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UNIT 7

Waves and Modern Physics

CHAPTER 17: SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY

Towards the end of the 19th century, scientists believed that they were close to understanding all of the physical world

Newton’s Laws: motion  Maxwell’s Laws: electromagnetism  Chemists: behaviours of atoms

MICHELSON-MORLEY EXPERIMENT

1881 - Albert Michelson wanted to detect the motion of earth through some mysterious ether (they called it luminiferous ether) Light is a wave, so it must travel through a medium (water, air, etc) He created a interferometer – an instrument used to measure wavelengths of light This failed miserably!

MICHELSON-MORLEY EXPERIMENT

1887 – Michelson and Edward Williams Morley created a refine version of the experiment They reasoned that if light behaves like a wave, then if you move towards it, it should seem to approach you at a higher speed than if you were standing still

These different speeds would be picked up by the interferometer by showing an interference pattern

MICHELSON-MORLEY EXPERIMENT

MICHELSON-MORLEY EXPERIMENT

To understand this experiment, consider the following:

MICHELSON-MORLEY EXPERIMENT

MICHELSON-MORLEY EXPERIMENT

MICHELSON-MORLEY EXPERIMENT

In the experiment, the speed of the boat through the water would be replaced by: The speed of the water relative to the ground would be replaced by:

MICHELSON-MORLEY EXPERIMENT

Based on this, Michelson and Morley assumed that if they sent two beams of light through a beam splitter, then if beam X was parallel to the motion of the earth it would take longer to reach the telescope than beam Y. If the apparatus was rotated 90º, then which beam would take longer to arrive? This should create an interference pattern!

MICHELSON-MORLEY EXPERIMENT

… BUT IT DIDN’T!

MICHELSON-MORLEY EXPERIMENT

One explanation, which paved the way for the relativity answer, was that objects moving through the “ether” were compressed, similar to a spring if it was being pushed through oil.

This contraction would cause the length to shorten when in the direction of motion What does this mean?

MICHELSON-MORLEY EXPERIMENT

This would reduce the time for the light to make a round trip – this would make beams X and Y arrive at the same time! This hypothesis was know as the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction

THE THEORETICAL SPEED OF LIGHT

It wasn’t until 1905 that we got an explanation for this – and this explanation was one of the most famous theories to date. Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity!!

SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY

Einstein based his theory on two postulates: 1. All physical laws must be equally valid in all inertial frames of reference. 2. The speed of light in a vacuum will be measured to be the same in all inertial frames of reference.

SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY

The first postulate has been accepted since Newton and Galileo. The second postulate was a huge change from the current understanding of Physics. This theory changed our fundamental understanding of distance, time, and mass.

SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY

Simultaneity example:

SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY

SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY

Time Dilation – applies to situations where time intervals appear different to observers in different inertial reference frames.
= proper time (or rest time) – it is measured by a person at rest relative to the object or event

SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY
Time dilation example: A rocket speeds past an asteroid at 0.800c. If an observer in the rocket sees 10.0s pass on her watch, how long would that time interval be as seen by an observer on the asteroid?

SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY

Length Contraction – if two observers are moving relative to one another, then a time dilation from one observer’s point of view will be balanced by a corresponding length contraction from the other observer’s point of view.

SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY

Gamma function – used when solving problems involving relativistic speeds (speeds approaching the speed of light):

Now, length and time equations become:

SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY

Example: A spacecraft passes Earth at a speed of 2.0x10^8m/s. If observers on Earth measure the length of the spacecraft to be 554m, how long would it be according to passengers?

SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY

To summarize: Length appears to be shorter, or contracted, to the observer who is moving relative to the object being measured. The amount of length contraction that occurs is determined by the relative speeds of the reference frames of the two observers.

THE UNIVERSAL SPEED LIMIT

Since times and lengths are measurements, they must be represented by real numbers. Thus, in the gamma expression the values under the square roots must be a positive, real number.

What does this imply?

THE UNIVERSAL SPEED LIMIT

So then if v approaches c, what happens to gamma?

What happens to ∆t when v approaches c in the original time dilation equation?

THE UNIVERSAL SPEED LIMIT

So what does this mean?

CHERENKOV RADIATION

MASS AND ENERGY

So, no material object can travel at or above the speed of light – why? If a spacecraft is travelling at 0.999c, then what is stopping it from burning more fuel and giving it more force so it can reach or surpass the speed of light?

MASS AND ENERGY

This is explained through mass dilation. Similar to how time dilates and length contracts when you approach the speed of light, the mass also increases as it approaches the speed of light by the equation:

MASS AND ENERGY

In this equation, m is the relativistic mass and is the rest mass

What happens as v approaches c?

MASS AND ENERGY

Relativistic mass example: An electron has a rest mass of 9.11x10^-31 kg. In a detector, it behaves as if it has a mass of 12.55x10^-31 kg. How fast is that electron moving relative to the detector?

MASS AND ENERGY

We know that at non-relativistic speeds, the work would increase the kinetic energy when the spacecraft tried to accelerate. At relativistic speed, however, the speed and thus the kinetic energy increase can only be very small … so what is happening to the energy that the work is transferring to the spacecraft? This was solved with Einstein’s most famous equation!

MASS AND ENERGY

Einstein figured out that the increased mass represented the increased energy! From this, he got the formula:

MASS AND ENERGY

Example: A rocket car with a mass of 2.00x10^3kg is accelerated to 1.00x10^8m/s. Calculate its kinetic energy using:
a. the classical method  b. the relativistic method

MASS AND ENERGY

MASS AND ENERGY

Is it odd that there are two different equations for kinetic energy? What happens when v << c?