Special Relativity
Albert Einstein, along with Sir Isaac Newton, is generally regarded as
the greatest physicist of all time. He played a major role in the development
of modern physics, and his theories have changed the way we view and think
about the universe. When people think of Einstein, they generally think of
E = mc^2, probably the most famous equation ever written down. This equation
is a result of one of his theories, the special theory of relativity.
The results of special relativity can be confusing and strange to someone
who looks at the theory for the first time. We won't go into the development
or derivation of the theory here, but rather introduce the main results of the
theory and how they apply to a high energy physics experiment such as CDF.
Special relativity arises from two postulates. One of these postulates
that Einstein assumed to be true in our universe is that light travels at
one speed, the speed of light (186,000 miles per second!), which is a
constant no matter where you measure the speed from. It is the ultimate
speed limit for all the objects we see in our universe. This is different from
what we would be lead to believe from Newton's theories of motion, where no
limit is placed on the speed of an object. Why would Einstein think the
speed of ligh t is the ultimate speed in the universe? What happens when
ordinary matter gets close to the speed of light that prevents it from
surpassing it?
It turns out strange things happen to objects as they move about space
and time. The "biggies" are:
 the object's mass increases
 the object's length decreases
 time slows down for the object
As weird as these sound, we now know they're true! And some of the
experimental evidence that these are real effects comes from Fermilab and
experiments like CDF.
Quantum Theory >
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Suggestions or questions? Please contact mfv@fnald.fnal.gov
