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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Do we know why there is a speed limit in our universe?

This question is about why we have a universal speed limit (the speed of light in vacuum). Is there a more fundamental law that tells us why this is? I'm not asking why the speed limit is equal to $c$...
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If photons have no mass, how can they have momentum?

As an explanation of why a large gravitational field (such as a black hole) can bend light, I have heard that light has momentum. This is given as a solution to the problem of only massive objects ...
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11answers
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If all motion is relative, how does light have a finite speed?

I've often heard that Einstein shattered the notion of absolute motion (i.e. all things move relative to one another) and that he established the speed of light as being absolute. That sounds ...
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Is it possible for information to be transmitted faster than light by using a rigid pole?

Is it possible for information (like 1 and 0s) to be transmitted faster than light? For instance, take a rigid pole of several AU in length. Now say you have a person on each end, and one of them ...
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5answers
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A list of inconveniences between quantum mechanics and (general) relativity?

It is well known that quantum mechanics and (general) relativity do not fit well. I am wondering whether it is possible to make a list of contradictions or problems between them? E.g. relativity ...
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How do moving charges produce magnetic fields?

I'm tutoring high school students. I've always taught them that: A charged particle moving without acceleration produces an electric as well as a magnetic field. It produces an electric field ...
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10answers
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Can Maxwell's equations be derived from Coulomb's Law and Special Relativity?

As an exercise I sat down and derived the magnetic field produced by moving charges for a few contrived situations. I started out with Coulomb's Law and Special Relativity. For example, I derived the ...
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4answers
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Is temperature a Lorentz invariant in relativity?

If an observer starts moving at relativistic speeds will he observe the temperature of objects to change as compared to their rest temperatures? Suppose the rest temperature measured is $T$ and the ...
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11answers
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Why isn't length contraction permanent even though time dilation is?

It's my understanding that when something is going near the speed of light in reference to an observer, time dilation occurs and time goes slower for that fast-moving object. However, when that ...
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What conservation law corresponds to Lorentz boosts?

Noether's Theorem is used to related the invariance under certain continuous transformations to conserved currents. A common example is that translations in spacetime correspond to the conservation of ...
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If I run along the aisle of a bus traveling at (almost) the speed of light, can I travel faster than the speed of light?

Let's say I fire a bus through space at (almost) the speed of light in vacuum. If I'm inside the bus (sitting on the back seat) and I run up the aisle of the bus toward the front, does that mean I'm ...
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What keeps mass from turning into energy?

I understand the energy and mass can change back and forth according to Einstein. It is fluid; it can go from one to the other. So, what keeps mass from just turning into energy? Is there some force ...
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Can radioactivity be slowed through time dilation?

Can radioactivity be slowed using the effect of time dilation? If you put cesium, tritium or uranium in a cyclotron at relativisitic speeds, do their half lives become longer in our frame? Could ...
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Why is there no absolute maximum temperature?

If temperature makes particles vibrate faster, and movement is limited by the speed of light, then temperature must be limited as well I would assume. Why there is no limits?
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If I am travelling on a car at around 60 km/h, and I shine a light, does that mean that the light is travelling faster than the speed of light?

The title says it all. If I was on a bus at 60 km/h, and I started walking on the bus at a steady pace of 5 km/h, then I'd technically be moving at 65 km/h, right? So my son posed me an interesting ...
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4answers
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Does time move slower at the equator?

While answering the question GPS Satellite - Special Relativity it occurred to me that time would run more slowly at the equator than at the North Pole, because the surface of the Earth is moving at ...
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1answer
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How long would it take me to travel to a distant star?

Suppose I wanted to travel to one of the recently discovered potentially Earth-like planets such as Kepler 186f that is 490 light years away. Assuming I had a powerful rocket and enough fuel, how long ...
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9answers
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How can a photon have no mass and still travel at the speed of light?

I've read a number of the helpful Q&As on photons that mention the mass/mass-less issue. Do I understand correctly that the idea of mass-less (a rest mass of 0) may be just a convention to make ...
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4answers
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Is there an underlying physical reason why the Coriolis force is similar to the magnetic component of the Lorentz force?

I couldn't help but notice that the expression for the magnetic component of the Lorentz force, $$\mathbf F = q\,\mathbf v \times \mathbf B\,,$$ is very similar in its mathematical form to the ...
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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 ...
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6answers
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Why does GPS depend on relativity?

I am reading A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, and in it he mentions that without compensating for relativity, GPS devices would be out by miles. Why is this? (I am not sure which relativity ...
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6answers
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What is the proper way to explain the twin paradox?

The paradox in the twin paradox is that the situation appears symmetrical so each twin should think the other has aged less, which is of course impossible. There are a thousand explanations out there ...
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Were the Michelson-Morley results a surprise?

How unexpected were the Michelson-Morley experiment results? Did physicists have theoretical reasons to predict that the speed of light would result to be invariant?
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What speeds are “fast” enough for one to need the relativistic velocity addition formula?

In this question the accepted answer says: For objects moving at low speeds, your intuition is correct: say the bus move at speed $v$ relative to earth, and you run at speed $u$ on the bus, then ...
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Idea of Covering Group

$SU(2)$ is the covering group of $SO(3)$. What does it mean and does it have a physical consequence? I heard that this fact is related to the description of bosons and fermions. But how does it ...
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Do photons gain mass when they travel through glass?

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that photons slow down when travelling through glass. Does this mean they gain mass? Otherwise, what happens to extra kinetic energy? I understand now ...
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Can you run away from your shadow?

Now this might be a silly question but it's actually bugging me, this one might be easier to understand if you have kids that watch (or used to watch) Peppa Pig. In one of the episodes, about shadows, ...
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What do you really see on a line of clocks as you pass by them at high speed?

According to my understanding of SR, if I travel at 0.8c relative to a line of clocks, I should see the clocks in front of me going 3 times faster than my own, and those behind me going 3 times slower ...
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Why did Einstein get credit for formulating the theory of special relativity?

See The Principle of Relativity here: The Principles of Mathematical Physics. This was written by Poincaré in 1904, a year before Einstein published his theory of relativity. It appears from this and ...
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Why are there no asteroids or meteoroids with relativistic speeds?

Cosmic rays can have energies going into the $10^{20}$ eV domain. Asteroids and meteoroids originating in the solar system are probably limited in their speed because they all started out from the ...
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Status of experimental searches for tachyons?

Now that the dust has settled on the 2011 superluminal neutrino debacle at OPERA, I'm interested in understanding the current status of experimental searches for neutrinos. Although the OPERA claim ...
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How is the classical twin paradox resolved?

I read a lot about the classical twin paradox recently. What confuses me is that some authors claim that it can be resolved within SRT, others say that you need GRT. Now, what is true (and why)?
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What is time, does it flow, and if so what defines its direction?

This is an attempt to gather together the various questions about time that have been asked on this site and provide a single set of hopefully authoritative answers. Specifically we attempt to address ...
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Why are the electric force and magnetic force classified as electromagnetism?

I confuse the four kinds of fundamental interactions, so I think the electric force and magnetic force should not be classified as a big class called electromagnetism. Here is my evidence: The ...
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Will 1 gram of matter moving at relativistic speeds completely annihilate a larger quantity of stationary antimatter?

This is a question about the relativistic mass concept which I am having trouble understanding, mainly because of the scenario below. Simple scenario: Suppose 1 gram of matter is accelerated to 99% ...
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5answers
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Einstein's postulates $\leftrightarrow$ Minkowski space for a Layman

What's the cleanest/quickest way to go between Einstein's postulates [1] of Relativity: Physical laws are the same in all inertial reference frames. Constant speed of light: "... light is always ...
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2answers
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Definitions: 'locality' vs 'causality'

I'm having trouble unambiguously interpreting many answers here due to the fact that the terms locality and causality are sometimes used interchangeably, while other times seem to mean very different ...
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Hole-and-nail paradox in special relativity

Yesterday we started relativity on our physics class, and my professor taught us a few concepts. We did some examples on how things changed by looking them from different reference systems, and a ...
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Would time freeze if you could 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 universal speed limit. So, if I were to travel in a spacecraft at (practically) the ...
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Should I abandon my thought experiment about time?

I'm trying to think about special relativity without "spoiling" it by looking up the answer; I hope someone can offer some insight - or at least tell me I'm wrong. Suppose I have an ordinary clock ...
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Why is there a controversy on whether mass increases with speed?

Some people say that mass increases with speed, some people say that the mass of an object is independent of its speed. I understand how some (though not many) things in physics are a matter of ...
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4answers
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Is the existence of electromagnetic standing waves dependent on the observers reference frame?

If I take two plane EM waves travelling in opposite direction e.g. $E = E_0 \sin(kx-\omega t)$ and $E=E_0 \sin (kx + \omega t)$, they sum to give a standing wave with a time-averaged Poynting vector ...
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4answers
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What is so special about speed of light in vacuum?

I will try to be as explanatory as possible with my question. Please also note that I have done my share of googling and I am looking for simple language preferable with some example so that I can get ...
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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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1answer
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Causality and how it fits in with relativity

I was talking to my teacher the other day about Einstein's spacetime and there's one thing he couldn't explain about the nature of Cause. I may be being stupid or just unable to comprehend, thanks for ...
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3answers
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Symmetrical twin paradox

Take the following gedankenexperiment in which two astronauts meet each other again and again in a perfectly symmetrical setting - a hyperspherical (3-manifold) universe in which the 3 dimensions are ...
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Phase space volume and relativity

Much of statistical mechanics is derived from Liouville's theorem, which can be stated as "the phase space volume occupied by an ensemble of isolated systems is conserved over time." (I'm mostly ...