Take the 2-minute tour ×
Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free, no registration required.

This question came about from a side discussion that arose on this: Does GR provide a maximum electric field limit?

Can we change our choice of coordinate system completely independent of physical motion, and still refer to coordinate dependent components as observations? For example if we have an inertial coordinate system in which we measure the electric field to be E, and now I want to boost the coordinate system to a different inertial coordinate system and state what the electric field E' is in this new coordinate system, do I need to physically accelerate to justify this change in coordinate system (and therefore need to worry about effect such as Unruh, etc. during "changing" the coordinate system)?

share|improve this question
1  
This is a really bizarre question. It doesn't seem to make any sense - and moreover, this confusion seems to be deliberate - as judged by comments about "disagreements", "consensuses", and other words that don't belong to science. Most of the disagreements are due to people's ignorance, and most of the "consensuses" is due to ignorant people's huge number. By focusing on silly people's disagreements and consensuses, you will only absorb their delusion and you will fail to understand anything as your question seems to demonstrate, too. SE is not about people's stupidity; it's meant to answer q –  Luboš Motl Mar 27 '11 at 6:09
    
By focusing on silly people's disagreements and consensuses, you will only absorb their delusion and you will fail to understand anything @Lubos that is very wise observation indeed. @John perhaps you could remove the hearsay to whatever extent possible in order to make your question more objective and well-defined. –  user346 Mar 27 '11 at 6:27
1  
@Lubos : If I could judge in a topic what is a silly disagreement as opposed to a substantiative one, I probably wouldn't need to ask questions on the topic. So if one expert gives a short answer, and the other says that is overly simplified and provides a longer answer, shouldn't I inquire more? Shouldn't I double check? You seem to be telling me to accept the consensus at the same time you are admonishing that I should not care about consensus. –  John Mar 27 '11 at 6:55
    
@Deepak : I'm always worried I will paraphrase a position so badly that it becomes a strawman, so I prefer to quote directly. I can see the complaint though, so I heavily redacted. Is it better now? If not, please suggest specific change and I will do so. –  John Mar 27 '11 at 7:00
    
speaking for myself, yes. Its just right. –  user346 Mar 27 '11 at 8:29

1 Answer 1

This is a common confusion students have with coordinate systems when first learning SR. They hear us say things like "the time according to observer Bob" or "in the reference frame of Alice" or "boost to the rest frame of Charlie". To be clear, these are short hand. Something isn't literally/physically "in" one frame and not "in" another frame. When we refer to the coordinate system "of" an observer, or something "in" someone's frame, it is usually short hand for discussing values according to the instantaneous co-moving inertial coordinate system.

So do not take such short hand literally.

A coordinate system is just a systematic labeling of spacetime points. We can choose any coordinate system we want. As an example that will hopefully get past this intuition barrier, choose a coordinate system in which you are at rest. Now change the coordinate system by adding a constant (shifting the origin). You don't need to physically move to use this new coordinate system.

In short, nature doesn't care how we label spacetime points. So we should be able to explain the physics independent of choice of coordinate systems. This is indeed possible, so you can really use whatever coordinate system you choose. A particular choice may be simplier to work with based on your motion, but no choice is more mathematically correct than any other.

As should be apparent from the other question you asked, the Motion Mountain book is not reliable. Just searching in Google brings up the phrase crackpot in link titles on the first page of results. Please stick with reputable sources.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.