Category Archives: Relativity

Relativity: Ten minutes to Alpha Centauri?

Einstein’s special theory of relativity is arguably the most amazing physical theory ever conceived.  It utterly transformed our view of the universe, completely eradicating the view that space and time are independent quantities and giving us a new unified fabric … Continue reading

About these ads
Posted in Physics, Relativity | 7 Comments

Faster than a speeding photon? Precursors test whether light can be faster than light

Over the past two weeks, the biggest physics news has been the apparent observation of neutrinos (nearly undetectable subatomic particles) moving faster than the vacuum speed of light.  At first glance, this would seem to violate Einstein’s special theory of … Continue reading

Posted in Optics, Physics, Relativity | 13 Comments

It’s not shrinkage — it’s relativity! (1889)

The best stories in the history of physics are those in which someone comes from humble origins and, seemingly out of nowhere, makes a brilliant discovery that changes everything.  Such stories, however, can give a very misleading impression of the … Continue reading

Posted in History of science, Physics, Relativity | 8 Comments

Right-wing refutations of relativity really, really wrong!

Back when I first started my blog, I spent a lot more time dealing with crazy people who are convinced that Einstein’s theories of relativity are wrong (see here, here and here).  More recently, I haven’t spent a lot of … Continue reading

Posted in ... the Hell?, Relativity | 53 Comments

Lord Rayleigh vs. the Aether! (1902)

(Note: This is an attempt to get myself rolling on my long-ignored series of posts explaining Einstein’s theories of relativity.  It’s also a really cool experiment in the history of science.) One of the most fascinating aspects of 19th century … Continue reading

Posted in History of science, Optics, Relativity | 8 Comments

Einstein vs. Whittaker, with Born in the middle

My former thesis advisor is the greatest! I recently helped him update an electronic compilation of his collected papers, but refused any payment for my services. He ignored me and sent me a copy of The Born-Einstein Letters, a compilation … Continue reading

Posted in History of science, Physics, Relativity | 8 Comments

What a drag: Arago’s Experiment (1810)

Note: This post is my contribution to the first-ever edition of The Giant’s Shoulders, a new blog event compiling posts concerning classic science papers. I’ve been meaning to get back to my series of posts on relativity, but things have … Continue reading

Posted in History of science, Optics, Physics, Relativity | 14 Comments

Relativity: Measuring the speed of light

When I was an undergraduate, one of my professors told the following funny (and probably apocryphal) anecdote (recalled from memory): A court case was being tried in New Mexico. A group of pornographers were charged with smuggling pornography from Mexico … Continue reading

Posted in Optics, Physics, Relativity | 16 Comments

Relativity: Newtonian relativity

In the first post on Einstein’s relativity, we discussed the discoveries and theories which served as the precursors to Einstein’s work. The most significant of these is Newton’s own version of relativity, now dubbed ‘Newtonian relativity’. Before we continue a … Continue reading

Posted in Physics, Relativity | Leave a comment

The pre-history of Einstein’s relativity

I’m planning to do a long-term series of posts on Einstein’s relativity, starting with the special theory and progressing to the general theory (if you don’t know what the difference is, that’s okay, ’cause I’m gonna explain it all, eventually). … Continue reading

Posted in Physics, Relativity | 9 Comments