The special theory of relativity describes the motion and dynamics of objects moving at significant fractions of the speed of light.

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What do physicists mean by “information”?

On the question why certain velocities (i.e. phase velocity) can be greater than the speed of light, people will say something like: since no matter or "information" is transferred, therefore the ...
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Relativistic Cellular Automata

Cellular automata provide interesting models of physics: Google Scholar gives more than 25,000 results when searching for "cellular automata" physics. Google Scholar still gives more than 2.000 ...
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What determines which frames are inertial frames?

I understand that you can (in principle) measure whether "free particles" (no forces) experience accelerations in order to tell whether a frame is inertial. But fundamentally, what determines which ...
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a priori validity of $W=\int Fdx$ in relativity?

There are lots of different ways of arriving at the relativistic relations involving mass, energy, and momentum such as $E=mc^2$ and $m^2=E^2-p^2$ (the latter with $c=1$). One that I've seen in some ...
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Is the universe a quantum computer - is light speed barrier a computational constraint

There is currently a debate ongoing on leading maths blog Gödel’s Lost Letter, between Gil Kalai and Aram Harrow, with the former arguing that building a quantum computer may not be possible due to ...
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What happened to the idea of tachyonic or other superluminal neutrinos?

While hunting around for information about the recent OPERA measurement that hints at superluminal neutrinos, I discovered that this idea was actually considered back in the 1980s. Wikipedia lists as ...
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What are the mechanics by which Time Dilation and Length Contraction occur?

What are the mechanics of time dilation and length contraction? Going beyond the mathematical equations involving light and the "speed limit of the universe", what is observed is merely a phenomenon ...
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Accelerating particles to speeds infinitesimally close to the speed of light?

I'm in a freshmen level physics class now, so I don't know much, but something I heard today intrigued me. My TA was talking about how at the research facility he worked at, they were able to ...
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Why does the speed of light totally prevent instantaneous information exchange?

Based on the classical light-cone approach it's easy to see you can't transmit information faster than $c$ but why does the speed of light (as far as I know) treat information transmission in this way ...
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Physics behind this neutrino-related joke

In the comment section of a newspaper article reporting on the 2015 Nobel Prize for Physics, which was awarded for work on neutrino oscillation, I found the following joke: "I'm sorry, we do not ...
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Does the Pauli exclusion principle instantaneously affect distant electrons?

According to Brian Cox in his A night with the Stars lecture$^1$, the Pauli exclusion principle means that no electron in the universe can have the same energy state as any other electron in the ...
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How is quantum mechanics compatible with the speed of light limit?

Consider a free electron in space. Let us suppose we measure its position to be at point A with a high degree of accuracy at time 0. If I recall my QM correctly, as time passes the wave function ...
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Double light speed

Let's say we have $2$ particles facing each other and traveling at speed of light Let's say I'm sitting on #$1$ particle so in my point of view #$2$ particle's speed is $c+c=2c$, double light speed? ...
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Is it a postulate or a well proven fact that speed of light remains constant w.r.t any observer?

We usually heard that speed of light in vacuum $c$ remains same no matter how observer is moving? I am wondering whether is it taken as a postulate or a proven phenomenon that $c$ is constant ...
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Do chemical bonds have mass?

When an exothermic reaction occurs, the energy in the chemical bonds of the reactants is partially transferred to the chemical bonds of the products. The remaining energy is released as heat. For ...
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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 ...
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What are some scenarios where FTL information transfer would violate causality?

I've always heard people saying, "Faster than light information transfer can't happen because it would violate causality! Effects can precede their causes!" However, I'm trying to think of a ...
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Are gravitomagnetic monopoles hypothesized?

My understanding is that gravitomagnetism is essentially the same relativistic effect as magnetism. If so, why is it that I've heard so much about magnetic monopoles, but never gravitomagnetic ...
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Why isn't general relativity the obvious thing to try after special relativity?

To preface my question, I ask this as a mathematics student, so I don't have a very good sense of how physicists think. Here is the historical context I'm imagining (in particular taking into account ...
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Why does the (relativistic) mass of an object increase when its speed approaches that of light?

I'm reading Nano: The Essentials by T. Pradeep and I came upon this statement in the section explaining the basics of scanning electron microscopy. However, the equation breaks down when the ...
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Is it really possible to break the speed of light by flicking your wrist with a laser pointer?

Minutephysics has a popular YouTube video called "How to break the speed of light". In the video it states that if you flick your wrist while pointing a laser that reaches the moon, that the spot of ...
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What happens if a super fast rotating ball accelerates near speed of light?

Assume we have a ball with diameter 1 meter and mass 1 kg rotating at 99,5% speed of light ...
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What is the length of 1 second in meters

If time is treated as a fourth dimension of spacetime, what is relation between length and time units? Or in other words, how can I convert time units to length units, for instance seconds to meters? ...
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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 ...
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How does a photon experience space and time?

To an an external observer it appears that time has stopped for photon. But this relation is reflexive, so for an observer travelling with the photon it appears the universe has stopped everywhere. ...
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Deriving the speed of the propagation of a change in the Electromagnetic Field from Maxwell's Equations

I've been told that, from Maxwell's equations, one can find that the propagation of change in the Electromagnetic Field travels at a speed $\frac{1}{\sqrt{\mu_0 \epsilon_0}}$ (the values of which can ...
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In QFT, why does a vanishing commutator ensure causality?

In relativistic quantum field theories (QFT), $$[\phi(x),\phi^\dagger(y)] = 0 \;\;\mathrm{if}\;\; (x-y)^2<0$$ On the other hand, even for space-like separation $$\phi(x)\phi^\dagger(y)\ne0.$$ ...
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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 ...
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In relativity, can/should every measurement be reduced to measuring a scalar?

Different authors seem to attach different levels of importance to keeping track of the exact tensor valences of various physical quantities. In the strict-Catholic-school-nun camp, we have Burke ...
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Is there an official name for “Lorentz Pairs” like energy and momentum?

In learning about relativity I've noticed that in the construction of Lorentz invariants (specifically four-vectors) two physical quantities that were previously considered distinct are instead ...
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Does special relativity make magnetic fields irrelevant?

I've heard that special relativity makes the concept of magnetic fields irrelevant, replacing them with relativistic effects between charges moving in different velocity frames. Is this true? If so, ...
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Is the Planck length Lorentz invariant?

The planck length is defined as $l_P = \sqrt{\frac{\hbar G}{c^3}}$. So it is a combination of the constants $c, h, G$ which I believe are all Lorentz invariants. So I think the Planck length should ...
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How would we see a near-lightspeed object emitting light?

Consider an object travelling near the speed of light relative to us (let it be a spaceship or a star), which is emitting light (consider it monochromatic resulting from a two level electronic ...
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How realistic is the game “A slower speed of light”?

The game "A slower speed of light" from MIT claims to simulate effects of special relativity: Visual effects of special relativity gradually become apparent to the player, increasing the ...
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What is “special” and what is “general” in Relativity?

Initially I thought in special relativity the velocity was constant, whereas general relativity allowed treatment of accelerated frames as well. But now I have heard that SR is only valid locally?
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What problems with Electromagnetism led Einstein to the Special Theory of Relativity?

I have often heard it said that several problems in the theory of electromagnetism as described by Maxwell's equations led Einstein to his theory of Special Relativity. What exactly were these ...
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Can quaternion math be used to model spacetime?

Quaternions are commonly used to model 4 dimensional systems where the quaternion consists of a real 3 dimensional vector and an imaginary scalar. So on the surface Quaternions seem well suited to ...
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Is kinetic energy a relative quantity? Will it make inconsistent equations when applying it to the conservation of energy equations?

If the velocity is a relative quantity, will it make inconsistent equations when applying it to the conservation of energy equations? For example: In the train moving at $V$ relative to ground, ...
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Can we find actual rest mass of things on Earth

Earth moves around the Sun and the Sun moves around the galaxy and the galaxy moves with unknown speed and direction. We have speed so the mass of us all altered. Can we know the real rest mass? If ...
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What's the relationship between $SL(2,\mathbb{C})$, $SU(2)\times SU(2)$ and $SO(1,3)$?

I'm a beginner of QFT. Ref. 1 states that [...] The Lorentz group $SO(1,3)$ is then essentially $SU(2)\times SU(2)$. But how is it possible, because $SU(2)\times SU(2)$ is a compact Lie group ...
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Why does nonlinearity in quantum mechanics lead to superluminal signaling?

I recently came across two nice papers on the foundations of quantum mechancis, Aaronson 2004 and Hardy 2001. Aaronson makes the statement, which was new to me, that nonlinearity in QM leads to ...
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Does relativistic mass have weight?

If an object was sliding on an infinitely long friction-less floor on Earth with relativistic speeds (ignoring air resistance), would it exert more vertical weight force on the floor than when it's at ...
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Clocks in special relativity

One book on special relativity says: Any observer at rest relative to his own timepiece will see that other clocks moving with respect to him run fast - the greater their speed, the faster they ...
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Is it only the Higgs field that stops me from getting to $c$?

Is it only the higgs field that stops me from accelerating up to the speed of light or is there other restriction concerning the increase in mass? In other words if I had a Higgs field shield on my ...
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Thought experiment regarding an object approaching a mirror

Here's a thought experiment I came up with in class today when my mind drifted (I however highly doubt I'm the first to think about this since it is pretty rudimentary) : Let's say superman ...
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Time dilation all messed up!

Okay! There is a problem with my logic and i cannot seem to point out where. There's a rocket ship travelling at close-to-c speed v without any acceleration (hypothetically), and there is an observer ...
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Quaternions and 4-vectors

I recently realised that quaternions could be used to write intervals or norms of vectors in special relativity: $$(t,ix,jy,kz)^2 = t^2 + (ix)^2 + (jy)^2 + (kz)^2 = t^2 - x^2 - y^2 - z^2$$ Is it ...
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Limitations on how far one can travel in the universe

Someone once incorrectly told me that, given the speed of light is the speed limit of the universe, aliens would have to live for hundreds of years if they are to travel distances of hundreds of light ...
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Electrons faster than speed of light

While looking at some exercises in my physics textbook, I came across the following problem which I thought was quite interesting: It is possible for the electron beam in a television picture tube ...
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Rest mass of phonon: is this concept definable?

Phonons are obtaied by non-relativistic quantization of the lattice vibration. The dispersion relation is given by $\omega=c_s k$ where $c_s$ is the velocity of sound. What can we say about the mass ...