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Relativity and Quantum Mechanics NotesPowerPoint Presentation

Relativity and Quantum Mechanics Notes

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Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

- Two parts – Special and General
- Special: deals with question of whether rest and motion are relative or absolute and the consequences that result from them being relative
- General: primarily applies to particles as they accelerate, is a radical revision of Newton’s theory of motion
- Both theories have been confirmed to be accurate to a very high degree

Special Theory of Relativity (1905)

- Speed of light, c, is a constant
- 3 x 108 m/s
- Does not matter the speed of the source of light, the speed of the observer, or the instrument used to measure it – always constant regardless of one’s frame of reference

- The laws of physics are the same in any frame of reference
- E = mc2 – mass can be converted into huge amounts of energy and huge amounts of energy are needed to create a tiny amount of matter

Special Relativity, pg 2

- As approach speed of light:
- Length gets shorter
- Mass becomes greater
- Time slows down
- Twin paradox – a space traveler could travel at speeds close to speed of light and would return to Earth younger than his twin brother

General Theory of Relativity (1915)

- The effect of gravitational fields cause the space-time continuum to be curved or warped by large masses
- The more massive the object – the more it bends the space-time around it
- Real cause of gravitational attraction

- Gravity not only can bend light but slow it down – time dilation

General Relativity, pg 2

- Predicted the existence of black holes
- Because they are so massive, have very high gravity and can bend light, slow light down, and stop light from escaping
- Can make time stand still – a space probe would appear to slow down and virtually stop as it speeds toward the event horizon of a black hole

- One of pillars of Big Bang Theory

Uncertainty Principle

- States: the more precisely the position of a particle is determined, the less precisely the momentum is know in this instant and vice versa
- Sometimes stated differently – the act of measuring one magnitude of a particle, whether it is mass, velocity, or position causes the other magnitudes to blur
- Blurring of these magnitudes is a fundamental property of nature

Uncertainty Principle, pg 2

- 1925 – two competing mathematical theories that attempted to explain electron orbits:
- Heisenberg developed matrix mechanics that interpreted the electron as a particle with quantum behavior – quantum jumps between energy levels
- Schrodinger – interprets the electron as a wave

- 1926 – Schrodinger publishes proof that shows that the two theories are equivalent – an electron is a particle that can behave like a wave

Uncertainty Principle, pg 3

- In an experiment, though, cannot be both a wave and a particle at the same time, the experimenter must choose what to observe in the experiment
- Notion that observer becomes part of the observed system is fundamentally new in physics – observer no longer external, through the act of the measurement he becomes part of the observed reality (he affects the system)

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