Relativity : the Special and General Theory eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 117 pages of information about Relativity .
clock will go more quickly or less quickly, according to the position in which the clock is situated (at rest).  For this reason it is not possible to obtain a reasonable definition of time with the aid of clocks which are arranged at rest with respect to the body of reference.  A similar difficulty presents itself when we attempt to apply our earlier definition of simultaneity in such a case, but I do not wish to go any farther into this question.

Moreover, at this stage the definition of the space co-ordinates also presents insurmountable difficulties.  If the observer applies his standard measuring-rod (a rod which is short as compared with the radius of the disc) tangentially to the edge of the disc, then, as judged from the Galileian system, the length of this rod will be less than I, since, according to Section 12, moving bodies suffer a shortening in the direction of the motion.  On the other hand, the measaring-rod will not experience a shortening in length, as judged from K, if it is applied to the disc in the direction of the radius.  If, then, the observer first measures the circumference of the disc with his measuring-rod and then the diameter of the disc, on dividing the one by the other, he will not obtain as quotient the familiar number p = 3.14 . . ., but a larger number,[4]** whereas of course, for a disc which is at rest with respect to K, this operation would yield p exactly.  This proves that the propositions of Euclidean geometry cannot hold exactly on the rotating disc, nor in general in a gravitational field, at least if we attribute the length I to the rod in all positions and in every orientation.  Hence the idea of a straight line also loses its meaning.  We are therefore not in a position to define exactly the co-ordinates x, y, z relative to the disc by means of the method used in discussing the special theory, and as long as the co- ordinates and times of events have not been defined, we cannot assign an exact meaning to the natural laws in which these occur.

Thus all our previous conclusions based on general relativity would appear to be called in question.  In reality we must make a subtle detour in order to be able to apply the postulate of general relativity exactly.  I shall prepare the reader for this in the following paragraphs.


*) The field disappears at the centre of the disc and increases proportionally to the distance from the centre as we proceed outwards.

**) Throughout this consideration we have to use the Galileian (non-rotating) system K as reference-body, since we may only assume the validity of the results of the special theory of relativity relative to K (relative to K1 a gravitational field prevails).


The surface of a marble table is spread out in front of me.  I can get from any one point on this table to any other point by passing continuously from one point to a " neighbouring " one, and repeating this process a (large) number of times, or, in other words, by going from point to point without executing “jumps.”  I am sure the reader will appreciate with sufficient clearness what I mean here by " neighbouring " and by " jumps " (if he is not too pedantic).  We express this property of the surface by describing the latter as a continuum.

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