Relativity visualized
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.
News
1 May 2014 20:00 GMT
New contribution: Sector Models - A Toolkit for Teaching General Relativity.
Part 1: Curved Spaces and Spacetimes
Teaching the general theory of relativity to high school or
undergraduate students must be based on an approach that is conceptual
rather than mathematical. In this paper we present such an approach
that requires no more than elementary mathematics. The central idea of
this introduction to general relativity is the use of so-called sector
models. Sector models describe curved space the Regge calculus way by
subdivision into blocks with euclidean geometry. This procedure is
similar to the approximation of a curved surface by flat triangles. We
outline a workshop for high school and undergraduate students that
introduces the notion of curved space by means of sector models of
black holes. We further describe the extension to sector models of
curved spacetimes. The spacetime models are suitable for learners with
a basic knowledge of the special theory of relativity.
(Eur. J. Phys. 35 (2014) 055020)
Sector Models - A Toolkit for Teaching General Relativity.
Part 1: Curved Spaces and Spacetimes.
More news in the
news archive.
Overview
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.
More in: Overview visualization of special relativity
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.
More in:
Overview visualization of general relativity
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.
More in: Project description and teaching philosophy
Miscellaneous