Relativity : the Special and General Theory eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 117 pages of information about Relativity .

I am standing in front of a gas range.  Standing alongside of each other on the range are two pans so much alike that one may be mistaken for the other.  Both are half full of water.  I notice that steam is being emitted continuously from the one pan, but not from the other.  I am surprised at this, even if I have never seen either a gas range or a pan before.  But if I now notice a luminous something of bluish colour under the first pan but not under the other, I cease to be astonished, even if I have never before seen a gas flame.  For I can only say that this bluish something will cause the emission of the steam, or at least possibly it may do so.  If, however, I notice the bluish something in neither case, and if I observe that the one continuously emits steam whilst the other does not, then I shall remain astonished and dissatisfied until I have discovered some circumstance to which I can attribute the different behaviour of the two pans.

Analogously, I seek in vain for a real something in classical mechanics (or in the special theory of relativity) to which I can attribute the different behaviour of bodies considered with respect to the reference systems K and K1.* Newton saw this objection and attempted to invalidate it, but without success.  But E. Mach recognsed it most clearly of all, and because of this objection he claimed that mechanics must be placed on a new basis.  It can only be got rid of by means of a physics which is conformable to the general principle of relativity, since the equations of such a theory hold for every body of reference, whatever may be its state of motion.


*) The objection is of importance more especially when the state of motion of the reference-body is of such a nature that it does not require any external agency for its maintenance, e.g. in the case when the reference-body is rotating uniformly.


The considerations of Section 20 show that the general principle of relativity puts us in a position to derive properties of the gravitational field in a purely theoretical manner.  Let us suppose, for instance, that we know the space-time " course " for any natural process whatsoever, as regards the manner in which it takes place in the Galileian domain relative to a Galileian body of reference K. By means of purely theoretical operations (i.e. simply by calculation) we are then able to find how this known natural process appears, as seen from a reference-body K1 which is accelerated relatively to K. But since a gravitational field exists with respect to this new body of reference K1, our consideration also teaches us how the gravitational field influences the process studied.

For example, we learn that a body which is in a state of uniform rectilinear motion with respect to K (in accordance with the law of Galilei) is executing an accelerated and in general curvilinear motion with respect to the accelerated reference-body K1 (chest).  This acceleration or curvature corresponds to the influence on the moving body of the gravitational field prevailing relatively to K. It is known that a gravitational field influences the movement of bodies in this way, so that our consideration supplies us with nothing essentially new.

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Relativity : the Special and General Theory from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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