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6. The Special and General Theories of Relativity

The theory of relativity is a theory that deals with the motion of objects when their speed is close to the speed of light c=3×108m/sec. It turns out that Newton's second law ceases to be correct as speeds of objects approach the speed of light and must be modified.

The special theory of relativity only deals with the motion of objects as seen from inertial frames. The general theory of relativity extends it to cover non-inertial frames as well. We will only be learning about the special theory of relativity in this course because the general theory of relativity is super-duper difficult. (Einstein invented the special theory of relativity in 1905. It took him 10 more years to come up with the general theory of relativity.)

Speeds of objects Inertial Frames Non-Inertial Frames
much slower than
c=3×108m/sec
Newton's Laws Newton's Laws + Fake Forces
close to
c=3×108m/sec
Special Theory of Relativity
(This is "relatively" easy to understand.)
General Theory of Relativity
(You need to know this to understand black holes, worm holes, and other fancy stuff you see on Star Trek.)



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