eq.21: file eq21.gif
moving with the velocity v. Hence we can say: If a body takes up an
amount of energy E, then its inertial mass increases by an amount
eq. 22: file eq22.gif
the inertial mass of a body is not a constant but varies according to
the change in the energy of the body. The inertial mass of a system of
bodies can even be regarded as a measure of its energy. The law of the
conservation of the mass of a system becomes identical with the law of
the conservation of energy, and is only valid provided that the system
neither takes up nor sends out energy. Writing the expression for the
energy in the form
eq. 23: file eq23.gif
we see that the term mc^2, which has hitherto attracted our attention,
is nothing else than the energy possessed by the body ** before it
absorbed the energy E.
A direct comparison of this relation with experiment is not possible
at the present time (1920; see *** Note, p. 48), owing to the fact that
the changes in energy E to which we can Subject a system are not
large enough to make themselves perceptible as a change in the
inertial mass of the system.
eq. 22: file eq22.gif
is too small in comparison with the mass m, which was present before
the alteration of the energy. It is owing to this circumstance that
classical mechanics was able to establish successfully the
conservation of mass as a law of independent validity.
Let me add a final remark of a fundamental nature. The success of the
Faraday-Maxwell interpretation of electromagnetic action at a distance
resulted in physicists becoming convinced that there are no such
things as instantaneous actions at a distance (not involving an
intermediary medium) of the type of Newton's law of gravitation.
According to the theory of relativity, action at a distance with the
velocity of light always takes the place of instantaneous action at a
distance or of action at a distance with an infinite velocity of
transmission. This is connected with the fact that the velocity c
plays a fundamental role in this theory. In Part II we shall see in
what way this result becomes modified in the general theory of
*) E is the energy taken up, as judged from a co-ordinate system
moving with the body.
**) As judged from a co-ordinate system moving with the body.
***[Note] The equation E = mc^2 has been thoroughly proved time and
again since this time.
EXPERIENCE AND THE SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY
To what extent is the special theory of relativity supported by
experience? This question is not easily answered for the reason
already mentioned in connection with the fundamental experiment of
Fizeau. The special theory of relativity has crystallised out from the
Maxwell-Lorentz theory of electromagnetic phenomena. Thus all facts of
experience which support the electromagnetic theory also support the
theory of relativity. As being of particular importance, I mention
here the fact that the theory of relativity enables us to predict the
effects produced on the light reaching us from the fixed stars. These
results are obtained in an exceedingly simple manner, and the effects
indicated, which are due to the relative motion of the earth with
reference to those fixed stars are found to be in accord with
experience. We refer to the yearly movement of the apparent position
of the fixed stars resulting from the motion of the earth round the
sun (aberration), and to the influence of the radial components of the
relative motions of the fixed stars with respect to the earth on the
colour of the light reaching us from them. The latter effect manifests
itself in a slight displacement of the spectral lines of the light
transmitted to us from a fixed star, as compared with the position of
the same spectral lines when they are produced by a terrestrial source
of light (Doppler principle). The experimental arguments in favour of
the Maxwell-Lorentz theory, which are at the same time arguments in
favour of the theory of relativity, are too numerous to be set forth
here. In reality they limit the theoretical possibilities to such an
extent, that no other theory than that of Maxwell and Lorentz has been
able to hold its own when tested by experience.
But there are two classes of experimental facts hitherto obtained
which can be represented in the Maxwell-Lorentz theory only by the
introduction of an auxiliary hypothesis, which in itself -- i.e.
without making use of the theory of relativity -- appears extraneous.
It is known that cathode rays and the so-called b-rays emitted by
radioactive substances consist of negatively electrified particles
(electrons) of very small inertia and large velocity. By examining the