brief : General laws of nature are co-variant with respect to Lorentz
transformations.
This is a definite mathematical condition that the theory of
relativity demands of a natural law, and in virtue of this, the theory
becomes a valuable heuristic aid in the search for general laws of
nature. If a general law of nature were to be found which did not
satisfy this condition, then at least one of the two fundamental
assumptions of the theory would have been disproved. Let us now
examine what general results the latter theory has hitherto evinced.
GENERAL RESULTS OF THE THEORY
It is clear from our previous considerations that the (special) theory
of relativity has grown out of electrodynamics and optics. In these
fields it has not appreciably altered the predictions of theory, but
it has considerably simplified the theoretical structure, i.e. the
derivation of laws, and -- what is incomparably more important -- it
has considerably reduced the number of independent hypothese forming
the basis of theory. The special theory of relativity has rendered the
Maxwell-Lorentz theory so plausible, that the latter would have been
generally accepted by physicists even if experiment had decided less
unequivocally in its favour.
Classical mechanics required to be modified before it could come into
line with the demands of the special theory of relativity. For the
main part, however, this modification affects only the laws for rapid
motions, in which the velocities of matter v are not very small as
compared with the velocity of light. We have experience of such rapid
motions only in the case of electrons and ions; for other motions the
variations from the laws of classical mechanics are too small to make
themselves evident in practice. We shall not consider the motion of
stars until we come to speak of the general theory of relativity. In
accordance with the theory of relativity the kinetic energy of a
material point of mass m is no longer given by the well-known
expression
eq. 15: file eq15.gif
but by the expression
eq. 16: file eq16.gif
This expression approaches infinity as the velocity v approaches the
velocity of light c. The velocity must therefore always remain less
than c, however great may be the energies used to produce the
acceleration. If we develop the expression for the kinetic energy in
the form of a series, we obtain
eq. 17: file eq17.gif
When eq. 18 is small compared with unity, the third of these terms is
always small in comparison with the second,
which last is alone considered in classical mechanics. The first term
mc^2 does not contain the velocity, and requires no consideration if
we are only dealing with the question as to how the energy of a
point-mass; depends on the velocity. We shall speak of its essential
significance later.
The most important result of a general character to which the special
theory of relativity has led is concerned with the conception of mass.
Before the advent of relativity, physics recognised two conservation
laws of fundamental importance, namely, the law of the canservation of
energy and the law of the conservation of mass these two fundamental
laws appeared to be quite independent of each other. By means of the
theory of relativity they have been united into one law. We shall now
briefly consider how this unification came about, and what meaning is
to be attached to it.
The principle of relativity requires that the law of the concervation
of energy should hold not only with reference to a co-ordinate system
K, but also with respect to every co-ordinate system K1 which is in a
state of uniform motion of translation relative to K, or, briefly,
relative to every " Galileian " system of co-ordinates. In contrast to
classical mechanics; the Lorentz transformation is the deciding factor
in the transition from one such system to another.
By means of comparatively simple considerations we are led to draw the
following conclusion from these premises, in conjunction with the
fundamental equations of the electrodynamics of Maxwell: A body moving
with the velocity v, which absorbs * an amount of energy E[0] in
the form of radiation without suffering an alteration in velocity in
the process, has, as a consequence, its energy increased by an amount
eq. 19: file eq19.gif
In consideration of the expression given above for the kinetic energy
of the body, the required energy of the body comes out to be
eq. 20: file eq20.gif
Thus the body has the same energy as a body of mass
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