Albert Einstein was one of the most influential thinkers regarding the fabric of the universe. Einstein’s major contribution to modern physics was his theory of relativity. The first part of this revolutionary idea was his special theory of relativity. Published in 1905, it established two major points: the laws of physics are the same in any inertial frame and the speed of light is always constant no matter the speed of the source or the observer. While the theory most directly dealt with physics on a microscopic scale, it still had many major implications. His first point dealt with the idea of relative motion and the fact that there was no ether, a nonmoving frame of reference, that all previous physics was based upon. The ether was an important idea in the belief that the universe was orderly and structured. The new idea of relativity where there was only relative motion rather than absolute motion unraveled this idea. There was nothing absolute. His second point about the consistency of the speed of light is a bit more difficult to understand; however, it constitutes the idea of a curved spacetime, something that was explained more elaborately in his general theory of relativity. The idea of time as a dimension that, along with space, could be warped showed that we did not live in a universe of the orderly Euclidean geometry but in a non-Euclidean universe. These concepts unraveled the prevailing idea that the universe was fundamentally structured and worked according to Newton’s orderly laws and vaulted scientific thought into a whole new era.
Sources (from research I did in high school so I couldn’t hyperlink them):
“Relativity” World Book Encyclopedia. 1989.
Pearce Williams, L. “Ether.” Encyclopedia Americana.Scholastic Grolier Online, ea.grolier.com/article?id=0147190-00. Accessed 15 Feb. 2017.
Will, Clifford M. “Relativity.” Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia.Scholastic Grolier Online, gme.grolier.com/article?assetid=0244990-0. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.•
2 thoughts on “Blog #2: Special Relativity”
I also researched special relativity in high school! It gets really complicated, and I still don’t know how Einstein figured this stuff out. Reference frames and relative speeds are things that are not easy to grasp whatsoever, but can be very interesting when explored. Many people still don’t even know that these ideas exist. You did a great job of putting the general ideas in a concise post.
From a TA: Special Relativity is definitely a pretty trippy subject. There are some really great thought experiments to try and contextualize the physics. Here’s one for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgH9KXEQ0YU