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The Elements of Relativity$
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David M. Wittman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199658633

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199658633.001.0001

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Energy and Momentum

Energy and Momentum

Chapter:
(p.147) 12 Energy and Momentum
Source:
The Elements of Relativity
Author(s):

David M. Wittman

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199658633.003.0012

Tis chapter explains the famous equation E = mc2 as part of a wider relationship between energy, mass, and momentum. We start by defning energy and momentum in the everyday sense. We then build on the stretching‐triangle picture of spacetime vectors developed in Chapter 11 to see how energy, mass, and momentum have a deep relationship that is not obvious at everyday low speeds. When momentum is zero (a mass is at rest) this energy‐momentum relation simplifes to E = mc2, which implies that mass at rest quietly stores tremendous amounts of energy. Te energymomentum relation also implies that traveling near the speed of light (e.g., to take advantage of time dilation for interstellar journeys) will require tremendous amounts of energy. Finally, we look at the simplifed form of the energy‐momentum relation when the mass is zero. Tis gives us insight into the behavior of massless particles such as the photon.

Keywords:   energy, momentum, photon, interstellar travel, rest mass, rest energy, energy‐momentum relation

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