Space Time Travel
Visualization of the theory of relativity.
Online papers, images, movies and paper models by Ute Kraus and Corvin Zahn (Institut für Physik, Universität Hildesheim, Germany).
This is an English version of the German site
The theory of relativity holds a certain fascination for many people. At the same time it is often regarded as very abstract and difficult to understand.
Part of the difficulties in understanding relativity are due to the fact that relativistic effects contradict everyday experience. Motion, for example, is a familiar process and everybody "knows from experience" that it entails neither time dilation nor length contraction. A flight with half the speed of light could correct this misjudgement but is not on offer.
A possible alternative are simulations. Images, films and virtual reality let us in a sense experience relativistic flights, gravitational collapse, compact objects and other extreme conditions.
What do you find on this site? Visualizations and model experiments. This site is about a visual and intuitive approach to the theory of relativity.
What do you not find here? The basics of the special theory of relativity as explained in the schoolbooks.
Where should you best begin to read? The material on this site is sorted into three subject areas. Each of them has one or two main articles that introduce the respective subject.
More in: Overview or directly in the following thematic overviews:
Visualization of special relativity
The speed of light, nearly 300 000 km/s or just over one billion km/h is very much larger than any speed that we know from everyday life.
In the computer simulation we can "experience" high speed motion: We observe objects that move by at nearly the speed of light. Or from the other point of view: We travel at nearly the speed of light and take a look-around.
Visualization of general relativity
The general theory of relativity is the theory of gravitation. Its peculiar predictions like the deflection of light, again, are not part of our everyday life: The gravity of the earth is simply too weak.
In the computer simulation we travel to black holes and neutron stars. Pictures and movies show what we should see in these high-gravity places.
Student lab on relativistic physics
The student lab on relativistic physics at Hildesheim university offers an introduction to a number of topics of the special and the general theory of relativity. Visualizations and models are used that are developed in the physics education group. The materials are made available for teaching purposes on this website.
Project description and teaching philosophy
"Space Time Travel" is a project on teaching relativity. It is realized by the physics education group of Hildesheim university.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the theory of relativity was considered to be one of the most difficult and abstract theories in science. This is expressed e. g. in Einstein's famous question "Why is it that nobody understands me and everybody likes me?". Or in the anecdote on Sir Arthur Eddington, who, when someone remarked that he probably was one of the three men in the world who really understood relativity theory, replied that he did not know who might be the third.
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