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George Jaroszkiewicz

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198718062

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198718062.001.0001

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Origins of relativity

Origins of relativity

Chapter:
(p.160) 16 Origins of relativity
Source:
Images of Time
Author(s):

George Jaroszkiewicz

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198718062.003.0016

This chapter discusses inertial frames, the speed of light, Maxwell‘s equations, and Galilean transformations, as they were understood before the advent of special relativity. It discusses the reasons for the Michelson–Morley experiment and the efforts of theorists to explain the failure of this critical experiment to detect the aether, the postulated medium that was believed to transmit light. The chapter discusses FitzGerald’s length contraction hypothesis invoked by him to explain the Michelson-Morley null result and show how to derive both relativistic length contraction and time dilation using a simple thought experiment. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the Lorentz transformations that subsequently replaced Galilean transformations and heralded the advent of special relativity.

Keywords:   inertial frames, Galilean transformations, Maxwell’s equations, the aether, Michelson–Morley experiment, FitzGerald length contraction, time dilation, Lorentz transformations

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