relativity theory

Four-vectors and conservation laws in relativity

This lecture was delivered to the final year honors class of 3 year science degree students on 21 November 2017 as part of the Classical Dynamics paper.

In this lecture we will discuss some of the important tools of relativistic mechanics. We will discuss the idea of proper-time, 4-velocity, 4-acceleration, 4-momentum, 4-force and related conservation law of the 4-momentum.

A. Proper-time. 
The proper time is the time interval in the rest-frame of any event. The proper time is related to time-interval in other inertial frame by: tau = (1/gamma)t where gamma  > 1 always.

Gamma is the Lorentz factor or Lorentz boost factor directly related to the speed of an object in speed-of-light units, i.e. beta.

gamma = 1/sqrt{1-v^2/c^2}

Hence proper-time is the smallest possible time interval for an object in motion in among all possible inertial frames of reference and it occurs in the rest frame.

d(tau) < dt

Proper-time is necessary to define other basic quantities in theory of relativity if we are to preserve their basic meaning in terms of the non-relativistic mechanics definitions.

B. Four velocity. 
Four velocity of a particle is the rate of change of 4-displacement …

So, …  is the position vector — or space-time interval in the Minkowski  space — akin to the difference of two 3-dimensional vector in coordinate space, this time with 4 coordinates rather than 3.

The proper-time interval d(tau) is a Lorentz invariant i.e. when we move between arbitrary inertial frames of references given by the Lorentz factor beta or  gamma this interval retains its value — because it retains its form. Any variable which would retain its form under such transformation are said to be Lorentz invariant quantities.

Relativistic Doppler effect

Relativistic Doppler effect. 

There is an apparent shift in the observed frequency of any electromagnetic wave (light) when there is any relative motion between the source of light and the observer. This can be easily determined by using the 4-vector formulation of theory of relativity.

Lets discuss the details of this phenomena under two situations.

A. Source is at rest and observer is in motion. 
Lets us consider two inertial frames S and S’. S’ is moving wrt S, along the x-axis with speed v = (beta) c where the observer is at rest in S’ frame but the source is at rest in the  S frame.

Introduction to special theory of relativity.

Special Theory of Relativity:
Galilean Transformations,. Newtonian Relativity.

This was a lecture delivered to physics-elective class of a 3 year non-physics degree students on 10th April 2017. This is also a good exposition to honors students and anyone at an introductory level of the special theory of relativity, with requisite mathematical background. 

Let us consider an inertial frame of reference S. The space and time coordinates of any event occurring in frame S are given by x, y, z, t.

Now let us consider another frame of reference S’ which is inertial but moves wrt frame S at speed v, along +x direction.

The coordinates of the same event in the S’ frame are given as: x’, y’, z’, t’. The relationship among the coordinates of any event in two different frames of reference both of which are inertial frames, is known as Galilean Coordinate Transformation or Galilean Transformation.

If we assume that time passes by at the same rate in both S and S’ frames, the resulting laws satisfy Newtonian Relativity. We say time is an absolute quantity in an infinitude of equivalent inertial frames of references as the rate of time change is independent of the particular inertial frame of reference we have chosen. Consequently: t = t’.

The above equation is known as velocity addition rule in Newtonian Relativity. This is valid only for classical mechanics in the sense of speed of objects and speed of frame of reference, which are quite insignificant with respect to the speed-of-light value.

Velocity addition is nothing but a relation of velocities of objects in different frames among each other. So its exactly what we call “relative velocities” in elementary mechanics. Relative velocity, velocity addition and velocity transformation are the exact same thing. Read more about these here and here. The second link also expounds on what happens when speeds approach that of light.

A Photon has no mass. It can’t rest.

A) A Photon has no mass. B) A implies “It can’t rest”. C) Therefore it doesn’t have rest mass. D) Photon rest mass is zero.

Assertion and reasoning; A is correct. B is correct and follows from A. C is correct, it does follow from B. But D is incorrect it does not follow from A, B, or C. Its erroneous, a sloppy language that has been thought to be correct for ages now.

The trick is to realize there is no property called mass of photon — at-least in the same sense as it is for other particles with mass, therefore no rest mass. To say rest mass is zero is a special value of mass or rest mass. It just doesn’t have rest mass, as it neither has mass, nor rest, which are equivalent formulations, one leads to other. But A, B or C do not lead to D. They are not equivalent way of saying each other. They invalidate each other actually.

How to add speeds; Galileo and Einstein won’t agree.

How to calculate the speed of anything, when their speed becomes closer to the speed-of-light. 
This article was originally a comment in the linked article;  Why Nothing Moves Faster Than Light.

— In order to correct the comment I have made earlier  ” unless something is completely mass-less in its rest-frame ” I also add the following. This is a fact which I have realized lately — or rather trapped myself to commit an inconsistent remark, by following the same comment in making other remarks elsewhere. 

But it’s better late than never to realize; when something is mass-less, it will never have a rest-frame, because by Einstein’s transformation rules, known as Theory of Relativity, to be consistent, a mass-less particle will always move at the speed of light c, no matter which frame we are looking at it from. This then leads to the velocity addition formula of Einstein.

Now we will discuss in a slightly more detail the two kind of velocity addition formula, one prior to Einstein and one that came from Einstein’s work. 

Prior to Einstein. 
According to Newton and Galileo ( Galileo Project ), known by a name Galilean Relativity, the following follows; if C moves at speed