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Gravitational Curvature: An Introduction to Einstein's Theory

Gravitational Curvature: An Introduction to Einstein's Theory

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Gravitational Curvature: An Introduction to Einstein's Theory

286 pagine
2 ore
Apr 10, 2013


This classic text and reference monograph applies modern differential geometry to general relativity. A brief mathematical introduction to gravitational curvature, it emphasizes the subject's geometric essence and stresses the global aspects of cosmology. Suitable for independent study as well as for courses in differential geometry, relativity, and cosmology. 1979 edition.
Apr 10, 2013

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Gravitational Curvature - Theodore Frankel


Special Relativity

The Lorentz Transformations as Viewed by Einstein

Classical mechanics rests on the notions of absolute space and absolute time. Absolute space is assumed to be an affine 3-space with a Euclidean metric that is unique up to constant multiples. One can introduce Cartesian coordinates x, y, z. Absolute time is measured by a time coordinate t, unique up to transformations t at + b, where a and b are constants. Newton’s laws of motion are assumed valid when x, y, z, t are used as coordinates for space and time. Newton thought of absolute space as existing independently of matter in the universe, whereas Bishop Berkeley interpreted absolute space as being fixed with respect to the bulk of matter in the universe (the so-called fixed stars).

An inertial (coordinate) system is a Cartesian coordinate system that moves uniformly, i.e., without acceleration, and, in particular, without rotation, with respect to absolute space. It was realized that Newton’s laws of motion are also valid in any inertial system, since accelerations are unaffected by uniform motion. Any two inertial systems are in uniform translational motion with respect to each other.

The existence of an absolute space or absolute frame of reference became dubious much later when highly accurate optical experiments were performed. It was found, toward the end of the last century, that light is propagated isotropically, i.e., with the same speed in all directions, in each supposed inertial system. Consider two inertial systems S and S′ passing one another. A light pulse is emitted at their common origin at time t = 0. It is observed (essentially in the Michelson-Morley experiment) that both systems see their respective origins as the centers of the resulting spherical light pulse for all time (the light pulse paradox)!

This, together with other electromagnetic considerations, led Einstein (among others) to reject the notion of an absolute space. He still retained, however, the notion of a distinguished (but undefined) class of inertial systems. Einstein then showed that this rejection of an absolute space and the resulting notion of absolute motion of an inertial system forces us to abandon also the idea of an absolute time! Einstein (1905) reasoned as follows.

Consider two space-time events E1 and E2. When viewed from an inertial system S these events have coordinates (x1, y1, z1, t1) and (x2, y2, z2, t2). Since light is propagated isotropically in the system S, the two events will occur simultaneously (at the same time t) in S if and only if light pulses emitted E1 and Eat the same instant. Consider, for example, two lightning bolts that strike a railway embankment in S at t = 0 at spatial coordinates (x, 0, 0) and (−x, 0, 0). These strikes are seen simultaneously at the origin of S at time x/c, where c is the speed of light. Consider an inertial system S′ (a train) moving along the tracks (the x direction in S) and suppose that the two ends of the train are struck by the same bolts. If the origin of S′ is at the midpoint of the train (equal number of cars forward and behind), it is clear that the forward bolt will be seen at this midpoint before the backward bolt. (It is important here that the speed of light is not infinite.) Two inertial systems in relative motion will disagree as to whether or not certain spatially separated events are simultaneous. S and S′ must be keeping different times. This simple observation by Einstein distinguishes his contribution from those of other workers at the time. (For example, Larmor and Lorentz had already introduced ad hoc local times for each inertial system, but this was considered as a purely mathematical convenience.) The light pulse paradox is resolved, for the shape of the pulse is determined by noting the position of the illumination at a given instant of time! Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which resulted from this discovery, can be briefly described as follows.

(1) The basic undefined notion is that of the class of distinguished coordinate systems, the inertial systems. Associated with each inertial system is a proper time t, unique up to scale changes t at + b.

(2) Space, when viewed from any inertial system is isotropic. Thus external fields, e.g., electromagnetism, are assumed not to alter the basic structure of space.

(3) Light is propagated isotropically. By a proper choice of the ratios of distance and time scales, all inertial systems can agree that the speed of light is c ~ 3 × 10⁵ km/sec. (Note that spatial distances can then be measured by recording the proper time required to send a light beam from the first point to the second and reflecting it back to the first.)

(4) All inertial systems are assumed equivalent for the description of physical laws. No physical experiment will yield an absolute motion, and consequently no inertial system is privileged over any other inertial system. (This is the principle of relativity, first stated in print by Poincaré in 1904.)

Now consider two inertial systems S; x, y, z, t and S′; x′, y′, z′, t′. A particle free from external forces is assumed to execute uniform motion in each inertial system. This insures that any straight line in x, y, z, t coordinates must correspond to a straight line in x′, y′, z′, t′ coordinates. It follows that the coordinate functions x′, y′, z′, t′ must be linear functions of x, y, z, t (we exclude transformations that send finite points to infinity).

A, light pulse emitted at a certain event in space-time will be described in S by dx² + dy² + dz² − c² dt² = 0 and in S′ by dx′² + dy′² + dz′² − c² dt′² = 0. Since the primed coordinates are linear functions of the un-primed ones, these two quadratic expressions in dx, dy, dz, dt must be proportional:

dx′² + dy′² + dz′² − c² dt′² = k(dx² + dy² + dz² − c² dt²),

where k is a constant (depending on the two inertial systems). Each inertial system has already adjusted the ratio of distance and time scales so that the speed of light is c. S′ can now make a final distance or time scale choice so that the constant k is unity, i.e.,

Consider explicitly the following special case. Suppose that S and S′ have their x axes parallel and that at the instant t = 0 = t′ their origins O and O′ coincide. Suppose that S′ is moving (with respect to S) in their common x direction with uniform speed υ. Isotropy of space and linearity of the transformation demands that the yz′ plane (which is orthogonal to the x′ axis in the system S′) must also be viewed from S as being orthogonal to the x axis. We may assume then that the y and y′ axes and the z and z′ axes coincide at t = 0 (Figure 1-1). As remarked above, S and S′ have already adjusted their ratios (distance scale/time scale) so that the speed of light in each system is c. We can ask further, as above, that they adjust their distance scales so that y′ = y (by spatial isotropy they will automatically agree that z′ = z). We are able to accomplish this because both systems will agree concerning the particular instant at which the y and y′ (and z and z′) axes overlap. However, the x and x′ axes will always overlap; we shall see in a moment that they will not be able to agree on x measurements.

A light pulse emitted at their common origin at t = 0 = t′ will satisfy x² + y² + z² − c²t² = 0 and x′² + y′² + z′² − c²t′² = 0. From y′ = y and z′ = z we get, from the linear transformation

x² − c²t² = x′² − c²t′²

with immediate parametric solution

Since O′ (i.e., x′ = 0) moves with speed υ along the x axis, i.e., x/t = υ = c tanh u, we have


Finally, putting

we get the Lorentz transformation

This transformation is known as a boost (in the xt plane). It involves a change of velocity in the x direction but no rotation. The Lorentz group is generated by boosts and spatial rotations. The group of all transformations satisfying Equation 1-1 is called the Poincaré group. Thus, Poincaré transformations consist of a Lorentz transformation followed by a space-time

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