Brain Makeover #12: Relativity

Lesson #12 of 18 in the Brain Makeover collaboration with Professor James Trefil/GMU, the 76ers Cheerleaders and the Science Cheerleader. See Brain Makeover Series.

Every observer sees the same laws of nature.

This is the main tenet of the theory of relativity, developed by Albert Einstein in the early 20th century. The theory comes in two parts: special relativity, which deals with observers moving at constant velocities, and general relativity, which deals with observers that are accelerating.

The most familiar results of special relativity are that (1) moving clocks slow down, (2) moving objects become more massive, (3) moving objects shorten in their direction of motion, and (4) mass and energy are equivalent, as stated in the famous equation E=mc2 .

General relativity is our best current theory of gravitation. It pictures space-time as a kind of membrane that can be distorted by the presence of massive objects.
(Image courtesy of NASA)

  • jim

    this leads me to wonder…what about safe nuclear energy?

  • jim

    this leads me to wonder…what about safe nuclear energy?

  • Doug Ziemke

    Please note the link to the AllAboutScience.org site provided here slips in a plug for Creationism at the very end of the article.

    “Moreover, the very physical nature of time and space also suggest a Creator, for infinity and eternity must necessarily exist from a logical perspective. The existence of time implies eternity (as time has a beginning and an end), and the existence of space implies infinity. The very concepts of infinity and eternity infer a Creator because they find their very state of being in God, who transcends both and simply is. ”

    I would challenge the first sentence.. that the nature of of time and space suggest a Creator. However the bigger issue here is that, as we all know, bringing in Religion to Science discussions and, likewise, bringing in Science to Religion discussions get us nowhere.

  • Doug Ziemke

    Please note the link to the AllAboutScience.org site provided here slips in a plug for Creationism at the very end of the article.

    “Moreover, the very physical nature of time and space also suggest a Creator, for infinity and eternity must necessarily exist from a logical perspective. The existence of time implies eternity (as time has a beginning and an end), and the existence of space implies infinity. The very concepts of infinity and eternity infer a Creator because they find their very state of being in God, who transcends both and simply is. ”

    I would challenge the first sentence.. that the nature of of time and space suggest a Creator. However the bigger issue here is that, as we all know, bringing in Religion to Science discussions and, likewise, bringing in Science to Religion discussions get us nowhere.

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  • agreed. besides, I would also challenge that last sentence, because, just because their supposed “Creator” is supposed to be infinite, that does not imply that just because something is infinite (or, rather, limitless) that is a part of their Creator.

  • agreed. besides, I would also challenge that last sentence, because, just because their supposed “Creator” is supposed to be infinite, that does not imply that just because something is infinite (or, rather, limitless) that is a part of their Creator.