What Time Is It? A Clarification On Special Relativity

1224 words - 5 pages

What is time? We may be tempted to assume everyone has a notion of time that is the consistent with one another. A part of that “intuitive” notion of time contains the absoluteness of time – that time ticks at the same rate no matter what and it is independent. Even if an apocalypse were to happen to Earth, time will still flow nonchalantly. Yet, in the early 19th Century, Albert Einstein’s “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” or more affectionately known as the Special Relativity paper, confounded our common notions of time, as well as space. The theory could explain many weird phenomena like Stella Abberation , Fizeau’s experiment , Michelson-Morley’s Experiments . It ...view middle of the document...

It seem timely therefore, for me to explore the elusive definition of time in this essay. Using a better understanding, I will clarify the “time” which Einstein meant in Special Relativity in light of Immanuel Kant’s argument.
Basic Understanding of Special Relativity
Two Postulates
First, we will start off with a retrospective look at how Special Relativity changed my understanding of time. I will start with the two pillars of Special Relativity: the two postulates namely, the Principle of Relativity and the Principle of constancy of speed of light. Postulates are principles that are assumed to be true. The Special Relativity is built solely upon these two assumptions, like a table with two legs. The subsequent predictions about the relativity of time-space and mass-energy can be all traced back to these two pillars. Why then, should one believe in the validity of such assumptions? Scientists would agree that these assumptions will only be justified when experiments verifies the predictions made based on the assumptions. In Einstein’s Special Relativity, the interesting fact is that his theory can explain the electro-magneto-dynamic phenomena and experimental results at that time and also able to predict many profound effects which are proven to be true in much later experiments. Other competing theories like half-drag or full drag ether theories could not boast such prophetic achievements .
Principle of Relativity
The Principle of Relativity states that the laws of physics are the same for all inertial frames of reference. In other words, one can never tell if one is truly moving at constant speed or at rest relative to another inertial body by merely examining the variations of physical laws in his inertial frames (because the laws does not change across inertial frames). It is akin to what one experience when one sits inside a train, peers outside the small window and notices another train move past his train at constant speed. Without looking at the background (i.e. sky or ground), he would not be able to tell whether his train is moving or the other train is moving, or both! On a further note, separate observations made on the same event can (but not necessarily) be different. If Car A and Car B are moving at constant speed with reference to the ground, an observer in Car A would judge Car B as not moving at all (with reference to him). However, another observer who is stationary with respect to the ground will see both Car A and Car B moving at constant speed. The observations on “Car B’s velocity” are different according to different inertial frames of reference. These...

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