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Author Topic: Are clocks essential for studying Special Relativity?  (Read 356 times)

Offline geordief

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The effects of time dilation and length contraction  have .I understand been shown experientially to agree with the predictions of Special Relativity in all circumstances at the macro level to date..

I don't know if I am allowed to posit a hypothetical situation  where it was attempted to find a model for these effects  without being able to use  the clock that Einstein used - a light clock?

A: Was it necessary  to use a time measuring apparatus (in the model not the experiments) with moving parts that matched the fastest possible speed?

B:(what I am especially interested to know) Was it possible to create the Special Relativity model -or one extremely similar  -if the only time measuring apparatus one had at ones disposal was an atomic clock which ,it is said has no moving parts ?

Am I trying to find such a model by unreasonably tying one hand behind my back ? Can it be done anyway?


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« Last Edit: 02/10/2016 15:33:02 by chris »


 

Offline Colin2B

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Re: Special Relativity and Clocks
« Reply #1 on: 02/10/2016 14:35:54 »
I don't know if I am allowed to posit a hypothetical situation  where it was attempted to find a model for these effects  without being able to use  the clock that Einstein used - a light clock?

A: Was it necessary  to use a time measuring apparatus (in the model not the experiments) with moving parts that matched the fastest possible speed?

B:(what I am especially interested to know) Was it possible to create the Special Relativity model -or one extremely similar  -if the only time measuring apparatus one had at ones disposal was an atomic clock which ,it is said has no moving parts ?

Am I trying to find such a model by unreasonably tying one hand behind my back ? Can it be done anyway?
Although the light clock is used a great deal in illustrating SR it isn't part of the derivation. Einstein's paper which introduced SR dealt with how we view the symmetry of a wire moving through a magnetic field vs a stationary wire in a varying magnetic field and how this related to the properties of electromagnetic fields as described by Maxwell's equations. The solution to the problem was that it doesn't matter whether you consider the wire stationary or the field stationary (it's all relative)  and that the speed of light does not depend on the speed of the observer (unlike the speed of sound and other waves travelling in a medium).
All the rest, light clocks, observers on moving trains vs platform observers, were secondary and used to explain the consequences of SR. In reality you can use any clock, mechanical, atomic, light, or even the ageing rate of the human body, all will show the same time dilation effects.
 

Offline geordief

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Re: Special Relativity and Clocks
« Reply #2 on: 02/10/2016 14:50:35 »

Although the light clock is used a great deal in illustrating SR it isn't part of the derivation. Einstein's paper which introduced SR dealt with how we view the symmetry of a wire moving through a magnetic field vs a stationary wire in a varying magnetic field and how this related to the properties of electromagnetic fields as described by Maxwell's equations. The solution to the problem was that it doesn't matter whether you consider the wire stationary or the field stationary (it's all relative)  and that the speed of light does not depend on the speed of the observer (unlike the speed of sound and other waves travelling in a medium).
All the rest, light clocks, observers on moving trains vs platform observers, were secondary and used to explain the consequences of SR. In reality you can use any clock, mechanical, atomic, light, or even the ageing rate of the human body, all will show the same time dilation effects.

Thanks ,you seem to have cleared that up for me.

As an aside I have  attempted to read Einstein's papers (a) out of respect for the man  and (b) under the impression that ,coming from the horse's mouth as it were  the explanations would be that bit easier to follow.

Disappointingly  I have found his explanations  quite difficult to follow (which explains why I am not familiar with much of the actual paper)

So ,even 100 years later I am struggling to catch up ;)

Perhaps I need to actually buy the book as I think I would probably find it easier  to learn from a book than  from a computer screen
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Are clocks essential for studying Special Relativity?
« Reply #3 on: 03/10/2016 08:35:26 »
Try "Relativity" by Albert Einstein. It used to be available as a fairly small paperback and says it all very clearly. George Gamow does the same with Mr Tompkins but some people are put off by his presentation as a novel rather than a straight scientific text. What makes these explanations digestible is the use of one or two spatial dimensions rather than a full 3D generalisation, so the illustrations are very comprehensible.
 

Offline geordief

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Re: Are clocks essential for studying Special Relativity?
« Reply #4 on: 03/10/2016 10:38:55 »
Try "Relativity" by Albert Einstein. It used to be available as a fairly small paperback and says it all very clearly. George Gamow does the same with Mr Tompkins but some people are put off by his presentation as a novel rather than a straight scientific text. What makes these explanations digestible is the use of one or two spatial dimensions rather than a full 3D generalisation, so the illustrations are very comprehensible.

I (re)started that online yesterday.

http://www.bartleby.com/173/7.html [nofollow]

 Am I right to be waiting with baited breath for  his description of unexpected observations wrt the  mutual relationship of the electric and magnetic  phenomena  ?


Is that where he gets to the heart of the matter ? (rather than the simple geometric proof in the appendix which I spent several weeks getting through several years ago)

http://www.bartleby.com/173/a1.html [nofollow]
 

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Re: Are clocks essential for studying Special Relativity?
« Reply #4 on: 03/10/2016 10:38:55 »

 

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