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Special Relativity

via Brilliant


Beginning with famous thought experiments and a few intuitive principles from Newtonian mechanics, this course closely follows Einstein's arguments leading to the epiphany that time and space are a single entity, spacetime, where physical processes unfold.

After gaining experience with the mathematical machinery of relativistic physics, you will open the door to high-energy phenomena and Einstein's famous relationship, E = mc². In the end this course will boost you to the cusp of the most elegant of physical theories: general relativity.


  • Reference Frames and Observers: Let there be light... and observers.
    • Relative Motion of Observers: Refresh yourself on reference frames and relative speeds on the high seas.
    • Propagation of Light: Retrace the steps of the first measurement of the speed of light.
    • The Mystery of the Luminiferous Aether: How Michaelson and Morley used light to prove that space is empty after all.
    • Einstein's Postulates: Can two events ever be simultaneous to all observers?
    • Derive: Lorentz Transformations: Derive the set of equations that connect events in two different inertial frames.
    • Length Contraction & Time Dilation: Learn how relativistic effects wreck havoc with space and time by solving these puzzles.
    • Relativistic Laser Tag: Explore the real-world effects of relativity by playing a game of relativistic laser tag.
  • Spacetime and Paradoxes: Face reality in four-dimensional spacetime.
    • Cosmic Ray Muons: One of the most basic tests of relativity is raining down around you constantly.
    • Spacetime Intervals and Causality: Could faster-than-light particles send information back in time?
    • Chimp Twin Paradox: Can a deep-space voyage put years between two identical twins?
    • Rotations in Spacetime: A different perspective on Lorentz transformations can simplify some difficult problems.
    • Plight of the ABC Jungle Fruit: Solve this space-time paradox and save a starship from certain destruction.
    • Superluminal Observations: Is it possible to measure a particle's velocity greater than the speed of light?
    • UFO Encounter: A rotating orb flies past you, but its rotation is an illusion.
  • Energy and Dynamics: A high-energy ride on the particle safari.
    • Four-Velocity: Four-dimensional Space Invaders is a much harder game.
    • Energy-Momentum Conservation: You rely on conservation of 4-momentum and energy each and every day.
    • High-Energy Particles: Understand the invisible ballet of particle decay that bombards the Earth with cosmic rays
    • Photons: A moving light source is a brighter light source.
  • Accelerated Observers: Interstellar travel, global positioning satellites, and everything in between.
  • Spacetime and Geometry: Matter tells spacetime how to curve, spacetime tells matter how to move.


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