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Category Archives: Relativity

Relativity posts

Time and simultaneity

There are several ways of understanding the time of remote events. What follows is a summary of the basic ways of determining simultaneity.

As a way of comparing the different ways consider transmitting a light signal to a remote location where it is reflected back. What is the time when the signal is reflected back?

Observation time is an extension of ordinary perception. When we observe an event, we say that it is happening at the time of observation. So when a light signal is reflected and received back, the reflection observed is considered to have happened when it was observed. In effect the light observed is instantaneous. By implication the one-way speed of light transmitted is c/2 in order for the two-way speed of light to equal c.

Observation time is thus the projection of the time of observation to the entire observable universe. This way of understanding time is characterized by the Galilean transformation.

Transmission time is an extension of the ordinary transmission of light. When we shine a light on an event, we say that it is happening at the time of transmission. So when a light signal is aimed toward a reflector, the event of reflection is considered to have happened when the light was transmitted. In effect the light transmitted is instantaneous. By implication the observed one-way speed of light is c/2 in order for the two-way speed of light to equal c.

Transmission time is thus the projection of the time of transmission to the entire transmittable universe. This way of understanding time is characterized by the dual Galilean transformation.

Probe time is an extension of measurement by a probe (a “small, unmanned exploratory craft”) to the entire probeable universe. See previous post here. An event is said to occur when intersected by a probe that measures the duration of probe movement since a reference event. So when a probe comes upon the reflection of light, the probe measures the time of reflection as the time of the probe. If the probe is not moving at the speed of light, there may need to be multiple probes.

Consider a series of probes moving at a speed v over a distance d to the reflection event. The probe that leaves at time (d/c) – (d/v) is the probe that intersects the reflection event. If v = c, then the time is zero.

Because probes can measure the length or duration of motion, probe time is characterized by the Lorentz or dual Lorentz transformation.

Reference frame time measures time by a rigid reference frame that has clocks which were previously synchronized spread throughout. See the Relativity of Simultaneity and Einstein Synchronisation. These synchronizations are characterized by the Lorentz transformation.

Einstein exchanged

Albert Einstein’s book Relativity: The Special and General Theory was originally published in German and translated into English in 1920. In the second chapter he introduces “The System of Co-ordinates”. The following post gives Einstein’s text followed by a revision that exchanges length with duration and space with time. First, Einstein’s text, with alternative wordings in square brackets:

End of Chapter I – If, in pursuance of our habit of thought, we now supplement the propositions of Euclidean geometry by the single proposition that two points on a practically rigid body always correspond to the same distance (line-interval), independently of any changes in position to which we may subject the body, the propositions of Euclidean geometry then resolve themselves into propositions on the possible relative position of practically rigid bodies.

Chapter II – On the basis of the physical interpretation of distance which has been indicated, we are also in a position to establish the distance between two points on a rigid body by means of measurements. For this purpose we require a “distance” (rod S) which is to be used once and for all, and which we employ as a standard measure. If, now, A and B are two points on a rigid body, we can construct the line joining them according to the rules of geometry; then, starting from A, we can mark off the distance S time after time [again and again] until we reach B. The number of these operations required is the numerical measure of the distance AB. This is the basis of all measurement of length.

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Time, space, and order

There are three axes (dimensions) of motion with six degrees of freedom. There are two metrics of motion: a length metric and a duration metric. The length metric is the magnitude of the vector between two points, and is called distance. The duration metric is the magnitude of the vector between two instants, and is called distime.

If one conceives of this as two 3D metric geometries of motion, then there is a 3D length space geometry with a distance metric and a 3D duration space geometry with a distime metric. If the speed of light is an absolute conversion between distance and distime (which is essentially Einstein’s second postulate of special relativity), then there is one 6D length-duration metric geometry.

A 3D length space coordinate system is built from an origin point and three orthogonal axes with a distance metric. A 3D duration space coordinate system is built from an origin instant and three orthogonal axes with a distime metric. A 6D length-duration coordinate system is built from an origin event, three length space coordinates, and three duration space coordinates. Either the three duration coordinates may be converted to lengths, or the three length coordinates may be converted to durations.

A stance line represents two opposite linear motions with a constant rate (i.e., inertial motions). The positive direction represents distances to events diverging away from the origin point. The negative direction represents distances to events converging toward the origin point (i.e., destination). Apart from motion a point has a distance but its sign is ambiguous. A stance line represents the stance or scalar space of an odologe.

A time line represents two opposite straight motions with constant rate (i.e., inertial motions). The positive direction represents distimes to events diverging from the origin instant. The negative direction represents distimes to events converging toward the origin instant (i.e., destination). Apart from motion an instant has a distime but its sign is ambiguous. A time line represents the time or scalar time of a clock.

Events may be ordered by the stance or the time. Events ordered by stance are macronological. Events ordered by time are chronological. All events that are equal distances (equidistant) from the origin point are simulstanceous with it. All events that are equal distimes (equidistimed) from the origin instant are simultaneous with it.

6D Galilean spacetime

Here we expand 4D Galilean spacetime into 6D Galilean spacetime, based on section 1.3 Galilean spacetime of The Geometry of Relativistic Spacetime: from Euclid’s Geometry to Minkowski’s Spacetime by Jacques Bros (Séminaire Poincaré 1 (2005) 1 – 45).

[p.3] We start with a representation space whose points are interpreted as the “physical events”. Any motion of a particle which is physically possible between two given events A and B is represented by a certain world-line with end-points A and B. There is an absolute orientation of such worldline, which can be called its “time-arrow”: its physical meaning is that one of the end-point events, e.g. B, is in the future of the other one A.

[p.6] From the viewpoint of mathematical physics, the use of geometry in more than three dimensions turns out to be necessary, if one wishes to represent phenomena whose description necessitates more than three independent quantities. A typical example is the six dimensional space Rab6Ra3 × Rb3 of the positions (a; b) of pairs of material points (or pointlike particles) in mutual interaction. Trajectories of such pairs are represented by curves in R6, described in terms of a parameter t by equations of the form a = a(t); b = b(t).

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Motion measurements

As described in the previous post here, the three dimensions of motion are axes for traveling along (length) or revolving around (time).

A measure of motion may be either (1) dependent on the the target motion, or (2) independent of the target motion. A measure that is independent is either available prior to or separately from the target motion. For example, an independent measure may be determined by agreement, such as the length of a race, or it may measure another motion, such as the motion of a clock, which is then correlated with the target motion.

A standard clock measures time because it measures rotations around an axis as an angle. A length clock measures rotations about an axis as a length. With constant rates of rotation constant, there is a fixed ratio between the two kinds of clock.

A device that measures its own internal motion may be called an autometer. A clock is an example of an autometer. The internal motion of an autometer can be correlated with a target motion. For clocks this is called synchronization. For a length clock this is called symmacronization.

An odometer is a measurement device that depends on its target motion. The standard odometer measures length of travel. A time odometer, or trip-timer, measures time of travel. A trip-timer is a stopwatch that is on only while the target motion takes place. If there is a stop in the target motion, then the trip-timer also stops. So the trip-timer measures time of motion rather than elapsed time.

A device that measures a quantity of motion need not be attached to the moving body. The theory of relativity deals with the remote measurement of quantities of motion. A device that is attached to the moving body produces proper measures such as proper length or proper time.

Symmetric relativity

Although there are many experimental methods available to measure the speed of light, the underlying principle behind all methods [is] the simple kinematic relationship between constant velocity, distance and time given below:

c = D / t                     (1)

In all forms of the experiment, the objective is to measure the time required for the light to travel a given distance. (Ref.)

From the perspective of the experimenter, light is an object whose speed is to be determined. Even though the distance traversed is fixed, it is placed in the numerator because this speed is to be compared with the speeds of other objects. For the same reason the quantity to be measured, time, is placed in the denominator.

But if we take the perspective of the experiment, of what is measured, then the fixed distance is the independent variable, which is placed in the denominator. The dependent variable is the time, which is placed in the numerator, so the pace of light is measured:

= t / D                     (2)

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Mean speed and pace

Speed of a motion is the time rate of length change, that is, the length interval with respect to a timeline interval without regard to direction. Pace of a motion is the space rate of time change, that is, the time interval with respect to a stance line interval without regard to direction.

The symbol for speed is v = Δst and for pace is u = Δts. Instantaneous speed is ds/dt. Punctaneous pace is dt/ds.

There are two kinds of mean speed or pace: the time mean and the space mean. The time mean is the arithmetic mean if the denominators are a common time interval. The space mean is the arithmetic mean if the denominators are a common space interval. The time mean is the harmonic mean if the denominators are a common space interval. If the denominators are a common time interval, the space mean is the harmonic mean.

The time mean speed (TMS) is the arithmetic mean of speeds with a common time interval. The time mean pace (TMP) is the harmonic mean of paces with a common time interval. For example, the travel distance for vehicles on a highway during a time period is measured. The time mean speed or pace may then be calculated.

The space mean pace (SMP) is the arithmetic mean of paces with a common space interval. The space mean speed (SMS) is the harmonic mean of speeds with a common space interval. For example, the travel time for vehicles over a length of highway is measured. The space mean speed or pace may then be calculated.

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Three relativity transformations

Two transformations of inertial reference frames are well-known: the Galilean and the Lorentz transformations. There is a third transformation as well, which will be called the dual Galilean transformation. Below is a derivation of all three transformations, closely following the paper Getting the Lorentz transformations without requiring an invariant speed by Andrea Pelissetto and Massimo Testa (American Journal of Physics 83 (2015), p.338-340). Their approach is based on the work of von Ignatowsky in the early 20th century.

We wish to characterize the transformations that relate two different inertial frames. Let us consider two inertial observers K and K′. Let r = (x, x2, x3) and w = (t t2, t3) be space and time coordinates for K and = (x´, x2´, x3)´ and = (t´, t2´, t3´) be the corresponding quantities for K′.

In order to simplify the argument, we will restrict our considerations to the subgroup of transformations involving x and t only, setting x2´= x2, x3´ = x3, t2´ = t2, and t3´ = t3. This is equivalent to choosing coordinates so that K and K′ are in relative motion along the x and t directions in K and the x′ and t´ directions in K´.

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Simultaneity without clocks

Watches didn’t always exist. Neither did clocks that were transportable or manufactured in large quantities. I mention this because one way to determine the simultaneity of events is to have synchronized clocks transported to multiple locations – even an endless number of locations in theory.

How can an observer determine the simultaneous events from their frame of reference? Answer: simultaneous events are observed simultaneously by an observer. But how can this be reconciled with other observers who may observe the same events as non-simultaneous?

That is the point of relativity: applying transformations to coordinates from different frames of reference so that the equations of physics are the same in all reference frames. But relativity requires a convention of simultaneity (or a demonstration of what events are simultaneous events). Since I have defined time in terms of stopwatches rather than clocks, how can simultaneity be determined?

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Relativity alone

In a paper titled Nothing but Relativity (Eur. J. Phys. 24 (2003) 315-319) Palash B. Pal derived a formula for transformations between observers that is based on the relativity postulate but not a speed of light postulate. In a paper titled Nothing but Relativity, Redux (Eur. J. Phys. 28 (2007) 1145-1150) Joel W. Gannett presented an alternate derivation with fewer implicit assumptions. Here we’ll use Pal’s approach to derive the time-space version.

Consider two inertial timeframes S and , where the second one moves with legerity u, along the t-axis, with respect to the first one. There are two other time axes. The coordinates and radial distance in the S-timeframe will be denoted by t and x, and in the timeframe will be denoted with a prime. The time-space transformation equations have the form:

= T(t, x, u) and = X(t, x, u),

and out task is to determine these functions. A few properties of these functions can readily be observed. First, the principle of relativity tells us that if we invert the legerity in these equations, we must obtain the same functional forms:

t = T(t´, x´, –u) and x = X(t´, x´, –u).

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