Relativity visualized

Space Time Travel

Visualization of the theory of relativity.
Online papers, images, movies and paper models by Ute Krausexternal link and Corvin Zahnexternal link (Institut für Physik, Universität Hildesheim, Germanyexternal link).

This is an English version of the German site

www.tempolimit-lichtgeschwindigkeit.deexternal link

Relativity visualized

Schwarzes Loch

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.


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21 Mar 2018 15:00 GMT
WE-Heraeus-Seminar: General Relativity as a Challenge for Physics Education
February 10 - 15, 2019, Physikzentrum Bad Honnef, Germany. Aims: The goal of the seminar is to promote the scientific exchange of ideas and research results on the teaching of general relativity. The seminar will be focussed on the secondary school and undergraduate levels. Target audience: Physics education researchers, physicists, and physics teachers are invited to participate in the seminar. PhD and master students are encouraged to apply. WE-Heraeus-Seminar: General Relativity as a Challenge for Physics Education.

More news in the news archive.


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

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.

More in: Overview student lab on relativistic physics

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


Gallery – Free Images
Film Index
Sector Models – Cut-out Sheets
Frequently asked questions


For the connections between the individual articles see the overview . Abstracts can be found in the long table of contents.

Model experiments on the general theory of relativity

Main article: Sector Models - A Toolkit for Teaching General Relativity. Part 1: Curved Spaces and Spacetimes
Teaching gravitational light deflection  NEW

Visualization of special relativity

Main article: Motion near the cosmic speed limit
The Ball is Round
Sights that Einstein could not yet see - visualization of relativistic effects
Rolling Wheels
Brightness and color of rapidly moving objects: The visual appearance of a large sphere revisited
Main article: Through the city at nearly the speed of light
Visual observations in high speed flight
Accelerated motion
Relativistic Flight through a Lattice

Visualization of general relativity

Main article: Destination Black Hole
Step by Step into a Black Hole
Flight through a Wormhole
Light Deflection Near Neutron Stars
The "Real" Einstein Ring
Interactive Black Hole
Röntgenpulsare in German
Four-dimensional ray traycing in a curved spacetime

Student lab on relativistic physics

Gravitational Waves: Models and Experiments on Waveforms, Effects and Detection  NEW

Multi-focus contributions

First-person visualizations of the special and general theory of relativity

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Authors: Ute Kraus, Corvin Zahn, Date: 2017-09-22 08:23:42
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All contents copyright (C) 2001-2016 Ute Kraus, Corvin Zahn. All rights reserved. For more information see Copyright.