Relativity visualized

Concluding remarks

The initial question was: How does on see one's surroundings while moving at nearly the speed of light? One might as well ask the question the other way round: What does an object look like when passing by us at nearly the speed of light? The answer to the second question can immediately be inferred from the principle of relativity: There is no difference between an object moving past a camera at rest and a camera moving past an object at rest; the recorded movie is the same in both cases. The explanation of the unfamiliar sight, however, is different for the two different points of view. Aberration provides the explanation only in the case of the moving camera. For the other point of view I would like to refer to a recent article in "Physik Journal" [1] (also available online and with movies [4]). The question of what fast moving objects look like has also found its way into some textbooks on the special theory of relativity, see for example [2].

The computer simulations are of course best watched as movies. Examples can be found on the websites of Weiskopf [3] and of Zahn and Kraus [4], the latter also features the online version of this article including movies.


The computer simulations of the flight through the gate shown in Figures 1 to 3 were computed with the code of Jorge Manzano in the version edited by Joachim Kern.


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Authors: Ute Kraus, Date: January 28, 2005
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