With all it’s vastness and complexity it’s taken a long time for humans to reach the understanding that we have of the universe that we have. This is the story of evolving understanding and how simplicity gives way to incredible truth’s that seems to sit at odds with how we think life should be… and we’ve only just begun our journey of understanding.
The last post looked at how the absoluteness of time has had to be given up in order for relativity to be true. The absoluteness of time also needs to be given up in order for physics to be able to operate in different reference frames.
Looking back at the star trip undertaken by the twin in the last post, it was shown that the spaceship travelling at 0.8c to the star 10 light years away took the ship 7.5 years to complete – not the 12 years that it did on Earth. Remember that a light year is the distance that light takes to travel in a year.
If we then use the formula Distance = Speed x Time as we have done before and take the speed – 0.8c and multiply it by the time 7.5 then the answer comes out as 6. 6 light years is the distance the ship travelled – not the 10 light years measured in the Earth’s reference frame. How is this even possible? Surely the distance that the ship travelled was 10 light years? It’s 10 light years to us on Earth – but in a spaceship travelling at 0.8c it becomes 6 light years.
Relativity means that this must be true, if the laws of physics are the same for all observers travelling in uniform motion – in a straight line at constant speed. In our daily lives the changes in time and space are so small – that we would never notice them.
This spatial compression is something that was eluded to after the failed Michelson Morley experiment in the 1880’s and it’s often referred to as the Lorentz transformation.
The most notable use of the compressed space is in quantum science where tiny sub atomic particles are accelerated in particle accelerators. These particle accelerators are miles long but becasue the particles shot down it are moving at close the the speed of light in the reference frame of these particles they’re only a matter of feet long.
© Simon Farnell 2013 – 2022
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