A system of coordinates used as the basis for describing the position and motion of objects

learn more… | top users | synonyms

72
votes
8answers
5k views

Why does a helium filled ballon move forward in a car when the car is accelerating?

I noticed that when I had a helium filled, latex ballon inside of my car, it moved forward in the cabin as I accelerated forward. The faster I accelerated forward, the faster the ballon went from the ...
21
votes
2answers
1k views

The age of the universe

Many times I have read statements like, "the age of the universe is 14 billion years" . For example this wikipedia page Big Bang. Now, my question is, which observers' are these time intervals? ...
21
votes
1answer
368 views

Anomalous target space diffeomorphisms for one-loop world-line integrals

The Schwinger effect can be calculated in the world-line formalism by coupling the particle to the target space potential $A$. My question relates to how this calculation might extend to computing ...
14
votes
2answers
542 views

What does a sphere moving close to the speed of light look like?

What shape does the viewer in a reference frame with $v=0$ perceive? I suppose that since the sphere moves in one direction only (oX only, not oY) its section would change into an ellipse, where the ...
13
votes
6answers
14k views

How exactly does time slow down near a black hole?

How exactly does time slow down near a black hole? I have heard this as a possible way of time traveling, and I do understand that it is due in some way to the massive gravity around a black hole, but ...
12
votes
2answers
368 views

Throwing a ball upwards in an accelerating train

If I throw a ball upwards to a certain height in an accelerating train, will it end up in my hand? At the moment I release the ball, it will have a velocity equal to that of the train at that instant. ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

Does a photon in vacuum have a rest frame?

Quite a few of the questions given on this site mention a photon in vacuum having a rest frame such as it having a zero mass in its rest frame. I find this contradictory since photons must travel at ...
12
votes
3answers
424 views

Do particles have different spins in different frames of reference?

Let's say we have two photons, whose momentum vectors point to opposite directions. Also spin angular momentum vectors of the photons point to opposite directions. (Sum of spins is zero) Now we ...
11
votes
4answers
1k views

Does the future already exist? If so, which one?

In the NOVA Fabric of the Cosmos program, Brian Greene explains a theory in which there is no "now", or more specifically, now is relative. He describes an alien riding a bicycle on a far off planet ...
11
votes
6answers
14k views

Would time freeze if you can travel at the speed of light?

I read with interest about Einstein's Theory of Relativity and his proposition about the speed of light being the speed limit for anything with mass. So, if I were ...
10
votes
6answers
5k views

Why and how is the speed of light in vacuum constant, i.e., independent of reference frame?

I was told that the Galilean relative velocity rule does not apply to the speed of light. No matter how fast two objects are moving, the speed of light will remain same for both of them. How and why ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

Does the speed of light vary in noninertial frames?

The speed of light is the same in all inertial frames. Does it change from a non-inertial frame to another? Can it be zero? If it is not constant in non-inertial frames, is it still bounded from ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

What happens when relativistic effects stop?

I'm currently learning special relativity in high school and we only primarily deal with what happens when an object is moving at constant relativistic speeds. But what if the object slowed back down ...
9
votes
6answers
17k views

Gravity on the International Space Station

We created a table in my physics class which contained the strength of gravity on different planet and objects in space. At altitude 0(earth), the gravitational strength is 100%. On the moon at ...
9
votes
3answers
933 views

What is the cause of centripetal/centrifugal force?

What is the cause of centripetal/centrifugal force? When an object of mass $m$ is moved in a circular orbit, it experiences a centrifugal force radially away from the center. What is the cause of this ...
9
votes
1answer
5k views

Derivation of the centrifugal and coriolis force

I was wondering how easily these two pseudo-forces can be derived mathematically in order to exhibit a clear physical meaning. How would you proceed?
9
votes
2answers
350 views

How fast can time flow? A question of time dilation

(I would describe myself as an illiterate physics enthusiast, so I hope you'll forgive me if my ignorance is borderline offensive.) If I've understood anything of the concept of time dilation, your ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Is a photon “fixed in spacetime”?

From what I've read, according to relativity, a photon does not "experience" the passage of time. (Can we say there is no past/present/future for a photon?) Would it be better to say a photon is ...
8
votes
2answers
187 views

Rigorous definition of frame of reference

I'm looking for a mathematical definition of frame of reference. Most of the textbooks I have seen take it for granted and they just refer to some set of spacetime coordinates. A more mathematical ...
7
votes
2answers
246 views

Can we show that time is orthogonal to space?

It's easy to show that the time we measure is "in a different direction" from the space directions we measure. However, it's not immediately obvious to me that these directions are orthogonal. How do ...
7
votes
4answers
727 views

Does the “Andromeda Paradox” (Rietdijk–Putnam-Penrose) imply a completely deterministic universe?

Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rietdijk–Putnam_argument Abstract of 1966 Rietdijk paper: A proof is given that there does not exist an event, that is not already in the past for ...
6
votes
3answers
395 views

The reference frame of $c$

I don't have a lot of knowledge of special relativity and associated topics; some of the few things I know are that "all motion is relative" (that is, there is no 'stationary reference frame'), and ...
6
votes
3answers
228 views

Do we need inertial frames in Lagrangian mechanics?

Do Euler-Lagrange equations hold only for inertial systems? If yes, where is the point in the variational derivation from Hamilton's principle where we made that restriction? My question arose ...
6
votes
2answers
362 views

Confusion with derivation of fictitious forces

I read the mathematical derivation of fictitious forces on Wikipedia and I'm having trouble understanding it. I went on a few other sites looking for a better derivation, but they're all basically the ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

How is the speed of light constant in all directions for all observers?

Please imagine the following thought-experiment: Order of Events: Pulse - A single pulse of light is emitted from the light towards the mirror Reflect - The pulse hits the mirror and is ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

How can time be relative?

I don't understand how time can be relative to different observers, and I think my confusion is around how I understand what time is. I have always been told (and thought) that time is basically a ...
6
votes
10answers
279 views

Why is centrifugal 'force' perpendicular to line of inertia

I know that centrifugal is labeled a fictitious force only arising in a rotating reference frame, but I still struggle to understand the forces at play intuitively in tethered rotating bodies. I've ...
6
votes
1answer
135 views

Light Front Dynamics and Infinite Momentum Frame

What is the the relationship between Light Front Dynamics (One of the forms of dynamics pioneered by Dirac), and the infinite momentum frame? In the literature, it is claimed that the two are very ...
5
votes
5answers
651 views

Time Dilation - How does it know which Frame of Reference to age slower?

Okay, I'm asking a question similar to this one here: Time Dilation - what happens when you bring the observers back together?. Specifically, I am curious about a specific angle on the second part of ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

Kinetic energy with respect to different reference frames

I'm having problems understanding the following situation. Suppose two 1-tonne cars are going with the same orientations but opposite senses, each 50 km/h with respect to the road. Then the total ...
5
votes
4answers
208 views

Is there a distinguished reference system, after all?

The equivalence principle, being the main postulate upon which the general relativity theory rests, basically states that all reference systems are equivalent, because pseudo forces can (locally) be ...
5
votes
3answers
152 views

Is isotropy a fundamental/invariant feature of our universe, or is it merely a convenient, albeit arbitrary, feature of some reference frames?

This is related to a previous post. Assuming that the Cosmological Principle is correct, does this imply that the universe possess an empircially privileged reference frame? What I am trying to ...
5
votes
2answers
785 views

Einstein's Gedanken Experiment that lead to the Special Theory of Relativity

Once, I read that Einstein founded the special relativity theory by imagining how an observer moves at the speed of light. How does this thought experiment work? How to reach from this imagination to ...
5
votes
2answers
193 views

Does velocity or acceleration cause time dilation?

What causes time dilation? Acceleration or velocity? I've seen multiple comments on this forum that assert velocity is the cause, but that doesn't seem right to me. You can't have velocity without ...
5
votes
2answers
188 views

A thought experiment on vision and curved spacetime

What follows is a long self-made example to deal with my conceptual issues of visualizing curved spacetime. Imagine an observer floating somewhere in space. He feels no strain on his body, ...
5
votes
1answer
231 views

Double slit paradox

This is a relativity-paradox which I can't resolve: The distance between interference lines in the double-slit experiment is: $$\ w = z \lambda/d$$ Where: w: Distance between fringes z: Distance ...
5
votes
1answer
282 views

Is General Relativity applicable for all coordinate systems?

My understanding was that relativistic physics can be expressed in any inertial coordinate system, but not arbitrary systems. That is, no experiment can determine if we are "still" or "moving" at a ...
5
votes
0answers
69 views

What coordinate system is used to describe planets positions in the universe?

How are planets positions described in the space and in respect to what? For example is Sun the origo and right now at this moment Earth has [coord_X, coord_Y, coord_Z]? or maybe [lng, lat]? ...
4
votes
4answers
7k views

How does centrifugal force work?

I know what centrifugal force is, but how does it work? Why are things forced to the outside?
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Why does light always travel in a straight line?

No matter the frame light is in, it always moves in a straight line in that frame. Why is that? It doesn't seem like something to me that should necessarily be true. If some one runs forward and sends ...
4
votes
2answers
765 views

What is the Andromeda Paradox?

I have been studying causality (specifically why there is no such thing as a simultaneous instant of time across all observers) recently and I keep hearing references to the Andromeda paradox. Can ...
4
votes
1answer
56 views

What happens if you let a cable roll slip into a black hole?

Does the cable roll spin faster the more cable goes into the black hole in reference of a observer standing next to it? Can gravity pull the cable that it exceed the speed of light inside a black ...
4
votes
2answers
486 views

What would a person experience in a free-falling elevator in a shaft long enough to reach terminal velocity?

Assume we had an elevator shaft long enough for a free-falling elevator to reach terminal velocity. As I understand it, when the elevator begins to fall a person inside would experiences ...
4
votes
4answers
148 views

When we talk about speeds in relativity theory, where are they measured?

I recently asked a question here about if the direction we travel matters in relativity theory: Does it matter in which direction I travel in relativity theory? After I got answers and making more ...
4
votes
1answer
136 views

Quantum Mechanical Effects of an object accelerating near speed of light $c$?

Consider a space ship, undergoing constant acceleration (which for our purposes means that the same amount of energy is being used per second to increase its speed). According to special relativity ...
4
votes
2answers
855 views

Which is the axis of rotation?

This should be simple, but it keeps bothering me. If a rigid body has no fixed axis, and a torque (defined relative to a point $A$) is applied, it will rotate around $A$. But often I can also ...
4
votes
2answers
152 views

Would the arms of a rotating ice skater still move outwards if there was no other object in the universe?

If there is no other object in the universe apart from a rotating ice skater, then nothing can be used as a reference frame. Would it make any sense to say that the skater is rotating? If so, rotating ...
4
votes
3answers
261 views

Does the Relativity Principle of Special Relativity imply homogeneity and isotropy of all the reference frames?

In Rindler's book: Relativity, Special, General and Cosmological, is stated on page 40 that the Relativity Principle (RP), when applied to just one Inertial Frame (IF), guarantees the homogeneity and ...
4
votes
1answer
373 views

Relativity of simultaneity - An example

I am trying to understand the relativity of simultaneity in different frames, and I am trying to work out an example. Suppose along the x-axis there are two points 2000m apart. Event A happens at t=0 ...
4
votes
2answers
141 views

Effect of gravity at near-lightspeeds

Let's say I'm in a space station, hurtling towards our galaxy nearly close to the speed of light. From my reference frame, I see the galaxy coming towards my ship at the same speed. I pass the Sun, ...