The University of Arizona / MATHEMATICS


Einstein's Theory of Relativity


Einstein's Way Cool Notion of Motion:

This workshop introduces Einstein's special theory of relativity using nothing more complicated than high school geometry and trigonometry. We will use the theory to resolve several of the so-called paradoxes that relativity gives rise to.

Workshop Outline: We begin with a historical treatment of motion, and will see what led Einstein to his postulate that the speed of light is constant. Using this, we next study which notions of relative motion must be altered to be consistent with Einstein's postulate. In particular, we will learn how to measure distance using hyperbolas rather than circles. This will lead us to the Lorentz transformations, which can then be used to solve the twin paradox, to solve the problem of combat in space, and to observe what happens to relativistic skateboarders. At the end, we will discover that the theory of special relativity is incomplete, and we will discuss the concept of measuring distance in the presence of accelerations (such as those due to gravity.)


Brian's online workshop material.

Check out our list of related web sites.

We watched the video clips at the workshop from the following video tape: "The Mechanical Universe... And Beyond (Part II)", segments 41-44. [From the Annenberg/CPB Collection] At the workshop we discussed the same topics as in segments 41-43. The video clips use cartoon animation, and excellent dialogue to explain some of the features of special relativity.

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