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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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A First Look at Relativity

A First Look at Relativity

(p.1) 1 A First Look at Relativity
The Elements of Relativity

David M. Wittman

Oxford University Press

The heart of relativity is the supposition that the laws of physics are the same in all coordinate systems. This chapter builds a foundation by defining coordinate systems (also called frames of reference or simply frames) and examining some quantities that are coordinate‐dependent and others that are coordinate‐independent; the latter turn out to be more physically meaningful. Galileo first considered relationships between coordinate systems moving at different veloCities; in modern terms this could relate a coordinate system attached to the ground to one attached to a moving train. Given your velocity relative to the train, and the train‐ground relative velocity, Galileo developed a law for inferring your velocity relative to the ground. If this Galilean velocity addition law is correct, there are profound implications: nature must have no speed limit, and the laws of motion must be the same in any constant‐velocity frame.

Keywords:   principle of relativity, Galileo, Galilean relativity, symmetry, velocity, velocity addition, coordinate system, coordinate independence

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