibrating source whose frame is R’
emitting sound or light waves approaches or moves away from the observer, as
for example, a noisy motorcycle.
When the source is moving towards the observer whose frame is R, the center of
each new wavefront is slightly displaced towards him. The wavefronts begin to
bunch up towards the observer and spread further apart behind the source. An
observer in front of the source will hear a higher frequency, and an observer
behind the source will hear a lower frequency.
Special Relativiy 18
The same happens for electromagnetic waves from radars or lasers that are used
to measure speeds. Il is also observed for redshifted spectral lines emitted by
galaxies at the origin of the expanding universe and Big-Bang theories. There is
also a Doppler effect due to matter emission in supernovae. A similar effect is
the redshift due to gravitation at the surface of the stars that may be considered
as a Doppler effect only through the principle of equivalence of general
relativity.
In classical physics, the relative frequency shift, as seen by the observer is :

s
=

r

s

s
= –
v
c
where v
r
is the velocity of the receptor and v
s
the velocity of the source. v is the
relative velocity between the source and the receptor, positive when the observer
(the receptor) goes away from the source. The frequency decreases when v > 0.
This formula needs only to be multiplied by the Lorentz factor v to remain valid
when v approaches the speed of light as we will show. The Lorentz
transformation of the time :
t =
t' +
vx'
c
2
1 -
v
2
c
2
becomes, for a light ray of velocity c, with x’ = ct’,
t = v t' +
v c t'
c
2
= v 1 +
v
c
t'
For one période, that is t = T in R and t’ = T’ in R’ :
T = v 1 +
v
c
T' =
1 +
v
c
1 –
v
c
T'
The frequency being the inverse of the period, one has :

'
=
1 –
v
c
1 +
v
c
When the velocity is positive, that is when the source and the receptor move
away from each other, the frequency perceived by the observer is lower. At low
speeds, v 1, we may develop the formula up to the second order :

r

s

s

v
c
+
v
2
2 c
2
= –
v
r
– v
s
c
+
1
2
v
r
– v
s
c
2
It differs from the classical formula by the second order term :
Special Relativiy 19

r

s

s

v
r
– v
s
c
+
v
2
r
c
2
For velocities near the speed of light, with a negative velocity, v c, we
obtain the ultra-relativistic formula :

r

s
= v 1 –
v
c
v 1 +
c
c
= 2 v
The frequency increases indefinitely with the velocity. This formula is used in
the theory of the synchrotron. With a positive velocity, the frequency tends to
zero.
3.6. RELATIVISTIC STELLAR ABERRATION
The stellar aberration is similar to rain falling along the window of a train. The
rain is falling vertically when the train is at rest and inclined when the train is
moving. When the speed of the train is much larger than the velocity of the
falling rain, the rain appears to move horizontally.
Let us make a a simple thought experiment with a vertical tube standing up
under the rain. The rain falls in it to its bottom without touching the inner wall
of the tube. Now let us move : the rain will no more attain directly the bottom
of the tube. In order to do it, we have to incline the tube from an angle c such
that tg c = v/c, ratio of the velocity v of the falling rain and your speed c. This
formula, purely geometrical, has nothing to do with relativity. By replacing rain
by light from a star at infinity, one may do the same experiment with a
telescope. With v = 30 km/s, the velocity of the Earth around the sun and
c = 300.000 km/s, that of light, the angle is c = 21" = 10
-4
aberration of stars. This calculated value is in accord with the numerous
observations made since the 18th century by Bradley. In order to show that the
phenomenon does not occur inside the telescope, Airy showed, by filling the
telescope with water, that the refractive index had no influence.
The stellar aberration should not be confused neither with the optical aberration
of optical instruments nor with the parallax of stars near the Earth. The stellar
aberration is a phenomenon similar to the Doppler effect but concerns the
direction of propagation instead of its frequency.
Let us now calculate the relativistic aberration. One may consider, according to
the principle of relativity that the star moves along the x’ axis of the reference
frame R’ at the velocity v of the Earth, motionless relative to the terrestrial
observer in the frame R. The axis x and x’ coincide. The light ray, with velocity
c, is inclined at an angle h relative to x. The projections on the axis x’ and y’
are
x’ = ct’ cos h’ and y’ = ct’ sin h’
Special Relativiy 20
The Lorentz transformation equations write, with µ = v/c :
x = x' + vt' = ct' cos +
y = y' = ct' sin
By making the ratio y/x, one eliminates t’ to obtain the relativistic formula of the
aberration of light :
tg =
y
x
=
sin '
cos ' +
For a star at the zénith, the angle is h’ 90°, that gives
tg =
1

=
c
v
1 –
v
2
c
2
When the velocity is low, the angle with the vertical line being also low,
h = h’ – h is near 1/tg h and one finds again the classical aberration of stars :

v
c
An electron moving at a velocity low relatively to that of light emits
electromagnetic radiation in a wide range of directions. At a relativistic velocity,
near the speed of light, the light emission is concentrated towards the front of
the electron, the angle h tends to zero :
h 1 –
v
2
c
2
The stellar aberration should prove that the Earth moves relatively to a
referential frame bound to the Aether (invented by Maxwell !). The Michelson
experiment had shown that the velocity of light was not influenced by that of the
Earth. To explain this, it was imagined that the Earth’s gravitational field
somehow “dragged” the aether around with it in such a way as locally to
eliminate its effect. If the velocity of the Aether were local to the Earth, the
stellar aberration would vary with the altitude, which is not the case. Therefore
stellar aberation is incompatible with the absence of Aether wind.
The stellar aberration is explained geometrically in classical kinematics. For
relative velocities approaching the speed of light, a relativistic correction is
needed. For example, the synchrotron radiation is concentrated towards the front
of the electron beam.
3.8. TRANSFORMATION OF ACCELERATIONS
Changement of reference frames is more complicated for accelerations than for
velocities. We shall restrict ourselves to rectilinear motion and to uniform
circular motion.
Special Relativiy 21
Classical kinematics
In classical rational mechanics, the term "Galilean transformation" was not in
use. One said only that kinematics differed from geometry by the introduction of
time. It seemed natural that displacements add vectorially. Velocity was simply
the vector derivative of displacement and acceleration the vector derivative of
velocity. For the sake of simplicity let us stay in only one space coordinate.
Let us consider the acceleration of an electron in a electric field. Let R be the
reference frame of the laboratory and R’ a Galilean reference frame. Let x and
x’, v
x
and a
x
, v’
x
and a’
x
, respectively, abscissas, velocities and accelerations of
the electron in frames R and R’.
According to the Galilean transformation, the velocity is the derivative of the
abscissa. For a constant velocity, we have
x = x’ + vt
By dérivation, we get
dx/dt = dx’/dt + v
or
v’
x
= v’
x
+ v
This formula remains valid even if v varies. After a subsequent derivation we
obtain the acceleration :
a
x
=
d
2
x
dt
2
=
d
dt
dx'
dt
+ v =
d
2
x'
dt
2
+
dv
dt
= a'
x
+
dv
dt
If the frame R’ coincides with the electron v’
x
= 0 and a’
x
= 0. Then :
a
x
=
dv
dt
We don’t need Galilean reference frames to know the acceleration. Let us see
what happens when using the Lorentz transformation.
Acceleration parallel to velocity
Si mpl e me t hod
In relativity, when changing from a frame R to a frame R’ of relative velocity v,
time dilates with speed and length parallel to the velocity contracts according to
the formulae :
dt = v dt' et dx = dx'/v
Let v
x
and a
x
, v’
x
and a’
x
, respectively, velocities and accelerations of a particle
with abscissas x et x’ in frames R and R’ of the motionless and mobile
observers. The acceleration is the second derivative of space relative to time.
Special Relativiy 22
Therefore, length being divided by v and time multiplied by v, the acceleration
has to be multiplied by v
3
. The acceleration is then :
a
x
=
d
2
x
dt
2
=
d
2
x'

d t'
2
=
–3
d
2
x'
dt'
2
= 1
v
2
c
2
3
2
a'
x
The acceleration is smaller for the observer than for the particle. We may also
write :
v
3
dv
x
dt
=
dv'
x
dt'
If the electron is motionless in frame R’, then v
x
= v. In relativistic kinematics,
we need to take into account the Lorentz factor v(v) with v variable. Let us
compute
v
3
=
1
1 –
v
2
c
2
3
=
d
dv
v
1 –
v
2
c
2
=
d vv
dv
which is a formula found by Lorentz in his "Theory of the electron". Using this
result, we may rewrite the proper acceleration :
dv'
dt'
=
d vv
dt
In the frame of the electron, the proper velocity is v’ = 0 but the proper
acceleration dv’/dt’ is not zero. This true also in classical mechanics. A
passenger at rest in the frame R’ of a lift will feel an acceleration with no
motion. In a relativistic speed, the acceleration measured in the lift, with an
accelerometer, is different from the acceleration measured from the ground, with
an optical method.
The proper acceleration of a particle is simply obtained by deriving, relatively to
the apparent time t, the apparent velocity v multiplied by the Lorentz factor v.
The relativistic acceleration measured by the observer differs from the proper
acceleration while they are equal in classical mechanics. The acceleration is zero
at the speed of light.
Bet t e r met hod
We have seen that the Lorentz transformation of the velovity is:
v
x
=
v'
x
+ v
1 +
v v'
x
c
2
The acceleration being the derivative of the velocity, we have, with v = constant
for Galilean reference frames R and R':
Special Relativiy 23
dv
x
dt
=
v'
x
+ v
1 +
v v'
x
c
2
=
1
1 +
v v'
x
c
2
dv'
x
dt
-
v'
x
+ v
1 +
v v'
x
c
2
2
v
c
2
dv'
x
dt
Then, after simplification:
dv
x
dt
=
1 -
v
2
c
2
1 +
v v'
x
c
2
2
dv'
x
dt
The Lorentz transformation of the time increment is:
dt =
dt' +
v dx'
c
2
1 -
v
2
c
2
=
1 +
v
c
2
dx'
dt'
1 -
v
2
c
2
dt' =
1 +
v v'
x
c
2
1 -
v
2
c
2
dt'
Remplacing dt on the right of the above expression of the acceleration we obtain
the acceleration a
x
in the observer's frame as a function of the proper
acceleration a'
x
:
a
x
=
dv
x
dt
=
1 -
v
2
c
2
1 +
v v'
x
c
2
3
dv'
x
dt'
=
1 -
v
2
c
2
1 +
v v'
x
c
2
3
a'
x
We may now put v'
x
= 0. If we had done it before derivation,we would have
gotten a null acceleration. The same thing would happen in classical kinematics.
We have then the above formula:
a
x
=
dv
x
dt
= 1 -
v
2
c
2
3
2
dv'
x
dt'
= v
- 3
a'
x
Constant proper acceleration
An example of a constant proper acceleration g may be an electron accelerated
in a constant electric field or a mass in the constant gravity near the surface of
the Earth :
a'
x
=
dv'
x
dt'
= g
We have then a differential equation :
Special Relativiy 24
d vv
dt
= g
or
d vv = d gt
that integrates into vv = gt. The integration constant is zero if the initial velocity
is v = 0 at t = 0. With
=
1
1
v
c
2
One may write after integration :
v =
c
1 +
c
gt
2
For slow speeds, that is for c = and t = 0, the formula becomes v = gt. When t
increases indefinitely, the velocity approaches asymptotically the speed of light.
The apparent acceleration, for the observer in the R frame, decreases continually
toward zero but remains constant in the mobile reference frame R’. This
formula, used in particle accelerators, may be written :
v =
dx
dt
=
d
dt
1
2
gt
2
1 +
gt
c
2
When t is small, the denominator is equal to one, giving the classical law of
falling bodies. When time increases, the velocity continues to increase, but at a
decreasing rate. The infinitesimal displacement
dx =
c
2
2g
d
gt
c
2
1 +
gt
c
2
may be integrated as
x =
c
2
g
1 +
gt
c
2
After some algebra, one gets the equation of a hyperbola :
x
2
c
2
t
2
=
c
2
g
2
This is the reason why the relativistic uniformly accelerated movement is called
hyperbolic.
Special Relativiy 25
Variable proper acceleration
We had obtained above the formula giving the relativistic acceleration:
d vv
dt
= g
This formula remains valid for a variable acceleration like gravitation:
d v
dt
=
GM
r
2
=
d
dr
GM
r
For a radial velocity, we may write v=dr/dt, which gives
v
d vv
dr
=
d
dr
GM
r
and thus:
vd vv = d
GM
r
Now, we have the identity
d = d
1
1 –
v
2
c
2
=
1
2
1 –
v
2
c
2

3
2

2v
c
2
dv =

3
2
d
v
c
2
=
v
c
2
d v
which gives
dv = d
GM
c
2
r
and integrates in
1
1 –
v
2
c
2
=
GM
c
2
r
+ constant
The gravitational potential energy of a proper mass m
0
is:
V = m
0
GM
r
Multiplying both sides by the proper mass m
0
of the particle and by c
2
, we
obtain the relativistic conservation of energy:
m
0
c
2
1
1 –
v
2
c
2
1 + V = constant
This is indeed T + V = constant.
Special Relativiy 26
v =
dx
dt
= c 1 –
1
1 +
V
m
0
c
2
2
By using the lorentz transformation of the acceleration and assuming that the
acceleration derives from a potential, we have obtained the relativistic
conservation of energy. From it, we deduced the relativistic velocity of a particle
in function of the potential. This approach is not valid for a photon in a
gravitational field.
Acceleration perpendicular to velocity
Acceleration is the second time derivative of the abscissa y, dy/dt, now
perpendicular to the velocity dx/dt. According to the Lorentz transformation,
there is no transverse contraction ; then y is not affected by the frame change :
y = y’. Only the time is dilatated. We have :
a
y
=
d
2
y
dt
2
=
d
2
y'
d t'
2
=
–2
d
2
y'
dt'
2
=
–2
a'
y
= 1
v
2
c
2
a'
y
This formula may be applied to electrons accelerated in a synchrotron where the
speed is practically v c. The acceleration is centripetal and perpendicular to the
velocity, the trajectory being circular with radius r. The acceleration a’
y
in the
frame R’ of the electron determines the radiation :
a'
y
= v
2
a
y
= v
2
c
2
r
where r is the bending radius of the synchrotron as seen in the frame R’ of the
electron. c is the velocity of the electron, almost equal to the speed of light,
equal in R and R’. The classical Larmor formula gives the radiation power
emitted by the electron :
P =
1
4
0
2e
2
a
2
3c
3
By replacing the acceleration in the frame of the electron we get :
P =
q
2
6
0
c
3

2
c
2
r
2
=
q
2
c
4
6
0
r
2
It is also important to know the frequency of the radiation. At low speeds, the
frequency is the Larmor frequency c
L
, obtained by equating the centrifugal
force and the Lorentz force m
0
v
L
= evB in SI units as everywhere in this
book. The Larmor frequency is also c
L
= v/r :
Special Relativiy 27

L
=
evB
m
0
v
=
eB
m
0
=
v
r
It is no more necessary to know the magnetic induction, replaced by the radius
of the synchrotron, much easier to grasp. At the speed of light, v = c and the
radius r is contracted according to the Lorentz factor. The frequency of the
fundamental mode is then :

0
= v
c
r
There is both a relativistic Doppler and a relativistic aberration. Both multiplie
the frequency by v. The so-called critical frequency of the synchrotron is then :

C
v
3
c
r
The spectrum produced by the synchrotron extends in a practically continuous
manner from the fundamental frequency c
0
to the critical frequency c
c
. The use
of the special relativity theory avoids the use of retarded potentials and
simplifies greatly the calculation of the Larmor formula at relativistic speeds.
3.9. DIFFERENTIAL OPERATORS
Wave propagation is obtained by solving partial differential equations where
differential operators appear. instead d are used in the presence of more than
one independant variable. We shall see how these total and partial derivative
operators
d
dt
,

x
,

t
,

2
x
2
et

2
t
2
transform in the Lorentz transformation. The total differential of a function
f(x, t)is the same in the "motionless" frame R and in the "mobile" frame R’ :
df =
f
x
dx +
f
t
dt =
f
x'
dx' +
f
t'
dt'
Let us express the partial derivatives in R’ with the help of the Lorentz
transformation in differential form :
dx' = v dx – v dt
dt' = v dt –
v dx
c
2
Replacing dx’ and dt’ in the above total differential of f in R’ :
df = dx – v dt
f
x'
+ dt –
v dx
c
2
f
t'
By grouping the terms in dx and dt one gets :
Special Relativiy 28
df =
f
x'

f
t'
v
c
2
dx +
f
t'

f
x'
v dt
By equaling both expressions of df, we have :
f
x
dx +
f
t
dt =
f
x'

f
t'
v
c
2
dx +
f
t'

f
x'
v dt
Identifying the dx and dt terms and suppressing the f we obtain the partial
derivative operators :

x
=

x'

v
c
2

t'

t
=

t'
– v

x'
It is to be pointed out that the minus signs are here on the side of the primed
variables. They are on the unprimed side in the original Lorentz transformation
above. We have also the reciprocal expressions:

x'
= v

x
+
v
c
2

t

t'
= v

t
+ v

x
These formulas will be used to show the invariance of the electromagnetic wave
equation in the Lorentz transformation. When c = , v = 1, one obtains the
Galilean transformation of the operators. The particle being motionless in its
proper reference frame R' with velocity v relative to R, we have dx’/dt’ = 0. The
derivative of f with respect to t’ is then:
df
dt'
=
f
t'
+
dx'
dt'
f
x'
=
f
t'
Using the preceding expression of /t’ one obtains:
df
dt'
=
f
t
+ v
f
x
=
df
dt
Putting v = 1, on gets the formula of the material derivative of newtonian fluid
mechanics. Using the proper time t = t', we may write the total derivative
operator:
d
d
= v
d
dt
The partial derivatives are different in both classical and relativistic kinematics.
The total derivatives are equal in classical kinematics but different in relativistic
kinematics. Anyway, putting v = 1 gives always the classical formula to which
one may refer in case of doubt about signs. In case of doubt about the position of
v, it suffices to remind that the classical formulas are valid in the proper frame.
Special Relativiy 29
These formulas will be used to check the conservation of the wave equations in
the Galilean and Lorentz transformations.
3.10. WAVE EQUATIONS
d’Alembert equation
From the Maxwell equations one may obtain the d'Alembert equation where the
celerity is that of light:

2

x
2
+

2

y
2
+

2

z
2

1
c
2

2

t
2
= 0
where + is the function representing the amplitude of the wave in the frame R.
We shall show that this equation is conserved in a Lorentz transformation. The
d’Alembertian operator

2
x
2
+

2
y
2
+

2
z
2

1
c
2

2
t
2
= +

2
ict
2
may be written, for the sake of simplification, in a two dimensional spacetime R,
x for space and t for time:

2
x
2

1
c
2

2
t
2
=

x
+

c t

x

c t
We have seen that, in the Lorentz transformation, the differential operators
transform as:

x
=

x'

v
c
2

t'

t
=

t'
– v

x'
where v is the velocity of R’ relative to R and
v =
1
1 –
v
2
c
2
is the Lorentz factor. Replacing these operators by their expression in the wave
equation, one obtains:

x
+

c t
= 1 –-
v
c

x'
+

c t'
and also, by changing c in – c :
Special Relativiy 30

x

c t
= 1 +
v
c

x'

c t'
which gives the wave equation:
1 –
v
c

x'
+

c t'
1 +
v
c

x'

c t'
= 0
or

2
1 –
v
2
c
2

x'
+

c t'

x'

c t'
= 0
which is the original equation since
v
2
1 –
v
2
c
2
= 1
The wave equation is the same in R and R'. The variables are primed in R' and
unprimed in R. The wave function + and its celerity c are unchanged. The
electromagnetic wave equation is invariant in a Lorentz transformation but the
celerity has to be that of light in the vacuum. A sound wave equation has the
same form in the absence of entrainment but is not invariant under a Lorentz
transformation.
Hertz equation
The so-called Hertz equation is the equation of mechanical waves, valid with
entrainment, for example in a wind of velocity v:

2

x
2

1
c
2
d
2

dt
2
= 0
+ is the wave function that may be the density, pressure, stress, strain, volume,
displacement… The main difference with the d’Alembert equation is the
presence of straight d's for a total derivative operator instead of round 's for a
partial derivative operator in the time derivative. The celerity is not the celerity
of light but that of mechanical waves. One may often find this equation with
round 's in the literature but it is correct only in the absence of entrainment. We
shall check that it is invariant in the Galilean transformation. We will write
explicitely the convective term:

2
x
2

1
c
2

t
+ v

x
2
= 0
where v is the entrainment velocity. In a Galilean transformation with velocity u
the "absolute" velocity in frame R becomes v = v’ + u where v' is the velocity in
Special Relativiy 31
the moving frame R' and u the velocity of R' relative to R. The derivation
operators may be obtained by putting c = , v = 1 in the Lorentz transformation:

x
=

x'

t
=

t'
u

x'
Using v = v’ + u and these expressions, the total derivative operator becomes:

t
+ v

x
=

t'
– u

x
+ v

x
=

t'
+ v – u

x'
=

t'
+ v'

x'
The velocity u of R' is eliminated. The total derivative operator is the same in
the R' frame except for the primes. The Hertz equation of waves, also called
non-linear, is therefore conserved in the Galilean transformation:

x'
2

1
c
2

t'
+ v'

x'
2
= 0
It may also be deduced, without calculation that it is also conserved in the
Lorentz transformation. This is true only if the velocity of light is used in the
Lorentz transformation and the celerity of the mechanical waves in the Hertz
equation. The mechanical wave equation is not conserved in a pseudo-Lorentz
transformation where the same c is used in both the wave equation and the
Lorentz transformation. A d'Alembert equation will not work in the wind.
3.11. MINKOWSKI SPACE-TIME
Minkowski metric
The Pythagorean theorem is conserved in a rotation since lengths are conserved.
We have seen that the Lorentz transformation is equivalent to a rotation of an
imaginary angle ih such that tg (ih) = iv/c :
x' y' =
cos i
– sin i
sin i
cos i
x
y
The length s of a segment has to be conserved in a rotation,in vertue of the
Pythagorean theorem :
s
2
= x'
2
+ y'
2
= x
2
+ y
2
which gives, when y et y’ are replaced by ict and ict’ :
s
2
= x'
2
+ ict'
2
= x
2
+ ict
2
= x'
2
- c
2
t'
2
= x
2
- c
2
t
2
A minus sign, due to the square of i appears. The euclidean planar space is
transformed in a flat pseudo-euclidean space called Minkowski space-time. It
Special Relativiy 32
may directly checked, by replacing t' and x' by their expressions issued from the
Lorentz transformation:
x' = v x – vt
t' = v t –
vx
c
2
that the métric
s'
2
= c
2
t'
2
+ x'
2
= c
2
t
vx
c
2
1
v
2
c
2
2
+
x vt
1
v
2
c
2
2
is conserved after developing and simplifying:
s'
2
=
1
1
v
2
c
2
x
2
1
v
2
c
2
+ v
2
c
2
t
2
= c
2
t
2
+ x
2
= s
2
The Minkowski metric is conserved by a Lorentz transformation and is easier to
use than the Lorentz transformation. In general relativity, there is no practical
transformation.
Cartesian coordinates
The three-dimensional physical space is no more absolute since Einstein.
Minkowski has shown that the phenomena discovered by Lorentz and clarified
by Einstein could be described with a four-dimensional space. If the fourth
dimension is defined as the distance travelled during the time t multiplied by i
where i the square root of – 1 one obtains a four-dimensional euclidean space:
s
2
= x
2
+ y
2
+ z
2
+ w
2
where
w = c
2
t
2
= ct 1 = ict
Without i, it is the Minkowski pseudo-euclidean space. The proper distance is
then given by the metric:
s
2
= x
2
+ y
2
+ z
2
c
2
t
2
It is recognized by the minus sign before the t
2
term. Some authors put c = 1.
The Minkowski space-time is a euclidean space deformed by the combination of
uniform dilatation and shear. It is therefore without curvature and hence a "flat"
space with constant coefficients of the metric. It is not euclidean since the
coefficients are not equal to one. In the ordinary euclidean space, lengths are
conserved by translation or rotation. In the Minkowski space-time, the rotation
is replaced by the Lorentz transformation.
Special Relativiy 33
We shall now define more precisely the notion of metric. In euclidean three-
dimensional analytic geometry, the spatial distance dl between two near points
is:
dl
2
= dx
2
+ dy
2
+ dz
2
=
i
dx
i
dx
i
= dx
i
dx
i
One uses the differential notation although it is not necessary in special
relativity where the movements are uniform, without acceleration. The sign
may suppressed thanks to the Einstein convention where repeated indices denote
summation (not always) over their range. The generalized distance (or space-
time interval) ds between two events becomes in the Minkowski space-time:
ds
2
= c
2
dt
2
+ dx
2
+ dy
2
+ dz
2
= – c
2
dt
2
+ dl
2
dl is the displacement in the physical space during the time dt at velocity v.
There are no more parentheses here. This simplified writing is not really correct
but it is commonly in use. Indeed dx
2
= 2x dx (dx)
2
. Some authers use
parentheses but their formulas are not very readable.
The metric may also be written as:
ds
2
= c
2
dt
2
+
dl
dt
2
dt
2
= c
2
dt
2
+ v
2
dt
2
= 1
v
2
c
2
c
2
dt
2
< 0
In relativity, the velocity v being less than the speed of light c, ds
2
is negative
therefore ds is an imaginary number. For that reason, one prefer often to use the
proper time t:
d
2
= –
ds
2
c
2
= dt
2

dx
2
+ dy
2
+ dz
2
c
2
> 0
Using the physical velocity
v =
dx
2
dt
2
+
dy
2
dt
2
+
dz
2
dt
2
the metric writes
d
2
= 1 –
v
2
c
2
dt
2
> 0
and t is real. The velocity v of a photon is equal to the speed of light c, then
dt = ds = 0. The trajectory of a photon is a staight line The length of the
trajectory is zero since all ist elements have a zero length. A massive particle has
always a velocity less than the speed of light. When its velocity is zero, that is
when the particle is motionless in its proper frame, we have dt = dt. At low
velocities, dt dt with dt < dt. The proper time is always smaller than the
physical time.
In four-dimensional Riemannian geometry, the metric is generalized as follows:
ds
2
= g
ww
dw
2
+ g
xx
dx
2
+ g
yy
dy
2
+ g
zz
dz
2
= g
i j
dx
i
dx
j
Special Relativiy 34
where w = ict. The g
ij
are called coefficients ou components of the metric. A
four-dimensional metric tensor may be represented by a matrix:
g
ww
g
wx
g
wy
g
wz
g
wx
g
xx
g
xy
g
xz
g
wy
g
xy
g
yy
g
yz
g
wz
g
xz
g
yz
g
zz
ou
g
00
g
01
g
02
g
03
g
01
g
11
g
12
g
13
g
02
g
12
g
22
g
23
g
03
g
13
g
23
g
33
Generally the indexes w, 4 or 0 correspond to the time. The matrix is symmetric,
in the diagonal terms like g
xy
dx dy, dx and dy may be commuted without
changing the value of ds
2
. Therefore g
xy
= g
yx
. Practically, for the sake of
simplicity, we shall use almost always diagonal matrices, without g
xy
, g
xt
… as in
the Minkowski metric:
ds
2
= c
2
dt
2
+ dx
2
+ dy
2
+ dz
2
= d ict
2
+ dx
2
+ dy
2
+ dz
2
that may be written, as in a Riemannian space:
ds
2
= g
t t
d ict
2
+ g
xx
dx
2
+ g
yy
dy
2
+ g
zz
dz
2
where g
tt
= g
xx
= g
yy
= g
zz
= 1. g
tt
, g
xx
, g
yy
and g
zz
are the only non-zero
components of the metric Minkowski tensor. They are all equal to one, the
minus sign appearing only when the square of i is carried out. The signs of the
coefficients may vary according the conventions used. The sign of gtt is usually
opposed to the others but it seems preferable to use (ict)
2
2
t
2
or
even ± t
2
with c = 1 which forbiddens any checking with dimensional analysis.
The Minkowski metric is represented by a 4 × 4 diagonal matrix :
g
i j
=
-1
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
1
=
i j
or
1
0
0
0
0
-1
0
0
0
0
-1
0
0
0
0
-1
if the metric of type ds
2
or dt
2
(dt
2
is sometimes called ds
2
, in a so-called West-
Coast or Lorentz metric). The u
ij
désignate the g
ij
of the Minkowski metric. All
the diagonal u
ij
are equal to ± 1, using a physical or geometrical unit system.
The determinant is g = 1 or g = 1 if the fourth dimension is ict. In this latter
case, the diagonal terms are all equal to one.
In general relativity, the coefficients of the metric are function of the coordinates
trough the gravitational potential and the Minkowski space becomes tangent to
the curved pseudo-Riemannian space-time. We shall consider the space-time of
general relativity as a four-dimensional Riemannian (not pseudo-Riemannian)
Special Relativiy 35
space with w = ict (Einstein uses x
0
= ct) in order to avoid the minus sign
problem.
Spherical coordinates
Spherical coordinates are defined as the position vector r, the colatitude h and
the longitude c :
Let us consider the small spherical rectangle on the sphere. Its width is
r sin h dc and its height is r dh. The Pythagorean theorem may be applied to
this rectangle to obtain its diagonal:
r d = r dh
2
+ sin h dc
2
Simplifying by r, d gives the metric on the sphere. We may similarly
increment r with dr to obtain a new rectangular triangle
dl = dr
2
+ r
2
d
2
Special Relativiy 36
A last step gives the length element in a four-dimensional euclidean space with
the fourth dimension w = ict:
ds = d ict
2
+ dl
2
= d ict
2
+ dr
2
+ r
2
d
2
Replacing d we obtain the full metric:
ds
2
= d ict
2
+ dr
2
+ r
2
d
2
+ sin
2
d
2
which is the pseudo-euclidean Minkowski metric:
ds
2
= – c
2
dt
2
+ dr
2
+ r
2
d
2
+ sin
2
d
2
or, in matrix form:
g
i j
=
g
t t
0
0
0
0
g
rr
0
0
0
0
g

0
0
0
0
g

=
± 1
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
r
2
0
0
0
0
r
2
sin
2

In radial symmetry the metric simplifies:
ds
2
= c
2
dt
2
+ dr
2
3.12. RELATIVISTIC LAGRANGIANS
Variational calculus
The calculus of variations is issued from the principles expressed by Heron of
Alexandria, Huygens, Fermat, Hamilton, d’Alembert, Maupertuis and also from
the works of Lagrange, Euler and others. The Lagrange equations may be
obtained either from variational principles or Newton's laws. These ideas may
be resumed by the principles of the shortest way (geometric aspect) or of the
least effort (mechanical aspect).
The effective trajectory is the one corresponding to the extremal way or time.
The derivative of the way has to be zero all along the way.
The shortest way in a plane
In order to find the shortest way from one point to the other, for example on a
surface, one has to know the metric giving the shortest distance between two
nearby points. It is important to define the metric in terms of differential
changes in the coordinates since not all coordinate systems are linear like the
Euclidean ones. The Pythagorean theorem defines the metric of the plane where
the line element is given by:
ds
2
= dx
2
+ dy
2
Special Relativiy 37
On a surface, the Pythagorean theorem is generalized by the formula invented
by Gauss:
ds
2
= g
xx
dx
2
+ 2 g
xy
dx dy + g
yy
dy
2
The shortest way between two points A and B in the plane is:
S =
A
B
ds =
A
B
dx
2
+ dy
2
=
A
B
1 + y
2
dx =
A
B
L y dx =
A
B
L
dy
dx
dx
where the Lagrangian is
L y = 1 + y
2
and
y = y' =
dy
dx
is the slope of the curved way.
The symbol o (lower case delta) instead of d (straight d for total differential), or
(curly d for partial derivative), shows a virtual infinitesimal variation.
Developing the Lagrangian L in the first order, we may write the virtual
variation of the way ds:
ds = L y dx =

y
L y y dx =
L y
y
d
dx
y dx
The differentiation being commutative, one may write:
ds =
L y
y

dy
dx
dx =
L y
y
y dx
Expliciting the Lagrangian, we get:
ds =

y
1 + y x
2
y dx
Let us write:
A =

y
1 + y
2
et B = y
Let us integrate by parts this expression :
1
2

y
1 + y
2 d
dx
y =
1
2
A
dB
dx
=
dA
dx
B
2
1

1
2
B
dA
dx
= 0 –
1
2
y
d
dx

y
1 + y
2
The integrant has to be null whatever oy:
d
dx

y
1 + y
2
= 0
Special Relativiy 38
or, using L:
d
dx
L
y
= 0
Carrying the partial derivative relative to y', the Lagrange equation becomes:
d
dx
2y x
2 1 + y x
2
= 0
It integrates in
y x
1 + y x
2
= constant
or y’ = dy/dx = constant. The trajectory y(x) is a straight line.
Special Relativiy 39
4. RELATIVISTIC DYNAMICS
4.1. INTRODUCTION
The Lorentz transformation, like the Galilean transformation is supposed to be
valid only between Galilean reference frames. We have seen above that the
observed acceleration is a function of the proper acceleration through the
Lorentz formula of the accelerated electron. Accelerated motion is therefore not
out of the scope of special relativity.
Relativistic dynamics is the special relativity with addition of Newton' laws.
Mass dilatation results simply from the application of the Lorentz
transformation to the acceleration as we shall see. If the acceleration is defined
as the derivative of the velocity, Newton's second law must be written with the
variable mass included in the derivand:
F =
d mv
dt
Energy being the product of the force and the displacement, as in classical
mechanics, one obtains an expression that reduces to the newtonian formula at
low speeds. When the effort F acts on a body and make it move of an increment
dx, the work done by F is transformed into kinetic energy dT = F dx. By
integration of this equation, one obtains the kinetic energy mv
2
in newtonian
mechanics where the mass is constant. In relativistic dynamics, we have to take
account of the variable mass, function of the velocity. We will show that the
kinetic energy depends only on the mass via the velocity and a universal
constant proportionality factor.
4.2. RELATIVISTIC MASS
The Lorentz transformation of colinear accelerations is given by the formula:
d vv
dt
=
dv
d
where t is the time in the frame R of the observer ; t’ is the proper time t in
frame R’ of the particle ; v is the velocity of frame R’ relative to R as defined
for the Lorentz transformation. The accelerations are the same in both frames
when v = 1 e.g. for velocities low relative to the speed of light. Let us multiply
both sides of the preceding equation by the proper (or intrinsic or rest), mass of
the particle, constant and independant of the observer, m
0
:
Special Relativiy 40
d vm
0
v
dt
=
d m
0
v
d
The relativistic (or inertial or apparent) mass m, depending on the reference
frame, is defined by the relation
m = v m
0
=
m
0
1 –
v
2
c
2
If one does not want to use the relativistic mass, one has to use the relativistic
acceleration as defined earlier or to always replace the mass by vm
0
. We will use
here this French et Feynman notation, except, eventually, at low speeds where
they are equal. According to this formula, the relativistic mass dilates with the
same law as the time and increases indefinitely when the velocity tends to the
speed of light.
The Young’s double slits experiment with single photons shows the double
nature, undulatory and corpuscular, of light. It is often asserted that the photon
has no mass. This is of course true but only for the rest mass since, for v = c, the
denominator of the above formula being zero, the numerator has also to be zero.
The relativistic mass of the photon may be determined only from the
equivalence of mass and energy and the quanta hypothesis.
The variable mass is useful to allow a generalization of Newton' laws in the
domain of relativistic velocities, near the speed of light.
4.3. RELATIVISTIC NEWTON'S SECOND LAW A
REVOIR
The Lorentz transformation of the accelerations,
d vv
dt
=
dv
d
becomes, when multiplied by the rest mass m
0
:
d vm
0
v
dt
=
d m
0
v
d
where t is the proper time, in the mobile frame where the particle is at rest. v is
the relative velocity of the observer to the particle reference frames. In the
proper reference frame, the second Newton's law applies classically since the
velocity is zero, thus low relative to the speed of light. One may then write :
F =
d m
0
v
d
=
d vm
0
v
dt
=
d mv
dt
The force having the same value in the observer's and in the particle reference
frames, is therefore conserved in a change of frame, in one dimension of space
Special Relativiy 41
at least. In relativistic dynamics, the force, according to the relativistic Newton's
second law is:
F =
dp
dt
where
p =
m
0
v
1
v
2
c
2
is the momentum, product of relativistic mass and velocity. The proper time t
does not appear here any more since everything happens in the observer's frame.
Let us take the example of a voyager moving away in a rocket and an observer
remaining on the Earth. Both will be able to measure their relative acceleration
with the help of an optical instrument like a laser velocimeter. The voyager will
attached to a spring. With an identical instrument, the observer will measure the
acceleration of gravity. Only the optical method will give the same relative
acceleration for the observer and the voyager. In order to get the same result
with the optical and mechanical measures, the voyager will have to subtract the
acceleration of gravity, varying with the distance from the Earth. He will know
the force from the ballistic caracteristics of the rocket.
Now, what happens at relativistic speeds? As the rocket reaches the speed of
light, the relative acceleration tends to zero but the proper acceleration may
remain constant if the proper force is constant.
In newtonian mechanics, will both measures give the same result at relativistic
velocities? The optical method will give the constant velocity of light and
therefore a null acceleration. The mechanical method will give the the assumed
constant proper acceleration. The applied force may be known from the ballistic
caracteristics of the rocket. The observer on Earth has no means to know the
thrust.
Anyway how to measure independently acceleration and force?
The voyager measures his proper acceleration with the accelerometer and the
relative acceleration with the laser. At the speed of light, he will be unable to
measure anything. At a slightly lower speed, he will measure a
Of course, Newton's law is valid in every frame but, in the proper frame, the
acceleration relative to the observer is measurable with a mechanical
accelerometer and an optical instrument. The observer on Earth is able to
measure the acceleration with an optical instrument only. He is unable to
measure the force.
Another example is that of a lienarly accelerated electron. Only the accelerating
potential (or the electrostatic field) and the velocity may be known.
Special Relativiy 42
est la quantité de mouvement fonction de la masse au repos m
0
et de la vitesse v.
Le temps propre t n’apparaît plus ici car tout se passe dans le référentiel de
l’observateur. One uses the letter a = dv/dt rather than v to designate the
acceleration in order to avoid confusion with the Lorentz factor. Knowing that
p = vm
0
v, when the force derives from a potential V, one may write
F = m
0
d
dt
v
1 –
v
2
c
2
= –
V
x
This is the same as using the relativistic mass
m = v m
0
with the classical acceleration
dv
dt
or the rest mass m
0
, invariable, with the relativistic acceleration
d vv
dt
Newton's second law of motion is relativity compatible if one takes into account
the mass variation with velocity. It needs only to derive momentum instead of
the velocity alone. Another method would be to consider the relativistic
acceleration, not used.
4.4. ENERGIE CINÉTIQUE
In classical mechanics, the kinetic energy is T = mv
2
. The velocity v,
according to relativity, is limited by the speed of light. The maximum kinetic
energy would be mc
2
if the mass were independent of the velocity. It is a first
approach of the relativistic energy.
A second approach is to calculate the classical kinetic energy T with the
relativistic mass:
m =
m
0
1 –
v
2
c
2
or, for m m
0
:
T =
mv
2
2
=
m c
2
2
1 –
m
0
m
1 +
m
0
m
m m
0
c
2
The kinetic energy is proportional to the mass variation. We shall show that it is
the relativistic formula. Let us apply the relativistic newtonian law. The
variation dT of the kinetic energy being equal to the work of the applied force F
Special Relativiy 43
during the displacement dx, we have, by applying the relativistic second
newton's law:
dT = F dx = F v dt = m
0
d vv
dt
v dt = m
0
v d vv
Having the identity:
v d vv = v d
v
1 –
v
2
c
2
=
v dv
1 –
v
2
c
2
+
v
2 v dv
c
2
1 –
v
2
c
2
3
2
=
v dv
1 –
v
2
c
2
1 +
v
2
c
2
1 –
v
2
c
2
=
dv
2
2 1 –
v
2
c
2
3
2
= d
1
1 –
v
2
c
2
= dv
The incremental kinetic energy dT = m
0
dv may be integrated:
T = m
0
v c
2
+ constant
The constant is obtained by noticing that the kinetic energy must be zero at rest
when v = 1. The constant is therefore - m
0
c
2
and the kinetic energy:
T = m – m
0
c
2
The relativistic kinetic energy is proportional to the mass difference between
rest and motion.
4.5. E = MC
2
The conversion of mass in energy had already being considered by Newton.
Formulas like Einstein's had been proposed by Thomson, Heaviside et Poincaré.
Lise Meitner used Einstein's theory to show that the mass lost during the fission
of uranium was changed changed to energy.
We shall derive, using the expression of the kinetic energy, T = (m – m
0
) c
2
, the
most famous formula of modern physics. c and m
0
being constant, the increase
of the kinetic energy is due only to the increase of the relativistic mass m. In
classical mechanics, the energy E is undetermined to an arbitrary additive
constant E
0
. We may choose it such that E = T + E
0
= m c
2
. The total energy in
motion is then E = vm
0
c
2
. At rest, v = 0, then v = 1 and E
0
= m
0
c
2
. The rest
energy is a constant for a particle at rest.
Rather than choosing arbitrarily E
0
, one may call a evident principle. Indeed, the
proportionality between mass and energy is well known in practice, for example
by the car drivers. The energy contained in a given mass of fuel is proportional
to it according to a coefficient K depending on its heat content. There should
exist a maximum value of K corresponding to the maximum energy available
when all the matter is transformed into pure energy. K should be a universal
constant independent of the reference frame and from the velocity if mass and
energy are equivalent. For a given object, the total energy will be:
E = K m
in the frame of the observer and
Special Relativiy 44
E
0
= K m
0
in the prper frame of the object. The difference in these two energies is due only
to the velocity: it is the kinetic energy:
T = E E
0
= K m – m
0
K being a universal constant by assumption, only the mass depends on the
speed. Now, the application of the second law of Newton combined with the
definition of energy had shown that the kinetic energy was:
T = m m
0
c
2
Identifying these two las expressions, one finds K = c
2
and, therefore, the total
energy in motion or at rest is:
E = m c
2
The Lorentz factor
v =
m
m
0
=
m c
2
m
0
c
2
=
E
E
0
represents the ratio of the total energy in motion to the total energy at rest as
well as the ratio of the corresponding masses. The available energy in a particle
depends on the observer e.g. if the particle is in motion or not relatively to the
observer. This is not only true for relativistic velocities but also in classical
mechanics. A car driver is often only aware of the damage he can cause at the
time of a shock. The kinetic energy, even newtonian, is relative since it exists
only relatively to an obstacle, that is, depends on the reference frame.
All the derivations leading to E = mc
2
In a few words we shall resume the reasoning conducting to this formula. Its
origin is in the velocity of any material object limited to that of light. If a
constant force is applied to the object to accelerate it, the velocity being limited
and the force constant, it is necessary that the mass increases to avoid
overcoming the velocity of light. The simplest formula giving an infinite mass
for v = c is the dilatation of mass given by relativity:
m =
m
0
1 –
v
2
c
2
From this formula one gets the newtonian kinetic energy as a function of mass,
approximated at low velocity but also valid for relativistic velocities:
T = m – m
0
c
2
By assuming proportionality between mas and energy, one finds that the
proportionality constant is c
2
.
All the demonstrations using the transformation of matter into light or collisions
need one or two supplementary assumptions. The hypothesis of proportionality
Special Relativiy 45
of energy and matter with a universal constant seems better. The kinetic energy
is thus proportional to the mass variation. Using the relativistic formula for the
kinetic energy one obtains the value of the coefficient K = c
2
.
4.6. POTENTIAL ENERGY
The variation dV of the potential energy is the product of force F and
displacement dx with opposite sign. In the international system (SI), the
potential energy is expressed in joules (J or N.m.). The energy units
The second Newton's law gives the relationship between potental and kinetic
energy.
dV = F x dx =
d mv
dt
v dt = d
mv
2
2
= dT
V is the potential energy, not to be confused with the potential like the
gravitational potential equal to the potential energy divided by the mass. The
gravitational potential energy is always negative except eventually near the
Earth's surface. The electrostatic potential is the potential energy divided by the
electric charge. The sign of the electrostatic potential depends on the sign of the
electric charge. The kinetic energy T is always positive. An adimensional
potential is represented by the letter d. The field is the derivative relative to
space of the potential. The force is the space derivative of the potential energy.
The potential disappears in special relativity, when switching from Newton to
Einstein, reappears in relativistic dynamics as the Lagrangian "à la Landau" and
in general relativity in the metrics, disappears again in the Einstein equations in
the same way as in the gravitational or electrostatic Laplace equation.
In classical mechanics, the total mechanical energy is the sum of the kinetic and
potential energies. The conservation of energy is a consequence of Newton's
laws and of the definition of energy. Conservation of energy is expressed by the
relation T + V = constant expressing the relation between kinetic and potential
energies. In special relativity, the total energy is E = mc
2
, without any reference
to any potential energy. In relativistic dynamics, the conservation of energy
could be written as
T + V = m m
0
c
2
+ V = constant
Using the definitions of the classical total mechanical energy and of the
Lagrangian L:
m
0
c
2
1
v
2
c
2
m
0
c
2
+ V = V
0
We will encounter below the Lagrangians "à la Landau":
Special Relativiy 46
L = m
0
c
2
1
v
2
c
2
V(x)
and in Newtonian limit of general relativity:
L =
d
d
=
dt
d
1 –
v
2
c
2
+
2V
m
0
c
2
= 1
both differing from the first one. This problem seems to be the clue of the
incompatibility between special and general relativity.
4.7. ELECTRON ACCELERATION
Energy
The total mechanical energy, sum of kinetic T and potential energy V, is an
arbitrary constant in the absence of dematerialization. In relativistic dynamics
the kinetic energy being T = (m - m
0
) c
2
, the conservation of energy writes:
m
0
c
2
1
v
2
c
2
– m
0
c
2
+ V =
m
0
c
2
1
v
2
0
c
2
m
0
c
2
+ V
0
where V and v, V
0
and v
0
, are respectively the potential and velocity at two
different places in the physical space. We may write v
0
= 0:
m
0
c
2
1
v
2
c
2
m
0
c
2
= V
0
V = V
or
v = c 1
1
1 +
V
m
0
c
2
2
V must be positive in order to have a real value of the velocity v. Therefore,
the formula is not applicable to gravitation nor to an attractive electrostatic
Coulomb force. The velocity tends asymptotically to the speed of light c when
the potential difference increases indefinitely as is observed in particle
accelerators.
To check experimentally the formula, the velocity of the particle is measured as
a function of the applied potential. The first measures were made in 1915 by
Guye and Lavanchy measured in 1915 the ratio e/m in function of the velocity.
Bertozzi, in 1964, measured the speeds of electrons with kinetic energies in the
Special Relativiy 47
range 0.5–15 MeV. The kinetic energy, determined by calorimetry,verifies that
an electric field exerts a force on a moving electron in its direction of motion
that is independent of its speed. Four experimental points seem to be
insufficient. More precise measurements should be made.
The Stanford linear accelerator (SLAC) is three kilometers long to accelerate
electrons to 20 GeV with 82.650 one inch long accelerating structures divided in
three cells. The accelerating voltage is thus less than 100 kV per stage, clearly
less than 0.5 MeV, the total rest energy of the electron.
The circular trajectory of cyclotrons and synchrotrons is obtained thanks to the
magnetic part of the Lorentz force, perpendicular to the trajectory. The Lorentz
and cetrifugal forces are in equilibrium (SI units):
q v B = m
0
v
2
R
where B is the magnetic induction, R the radius of the ring, m
e
the rest mass and
e the electric charge of the electron. In practice B and R have to be adjusted in
function of the speed desired:
B R =
m
e
v
e 1
v
2
c
2
The magnetic field being limited by the power of the electro-magnets, the
accelerators have an increasing size, like that of the CERN with a radius of
4 km.
Time
Electrically charged particles are accelerated by an electrostatic field. We use
here the word acceleration in the sense of increase of velocity, while it is
increase in energy for accelerator specialists. It may be understood since a
particle reaches the speed of light for relatively low energies, of the order of one
MeV for an electron and one Gev for a proton.
Let us apply the relativistic second Newton's law to an electron with a constant
eletrostatic acceleration:
d
dt
v
1
v
2
c
2
=
dV
dx
=
F
m
e
=
eE
m
e
= g
where e is the electric charge, E the electric field, m
e
the mass of the electron
and g the constant proper acceleration. The calculation, already seen, gives
Special Relativiy 48
v =
c
1 +
m
e
c
e E t
2
The velocity of the electron tends asymptotically to the speed of light c.
4.8. RELATIVISTIC LAGRANGIAN "À LA
LANDAU"
In Minkowski space the motion is rectilinear and with constant speed. We shall
determine the lagrangian of a particle subjected to a force deriving from a
potential V :
F = –
V
x
The second Newton law is :
d
dt
mv = –
V
x
where m may vary with speed or some other variables. The time is the observer
time. In relativistic dynamics we have
d
dt
m
0
v
1 –
v
2
c
2
= –
V
x
where m
0
is the proper masse, constant. The expression in parentheses may be
integrated :
d
dt

v
– m
0
c
2
1 –
v
2
c
2
= –
V
x
If the potential is independant of the velocity v, one may subtract it, on the left.
On the right side one may add the derivative of the radical, independant on the
abscissa x :
d
dt

v
- m
0
c
2
1 -
v
2
c
2
– V –

x
– m
0
c
2
1 –
v
2
c
2
– V = 0
Let us define the lagrangian "à la Landau" as
L = m
0
c
2
1
v
2
c
2
V(x)
The preceding equation becomes the Lagrange equation :
L
x

d
dt
L
v
= 0
Special Relativiy 49
If V = 0, one gets the relativistic lagrangian of a free particle :
L = 1 –
v
2
c
2
The lagrangian "à la Landau" differs from the relativistic T – V :
T V = m m
0
c
2
V = m
0
c
2
1
1
v
2
c
2
1 V
There seems to be a problem, even if both lagrangians give the newtonian
lagrangian at low velocity :
L
1
2
m
0
v
2
V x + constant
The lagrangian "à la Landau" is used in particle accelerators taking into account
the electrostatic and magnetic potentials :
L = – m
0
c
2
1 –
v
2
c
2
– q (x) + qv•A
The potential V is replaced by qo where q is the electrostatic charge and o the
electrostatic potential.
A
is the vector potential.
The lagrangian "à la Landau" works for acceleration energies larger than the
total rest energy of the accelerated particle. From the fundamental law of the
relativistic dynamics we have obtained a "relativistic" lagrangian where the
distinction between proper time and absolute time does not appear. This
lagrangian is incompatible with Minkowski space and seems unable to predict
any light deviation by the sun, contrarily to newtonian mechanics as we shall see
in the following chapter dedicated to general relativity.
4.9. ANTIMATTER
The total energy E = mc
2
may be writen :
E
2
= m
2
c
4
=
m
2
0
c
4
1 -
v
2
c
2
-
m
2
0
c
2
v
2
1 -
v
2
c
2
+
m
2
0
c
2
v
2
1 -
v
2
c
2
=
m
2
0
c
4
1 -
v
2
c
2
1 -
v
2
c
2
+ mc
2
v
2
By replacing mv by the linear momentum p one obtains a useful relation, called
dispersion relation between energy E and relativistic momentum p
E
2
= m
2
0
c
4
+ p
2
c
2
This formula works for a zero proper mass particle like a photon. The mass
being squared, by taking its square root, there are two solutions with positive
and negative masses :
Special Relativiy 50
E = ± m
2
0
c
4
+ p
2
c
2
According to quantum mechanics also, there should exist negative masses called
antimatter but the existence of negative masses has never been proved. When
one speaks of antiparticles, it is about particles of the same mass but of opposite
electrical charges. A photon and an antiphoton cannot be distinguished. The
antineutron has been discovered in 1956 through its annihilation, but has not
been observed directly.
Special Relativiy 51
5. CONCLUSION ON SPECIAL RELATIVITY
The unsolvable problems encoutered at the end of the 19th centuryhave been
clarified by Einstein with his special relativity. He has rederived the Lorentz
transformation with a different basis. He modified the classical mechanics by
taking again the Galilean principle of relativity abused by Newton with his
absolute time and space. The Galilean transformation is replaced by that of
Lorentz, so that speed and acceleration are not any more simple derivatives of
space with respect to time.
The speed of electromagnetic waves is that of light and depends only of electric
and magnetic properties of matter measured in the laboratory. The
electromagnetic wave equation does not depend on any absolute reference
frame, contrarily to mechanical waves. The light wave is insensitive to the wind
even of Aether.
The Michelson experiment did not give the result predicted by the Newtonian
mechanics, even with the use of extra-terrestrial light. Lorentz and Fitzgerald
invented time dilatation and length contraction. Stellar aberration, pi-ion
experiment, double star Algol, none of them contradicts the constancy of light
speed, at least in the absence of gravitation. Superluminal velocities of so-called
tachyons would have been observed but have been explained by a perspective
effect. The measure of mesons lifetimes, the Fizeau experiment and the Doppler
effect are quantitatives verifications of the Lorentz factor and of the slowing
down of the time.
The relativistic dynamics, useful in practice, is a generalization of the newtonian
dynamics. Adding the hypothesis of proportionality between energy and mass
leads to the well known formula E = mc
2
. The relativistic lagrangian "à la
Landau" is equivalent to the relativistic Newton's second law, useful in the
particle accelerators, but ineffective for gravitation.
Therefore, the theory is incomplete, as compared to rational mechanics valid in
electrostatics and gravitation although not at speeds near that of light.