Special relativity: The basics

Ta-Pei Cheng

in Relativity, Gravitation and Cosmology

Second edition

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780199573639
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722448 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Master Series in Physics

                      Special relativity: The basics

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Special relativity is introduced as the symmetry of Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism. The fact that a signal cannot be transmitted instantaneously led Einstein to propose a new kinematics: the passage of time is different in different inertial frames. The operational definition of time, consistent with a universal speed of light, is presented. Relativity of simultaneity, time dilation, and length contraction are discussed. We present an elementary derivation of the Lorentz transformation and discuss the physical meaning of each term in this transformation. The pole-and-barn and twin paradoxes are worked out to illustrate some of the counter-intuitive features of relativity.

Keywords: special relativity; Maxwell's electromagnetism; time coordinate; time dilation; length contraction; Lorentz transformation

Chapter.  13526 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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