Thursday, 11 October 2012
Relativity- Through Einstein's Eyes
The universe is a kaleidoscope. Bursting with dynamic processes that enthral and miraculous happenings that evoke wonder, it’s a playground for theory and speculation. Yet when we observe the most fundamental of laws and principles; the classical mechanics of physics, there seems a radical breakdown. A breakdown that underlies the entirety of space and time, the continuum that is at the heart of reality and the crux of Einstein’s vision of the known universe. For when we encounter the most cosmological of speed limits, the constancy of light, we encounter happenings that Newton himself failed to address. Lengths begin to contract; the slowing of time soon follows and mass has the potential to be converted to energy. And as bizarre as such may sound, it would be quite familiar in an inertial frame of reference; travelling at the speed of light of course! Einstein viewed the universe from a lens of uncanny proportions, envisaging the concept of gravity as curvature as opposed to a mere force of attraction. It is the theory of relativity in both its special and general forms that provides an entirely unprecedented world-view, the picture of the universe that quantum physics is still attempting to sympathise with. From the inception of the big bang to the centre of a black hole, Einstein's equations unveil a counter-intuitive world; consider the linear and undeviating Newtonian arrow of time as opposed to a relativistic river of time. Such a river may be bent, split and manipulated in contrast to the arrow that remains constant in its path.The notion of time travel seems one of the more evident consequences of relativity particularly the warping that creates hypothetical wormholes allowing the individual movement through time much like through space. But apart from the prospects of a relativistic time machine, we realise the grand integration of space and time in the four dimensional Minkowski space as intimately related phenomena akin to the intimacy that gives rise to the quantum duality of particles and waves. Einstein further challenged the notion of simultaneity, elucidating the contingency upon the reference frame; thus a set of events that seem simultaneous to one observer may appear asynchronous to another observer in another reference frame. Counter-intuitive as it may further seem, relativity postulates an increase in speed causes an increase in relativistic mass in respect to the forces involved; in contrast to the rest mass measured when object is stationary in a reference frame. But beyond the postulates and radical propositions, we diverge into a quantum leap where the very small behaves much different than the very large. A presumptuous idea that the governing dynamics of the universe are steeped in uncertainty and probability as opposed to a deterministic Newtonian realm. And while Einstein remained contentious as to the feasibility and viability of this idea, we remain mesmerised by the grandeur and splendor that is the coalition of space and time into a package of cosmic wonder and elegance.